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2023 Mariners off-season trade partner: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have multiple potential trade targets for the Mariners

Pittsburgh Pirates v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

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; even yesterday’s salary dump trade felt more like belt-tightening than it did like gearing up to make a run at a premium player like Soto or Ohtani. As such, we will continue to examine which organizations match up well as trade partners at some 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 five-alarm blaze that involves a fair amount of risk and cost. Last Friday we opened this series by looking at the Chicago White Sox, a team that’s firmly in sell mode; today we’ll look at some favorite trading partners of Jerry Dipoto in the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that’s permanently desperate to shed payroll, but a direction the Mariners seem to be slumping towards financially.

Why the Rays:

This time we have a little more smoke behind some of our speculations, as Jon Morosi reports the two teams have spoken about Isaac Paredes, although take that information as you will; Randy Arozarena’s name was also mentioned in Morosi’s tweet, although if you should take the Paredes rumors with a grain of salt, take Arozarena’s with a whole salt lick. Other than that, the Rays and Mariners match up well as trade partners; Seattle has a stable of cost-controlled young pitching, which the Rays suddenly don’t, after years of developing their own excellent internal options. The Rays, on the other hand, are aflush with middle infield prospects, an area where Seattle is habitually weak.

One-star trade: OF Manuel Margot for OF Victor Labrada

Another fourth outfielder in this economy? And one who might have run face-first into the aging cliff? The 29-year-old is coming off his worst season as a full-time pro, slowed by an elbow injury that required surgery; the year before, he missed a significant chunk of time with a knee sprain. However, the year before that, 2021, he had a career-best season, appearing in 125 games and knocking double-digit home runs. Margot also provides a solution to the Mariners’ contact issues, with a career strikeout percentage below 18% and a consistent ability to get on-base, but he doesn’t help the Mariners out with a lot of righty thump. However, because of the size of Margot’s contract ($10M for 2024, with a mutual option for 2025), the Mariners wouldn’t have to sacrifice much in the way of prospect capital in order to acquire his services. Labrada makes sense as a return because he brings a major-league skill immediately in his baserunning, although the short-statured Cuban’s bat has stalled in the higher minors, but you could substitute in any name off the back end of the Mariners’ Top 30 list.

Two-star trade: 2B Jonathan Aranda for SP Emerson Hancock

Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned challenge trade? Aranda is an older (25) second baseman who seems mired in the Rays’ deep system and fits the Mariners’ strategy of targeting high-achieving MLB-adjacent players who are blocked in their organizations. He also fits the Mariners’ love for pure hitters, as a righty-hitting longtime zone-controller. In exchange, the Mariners would send the Rays an oft-injured but highly-drafted rotation prospect to bolster their need for young pitching. This is a deal that might not light up the trade talk switchboards but quietly could have huge major-league implications. We love a good dice roll around these parts.

Three-star trade: 1B Yandy Díaz for SP Bryan Woo, C Harry Ford, and 1B Tyler Locklear

To be clear, per Baseball Trade Values, this is still an underpay for Yandy, who is on a very team-friendly contract. The Mariners could swap in Ty France if the Rays wanted a proven contributor at first base, although the younger (cheaper) Locklear might be more appealing to the perennially impecunious Rays. This deal brings the Rays a bevy of young, cost-controlled talent, and brings the Mariners a Silver Slugger coming off a career year on a team-friendly contract for the next three seasons. Giving this much young, cost-controlled talent for a slugger entering his age-32 season doesn’t feel like a very Mariners move, but Díaz has the kind of on-base skills the Mariners drool over: he’s very difficult to strike out and he loves to take a walk, while also hitting for a high average. This year, he added significantly more power to his skillset, making him one of the best hitters in the American League. Will that power sustain? Díaz’s trade value has never been higher than it is now, and it feels like the Mariners will let another team be the ones to overpay in order to acquire his services.

Four-star trade: OF Randy Arozarena for SP Bryan Woo and C Harry Ford

If the Rays would like to upgrade their young pitching and shed some salary (Arozarena is projected for $9M in arbitration this year, and will go up from there), they could make this deal and get a young starter and their next catching prospect. Initially we had this deal written up as Woo, Prelander Berroa, and Jonatan Clase, which is a nearly equal return per BTV, but the Rays guard their 40-man spots jealously, and all three of those players would require a 40-man spot, as opposed to Ford, who wouldn’t need one until next off-season. In exchange, the Mariners would receive “some MFer named Randy” Arozarena, who will play this year as his age-29 season and has increased his power output steadily over the past three years, hitting 20+ home runs each year (and probably would have gotten there in 2020, as well, when he hit seven in just 76 PAs). He strikes out probably a little more than the Mariners would like, but he’s also Literally Randy Arozarena. When we talk about the Mariners needing to access talent via trade, Arozarena is the kind of player we’re talking about.

Five-star trade: 3B Isaac Paredes for SP Logan Gilbert

This one hurts both sides, which is the mark of a good trade. The Mariners sacrifice a huge part of their rotation in Gilbert in exchange for their third baseman of the future. Paredes fits the Mariners like a glove: he’s young (24), and shows an exceptional ability to control the zone. This year he came into his power, hitting 31 home runs while also hitting for a higher average than he did in his first year with Tampa Bay, who shined him up very nicely after receiving him in trade from the Tigers. He’s only an okay fielder at third, but that’s nothing a little Perry Hill can’t fix. While Paredes doesn’t have the track record of Yandy-Randy, his upside is what makes him a five-star trade and gives him the highest cost on this list. Is it possible the Mariners could get the relatively-unproven Paredes for Woo plus prospect cost? It’s not impossible (BTV accepts Woo/Miller plus Hancock, Ford, and Gabriel Gonzales), but it feels less likely the Mariners would give up that kind of prospect package for Paredes.