The Seattle Mariners may have won all three of their first Spring Training games, but that doesn’t mean they should stop looking to free agents or trade options to improve the team. The offense has been great so far, but injuries to the starting rotation have left even more roster gaps to fill. There is still time in spring training, and a full month before the season begins to make a few more moves.
Let’s look into a few realistic options that could be immediate improvements to the roster.
Surprise! Mariners Need Ervin Santana
Starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma is sidelined three more weeks with injured right middle finger, and top prospect Taijuan Walker was just shut down again with continued soreness in his shoulder. Projected to be the number two and three spots in our rotation, the Mariners can’t afford to ignore a starting pitching dilemma.
Free agent Ervin Santana is becoming more and more likely the answer. Even though we are almost a full month into Spring Training, the asking price for Santana’s services has not dropped. He is still seeking a $50 million, 4-year deal. Adding Santana’s 29 quality starts from last year and 3.24 ERA would be a huge addition to our rotation, but spending more money has been a sensitive approach with ownership approval.
Adding Santana also means the Mariners would have to forfeit another draft pick. The Kansas City Royals did send a qualifying offer to Santana before the deadline, so they will be compensated with a draft pick if he signs elsewhere. Opposite to a high salary demand, losing a draft pick is another reason why teams are hesitant to pull the trigger on many available free agents.
Trader Jack Should Get Back To Work
If free agency is not the answer, the Mariners can look into trade options to improve their roster. If they can trade some of their current prospects, the idea of adding to the budget won’t seem too extreme. We could discuss trade possibilities and rumors all day, but in reality, the other team involved will also want to make the move. Here are two moves that can very well happen, in the very near future.
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price was a trade option during winter meetings, but those discussions halted when the Rays wanted top prospect Taijuan Walker included in the deal. Price’s agent also admitted they would not be interested in re-signing with the Mariners when his contract expired.
If the Mariners can build an offer of prospects that does not include Walker, the Rays could still pull the trigger. Adding Price would definitely make the team an instant contender, resulting in more wins, and hopefully creating an extended home for Price when his contract expires.
Another trade option involves current discussions with the New York Mets. The Mets are very interested in the Mariners former first-round pick Nick Franklin. Adding Robinson Cano as the new second basemen has left Franklin now battling for the starting shortstop role.
Nick Franklin’s natural position is shortstop, but Brad Miller’s production last year at the shortstop position aids the Mariners option of dealing Franklin for pitching. The Mets are in great need for a shortstop and may be willing to trade their starting pitching prospect Rafael Montero.
Rafael Montero is quietly a rising star in MLB. Even though he stands at only 6 feet tall and 170 lbs, Baseball America has him listed at 68 out of 100 top prospects going into 2014. Montero has great minor league stats going 7-3 for Double-A last year, and then posted a 3.05 ERA when he was called up to Triple-A Las Vegas. Rafael would immediately be in discussions for Mariners back end of the rotation if a trade does occur.
The Mariners need to make additional moves to improve the team if they expect to contend in the AL West for 2014. The question still remains if the Mariners are willing to spend more money via free agency and forfeit a draft pick, or trade prospects early in their careers to fill gaps currently all over the roster.
The lack of starting pitching depth may hurt their options, and we may see a move in our near future.