Might we see Whit Merrifield suit up for the Mariners come next week? If so, at what cost?
July 26, 2021
With the Mariners' series victory over the Oakland A's this past weekend—three straight one-run wins after basically conceding the first game—the club finds itself in a position few (but some) of us would have predicted: within 1½ games of a playoff position in the standings in the waning days of July.
It's fun. It's exciting. It's, frankly, a little puzzling. But it's reality and, as Friday's trade deadline approaches, the question is, do the M's go for it and make a move or two?
Big names have already changed teams, with ex-M Nelson Cruz moving from Minnesota to Tampa Bay, Rich Hill now a New York Met, and the Cubs have been reported to be close to dealing away former MVP Kris Bryant. And more movement is coming, that's for certain; we just don't know if Your Seattle Mariners will be involved in any of it.
If the M's want to have any realistic shot at playing in October, then they have to be. As currently staffed, the Mariner lineup becomes sad and pathetic after the 5th spot in the order (or 4th in an Interleague game like we saw in Denver last week). The starting rotation has been so wracked with injury that manager Scott Servais has made the bullpen game a semi-regular thing. Even tonight's series opener against the division-leading Astros, while not technically a bullpen game, is being started by a rookie with one Major League appearance to his credit (granted, a very good one, five no-hit innings). Help is needed.
In addition to a starting pitcher, the M's are reportedly looking at second basemen on the trade market. An outfielder would be welcome as well. At the keystone, Dylan Moore may be well above average defensively, but with the stick he's left a lot to be desired, posting a line of just .185/.272/.353. Shed Long is worse. Sam Haggerty isn't expected to return form his injured list stint anytime soon, and the best the minors has to offer right now is Donovan Walton. In the outfield, the team has prematurely promoted Jarred Kelenic (again) and he has been greatly overmatched (again); even if they commit to using Kelenic, Jake Fraley went and got himself infected with COVID and is out for who knows how long (get well soon, Jake, and for god's sake, get the vaccine shots, will ya?) and the M's essentially have the band of Mitch Haniger and the Easy Outs patrolling the grass.
A few days ago, a prime target for the Mariners appeared to be Pittsburgh 2B Adam Frazier, but the Pirates dealt him to San Diego yesterday. More recent reportage suggested Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto was inquiring with the Royals on IF/OF Whit Merrifield. No intelligence has made the rounds regarding the M's targeting a pitcher, but the Pirates' Tyler Anderson remains an intriguing possibility.
Of course, the flip side of acquiring any such player is who goes the other way in the trade. The Mariners have one or two Major League players that are obvious trade chips—Kendall Graveman, Tom Murphy—but no one "selling" established players like Merrifield and Anderson want those guys. Seattle is prospect-rich, but the price for Merrifield would undoubtedly be steep and Dipoto may not want to part with (m)any of the top names on the Mariner farm. So might we see a Dipoto special, a three-team trade?
The Phillies, for one, seem like a fit for Graveman. Would they be willing to give up a prospect attractive to the Royals, perhaps packaged with Long and/or one of Seattle's less prominent prospects? How about the Mets, who have been known to be looking for relievers? Might they serve as a conduit for a deal? No obvious trade partner comes to mind for Murphy—he is batting under the Mendoza line, after all—but most teams in the bigs, especially the American League, are making do with poor production from the position and might want to take a chance on a receiver with a controllable contract in a package deal.
Meanwhile, not just Graveman, but Murphy, farmhands, and everyone else—this is Trader Jerry, we're talking about, after all—are certainly checking their phones frequently for any updates on if, where to, and when they might be shipped off. The next three and a half days will be anxious ones. Stay tuned.