MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Seattle Mariner Deals to Compete in 2011 and Beyond
First off, I don't think it takes expert analysis to realize the Mariners probably won't be competing in 2011.
However, baseball is a funny game. The same Mariners that lost more games than anyone expected in 2010 could make a quick turnaround as soon as 2012—possibly sooner.
When I talk about competing, I mean exactly that: competing. I don't think the Mariners have a great chance to win the division this next season, but there's reason to believe that the core they have and a mediocre AL West could have them hang around in the hunt for a while if the ball bounces their way more often than not.
We saw it in 2007 and 2009. A team expected to be bad hung in there late into the season. That doesn't mean we should view those results and be optimistic that it can happen again, but perhaps with a few moves they can increase the probability just a little.
If those moves don't, well, at least it sets them up for their real run at contention coming in the next few years.
Here are 10 moves the Mariners could make during the course of this season to improve the club now and in the future.
No. 10: Sign LHP Jeff Francis
Francis is from British Columbia, so playing for the Mariners would put him close to home. He's not an ace by any means, but he's probably the best available starter on the open market. Plus, he's left-handed, and Safeco would love him back.
Francis had an even 5.00 ERA last season, but his FIP of 3.88 tells us he may have been a little unlucky. Oddly enough, he was worse on the road than at Coors Field, but there's still reason to believe he could be aided by a good defense behind him and a big ballpark that plays well to his skill set.
No. 9: Sign LHP Mark Hendrickson
Another local area player, this is one from the state of Washington. Hendrickson played in the NBA before taking his skills to baseball. He's not young at all, being 36, but he'd be cheap and would add depth at a position of need.
He's another lefty who could benefit from spacious Safeco Field. Hendrickson used to be a starter, but he'd be a lefty long relief option and could make some spot starts, especially late in the season, when Michael Pineda hits his innings limit.
No. 8: Sign LHP Joe Beimel
Who doesn't need a good LOOGY?
The Mariners could use a lefty specialist, and there's one on the open market. Beimel would cost a couple million, but if he performs well, he'd also be a good trade candidate come the end of July.
No. 7: Trade OF Greg Halman to Kansas City for LHP Everett Teaford
Who better to pick on than the Royals? Halman hits lots of home runs. He also strikes out a lot, doesn't get on base a lot and doesn't play good defense a lot.
This is the same Royals team that gave up a warm body for Yuniesky Betancourt, though, so I don't consider this a pipe dream.
Teaford is 26 and spent most of 2010 at AA. He sported a 10.2 K/9 last season, which is solid but double his 2009 mark. He did show the ability to strike out batters before that, so somewhere in between seems fair. He's not big at only six feet tall. He could help fill rotational needs now and later move to the bullpen if starting doesn't pan out.
No. 6: Trade for Arizona OF Cole Gillespie
Gillespie was drafted by Jack Zduriencik while he was in Milwaukee, so there is some familiarity and something Zduriencik liked.
While he's most likely a fourth OF type, he'd be a good right-handed complement to Michael Saunders in left field. This isn't a super sexy move, but it's a decent pickup for a young player who can fill in, pinch-hit or pinch-run: a decent 25th man.
What it would cost shouldn't be much. He could probably be had for a pair of Wilsons: Josh and Mike—neither of whom has much future with this club.
No. 5: Sign RHP Jeremy Bonderman
Bonderman is another local product, by way of Kennewick. He's an innings sponge who, when healthy, can eat up 170-plus frames.
If everything goes right with the current starters on the staff (Erik Bedard being healthy, Pineda breaking camp, etc.), Bonderman could at worst move to the bullpen and perhaps find better effectiveness in situations that suit his skills.
No. 4: Trade 3B Matt Mangini to Arizona for OF Gerardo Parra
Parra is the fourth man on the Diamondbacks' outfield depth chart. He'd play a similar role for the Mariners.
He's left-handed, so he wouldn't be platooning with Michael Saunders, which is just fine. Saunders should get as much playing time as possible, but Parra would give him a few days off here and there.
Parra can also play the other two outfield spots, which would make him preferable over the other D-Backs outfielder I mentioned a few slides earlier.
He doesn't hit for a ton of power, but he is a solid defender and has shown the ability to get on base.
No. 3: Sign UT Willie Bloomquist
Okay, not really.
However, it's not as bad as you might think. The Mariners were pretty bad last season, as you know, and Bloomquist actually would have represented an upgrade in some spots. That's how bad it was.
