While the rest of the AL West has played out just about as we predicted it would, the Seattle Mariners have not even come close to living up to their promise for 2010. The Mariners were always a high-risk, high-reward team this season, and the coin landed on risk. A combination that seems equal parts underperformance and poor luck has essentially sunk their playoff hopes for the season. They’re obvious candidates to be selling, but the question is: what is there to sell?
Buy or Sell?
Cliff Lee is the obvious piece but trading him is slightly complicated by the guaranteed draft pick compensation due the Mariners should GM Jack Zduriencik hold onto Lee for the entire season. As Dave pointed out earlier, those draft picks carry meaningful value and require a bigger trade return to make it worthwhile.
Aside from Cliff Lee, David Aardsma is the next most likely pitching trade chip thanks to his closer status and success last year. His crummy 2010, however, will put a damper on any mid-season trade. Everyone else on the Seattle staff is either young and cost-controlled or bad.
The hitting side isn’t any more fruitful. There would be a market for Ichiro Suzuki, but the team would never trade him unless he asked them to and there’s been no indication of anything close to that. Jose Lopez has made great strides defensively and adapted well to his new position at third base, which would have made him a great trade piece if his hitting hadn’t completely deserted him. Chone Figgins might net some interest from teams, but it is excessively premature for the Mariners to consider him a busted signing, especially when he looks slotted to slide back to third base in the near future.
On the Farm
Like most high-profile players associated with the Mariners, Dustin Ackley got off to a tough start with just a .244 wOBA. His 15 walks to 14 strikeouts was a good indicator as was the unlucky looking .180 BABIP, but it was still a disappointment for some. Since May 1, however, Ackley has really picked things up with a .415 wOBA and a remarkable 33 walks to 15 strikeouts. He might get a short look in Seattle come September and will be pushing for a starting job as early as next season.
Michael Saunders appears set to take over left field full time later this season and into 2011 as the Mariners should shift more DH time to Milton Bradley. Another OFer, Greg Halman, has taken a big stride forward at Triple-A.
On the pitching side, Michael Pineda is the big name, currently cruising at Double-A with 73 strikeouts in 70 innings and only 16 walks. What the Mariners lack in big name prospects outside of Ackley, they are boasting increased depth at all levels from what’s shaping up to be a very productive minor league season.
The Mariners are not going to be able to wade wily-nily into the free agent market this winter, but there’s not a whole lot to be excited about regardless. Current estimates of around $10-20 million in payroll space for free agents and a whole host of positions that need improvement. I would expect Jack Zduriencik to once again be active on the trade front.
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