Seattle Mariners Off-Season Trade Profile: Jeff Samardzija
The Seattle Mariners are not going to hand out massive contracts to free agents this off-season. But it doesn’t mean they won’t take on salary in an attempt to solidify weaknesses and regain value in 2020.
The biggest area of need facing the 2020 Seattle Mariners is in their starting rotation. And we can expect that GM Jerry Dipoto will scour the market for that pitching help. But as Corey Brock of The Athletic reported, there are some caveats.
You can put aside your fantasies about the team signing Gerrit Cole. It is and never was, going to happen. The Mariners simply will not commit significant, long-term contracts to veterans this off-season. Whether they should or should not is a different discussion, but let’s focus on reality.
The Mariners enter 2020 will 3 pitchers pretty solidly written into their starting rotation. Barring injuries, trade, or terrible performance, the trio of Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, and Justus Sheffield, seem like locks to start 2020 in the rotation.
This leaves 2 openings but the Mariners would love for Justin Dunn and Logan Gilbert to eventually take those spots at some point in 2020, if not within the first few months. This means Seattle must find stop-gap fill-ins who will either retain or recoup trade value in June and July.
There are a plethora of options available in free agency and range from bounce-back candidates, minor league signings, or aging veterans looking for one last season in the big leagues. But perhaps the best option lies in the trade market.
By now, you undoubtedly know I am talking about 35-year-old RHP Jeff Samardzija, who is entering the final year of his contract in San Francisco. The Giants are looking to dump salary this off-season as they desperately try to stave off an inevitable rebuild. Moving Samardzija and his $19.5 million salary in 2020 should be high on their priority list.
Now Samardzija may have a large contract to contend with, but that doesn’t mean he will be made available for free. His 2019 season was quite good. He threw 181 innings, posting a 3.52 ERA, a 4.59 FIP, with 140 strikeouts and 49 walks. He also made 32 starts, making this the 6th time in 7 seasons he has made 32 or more starts.
He is a durable, relatively safe #4 starter who, despite his age, actually has a decent upside. Samardzija was excellent as recently as 2017 and still has good stuff at his age. If Samardzija can get back to his 2017 self, there is an excellent chance the Mariners could flip him to a contender for more than they gave up for him.
As for trade fits, there could be a nice opportunity here. The Giants are in dire need of outfielders and the Mariners have quite a deep haul from which to give. Obviously, names like Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, and Braden Bishop aren’t being traded for 1 year of Samardzija, at least not heads up.
But could the Mariners move Mallex Smith or Domingo Santana in a deal that nets them Samardzija, a mid-level prospect, and some cash to help pay down the Samardzija contract? Perhaps.
The exact terms of the deal aren’t for us to figure out but the framework of such a transaction does make a little bit of sense for both sides. The Mariners need innings eaters who won’t break the bank or require 5-year contracts, especially if they plan to give Dunn and Gilbert long looks at the MLB level.
Sometimes deals are hard to imagine. Other times, they almost make too much sense. This particular outline probably falls somewhere in the middle, but both sides could walk away quite happy in a similar transaction.