The Mariners have been a wild card throughout this month — seemingly positioned to be a seller at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but sending out vibes that they won’t be aggressive on the trade market. That stance hardened during their winning stretch, which even began to put thoughts in their head that they could make a miracle run at contending, beyond the initial goal of finishing .500.
But now, with two two hours to go before the 1 p.m. (Pacific time) deadline, it’s time for action, not posturing. And the Mariners are in the midst of numerous rumors. I’ve felt all along that they have little desire to move Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales, for three reasons: Their direct on the offense (Ibanez’s two-week slump notwithstanding), their influence in the clubhouse, and the fact that their presence in the lineup keeps too much of the load from falling on young players before they’re ready for it. If a team blew them away with an offer, they would have to listen, but short of that, I don’t expect either player to be moved. In Morales’s case, if they keep him, they can give him a qualifying offer over the winter and either end up keeping him for 2014 if he accepts, or getting a compensatory draft pick (at the end of the first round). So that sets the bar for a possible trade: The return has to be better than a first-round sandwich pick.
That still leaves numerous players who are vulnerable to a trade, and those are the ones around which rumors are swirling. Michael Morse, just back yesterday from an extended stretch on the disabled list, and a free agent at the end of the year, is one of them. For a team needing an offensive boost, he will be intriguing, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote today he’s “very available.” The Mariners’ surge has happened with Morse in Tacoma or on the DL, and they can keep going with an outfield of Ibanez, Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders, with Endy Chavez still around and Franklin Gutierrez still a possibility to try yet again to come back, and stay healthy. The Orioles and Rays, among others, are rumored to be sniffing around Morse.
Oliver Perez has always profiled as the most likely Mariner to be traded, because virtually every contender could use a lockdown late reliever, which is what he has been this year. I’d be more surprised if Perez stays than if he’s traded. The latest name circulating today is Tom Wilhelmsen, who temporarily lost his closer’s job earlier this year but has now converted his last six save opportunities (though not always smoothly). A trade of both Wilhelmsen and Perez, however, would leave the Mariners in a bind for closing options in the final two months, especially with Stephen Pryor, the likely heir apparent as closer, still on the mend.
Joe Saunders is also in play, though his last few shaky outings have likely diminished his value. I see a good fit with the Orioles, who traded for him down the stretch last year with good results.
I could also see Brendan Ryan being traded, because his role on the team has been usurped by the emergence of Brad Miller at shortstop. But that would likely not be a very impactful trade, in terms of the return.