Are the Seattle Mariner and Danny Salazar A Fit?

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Starting pitcher Danny Salazar
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Starting pitcher Danny Salazar /

As the Seattle Mariners continue to pretend they don’t have a gaping hole in their rotation, we continue look at potential fits. Today, we look at Cleveland Indians flamethrower Danny Salazar.

Before we decide whether or not Salazar is a realistic option for the Mariners, we first need to explore the player, the fit, and the cost.

The Player

Danny Salazar, who turns 28 years old on January 11, is a right-handed pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. Signed as an international free agent in 2006, Salazar has made 104 starts since his debut late in the 2013 season.

To describe Salazar in a single phrase, he is a strikeout artist. Over his 104 starts, Salazar has posted a career 10.51 K/9 rate. In addition, Salazar is not a pinpoint pitcher, but does poses average control. His 3.22 BB/9 rate is a testament to that.

Salazar has posted a solid 3.83 ERA in his career. His xFIP is even better, sitting at 3.42. In addition, according to fWAR has averaged a solid 2.4 wins above replacement level.Salazar repertoire consist of a hard fastball that sits at 95 MPH, with a good change-up and solid slider. The curve ball lags behind the other pitches, but is useful in spots.

Salazar still has 3 years of club control remaining, meaning he won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season. He is projected to earn $5.2 million in arbitration.

So why would a pitcher like this be available via trade? To begin with, the Indians have a crazy amount of starting pitching depth. The market will pay for starting pitching, so why not shop it around if you have it?

Second, Salazar hasn’t exactly been the picture of health. He has made more than 30 starts just once, and aside from the 180 innings he threw in 2015, has never thrown more than 137.1 innings in a season.

Finally, Salazar has a home run problem. The lowest HR% he has posted in his career was still a high 10%. His career mark of 12.1% does not help quell those fears, nor does his 16.1% home run rate in 2017.

The Fit

While some have toyed with the idea of moving Salazar to the bullpen, the Mariners would absolutely need to use him in their rotation. He would probably slide into the #4 spot in Seattle’s rotation, but would basically serve as their #3 starter, with true #1 upside.

Salazar would give the Mariners just its second big time strike out pitcher, joining staff Ace James Paxton in the 9+ K/9 category. Salazar is pretty heavy fly ball pitcher, though moving from Cleveland to Seattle would not necessarily help his HR problem. Progressive Field and Safeco play nearly identical to the home run ball, according to ESPN’s Park Factors.

The Cost

Honestly, this is tough to figure. Salazar’s upside is undeniable, but so are his faults. The durability and home runs are legit concerns. But the Indians have quite a bit of leverage.

After all, they have no need to make a move, and could try Salazar in a long relief role if he can’t crack the rotation. Of course, the Indians are World Series contenders as well. The cost to acquire would likely be somebody who could impact their 2018 MLB roster.

The biggest weakness on the Indians roster is in the outfield. It feels unlikely that Mitch Haniger would be dealt in any deal like this. Yet, Ben Gamel does not quite seem like enough. The Indians could also use a little bullpen help, but is pretty well set there.

Perhaps moving Ben Gamel and Nick Vincent could land the Mariners a potential co-ace with Paxton. Or perhaps the Indians would require another ” Top 10″ Mariners prospect to make it happen.

Next: Better Fit for Seattle: Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn

Although the cost might be the hang up, Salazar is exactly the type starter Jerry Dipoto should covet. He is young, controllable, has upside, but also has enough downside to not make the cost to acquire ridiculous. The Mariners need a starter, and unless they want to have another mediocre season, they need one with upside.