Seattle Mariners baseball is back as they begin the unofficial second half of their season tonight against the Los Angeles Angels. But the focus continues to be on the impending trade deadline.
And while we expect the Mariners and GM Jerry Dipoto to be busy selling some pricey pieces, the possibility of them adding big league talent to their current roster still exist. We have to remember that Dipoto is not interested in a 5-7 year rebuild, so applying old school rebuild philosophies to every aspect of this rebuild isn’t going to work.
Adding MLB talent to the roster now may be cheaper than trying to do it this off-season or next summer so for the right player at the right cost, adding a big leaguer to your roster this summer could make a lot of sense.
Today, we look to the Miami Marlins, a franchise who is in the midst of a typical rebuild and are years from even considering competing for anything other than a top 10 draft pick. But Miami still has moveable pieces on their roster and one, in particular, could make a lot of sense for the Mariners.
You see, Seattle could really use some quality pitching. And while names like Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield, and Logan Gilbert are nice to dream on, odds are that one or more won’t quite live up to expectations. So adding an arm with a track record of success might make sense. Enter Caleb Smith.
Smith, a left-handed pitcher who turns 28-years-old in a few weeks, is in the midst of a breakout season but is doing so rather quietly. You see, his 4.38 FIP and 117 ERA+ are both above-average, but don’t have the same sexy buzz as a Matt Boyd or Marcus Stroman, and doesn’t have the name recognition of Madison Bumgarner.
But Smith may wind up being the best of the bunch. In his 13 starts, Smith’s 1.01 WHIP, 11 K/9, and 2.6 BB/9 looks awfully similar to former Mariners ace James Paxton. Like Paxton, Smith has struggled to stay healthy, but over his last 29 starts (from 2018 to today), Smith has posted a 3.86 ERA, a 4.17 FIP, and 176 strikeouts in 149 innings, while averaging just over 3 walks per 9 innings.
Interestingly enough, Smith does all this with a 92 MPH fastball, unlike Paxton who sat 95 plus. Smith’s slider is the wipeout pitch, but a look at his fastball shows near elite level spin rate, which helps explain the dominance of the pitch. Smith also has a changeup that is about league average.
Smith throws a good amount of strikes but doesn’t have pinpoint command, which can lead to leaving pitches in the middle of the plate, so home runs can be an issue. You add all this up and it appears Smith may have a ceiling as a #1 type, with a high probability of being a #3.
In all actuality, Smith should probably be the biggest name on the market this year, not Matt Boyd. Plus, here is the kicker: Smith isn’t a free agent until after the 2023 season. But this also makes Smith extremely valuable, even to a team like Miami. So what would it cost? Here is our proposal:
So obviously, this isn’t cheap. But it may be close to what it would take to even get the Marlins attention. They have already stated that they “have no intention” of trading Smith, but these things are pretty fluid and can easily be a negotiation ploy.
To give up this package would require the Mariners to truly believe that they are actually buying low on Smith and that he could very well be an ace in the near future. But with the increase in pitching and outfield depth in the organization, it may be palatable for Dipoto and crew.
Gaining 4.5 years of club control will be incredibly expensive and if the team doesn’t view Smith as a bonafide #2 starter, they should probably just stay the course and look elsewhere for pitching. But with a stated goal of 2021, the Mariners are in a position where they’ll need to get impact players to Seattle and whether it’s in trade cost or cold hard cash, it isn’t going to be free of sacrifices.
Ultimately, I think the Mariners may look elsewhere for starting pitching options, but if the Marlin engages in talks and Dipoto believes Smith can be James Paxton like it may just be worth pulling the trigger.