We’ve made it to the offseason, and with it comes all sorts of roster intrigue, especially given that Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto isn’t one to twiddle his thumbs. He’s already made a minor move to shore up catching depth and given his proclivity for trades, there’s certain to be more in the days to come.
This piece attempts to look at the entire Mariners organization and identify the players with the most trade value to the rest of the league, and rank them in order. We’ve crowd-sourced this among the LL staff and with a few people in/around the industry (from prospect evaluators to people with more concrete front office connections). You’ll notice that players are divided into tiers — for the most part, those divisions are more significant than the actual rankings. Within tiers, some teams might prefer Logan Gilbert to George Kirby, or Cole Young to Harry Ford, and it’s hard for outsiders to predict that without inside knowledge. But we’ve still attempted the fool’s errand of giving a real ranking to each player listed.
Of course, one significant difference between those classic Bill Simmons trade value rankings and this version is the lack of an MLB salary cap. In the NBA, the ability to afford a player isn’t part of the calculus; rather, teams just need to provide matching salaries in a trade. But in a world where there can be a $300m difference between team payrolls, it’s not feasible for a team like the Athletics to acquire a single player making $20m. (Well, it is economically feasible, these owners have just decided to artificially depress their payrolls. But that’s a separate issue!)
Edit: The rest of the series can be found here:
As laid out in Simmons’ original trade value column (which features some great Gary Payton mentions), here is what you need to know before we get started:
- Salaries matter. Would you rather pay Robbie Ray $73m for the next three years or Bryce Miller $6m for the next three years?
- Age matters. Would you rather have Robbie Ray for the next three years or Bryce Miller for the next decade?
- The list is from least to most valuable, but doesn’t include everyone in the organization. I’ve excised the players in the ~middle (so we have players with negative value, and we have players with some sort of positive value). I imagine some teams have very high opinions of Walter Ford, or Aidan Smith, or whoever it may be, and we’ll probably have trades that include those types of players pretty soon. But I’d be surprised if a deal nets us a significant MLB contributor without including one of the names on this list.
- This is about league value, not team-specific value. If the Braves called up Brian Cashman and offered Ronald Acuña Jr. for Aaron Judge, the Yankees would struggle to say yes (though they ultimately might). But it’s unequivocal that Acuña has more league-wide trade value than Judge does. Keep that in mind — some players will have more value to the Mariners than to other teams, but that’s not entirely reflected in this list.
Today, we’re publishing the players who are just a bit more replaceable (#33 through #52). Tomorrow, we’ll publish the top 10 tiers of players, along with the full player spreadsheet that I’ve built.
52. Evan White, 1B
51. Marco Gonzales, SP
50. Robbie Ray, SP
This group is comprised of three contracts that, in order to be traded, would likely need to be bought down by the Mariners. Ray still presents some upside, however, since — barring any recovery complications — he stands to return from Tommy John surgery around the All-Star Break this year. That injury prevents him from regaining any trade value before the 2024 deadline, and no matter how he pitches, he’s likely to decline his player opt-out and stick with the team for two more seasons (given injury risk and the likelihood that 2021 was actually a high-water mark for his career). A strong showing down the stretch could still move him up the board.
Gonzales has some injury struggles of his own, but without the upside that makes Ray a bit more intriguing. He’s posted a 5.03 FIP across 376.1 IP the last three years, and the underlying metrics (K% down, BB% up, wOBA up) don’t portend any better. He only has one year left on his contract before a team option that the M’s will likely decline, so his deal isn’t an albatross, but it’s unlikely that another team would have any interest.
White, meanwhile, is the Scott Kingery of his time. He’s been beset by injuries to seemingly every part of his lower half, and at this point — with 233 professional plate appearances in the last three years — it’s hard to imagine him contributing to a big league roster in 2024 or beyond. His deal isn’t onerous (2/$15m, with a series of club options following) but no team can trade for him without seeing an injury-free campaign at the very least.
49. Trent Thornton, RHP
48. Mike Ford, 1B
47. Taylor Trammell, OF
If the M’s are looking to open up spots on the 40-man roster, this is one of the places they’ll go. Thornton and Ford both have three years of service time, which means they’re eligible for arbitration, and per MLB Trade Rumors, they’re expected to make $1.4m and $1.5m, respectively. I’d be surprised if Dipoto thinks he needs to pony up for them vs. looking for replacements at the MLB minimum.
