Could the Mariners make a blockbuster trade with this hated division rival?

The Mariners are playing well, and the Astros are not. Inter-division trades are always tough, but is there a chance they could work a blockbuster?
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The Seattle Mariners, under Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander, have built themselves a stable organization with a competitive and talented team at the big league level and a farm system with talented minor leaguers who show promise for the future. A significant portion of the top talent at the big league level is on the mound. The Mariners have one of the best starting rotations in Major League Baseball and they have shown the ability to develop relievers.

They also have a star center fielder in Julio Rodriguez, an All-Star-worthy backstop in Cal Raleigh, and an unofficial team captain at shortstop in JP Crawford. Outside of that trio, the offense does not have a ton of multiyear starters or proven players locked into long-term deals. They have multiple years of club control of multiple hitters including Luke Raley and Dominic Canzone, but they lack a consistent elite-level hitter, something that has been evidently lacking through the first month of the season.

This is where the idea of trading for a proven, consistent elite position player supplements the core of the Mariners now and going forward. The concept of trading for the position player version of Luis Castillo is tantalizing because without "The Rock" at the top of the Mariners rotation, the Seattle rotation would still be very good, but it would look a lot different and would not be the elite unit it is now.

Trading for the Luis Castillo version of an offensive weapon could mean a lot of different things. If we think back to the time when the Mariners made the bold move of trading for Castillo, he had a little less than a year and a half of club control remaining. He put the Mariners squarely into playoff contention and was a leading reason why the club finally broke a playoff drought of more than 20 years and won their Wild Card Series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Now enter another player who will have a little less than a year and a half of club control remaining before he becomes a free agent at this summer's trade deadline. This player is an elite offensive threat as well as a plus defender in right field. He has a World Series ring on his resume and has been a thorn in the Mariners side as a member of a hated division rival. That's right, this player is none other than... Houston Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker.

The idea first came from Lyle Goldstein over at Marine Layer, and the idea is just so crazy that it might make some sense if things go a certain way.

As Goldstein points out, the Astros have had a terrible month to start 2024. Sitting at 12-22 before starting a series with the New York Yankees, the Astros look like a long shot to make the playoffs or be competitive this season at their current pace. They also are an old and expensive roster without a ton of prospect capital to trade from or call up to bolster their team.

The Astros did just play the Mariners tough for their three-game series, but the Mariners were victorious in two of three games. Perhaps the Astros were held together by former veteran manager Dusty Baker and are not the same group without him. I do not expect the rival Astros to be a bottom-feeding team for the rest of the season, but the hole they have dug themselves must have certainly put a sense of desperation in that clubhouse, and if they continue to struggle it could get worse.

The Astros General Manager came out and said that his team is too good to sell at the trade deadline, but if the Astros are looking at a ten-game deficit in both their division and in the wild card standings, then the smart move might be to sell and try to reboot the team the following season. The Astros could continue to struggle if their pitchers continue to get injured or if their offensive contributors struggle under the pressure of getting back to the playoffs.

If we find ourselves in the universe where the Astros are left in the dust by Seattle and Texas in the American League West and other teams in the wild card race, the Mariners would be a possible trade partner for the star right fielder. It would no doubt cost a lot, and a significant trade package might seem scary to Mariners fans, but the trade for Luis Castillo looks phenomenal for the Mariners right now because most of the prospects did not pan out for the Reds, and the Mariners have seen their fair share of prospects not perform here in Seattle.

The Astros would almost certainly ask for one of the Mariners starting pitchers in return, and as Goldstein says in his clip above, the Marines should not trade from that elite strength of starting pitchers. I might be able to be talked into dealing Emerson Hancock or Bryan Woo because of their injury histories if that meant the Mariners had to move fewer top ten prospects, but if the Astros insist on Gilbert, Kirby, or Miller the Mariners should just stand pat.

A trade package for Tucker would most certainly have to include some Upper-Minors talent because the Astros, in this scenario, would want to try to be competitive again in 2025. Prospects like Harry Ford, Logan Evans, Cole Young, and Tyler Locklear would be ideal for this type of trade for the Astros because they are in Double-A already. Others on the Modesto roster would also be appealing because of their upside and talent.

While it would hurt to make a trade centered around prospects with the Astros, this would be a move that would make the Mariners World Series contenders. Assuming they would be in the race for the division or a high wild card spot, the Mariners would get two guaranteed playoff races with Kyle Tucker who has been worth nearly 5 WAR each of the past three seasons.

There would also be the chance of signing Kyle Tucker to a long-term extension, just like Luis Castillo did. Backing up the Brinks truck for Tucker would certainly be a good use of resources if ownership is willing to spend it on an elite hitter to play next to Julio Rodriguez for the next ten years.

It is certainly no guarantee that the Astros will continue to struggle this season or that Kyle Tucker will be traded or is even available via trade. The Astros just might hang up the phone when they see the called ID says Seattle because of the rivalry between the two teams. However, it is something to monitor because if the opportunity presents for Seattle to discuss trading for the two-time All-Star, the Mariners should jump all over it.