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Mariners Trade Value Rankings (Part II)

Tiers 6–10

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Helloooooo and welcome back to the Lookout Landing Trade Value Rankings series! Today, we’ll be diving in to Tiers 6–10. This is comprised of players who are household names, as well as young guys who have been in the organization for <12 months.

I promise that when I began this series, I planned on getting this done in two parts. But there’s a lot to cover, so instead you’ll get 1,500+ words today and 1,500+ words tomorrow.

Edit: The rest of the series can be found here:

Here’s a reminder of the ground rules:

  • 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.

Tier 10: Prospects, Far From the Bigs

32. Michael Arroyo, SS
31. Lazaro Montes, OF
30. Tai Peete, 3B/SS/2B
29. Jonny Farmelo, OF

Each of these prospects received a signing bonus of at least $1.3m, but also lacks much of a track record in the minor leagues. It’s easy to dream on the power of Lazaro Montes…

…or the gap power of Jonny Farmelo…

...but nobody here has proven their ability over a significant period of time in the pros. As a result, 2024 will be a critical year for this group. All are raw, and a full season of strong play would give each player a track record to vault them into top-100 prospect contention, while a slump or an inability to hit breaking stuff could easily move them into the fringe prospect zone.

Tier 9: Fringe Big League Contributors

28. José Caballero, 2B
27. Prelander Berroa, RHP
26. Cade Marlowe, LF
25. Justin Topa, RHP
24. Gabe Speier, LHP

There are really two subtiers within this group. One subtier (Caballero/Berroa/Marlowe) is comprised of players with minimal prospect sheen, but some impressive early returns in the big leagues. Caballero is a great example: A former 7th-round pick out of Chipola College, Death Cabby played just 31 games in full-season baseball in 2022, posted a 189 wRC+ in an offense-heavy Tacoma ballpark in March & April, and was then pressed into action given Kolten Wong’s struggles. Who among us would have expected a 96wRC+ and 2.2 fWAR from him?

Marlowe was valued even lower coming out of college — as a 20th round pick, much of the buzz around him was about how professional baseball eclipsed his plans of becoming a doctor (he graduated magna cum laude from West Georgia University) rather than his ability on the field. But he’s hit at every level, culminating in a .239/.330/.420 slash line across 100 PA last season. Berroa, meanwhile, has nasty stuff (101 K in 65.1 IP in AA) and seems poised to join Los Bomberos if he can keep his control issues at bay.

None of the three players has a major prospect ranking to his name, nor a significant signing bonus in his background. It’s debatable as to whether they’d truly draw more in a trade than the tier below them, who still have their prospect sheen (and zero substantive track record). But all have performed well at high levels, or at least well enough to command more than those ranked below.

Topa and Speier are graduates of The Pile, putting up solid MLB numbers and cementing themselves as members of the bullpen. We’re just a year removed from Erik Swanson — a player with the same amount of club control as Topa and one year fewer than Speier, albeit a stronger season than either — fetching Teoscar Hernández in a trade. Given Dipoto’s ability to generate relievers out of nowhere, it wouldn’t shock me to see one of this pair get dealt.

Tier 8: Prospects With Upside, But Questions

23. Gabriel González, OF
22. Tyler Locklear, 1B
21. Felnin Celesten, SS
20. Jonatan Clase, CF
19. Emerson Hancock, SP

Ah, now we’re getting to prospects with more track record than Tier 10 and a bit of scouting love as well. Each player in this group is sniffing around the fringes of a top 100 list, perhaps with the exception of Celesten. Of course, Celesten turned 18 two months ago and earned a $4.7m signing bonus from the Mariners, largest in team history, so there’s more than a little upside. González doesn’t turn 20 until January, which makes his .348/.403/.530 numbers across A-ball (and his 13.7% K% rate) all the more impressive. Locklear had a strong season in A+ and held his own in AA, and as a former second-round pick with raw power, he’s easy to dream on.

Clase has perhaps the single greatest video on the internet (see below), and definitively the best speed in the organization. But he’s developed some power too, hitting 20 dingers across A+ & AA to pair with his 79 steals. He’s not ready for the big leagues just yet, and signed for just $35k back in 2018. Those factors cap his trade value. The speed, however…it’s tantalizing to imagine him roaming gap-to-gap in an MLB ballpark, and if his power is legitimate then he’s a player every club would love to add.

Hancock is going in the opposite direction. Anyone reading this likely remembers him as the jewel of the 2020 draft, selected 6th in a year that’s proven exceptionally hard to extrapolate an MLB future from. But amid shoulder injuries and a so-so MiLB track record, his prospect ranking(per has slide from #31 to #82 to unranked. Still, he’s 25, and do you remember where you were at 25? It only takes one team to dream big on what could be.

