Oakland’s blockbuster puts trade pressure on Mariners
By Brent Stecker
The Oakland Athletics sent a shot across the bow of the Good Ship Mariner over the weekend, acquiring Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija and running mate Jason Hammel for a pair of top prospects and starter Dan Straily. And just like that, the A’s, already the runaway leader in run differential and the owners of a lock-down rotation, got a lot better.
Now it’s the Mariners’ turn.
With Seattle in the playoff hunt at midseason, it’s in position to be a buyer, and general manager Jack Zduriencik is expected to be very active before the July 31 trade deadline. It’s no secret the Mariners have needed a right-handed bat to solidify their lineup, and it seems even more imperative now so that they can combat Oakland’s nightmare-inducing starting rotation, which also includes All-Star Scott Kazmir (2.53 ERA), Sonny Gray (3.08) and Jesse Chavez (3.23).
Rumors have also swirled that Zduriencik wants to add one more arm to the starting rotation, even though rookie Roenis Elias and the resurgent Chris Young have been pleasant surprises. And once again the Athletics’ big move would likely make that an even more pressing need.
So the question is, who is out there for the Mariners to target? If they’re going to go the blockbuster route, two names stick out above all – one each on the mound and at the plate.
Seattle has been linked to trade rumors for former Cy Young winner David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays for a long time now, and this trade deadline season is no different. The sticking point has always been the belief that Taijuan Walker, considered the future of the Mariners pitching staff, would have to go to Tampa Bay to get Price. Perhaps being closer to the brass ring is what might compel Seattle to finally pull the trigger.
Adding Price would give the Mariners three bona fide aces along with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, and the trio of Price, Hernandez and Robinson Cano would certainly boost the perception of Seattle when it comes to free agents in the offseason.
The same could be said if the Mariners pulled off a coup to get Matt Kemp from the Dodgers. Their right-handed bat need would be best filled in the outfield, where they have a lot of names but not a lot of pop. Kemp would figure in nicely – Los Angeles has amassed a number of former and current All-Stars in its crowded outfield, and even though Kemp isn’t far removed from being considered the best player on the planet, he’s been injury-plagued and found himself the odd-man out on several occasions in 2014. There’s still plenty of pop in that bat, though, and he’d be able to take a less stressful role by splitting time between corner outfield spots and DH in Seattle.
Landing a name like Kemp or Price would certainly hit the Mariners hard in both the farm system and the pocketbook, but a few others names on the market would come at a lesser price.
The Phillies are dangling outfielder Marlon Byrd in front of suitors, and his power numbers (18 homers, 52 RBIs) make the 36-year-old one of the better mid-season rental candidates.
The Mariners may also want to take a flyer on 38-year-old outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who was designated for assignment by the Yankees and might prove to have something left in his bat once he gets a change of scenery.
And then there’s Dayan Viciedo, the 25-year-old White Sox outfielder who the Mariners were linked to during spring training. Seattle saw him up close and personal when he went 4-for-4 with a homer last Friday, and ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes has reported that Seattle is considering a two-player package that includes pitcher Brandon Maurer to get him.
The Mariners were always going to make a splash in the trade market this season. It’s just that now there’s even more incentive to do so.