We are 64 games into the 2023 season, and the Mariners are in the worst possible position. They are teetering around the .500 mark but need to be farther down the wild card standings to sell off pieces. However, if they continue to lose winnable ballgames the outlook could change very quickly.
In that case, once dependable starters Logan Gilbert and George Kirby keep getting hammered by opposing lineups, and the clutch hits never come, we could live in a world where President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto decides to sell off some of the team's pieces. Who could be on the trade block in late July, barring a sustained winning streak?
Move #1: Run the Relief Market
The trade deadline is when contenders look to beef up their bullpens for the stretch run. Dominate relievers with multiple years of control can fletch some legitimate prospects. Ask the Chicago Cubs, who gave up young infielder Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier for three months of Aroldis Chapman.
Would Dipoto consider shipping Paul Sewald for a few high-upside prospects? I wouldn't think twice about it. Why? Because non-contending teams don't need closers of Sewald's caliber. Manager Scott Servais could continue a bullpen-by-committee strategy and call up Riley O'Brien from Tacoma or even prospect Prelander Berroa from Arkansas instead. Meanwhile, Andres Munoz can slide into the back end of the pen.
Move #2: Power Bat on an Expiring Contract
Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez is finally starting to heat up, hitting .345 over his last 17 games. Over that time, he lowered his strikeout rate and hit the ball with authority. While it is excellent to see Hernandez back to his old self, he is on an expiring contract. They should trade him if they can't overtake the Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Yankees in the standings.
The team gave up relief ace Erik Swanson and prospect Adam Macko for the Dominican slugger this past offseason. It's time to recoup some prospects and get something for the soon-to-be free agent.
Move #3: Struggling Veterans Available
We've written extensively about the struggles of second baseman Kolten Wong and to a lesser extent outfielder A.J. Pollock. The team is paying them around $17 million this season, and both are free agents at season's end. If the Mariners don't have a clear path to the wild card by late July, they should designate both players for assignment. Those two roster spots should go to prospects Jake Scheiner and Cade Marlowe. Dipoto and Servais need to see if the two prospects are pieces of the team's future.
You probably think owner John Stanton would never eat $17M in salary when he doesn't even pay for top-tier free agents. Well, sometimes you must admit defeat and move on.
The trade deadline is August 1st, which is about seven weeks away. Could the Mariners go on a 14-game win streak like last year? Maybe. Could Julio Rodriguez and Teoscar Hernandez catch fire together and carry this team for a few weeks? Maybe. Could the team's young starters find their footing in a rotation devoid of two critical veterans (Marco Gonzales and Robbie Ray)? Maybe.
I don't know about you, but that's a lot of ambiguity. But then again, the team may flip the switch and make this whole article pointless. I would surely love that.