Hey, if he wants to come back home and play for a small contract, he wouldn't be the worst option to fill a utility role. Fans love him for some reason, so there's that too.
No. 2: Trade Chone Figgins
Chone Figgins' 2010 season was an unmitigated disaster for the Mariners.
Handing division rival Anaheim their first round draft choice for the then-Type A free agent seemed worth it at the time, even though the Mariners were in the midst of a rebuild. The thought, of course, was that Figgins would continue to play solid defense and cause havoc on the basepaths.
Perhaps it was moving to second base or dropping to second in the lineup. We don't know why Figgins had such a down year, but it doesn't matter, The net result was the Mariners ending up with a difficult contract to move for a player now on a team that would be better off without him.
This isn't to say Figgins doesn't still have value, especially now that he'll return to his better position of third base. The Mariners are deeper into rebuild now, though, after trying to compete while doing so in 2010.
If, as expected, the Mariners are nowhere near contending by the All-Star break, Figgins is playing like he did pre-2010 and somehow Anthony Rendon falls into the team's lap with the second overall pick in June's draft, we could see a contending team come knocking for Figgins' services.
Mariners trade 3B Chone Figgins to Giants for RHP Joe Martinez and 1B Travis Ishikawa
Surely "The Panda" will be in shape and play the entire season at third base, right? Well, just in case...
This would be mostly a salary relief move, as Figgins is due around $9 million for 2011. Neither Martinez nor Ishikawa provides much in the way of value, but their low salaries enable the Mariners to free up more payroll as they rebuild.
Martinez is likely headed for the bullpen before too much longer, but the Mariners could use someone to eat up some innings, especially later in the season, when the time comes to shut down Michael Pineda for the year.
Ishikawa is a local product, graduating from Federal Way High School. The Mariners love their local kids, and the huge void left by Willie Bloomquist and Sean White has to be filled somehow. The best case would see him playing a reserve role as Justin Smoak is tearing the cover off the ball. If Smoak is struggling, though, it gives the Mariners an actual option to play first base without calling up a prospect.
Figgins would provide the Giants an excellent defensive third baseman and a legit lead-off man if Andres Torres' late season regression continues into 2011. This, of course, is all dependent on Figgins reverting to his pre-2010 self, or at least something close to it.
No. 1: Trade David Aardsma
Thanks to his recent hip surgery, trading Aardsma has taken a back seat for now.
That doesn't mean the Mariners won't still look to do it. It may just take a little longer than expected now.
The current thought is that Aardsma should be cleared to throw about 10 days before pitchers and catchers are to report. He has said he thinks that should put him on track to start regular workouts, bullpens and live-batter pitching soon thereafter.
Teams weren't jumping for what the Mariners were asking for in return for Aardsma before the surgery, and now his value is even lower. It may take Aardsma showing he is healthy in spring training and then closing out some real games the first month of the season for that value to return.
With some big arms coming from the minors and a perfectly capable Brandon League already in the pen, Aardsma is expendable. Teams are always looking for proven late-inning guys, and Aardsma has fit that description the last couple seasons.
Here's one move the Mariners could make to free up salary and improve the club.
Mariners trade RHP David Aardsma and cash for Washington Nationals RHP Tyler Clippard
The Nationals are currently without a "proven closer" and are having one of those types of offseasons that show they are quite serious about contending soon. Aardsma at peak performance was worth about half a win more than Clippard. Generally, that isn't worth trading youth for experience, but in a year where the Nationals want to contend, every win you can pile up becomes ever more important.
Clippard, who is a few years younger than Aardsma, had a good season for them in 2010, pitching 91 innings and sporting a 3.07 ERA. His FIP of 3.18 shows that we can reasonably expect that success to continue. With other big arms in the system already, Clippard may not need to be thrust into a full-time closer role.
This would be one of those deals that would rely on the Nationals front office feeling they need someone with closer experience. We can debate if that matters, but their opinion is the only one that does.
If they feel Clippard had a peak season in 2010 and don't want to risk their contention with an "unproven" arm, this is the type of move I could see them making in late April if Clippard blows a few saves and Aardsma looks healthy.
The Mariners may need to toss in some cash, as the Nationals have spent heavily this offseason. With people expecting Aardsma's salary to rise to $4.5 million via arbitration, the Mariners could eat $1 million to $2 million of that, creating some extra payroll relief for 2010 and beyond. Clippard is pre-arbitration eligible, so he'll make league minimum.