With Tuesday’s bombshell news that Robinson Cano will be suspended for the next 80 games, the Mariners found themselves with an immediate hole at second base. With Cano under contract through 2023, and the left side of the infield spoken for by long-term assets, it’s mostly a fill-in situation.
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Gordon Beckham and Andrew Romine are plugging the gap for now, but that’s likely not a sufficient pairing for a team with sights on contention. The organization has already asked Dee Gordon to begin taking grounders once again in preparation for a potential switch back to the infield, though that move is largely about creating flexibility for GM Jerry Dipoto and his staff to explore trades both in the infield and in the outfield. If the club finds a second baseman to its liking, then it seems Gordon will remain in center field, where they envisioned him playing for the next three seasons when acquiring him from the Marlins this offseason.
Obviously, there are myriad options for Dipoto & Co. to explore, as the $10.26MM they’ll save on Cano’s suspension provides the Mariners with some financial firepower to add to the roster as well. One plus for the Mariners is that with Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia both capable of playing center field, they don’t necessarily need to focus solely on center fielders in exploring the outfield market. Certainly, they could look to add a true center fielder, but playing Haniger there for the next couple of months and instead acquiring a corner outfielder is a perfectly viable option.
Given that context, there are very few limits on the types of players the Mariners could look to acquire in the outfield. In light of the recent track record of this front office, the club would surely weigh potential targets’ abilities to provide value both on defense and at the plate. But there are quite a lot of possibilities.
This post, then, will focus on the relatively narrower list of conceivable targets at second base. If the preference is to keep Gordon on the grass, then surely second base will be the place the Seattle organization looks first. Here are some hypothetical possibilities:
- Brandon Phillips, Free Agent: The free agent market is hardly teeming with options this time of season, though there’s one particularly notable free agent that has long been a quality regular at second base. Phillips remains unsigned and told MLB.com’s Jon Morosi last month that he hopes to continue his career and is open to playing in a utility role if need be. Certainly, the Mariners could find him everyday at-bats at second base for the next few months if they believe he’d be a good fit in the clubhouse and feel his bat can handle big league pitching at age 37 and with a considerable layoff. Phillips slashed .285/.319/.416 in 604 MLB plate appearances last season and could almost certainly be had on a relatively minimal salary. Phillips would need some time to get up to speed in extended Spring Training and/or in the minor leagues, but the Mariners obviously have time to get him the reps he needs, as Cano won’t be back until mid-August.
- Scooter Gennett, Reds: Controlled only through the 2019 season before reaching free agency and currently on one of the NL’s worst teams, Gennett stands out as a clear trade piece this summer. The Reds can obviously afford to move him sooner than that, though, with Alex Blandino and Rosell Herrera capable of stepping in at second base and keeping the seat warm for top prospect Nick Senzel. Gennett is earning $5.7MM in 2018 and has broken out with the Reds since coming over as a largely unheralded waiver claim, hitting .301/.346/.525. He’s also performing well against lefties so far this year, albeit in only a forty-plate appearance sample.
- Cory Spangenberg / Carlos Asuaje / Jose Pirela, Padres: The Friars have three MLB-ready pieces at second base, and it’s possible that none of the bunch is even their second baseman of the future. That distinction may go to prospect Luis Urias, who is not terribly far from MLB readiness himself (though Urias is almost certainly unavailable in trade). Spangenberg has the most MLB experience and is controlled through 2020, while Pirela is controlled through 2022 and Asuaje is controllable through 2023. They’ve all had some degree of MLB success but struggled in 2018, and each has experience playing multiple positions and could be a useful utility piece once Cano is back and Gordon returns to the outfield on a full-time basis. The Padres aren’t going anywhere in the NL West this season and have a fairly notable logjam on their hands here, making them a natural fit as a trade partner, though the recent decision to move on from Chase Headley does help to reduce the roster pressures.
- Logan Forsythe, Dodgers: The 31-year-old Forsythe is an undoubtedly talented player, but he’s been a disappointment in a season-plus with the Dodgers. The Mariners could absorb the remainder of his $9MM salary for the 2018 season — about $6.7MM — and perhaps part with little in the way of minor league talent. That’d help further separate the Dodgers from the luxury tax barrier, and L.A. could hand the second base reins over to Chase Utley and several other infield options.
- Neil Walker / Brandon Drury, Yankees: As a free agent who signed just this past offseason, Walker would have to consent to being traded before June 15. Drury, meanwhile, was recently optioned to Triple-A just months after being acquired, as the Yankees currently plan to go with Miguel Andujar at third and Gleyber Torres at second base. Both are valuable and affordable depth pieces for the Yankees, but there’s a definite logjam in New York’s infield. It’d be surprising to see them move on from either Walker or Drury this quickly, and it’s worth pointing out that Andujar’s low walk rate could use some refinement (thus creating the possibility for an eventual demotion that’d bring Drury back to the Bronx), but I’d imagine that Dipoto will still be reaching out to counterpart Brian Cashman to test the waters.
- Yolmer Sanchez, White Sox: A solid bat that can be trusted at multiple infield positions, Sanchez is, on one hand, the type of player you’d expect the rebuilding White Sox to want to hold onto. However, Matt Davidson’s huge showing at the plate thus far could push him into regular third base duties, and Yoan Moncada is the second baseman of the future on Chicago’s south side. There’s plenty of sense to hanging onto Sanchez and mixing him in for regular at-bats while giving Moncada and Davidson some breathers at DH, but the ChiSox could also view this as another opportunity to add some talent. While the Mariners are thin in prospects, the top of their system isn’t exactly devoid of intriguing prospects.
- Devon Travis, Blue Jays: A change-of-scenery candidate, Travis was sent to the minors recently, and the Jays are likely plenty comfortable giving Yangervis Solarte regular work at second base for the foreseeable future. Travis has persistently battled knee injuries and struggled to stay on the field, but when healthy he’s hit at a .282/.322/.447 clip for Toronto. He’s controllable for two years beyond the current campaign and is earning a modest $1.45MM after missing much of last season due to injury. He’s never played anywhere other than second base as a professional, though, so the Mariners would need to be convinced that he can handle other positions once Cano returns.
- Starlin Castro, Marlins: It’s hard to imagine that the Marlins won’t be open to trading Castro this summer, but he’s not an ideal fit with the Mariners, either. Castro is earning a total of $22MM between 2018 and 2019, and once Cano returns, they won’t have a spot for him to receive any type of consistent at-bats. Perhaps they could simply acquire him and then trade him again in the offseason, but while Castro is a perfectly logical, if not likely trade candidate this summer, he may not represent a great on-paper fit for Seattle.
There are also numerous depth-style acquisitions that could be had who’ve already been designated for assignment since Spring Training began. For those reasons, of course, such players likely won’t come with the promise of significant output. Gift Ngoepe was designated by the Jays and cleared waivers last week, while players such as Eliezer Alvarez (Rangers) and Breyvic Valera (Dodgers) were acquired on the cheap after being designated for assignment by their former organizations. Tyler Saladino has gone from the White Sox to the Brewers in exchange for cash and could be viewed as a depth add while Dipoto and his staff look for more impactful upgrades. Jace Peterson finds himself in a similar situation with the Orioles, as does Philip Gosselin, who is in Triple-A with the Braves after being claimed off waivers from the Reds. If the Mariners are not satisfied with Beckham and want to focus first on shoring things up at second, perhaps they’ll consider these and other names.