MIKE SALK

Salk: Mariners have two types of hitters to target at trade deadline

Jul 10, 2024, 12:27 AM | Updated: 11:14 am

Seattle Mariners trade deadline Brent Rooker Dylan Moore...

Brent Rooker of Oakland reacts after hitting a double against the Seattle Mariners on June 4, 2024. (Brandon Vallance/Getty Images)

(Brandon Vallance/Getty Images)

Every sport has something that sets it apart from the others. The weekly buildup to the big event atmosphere of the NFL, the pageantry and tradition of college football, the code of the NHL or the gentility of golf. Baseball has nightly tension, near-constant failure, and the marathon season that leads to more ups and downs than a ride at Six Flags.

Those last two attributes of baseball have been exaggerated in recent years.

We’ve always known that a hitter who fails 70% of the time might be a Hall of Famer, but now there are a total of just 11 players in the entire league batting over .300. Offense is down according to nearly every available metric and it seems like the ball is hardly ever even put in play.

And those ups and downs? Every team has them. The Yankees dominated the first two-plus months before a 6-16 stretch, and the Astros essentially did the exact opposite. But it seems now like the predictability of player success has gone haywire as well.

How much longer does Mariners’ Jorge Polanco have to turn around?

Last year’s National League Rookie of the Year, Arizona’s Corbin Carroll, has seen his OPS drop from .868 to .613. The Braves’ Michael Harris II fell from .808 to .653. Toronto’s Bo Bichette has gone from .814 to .598. We’ve seen drop-offs before especially as players hit a wall in their 30s, but Carroll and Harris are 23, and Bichette is 26. And I’m quite sure I don’t need to tell you that Julio Rodríguez has fallen from .818 to .658 in his age 23 season, as well.

Meanwhile there are some on the other side of the equation. Journeyman Brent Rooker has a .902 OPS (nearly .100 points above his career norm) at the age of 29 for Oakland. Part time utilityman Willi Castro stepped into the second base spot in Minnesota after Edouard Julien was sent to the minors (his OPS had dropped from .839 as a rookie to .676) and at .794 now is close to 100 points above his career expectation. Or the story of former top prospect Jurickson Profar, who has surpassed a .700 OPS in just four of his 11 seasons. Now with the Padres, he’s an All-Star for the first time with a .896 OPS and is one of those elite few hitting over .300. Of course he is…

There has always been and will always be variance in what we can expect from players. But the massive swings and craters are starting to feel inevitable while general managers just try to predict when they might occur.

Tough gig.

Now we are approaching one of baseball’s other great, unique differentiators: the trade deadline. I love the deadline. I love a moment two-thirds of the way through the season that asks each GM to make a decision on whether their team is in or out. Should they fold and play for another year, or raise the stakes by risking valuable pieces of their future?

The Mariners need to raise. They have the pocket aces (sorry) with their elite pitching and need to get rid of whatever detritus compares to their offense. They need bats. Probably two of them. But there isn’t much available (yet), and buyers are going to outnumber sellers by a lot.

We know they need to upgrade through the trade market, but in which direction should they proceed? Do you want one of the struggling stars with big names, big upside and lousy production this season? Or one of the no-name veterans that have been tearing up the league?

Easy answer for me: yes!

I want both. I would love for them to try one from each bucket.

How about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. from Toronto and on-base machine LaMonte Wade Jr. of the Giants? Or combine Bichette with Rooker? Both scenarios offer a power threat plus someone with more athleticism. Both net you a young star with upside plus an older vet who is just plain producing right now.

Can you imagine adding a .446 on base percentage (Wade) to the top of this lineup, plus sticking Vlad between Julio and Raleigh? That drops J.P., Garver, Raley and others into the more complementary roles that better suit them. How nice would it look with Rooker’s 18 home runs and 15 doubles, and Bichette up the middle for the next few seasons?

Could Seattle Mariners lure a star away from Blue Jays in trade?

Those upgrades should raise this offense to at least an acceptable level. And the Mariners clearly have the farm system to support those types of deals.

Could this be a reality? Yes, in theory. But the reality is so much tougher and it has very little to do with the Mariners, their willingness to add, or the quality of their prospects. Three of those players simply might not be available. The Blue Jays have life (thanks to their series win in Seattle over the weekend), and so far haven’t put their shiny pieces on the market. The Giants are just a few games out of a wild card spot (despite a record of 44-47) and want to win now. Teams may be forced to overpay for the scraps of the Marlins, A’s, White Sox, Rockies and a few others who will sell.

But a lot can happen in the next few weeks. A hot or cold stretch could significantly change the calculus for any number of bubble teams, and that will affect the trade market accordingly. But the Mariners need two bats. I’d love to see them find someone with the reputation and history to make opposing pitchers take notice, and another who is just getting it done this year.

That seems like as good a recipe as any other to cut through the craziness of this baseball season.

Seattle Mariners and the trade deadline

Insider: Deep, young farm system gives Mariners ammo for deadline
Reading between lines of two Mariners prospect moves
Seattle Mariners Trade Target: A hot-hitting infielder from Reds
Which prospect is Seattle Mariners’ best trade chip? MLB insider explains
Passan: With prospect wealth, Seattle Mariners should be bold in trade

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