Life After Phelps: A Look At Potential Mariners Bullpen Trade Targets

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 23: Kirby Yates
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 23: Kirby Yates /

Surprise, surprise — David  Phelps is out for the 2018 season with a torn UCL. That means the Mariners may hit the market to find his replacement. Trader Jerry is back, baby.

Per Phil Rogers, formerly of the Chicago Tribune, the Mariners are taking a look at the White Sox as a potential trade partner. The White Sox have an overabundance of young and veteran relievers who have impressed in the Cactus League. There’s no point in keeping them all, making the Sox a prime trade candidate with the limping Mariners.

Despite adding two relievers with Major League experience in as many days, the Mariners are looking for something more substantial. Phelps, acquired last year from Miami, was expected to be the crutch of the M’s bullpen. While they still have a really good ‘pen, the Mariners would like to find a replacement for Phelps’ seeming reliability.

Rogers mentioned four pitchers in his tweet: Jeanmar Gomez, Rob Scahill, Chris Volstad, and Bruce Rondon. In a separate tweet, Rogers added former Mariner Danny Farquhar and All-Star Joakim Soria to the list. While Soria is the name that will jump out to most fans, a more realistic possibility is Rondon.

In 21 appearances for the Tigers last year, the 27-year-old Rondon went 1-3 with a 3.93 xFIP. Sure, that’s not very impressive by any means, but what IS impressive is the 12.64 K/9 he posted. While he struggled with walks at a poor 5.74 rate, his fantastic strikeout ability makes him worth a serious look.

On February 1st, the White Sox inked Rondon to a Minor League deal, meaning he would not count against the 40-man roster if a trade occurred.

Of course, just because the Mariners are scouting the White Sox, that doesn’t mean a trade will happen. With only a week separating us from Opening Day, many teams will look to ship a reliever or two. Let’s take a look at some other options the Mariners could take a look at over the next seven days:

Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres

The Mariners and Padres have a history of reliever trades, especially towards the end of Spring Training. Just two years ago, the two teams swung a deal for Nick Vincent, who has now become a cornerstone of the Mariners bullpen. Now, in 2018, another deal of the same caliber could make sense.

CINCINNATI, OH – AUGUST 10: Kirby Yates /

Entering his fifth MLB season, Kirby Yates has been a strikeout machine. After being claimed by the Padres in April 2017, Yates went on to post an outrageous 13.98 K/9 in 56.2 innings pitched. He also threw his lowest xFIP (3.30) and BB/9 (3.02) totals of his career as well.

While the Padres are fully aware of how good Yates was last year, he’s a 30-year-old reliever on a one-year deal. For the right price, which shouldn’t be much, the Mariners could probably swing a deal to bring him in.

Kevin Shackelford, Cincinnati Reds

The 28-year-old righty finally made his MLB debut last year for the Reds. In 26 outings, Shackelford was able to hold inherited base runners in their place and get strikeouts. Much like other candidates, Shackelford struggles with walks but had an above-average K/9 at 11.15.

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Surprisingly, Shackelford fared better against left-handed hitters, striking them out 31.7% of the time. In comparison, he only struckout righties by the tally of 25.3%, which is still pretty good.

Shackelford’s versatility versus both sides of the plate is something the Mariners would certainly value. While the cost is a mystery, it shouldn’t be too much for the late bloomer.

Josh Osich, San Francisco Giants

Though Dipoto has seemed to favor carrying only two left-handed relievers, Osich deserves a nod. The Giants are pretty much set with southpaw relievers going into 2018 with names like Will Smith and Tony Watson. That puts Osich on the outside looking in, giving the Mariners an opportunity to take advantage of the situation.

Osich had a mediocre 2017 season, notching a 4.88 xFIP in 54 appearances with a walk rate of 5.61. However, he nearly averaged a strikeout-per-inning while also keeping the ball on the ground half of the time contact was made. His splits were pretty even, though against left-handed hitters he tossed a 25.8 K%, while only striking out righties 17.8% of the time.

In this year’s Cactus League, Osich has yet to give up a run while striking out 12 in just 9.1 innings of work. The Mariners have shown the ability to “fix” relievers and could very well get his walks under control. I’d like to see them kick the tires on this one.

Zac Rosscup, Colorado Rockies

Formerly of the Chicago Cubs, Rosscup is a lefty specialist who gets strikeouts and rarely walks batters. That’s a nice change from the other pitchers I’ve mentioned, right? While Rosscup only pitched 7.2 innings in the big leagues last year, he showed off his strikeout capabilities and didn’t walk anyone.

In AAA, he did more of the same with a bigger dose of action. Mix his 12.69 K/9 with his average 2.60 BB/9 and you have a really solid pitcher.

For a Rockies team with a stacked bullpen, there doesn’t really seem to be a place for Rosscup. The 29-year-old reliever is out of options and would likely only cost the M’s some cash or a PTBNL. This is about as low-risk, high-reward as you can get.

Before I go, I’d like to just say one more thing.

While the Phelps injury sucks, it’s not the end of the world. The Mariners, as I mentioned before, have been pretty good at putting together strong bullpens out of nothing. If, in the end, they don’t make a trade, they will still be fine. If they do, it will only make an already-strong bullpen even stronger.

Next: Mariners Should Just Say No to Greg Holland

That facet of this team should be the least of our concerns, even after the injury.