It’s common for Seattle Mariners fans to feel like the sky is falling, although this year admittedly feels worse than most. However, even with the team’s season-long struggles, they remain 52-50, with playoff odds of 14.7% (FanGraphs), 12.7% (Baseball Prospectus), and 14% (FiveThirtyEight). That’s not where they want to be, but they’re not totally out of it. In fact, other playoff teams have done way more with way less.
In 2006 the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series after only winning 83 games; the very next year, the Cubs won the NL Central winning only 85 games; in 2008, the Dodgers won the NL West with 84 wins, and the Twins reached a wild card spot in 2017 with just 85 wins. There are 60 games left in the season; now is the time to buy and give this team that last little boost to put them into clear contention. The Mariners have one of the best bullpens in the league, a great rotation whom many of you consider top three in the league and an offense that is capable of playing much better than they have. A little more firepower and a lot of luck, and you could squint and see this as a playoff team. Let’s stop sleeping on the hometown heroes. Get enough of that from the national media as it is.
1B/OF Josh Naylor
Josh Naylor has been on a pretty good run this year, putting up some of the best numbers of his career; if he keeps this up, he could be on pace to set career highs in every category. Naylor’s barrel percentage, launch angle, and exit velocity are all up, he’s top 5% in XBA, and his K% is down. On top of all that, Naylor still has 3 years of team control left and is only 25, soon to be 26. To put it lightly, this year’s Mariners team has struggled mightily on offense; a bigger, more consistent bat in the middle of the order could be just what the doctor ordered to get this team back on track. Cleveland is further out of the Wild Card hunt than Seattle and is flush with prospects at the Triple-A level to take plate appearances.
3B/1B Jeimer Candelario
Jeimer Candelario is not a lasting addition like some of the other potential targets on this list, but he still would be a valuable addition to this team. The Mariners have struggled consistently to fill the hole at DH left by Nelson Cruz. More recently, Mike Ford has managed to make that spot in the lineup less of a guaranteed out, but nonetheless, better things between the corner infield spots and the DH slot are possible. Candelario is not lighting the world on fire for the Nats, but he is hitting the ball hard, striking out less, and walking more compared to last year, hitting apace with his 2021 campaign where he led the American League in doubles. With a change of scenery and a little help, there’s no reason the 28-year-old couldn’t be turned into a 20-homer guy, and his 128 OPS+ would strengthen the lineup considerably while his expiring contract would lessen the prospect cost.
3B/2B Ryan McMahon
McMahon is an interesting piece, once a pretty well-liked prospect, taken in the second round of the 2013 draft before nabbing a full-time role in 2019. McMahon has been pretty good for the Rockies, and the bat has been reasonable as advertised. That’s allowed him to play a top-notch defensive infield at two positions Seattle has more uncertain future plans for. For the second year in a row, McMahon is near the top in the league in exit velocity and XWOBACON; he’s hitting hard and doing damage. However, McMahon struggles a lot with the strikeout, currently sitting in the bottom 10% of the league in strikeout rate. With the Rockies going nowhere, now could be the time for the Mariners to swoop in and snatch up a player with some potential remaining projection in McMahon. The 28-year-old is on a contract that is guaranteed through 2027, making similar money to J.P. Crawford for similar quality of production, albeit with opt-outs after 2025 and 2026.
OF Tommy Pham
Tommy Pham is experiencing a massive resurgence. This year the 35-year-old is slashing an impressive .271/.375/.452 with a 125 wRC+ and making himself a force to be reckoned with for the Mets. The Mets may just be soft sellers at the deadline, and for a Mariners team that's really lacking in solid right-handed bats and suddenly down an outfielder for the rest of the year, Pham could be the perfect plug-and-play piece to make a difference down the stretch. The ball absolutely explodes off his bat this year, sitting in the 89th percentile for max exit velo and in the top 10% in the league for XSLG. Pham could be a nice bit of power and hitting to add to the top of the order and offer some protection in the lineup to hide some guys who have been struggling lately and balance a platoon with Cade Marlowe/Taylor Trammell that AJ Pollock has not been able to carry.
3B/2B/1B Justin Turner
Not only would Turner add a great beard to the lineup that would put Cal and Logan to shame, but he would also bring a much-needed offensive burst to a team that has struggled to produce this year. Despite his age, Turner is still putting together a solid enough season that the Mariners should take notice, slashing a pretty impressive .289/.359/.481 with 16 home runs and a 127 wRC+. Turner would probably slot in as the best and most consistent hitter in the Mariners lineup. Turner also sits in the 86th percentile for K% this season at just 15.8%, with a hard-hit rate of 40.5%. This hard-hitting, K-avoiding red-head could be just the spark this lineup needs to get back on track. It could be the best Mariner and red-head coupling since The Little Mermaid. Furthermore, not to repeat myself, but he’s another veteran with a ton of playoff and World Series experience, and the hole left by veterans like Haniger and Santana seems to become bigger every day.
