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Mariners may have a new candidate for an Austin Nola-like trade

Jake Fraley has four home runs since coming off the injured list on May 31. (Getty)

The annual July 31 MLB trade deadline is on the horizon, and it’s hard to predict right now what the Seattle Mariners may do.

M’s Takeaways: Servais on Haniger’s status, key to Fraley’s breakout

General manager Jerry Dipoto is never shy about making deals after the All-Star break, but when looking over the current roster, none of Seattle’s players are obvious candidates to be dealt if the team decides to sell at the deadline. Not even veterans Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger.

“I think that what they would fetch in a trade is much less than what Mariners fans would think,” 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil said of Seager and Haniger on Tuesday’s edition of Danny and Gallant. “You wouldn’t get a Grade A prospect (for them). … In Seager’s case there’s a lot of money involved and an option that gets confusing, and in Haniger’s case it’s someone who has been banged up. I think they’re both more valuable to the Mariners than they are to other teams.”

But what about a current Mariners player who may turn out to be more valuable to another team? Seattle had a situation like that last year when the San Diego Padres wanted catcher/utility player Austin Nola, and the fact that the Mariners weren’t all that willing to part ways with him ended up paying off in a big way.

Related: Mariners’ 2020 trade with Padres may be speeding up rebuild

“Look at what Austin Nola did last year, right? The Mariners liked him,” O’Neil recalled. “The Mariners liked what he contributed, and the Padres kept piling up players until the Mariners said ‘yes.’ They put up Taylor Trammell, who was a former top-tier prospect who had a swing change and maybe a little of the luster had been worn off. They ended up adding Ty France, who’s a really good hitter but someone that didn’t have a natural spot in their infield.”

Maybe the Mariners are seeing another player with that kind of potential emerging in front of their very eyes.

Jake Fraley, a 26-year-old outfielder, has been one of Seattle’s best players this month, walking at a staggering clip, hitting four home runs and posting a .317/.481/.634 slash line for a 1.116 OPS in 14 games since coming off the injured list on May 31. And considering the Mariners have Haniger, Trammell and Kyle Lewis plus their top two prospects, Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez, all as options for their outfield of the future, Fraley could be seen as expendable for the right price.

While O’Neil said he doesn’t look at the outfield as a position where Seattle has an abundance of options for right now, he still thinks Fraley could be a very interesting piece in trade talks.

Related: As Kelenic gets a breather in Triple-A, Fraley gets his shot

“Jake Fraley might be the guy that ends up fetching the most,” he said. “I think Fraley is an above-average fielder, I think he’s shown a great eye – which teams love and value, especially contending teams – and he’s shown some pop. (Maybe) you run into a situation in the second half of the year where a team thinks they’re a contender and Fraley (can really help them), and they’re willing to part with a younger prospect or two.

“That’s a guy that somebody could talk me into trading.”

Another trade option for the Mariners

In discussing potential trade chips with co-host Paul Gallant, O’Neil mentioned a player whose contract situation could make things interesting.

“Most valuable player if you’re going to trade him is Yusei Kikuchi, and he is a complicated question,” O’Neil said.

Kikuchi, now in his third season stateside with the Mariners, is showing more consistency than ever this season. The hard-throwing left-handed starting pitcher has a 3.67 ERA, 1.045 WHIP and 75 strikeouts over 12 starts (73 2/3 innings), and while O’Neil is not advocating for Seattle to trade him, he recognizes there is a potential situation where it would make the most sense for the team.

“I want to raise my hand and say first, I would not trade Yusei Kikuchi, and the only reason that I mention it here is he’s coming up on an option. The Mariners are going to have a choice at the end of this season: Do you exercise a four-year, $66 million option? I think that it’s fairly close to a no-brainer, but that’s a lot of money,” O’Neil said. “It’s a raise on what he’s been getting. I think he’s shown improvement every year he’s been here. If you don’t exercise that option, then Kikuchi has his own option to add one year at $13 million. I don’t think he’d do that. I think he’d go to free agency.

“If you’re (the Mariners and) not going to exercise that (four-year) option, you should look at trading him because you could probably get a player or two, guys that are potentially sort of that front-line prospect. But I like Kikuchi and he’s been your most consistent, best pitcher this year.”

You can listen to the full segment beginning around the 24-minute mark in this podcast from Tuesday’s episode Danny and Gallant.

Follow Brent Stecker on Twitter.

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