As the off-season stretches on, it’s feeling more and more like the Mariners will be improving this team via trades rather than an impact free-agent signing. We’ll be examining which organizations match up well as trade partners at three different levels: a minor trade that raises the floor but doesn’t necessarily set the Hot Stove ablaze; a medium-spicy move that industry experts would describe as “savvy”; and a four-alarm blaze that involves a fair amount of risk and cost. The first team up is the Chicago White Sox.
Why the White Sox:
The White Sox are clearly in sell mode, actively shopping starter Dylan Cease and making depth moves elsewhere, like signing Paul DeJong to keep the shortstop position warm for top prospect Colson Montgomery. The White Sox likely want to build a core around Montgomery, who should be arriving in the next couple of years, and will be looking for younger players who fit their ideal window of contention. First-year GM Chris Getz said earlier this month that the White Sox are willing to listen on “any of our players,” with a special eye to slashing payroll, so let’s start talking.
One-star trade: 1B Gavin Sheets for OF Spencer Packard
Look, there’s a reason this is the one-star trade section. There’s nothing exciting about Sheets other than the fact that he immediately solves some of the Mariners’ contact issues: he doesn’t whiff, and he doesn’t strike out. The bad thing is when he does impact the ball, it’s not with authority; he doesn’t make hard contact, which is not what you want out of a first baseman-only profile. But while he’s lost some of his SLG over the past couple years, Sheets does have a track record of hitting the ball hard, which is why the White Sox took him in the second round of the 2019 draft out of Wake Forest. If the Mariners think they can improve on the White Sox’s player development—not a huge “if”, to be honest—Sheets could be a sneaky bounceback candidate at a low price.
Two-star trade: Eloy Jiménez for Emerson Hancock and Taylor Trammell
Jiménez is a very Mariners target; he’s under club control for the next two seasons with a pair of team options, and next year will be just his age-27 season. He’s also a righty hitter who strikes out less than average, ideal for a team seeking to solve some contact issues. The knock on Jiménez is that he simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but the Mariners would be able to play him at DH, limiting his exposure in the field. They also have a top-tier training staff that helped the club tie for the second-fewest IL placements in baseball in 2023.
As a buy-low candidate, Jiménez represents one of the largest potential upgrades the Mariners could make without sacrificing one of Bryce Miller or Bryan Woo. The Mariners could send the White Sox a future rotation piece in Emerson Hancock, who has suffered his own poor injury luck, and include Taylor Trammell to fill Jiménez’s spot in the outfield and also grant Trammell an everyday opportunity. If the White Sox are nervous about Hancock’s injury history and want a safer floor, the Mariners could swap in Taylor Dollard, currently recovering from TJ, or send MLB-experienced Cade Marlowe, who immediately provides a defensive upgrade for the White Sox. Jiménez is far from a sure thing, but wouldn’t require the Mariners to dip too deeply into their own young core.
If you don’t like the riskiness of Eloy, the Mariners could also look at a rental of Yoan Moncada, who is a year older but has been more durable than Jiménez (an understandably low bar to clear). Moncada feels like a poorer fit than Jiménez for two reasons: he doesn’t control the zone as well as Jiménez, and he’s set to earn a whopping $24M in the final year of his contract before a team option in 2025. However, his cost would be even lower due to that salary; the Mariners could send a lower-tier prospect like Ryan Bliss in exchange. This is the kind of short-term move that doesn’t really move the needle for the Mariners’ future, though, and we’re here to have fun. Speaking of which...
Five-star trade: Luis Robert Jr. for Logan Gilbert, Jarred Kelenic, and Harry Ford
Get out your mouse ears and FastPass because we are firmly in Fantasyland now. Luis Robert Jr. is just 25 and was worth more in 2023 than the next five highest-achieving White Sox combined. If the White Sox really want to compete around Colson Montgomery, trading away their young superstar would only make sense if they get back a handful of average to above-average contributors with either impeccable prospect pedigree or a proven ability to contribute at the big-league level. The Mariners could start with offering Bryan Woo or Bryce Miller, but the White Sox would—and should—hold out for Gilbert, a proven player still under team control. The White Sox also get a replacement center fielder in Kelenic, and a future catcher in Ford, something currently lacking in their system now that they’ve traded Seby Zavala away (please hear the sarcasm in that).
As much sense as this makes for the White Sox and as much young talent it brings to Seattle, though—please pause a moment and imagine an outfield composed of Julio and La Pantera—this is, admittedly, a stretch. Much like the Juan Soto trade possibility we discussed, this doesn’t feel like the kind of move the Mariners would make, simply because it would cost so much of the assets the team has prioritized. But Mariners fans can have a little dream, sometimes, as a treat.