The Seattle Mariners have had a quiet 2019 winter meetings thus far, but that doesn’t mean the team hasn’t been working behind the scenes. And if the latest rumors are to be believed, they could be working on something big.
The report came late yesterday evening that the Arizona Diamondbacks have expressed interest in a few outfielders as they look to improve on their 85 win campaign of a year ago. Most notably for our purposes, Arizona is interested in Mariners RF Mitch Haniger.
Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reported that Arizona was looking to upgrade their corner outfield spot and added this:
Two outfielders who would fit that description are the Mariners’ Mitch Haniger and the Rangers’ Nomar Mazara. Both have been mentioned on the trade market at various points over the past year, and the Diamondbacks are said to have interest in both.
Now, having an interest in a player and actually pursuing said player are often two different things. But Jon Heyman added this on Tuesday:
So we have reasonable cause to believe that the Diamondbacks interest in Haniger may be more than a passing fancy and it is possible that discussions have already begun. The Diamondbacks have a deep farm system and solid MLB pieces to facilitate a deal, making them a good fit for both Haniger and the Mariners.
The cost will, as always, dictate the seriousness of these talks, but thanks to Piecoro, we have a rough idea of who might be off-limits for the Mariners in these talks:
Sources indicate the Diamondbacks are more reluctant to move the players they view as their best prospects – namely catcher Daulton Varsho, shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, outfielder Corbin Carroll and perhaps others – unless, of course, they were getting back an elite player in return.
I think we can assume Arizona doesn’t view Haniger as an “elite player” but even removing the 3 names listed as well as guys like Alek Thomas and Kristian Robison, Arizona can still put up a formidable package.
Pitching prospects like Brennan Malone, J.B. Bukauskas, and Corbin Martin are all interesting names to watch. If Seattle believes in the bat of Seth Beer enough to overlook the obvious limitations of his game (DH only), he and Wildred Patino come to mind.
The tipping point in Arizona’s favor may come from 2 angles. First, their deep farm system is littered with high-quality arms, allowing them to potentially move an MLB starter to the Mariners. Robbie Ray, who is entering his final year of club control, is set to make around $10 million in 2020 and is a player Arizona has shopped in the past.
The Mariners are looking for a starter and Ray is a good one who misses bats, but despite 2020 being his age-28 season, the 1-year of club control makes him more of a trade chip to Seattle, or possibly to facilitate a 3-team deal.
Arizona also has arms like Merrill Kelly, who produced league average numbers in 2019 and is on a team-friendly deal that runs through 2020 with 2 team options attached. Luke Weaver could also be an interesting name to watch. Weaver got off to an excellent start in 2019 but missed most of the season with a strained UCL in his pitching arm.
That injury can be a precursor to a future Tommy John surgery. So while Weaver appeared headed for a breakout 2019 and has 3-years of club control remaining, his value has taken a hit.
The second thing working in the Diamondbacks favor is a Competitive Balance A pick. Parting with a Top 40 pick instead of a stud prospect tip the scales enough to make a deal happen.
Ultimately, a Mitch Haniger trade remains unlikely, but the reason this Diamondbacks rumor has legs is that you don’t have to squint that hard to see if. We know the Mariners are willing to listen on Haniger and we know the Diamondbacks have an interest. That is a good place to start. Let’s see where this thing goes.