MLB insider Jon Morosi: Pitchers the Mariners should target in trade and free agency

Nov 12, 2021, 10:42 AM | Updated: 10:54 am
Mariners German Marquez...
German Marquez of the Colorado Rockies talks to reporters during the Gatorade All-Star Workout Day outside of Coors Field. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Mariners are seen as a team to watch for when it comes to making big additions this offseason and while many are holding out for a big bat to come to town, Seattle also is in need of starting pitching.

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After starting the year with a six-man rotation, injuries hit the Mariners’ starting rotation hard, and eventually Seattle shifted to a five-man turn.

By the end of the year, the Mariners’ rotation consisted of Marco Gonzales, rookie Logan Gilbert, Chris Flexen, Yusei Kikuchi and trade deadline addition Tyler Anderson.

Anderson is a free agent and Kikuchi is as well after declining his player option. Additionally, James Paxton, who returned to Seattle last offseason, is a free agent after throwing just over one inning before requiring Tommy John surgery. Younger starters like Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield are back, but both struggled and dealt with injuries in 2021.

Earlier this week, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said he wants to add two starting pitchers to the team, which makes sense given Seattle returns just three of its five starters from the end of 2021, and some pitching prospects likely won’t debut until partway through the season.

So who should the Mariners target this offseason? MLB Network insider Jon Morosi joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Wyman and Bob on Thursday to break down what he thinks the team should do.

“If I was Jerry Dipoto, I’d basically have a free-agent bucket and a trade bucket and pursue one in each category,” Morosi told Dave Wyman and Bob Stelton.

Trade market

Morosi anticipates quite a few younger and controllable starters to be made available via trade this offseason, and he thinks the Mariners can and should be active there because of their very well-regarded farm system.

“I think they’ve done a good enough job at developing depth to move one of them, either (top pitching prospects George Kirby or Emerson Hancock), but they don’t have to,” Morosi said.

So who are some teams and names to watch?

“They have enough prospects, in my view, to potentially talk with the Marlins about someone like Pablo López … or Elieser Hernández as well,” he said. “… I think (the Marlins are) a team to watch.”

López actually started his professional career as a Mariners international signing but was traded to the Marlins in 2017 in a prospect-heavy package for reliever David Phelps.

López is now 25 years old and has a career 18-21 record with a 4.03 ERA since debuting in July of 2018. In 20 starts in 2021, the southpaw went 5-5 with a 3.07 ERA and struck out 115 in 102 2/3 innings.

Hernández is a 26-year-old right-handed pitcher who also made his MLB debut in 2018. He has a career 7-15 record and 4.67 ERA. In 11 starts in 2021, Hernández went 1-3 with a 4.18 ERA and struck out 53 in 51 2/3 innings.

Those are some younger, lesser-known names to watch, but Morosi could see the Mariners acquiring a top name in the trade market as well.

“I think Luis Castillo with the Reds, I heard about him this week being an option for the Mariners,” Morosi said. “Watch him very carefully.”

Castillo is a right hander who turns 29 next year and was an All-Star in 2019. He has a career 40-49 record with a 3.72 ERA. He went just 8-16 in 2021, but he pitched very well, especially after a rather slow start. Castillo finished the year with a 3.98 ERA in 33 starts and struck out 192 in 187 2/3 innings. Morosi reported that the Mariners were interested in Castillo earlier this week before echoing the report on Thursday.

Two other names to watch are also fairly big-name right handers.

German Márquez with Colorado, that’s a name to watch,” Morosi said. “That team is certainly going to cycle through and maybe get a little bit younger.”

“The Cubs, perhaps Kyle Hendricks, someone like him (could be available),” Morosi added.

Márquez will turn 27 in February but he’s been in MLB since 2017. He has a career 54-41 record with a 4.28 ERA despite making half his starts at hitter-friendly Coors Field in Colorado. Márquez made his first All-Star team in 2021 and finished the year 12-11 with a 4.40 ERA and 176 strikeouts in 180 innings.

Hendricks is the oldest of the names Morosi mentioned as he turns 32 next month. He has a career 83-55 record with a 3.36 ERA in eight MLB seasons. He went 14-7 with a 4.77 ERA in 181 innings, which was the worst mark of his career. Hendricks finished ninth in Cy Young voting in 2020.

“I would say pursue one of that group and then (look at free agency),” Morosi said.

Free agency

As far as free agency goes, Morosi thinks the Mariners can make a big splash there with adding a pitcher without breaking the bank.

“There’s a lot of guys that I think are appealing to this team,” Morosi said.

“I would look at a Jon Gray,” he added. “There’s no draft pick attached to him as he was not given a qualifying offer.”

The right-handed Gray just turned 30 and has spent seven seasons with the Rockies. He has a career 53-49 record with a 4.59 ERA and in 29 starts in 2021, he went 8-12 with 157 strikeouts in 149 innings in 29 starts.

“Whether it’s a Marcus Stroman or (Kevin) Gausman, they don’t have a (draft pick tied to them) either,” Morosi said.

Stroman, 30, was most recently with the New York Mets after starting his career in Toronto. An All-Star in 2019, Stroman has a career 61-60 record with a 3.63 ERA. In 33 starts in 2021, Stroman went 10-13 with a 3.02 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 179 innings.

Gausman, 31 in January, was a breakout star for the San Francisco Giants in 2021. Gausman started his career with the Baltimore Orioles after being the No. 4 pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and after some ups and downs, he landed with the Giants in 2020 and put together two good years, especially in 2021.

Gausman was an All-Star as the Giants’ ace last year, going 14-6 in 33 starts and recording 227 strikeouts in 192 innings and doing so with a 2.81 ERA.

Those three pitchers are all right-handed, so what about a southpaw?

Eduardo Rodríguez … I think he’s a really intriguing option,” Morosi said. “He’s 28 years old, left-handed. I’ve always been a fan of lefty pitchers (in Seattle).”

Rodríguez missed all of 2020 due to COVID-19 and myocarditis after finishing sixth in Cy Young voting in 2019. In 31 starts, Rodríguez went 13-8 for the Boston Red Sox with a 4.74 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 157 2/3 innings.

“You don’t have to sign Robby Ray for $150 million … You don’t have to go for a nine-figure deal unless you have to,” Morosi said of the Mariners and pitching this offseason. “There’s a way to hedge things and there’s enough supply out there that you could take one via trade, one via free agency and your rotation is a lot better.”

Listen to the full discussion with Morosi at this link or in the player below.

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MLB insider Jon Morosi: Pitchers the Mariners should target in trade and free agency