According to a Sunday night report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Mariners are prepared to conduct a legitimate fire sale and are open to almost completely ridding their roster of its current veteran players:
Jay Bruce is just the start of a Seattle fire sale. The Mariners are looking to deal almost every veteran on their roster, sources tell ESPN, and have shown a willingness to eat significant money in doing so. In the Bruce trade, Seattle guaranteed Philadelphia 87% of money owed.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 3, 2019
Of course, we’ve heard this type of rumor in the not-too-distant past, though it only partially came to fruition. The Mariners cut some payroll over the offseason by trading Robinson Cáno, Edwin Díaz, Jean Segura, Mike Zunino, and Álex Colomé, but they were able to restock their farm system while adding an outfielder in Mallex Smith who figured to be an instant contributor, and once the offseason was done it looked like they had a club that would still be competitive enough to battle for a wild-card spot. The Mariners looked well on their way to accomplish that goal during the month of April — and that may be part of why they’re so frustrated right now. Though they now sit at 25-37, in last place and 16 games back of the first-place Astros, they got off to a ridiculous 13-2 start, possessing a plus-42 run differential on April 11, and they were in first place as late as April 27. With this group having staged such an epic collapse, perhaps Seattle’s ownership and/or front office has become more motivated to conduct a total teardown and tank job in order to try and assemble the same collection of young talent that the Astros possess — though it’s not like they’ve been picking near the end of the first round during their 17-season-and-counting playoff drought, and they had already made a pretty substantial step toward assembling a strong farm system by acquiring top-100 prospects and former first-rounders Justus Sheffield, Jarred Kelenic, and Justin Dunn this past offseason.
Beyond Jay Bruce, who was dealt to the Phillies on Sunday after hitting 14 homers with an .816 OPS in 47 games for Seattle, it’ll be interesting to see how many guys the Mariners are truly willing to deal, as their younger veterans are their most intriguing. If they’re willing to trade him, their most marketable player right now may be 26-year-old DH Daniel Vogelbach, who has 15 homers with a .922 OPS and is not arbitration-eligible until 2021. Mitch Haniger is widely considered one of the best outfielders in baseball and would surely bring back quite a bit in a deal, but his value definitely isn’t at its highest right now, as he has posted a medicore .227/.316/.472 slash line over the first two months of the season, and even a GM as trade-happy as Dipoto would probably like to see him turn it on at the plate before dealing him. Another outfielder, Domingo Santana, is in a similar situation to Haniger, as he’s a young, controllable player who’d be a valued asset for quite a few teams, but he’s currently in the midst of a fairly significant slump right now and probably isn’t at his peak value right this second. Before allowing 10 runs in Sunday’s loss to the Angels, lefty Marco Gonzales was also having another good year, and as a cost-controlled, consistent starter, he’d surely have some solid value on the trade market.
Beyond those obvious trade chips (at least if Seattle is serious about a total fire sale), the Mariners have a few older, more expensive players who could probably bring back some low- or mid-level prospects. Edwin Encarnación, who is playing out the final season of his three-year, $60 million contract in Seattle and has a $5 million buyout for next year, probably won’t generate much interest, seeing as Seattle seemed intent on flipping him over the offseason but never found a match. He is a reliable power hitter with playoff experience, though, and he’s posted a solid .245/.354/.495 line with 15 homers this year. Tim Beckham doesn’t have a long history of success but is having a solid year (.243/.293/.492 with 11 homers) and has experience at every infield position. Though 27-year-old catcher Omar Narváez seemingly should be a building block for Seattle’s rebuild, he’s a very good hitter (but below-average defender) who would boost the lineup of a team like the Red Sox, Astros, or Dodgers if they’re willing to sacrifice a little sharpness behind the plate for results in the batter’s box. Veteran pitchers such as Cory Gearrin, Roenis Elías, and Mike Leake could also perhaps have some fringe value on the trade market.
They’d probably most like to unload 31-year-old second baseman Dee Gordon, who is guaranteed $14.8 million after this season, but seeing as he owns a .679 OPS and has experienced a defensive drop-off, the odds of the Mariners being able to move him are low unless they’re willing to eat nearly all the money or take on another bad expensive contract in return. Obviously they had to eat a good chunk of change to complete the Bruce deal, and he’s without a doubt a better player than Gordon right now.