MLB Trade Ideas: 5 Targets to Keep Mariners in AL West Hunt
The Mariners have had a much nicer start than most anticipated. Coming off a 101-loss season, they've impressed by maintaining a .457 winning percentage through 35 games. It isn't great, but I don't think anyone is too displeased. They even managed to get a walk-off win, a rarity in 2010.
Now, some people (including me) said that we'd have to wait until 2013 to have a real shot at winning the division, but I'm rethinking that. Pineda has been stellar (one might say better than A-Rod was... just kidding, I'm not going down that road again), the bullpen has been solid and Smoak has been hitting really well.
However, even with all of those stars aligning, Seattle's hitting is still coming up short too frequently. If they can get a hold of a few strong hitters by July 31, they'll be in much better shape for the remainder of 2011 and 2012. Here are five trade possibilities that would help keep the Mariners in the chase.
How cool would it be if Prince joined the King? Although, you might wonder if there's enough space for both Prince Fielder and the new Prince Pineda in the King's royal court. Well, probably—there wouldn't be any issues with Fielder and Pineda; it's just a fun analogy.
The possibility of Fielder coming to Seattle is very real though. His contract expires at the end of this year and the Brewer's haven't expressed a strong desire to hold on to him. If they do decide he's contributed all he can in Milwaukee, they'll likely want to deal him before the deadline in order to get some compensation.
The Mariners should be among the top bidders come July, given their current hitting "predicament." Since Smoak seems comfortable at first, we'd probably see Fielder take over DH duties from Jack Cust. Cust's biggest feat this year is leading the league in bases loaded walks. While his patience is commendable, you typically want your DH to do something more in a bases loaded situation.
In return, I can see the Mariners sending any combination of Cust (that is, if the Brewers will take him), Milton Bradley (who they recently designated to Tacoma), and Ryan Langerhans (also designated for assignment). The Brewers put up a lot of money for Marcum and Greinke this year, so they should be relieved to deal Fielder's hefty salary.
[Andy Vanfossan also discusses the trade here.]
As pictured, Beltran is finally emerging from the brush. The injury brush that is, that has plagued him over the last two seasons. Before he got injured in 2009, he was averaging 32 homers a year with a .282 average.
He went through two rough seasons, but he's looking good this year so far with an NL-leading 12 doubles, five home runs, and a .289 average.
His monster $119 million contract also expires this year and he'll be 34. The Mets certainly aren't contenders this year, due in part to two main things. Firstly, they're in the same division as the Marlins and the Phillies—New York don't really have a chance. Secondly, many of their stars have been injured on and off over the past few years (Reyes, Wright, Santana, Beltran).
With all of that in mind, the Mets should be looking to deal Beltran and he'll probably comply. Beltran would be a good fit for the M's because he could fill a hole they have in center field (currently filled by the struggling Michael Saunders).
In return, I can see the Mariners trying to send the same guys as in the possible Fielder deal: Bradley, Cust, and Langerhans. However, the Mets won't necessarily want Seattle's screw-ups, so a couple low to mid level prospects might be involved, but nothing too serious; the Mets really need to rebuild.
Vlad was part of Baltimore's attempt to add some power to their offense over the offseason. He and Derek Lee were signed as free agents, and J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds were acquired through trades.
So far, those guys haven't really produced and the O's sit at last in the AL East. It could be a chemistry issue like the one we think the Red Sox are experiencing, but it might just be that Baltimore isn't the right place for these hitters.
Vlad was signed to a one year deal, so the Orioles obviously didn't plan on hanging on to him for too long, even though he is hitting the best out of the four new acquisitions. He's 35 this year, so he isn't as athletic as he was in his best days with the Angels, but he can still hammer the ball.
That's exactly what the Mariners need. They have plenty of speed they can set up before him and he doesn't need to play in the field because we hope Cust will be moving out.
I don't see the Orioles asking for too much compensation due to his age and the fact that his contract expires at the end of this year, but again, maybe a few mid-level prospects.
Derek Lee is in the same boat as Vlad, except he isn't hitting as well, so the O's will be even less inclined to hang onto him. If they decide to keep one of their new guys, we can bet that it will be Hardy, because even though he was injured, he's come back hot, and he's younger than both Vlad and Lee.
The Orioles signed Lee to a one year deal for about seven million and he's turning 36 in September. With Vlad and Lee aging on short contracts and Mark Reynolds striking out as much as ever, what Baltimore really should do is cut their losses, trade these guys for whatever they can get, and build a stronger team around their pitching and Adam Jones.
The fact that Lee hasn't been performing up to par so far just makes him cheaper. He's still a solid power hitter, which is what Seattle needs, and they might be able to steal him for a low-level prospect and some money. After all, he hit 35 bombs just two years ago with a .306 average and 111 runs batted in.
Since Lee plays first base like Prince and the M's currently have Smoak there, Lee would bat DH. I've delegated nearly all of these guys to the DH spot for various reasons, but that brings up a major point: only look for one of these trades to go through.
J.D. Drew probably won't be welcome in Boston if he continues to play the way he is right now. He does have a lifetime .280 average and he normally hits more than 20 HR a year, but the Red Sox have younger (Drew is 35 this year) outfielders with more potential who seem to have more support from the fans.
Drew's contract also expires at the end of this year. I don't see why the Red Sox would want to hold onto him, so they'll probably look to trade him. The Mariners could use him in the outfield since both Ryan Langerhans and Milton Bradley were sent down to the minors and Saunders has been struggling.
If the Mariners can't snag Prince or any of the other guys I've mentioned, I think they should propose something for Drew, as a last resort.
The Sox have always had plenty of money, but they've racked up a pretty sizable payroll with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. They could be interested in a cash-only offer which the Mariners could probably afford because they'll also see the end of some contracts this year. If not, I'm sure the M's would fork over a prospect or two in order to add some bang to their weak batting order.
Like I said, only one of these can really occur, because otherwise there'd be overlap in positions. Also, the Mariners probably won't spend too much on a whim this year. They do still have a losing record and the rest of their division looks pretty strong.
If they do push for a trade, I think Prince Fielder is the most feasible option. He would also benefit the Mariners the most. It's nice to imagine such a worthy hitter in the Mariners' batting order behind Ichiro, Chone, and Smoak.
Coupled with young, dangerous starting pitching and a proven bullpen, that lineup is relatively potent. If Seattle lands Prince, I can see them easily remaining in the AL West hunt, and possibly making a run at the title.