Trade Bait

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When Jack Zduriencik took over this team back in 2008, he assured an enervated fan base that he would replenish a debilitated farm system, providing a continual stock of young talent that the organization can cycle through the bigs as needed. Promise fulfilled. When Zduriencik shook the hands of Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong, he acquired a farm system decimated by the likes of his predecessor. Jump to present day, Seattle has the 11th best farm system featuring a trio of young arms and several prospects built around Seattle’s park; a far cry from the days of Jeff Clement, Wladimir Balentien, and Jeremy Reed gracing our prospect list.

The world below is encouraging. Even when the team doesn’t have a first round pick, they have proven they can find exceptional talent in the lower rounds (Taijuan Walker, anyone?). The team can now afford to something they couldn’t in years past: a trade from a position of strength to shore up a weakness at the Major League level. We witnessed it first hand this winter; Pineda for Montero, pitching for power. Not that the minors contains the only players that are available for trade. The Mariners also have options that are already playing at the Major League level.

Most of us here aren’t Soothsayers, so we may not know the club’s future standing come the trade deadline. We have our ideas, of course, and the majority don’t have the team competing in the pennant race. Seattle figures to play right around .500 ball, beating off Oakland with a stick for 3rd place in the division. It may seem cynical, but it is an unfortunate reflection of the teams current abilities. So who does the team seek to move if they play just around everyone’s expectations? The team is in a unique position. While they lack anything resembling a powerhouse offense, they do have a few offensive pieces that could become redundant should certain circumstances come into existence. Below is a list of players Seattle could conspire to move over the trade deadline if certain scenarios are met.

Casper Wells

Scenario: Saunders carries his hot spring bat over into the regular season and is given the temp CF job. Guti makes a triumphant return and Mike Carp continues to build upon an impressive 2011 campaign.

Wells is a player to whom I had hoped Seattle would give more opportunity. I was under the impression that when we lost Guti, Wells would be given the CF job. Instead, the position was opened up to camp competition, and while Wells has been disappointing, Saunders has seized the opportunity. If the team decides it believes in Saunders’ new found success, and Guti comes back in full force, Seattle may just keep Saunders as the 4th and try and find Casper another home. Quite honestly, it is a scenario I would rather not see play out.

Mike Carp

Scenario: Wells rebounds from an ugly spring and performs well enough to warrant more playing time. Montero solidifies himself in the DH role, blocking the position. Struggling to find playing time, the team looks into trading the rebuilt prospect.

Carp has been such a pleasant surprise; transforming from a fringe prospect into the slugger we saw last season. Unfortunately, he plays three organizationally heavy positions in 1B/DH/LF. The team has Montero, Smoak, Wells, and Carp and if all four of them become useful bats then one of them is going to be without a position. Carp is probably less likely to be traded than Wells, but the possibility still remains. The Mariners may decide they like Wells’ potential better. He is certainly the better defender so he already has a plus in his favor. Assuming Carp resembles the player he was last season, the Mariners could have an excellent trade chip on their hands.

Brandon League

Scenario: League continues to be a stellar closer, but the Mariners can afford to move him due to other arms throwing well enough to fill the void.

The Mariners had the opportunity to move League at the deadline last year. They also had a chance to move him this off season. In both cases, the Mariners didn’t really have a replacement option, so a Seattle Mariner he remains. The outlook could be very different this upcoming deadline. Teams making a pennant push are always thirsty for relief pitching, and League is a proven closer on top of that. If the Mariners find themselves with a dynamite setup man, they could very well flip League before he loses his value.

Miguel Olivo

Scenario: Any other catcher on this roster shows the ability to be above average.

The Mariners could have dealt Olivo to the Twins this winter. Instead, he is still the everyday guy and the Twins signed Ray Doumit. However the Mariners now have Montero, Jaso, and Moore at – or close to – the Majors and a slew of catching prospects waiting in the wings. Harrison and I discussed this in our Podcast; Olivo’s skill set is still valued by many teams around baseball. Offensive catchers are not easy to find and even though he has many flaws, some team will attempt to acquire him if Seattle puts him on the block.

Michael Saunders

Scenario: Saunders carries his hot hitting into the regular season. However, Wells proves himself more valuable and Franklin makes a full recovery leaving Saunders without a position.

Saunders is having an excellent spring and even though he has probably locked up the CF job, there is no guarantee that his suddenly useful bat will continue to be useful in the Majors. The front office may just decide to trade him while he still has value as a prospect and not wait for him to have a possible implosion. Saunders already has value as a defensive player with the ability to man all three outfield positions. If he can continue to hit, the Mariners have an interesting trade chip in their possession.

Chone Figgins

Scenario: Figgins revitalizes his career and Seager/Catricala/Liddi shows an ability to become an everyday player.

The Mariners have actively been trying to move Figgins all winter long. Unfortunately someone has yet to take the bait . The team is doing everything in their power to make him a more attractive player. They moved him to the leadoff spot in an attempt to possibly make his bat more attractive. They have stated that he will play a few different positions on the diamond so that he can be labeled a super utility guy. Seattle wants to move him, and if they can find a taker who isn’t expecting the team to eat his entire salary, then I imagine Z will do a few back flips before he realizes he hasn’t yet said “You’ve got a deal sir”.

Kevin Millwood

Scenario: What scenario? This is why he was brought in.

Assuming Millwood isn’t some dominant pitcher thrusting the Mariners into the thick of the race, he will most certainly have another home come August. The Mariners brought him in for a veteran presence, and to mentor a couple of the younger kids on the staff. An added benefit, of course, is that you can flip him at the deadline and call up a young Hultzen or Paxton. Not only did Millwood eat up half a season of innings for the young pitcher that replaces him, he also kept that pitcher in the minors which saves the team future money. Veteran pitchers are always desirable at the trade deadline and as long as the tank isn’t empty, the Mariners should get a decent–but not spectacular– return.

Vinnie Catricala

Scenario: Martinez make large strides improving his already high stock and/or Liddi suddenly figures things out.

Part of me wonders if Seattle has allowed Catricala to stay in camp as long as he has so that other teams can get an extended look at him. He has been impressive enough to warrant his prolonged aversion to roster cuts, but he has yet to play past the AA level, raising questions as to whether or not he is actually being considered for the 3B job. Catricala is not an excellent centerpiece, but as a complementary piece, he can take a deal to the next level. I wouldn’t consider it likely that Seattle moves him, but the potential remains.

Alex Liddi

Scenario: Liddi improves upon a few aspects of his game, but is still blocked via 3B and 1B.

Liddi is an intriguing prospect; or at least he once was. Now he is a known commodity. He is a power bat with big strikeout issues and a questionable glove at 3B. He may still be attractive to other organizations though, because he does not come without a few plus tools and he is still young and maliable. The potential of his power makes him an above average complementary piece to any deal.

There are probably a few other names that could be included here: Jason Vargas, Kyle Seager, George Sherrill, Brendan Ryan, Carlos Peguero, and Trayvon Robinson all could be included in this list, but that is perhaps another post for another time. No one knows where the Mariners will be come the 2012 trade deadline, but assuming they play right around expectations, the team has a couple of pieces they could look to move in order to acquire that critical piece (or pieces) that will help them win next season. The Mariners are close, and playing their cards right with the assets they already have will only bring them that much closer.

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