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Mariners Could Exploit a Seller's Market

The Mariners remain in a precarious position, to say the least. Although they did not play yesterday, the A's did, and won - which puts the Mariners in the AL West cellar. However, Fangraphs still projects the Mariners to have the best winning percentage in the AL West the rest of the season. Of course, this is simply an analytical way of saying what any fan has easily noticed so far: the Seattle Mariners have badly underperformed so far this year.

Interestingly, Fangraphs still places the M's playoff odds at 18.4% - basically suggesting that if this 2015 M's team, from the position they are in right now in the division and league they are in right now, would find a way to make the playoffs about once in five attempts.* Frankly, that's a higher percentage than I expected. It speaks to how good the Mariners could (and should) be because the projection assumes that the Mariners revert back to that team projected to be the best in the AL West from now to the rest of the season.

*Some of this is due to the extreme parity in the AL. The top four playoff odds at the moment all belong to NL teams, which is especially amazing when you consider there are only five playoff spots up for grabs in each league. This includes three NL Central ballclubs (Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs) with odds ahead of every AL team.

I remain worried that Jack Zduriencik will feel some heat on his job and make some deadline deals to go for it and make the playoffs this year. The playoff odds suggest making the postseason is not an impossible task for the Mariners, but bolstering the roster is a different story. The following tweet came from respected MLB reporter Ken Rosenthal today:


The trade deadline market projects as an extreme seller's market because so many teams think they have a shot at the playoffs. In an odd way the Mark Trumbo trade already looks better than expected in hindsight, even with Trumbo's mighty struggles, given that the Mariners completely one of only two significant trades during the season so far. The other also included the Diamondbacks, who shipped Bronson Arroyo and top pitching prospect Touki Toussaint to the Braves for Phil Gosselin. Gosselin is basically a glorified version of Willie Bloomquist. Advantage: Braves in a landslide. The Mariners gave up nobody of Toussaint's caliber to get a (theoretically) superior player in Trumbo.

Perhaps the Diamondbacks are just dumb, but even if that's the case, at least the Mariners took advantage.

Both logic and reports like Rosenthal's strongly suggest that whoever decides to sell players and build for the future will get deals they almost never would get in other markets, particularly in the offseason. Even though the Mariners have an outside chance at the playoffs, I believe there is some wisdom to exploring and exploiting this trade market to reload for 2016. I'm not suggesting that this team needs to get blown up. What I am suggesting is that the 2015 Mariners have some players that contenders might like to have who do not ruin the M's chances in 2016 - especially depending on who the M's can get back in a trade.

Here are five Mariners who could get traded at the deadline that might not harm the M's chances of competing in 2016 at all, especially if the Mariners can acquire some talent in return:


'Kuma is an impending free agent
(image posted on Wikimedia commons by LiAna Davis)
Hisashi Iwakuma - Iwakuma is a free agent at the end of this season. Moreover, the Mariners all of a sudden have a bit of a glut in the starting rotation with the emergence of Mike Montgomery. Although Iwakuma would be a rental for a contender, he comes with a track record of success, a very affordable contract, and his injury this season might work in his favor. It has limited Iwakuma's innings, which means if he can have a couple of solid starts between now and the trade deadline, other teams should have confidence that Iwakuma won't lose any gas in a potentially deep playoff run.

J.A. Happ - Similar to Iwakuma, Happ is a free agent at the end of the season. Safeco Field makes him look a bit better than he actually is, but that hasn't stopped teams in the past from acquiring Mariners (remember when the Tigers traded for Jarrod Washburn at the deadline?) It wouldn't make sense to trade both Happ and Iwakuma away unless one of those deals netted a decent starting pitcher in return. Then again, Vidal Nuno could jump in the rotation for the rest of the season and a guy like Danny Hultzen could add depth in 2016.

Austin Jackson - Jackson will become a free agent at the end of this season. This limits his trade value, but the whole point of going into the market is because it's an extreme seller's market. Jackson might still demand something more than usual. Trading him away would only make sense if A) The Mariners get a center fielder back in the trade or B) They decide to get creative from within their own ranks. A three-way trade which brings Ben Revere from the Phillies could make some sense, or perhaps giving Brad Miller an audition in center field which would clear room for Chris Taylor and/or Ketel Marte at shortstop for an audition between now and the end of the season.

Willie Bloomquist - A popular target to get DFAd, maybe somebody in the National League wants him for his defensive versatility and veteran presence. He is another free agent at the end of the season, and with the M's infield depth in the minors I don't see a spot for him moving forward. Might as well ask around and see if anyone would give up a player for his services.

Fernando Rodney - Hey, if Rodney gets hot and a team sees him as closer insurance, why not? Rodney is a free agent at the end of the season anyway. I doubt he nets much in return in a trade, but you never know until you ask.

Perhaps none of these impending free agents appeal to other clubs, but if the market is as devoid of available players as it seems to be, I would think a few of these players would generate some interest. None of them would create holes for the Mariners that do not already exist (with the possible exception of Austin Jackson). Again, this isn't about blowing up the team and starting again. It is about prepping for 2016 a little early and exploiting a market where the vast majority of teams are hungry to bolster themselves for a pennant chase this year.

I doubt the Mariners would get major prospects in return, but I like their chances to get a few useful role players that they do not have at the moment. That may not sound huge, but then the Mariners would have a little bit of time the rest of this season to season some rookies and find out what they have going into 2016. Moreover, a little more organizational depth in the right places (like catcher...) would allow Zduriencik and company to focus on one or two major additions this offseason. Assuming this year is a fluke, which both traditional scouts and statheads agree could be the case, the Mariners could be in line to win something like 90 games next year.

Or the Mariners could blow all their depth in trades to try to squeak into the playoffs this year and then lose a fifth (or more) of their roster in free agency and scramble for replacements. Or, perhaps more likely, the Mariners could stand pat at the deadline and hope their current roster catches fire and passes up the rest of the American League, then worry about replacing all their impending free agents in the offseason.

I know which path I would explore at this point.