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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

November 18, 2014 at 10:02 AM

A few morning thoughts and notes on the Mariners

With Jason Heyward being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, it led many to assume that left fielder Justin Upton is bound for Seattle as the Braves dump salary and retool their team. And that’s more than a fair assumption.

If you recall, the Mariners traded for Upton two seasons ago when he was with the Diamondbacks. The proposed traded featured Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin and Stephen Pryor going to the D’Backs. However, Upton had the Mariners on his four-team no-trade list and couldn’t be convinced to accept the deal. He nixed the deal and was later dealt to the Braves where he could join his brother, BJ, who the Braves regrettably signed to a 5-year, $75 million contract.

What’s different now? Upton has removed the Mariners from his no-trade list so the Braves could move him. They would like to get something in return since Upton will make just over $15 million this season and is a free agent next season.

Yes, it’s a fit for the Mariners, who would like a right-handed hitting outfielder with some pop. Upton had a pretty solid 2014 season for Atlanta.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 9.37.23 AM

So will it happen? It’s possible, but it might not be quite as an easy fit as some people believe. Why? Well, it’s more what the Braves would be asking. It seems unlikely that the Mariners would be willing to trade Taijuan Walker straight across for only one-season of Upton. The Braves need young pitching and the Mariners really don’t have it beyond Walker, James Paxton and Roenis Elias — all projected members of their starting rotation.

Their minor league system lacks starting pitching depth at the Class AAA and Class AA level. It’s an issue that hurt the Mariners last season.

Walker seems to be their best trade chip and it seems unlikely they will use it for a rent-a-player. If the Braves were willing to take Michael Saunders and maybe a lower level pitching prospect or a reliever, that might be more favorable to getting something done.

But if you are going to give up a starting pitcher with that much club control, you need to get a player that is going to be around for more than a season or even a half season. In that way, Matt Kemp fits more. If you send Walker in a package of players and the Dodgers at least pick up some of the money, you’d at least have some control over Kemp for more than a season. Of course, there’s a risk  in that because of Kemp’s injury history.

And if you trade Walker, you will have to add a couple pitchers via free agency to fill out depth concerns. Even if the Mariners do keep Walker, they will likely add at least one pitcher.

Upton may be a fit on the surface in the simplest of terms, but it shouldn’t be a given that the Mariners will acquire him.

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Michael Saunders has a new agent. Meister Sports Agency announced on Twitter on Monday that Saunders became their latest client.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 9.08.59 AM

It was a bit of a surprise since Saunders had been with Frye McCann Sports Agency his entire career. But on Friday, he notified them that he was making a change. Michael McCann declined to comment on why Saunders decided to make the change.

There is some thought from fans that the change will somehow keep Saunders, who second-year arbitration eligible in a Mariners uniform next season. Earlier this season, McCann, on behalf of Saunders, voiced some concerns about some comments made by general manager Jack Zduriencik and his playing time during the season.

I don’t necessarily think a change in agent changes Saunders’ situation. It still seems highly likely that the Mariners could trade him in the offseason as part of a package of players. I think both sides are ready to move on from each other.

Ken Rosenthal mentions Upton, Kemp and Nelson Cruz briefly in his latest blog post.   I still think that Nelson Cruz ends up with a AL East team, but that’s just a gut feeling.

*****

On Nov. 20, the Mariners must decide on additions to their 40-man roster for Rule 5 protection.

From MLB:

Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft who are not on their major league organization’s 40-man roster and:

  • were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming; or
  • were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.

The M’s have some candidates in John Hicks, Jordy Lara, Jabari Blash,  Jordan Pries and a few others. I don’t think any of them would get selected if they were protected.

The Mariners lost lefty reliever BRIAN Moran to the Angels in Rule 5 draft last season. But he suffered a torn UCL and was returned.

The 40-man roster is at 35 players as of today.

 

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