Trammell doesn’t fit cleanly into this bucket compared to the other two, but he’s out of minor league options, so the Mariners need to decide if he’s worth a 40-man spot and a spot on the Opening Day roster. You could certainly do worse than Trammell as a fourth or fifth outfielder; his ability to play all three OF positions is particularly valuable. But he’s never hit at the big-league level, sporting a career 83 wRC+, and the team’s decision to go with Cade Marlowe over Trammell down the stretch speaks volumes.
46. Ryan Jensen, RHP
45. Darren McCaughan, RHP
44. Kaleb Ort, RHP
43. Cody Bolton, RHP
42. Eduard Bazardo, RHP
41. Ty Adcock, RHP
40. Taylor Dollard, RHP
39. Isaiah Campbell, RHP
From the outset, Jerry Dipoto has a type. It’s not a particularly exciting one, but it’s a mainstay every offseason, and one that takes up a couple spots on the Opening Day roster year after year.
I speak, of course, about The Pile.
There’s no single backstory for The Pile — some players were drafted by the Mariners, others were acquired for an anonymous return during the season, and others still are claimed on waivers. (Sometimes, if you’re lucky, players will be claimed on waivers and join The Pile, only to be put on waivers later in the same offseason.)
But one thing remains constant: They’re all right-handed relievers.
It’s hard to say which players will end up making the MLB roster this year — all have MiLB options remaining, which means they can be sent down to AAA without being exposed to waivers and being claimed by any other team — and it’s hard to know how the Mariners front office feels about each player. Perhaps they think Bolton, recently acquired for cash, could see a tweak in his arsenal and be a serviceable option; perhaps he’s simply filler and will go the way of many a righty dodo bird before him. After all, Paul Sewald and Justin Topa came from The Pile. But none of these players should be counted on for significant contributions.
Some players in The Pile have been DFA’d previously or don’t take up a spot on the 40-man roster; others, like Campbell, would be claimed pretty quickly if he was put on waivers. Campbell is probably closer to leaving The Pile than much of the rest of this group, given his strong MiLB performance, his prospect pedigree (not a top-100 guy, but was picked fairly high), and real contributions for the top club.
I imagine a handful of these players won’t be in the org come February, as exemplified by the fact that between when this piece was drafted and now, Juan Then ended up as a minor league free agent and fell out of this group. Surely more will be added. But that’s the beauty of The Pile: It’s amorphous, it’s fungible, and somehow it’ll produce multiple relievers with an ERA under 3.50.
Technically Not Part of The Pile
38. Tayler Saucedo, LHP
OK, so Saucedo should fit above, but he’s a lefty. Sue me. (Being a lefty likely gives him the inside track to make the Opening Day roster.)
The Position Player Pile
37. Sam Haggerty, UTIL
36. Cooper Hummel, C/OF
35. Blake Hunt, C
34. Ryan Bliss, 2B
33. Dylan Moore, UTIL
While The Pile may be a pitching-specific thing, these five players all have slight value but debatable chances of making the Opening Day roster. Both Haggerty and Moore have been serviceable utilitymen, but while Haggerty has no guaranteed money attached (and therefore greater flexibility for teams), Moore has higher upside; he’s just one year removed from a 2.1 fWAR season. Given that Moore signed a three-year deal before the 2023 season, I expect him to make the roster, but he wouldn’t be hard to pry away in a trade.
Hummel, acquired for Kyle Lewis last offseason, failed to take a step forward in Tacoma and struggled mightily in his big league cup of coffee (.087/.192/.130 in 10 games). He has one option left, but he also turns 29 later this month. Frankly, he might be a DFA option to open a 40-man roster spot unless the player development staff still sees something in him.
Hunt serves as Tom Murphy insurance — should Murphy opt to move on from the Mariners for whatever reason, Hunt is likely to be the heavy favorite for the backup catcher job this year, and while he wasn’t acquired for much I do anticipate him sticking around until the spring.
Trade season has arrived.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 6, 2023
In a swap of minor league catchers, the Seattle Mariners are acquiring Blake Hunt from the Tampa Bay Rays for Tatem Levins, sources tell ESPN. Hunt will join the Mariners' 40-man roster. Levins, a 2022 draft pick, played in Low-A last season.
Bliss is in a different space than the rest of this group, and has the potential to skyrocket up this list with a strong 2024. He’s not Rule V eligible until next year, which means he has his full complement of options remaining. Though his Short King status (5’6”) means he doesn’t fit the typical MLB mold, he showed real power last year with 23 homers across AA and AAA. It’s not hard to imagine him as a midseason call-up next year, but he lacks the prospect sheen and big league experience that players above him have.
Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow!