Mariners Trade Deadline Targets: Hitters — 2B options, Juan Soto, more
The Mariners appear to be focusing their resources on the pitching side of things, but could they potentially boost the lineup and overall roster at the deadline in the form of another bat?
If so, the Mariners have one clear spot that could use an upgrade in the starting second base spot. They could also try and make the bench better with someone who can play some infield. Then again, Seattle may also be in the running for one of the game’s best players who plays outfield.
Let’s go through the offensive options before Tuesday’s MLB trade deadline.
Outfield/Elephant in the room
• Washington’s Juan Soto
Let’s start with the biggest name on the trade market.
Is a corner outfielder the Mariners’ biggest need? No. They have Jesse Winker and Kyle Lewis right now, and Mitch Haniger is due back around or just after the trade deadline. But the Mariners are one of just a few teams in baseball with enough young talent to acquire Soto, who is a top 10 player in baseball and, if traded now, would be on his new team for the rest of 2022 as well as the next two seasons.
Trading for Soto would put a big dent in Seattle’s farm system and potentially hinder the organization from being able to make other deals both before the deadline and during this coming offseason, but it’s not exactly common for a 23-year-old superstar of Soto’s caliber to be available via trade.
• Other OFs?
There are a handful of other outfielders who figure to be moved at the deadline, such as Chicago Cubs star Ian Happ. Assuming the Mariners’ current slate of outfielders – Rodríguez, Winker, Lewis and Haniger – are all healthy by the end of the deadline, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll be trading for an outfielder unless it’s someone of Soto’s status or a player with more positional flexibility (which Happ does to a certain extent, though he’s not a great defensive infielder). It may be an “if” whether Seattle will have all four outfielders for the entirety of the final two-plus months of the season, but the Mariners probably will not add a notable outfielder unless something happens between now and Aug. 2.
While he has been hitting better this month, Adam Frazier’s 2022 campaign has been a disappointment after coming to Seattle this offseason following an All-Star season in 2021. Unless there’s an injury that occurs or someone like Lewis or Haniger aren’t able to be regular contributors as outfield/DH types, that leaves the Mariners’ biggest need when it comes to bats as that second base spot.
• Cincinnati’s Brandon Drury
Drury, 29, is in the midst of a breakout year in Cincinnati, slashing .273/.333/.523 with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs in 85 games.
Though he’s spent most of 2022 as a third baseman, he has played 20 games at second this year and 185 games over his career. The slugger wouldn’t be a big upgrade defensively, but he should be more than able to hold his own. Plus, he’d be brought in to be another run producer for Seattle.
Drury is making less than $1 million this year and is a pending free agent, so he’s a very attractive trade target for any team looking for more lineup thump. Even if his first half turns out to be a bit of an anomaly, his new team wouldn’t be tied to him going forward.
As far as the Mariners go, Drury having the ability to play first, second and third base as well as corner outfield spots would be big in case of injury to any one of a number of key bats Seattle currently has in the lineup.
It’s easy to see why many see the Mariners as a prime landing spot for one of 2022’s biggest breakout stars. But what may make Drury less valuable to American League teams is that he has not had a COVID-19 vaccine, which caused him to miss the Reds’ series in Toronto. Because of Canada’s COVID guidelines, those who are unvaccinated cannot cross the border. With the Blue Jays currently holding a playoff spot, that could impact the Mariners or any other AL team from going out and acquiring the slugging infielder.
• Cincinnati’s Donovan Solano
Sticking with the Reds for just another moment, the 34-year-old Solano has done nothing but hit over the last four years, albeit in limited action.
Since 2019, Solano has slashed .310/.357/.439 in 261 games, including a .329/.383/.471 slash line in just 25 games this year after starting the year on the injured list.
If the Mariners want a buy-low guy who can play second base or be an extra bat off the bench, Solano could be an intriguing add. He’s set to be a free agent after this season.
• Boston’s Xander Bogaerts
The Mariners may not have been able to beat the Red Sox earlier in the year, but Boston has been struggling a lot of late and now finds itself on the outside looking in on a playoff spot.
With that the case, the Sox may be willing to talk offers on Bogaerts.
The four-time All-Star has 3.3 WAR this year already and is slugging well again, and he’s likely to opt out of his deal after this season and hit free agency. It’s unclear whether he and Boston are close on any sort of extension.
