The Seattle Mariners are preparing for one of their most difficult stretches of games thus far, as they prepare for a 7-game homestand that involves 4 games against the Oakland A’s and 3 games against the Astros. It’s clear that Scott Servais is prioritizing the series against the A’s, as we’re throwing our 4 big guns (Flexen, Kikuchi, Gilbert, and Gonzalez, in that order) to try and pick up a series win against the team currently sitting directly above us in the WC2 spot.
The gaping hole in the Mariners schedule: the starter still to be announced for the first game of the series against the Astros. It’s possible that Darren McCaughan slots into this spot, considering how effective he was against the Rockies. It’s also possible that the Mariners could trade for a starter in time to slot them into this starting spot (the signing would need to happen quickly).
A team that previously wouldn’t have been considered open to selling, but has seen their roster decimated by injuries and faces an equally challenging slate of games that could dictate their behavior at the deadline: the Cincinnati Reds. With the announcement this morning of Nick Castellano’s fractured right wrist, in addition to the injuries to Mike Moustakas and the majority of their bullpen, the Reds appear poised to become sellers.
Their upcoming schedule (3 games at home against the St. Louis Cardinals and 4 games on the road against the Chicago Cubs) makes it particularly difficult to envision them maintaining their hold on the 2nd spot in the NL Central for long. The Mariners could see a golden opportunity to trade for an impact starting pitcher, as the Reds could see Seattle as a source of a much-needed reliever.
Sonny Gray (3.65 ERA, 130 ERA+, 2.2 WAR)
Sonny Gray is hands down the most dominant starting option for the Mariners to pursue. His ERA+ alone makes me want to throw a lot at the Reds to get this guy – an ERA+ of 130 would make him our standalone ace and put LoGi as our number 4 starter. He is currently seeing his lowest ground ball rate of his 9-year career (47.1%), and a direct increase in his fly ball rate (27.9%), but this fly ball rate will translate well to a pitcher-friendly park like T-Mobile Park.
His HR/9 inning rate of 1.1 almost certainly drops if he moves to Seattle, as well. Finally, Gray’s 2.2 WAR would become the highest WAR of all starting pitchers currently in our rotation (Flexen and Kikuchi currently share the highest value of 1.7 WAR).
He’s in the third year of a 4yr/$38M deal, making the financial commitment significant. It’s likely the Mariners would have to eat a large portion of his remaining contract and give up a couple of big pieces to make this trade happen. According to Baseball Trade Values, the following is a trade that would be accepted: The Seattle Mariners receive Sonny Gray in exchange for Jake Fraley ($4.6M MTV), Kendall Graveman ($2.3M MTV), and $15M in cash considerations.
The $15M relieves the Reds of all financial burden, freeing them up to pursue a younger starting pitcher from the upcoming free agency class. This is an expensive trade for the Mariners, but would automatically make them a force and likely bridge the gap between us and the likes of the Astros & A’s.
Wade Miley (2.72 ERA, 173 ERA+, 5.0 WAR)
Another lesser-known name that could be up for grabs if the Reds slide leading into the trade deadline is 34-year-old Wade Miley. He has a career average ERA+ of 101 (2021 ERA+ of 173), is a ground ball pitcher (49.2% GB vs 28.9% FB), and has a solid SO/W rate of 3.00. An added bonus: he has experience playing in Safeco Field during a brief stint with the Mariners in 2015-2016. He’s a veteran arm with strong statistics and would have an immediate impact on our rotation.
He’s in the final year of a 2yr/$15M deal, so the financial burden would not be significant. According to Baseball Trade Values, Miley has a mean trade value of $4.9M. An immediate trade that jumped out as being acceptable was the following: Wade Miley for Anthony Misiewicz ($5.2M MTV).
This trade sends a young yet proven reliever in Misiewicz (92 ERA+, 26 years old) to the Reds to bolster their bullpen, while the Mariners receive a veteran pitcher who could potentially push them over the line into the postseason. This strikes me as a no-brainer for both teams.
Mariners Bottom Line
While I love the idea of Sonny Gray in Mariners teal, that trade would require a lot to make happen. There’s also always the looming issue of a bigger team (Astros, Cardinals, Dodgers) being more willing to throw a stronger trade package together to outbid the Mariners for Gray. Miley is definitely more the type of pitcher that wouldn’t jump out at these bigger teams and strikes me as a player that Dipoto might look at as a great value to make a postseason push with minimal impact to our bigger prospect pool.
I do think the goal for the Mariners this trade deadline needs to be bolstering the rotation while minimizing the damage to our prospect pool, as the number of really good relievers that we have should be sufficient to make a trade with a team like the Reds possible. Miley is certainly someone our front office should give a hard look at, and a straight-up trade for a reliever is certainly something we’d be willing to make happen.