The Mariners didn’t make a trade on Monday in the hours leading up to the non-waiver deadline, but GM Jerry Dipoto doesn’t expect that to preclude them from further tweaking the roster, as Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. “We’re going to have something on the market in August,” Dipoto tells Dutton. “I guarantee there will be more activity throughout the league, and we’ll probably be at the center of that.”
[Related: How August Trades Work]
That the Mariners didn’t make a trade wasn’t for a lack of effort, per Dipoto, who says that the Mariners had a lot of different discussions taking place, some of which “got very deep into the deal-making phase and just didn’t come to pass.” While Dipoto doesn’t address any specifics, one of those near-swaps was likely for Reds shortstop Zack Cozart. It was widely reported on Monday (first by Dutton himself) that the two sides were closing in on a trade that would send Cozart from Cincinnati to Seattle, but the deal never came to fruition.
Dutton now sheds some light on the talks, reporting that the two sides believed they had a basic two-for-two framework that would’ve sent Cozart and a minor leaguer to Seattle in exchange for minor league lefty Luiz Gohara and a second prospect. However, the Reds ultimately had to spend a great deal of time on Monday restructuring their trade of Jay Bruce to the Mets due to medical concerns surrounding some of the minor leaguers they were set to acquire. As such, Dutton writes that the Reds effectively “ran out of time” to assess all of the medical information on the players they would be receiving from the Mariners in exchange for Cozart. Gohara rated as the Mariners’ No. 5 prospect at MLB.com, whose scouting report notes that he’s had a breakout campaign after dropping 30 pounds in the offseason. Gohara has a 1.94 ERA and a 63-to-14 K/BB ratio in 51 minor league innings (nine starts).
Dutton adds that he spoke to some Mariners officials who didn’t rule out the possibility of revisiting talks for Cozart, though Cozart would have to pass through the entire National League and through nearly half of the American League to get to the Mariners on the waiver wire, which seems unlikely. Talks, of course, could resume in the offseason if Cozart remains in Cincinnati. It’s worth noting that Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans yesterday that Cozart is not someone he’s actively looking to move, though he’s a free agent following the 2017 season, so it makes sense for the rebuilding Reds to be highly open to the concept so long as they receive quality talent in return.
In the days leading up to the deadline, the Mariners served as a reminder that the “buyer” and “seller” classifications are often too black-and-white, and teams will often operate in a gray areas somewhere between. Seattle shed some veterans that have disappointed this season — Joaquin Benoit and Wade Miley — but acquired MLB-ready assets in exchange. Benoit was swapped out for another change of scenery candidate, Drew Storen, while left-hander Ariel Miranda came over from the Orioles in the Miley swap and has already pitched in the big leagues this year himself. The Mariners did trade a long-term, controllable asset in moving Mike Montgomery to the Cubs, but Dipoto received a more or less MLB-ready first baseman in exchange by picking up blocked prospect Dan Vogelbach, creating the possibility for near-term gains. And, talks for Cozart further indicated that the Mariners don’t seem content to punt on the 2016 season.
Looking around the roster to identify potential August trade candidates, then, Adam Lind stands out as a logical option. Acquired from the Brewers this offseason to platoon at first base, Lind has struggled to a .226/.261/.434 line through 280 plate appearances. The emergence of Dae-ho Lee and the presence of the left-handed-hitting Vogelbach in Triple-A Tacoma could make Lind, a free agent at season’s end, expendable for the Mariners, and there were indeed rumors of his availability leading up to the non-waiver deadline. Veteran outfielder Nori Aoki has also underwhelmed in his first season with the Mariners, though he’s performed considerably better in a small sample upon his return from an option to Tacoma.
As for possible external acquisitions for Seattle, the Mariners were linked to names like Cozart, Jay Bruce and Joe Smith in the days leading up to the deadline. Given Steve Cishek’s recent struggles and the reported interest in Smith, adding another bullpen arm seems like a possibility, and their talks for Cozart could signal a desire to add another up-the-middle type of infielder. And, given Seattle’s current ranking, they’ll likely have a good shot at claiming any short-term assets that are placed on trade waivers by American League clubs. Seattle is currently five games back of the second Wild Card spot, and the two of the teams closest behind them — the Yankees and White Sox — acted largely as sellers, while the Royals (who have the same record as the ChiSox) stood pat as opposed to making any pre-deadline additions. That means that (for now) the Mariners have priority over virtually every team that considers itself a legitimate Wild Card contender.