The Mariners need help sooner rather than later. Seattle has lost four out of its last five series due to a scuffling offense that could use an upgrade at a few different positions.
The Mariners have been rumored to be looking at Marlon Byrd, per Jerry Crasnick of MLB.com. There were also whispers last week about possible deals with the Tampa Bay Rays to bring in David Price or Ben Zobrist, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports:
Mariners are having ongoing trade discussions with Rays regarding David Price and Ben Zobrist, sources say. No deal imminent. @FOXSports1— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 17, 2014
However, the Rays are playing well and are suddenly only 4.5 games out of a wild-card spot, meaning they will likely wait until the last minute to sell. Hanging on to Price and Zobrist would leave a thin market and shake up the entire deadline.
With the possibility of the market shrinking, this week brought plenty of fresh rumors concerning the Mariners.
Nick Franklin is drawing interest from the Oakland Athletics
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Athletics consider Franklin a “top target” at the deadline. Oakland needs a second baseman and the Mariners are likely to listen to offers on Franklin, as his path to the majors is blocked in Seattle.
The rumor makes sense, but the question becomes what the Athletics could offer in return, as their farm system is depleted after acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Seattle is looking for outfielders who can provide an upgrade now, and the Athletics don’t have much to offer in that regard. Billy Burns, Oakland’s top outfield prospect, is still in Double-A, and the Athletics will probably be hesitant to trade any of their major league outfielders.
One possibility could be Tommy Milone, who asked for a trade after being demoted to Triple-A despite posting a 3.55 ERA (4.43 FIP), per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Milone could help the back of the Mariners rotation for the rest of the year, but a straight Franklin-for-Milone swap is an overpay from Seattle’s perspective.
Trading Franklin to a division rival, specifically one who is arguably the best in the majors at scouting and developing talent, is a dangerous move.
This one isn’t happening unless the Athletics offer someone unexpected.
The Mariners want Starling Marte
Marte would be a perfect fit for the Mariners, as he is a right-handed corner outfielder who would be an upgrade for this season and beyond. Last year, Marte posted a 4.6 FanGraphs WAR in his first full MLB season, and he is under team control for several years.
Even in a down year with a .255/.328/.385 line, Marte would provide a boost for the Mariners over the rest of the season. However, he signed a friendly six-year, $31 million extension with Pittsburgh in March. That would indicate he is almost certainly not available. Pittsburgh has a surplus of outfielders and the Mariners have some great talent to offer, but Marte appears to be a part of the Pirates’ future core.
In addition, Marte was placed on the seven-day disabled list Wednesday with a concussion after he was hit in the head by a pitch last Friday, decreasing the chances of an already unlikely trade.
An offer of Taijuan Walker and Franklin or Chris Taylor would strengthen some needs for the Pirates and might draw some interest, but that’s a difficult deal for either team to say yes to.
Acquiring Marte is likely nothing more than a pipe dream at this stage.
Seattle is interested in Casey McGehee
Once again, McGehee is a right-handed bat (albeit one with a reverse platoon split) who would upgrade a part of Seattle’s lineup. He obviously wouldn’t start at third base in Seattle, but he could play first or assume DH duties.
The Mariners are even desperate enough for offense that they could take the defensive hit and move McGehee or Logan Morrison into the outfield.
After spending a season in Japan, McGehee is putting up a solid season with the Marlins. He owns a 121 wRC+, including a walk rate over 10 percent and a strikeout rate of just 13.1 percent. McGehee has no home run power and a .363 BABIP is likely to regress at some point, but even so, his .387 OBP would rank second among Mariners regulars.
He chalked up his resurgent season to a plate approach that focuses on patience and hitting line drives, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com:
There's a time and a place for the three-run homer. Of course, you'd love to have them. There's also a time and a place to keep the line moving, and take what the pitcher gives you. There's nothing wrong with the home runs. I'll take them when they come. But it doesn't bother me.
Acquiring McGehee would make some sense, so long as the price is only a mid-level prospect or reliever. McGehee wouldn’t be an impact upgrade, but he would at least be something for a low cost.
The Mariners inquired about Matt Kemp
Continuing a rumor from the offseason, Rosenthal reports that the Mariners were one of four AL teams to inquire about Matt Kemp. None of those teams made an offer, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have an outfield logjam and would likely be willing to listen to offers on him.
Kemp’s minus-0.5 FanGraphs WAR is largely due to terrible defense, and it's clear he can't play center field anymore. Offensively, he has a .269/.331/.424 line and 116 wRC+.
He won’t match his 2011 season ever again, but those numbers look pretty good compared to Seattle’s current situation in left field or designated hitter.
Kemp is declining and is rarely at full health, but Mike Petriello of FanGraphs points out that he still has something to give at the plate:
Matt Kemp has a better wRC+ than Josh Donaldson, Chase Utley, Matt Carpenter. I think he's going to be okay.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) July 21, 2014
The Mariners simply don’t have the financial flexibility for the $107 million owed on Kemp’s contract through the 2019 season, so Los Angeles would have to eat most of it. That’s only going to drive the cost up in terms of prospects.
Kemp would improve the Mariners, but he might be too pricey. Trading Walker plus others for an injury-prone player who will be 30 years old by the end of the season is a huge risk for a team gunning for the second AL Wild Card.