What will make an uncomfortable Seattle Mariners trade worth it?

Jun 7, 2024, 10:18 AM

Seattle Mariners trade target Vladimir Guerrero Jr....

Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero Jr. scores in front of Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

(Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

What would you give up to bring in offensive help for the Seattle Mariners? A top prospect? Two of them?

A social media poll gave us a bit of insight into who fans might want to see in return, and it reminded me of two big trade truths. But I’ll get to that second point later.

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It’s not clear how many bats the Mariners will be able to add at the deadline, nor whether or not they’ll be buyers at all. You’d be safe to assume as much following chairman John Stanton’s vote of support for the front office in a recent interview with the Seattle Times. More importantly, you’d be safe to assume as much because you have eyes and you can see that they desperately need to.

We’re in June looking at a first-place Mariners team with the arms to win a World Series and the bats to keep them from getting there. This isn’t about potential; it’s about not waiting too long for it to hit its peak.

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Julio Rodríguez can be a superstar, new additions Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver are both striking out more than would be expected, Cal Raleigh has led all catchers in home runs in each of the last two seasons, and Mitch Haniger has been an All-Star. There’s potential for improvement, but it’s not coming soon enough, and Seattle is in real danger of wasting a rare collection of pitching talent should they not add to an offense that’s 26th in OPS, 26th in runs scored, last in doubles and first in strikeouts.

So let’s imagine the Mariners trade one of their top prospects at the deadline. What name as part of a return makes that deal worth it?

It’s a question I asked Wednesday in a social media poll. The prospect in this case: catcher Harry Ford, Seattle’s first-round pick in 2021 who is ranked second in the organization and 27th overall by MLB. The potential returns included a trade involving Mets slugger Pete Alonso, Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr., or White Sox center fielder Luis Robert. There was also an option to nix a deal involving Ford.

Here are the results:

Guerrero Jr. was the favorite with 45% of the vote, with Robert coming in second (a bit surprising given Robert’s club control through 2027, which would drive up the price for a trade). An easy takeaway for Alonso’s last-place finish is the idea of a short-term rental.

Here’s what’s clear: Mariners fans want to see an impact bat added.

Here’s what’s good: While it’s hard to find an impact bat at the deadline when so many teams still believe they can contend, it’s not impossible. That, and the Mariners have a great farm system from which to deal.

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But the trade proposal, the results, and the subsequent discussion mean I’ve got to go over those two big trade truths.

First, you can’t deal trash for treasure. These are professional general managers who know exactly what you have on your team, and if you’re hoping you can send a fourth outfielder who’s 0 for 40 and “maybe some cash” to the Astros for Yordan Álvarez, you’re sorely mistaken.

One of the biggest swings the Mariners took recently was to acquire an ace, then-Reds starter Luis Castillo, before the 2022 trade deadline. To do it, they had to take a risk of sending their No. 1 and No. 3 prospects at the time. When and if the Mariners make a deal this July, there will be a notable population of Mariners fans who wonder if they gave up too much. And that’s OK. They might have. But…

What makes a trade “worth it” differs from team to team. I wish the Mariners were more aggressive in general with acquisitions because I’m playing with house money (not being GM and all), but also because making an aggressive move just means more to certain teams. The Padres didn’t necessarily need Luis Arráez in their infield, but they’re a club with a ton of pressure on their front office, and they need to prove that the money they’ve spent and the moves they’ve made in a tough NL West are worth it.

Meanwhile, the Mariners are the only club to never make it to a World Series. They have, right now, one of the best and deepest starting rotations in franchise history. Those two things add unique context to a trade deadline: might overpaying be worth it if it means doing something that’s never been done before?

More Seattle Mariners coverage

How Mariners starter Bryan Woo’s fastballs are so effective
Bob’s Baseball Breakdown: Would Bob go all-in on Mariners trade?
Watch: Mariners’ Cal Raleigh picks up rare stolen base
Why Julio Rodríguez’s HR off closer’s elite fastball is a great sign
A frequent Seattle Mariners trade partner could be in play for bullpen arms

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