The Seattle Mariners are not having a particularly good season, and as the trade deadline gets closer, the big question will keep getting asked. Buyer? Or seller?
Obviously it is hard to fathom the Mariners contending at this point. Fans can reminisce about the miracle comeback of 1995, but the objective supporters will recognize the reality that “Refuse to Lose” was a unique event in the sports universe.
Sadly, this is the state of Major League Baseball. The rich get richer, and there seems to be an automatic expectation that the poorer teams will give up their best assets at the deadline. In return, teams like the Mariners get some unproven prospects that are supposed to be used for “the future.”
For teams like Seattle, that future doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon.
There is certainly wisdom in moving particular players, simply because re-signing them may not be feasible. Why not get something for them when another team might be willing to overpay?
Should the Mariners continue to feed into this mentality? More importantly, will the Mariners get anything in return for their key trade assets? Fans remember some of the deals over the years, and Seattle has not exactly taken advantage of anyone lately. The faithful fans are still smarting over that Doug Fister deal.
At this point, the most tradeable assets are probably Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales and perhaps Oliver Perez. You could obviously include Hisashi Iwakuma or one of the young minor league pitchers on that list as well, but I hope that Jack Zduriencik has the sense not to move Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen or any of the young bats.
Ibanez seems the most logical to move because he is hitting a ton of home runs and Seattle may actually get some value for him. Morales is a little tougher. If the Mariners can get a reasonable package for him, a trade might make sense. However, if the Mariners keep him, they can make him a qualifying offer after the season and then get a draft pick if he signs somewhere else.
Perez is also a guy who might be worth moving, as you could see his performance being short-lived.
As much as the Mariners may want to move the likes of Mike Morse, Joe Saunders, Jason Bay and Brendan Ryan, there is the reality that value may be low. If the Mariners were to move one or more of these players, you could see them getting the dreaded “player to be named later.” That always works out so well.
Does anyone want Aaron Harang? Anyone? Anyone?
On paper, the Mariners fall into the prototypical sellers category, but perhaps the franchise has had enough. Thomas Holmes recently talked about how it is tempting to clean house even though the Mariners are starting to play better. He astutely wrote:
Of course, the problem with that approach is that the M's have done it so many times now since Jack Zduriencik took over as general manager and sadly have very little to show for it.
Well said. Seattle fans are tired of this. Every year it feels like the same thing keeps happening. The Mariners bring in some second-tier free agents or trade for players that are just short of being stars. Some of those players do well, which results in them getting traded at the deadline for some mid-level prospects that never seem to pan out.
Sign. Trade. Repeat.
I like how Jon Heyman put it, by calling the Mariners a hesitant seller. He wrote:
One other Mariners person referred to their situation as "a Catch-22.'' They could sell off key veteran pieces such as Morales, Ibanez and Perez (the Rays are among teams who have asked about the hitters), but it could cause them to go into a free fall and also adversely affect their stash of top prospects who've already been called up.
In other words, you could trade veterans in order to build for the future, but at the cost of possibly hurting pieces that are supposed to be the future. Isn’t this fun?
Fans are supposed to be patient, right? One of these years the Mariners will somehow switch over to the buyers list. At this point, it seems reasonable to assume that fans are not optimistic.