2B/3B/1B Nolan Gorman
There has been a lot of hot talk between the Mariners and the Cardinals, in particular around certain players like Nolan Gorman and similarly appealing trade target OF Lars Nootbar. Currently, Eugenio Suarez dutifully mans third base for the Mariners and has done a fine job, but at age 32, with just one more year under contract, he’s not the long-term solution. His more recent power outage has drawn a lot of attention to the fact he is well on pace for 200 strikeouts this year without anything close to the home runs or RBIs to make up for it. Still, Suarez is signed through 2024 with a team option for 2025, so while moving him is unlikely, he’s making 11 million this year and next year; there's no reason we can’t speed up that transition to DH. Gorman, on the other hand, is significantly younger at 23 years old, a much better hitter, and much more flexible defensively. Despite only posting -1 DRS at third this year, Gorman has played most of his games at second, worth a pretty solid four runs above average at second base. On top of that, Gorman crushes the ball, 83rd percentile in hard hit percentage, 89th percentile in barrel percentage, and 75th percentile in average exit velocity. All signs point to this kid hitting the ball hard and far. Gorman could be just the spark the Mariners need at first or third to put them over the top.
2B/3B Jonathan India
Personally, I’ve always thought India was immensely overrated, but with all the rumors, it would be a mistake not to do our due diligence. The issue is India doesn't really bring anything of note to the table. He’s an average hitter, a slightly below-average fielder, and that's kinda it. The Mariners already have Kolten Wong, who, despite his abysmal start to the season, projects for nearly identical performance the rest of the year. Any trade for India would be a massive overpay for anything other than a middling reliever or a direct swap for Wong and Dylan Moore, and even that is too much.
RHP Marcus Stroman
If you asked me two months ago if I think the Mariners should trade for Marcus Stroman, I would have said yes, but now probably less so. Stoman is obviously having a great season, posting some of his best numbers ever and, as of June 11th, leading the league in WHIP and Hits per 9. However, with that success, his cost increased; now, it shouldn’t be too bad because recent tweets from Stroman have led me to believe he wants out of Chicago, and there are the obvious additional issues that have seemed to follow him everywhere he goes. Still, in terms of a short-term rental and emotional spark, I don’t think there’s a better player to pursue. For a Mariners team that is lacking in both passion and pitching right now, Stroman would be a fantastic short-term addition.
RHP Kenley Jansen
You know, before the 2021 season, before I even worked for Lookout Landing, I wrote an article on Mariner's free agent targets and included Kenley Jansen and I still think they should pursue him. Jansen is currently in what many would call the twilight of his career, even though he led the league in saves last year for Atlanta with 41, and he’s off to a great start with the Red Sox this year. Jansen is top 5% in the league in XSLG and XWOBACON and has logged 22 saves in 25 attempts, a pretty good clip for this point in the season and puts him roughly on track with 40 saves again this year. While the Mariner’s bullpen hasn’t been particularly bad this year, it also hasn’t been that good, plus with slow starts from Brash and Castillo and the injury, and the inconsistent availability of Munoz, the bullpen could probably use the boost that a veteran like Jansen would bring with him. Additionally, Jansen has playoff, and World Series experience, something this year’s Mariners team certainly lacks. The crafty veteran could be just the spark this team needs to get back on track.
RHP Adbert Alzolay
Alzolay has been having a fantastic season and is on his way to the Reliever of the Year award. Alzolay is currently top 5% in the league in XSLG, XWOBA, XWOBACON, BB%, and xERA, and for all you non-stats-nerds, he has many red dots on his Baseball Savant page.
There’s no doubt that the 28-year-old would be an incredible addition, but he is also likely to be highly sought after and definitely will not come cheap. Alzolay is also not a closer, and I’ve never been a fan of paying out the nose for middle relievers, even ones as good as this one.
RHP Alex Lange
Alex Lange could be an excellent, very lowkey acquisition for the Mariners. The 27-year-old has quietly put together a very good year for an entirely uninteresting Tigers squad. Top 10% in the league in xSLG Lange would be a spectacular addition to a depleted squad of middle relievers. Lange does an excellent job of keeping hitters off balance with a good sinker, a really good curveball, and possibly the best change-up in the league. Despite throwing the changeup 63 times so far this year, admittedly, that’s pretty low; it has a hard hit percentage of 0%; yes, you read that correctly; so far this year, no one has a hard hit off an Alex Lange change-up. Even more interesting, it’s currently posting a whiff percentage of 55%. Lange also has 5 years of control left; the earliest arbitration is 2025; he could be an ideal long-term addition for the Mariners, who always seem to be on the hunt for a good deal. So far, I haven’t heard much chatter around Lange; if the Mariners move quickly enough, he could be a reasonably cheap acquisition.