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December 29, 2009 at 9:51 AM

Who could be the best remaining Mariners trade bait?

Getting lots of emails and questions from readers about who the Mariners could potentially package to get the best possible return. Now, this question is not as easily answered as you think. After all, a package of Felix Hernandez, Franklin Gutierrez and Adam Moore would likely draw enough interest to trade for any player you want. But the potential damage to the organization would be untold. So, you can’t just throw any name out there. It has to be a name with significant value to other teams and one that won’t unduly harm your organization by parting with.
The past few weeks, we’ve seen the Mariners unload Brandon Morrow and Phillippe Aumont, two former No. 1 picks who had some redundancies in the organization. They were the types of names the team could part with and get value back in return. Same with Tyson Gillies.
So, who is left?
Let’s take a look at my top-three:
1. Carlos Triunfel
This might be the best high upside, least harmful parting of ways the Mariners could have with one of their remaining guys in the majors or high on the prospect list. Just one year ago, Triunfel was this organization’s top Latin American prospect and, some felt, top overall minor leaguer in the entire system. What’s changed is that he broke his leg last year. But a broken leg on a freak slide is not the same as a pitcher blowing out his elbow. Players recover from bone breaks. Triunfel still has some big name value, though, as I’ve mentioned before. some of that is starting to wane as opposing teams hear tales of his weight gain and past attitude problems.
Much of that would vanish in an instant if Triunfel gets off to a hot Class AA start this season. Can the M’s afford to take that gamble? If Triunfel gets off to a slow start, his value will plummet. Something to consider. Hey, everything’s a risk.
Looking at things realistically, though, Triunfel does not appear to have a future with Seattle’s big league club. He’s blocked at shortstop for two more years by Jack Wilson and then at third base for four years by Chone Figgins. Even if Wilson leaves after 2011 and Triunfel is ready to take over, the Mariners do have Nick Franklin, a shortstop drafted out of high school last June and who had eight hits in 20 at-bats in a rookie level stint with Everett. Franklin was a Jack Zduriencik draft choice, while Triunfel is a holdover free agent signing from the Bill Bavasi era.
Different management, different agendas.
Triunfel could very well step in and become a shortstop of the future for the M’s, though many folks envision him at other positions and he’s already been getting time at third and second this winter. Frankly, I don’t see him as a long term fit here anymore. Call it a culmination of timing, his off-field issues — weight and struggles to learn English — and lack of a surefire position, but I just see him as a big trade chit this team will use at some point soon. And they won’t miss him because they already have guys at the big league level and in the minors who could potentially replace him.

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2. Mark Lowe
I know I’ll get a lot of hooting and yelling coming my way over this one. Whenever we’ve discussed the M’s dealing a big league arm this winter, the name Mark Lowe comes up a lot. Many people around the game would love to have Lowe and his high-90s arm in their bullpen. Closing out games, in fact. It’s assumed by some teams, and many folks in Seattle, that the Mariners would rather part with David Aardsma than Lowe, since the latter’s live arm already reaches the upper-90s and seems to have more room to grow.
I’m not sure. It’s a close call, since Aardsma should have the higher trade value, given his status as an established closer. If you think Lowe could slide in to the closer role and rack up as many saves as Aardsma, then it makes sense to deal the latter. But I don’t know about that strategy. Aardsma has whiffed an average of two more batters per nine innings than Lowe and in higher leverage situations. There is also Lowe’s diabetes to consider. I know many people hate it when that’s brought up, but any health issure has to be a consideration when we discuss professional athletes. Physical strength is one of their prime assets and anything that could hinder that is a liability.
The acquisition of Brandon League gives the Mariners another late-inning arm and if the idea is to unload one late-inning reliever in a future blockbuster deal, then it will probably come down to Lowe or Aardsma if giving teams value is what matters. Some say that Aardsma is overrated, and that Lowe — if he can develop better secondary piches as he’s ,made progress doing — will be the better of the two. But for me, it’s tough to overlook a guy like Aardsma, who averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings as a closer this past season. Those are huge numbers, even if he’s known as mostly a fastball-fastball-fastball guy. For now, I’d stick with the proven guy and deal Lowe, even though I could be singing a much different tune a year from now. Lowe’s value as a potential closer is known to other teams and he’ll get you almost as much as dealing Aardsma will. This team, even with Aumont being dealt, still has closer Josh Fields in the minors and other late-inning types like Shawn Kelley and Sean White. You could deal one late-inning arm and probably not feel as much impact as you would elsewhere.
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3. Jose Lopez
This one was tough, because you also have Michael Saunders and Ryan Rowland-Smith at the major league level. But we’ve already seen, from the Cliff Lee deal, that the Phillies prefered Tyson Gillies over Saunders. I’d have thought Saunders would be one of my top-three a month ago, but you can’t ignore real life evidence to the contrary. He was offered up and not taken as the final part of a deal many M’s fans figure the team got away with on-the-cheap. So, what does that say about his trade value? And in Rowland-Smith’s case, he’s a fourth starter in most teams’ opinions who has yet to enjoy a full season in a major league rotation. Had Rowland-Smith already done that, I’d say he’d be prime trade fodder because of his lefty status and the fact the M’s have southpaws Garrett Olson and Luke French kicking around the back of their rotation as is.
Lopez is a second baseman with four years of full-time experience already, still under a relatively cost-contained contract and who is known for having home run pop in his bat. His defense has come into question, but really, is not as bad as advertised. It’s somewhat mediocre. The biggest liability is a .303 on-base percentage. If he could be more patient at the plate, then his home run power might be a whole lot more valuable to other clubs.
Some teams will think it’s a problem they can work on. Lopez has the ability to move around the batting order and could make for a temporary solution on the infield corners for some teams. Or, they could leave him at second base as a mediocre defender with potentially high offensive upside if he gets his OBP up. The Mariners are already working Dustin Ackley out at second base with a goal of moving him there within a couple of years.
There are free agent second basemen still out there — Felipe Lopez comes to mind — who can be had as a stop-gap solution until then without the club truly feeling the impact Jose Lopez moving on would bring. The M’s could also splurge on Adrian Beltre and move Chone Figgins to second as well. Bottom line? You could deal Lopez and replace him on a short term basis if you’re the M’s.
No, Lopez will not be able to be used in a one-for-one deal. But I have news for some of you. None of the guys I just mentioned, including Triunfel and Lowe, could be used as a one-man package.
The Mariners are past that. They can’t deal a Gutierrez or an Ichiro right now. What they have left to deal is all going to be in a package. And these are the three I think would open eyes pretty quickly. You can disagree and throw in other names if you want. Nothing is set in stone. But these are the three I’d start with if I was running the team and looking to get some potential back without harming my club in return.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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