Seattle Mariners Trade-a-Day: A Marco Gonzales double feature

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 16: Marco Gonzales #7 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the first inning of a Major League baseball game at Ring Central Coliseum on July 16, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JULY 16: Marco Gonzales #7 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the first inning of a Major League baseball game at Ring Central Coliseum on July 16, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

If the Mariners don’t take at least some risk along the way, they won’t get to where they need to go. It’s time to take some risk this summer. Scared money don’t make no money.

Marco Gonzales is the best pitcher on the Mariners’ roster. But will this statement ring true two years from now? A year from now? By the start of Spring Training next March? I’ve been thinking a lot about Marco’s value to the Mariners in 2021 and beyond, and it’s hard to determine whether or not he can truly impact that roster more than what he could currently earn on the trade market.

This isn’t a knock on Marco as a pitcher. Of course he could help the Mariners as they enter their window of contention, but is it as their #3? Their #4? Barring trade or injury, the Mariners’ rotation could consist of Marco, Yusei Kikuchi, Logan Gilbert, Justin Dunn, and Justus Sheffield by this time next year.

When you take into account that the Mariners should be able to establish at least one other pitcher atop their rotation between now and 2022, it’s hard to see where Marco exactly fits into the picture. If you had the opportunity to turn Marco into a core positional player for years to come, would you do it?

Colby played around with that idea yesterday, in which he had the Mariners take on Wil Myers‘ contract and send Marco to the Padres for Luis Urías—a highly-touted middle infield prospect with the makeup of a potential star. While both Colby and I agree that specific deal needs to be fleshed out a bit more, the idea behind it is sound.

Do you think Marco can become the secondary or tertiary option of a playoff-caliber rotation? If the answer is no, there are other teams who may feel different. Even if the answer is yes, there’s still so much time to fill the void before you’re serious about contending. Marco may be critical to a team currently in contention or a year or two ahead of the Mariners, but not to the Mariners themselves.

I’ve identified two teams I feel are great fits for Marco. These two teams aren’t in a position to directly give the Mariners what they would want, but can serve as a bridge to that prize this summer only. The first being the Toronto Blue Jays, who currently hold one of the hottest trade targets on the market in Marcus Stroman.

Stroman isn’t a free agent until after the 2020 season and is freshly coming off an All-Star selection. He’ll warrant several offers of prospect-laden packages, but is that what the Blue Jays actually want at this point in time in their rebuild? With Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Danny Jansen all up and thriving, and Bo Bichette and Nate Pearson not too far behind, the Blue Jays’ window for contention appears a lot closer than the Mariners’.

It’ll be all about developing a pitching staff for them, as is the case for pretty much every rebuilding team ever. So why get rid of Stroman? The relationship between the player and organization has been strained for a long time and, given Stroman’s aforementioned limited club control, he doesn’t fit their timeline.

You know who does? Marco Gonzales. At 27, Marco is still a year-and-a-half away from arbitration and won’t hit free agency until his age 32 season. Aside from a trio of horrendous outings towards the latter half of May and early June, as well as last night’s debacle in Oakland (which shouldn’t have even happened, but whatever), Marco’s been strong way more often times than not. In fact, Marco fWAR total of 2.0 this year is just 0.3 off Stroman’s mark.

The Yankees are said to be interested in the services of a pitcher controlled past this season rather than the likes of Zack Wheeler or Madison Bumgarner, who are rentals. Stroman’s been a name heavily linked to the Yankees’ pursuit and there’s history between the two teams from last year’s deadline in which the Blue Jays dealt former Mariner J.A. Happ to the Bronx.

Of all the pitchers that are realistically on the table for the Yankees, Stroman will cost the most. And I have this deal stinging them pretty hard, but feel it’s a necessary loss for them to take and one they can ultimately bear. That would be giving up third baseman Miguel Andújar, who serves as Seattle’s lone compensation in this trade.

Coming off an excellent rookie season in 2018, Andújar was cemented as the Yankees’ starting third baseman this year. But a shoulder injury held him out for all of April, which later required right shoulder labrum repair surgery and officially ended his season.

In that time, the Yankees have been fortunate to receive such extraordinary production between All-Star D.J. LeMahieu and Giovanny Urshela in Andújar’s absence. Both are well ahead of Andújar in age, so there’s reason to expect the Yankees to favor him over them once he returns to full health. But there’s now a legit reason to question if New York actually needs him.

And there’s quite a bit of risk involved with Andújar, both in acquiring him as the Mariners and in keeping him as the Yankees. For as much of a sensation as he was at the plate last year, he was equally a disaster defensively at third base, posting a -16.0 UZR in 1,169.1 innings. That was the worst mark in the league… by a lot. Andújar has the arm for third, but his range and fielding IQ just isn’t entirely there. And with the injury to his throwing arm, it stands to question whether or not he still has that going for him.

That may scare the Mariners or any other team with potential interest in Andújar as the Yankees get aggressive on the market. But the bat is just so good that it very much warrants the risk. If the Mariners want more of a sure thing that still addresses a need in a big way, then replace Andújar with Clint Frazier and fill out this deal a bit more, or….

The Diamondbacks are in a really interesting spot right now, currently sitting a single game out of the wild card amidst a sea of other teams. They’re not really in a position to sell but also not in one to buy and really go for it, especially with the best team in baseball, the Dodgers, standing atop their very own division.

New York has had reported interest in Robbie Ray, who’s in the same contract situation as Stroman. The prospect package Arizona could get for Ray should be nice, sure, but that feels counterproductive to the big steps they’ve taken in the past few months. If I’m the Diamondbacks and I’m trading Ray, it’s for Major League talent.

Both Ray and Marco Gonzales are 27-years-old. The difference is that Marco is making virtually nothing for the next year-and-a-half and still has three more years of club control after that. Aside from the less-than-ideal walk numbers Ray has put up this year, he’s been the better pitcher of the two, though Marco has the slight edge in fWAR (2.0 to 1.8).

The Diamondbacks wouldn’t necessarily be making an immediate upgrade in this deal, but they’re not downgrading either and get a pitcher of similar caliber for more years and less money. It keeps their postseason hopes for this year alive while also keeping their rotation afloat for years to come/maintaining asset value.

Because of the control and money involved, Marco is overall the more valuable pitcher of the two. To make up that difference, I have the Diamondbacks sending second baseman Domingo Leyba to the Mariners. The 23-year-old Leyba has just broken through to the Major League level after dominating Triple-A, but is currently blocked from significant playing time by the strong middle infield duo of Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed.

Leyba hit a career-high 15 home runs in Triple-A this season, though power is not a strong point of his game. Given how hitter-friendly that circuit has been this year, though, it’s hard to put a lot of stock into that for now. He does, however, carry an above-average hit tool and should be able to man second base with no issue. The Mariners need to figure out their infield situation eventually and allowing Leyba and Shed Long to potentially compete for the second base role in 2020 is very intriguing to me.

As for Frazier, we know what the appeal is there for the Mariners and have talked about it in the past. Sure, the outfield depth in their organization may be their strongest suit right now, but poor defense aside, Frazier has the makings of a star to eventually be paired with Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez.

Next. 3 small trades for hitters the Mariners should make. dark

In 53 games this year, Frazier slashed .283/.330/.513 with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs. Frazier’s struggles since being sent back to Triple-A shouldn’t be overlooked, though they’re likely more a product of a strained relationship and frustration rather than something to actually be concerned over. Either way, it appears the Yankees may be done with him and he may be done with the Yankees at this point.