Mariners Trade-a-Day: Texas Two-Step
With questions surrounding Felix Hernandez‘s future in the Mariners’ rotation, the M’s may be on the hunt for a new fifth starter. One of the more intriguing candidates resides in the Mariners’ own division, quietly making some noise down in Arlington.
Felix could be on his way out of the Mariners’ rotation as soon as Monday afternoon. If that is indeed the case, then it’s possible the Mariners will have no choice but to look externally for a replacement.
It’s also possible that the Mariners may simply slide Rob Whalen, Roenis Elias, or the soon-to-return Erasmo Ramirez in there instead. But if the Mariners were to replace Felix, it would be to upgrade at the position. Ramirez, Whalen, and Elias are not clear upgrades.
Many have felt that the Mariners’ top need going into the current trade season should be a starting pitcher. But when you really look at it, there isn’t a glaring hole within their rotation other than Felix Hernandez.
Wade LeBlanc, James Paxton, Marco Gonzales, and Mike Leake have all been fine. Felix, on the other hand, has been a chore to watch, but his huge contract has forced the Mariners to stick with him. In essence, there’s really nothing the Mariners can do.
You can’t trade or DFA Felix, but it’s possible to stash him on the disabled list for the rest of the year with his lingering back issues. That’s what I expect the Mariners to do.
Mariners scouts were present for Saturday night’s matchup between the Rangers and Astros. In all likelihood, they were there to see the likes of Jake Diekman, Keone Kela, Jurickson Profar, and possibly even Joey Gallo.
But it’s not out of the question that they stayed an extra day to attend Sunday’s re-match. Why? So they could see Mike Minor take the bump for the Rangers.
With all the chatter surrounding Cole Hamels these past few weeks, Minor has been overlooked as a potential hot target in a fairly weak trade market for starting pitching.
Minor was a good pitcher for the Braves, but a torn labrum in 2014 ended his tenure in Atlanta. He didn’t pitch in the MLB again until 2017, finding himself a nice role in the Royals’ bullpen. Appearing in 65 games, Minor accumulated a 2.1 fWAR and put his name back on the map.
His fantastic season earned him a three-year, $28 million deal with the Rangers, who have allowed him to be a starting pitcher once again. It’s worked out pretty well for both Minor and the Rangers thus far.
Through 19 starts, Minor is worth exactly 1.0 fWAR so far. His ERA (4.83) and xFIP (4.68) numbers aren’t spectacular, but they’re solid for a fifth starter who can keep you in games down a playoff stretch.
His K/9 (7.25) is average at best, but he’s not walking a lot of hitters. Minor’s 2.16 BB/9 currently has him tied with Luis Severino for 16th best in the Majors. For reference, Felix is averaging a walk more than Minor, with a BB/9 of 3.19. That’s a pretty big swing.
If the Mariners make the playoffs, Minor’s past experience as a reliever could be of value to them.
While the numbers aren’t great, the aforementioned weak market and Minor’s two years worth of club control makes him a fairly expensive target. We spoke with our friends at Nolan Writin’ to offer us some insight on what the Rangers would want in return for Minor:
"Minor is controllable for 2 more years on a decent deal so he probably would get the most return. Probably a second tier prospect pitcher with one or two lottery pick prospects."
The second tier prospect pitcher is the hardest part in all of this, considering that Sam Carlson is out for the foreseeable future after having Tommy John surgery. That leaves Max Povse as the next “best” pitcher in the Mariners’ farm system.
I’m not sure if I’m willing to consider Povse a second tier prospect pitcher, but maybe the Rangers could think of him in that light. For the sake of the article, we’ll say they do.
There are a lot of pitchers in this proposal, but that’s what both teams need. As of now, the Rangers have quite a bit of pitching talent at the top of their farm, but no one that’s really close to the big leagues yet.
Povse has some MLB experience coming out of the bullpen for the Mariners last year. While his time at Triple-A Tacoma this year was disastrous, he’s been pretty solid since going down to Double-A Arkansas. Perhaps he could ride that wave of recent success to his first MLB start immediately for the Rangers.
Joining Povse is the Mariners’ best MLB-ready reliever in Matt Festa. Back with Arkansas after a quick cup of coffee in the MLB, Festa is doing some serious damage to Double-A hitters, posting a 32.7% strikeout clip. He would be a nice complementary piece to Jose Leclerc at the back end of the Rangers’ bullpen.
Rizzo adds some infield depth to a Rangers system that absolutely needs it. He’s more potential than performance at this point, but he projects to be a real solid on-base guy with some power on the way.
You may have noticed that I also have the M’s acquiring left-handed reliever Jake Diekman in this proposal. Diekman is a rental, but he would give the Mariners a much-needed second option out of the bullpen.
While the last month hasn’t been all too kind to him, he’s a proven reliever who gets strikeouts and fares against both right-handed and left-handed hitters equally well.
With a relieving market working against its sellers, Diekman shouldn’t cost too much. When looking at this deal, you should break it down as Povse, Festa, and Rizzo for Minor, and Johendi Jiminian for Diekman.
Jiminian signed a Minor League contract with the Mariners this offseason after struggling within the Rockies’ system. After impressing in Spring Training, Jiminian has been a consistent part of Arkansas’ pitching staff. He has some potential to eventually start in the MLB and become a serviceable fifth starter.
It’s hard to project trades for starting pitching when it comes to the Mariners. But Felix’s struggles have forced their hand. While Minor isn’t amazing by any standards, he’s still a significant upgrade over Felix this year.
Right now, a start by Felix is almost an automatic loss. It’s sad, but true. Minor at least gives you a chance in most ballgames. When you give good teams a chance, they tend to make the most of the opportunity.
I believe the Mariners are a good team. Mike Minor would make them a better team.