If the Red Sox do put Bogaerts on the trading block, the Mariners could make a monster splash by acquiring the 29 year old.
Bogaerts has been a shortstop his whole career, but with J.P. Crawford being a Gold Glove at the position, Bogaerts could slide in at second and make Seattle’s lineup especially potent. His slugging numbers are down but Bogaerts is still getting a lot of hits, including doubles.
Bogaerts has never been a particularly great defender at short so a move to second may be in his future anyways. And if a trade doesn’t work out this deadline, the M’s and Bogaerts may be talking this offseason as he’ll be one of the biggest names in free agency.
• Miami’s Joey Wendle
Wendle, 32, has always seemed like an inevitable Mariner, and not just because he played for the Rays, a frequent trade partner, for four years.
The 2021 All-Star is now with the other Florida team, and in 48 games this year (limited action because of three injured list stints) he has slashed .290/.339/.400 while playing second, third and a little shortstop.
While Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty have filled in well at times, Wendle would give the Mariners a legit starting second baseman who could also fill in around the infield if either Crawford or third baseman Eugenio Suárez were to be out for an extended period of time. In 48 games this year, Wendle has nearly double the WAR than Moore has in 70 games at 1.5 compared to 0.8, per Baseball Reference. Wendle would also give the Mariners another left-handed bat for the lineup.
He is signed through this season with a mutual option for 2023.
• Kansas City’s Whitt Merrifield
Speaking of inevitable Mariners, it seems like Seattle has been tied to the now 33-year-old Merrifield forever as he was the subject of trade rumors involving the Pacific Northwest a few times over the last few years.
Now, the Royals are clearly out of contention while the Mariners could potentially use Merrifield as either an everyday second baseman or as a fill-in corner outfielder.
The two-time All-Star has seen his production dip this year (.247/.293/.354 slash line) but he’s still a threat on the bases with 15 steals. He’s also spent significant time at center field and right field along with second base. He is signed through 2023 and has a mutual option for 2024.
Merrifield, like Drury, isn’t vaccinated and missed his team’s recent series in Toronto, which could take him out of the running for some AL contenders.
• Cleveland’s Amed Rosario
Rosario has been great for the Guardians, putting up 2.8 WAR and a .294/.331/.410 slash line in 89 games, and buyers could be interested in him for this year and the future as an everyday player, especially teams needing shortstop health.
Rosario is just 26 years old, putting together a great 2022 campaign and is signed through the end of next year, so a trade could require a big haul for Cleveland. Additionally, the Guardians are only a few games back of the Mariners in the AL Wild Card race, so they may not want to be sellers.
• Washington’s César Hernández
A team that will be selling, though, is the Nationals. Soto will obviously get Washington the most calls, but Hernández could get the team at least something in return as he’s a veteran middle infielder with a track record of hitting, though 2021 and 2022 haven’t been too kind to him.
The 32-year-old switch hitter may not be much of an upgrade over Frazier to the point that the Mariners target him, but his positional flexibility throughout his career could intrigue Seattle, especially if the team isn’t sold on Haggerty as another bench option with Moore also being able to play the outfield.
Hernández is a free agent after this season.
• Colorado’s José Iglesias
Iglesias, 32, is having himself a very good first season in Colorado, slashing .300/.339/.397 in 81 games while playing all his games at shortstop. The veteran infielder has played some second base in the past, so a move to that spot for a contending team shouldn’t be an issue. He’d also give the Mariners a solid No. 9 hitter to turn things over to the top of the order while rarely striking out (just 39 Ks this season).
Iglesias will be a free agent after 2022.
• Detroit’s Jonathan Schoop
Many things have gone wrong for the Tigers this year, one of them being the play of Schoop, a former All-Star with pop at the plate.
Schoop, 30, hit 22 homers and drove in 84 runs for Detroit last year, but he’s scuffled to a .207/.240/.307 slash line with six home runs and 25 RBIs. Is this 2022 version of Schoop really an upgrade over the current version of Frazier? Probably not. But Schoop does have a track record of hitting and driving in runs, and perhaps a change of scenery to a contender helps get him on track. Plus, it appears Detroit is in full sell mode. For the Mariners, though, this seems unlikely.
Schoop is signed through 2023.