The Mariners are seeking starting pitching and infield upgrades in advance of the July 30 trade deadline, reports Robert Murray of FanSided. Murray suggests the club sees second base as its biggest area to address, with a right-handed hitter being preferable.
Seattle has somewhat surprisingly hung around the playoff picture all year, entering play tonight 3.5 games behind the Athletics for the final Wild Card spot. Despite having been outscored by 51 runs, the Mariners are six games over .500 at 50-44. They’ll have an opportunity to make up ground when they welcome the A’s for a four-game set this weekend.
The Mariners weren’t generally expected to contend entering the season. While the club has seen plenty of progress as they reach the final stages of their rebuild, much of the roster is still young and unestablished. Despite their place in the standings, they remain a long shot to get to the postseason this year. FanGraphs pegs Seattle’s playoff odds at just 4%.
Thus, it’s not particularly surprising to hear the Mariners front office has indicated to rival teams they’re uninterested in parting with any of their top prospects, according to Murray. Rather than pursuing the top pitching targets on the market, Seattle’s expected to look for stopgap options to aid an injury-plagued rotation. Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield remain on the injured list, and the team’s reunion with James Paxton didn’t even last two innings before the lefty required Tommy John surgery. That has left the M’s to rely on Yusei Kikuchi, Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen.
Turning to the infield, each of first and second base have been problem areas for the M’s this year. Seattle’s presumably still committed to Evan White long-term, but the young first baseman won’t play again in 2021 due to a hip injury. At second base, the Mariners have gotten a disappointing campaign from Dylan Moore, who’s hitting just .190/.276/.356 across 243 plate appearances.
It shouldn’t be hard to find an upgrade over that production even if the Mariners are disinclined to part with top players. Speculatively speaking, Jonathan Schoop is having a strong season with Detroit and fits Seattle’s reported target for a righty-hitting second baseman; the switch-hitting César Hernández could be made available by the Indians, as could Josh Harrison of the Nationals.
Of course, there’s still some possibility the Mariners fall out of that solid position in the standings over the coming week. Losing this weekend’s series with Oakland, for instance, might change the calculus. Both Murray and Jeff Passan of ESPN write that the Mariners could yet straddle the line between buying and selling, looking to bolster the roster for this season and beyond while continuing to listen to offers on players like outfielder Mitch Haniger and reliever Kendall Graveman. The M’s don’t seem especially likely to trade Haniger, who’s controllable through next season, but an impending free agent like Graveman seems a more plausible candidate for a midseason move.