The Seattle Mariners are running out of time to make moves. With just over one week left until the trade deadline, they are still looking for takers for some of their more expensive contracts. But what if they do more than that?
In fact, I can say with reasonable certainty, that Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto is not only looking to trade away guys like Dee Gordon and Mike Leake, but has been actively trawling around as a buyer looking to add a piece to his Major League team.
And not just a piece that slides into the “bullpen lottery ticket” club. But actual, potentially impactful, big league contributors. This type of deal is unlikely to come to fruition, but groundwork laid down now can help spur deals this winter. And if you find such a deal, your goal of competing for a playoff birth in 2021 get a little better.
But finding a player that may be on the market right now from a team declaring themselves sellers who can help you in 2020 and 2021 (at least) isn’t easy. Go find a name that fits this mold, and anybody can poke a ton of holes in the idea, including the name we will be talking about today.
But if Seattle wants to compete by 2021, they need to be bold in acquiring talent outside their own organization. Dipoto has no issues taking risks, but we have yet to really see him give up a big prospect for an MLB piece, at least as GM of the Mariners. But to land this player, he will have to do so. So today, let’s talk about New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto.
Conforto, a 26-year-old, former first-round pick, has quietly been one of the better bats in the national league for the past 3 seasons. While he may never be a star player, he very well could be the National Leagues version of Mitch Haniger.
He plays above-average defense in a corner spot, can manage in CF, is a good but not great runner, has 30 home run power, and takes his share of walks. Conforto is a good player who is entering the prime of his career.
While Conforto would not be cheap, it is still a plausible option if the Mets are open to trading him. There is one drawback to acquiring the Oregon State alum and Seattle native and that is that he is only controlled through 2021. This puts him as hitting free agency right after your window is supposed to be open for the first time.
That will weigh into the decision, but it is possible Conforto wishes to stick around and the Mariners will have plenty of cash to spend at that time. While the window may not be perfect, Conforto’s career .251/.351/.475 slash line and solid defense may be worth the risk. He is a solid 3-win player in an average year and may just have a 5 win season lurking in the next few years.
Conforto has been remarkably consistent in his career as well. His 2017 now looks like a bit of an outlier but is still a factor in his upside. The Mets are in a weird spot, which also factors into things. They spent a lot of resources trying to compete this season. To say things haven’t worked out would be an understatement.
Now, the team took a shot to their farm system, they are likely losing Zack Wheeler, and have big money tied up in players like Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, Jed Lowrie, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jeurys Familia. And with the Phillies and Braves at the beginning of their window, the Mets are in a tough spot.
They don’t seem all that interested in trading Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeill, or Noah Syndergaard, but need to be looking a few years down the line. Realistically, by the time the Mets are likely to compete, Conforto may be ready to head into free agency.
With all that in mind, let’s assume the Mets are open to taking offers for Conforto. What would it take? Here is our proposal:
Sorry Mets fans, no Jarred Kelenic. Brodie Van Wagenen messed up and Mariners fans are quite thankful for that. But this package should appeal to the Mets. Mallex Smith has an extra year of club control on Conforto and is ultimately worth roughly the same WAR on a season by season basis.
The Mets get their replacement for Conforto now and an extra year of control. While it may seem like control years are king for the Mariners, Conforto’s bat carries more upside than Smith’s and the emergence of Jake Fraley and Braden Bishop make Mallex’s role with the Mariners less clear than 6 months ago.
Smith has certainly played much better after being recalled, slashing .265/.328/.416 with 19 steals in 55 games. Smith is 2 months younger than Conforto.
In addition to Smith, the Mariners reliever Joey Gerber to wrap up the deal. A hard-throwing righty, Gerber could see the big leagues as early as this season and has the stuff and control to be a solid back of the bullpen arm.
If the Mets opt for a prospect heavy package, Jake Fraley could make for an interesting headliner. Conforto is a good player, but I don’t think one that the Mariners should be willing to move any of their top 7ish prospects for.
While your initial reaction is likely that the Mariners shouldn’t give up control years, it is important to not overvalue those years. While Smith won’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season, a lot can change between now and then.
Conforto simply has a higher upside and the Mariners need players like this to hit their upside if 2021 is their real goal. Mets fans should realize that Conforto is basically the same offensive profile as Domingo Santana, but with significantly better defense, which is why he merits a Mallex Smith type of return.
This type of deal could make some sense for the Mariners. Instead of trading young, controllable assets for prospects, you trade them for other controllable big leaguers. We have seen Jerry do this in the past and it may be the only way to hit their 2021 goal.