Even though we are just a few weeks away from the long awaited beginning of spring training, there are still lots of potential moves to be made by the Mariners.
Seattle needs to make some moves in the starting rotation. At the current moment, the third starter in the rotation has a 4.79 xFIP in his career, the fourth starter has just 59 innings in the major leagues, and the fifth starter had the second worst WAR and second worst xFIP in baseball last year among pitchers who completed 100 innings.
For the record, I think Erasmo Ramirez will be a solid starter down the road, but that doesn’t change the fact the rotation I just described isn’t going to foster much success, especially since it won’t receive an incredible amount of run support.
The rotation needs some help. There are plenty of arms that Seattle could trade for with relative ease. Let’s start with the Los Angeles Dodgers which is a team that essentially has eight suitable starting pitchers. Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, and Ted Lilly will all probably be available through trade.
Capuano posted a 2.1 WAR last year in almost 200 innings of work and posted a 3.95 FIP. Harang posted a 1.5 WAR. Although Lilly’s 2012 season was plagued with injury, he posted a sub 4 FIP in his 8 starts, and it appears that he will be in full health by spring training. Any of these three players should be available and could serve as solid middle of the rotation starters in Seattle.
Last week, I corresponded on twitter with a couple of acquaintances that are Dodger fans, and they both estimated that a deal for Harang would take something along the lines of Mike Carp/Eric Thames and a decent pitching prospect like Jordan Shippers. Capuano would probably take a little more in return and Lilly may take a little less. If that is an accurate representation of what LA wants in return, it could be a good deal for Seattle. The Mariner organization has a plethora of subpar corner outfielders that would not be missed.
The bigger issue with one of these deals is contracts. Each of these players is locked into a substantial and overpriced contract. In 2012, Lilly will make 12 million, while Harang will receive 14 million over the next two seasons, and Capuano will get 12 million in ’13 and ’14. In theory, Seattle would get some financial help from LA if they acquired Lilly or even Harang, but if that isn’t possible, Capuano would probably be the only of the three pitchers that would be worth their salaries to Seattle.
Recent rumors have surfaced concerning Capuano that included losing Franklin Gutierrez. Considering the questions concerning Gutierrez’ health and ability, along with the fact that he has an unfavorable contract, this would be a good opportunity to receive a nice piece in return for a player with questionable value.
If a deal can’t be made with the Dodgers, Milwaukee may have an arm Seattle could be interested in with Mike Fiers. Most Seattle fans probably haven’t heard this name, but he appears to be a solid major league pitcher after one season. Last year, the 27 year-old threw 127.2 innings and posted a 3.09 FIP and 3.0 WAR. He averaged over a strikeout per inning in his first pro season along with a reasonable 2.54 BB/9. In addition, his .309 BABIP indicates that his numbers were not a fluke.
Milwaukee may not be willing to part with Fiers considering they too are short on starting pitching, but if Fiers is available, he should also be somewhat affordable in a trade. I wouldn’t expect any of our top prospects to be involved in a deal.
Jose Quintana is the last arm that I will highlight as a possible target for Seattle. The 24 year-old from Chicago would be the only lefty in Seattle’s starting rotation. There is nothing phenomenal about Quintana. He doesn’t strike out lots batters and he doesn’t have phenomenal control, but he’s a solid pitcher who got close to a 50% ground ball rate and nearly a 2 WAR in 2012. His skill set fits Seattle’s stellar defensive infield well and he would be a much needed lefty in the back of the rotation.
It is apparent that Seattle’s rotation needs help in the upcoming season, and these were just a few of the several possible trade targets. Keep an open for a deal, because its reasonable that Jack Z will make some sort of a move for a back of the rotation starter before pitchers and catcher report in Arizona.