Perhaps for the first time in a while, the Seattle Mariners appear to have actual catching depth. With Omar Narvaez, Tom Murphy, and Austin Nola on the roster and Carter Binns and Cal Raleigh coming up the pipeline, could they actually trade one this deadline?
Of course, when Jerry Dipoto is the General Manager, anything is possible, so the Mariners could trade a catcher off their MLB roster. Thankfully, catching depth is always in demand, so whether it’s Murphy or Narvaez being dealt, Seattle should get a decent return.
But the beauty of shopping these two, in particular, is that neither has even hit arbitration yet. Murphy has 4 years of club control after 2019, while Narvaez has 3. This makes each catcher controllable, cheap, and means the Mariners don’t have to sell either of them. They could keep both and roll into 2020 with one of the better catching situations in all of baseball.
But if they do decide to shop both of them, there should be no shortage of interested parties. Both make sense for numerous playoff contenders. The Rangers, Pirates, Cardinals, Nationals, Reds, Rockies, Athletics, and Rays are all producing below league-average fWAR from the catcher position.
But because of the club control, 2019 contenders aren’t the only teams that might make sense. Any team with a hole to fill in their 2020 roster should be interested as well. While both catchers have enough flaws to limit the overall return, they should both net the Mariners more than they gave up to acquire them.
But let’s get down to a specific example. The Pittsburgh Pirates rank 28th in catcher fWAR and platoon partner Francisco Cervelli just hit the IL with his 6th concussion. Pittsburgh currently sits just 4.5 games back in the NL Central and Cervelli will be a free agent after this season. A catcher like Tom Murphy makes some sense for Pittsburgh.
But what do the Pirates have to offer the Mariners for their backup catcher? Here is our proposal:
So in our proposal, the Mariners get a young middle-infield prospect, Ji-Hwan Bae. The 20-year-old shortstop has 65-70 grade speed and he knows how to use it. Bae has really no power to speak of, so he will need to take his walks and hit for a high average to have a chance at the big leagues.
Thankfully, the 20-year-old has an 11% walk rate and a .295 batting average and .384 OBP. So far, so good. A shortstop right now, Bae is likely suited for second base, as he is fringe-average glove and arm are a better fit for second.
Bae’s profile is oddly similar to current Mariners second baseman Dee Gordon. While he is still 2-3 years away there is still some raw power he may tap into. If he can add 10-12 home runs to his profile, Bae is a potential everyday second baseman or super utility option who can handle SS, 2B, CF, and LF without killing you.
Losing Murphy would seem tough, but the Mariners are fans of Austin Nola and allowing him time to show whether or not he can hit at the big league level is worth getting a look at. Overall, because of their club control, it is unlikely that the Mariners will trade Narvaez or Murphy.
But if they do, they’ll be able to snag an interesting prospect for Murphy and possibly a small fortune for Narvaez. We are beginning to enter the home stretch for the trade deadline and the Mariners will need to begin to make moves.