32-year-old left-hander Joe Saunders is one of only a couple of players that the Seattle Mariners could feasibly trade and still benefit the team in a tangible way. Saunders had a rough start to the season, but he has been very effective for the Mariners lately, pitching 62 innings and posting an ERA of 3.05 with 39 strikeouts and five wins in his last 10 starts before the All-Star break.
On the surface, it may seem foolish to trade a guy who has become a solid piece of the Seattle rotation. But when one looks closer, it seems like a no-brainer. Saunders is only 32 and still an effective pitcher. He will make $6.5 million this year playing for the Mariners, but he will be a free agent at the end of the season. If he performs well in the second half of the season, he will likely get some serious interest in free agency from many teams. The Mariners have several high-value pitching prospects in AAA Tacoma right now. Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen may get some work at the MLB level before the end of the season, and if they perform well, they will likely find themselves in the Seattle rotation next year and cost the team far less money than Saunders would require.
The depth and youth that the Mariners have in their starting pitching rotation should make it easy for the Mariners to trade Saunders for something that they sorely need: young hitting. Trading Saunders while he is hot for young-hitting prospects should in theory work out well for the Mariners. It is unlikely that Saunders has a place in Seattle next season unless Walker, Paxton and Hultzen get seriously injured or start falling apart on the mound.
The Mariners should look to deal with a team that has the opposite problem that they do. A team that has a wealth of hitting depth but in need of a veteran pitcher who can give them some quality innings would be an ideal trade partner for the Mariners. Seattle made a similar deal last winter when they sent Jason Vargas to the Los Angeles Angels for Kendrys Morales, and that deal seems to have worked out well for Seattle. They shouldn’t be afraid to do it again.