Jul 5, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins left fielder Josh Willingham (16) talks with batting coach Tom Brunansky during the game against the New York Yankees at Target Field. The Twins win 2-1 in 11 innings. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Mariners Trade Rumors: Josh Willingham Back in the Mix (Again)

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Jon Morosi of Fox Sports has reignited a dormant Mariners trade rumor regarding Minnesota Twins outfielder Josh Willingham:

Willingham, an OBP machine this season, seems to be a good rental fit for the Mariners. His .219/.361/.421 triple slash line this season would look good in the 2-hole, getting on base ahead of Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. I would love to see the 35 year-old left fielder in the Mariners lineup after the trade deadline. However, his defensive skill set poses a potentially sticky situation for the M’s. Willingham is a left fielder, and has played left field exclusively this season except for the few occasions he’s been the DH. Dustin Ackley is also a left fielder, and has been playing there the entirety of the season. If it were just a month ago, I wouldn’t be surprised for skipper Lloyd McClendon to bump Ackley or give him platoon splits with a guy like Willingham. But Ackley is batting .390 in the month of July, raising his average to .256 and solidifying his spot in the outfield. So what could the Mariners do if they got their hands on Willingham? There are a few options: First, the Mariners could elect to platoon Willingham and Ackley in the outfield, giving each spells at DH. This, however, seems extremely unlikely. Second, the Mariners could keep Ackley in left and make Willingham an exclusive DH-type player. Not totally far-fetched, but such a decision would further crowd a generally DH-heavy, unathletic roster.

Another option, if the Mariners did choose to trade for Willingham, would be to give Ackley playing time in centerfield as well as left. During the 2013 season Ackley played 50 games in centerfield. It was only this spring that McClendon made the executive decision for Ackley to be a left fielder exclusively. But with James Jones‘ recent struggles offensively, McClendon would have the option to spell him in center with Ackley while Willingham played left field. So there are options if Trader Jack really wants to pull the trigger on a trade. And when Michael Saunders returns healthy, he can play right field and Endy Chavez can be a 4th outfielder, which is what he ought to be. That would also save M’s fans from having to witness Corey Hart in the outfield with any sort of frequency. The chatter is back and there are around 24 hours left until the 4 pm Eastern trade deadline. Is Josh Willingham the piece the Mariners need? Or will it be another quiet and unsatisfying deadline for the M’s? The Mariners trade rumors say otherwise.  
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