One thing looks certain for the Seattle Mariners as they prepare to embark on the post-All-Star part of the schedule.
And that’s the fact that, buyers or sellers, the Mariners seem destined to make some trades before the July 31 deadline.
Who is most likely to leave town?
Well, let’s start with Miguel Batista.
While Batista isn’t exactly a fan favorite at times, he has been a reliable bullpen arm for the team as it coped with the loss of starter Erik Bedard due to injury, not to mention the injury suffered by Shawn Kelley.
Batista can go one inning, or multiple frames. He can throw hard, in late-game situations. He’s the type of veteran arm with endurance contenders are always looking for because you know he won’t burn out in September.
He also has a salary that makes him interesting.
He’ll be owed roughly $3.3 million the final two months of the season. The Mariners could eat some of that to get a younger player back, having already save some money long-term by offloading Yuniesky Betancourt. Or they could include him in a larger deal to offest money coming Seattle’s way.
Either way, with a bullpen getting deeper, it makes sense to move him.
Next there’s Sean White. Let’s face it, the team is playing with house money with him. He wasn’t being counted on at the start of the year and has given more than the team ever expected from him in seventh and eighth inning roles. He’ll attract some interest on the trade front and could be a piece given up to acquire something bigger than could be had for Batista. But the return to heath of Kelley gives the team another late-inning option at a point in the season when White’s lack of experience — and questionable endurance — could become an issue.
Mark Lowe fits that bill as well and is a more desired commodity than White because of his strikeout ability. Some teams view him as an eighth and even a ninth inning piece. His inconsistency at times this year is something many teams will be willing to overlook given his age and his low cost — even with a surgically repaired elbow area. This would be a tough pill for the M’s to swallow, letting him go. But the team does have Phillippe Aumont being groomed for a late-inning role, possibly as early as next spring. The M’s may feel they have enough late inning arms for 2010 to afford to lose one now. It’s still a risk, since Lowe figures to factor in any late-season push by the M’s in 2009.
Erik Bedard has trade value in his name alone, but will have to demonstrate he is back to full health over his next few starts for the Mariners to be able to attain much for him. His strikeout ability, when healthy, makes him a more desirable trade piece than Jarrod Washburn when both are healthy. But right now, as a five-inning arm, Bedard’s value alone is limited. That’s why, unless the M’s fall out of contention, trading him at this moment might not be the right move.
Jarrod Washburn is a guy who has consistently gone seven innings and seems to be getting healthier with the team having rested him at opportune moments. He could be a strong part of a larger package, or enough to get Seattle something on his own. Again, though, dealing him could impact the team’s chances in 2009. If the M’s fall out of it, dealing him is a no-brainer, since his contract — like Bedard’s — is up after this year. There is demand for him right now and his value has probably never been higher.
Brandon Morrow is the real wild-card here and this is where Jack Zduriencik’s talent evaluation skills come in. Do the M’s see Morrow developing into a top-of-the-rotation arm, based on the limited stuff they’ve seen from him so far. The new administration had some doubts last winter and Morrow has done little to ease those. He is still young though, and there are teams out there that see him as an attractive young arm. The Brewers badly wanted both Morrow and Bedard last winter. For all the talk of trading Washburn and Bedard to get J.J. Hardy, you could likely deal Morrow and Bedard for Hardy plus something pretty good. Again, it depends on where this this team sees him right now and down the road. You could move Morrow now, try to extend Washburn, then sign a free-agent pitcher this winter to round out a Felix Hernandez-led rotation. The M’s have a ton of money coming off the books and will be in a position to go out and get a No. 3 guy.
There are, of course, secondary trade items that could go. Wladimir Balentien has lost his left field job and is still young enough to attract interest as part of a package. Jeff Clement no longer seems to fit into the team’s catching plans and, as a former No. 1 pick, will have some secondary value as well.
Lots to think about. Plenty still to happen by July 31, including stuff we haven’t even thought about. If the M’s fall out of it, Russell Branyan could easily be moved and Mike Carp called up to play out the final two months. For now, though, chew on this for a bit.