For a while, it looked as though the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners were a perfect fit for a Mitch Haniger trade. But when the D-Backs went cheap instead of good, those talks seemed to end. But they could pick back up.
But whether or not the Diamondbacks are still interested in Mitch Haniger, the Mariners should still be talking to Arizona about one of their MLB pieces. For you see, Seattle and GM Jerry Dipoto are still in need of at least another starting pitcher. And if we are being honest with ourselves, he needs two.
And while most of the fan base is eagerly awaiting the return of Taijuan Walker, myself included, perhaps his former teammate could make more sense. If, of course, the price is right. So today, we tackle the question: should the Mariners trade for Robbie Ray?
Now, of course, there is no right answer to that question, because we don’t have all the variables. But there are some things we do know. First, Arizona is absolutely trying to trade Ray. He is set to make $10 million in 2020, and Arizona doesn’t want to pay him that.
Second, we know that Ray only has 1 season of club control left after this season. In theory, this would make the Mariners a bad fit, but we will get to that in a second. Third, we know that other teams will be interested in Ray.
But after that, we don’t know a whole lot. But let’s talk about the biggest perceived roadblock to a deal, the one year of club control.
What I find interesting about this “roadblock” is that fans seem okay signing Taijuan Walker to the same 1-year deal that you would acquire from Ray. It isn’t hard to figure out that acquiring a short-term starting option is probably the last big move Dipoto makes this winter. And whether that comes via trade or free agency, who cares?
The real roadblock is actually the market and we don’t have a great idea of what that looks like. Here is what we can say, with some real clarity: Seattle can’t afford bidding wars with contending teams. Or should we say, they shouldn’t get into bidding wars with contending teams?
If a playoff-caliber team sees Ray as a part of their 2020 rotation, they should be willing to spend more than the Mariners should reasonably be expected to offer. Seattle isn’t giving up Kyle Lewis for one year of Ray. However, a contending team might give up their equivalent to Lewis for Ray.
After all, Ray is a solid pitcher. In his 149 appearances spanning 790.2 innings, Ray has posted an 11.09 K/9, a 41% groundball rate, a 3.97 FIP, a 3.72 xFIP, and a 12.2 fWAR. He has also covered 162 or more innings in 3 of his last 4 seasons and is entering his age-28 season.
Ray will probably be a more interesting free agent next winter than he is a trade candidate this winter. Teams are hesitant to give up prospects in the winter for a 1-year, non-elite rental, especially when there are still some good arms available in free agency.
But Ray to the Mariners makes sense if the price is right. While he may only be in Seattle for a year or less, acquiring a potential target in free agency early can give you valuable intel and even an opportunity to negotiate an extension in season.
And if you can acquire him for a good price, the option to flip this summer will be strong. Remember, Tanner Roark, got the Reds Jameson Hannah last summer. Expecting the same for Ray isn’t far-fetched.
But once again, this whole idea comes down to cost and it seems unlikely that Dipoto will go as high as a team that could actually use Ray in a playoff chase will be willing to go. But the fact that Ray remains on the Diamondbacks heading into the new year, may speak to the relative lack of interest in the talented lefty right now. And if Dipoto has the opportunity to strike, he should seriously consider it.