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Trade deadline primer: Surprising Mariners that might appear in rumors

Could the Mariners reconsider trading Mitch Haniger and his .220 average? (Getty)

We’ve looked at the players who will be the Mariners’ highest priorities to move before the July 31 MLB trade deadline, as well as the other players that Seattle will definitely shop around the league. That leaves one more category of players to discuss as we wrap up our Mariners trade deadline primer.

Previous Mariners trade deadline primer stories: Part 1 | Part 2

Well, technically it’s two categories, but they fall under the same umbrella: players unlikely to be traded but likely to appear in rumors before the deadline. The first sub-category are players that the Mariners will need some serious convincing to part with, while the second is a pair of veterans who Seattle probably would want to trade but will be hard-pressed to do so because of their contracts.

Mariners need convincing

Mitch Haniger, RF/CF

The biggest question ever since the Mariners declared that they would take a step back to rebuild for the early 2020s was whether general manager Jerry Dipoto would see more value in building around Haniger or in a return Haniger could bring back in a trade. The answer, at least before the 2019 season began, was that the 28-year-old All-Star was the key offensive player who could be the leader when Seattle is ready to contend again in a few years.

Has anything changed since then?

Possibly, but not in a way that should make Dipoto more willing to trade Haniger.

Haniger has 15 home runs this season and has continued to play solid defense splitting time between right and center, but he has unexpectedly struggled at the plate. He has a disappointing .220 average and his 81 strikeouts are well on pace to surpass his career-high of 148 from last season. To add injury to insult, he’s currently out of action with an injury to… well, let’s just call it a sensitive area and leave it at that.

Haniger still has plenty of value for the Mariners, but you better believe opposing GMs will be ringing Dipoto’s phone to see if Haniger’s rough 2019 season thus far has shaken Seattle’s confidence in its star outfielder. It’s hard to see Dipoto selling low on Haniger now after giving him an endorsement during the offseason when his trade value was much higher, though.

If somebody wants to revisit a trade they offered for Haniger during the offseason, I could see Dipoto being more apt to listen this time around. I still think a Haniger trade is far from likely, but I wouldn’t rule out Dipoto seeing just how much he could get if he decides to make Haniger available, either.

Marco Gonzales, SP

A lot of what you just read could be applied to Gonzales, a 27-year-old southpaw who was on an All-Star trajectory until May came around.

Gonzales began the year with a 5-0 record and 2.80 ERA in his first seven starts, but his ERA has ballooned to 4.77 (going as high as 4.89 before his previous start) and he lost six straight decisions until bouncing back June 7 with two runs allowed over 5 2/3 innings in a win over the Angels.

Coming off a breakout 2018 campaign, the Mariners appeared to commit to Gonzales as a piece to build around much like they did with Haniger. But with his struggles this season, there could be other teams in the league kicking the tires on Dipoto’s willingness to make a deal for Gonzales.

I would classify Gonzales as even less likely to be traded this season because he won’t bring back the same kind of return that Haniger would. Better for Seattle to see if Gonzales can get back to where he was early this season if they’re going to consider trading him.

Roenis Elías, RP

Elías has been Seattle’s most reliable reliever this season, and the 30-year-old lefty could be a sell-high candidate for Dipoto. He leads the team with six saves, and while he owns a 4.06 ERA, it was all the way down at 2.16 as late as April 26.

The numbers don’t seem good enough right now to get the kind of return the Mariners would need to get back for a player as valuable as Elías is to their bullpen, however. Unless Elías bounces back in a big way over the next month and a half, he and his two more years of club control will probably remain with Seattle.

Daniel Vogelbach, DH/1B

I know, I know, this one sounds crazy. But don’t you think a GM or two are looking at Vogelbach’s strong on-base and slugging percentages and wondering how they could bring the 26-year-old slugger to their team?

We know Dipoto likes Vogelbach. He was an acquisition from the Mariners GM’s first year in Seattle, and it took a lot of patience before Vogelbach finally received his chance with the M’s. He’s made the most of it and is making a push to make the American League All-Star team and maybe even get a spot in the Home Run Derby. He’s limited in the field, though, and it would not surprise me one bit if Dipoto sees an opportunity to make some hay by selling high on Vogelbach this season.

It’s not like the Mariners can’t afford to lose Vogelbach as it pertains to their ongoing rebuild. Ryon Healy, who is more likely to be traded by July 31, could be retained as an option at first base and DH. And Evan White, Seattle’s 2017 first-round pick, is a defensive wizard who is finding his stroke at Double-A Arkansas and very much figures into the Mariners’ future plans. So while Vogelbach is proving to be an asset in the batter’s box for Seattle, Dipoto could decide he might be more of an asset as a trade chip.

If Vogelbach is traded, however, I’m taking at least a month-long break from the anger-fest that will become Mariners Twitter.

Moore: Vote for Vogey — Daniel Vogelbach should be M’s All-Star

Tough to sell

Kyle Seager, 3B

Kyle Seager plays a nice third base, has a good amount of power from the left side of the plate and is showing more ability to hit to areas other than right field. Those are all things that would make the 31 year old plenty attractive to contending teams looking for offensive help for the playoff push.

But there’s a catch.

Seager is making $19 million both this year and next year, then $18 million in 2021. That’s already a pretty penny. Then you have to consider this: He reportedly has a 2022 team option at $15 million (and could be up to $20 million based on performance incentives) that becomes a player option if he is traded.

Uh-oh.

That drastically impacts Seager’s trade value, to the point that the Mariners are probably best off seeing how his new physique plays over the rest of this season. If Seattle is going to get another team to pay what it wants for Seager, it won’t happen unless Seager returns to something closer to an All-Star-caliber level.

Félix Hernández, RHP (starter)

Would the Mariners like to trade Félix? I mean, probably. But the negatives far outweigh the positives there.

The 33-year-old former Cy Young Award winner is the face of the franchise, a definite future Mariners Hall of Famer, and probably will become the fourth player in team history to have his number retired (after Ichiro Suzuki’s No. 51 becomes the third, which I would imagine will come once Ichiro is eligible for Baseball Hall of Fame voting). Trading a player like that in his final year under contract does not seem like a good idea, especially considering he has next to no value in a trade. In fact, I probably didn’t even need to include Félix on this list, but we’re already here so let’s bring it on home.

Félix has a 6.52 ERA this year, is currently on the injured list and is making a whopping $27 million salary this year. Oh, he also has full no-trade protection. If anything, Félix could be designated for assignment, and the Mariners probably won’t even do that. Instead, just hope Félix can get healthy and stay that way until the final series of this season so that he can pitch one last game at T-Mobile Park and walk off into the sunset.

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