ESPN’s Passan talks latest Mariners trade, potential Cruz reunion, more

Jul 5, 2023, 11:06 AM

Seattle Mariners Nelson Cruz...

Nelson Cruz of the San Diego Padres flips his bat after hitting a home run on June 14, 2023. (Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

(Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are feeling good as they enter Wednesday’s series finale against the San Francisco Giants on a four-game winning streak at .500 in the standings.

Gilbert’s 1st shutout, Ford’s 4 hits lead Seattle Mariners past Giants 6-0

“They’re hitting,” ESPN’s Jeff Passan said during his Wednesday conversation with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. “The offense is actually showing up. Julio Rodríguez is hitting, (Eugenio) Suárez is hitting, J.P. Crawford is hitting and Mike Ford is hitting. That’s the one that, I gotta be honest, I did not expect. And you’re gonna have that over the course of any baseball season where a guy shows up and he has a great week or in Ford’s case, he’s kind of had a great month. Like he’s been the Mariners’ best offensive player for the last month, right?”

During the interview with Passan, the ESPN MLB insider was asked about three moves the Mariners already made or could make going forward. Here’s what he had to say.

The Gott and Flexen trade

The Mariners shook things up on Monday, trading right-handed pitchers Chris Flexen and Trevor Gott to the New York Mets for lefty Zach Muckenhirn.

Flexen, a former starter who was moved to the bullpen last year, struggled mightily with the Mariners this year and was recently designated for assignment. Gott, meanwhile, signed with Seattle on a one-year deal this past offseason and posted a 4.03 ERA and 1.414 WHIP in 29 innings this year.

Muckenhirn, like Flexen, was also recently designated for assignment as he had a 6.00 ERA in three outings this year. Those were the first three MLB appearances of Muckenhirn’s career.

Effectively, the Mets took on Flexen’s contract – and DFA’d him once the trade went through – in order to acquire Gott.

Passan thinks the trade was a win for the Mariners.

“To me, it was a great deal. If you’re DFAing Chris Flexen, that means you were willing to eat the money. And to (also) give up a guy like Trevor Gott, who essentially is a journeyman relief pitcher – and I know he’s been good at times this year – but as long as you turn around and take that $4 million that you saved and put it towards something else, that to me says that you’re actually trying to win this year,” Passan said.

A Seattle Mariners-Nelson Cruz reunion?

An old friend of the Mariners is available as the San Diego Padres DFA’d veteran designated hitter Nelson Cruz.

Cruz, 43, was great for the Mariners from 2015-2018, posting an OPS over .900 with 163 home runs and 414 RBIs in 606 games with Seattle during that span while making three All-Star Games.

But Cruz has largely struggled for San Diego this year as he has an OPS under .700 and just five home runs and 23 RBIs in 49 games.

Does think Cruz could wind up back with the Mariners?

“I’ve been doubting Nelson Cruz’s ability to continue playing and playing at the level that he has until last year for a long time now, and he always proves me wrong,” Passan said. “I think if Mike Ford weren’t doing what he was doing, maybe there would be a match.”

In 25 games with the Mariners this year, Ford is slashing .279/.324/.618 (.942 OPS) with seven home runs and 13 RBIs. He’s coming off a four-hit day on Tuesday, which was also his birthday.

“I just don’t know that there are at-bats for Nelson Cruz at this point,” Passan said. “I mean, do you run a platoon out there with him as the right-handed DH and you give that a whirl? Maybe. I don’t know that that hurts, but I’m not sure that he’s going to necessarily be a reliable contributor down the stretch. And rostering two DH-only guys is not something that’s good for flexibility.”

Trading Logan Gilbert?

Something that’s been discussed on the Seattle Sports airwaves of late is the idea of the Mariners trading a young pitcher in order to get some hitting help.

The idea was initially floated by MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, who thinks the Mariners could use their starting pitching depth to acquire a young bat from a team like the St. Louis Cardinals.

Passan was asked by Brock Huard whether the Mariners should consider packaging third-year starter Logan Gilbert with a prospect in order to get a notable bat in return.

“No,” Passan said bluntly.

Gilbert, 26, was the Mariners’ first-round pick in 2018 and has been a part of the team’s rotation since May of 2021. He has a 3.82 ERA in 17 starts this year and threw a complete game shutout against the Giants on Tuesday.

“Here’s the thing … if the right deal were to come around, then that potentially could be the case. But I just look at the Mariners and I see the path to relevancy through their arms,” Passan said. ” … I understand the desire for the Mariners to flip one of the pitchers because that’s their strength, right? … They have all of these arms that are really good. And generally speaking, when you have a bunch of something and you’re struggling in another area, you trade from strength to patch over weakness. If Bryce Miller weren’t down right now, maybe that would be a little bit more palatable. But I don’t know.

“I feel like the clearest way the Mariners are gonna get to the playoffs in 2023 is by outpitching everyone. And I don’t think it’s necessary right now to move one of those arms to try and maybe make this a playoff team in 2023.”

Listen to Passan’s full conversation with Brock and Salk at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

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ESPN’s Passan talks latest Mariners trade, potential Cruz reunion, more