Unlike a year ago, the July 31 trade deadline is shaping up to be a real dud for Mariners fans. The Cliff Lee deal, as expected, took place weeks before the deadline and has now left us all wondering whether there can be any type of trade encore.
Well, there won’t be anything like what we saw a year ago, where the team made a couple of late deals with the Pirates and Tigers. I’d say the only repeat from 2009 could be that we’ll see a whole lot of buzz about the Tigers and Mariners as the deadline draws near.
For me, the one deal the M’s could make by July 31 is Jose Lopez to Detroit. The Tigers need a third baseman now that Brandon Inge is out four to six weeks. Lopez is batting cleanup for the M’s at the moment, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s not like they would be trading a cleanup hitter.
Lopez is in the middle of the order because of a lack of other options for the M’s at present and also so he can be showcased. Teams like third basemen to be able to hit for some power and putting him in the middle of the order allows the M’s to say he’s capable of doing just that even with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of just .604.
The Phillies are another possible trade destination for Lopez.
Here’s the thing, the M’s don’t have to give Lopez away for free. He’s played decent defense at third, even if I think his high Ultimate Zone Rating numbers are a little too misleading. Lopez is not a Gold Glover, but he’s still been solid enough that he’d give the team one less thing to worry about in the months ahead.
Beyond that, the M’s aren’t going to exercise what would be a $5 million option for next season for a .600 OPS guy whose only value is as a third baseman and would therefore block Chone Figgins from returning to his better position. Won’t happen. These are going to be Lopez’s final two months with the Mariners, hence, the need to trade him. But the M’s are looking for more than a bucket of balls in return. Lopez could also be dealt in August, but would have to clear waivers first. That might not be much of a problem, but you’d have to wonder why teams like the Tigers and Phillies, who need injury replacements, would want to wait that long since the injured guys will likely be back in September. Lopez is needed by those teams right now. Not in August. So, I’m guessing a deal does get done over the next 10 days.
On to other guys.
We keep hearing how the Tigers are interested in shortstop Jack Wilson, but I just don’t see that happening. On the surface, it makes sense for the Mariners to move an aging, injury-prone shortstop who is owed roughly $6.7 million through the end of 2011.
But on the flip-side, the M’s have nobody to replace Wilson in 2011.
Yeah, the team has Josh Wilson to fill-in at shortstop for the rest of 2010. But for an entire season? I’m not sure this team is sold on that notion of him playing every single day at the position for an entire year just yet. The Mariners believe Jack Wilson has the best range of any guy presently in their system, not just going from left to right, but also coming in on balls.
There is no bat to go along with that defense, but shortstop is the one position where you really do need a glove above all other skills. Unless you can hit like Derek Jeter, which precious few can.
In Seattle, Nick Franklin is the guy being groomed as the shortstop of the future, but he’s a good three years away from being a major league regular. Carlos Triunfel is still a massive question mark and there are many within the organization who don’t believe he can play shortstop in the majors.
So, there is nobody who the team really feels comfortable with as a Jack Wilson replacement anywhere in their org. That means. trading him won’t be as simple as a salary dump. Unlike Lopez, there would be a real void left if Jack Wilson goes.
So, I doubt he gets moved.
On to other players there might be some demand for, I seriously doubt the M’s would move Russell Branyan. First, they already gave up a AAA outfielder who won a AA batting title and a Class A shortstop to get Branyan. Are any returns the M’s get going to be much better than that? Could be, but I don’t know if that’s likely. Remember, the outfielder who was dealt, Ezequiel Carrera, was a Jack Zduriencik guy, not a Bill Bavasi guy.
And the reason Branyan was brought in was to help the Mariners avoid losing 110 games.
They might still lose 100 with him here. So, imagine how bad things could get without him. Actually, we’ve been seeing it from this offense the past week.
Throw in Branyan’s recent back woes, and I just don’t see his trade value getting to the point where it would be worth dealing him. Besides, he’s a guy this team could actually think about re-signing for next year.
As for minor deals, like Casey Kotchman or Mike Sweeney, you aren’t going to fetch anything of value for them. Kotchman because of the money he’s owed and Sweeney because of his recent injuries. I’d say both are better used as possible injury replacements the rest of the way than as trade fodder.
Milton Bradley isn’t going anyplace either. I know there have been calls from some quarters for Bradley to be released outright, but with the injuries we’ve already seen to Branyan and Michael Saunders, that makes little sense. The Mariners will keep Bradley around, hope he can rebound next season now that he’s weathered all sorts of personal turmoil this year, and take it from there.
On the pitching side, David Aardsma and Brandon League are the two biggest items teams would want.
But as in the case with Branyan, both are still badly needed here. This bullpen has been depleted by the Mark Lowe and Shawn Kelley injuries and by the regression of Sean White. There just aren’t enough arms in this bullpen to help the team nail down the rare opportunities they have to win.
Yeah, you could use those rare opportunities as an excuse to deal Aardsma, figuring the team doesn’t get save opportunities any more. But I’d say it would have to be a “knock your socks off” type of deal to get the M’s to even think about it. Otherwise, they’d be better off keeping both and trying to move them this off-season or even next year, since both are still under club control.
So, no, I don’t see either of them moving.
Yes, I do feel more teams will make deals in August, since players are less likely to be claimed on waivers by teams trying to avoid taking on money. But still, I just don’t see the M’s being very active in such deals. The one player they can afford to move is Lopez and the teams that would deal for him need him right now, not a month from now.
One more thing, for those of you who keep bringing up Prince Fielder, either for now or for this winter, forget about him coming here please. Justin Smoak is the guy the Mariners want penciled in at first base for years to come. Fielder could only come to Seattle as a DH and he would be too pricey to be a one-dimensional guy here. Just don’t see that happening.
So, I’m saying it’s Lopez-or-bust. We’ll know in 10 days.