Mariners Trade Proposal: Cole Sulser of the Orioles
At the 2021 deadline, the Mariners made a couple of moves, mostly involving their bullpen. They traded away Kendall Graveman for Joe Smith, dumping Montero in the process and obtaining Abraham Toro (a massive win). Then, they traded JT Chargois and Austin Shenton for Diego Castillo. I think they should make a similar trade this offseason for a controllable reliever, and try and obtain Orioles reliever Cole Sulser.
I figured I could come up with a fair return on this one, by using that trade for Castillo as a measuring point. It’s a bit different with Castillo being four years younger as well as having a more established track record as compared to Sulser. Sulser does have one more year of team control than Castillo, so that’s a plus for him.
Sulser brings a fastball/change-up combo as his top two pitches, throwing them 51% and 33% of the time, respectively. He mixes in a slider at 14% while rarely throwing his curve. His success likely stems from a big uptick in movement on his change and slider, with the change finding another six inches of drop in 2021 compared to 2020. Meanwhile, the slider has dropped an extra two inches, and moves an extra half inch.
Still, Sulser isn’t as valuable as Castillo when you weigh it all together. 2021 was his first good year, and boy was it a good one. He made 60 appearances and threw 63.1 innings, tallying a 2.70 ERA and a 2.98 FIP, with a 1.121 WHIP. He also struck out 10.4/9 but was a bit wild at 3.3/9. Castillo has been good since 2018. 2021 was Sulsers first good season.
However, there’s a fairly easy argument to make that Sulser’s 2021 was better than any of Castillo’s seasons if you are using WAR from baseball-reference. Sulser had a 2.4 in 2021, and Castillo has yet to be above a 1.0. Fangraphs does have it closer, at 1.5 compared to 1.1.
Still, you are going with the age/track record vs the one good season. There is another factor I think comes into play, where it isn’t the trade deadline. When that is going on, teams can bid against each other, or see what happens as the market sets. During the offseason, you are more likely to get a fairer value between teams.
To me, it seems like the Orioles would want to ship out Sulser. A great reliever on a bad team can be a waste, especially when you could turn it into a prospect or two. When it comes to guys like Mullins or Means, you can argue that they are more foundational pieces. You wouldn’t say the same thing for a reliever (unless they were one of the best in the league).
The Mariners sent away Chargois, who has good control and actually good numbers as well, alongside Shenton for Castillo. I figure something similar would work, but with a bit of a twist.
Aaron Fletcher fills the role that Chargois did in the Castillo trade. He’s a reliever with potential, but has seen limited major league time. At 26, he could jump right into the Orioles bullpen, and be given a true look at the majors, instead of spot appearances like he received with the Mariners. He’s not Chargois by any means, but with the added team control, he’s still a fine asset.
As for the Shenton prospect type piece in the trade, we would send them Polcovich. A middle infielder who can play shortstop, he showed an impressive combination of power and speed in high-A in 2021, before struggling in AA. Still only 23, he will be younger than the average AA player for the entirety of the season.
He’s likely to end up at second, or as a super-utility type that can play all over. He’s a smart baserunner who can spray it all over the field as well. I think he would fit well in the Orioles system where they could try and lock him into a position to see how he does with consistency and bring him up at some point in 2023 to give him a look.
Should the Orioles trade away Sulser? I think they should, and it would be a great acquisition for the Mariners. Once the stoppage is over, I think a cross-country call would be worth it to see if the Mariners can shore up their bullpen and make it back-to-back years as one of the best in baseball. Plus, why not add another guy whose last name starts with S.