Could Mariners lure a star away from Blue Jays?

Jul 6, 2024, 10:21 AM | Updated: 10:33 am

Seattle Mariners trade targets...

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. celebrates with Bo Bichette during a 2023 game. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

(Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The annual invasion from north of the border at T-Mobile Park is happening this weekend with the Seattle Mariners hosting the Toronto Blue Jays.

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Unlike recent years, Toronto is trending towards being a seller at the July 30 MLB trade deadline. The Blue Jays in last place in the stacked American League East with a 39-49 record and trail division leader Baltimore by 17 games. They are also 9 1/2 games back for the third AL wild card spot, which is better than just the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A’s and Chicago White Sox.

The Blue Jays’ struggles thus far have led many to believe they’ll be sellers at the deadline. The big question is just how much is Toronto willing sell? Would they be willing to part ways with franchise cornerstones first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or shortstop Bo Bichette?

MLB insider Jon Morosi analyzed that possibility Friday when he joined co-hosts Mike Lefko and Charlie Furbush on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob.

Morosi, who’s also a regular guest on the airwaves in Toronto, explained what he’s heard.

“There’s been such an emphasis and a drive to win with this core of Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette,” Morosi said. “And there is perhaps an acknowledgement by some fans – not all, but some – that the window either is closing or has closed without it ever really fully opening, without the Jays ever winning a playoff series with Vlad and Bo on the roster, and that now you have to think about what the future could look like without one or both.”

Guerrero and Bichette – both multi-time All-Stars with Toronto – are each under club control through the 2025 season. Morosi said neither seem close to signing a contract extension, but he didn’t rule it out either.

“This has been a longstanding back and forth,” Morosi said. “I get the sense that Vlad would be willing to entertain an extension, but certainly at his price you’re gonna have to pay him like one of the very best first baseman in the sport.”

The Blue Jays haven’t given any indication that they will shop Guerrero or Bichette ahead of the deadline, and they could certainly try to make one more run with a Guerrero-Bichette led lineup in 2025. General manger Ross Atkins said last month that it “doesn’t make any sense” to trade either of stars.

“For now the focus seems to be on the pending free agents, (starting pitcher Yusei) Kikuchi (and third baseman) Justin Turner. Those types of players,” Morosi said. “But I do think somewhere in the in the background is that potential of a Blue Jays, not a fire sale, but moving some of their more controllable pieces.”

The price of a Blue Jays star

Whether or not the Blue Jays are willing to deal Guerrero, Bichette or both this month is unclear, but what would the price cost to get the conversation started for either player? At this point, it seems the asking price for Guerrero, who’s slated to start at first base for the American League in the All-Star game, would be more expensive.

After a somewhat slow start to the season, the 25 year old regained his usual form as one of the most dangerous hitters in all of baseball. In 87 games, Guerrero is slashing .293/.369/.462 with 18 doubles, 13 home runs, 50 RBIs and a 136 OPS+. He’s hit 119 home runs since the start of the 2021 season, the seventh-most in MLB.

“I think you’d probably have to include Harry Ford,” Morosi said of a trade package for Guerrero. “… And then probably one of Cole Young or Colt Emerson. You’re going to have to really give value unless you’re very comfortable giving up one of your younger, controllable starters, but I just think for the moment given where you’re at, Bryan Woo as a trade candidate is a little more complicated just because of the time that he’s missed this season, and (Emerson) Hancock is too important at the moment because you probably need him right now.

“… I think it’s probably going to have to come from that pure minor-league-prospect-for-veteran type move, and if the Mariners are not willing to give up both Ford and then one of those two high-level infielders in the minor leagues, I just don’t think that they’re going to be able to get into the conversation to make the deal,” Morosi continued. “I would, however, add that we have seen in the past, whether it’s Noelvi Marte or others, Jerry Dipoto was not afraid to include major prospects in deals. He’s done it before. He has made big time splashes in the past.”

Bichette is also a player that would be an expensive add, especially considering he plays the premium position of shortstop, but his stock is dropping during what’s been an uncharacteristically bad first half of the season at the plate. Bichette, who has twice led the league in hits and batted .306 last season, is hitting just .226/.259/.326 with 15 doubles, four home runs, 29 RBIs and a 73 OPS+. His four home runs this year are also a big step back in power after three straight seasons of 20 or more.

“He’s probably the person that might be most amenable to a trade right now between those two superstars there in Toronto,” Morosi said. “He’s been a league leader in hits before. He’s got that talent, but he’s not having a great year. And I think for the Blue Jays, they’d have to find a team, whether it’s the Dodgers, maybe the Mariners … that would like him and value him, in terms of the trade asset, as someone who is closer to the player that he’s been in the past. If teams like (the) Dodgers, Mariners, other clubs that are looking for offense, if they offer the Jays a price commensurate with Bo’s numbers this season, it’s not going to work, because they’re still looking at him to say, ‘We believe there is more in there than what he’s given us and we can’t sell low on a player who’s got the ability to be a batting champion.’ So it’s a really interesting story.”

Listen to the full conversation with MLB Network insider Jon Morosi at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Wyman and Bob weekdays from 2-6 p.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

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