As the MLB trade deadline closes in, every team is faced with a decision to make: do they try and get rid of their prospects to net bigger gains for a playoff push? Or, do they deal out some of their better players to receive high quality prospects and abandon their playoff ambitions for the year? This is commonly referred to as buying or selling, with the occasional middle ground of not making outrageous roster moves.
The basic goal here is that buyers are trying to beef up the weak points in their rosters to give themselves the best chance at winning the World Series in October. On the other hand, sellers are sacrificing their playoff hopes in an attempt to build a roster with talented young guys that can give them an even stronger push in the coming years.
For the Seattle Mariners, this decision came easily. It was on record coming into the year that they were looking to rebuild, and a rebuild season often comes hand in hand with selling at the deadline. Fans saw a sneak peek of that throughout the year, when the Mariners dealt Jay Bruce to the Phillies and Edwin Encarnacion to the Yankees. This is almost certainly not the end of the changes, however.
As sellers, the first step to predicting roster moves is establishing the players that are most likely to be dealt. They are generally on the older side and have shown at least an average performance so far. This doesn’t seem like an extreme requirement for the buyers because they aren’t looking for the next big thing. Maybe someone average is good enough to replace someone below average on a team with playoff aspirations.
Going by these standards, two of the more likely players Seattle will look to move are starting pitchers Wade LeBlanc and Mike Leake. Both are in their early 30s but have shown really bright spots over the course of the year. Leake in particular has had two complete games already, including one that was perfect through the first eight innings. Still, they average out as mediocre pitchers. For some playoff teams, like the Yankees and Dodgers, a mediocre starting pitcher could fill up the fourth or fifth slot in their rotation. The Dodgers especially are looking for pitching help with Rich Hill being injured.
Also on the chopping block, I believe, are relief pitchers Roenis Elias and Anthony Bass. The 31-year-old Elias has probably been the only relief pitcher in the Mariners’ bullpen all year, and has been their go-to in high-leverage situations. He’s making scrap money this year and would be a cheap option for other teams. Bass is less likely, considering he’s having the best season of his career and might be a long-term hope for the Seattle bullpen. Still, solid relief pitchers are at peak value currently, so maybe Seattle will get a really good pull.
There are also a number of hitters that could be valuable trade assets. Dee Gordon has proven over the last year and a half with the Mariners that he is both a good bat and a solid defender at second base and in the outfield. He’s a really versatile player that I doubt the Mariners would want to move if he wasn’t as expensive as he is. General Manager, Jerry Dipoto would likely be willing to deal him for a young prospect and some assistance in eating his contract. Ryon Healy and Tim Beckham both have strong upsides to counter their poor defending and are among the less useful members on the Mariners team.
The Seattle Mariners of 2019 don’t even remotely resemble their 2018 counterpart, who just missed the playoffs. They’re making a hard push for young players and hope to contend by 2021. It’s unlikely that Gordon and Leake, who look like valuable players, will still be at their same level by that time. It could just be better to get rid of them while they still hold value.