This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
SEATTLE — The MLB Draft ended Tuesday, and with it, the focus of every front office will shift squarely to the Trade Deadline that looms in just two weeks. Given that the Mariners have firmly ascended back into the postseason picture and are playing with the goal of snapping a 21-year playoff drought, president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto could — and likely will — be among the most active on this year’s market.
“As soon as we get through day three of the Draft on Tuesday, then it will really start to pick up on the trade front,” Dipoto said. “And we’ll see. There are certainly ways to help our team get better, and so it’s an exciting time, really, all around.”
It definitely is an exciting time for the Mariners, especially after All-Star rookie Julio Rodríguez put on quite a show at the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday night, crushing 81 long balls in his Derby debut before falling to Juan Soto in the Finals.
Speaking of the Nats’ star outfielder, here are three ways the Mariners can attack the Aug. 2 Deadline:
1) Make a run at Juan Soto
This Deadline has been murkier to project given that there aren’t many known blockbuster types available. That was, at least, until Saturday, when reports surfaced that the Nationals will entertain offers on their superstar outfielder after he reportedly turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract offer.
Soto makes so much sense for the Mariners. It’s not just that he’s arguably the Majors’ best hitter or that he’s just 23 years old or that he played such a crucial role in the Nats’ 2019 World Series title — it’s that he’d bring a much-needed left-handed power presence to a lineup that, until this 14-game winning streak, lacked a consistent run producer.
His numbers are down compared to his elite level, but he has a 1.431 OPS in July, and he also has virtually no protection in the middle of Washington’s last-place lineup. Imagine Soto hitting between Rodríguez and Ty France, and doing so for three full playoff chases given that he won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season.
The Mariners’ farm system has taken a hit with the graduations of Rodríguez and George Kirby, but Seattle still has the prospect capital to get a seat at the table. The asking price would be huge, probably involving Nos. 1-5 prospects Noelvi Marte, Harry Ford, Matt Brash, Edwin Arroyo and Emerson Hancock, if not all five, along with another big-league-ready player (Jarred Kelenic, perhaps) and possibly taking on one of Washington’s bad contracts (Stephen Strasburg and/or Patrick Corbin, who are owed a combined $200 million after this season).
But it could be done. The Mariners have worked diligently to transform their farm system from one of baseball’s worst to one of its best these past three years. And though parting with that many pieces would be incredibly tough to stomach, Soto is a generational talent who would thrust Seattle from flirting with an American League Wild Card to legitimately making a run at winning the World Series.
2) Figure out second base
There’s no sugarcoating that Adam Frazier has been a disappointment since the Mariners traded for him last offseason. But he has also been on enough of an upswing to suggest that he might’ve turned a corner, hitting .340/.347/.447 (.794 OPS) during the Mariners’ win streak.
Second base, on paper, looked like the clearest area of need and one that Dipoto could easily fill, since that position typically doesn’t cost a fortune in prospects. Some available names include Rougned Odor, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Schoop, Jonathan Villar and Paul DeJong, but all of them are having poor seasons.
If Frazier keeps this up, outstanding. But utilizing the next two weeks to make a decision for the rest of the year is perhaps more vital at this position than most on the roster.
3) Add two pitchers — one starter, one reliever
Remember how effective Tyler Anderson was down the stretch last year, giving the Mariners valuable innings and helping stabilize the rotation? He wasn’t the flashiest acquisition, but he proved to be a necessary one. Seattle’s starting staff is in a vastly better — and more talented — spot than at this time last year, but with Kirby’s innings tally already being more closely monitored and the lack of depth to account for an injury, there’s a notable need for a role-playing starter.
One could say the same for another relief arm, preferably a veteran one that wouldn’t come with workload limitations but maybe has postseason experience. Ken Giles was slated to be that guy, but now that he’s out with right shoulder inflammation, it’s hard to count on him being a key contributor right now. Relievers are typically always available at this time of year and are usually much easier to come by, so this objective seems feasible.
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