Tier 7: Major League Hitters Across the Ages

18. Josh Rojas, 2B/3B
17. Dominic Canzone, LF
16. Ty France, 1B
15. Eugenio Suárez, 3B

This group features three names you know well and one, Canzone, whose ascent you might find surprising. He’s very well-regarded within the Mariners organization, and it’s easy to see why: strong exit velocity, impressive stats at literally every Minor League level, and a sweet lefty swing that could set up him as a platoon bat if not more. I’m not sure if the industry values him quite as highly, but the much ballyhooed “years of club control” works in his favor.

Rojas, France, and Suárez have fewer years of control while boasting far more significant contributions in the bigs. Rojas was also acquired in the Paul Sewald trade and will command a few million in arbitration in 2024, but he’s just a year removed from a 110 wRC+ and 2.7 fWAR. Of course, his xwOBA was just .305, and it dipped to .276 in 2023. His lack of raw power really holds him back even as he posts strong Chase% and Whiff% numbers. I think his years of control, and recent significant contributions, put him in this group, but I waffled on it — perhaps he should be in the fringe big league section.

Suárez likely doesn’t need much explanation for this group. He’s remarkably durable — playing in every single game in 2023 — and if you put a piece of tape in the middle of your computer screen to block out 2020 & 2021, he’s a consistent 3–4 win player entering his age-32 season. The power is real, the defense is strong, and the bubble gum is omnipresent. But he’s also on the wrong side of 30 and owed $11m next season, which isn’t onerous but does lower his trade value, even with a team option in 2025. I think he’d get more than the rest of this group.

In contrast to the consistency that Suárez has demonstrated as a Mariner, France has hurt his trade value unlike almost any Mariner in the last 12 months. In the middle of 2022, he ranked in the top-50 in FanGraphs’ trade value rankings, sandwiched between Zac Gallen and Mike Trout. (What a sentence to write!) But despite playing in a career-high 158 games, he had multiple long droughts at the plate, slumping to a 104 wRC+ (not good enough for a first baseman) and just half-a-win of value. His propensity to be hit by pitches will always present an injury risk; indeed, the knock on him for the last few years has been playing through injuries and suffering for it. There’s still upside here, and since he has two more years of arbitration, there’s both reasonable cost and limited up-front commitment. I slotted him just below Suárez because of the bumpy track record, but there’s a case to put him at #15 or to drop him all the way to the mid-20s.

Tier 6: Top Prospect Zone

14. Colt Emerson, 2B/SS
13. Cole Young, SS
12. Harry Ford, C

For all the problems with the Jerry Dipoto regime, there’s one thing he’s proven good at: Developing first-round picks into top-100 prospects. Once Emerson makes his top-100 debut, every single top Dipoto draft pick will have broken into the top 100 across most major outlets; while Kyle Lewis and Evan White have flamed out due to injuries, and Emerson Hancock remains an open question, the Mariners have benefited from Logan Gilbert and George Kirby turning into stars, and each of Ford, Young, and Emerson feels well equipped to turn into regular big leaguers.

Emerson burst onto the scene after being drafted in July; in 7 games in the complex league, the Ohio native hit an unimaginable .536/.629/.786, and in 17 games in A-ball he kept it going with a 147 wRC+. It’s early yet, but he debuted just two weeks after turning 18, and if he can keep producing at the plate while playing up-the-middle defense, his stock will soar in 2024.

Young projects as the second baseman of the future, maybe seeing the bigs as early as late 2024 and potentially moving to shortstop if J.P. Crawford doesn’t stick around after his current deal expires. No matter the level, he’s walked a lot and kept down his strikeouts, epitomizing the Control the Zone mantra. You’ll see him all over Top 100 lists this winter. Eric Longenhagen had him as a “Pick to Click” entering 2024, and Young has lived up to that billing and then some.

Ford likely needs no introduction, especially if you watched the World Baseball Classic this spring. He’s not the typical catcher profile — 20+ steals in each of the past two seasons — but his sky-high walk rate and significant raw power has him as the #39 prospect in baseball, per For many bat-first catchers, there’s an open question as to whether they’ll stick behind the plate, but Ford proved himself to Longenhagen at midseason and his power & athleticism will play at any position.

Teams drool over adding top-100 prospects in trades, so each of the players listed here would bring back a legitimate MLB bat with a couple years of control. Should the Mariners get into the Juan Soto sweepstakes (they won’t), the headliner could very well be from this group.

Part III coming tomorrow!

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