Mariners trade deadline primer: The 4 players who will definitely be shopped
There is no question that the Mariners are sellers heading into the July 31 MLB trade deadline, and the true test of that is the amount of players with several productive years left in their careers – and in many cases on their contracts – that will be shopped around the league.
In the second part of our Mariners trade deadline primer, we look at four players who aren’t guaranteed to be traded but will certainly be used as trade bait.
Dee Gordon, 2B
With the energy that Gordon plays with, it’s easy to forget that he’s 31 years old and already in his ninth MLB season. And all of the things pointed out in that last sentence could make him attractive to contending teams.
Gordon is a spark plug who can add energy to either the top or the bottom of a lineup, and he still shows flashes of the defense that won him a Gold Glove at second base in 2015. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto is mentioning to opposing GMs that Gordon has positional versatility, too. He came up as a shortstop and even played eight games at that position last year for Seattle, and there was the 53-game experiment in center field the Mariners conducted with Gordon as well. The jury is out on whether Gordon wants to ever play the outfield again, but it also might end up being something that lengthens his career in the long run.
Of course, the No. 1 reason any team would want to acquire Gordon is his speed, which is still very much an asset. He has 12 stolen bases in 14 attempts this season, a nice bounce back from a toe injury that slowed him down for much of 2018. He’s swinging the bat better, too, hitting .281 with a .310 on-base percentage and three home runs, just one shy of his career-high total. But there’s more to the story, as he was activated prior to Tuesday’s game in Minnesota from the 10-day injured list for a wrist issue that he already tried once to come back from too soon. Potential suitors will definitely want proof that the wrist is back to 100 percent before swinging a deal for Gordon.
Contract-wise, Gordon is making $13.5 million this year, $13 million next year and has a vesting option (with a $1 million buyout) for $14 million in 2021, according to Spotrac – not the easiest contract to deal for a contact-first hitter who doesn’t have a high on-base percentage and is nearing the end of his prime. It wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing for the Mariners to keep Gordon, though, and they might be able to create some leverage in trade talks by showing that they see value in Gordon staying in Seattle if the right deal doesn’t come along.
Wade LeBlanc, LHP
File LeBlanc under the same category as Gordon, because it wouldn’t hurt Seattle to keep him around. That’s especially true because the Mariners have LeBlanc on a very club-friendly contract, paying him $2 million this year with $5 million club options for each year through 2022. That means if they don’t get the deal they want to send LeBlanc elsewhere, they can keep him around until the offseason and kick the tires on more trade possibilities then.
The crafty 34-year-old southpaw might be playing well enough after his recent return from the IL to garner a good return for the Mariners, however. Though his first two starts back were rough, he’s excelled in his last two outings where he has taken the ball in the second inning after Seattle used an opener in the first. LeBlanc allowed just one run on three hits and a walk over eight innings against the American League West-leading Houston Astros on June 3, then followed up Sunday with an eight-strikeout effort to earn the win over six innings of two-run ball in Anaheim.
Getting a return out of LeBlanc would be somewhat of a coup for the Mariners, who picked him up for the second time late in spring training prior to the 2018 season, and he quickly moved from a bullpen role into one of their more reliable starters. That versatility is something Dipoto will likely be trying to sell as an asset in negotiations with other teams.
Tim Beckham, INF
When the Mariners signed the 29-year-old Beckham to a one-year, $1.75 million deal over the offseason, the plan was pretty clear: Beckham keeps shortstop warm until J.P. Crawford is ready to return to the bigs from working on some things in Triple-A, then is hopefully flipped in a trade by the deadline.
Fortunately for the Mariners, Beckham turned some heads out of the gate by swinging a hot bat on his way to winning the first AL Player of the Week award of 2019, and he has 11 homers and 14 doubles to his credit this year. Unfortunately for the Mariners, Beckham has been one of the main culprits for Seattle’s defense playing at an historically poor level.
Beckham’s ability to play OK defense at every spot in the infield makes him an asset, however, and the power he possesses at the plate could make him an attractive piece for a team looking to lengthen its bench.
Ryon Healy, 1B/3B
Healy is the most borderline of all the players on this link, as he is still just 27 and has three years of arbitration eligibility ahead of him. He had an eye-opening stretch at the plate to begin the season as well, to the point that entering Tuesday he is still tied for eighth in the AL with 16 doubles despite having been on the IL since May 21 with a back issue.
When you take all of that into account, it’s conceivable to think Healy could be included in the Mariners’ future, but it’s more complicated than that.
While Healy did an admirable job filling in at third base when Kyle Seager began the season on the IL, steadily improving defensively at the position after a rocky start, third base is not where his future is. And while he still might fit in at first base for a year or two in Seattle, with Daniel Vogelbach the likely designated hitter going forward and the defensively-gifted Evan White working his way up through the farm system, it’s hard to see Healy being a player the Mariners keep through their rebuild.
If that’s the case, Dipoto will likely move Healy whenever he sees a trade that makes sense for the M’s. And with a decent glove at first, improved patience at the plate, a nice amount of power and plenty of club control left on Healy’s contract, that trade just might come along before August.