Mariners Trade Deadline: Aaron Harang and Joe Saunders


The following is part of a series of posts that will be going up as the Trade Deadline approaches on July 31st. I will be outlining the different players who may be on their way out of Seattle at or before the deadline. The Mariners figure to be sellers, and have more than their fair share of short-term players who make prime trade candidates, as the Mariners continue to try to build for the future. These are not necessarily tied to rumors, and are instead based on general feeling that they could be moved. Specific rumors/trade talks will be discussed separately.

In this edition of the “Mariners Trade Deadline” series, I will go over the starting pitchers who the M’s could look to move as a whole, rather than individually. The reason for this is that I think it is a little less likely that a pitcher will be traded, so I didn’t feel either of them warranted their own post.

There are a few guys that could draw interest, but with the lack of rotation depth the team has faced this year, it seems unlikely that the M’s look to actively shop these players. On top of that, none of them have fared particularly well, and don’t have much value to a team in a pennant race.

That being said, teams get desperate around this time, and there is bound to teams interested in cheap, lower level, back end upgrades, or at the very least another option if they need it on their quest for the pennant. I felt that there is still enough of a chance that the topic warranted some discussion.

We will start with Aaron Harang. He has not been the subject of many — or any — rumors to my knowledge, but that doesn’t mean he won’t draw interest. As I said above, if a team can get some back-end help for a nobody prospect, they will do so, if only for some depth.

Jun 17, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Seattle Mariners starter Aaron Harang (39) delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After a rough start on Wednesday, Harang currently owns a 5.38 ERA on the year. Obviously, that is not very appealing on its face. However, his FIP and xFIP of 4.39 and 4.21 respectively suggest that he has (or will depending on your views of FIP) pitched better than his poor run prevention suggests.

He is not striking many batters out — 6.88 K/9 — but he has done a great job of preventing walks. He is currently walking just 1.61 batters per nine. To put that in context, he had a 4.26 BB/9 mark last year, so something that he struggled with last year has become a positive aspect of his game.

The real problem though has come from his inability to keep the ball in the ballpark. He is currently allowing 1.51 HR/9, which is the 10th worst in the majors among pitchers with at least 80 innings. Harang also has an 11.9 HR/FB rate, another less than positive number, that Fangraphs categorizes as somewhere between “poor” and “awful.”

It is something that may see a positive regression, but that is not guaranteed. However, if a team can get him for nothing, there may be teams willing to take a flier and acquire some depth.

Next is lefty Joe Saunders, who has had a lot of mixed results this year after earning $6 million for one year this offseason. Unlike Harang, his ERA and FIP stats pretty much agree on his mediocrity.

His pitcher slash (ERA/FIP/xFIP) on the year is 4.51/4.52/4.30, pretty close to what Harang has done to this point. He has done a better job of limiting dingers (1.09 HR/9) but he is also striking batters out less and walking them more, with a 4.68 K/9 and 2.59 BB/9. He has been the definition of a back-end, pitch-to-contact southpaw.

The main focus has been his fairly drastic home-road splits. They have been significant enough to earn him the nickname “Safeco Joe” because he pitcher so much better in Seattle than on the road.

His current home pitcher slash is 3.56/4.17/4.02, compared to 5.28/4.79/4.52 on the road. Those splits could limit his interest to teams in pitcher friendly parks, as to limit the potential that he absolutely bombs in every home start.

But, his success last year (4.07/4.08/4.25, 2.4 WAR) could bode well for his value. He hasn’t been much this year, but he did pitch well last year in two hitters parks, Camden Yards and Chase Field (Baltimore and Arizona). Teams could see that,  the fact that he pitched for the Orioles in the playoffs, and that he had a 3.68 ERA in June (1.32 so far this month) and be willing to trade for him.

Like Harang he wouldn’t net very much in return, but I could easily see a team wanting a veteran lefty to fill out their rotation in the second half, and hope that he continues to pitch like he has in the last two months, rather than the first two.

It is hard to give specific examples of teams that may show interest however. Because there hasn’t been any talk, and because they are lower level guys, I don’t really know who it would be. It would certainly be a team in contention since both of these guys are two month rentals, but I really can’t be more specific than that.

The fact that Danny Hultzen has been facing injury setbacks affects the chances that either of them are traded though. The M’s don’t really have any other suitable replacements, and likely wouldn’t trade a guy for peanuts just to have to fill his spot with Hector Noesi. So while a trade isn’t all that likely, it is possible if the dominoes fall a certain way.