At this time last season, the Seattle Mariners were hovering around .500 and looking to possibly add pieces to make a push at a playoff spot. Then, they lost seventeen games in a row, and the season was lost. Instead of adding, they became sellers and moved Doug Fister and Erik Bedard. This is what we have seen from the Mariners last three moves (including the off season trade of Michael Pineda): they have taken from their strength, starting pitching, to bolster their sagging offense. The problem to this point is that it hasn’t been enough. Seattle looks to be on pace for another last place finish at 34-47, 16.5 games back of the Texas Rangers. They will be sellers again, but selling what?
Felix Hernandez. If Hernandez was truly available, there would be a long line of possible suitors. Felix is 6-5 with a 3.09 ERA in 110.2 IP with 114 SO. Next week, he will take part in another All-Star game. Plus, he is under contract until 2014. He is a bona fide ace, without question, as the poor W-L record is more of a side effect of the fact the Mariners can’t score runs. He won his last game 1-0 with Seattle scratching across that only run in the bottom of the ninth. The Mariners would demand a hefty package for Hernandez. It should contain about 5-6 players with a mix of starters and high prospects. Seattle should also tact on a bad contract, like Chone Figgins’ deal. Likelihood of being traded: Unlikely. Hernandez is the ace to build a team around. 2012 is looking lost, so the Mariners have another two season until Felix becomes a FA in 2014 to get something done.
Looking at Seattle’s possible trade chips, I would rate the most likely to move SP Jason Vargas. The lefty has been incredibly durable, going 18 starts this season and over 190 IP the last two seasons.
Jason Vargas. Three of the five starting pitchers from the 2011 rotation have been dealt. Vargas may become the fourth. He leads the Mariners in games started with 18. The lefty has gone 7-7 with a 4.31 ERA in 117.0 IP. He has topped 190 IP in each of the last two seasons. Vargas is 0-3 in his last five starts but threw a gem yesterday holding Boston to five hits and 1 ER in 8.0 IP earning a no decision stemming from a lack of run support. Any contender could instantly bolster their staff with Vargas’ durability. Likelihood of being traded: Good. Seattle has more young arms on the farm like Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker. With a last place finish on deck, Seattle might give them a crack or see what else they have at Tacoma. The team desperately needs more offense, and Vargas can land them that.
Ichiro Suzuki. Another name that has been thrown around is Ichiro Suzuki. With the Mariners going nowhere fast, would Ichiro like to be on another contender like earlier in his career? Ichiro is 38. Although his average has declined from earlier in his career, he is still batting a respectable .271 with 4 HR, 27 RBI, and 11 SB. He could instantly improve any OF for a contender with his bat and his defense. Likelihood of being traded: Unlikely. Management is very high on Ichiro, and they would like for him to be a Mariner for life.
Other Mariners that might gain interest. Brandon League was an All-Star last year, but he has struggled this season to the point Eric Wedge has moved him out of the closer’s role. With a loss in yesterday’s game, League fell to 0-5 with a 3.60 ERA. He still, though, has 9 saves, and Seattle might willing to flip him to a contender that wants bullpen help if they can improve their offense. With recent groin issues making him leave two of his last five starts early, it is unlikely Kevin Millwood gathers much interest before the trade deadline. I doubt many Mariner offensive players gather looks from teams. John Jaso has played very well for Seattle batting .274 with 3 HR and 20 RBI. The only other veteran I would look at if I was another team’s GM is Franklin Gutierrez. Gutierrez has struggled with injury issues in the past two seasons, but when healthy is a dynamic defensive CF and has put up nice numbers at the plate this season (.267-2 HR-9 RBI).