BROCK AND SALK

Mariners may have prospects for trades to take advantage of ‘wide open’ AL

May 14, 2024, 12:09 PM

Seattle Mariners Harry Ford...

Seattle Mariners catcher Harry Ford during a 2024 spring training game. (John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

(John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

It’s only mid-May and there has already been a lot of focus on potential trades that the American League West-leading Seattle Mariners could make to improve the offense.

Mariners trade reliever to Cubs for Triple-A 3B with strong numbers

It’s clear the M’s have the kind of pitching that makes them a contender, but their bats have been a constant cause of concern early on this year. Entering Tuesday, the 23-19 Mariners lead MLB in both WHIP (1.06) and opponent batting average (.211), but their hitters have MLB’s most strikeouts at 434 (30 more than the next team) and have scored just the 23rd most runs (162 in 42 games).

As MLB insider Jim Bowden, a former general manager who is now a columnist for The Athletic and host on MLB Network Radio, told Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy last week, that could be a sign that the Mariners will need to make a “painful” trade from their pitching strength.

Another MLB insider, ESPN’s Jeff Passan, said on Tuesday that the Mariners actually have a more palatable path to improving their offense: trading from their farm system.

“They don’t have to make an uncomfortable decision with their starting pitching. They don’t,” Passan told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. “Whether it is (shortstop) Colt Emerson, who I think the industry believes is is the best prospect in the organization, or (catcher) Harry Ford, who’s really good but kind of blocked (behind Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh) – and you could potentially move Harry Ford to another position, he’s enough of an athlete where he doesn’t need to be a catcher. (Outfielder) Lazaro Montes has taken a big leap forward this year and people love him. (Shortstop) Felnin Celesten and (outfielder Jonny) Farmelo, too.”

After sharing that list of talented M’s prospects – which didn’t even include shortstop Cole Young, who is currently Seattle’s top prospect per MLB.com – Passan then made a pretty eye-opening comment.

Mariners Farm System Report: Seven early-season standouts

“I think once the Orioles’ prospects graduate (past prospect status), and they still got a few of them left, there’s an argument to be made that the position-playing prospects in the Mariners organization are the best in Major League Baseball,” Passan said. “And so if you want to win now, guys, (trading from the farm system is a) pretty good way to go out and do it.”

Now here’s where things get really interesting.

Even though Seattle is only four games over .500, it is only four games back of the American League-leading Orioles and New York Yankees, who entered Tuesday with 26-14 and 27-15 records, respectively. What does that say to Passan?

“If you look at the American League this year, guys, I don’t know if there’s a great team,” he said. “… If you’ve got a wide-open landscape and there’s no team that looks like it’s going to be running away with things, that’s a year you push. That’s a year you go, and whether the Mariners are willing to pay up for rentals or whether they’re only willing to give up those sorts of prospects for a guy with multiple years of control, that’s going to be, to me, the very interesting thing.”

A name to keep an eye on

If the Mariners decide to make a splash in the trade market for a bat, Passan has one worth watching: Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert.

The White Sox entered Tuesday last in the AL with a 12-29 record, while the 26-year-old Robert, who is working his way back from a hip flexor strain suffered in early April, is under club control through 2027. Last year, he slashed .264/.315/.542 for an .857 OPS with 38 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

Robert is making $15 million this season and has club options for the next two years at $20 million each season, per Spotrac.

“I understand you’ve got a center fielder already (in Julio Rodríguez), but Luis Robert is the impact of impact-type players, and a guy who’s under contract for multiple years, too,” Passan said.

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Catch Brock and Salk live on Seattle Sports from 6-10 a.m. weekdays, and click here for podcasts of every show.

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Will MLB trade market play into what Mariners need to fix?
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Mariners may have prospects for trades to take advantage of ‘wide open’ AL