The Mariners are still interested in acquiring Zack Cozart after almost doing so this past trade deadline, according to Bob Dutton of the News Tribune. The Reds’ shortstop was rumored to be part of a deal with the Mariners back in July that would have brought back left-handed pitching prospect Luiz Gohara.
Cozart is coming off one of his best seasons yet. The 31-year-old shortstop set a personal-best in home runs in 2016, hitting 16—one more than his 2012 total. However, despite boasting a good home run total, Cozart only wound up with a .172 ISO and .308 OBP. By wRC+, Cozart finished up the season nine percent worse than league average at generating offense.
Facing the possibility of Cozart garnering trade interest, Reds’ general manager Dick Williams was up-front about the matter according to Dutton:
Reds general manager Dick Williams made it clear last week that Cozart is available by telling USA Today: "It’s something we’d have to consider. We’ve shown the willingness to trade guys who have been with us if it helps us get better."
Cozart is going into his last season of arbitration eligibility and is projected to earn $4.3 million by MLB Trade Rumors estimates. The right-handed-hitting shortstop wrapped up the 2016 campaign on the disabled list with a nagging knee injury. Somewhat worryingly, it was the same knee he had surgically repaired back in 2015 following an ACL and LCL tear.
Cozart would presumably replace Ketel Marte as the Mariners’ incumbent every day shortstop for 2017. After starting the season off well, and following an impressive 2015 campaign, the 23-year-old switch-hitter finished well-below replacement level. Nearly costing the Mariners a full win by being in the lineup, Marte didn’t even provide replacement level defense at the shortstop position.
With Marte likely starting the season in the minors, it makes sense for Dipoto to pursue alternatives if the Mariners plan on being playoff-bound in 2017. With Cozart down to his last season of team control and coming off of injury, the likelihood of the Reds commanding a prospect like Gohara in return seems slim. If the price comes down enough, a deal seems likely between these two teams.