Though the All-Star game provides a much needed mid-season reprieve for MLB teams, the trade deadline looms large as July comes to an end. For many under-performing teams the deadline is the elephant in the room with both the fans and the front office. The Seattle Mariners are in an especially precarious position deciding whether to trade productive veterans like Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez for prospects and hope the younger players can step up, or whether to trade their own prospects for established talent and risk sending young talent away at the worst time.
GM Jack Zduriencik is tight-lipped about any potential trades, but it stands to reason that other teams with struggling offenses are paying attention to the numbers Morales and Ibanez are putting up. But the two veterans are also responsible for a significant amount of the Mariners’ offense so far this season, and unless they can trade for younger offensive talent or rely on young Mariners like Kyle Seager and Justin Smoak to be even more productive, it doesn’t seem likely that the Mariners will part with either Morales or Ibanez before the end of the season.
One area where the Mariners have some depth of talent is their pitching staff. It is inconceivable that Felix Hernandez or Hisashi Iwakuma will go anywhere (especially with Hernandez’s monster contract extension earlier this year), but Aaron Harang or Joe Saunders may fetch some prospects for the Mariners and give young pitchers like Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker significant playing time at the Major League level. In the bullpen, relievers like Oliver Perez, Charlie Furbush, Yoervis Medina, Blake Beavan, Tom Wilhelmsen and others may be on the table if a trade presents itself.
One thing the Mariners can’t afford to do at this point is start trading away their young offensive talent, even if it remains unproven. Teams may very well be interested in young Mariners like Seager, Brad Miller, Nick Franklin or Mike Zunino, but these players represent the future of the team. They’re the kinds of players the Mariners would be trading for if they didn’t already have them.
It is an interesting situation that the Mariners find themselves in. They are a very young team, but most of their offense is coming from their older players. They don’t want to trade these veterans and lose that offense, but they can’t trade most of their young prospects either. I think it’s clear that the team needs to make a move or two before the deadline to shake things up, but just what that move should be is anybody’s guess. Two or three years from now, we may well view July 2013 as the month when the Mariners turned things around and became a playoff-caliber team or the month when the Mariners made a few bad trades and doomed themselves to another five years of sub .500 seasons.