Table Setter: Wild Mariners trade deadline speculation edition

Jul 23, 2018, 10:50 PM | Updated: Jul 24, 2018, 9:45 am
Could the Mariners trade for Whit Merrifield with the Royals interested in Ryon Healy? (AP)...
Could the Mariners trade for Whit Merrifield with the Royals interested in Ryon Healy? (AP)

The MLB Trade Deadline is a week away, and there has already been plenty of action.

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Manny Machado? He’s a Dodger now.

Brad Hand? Sent to Cleveland (along with Puyallup High and UW product Adam Cimber).

Juerys Familia? He’s arrived in Oakland, acquired by the A’s to bolster their bullpen in hopes of catching the Mariners in the playoff race.

The Mariners, meanwhile, have been quiet. Like, really quiet considering how much general manager Jerry Dipoto loves making trades. And to be fair, he already made a pretty big splash this year, getting Alex Colomé and Denard Span from the Rays in the first significant move of the season in late May.

There’s pretty much no chance the Mariners get through the deadline without making at least one more move, though, so in this week’s Table Setter let’s put on our Wild Speculation hats and look at some names reportedly on the market according to MLB Trade Rumors and ESPN that could be targets for the M’s.

1. Ryon Healy: Trade chip?

A so-short-you-might-have-missed-it report made its way into a Monday article by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan (aka the Mariners wet blanket guy from Brock and Salk) regarding a name nobody was really talking about as a trade candidate the day before: Ryon Healy.

“Kansas City is poking around on the Seattle first baseman, who may become redundant if the returning Robinson Canó gets his at-bats there,” Passan wrote of Healy in the midst of a capsule about Texas’ Shin-Soo Choo, another power hitter who could have a change of address by next week.

The Mariners didn’t trade for Healy and his five years of team control last offseason just to trade him again, but they didn’t expect Canó to get suspended for 80 games, ending the Dee Gordon center field experiment for the time being and accelerating Canó’s anticipated transition to first base. If Seattle decides it would rather go forward with Gordon at his natural position rather than trying him in center again in 2019, it makes all the sense in the world to use Healy to get some valuable pieces where they’d be more useful.

A name on the Royals roster that immediately jumps out as a potential target for the Mariners is Whit Merrifield, who has been mentioned at least as far back as May as a possible fit for Seattle. He’s a high-contact, patient hitter with all kinds of defensive flexibility – think a right-handed Ben Zobrist with more speed and less power. What would be most attractive for the Mariners are these two details: he could immediately take over the lion’s share of time in center field from Guillermo Heredia and his .620 OPS with the ability to slide elsewhere later in the game to get Heredia’s glove in as a defensive replacement, and he is under team control through 2022 despite being 29.

If the Royals are looking for power with a future at first base – and they should be with Mike Moustakas probably heading back to free agency again after this season if he isn’t traded first – Healy makes a whole lot of sense for them. And if the Mariners can somehow get Merrifield for Healy and something else whether it be a prospect, cash or international slot money, that makes a whole lot of sense for them, as well.

If the Mariners and Royals can’t figure out a way to make something work, Dipoto may start kicking around other center field possibilities – maybe old friend Leonys Martín?

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2. The rotation.

“We’re certainly looking. We’ve made a lot of phone calls; we’re on the phones and we’re working them.”

That was Dipoto during the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show on Danny, Dave and Moore last week talking about the trade deadline. The odd thing is, whatever they’re looking at isn’t getting out.

The Mariners were linked to left-handed starters Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ earlier this season, but Seattle has barely been appearing in rumors lately. That means when Dipoto does make his pre-deadline moves, they’re probably going to be a surprise.

The headline of this story isn’t “Reasonable Mariners trade deadline expectations,” however, so let’s haphazardly throw out some names of starting arms said to be on the market.

Dylan Bundy. Nathan Eovaldi. Kevin Gausman. Francisco Liriano. Matt Harvey (who is reportedly on the Mariners’ radar, per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick). Dan Straily. Kyle Gibson.

And how about we get real crazy?

Jacob DeGrom. Chris Archer.

The last two names are probably never coming to the Mariners in 2018, but one of the other seven might. It probably will take one of those pitchers getting sent elsewhere to get the market moving, however. Then you can expect to hear the Mariners being tied to starters with great and rapid regularity.

3. Bullpen.

Here’s where the Mariners are almost 100 percent absolutely guaranteed to do something. Just look at this juicy quote from last week’s Jerry Dipoto Show.

“There will be multiple trades made that are based around relief pitching,” Dipoto said. “My guess is that about 75 percent of the trades that are made as we get through the deadline (will be) based around relief pitchers.”

I’ll go ahead and make the leap and say based on that quote, there is a 75 percent chance that any trade the Mariners make will feature a relief pitcher as a centerpiece.

Like I mentioned before, the Mariners and names of specific players haven’t really been appearing together in trade rumors for a while, so you can rest assured any new relief pitchers they acquire will also be surprise. So let’s break into one last bit of Wild Speculation.

Baltimore closer Zach Britton.

He would be costly. He would only be a rental. You would be fighting a lot of teams to get him. But man, he could really help the Mariners not just get to the playoffs but maybe get through the wild card game and into the division series.

The two-time All-Star closer has bounced back from an offseason Achilles injury and a subsequent rough patch after his initial return, having not given up a run over his last eight outings (or since Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning on June 27 to hand him a blown save). The Mariners, meanwhile, could use another lefty in their bullpen, especially one with All-Star-type stuff that has proven to be tough on righties as well as lefties.

Dipoto has shied away from this kind of go-for-broke deal since coming to Seattle, but he has hinted that he has the support of ownership to make that kind of trade. Ponying up to beat the Bostons, Chicagos and New Yorks of the world to get Britton and end the 17-year playoff drought might just be the ‘In Case of Emergency Break Glass’ situation he’s been waiting for.

Or maybe not.

Knowing Dipoto’s history, I’d expect him to make a run at younger, more club-controllable relievers that can help a little this season and maybe a lot more in the coming years. Of those types of pitchers reportedly available, Miami has a trio particularly of interest: current closer Kyle Barraclough, fellow righty Drew Steckenrider and Olympia native/WSU alum Adam Conley, a southpaw, all who are 28 or younger and under team control through at least 2021.

It always helps to get one more veteran reliever with playoff experience on the roster, but with Colomé, Nick Vincent, Juan Nicasio and James Pazos already on staff as bridges to closer Edwin Díaz, upgrading the bullpen with younger, high ceiling types might be the right idea for the M’s.

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Table Setter: Wild Mariners trade deadline speculation edition