The rumor mill

We're one week away from the trading deadline, and you know what that means: Lots of speculation, rumor-spreading, and idle dreams of impact deals for the Mariners.

Well, "lots." If you disregard the truly ridiculous ones floating around Twitter, like the one suggesting Erik Swanson for a trio of Cubs including Kris Bryant, there's really not too much to consider. But there has been reportage of Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto inquiring about second basemen and starting pitchers.

Pirates All-Star Adam Frazier is one name that pops up frequently. The 29-year-old isn't ideal in that he bats left-handed and the Mariners are already quite lefty-heavy. But he is having a great year—he leads the National League in hits at this writing—and won't be a free agent until after next season. In addition to second base, Frazier has also seen time in left field, making him a defensively better (and somewhat paler) version of Shed Long Jr. with much better on-base numbers. Another second base target might be Royals All-Star Whit Merrifield, though he would undoubtedly cost more to acquire. Merrifield is also a versatile defender—he's played first base, third base, and all three outfield positions as well as his typical keystone spot—and is also a year out from free agency, and he's a right-handed hitter. He's older (32) and more expensive than Frazier in the short term, but would be a valuable addition. Detroit's Jonathan Schoop has also been mentioned as a possible trade target, and while Schoop would not be as attractive a get as those other two, he would still be an upgrade over the production the M's have been getting from Long and Dylan Moore. Schoop would just be a rental, though, as he will be a free agent at season's end. 34-year-old former All-Star Josh Harrison might also be a consideration, but again, would just be a rental for the balance of 2021.

As for potential pitchers to go after, no specific names have made the rounds of the rumor mill. Detroit left-hander Matthew Boyd might be an option; at 30 years old, he's shown himself to be a middling performer but might come relatively cheaply and isn't a free agent until 2023. One intriguing possibility is Pittsburgh southpaw Tyler Anderson, who has shown flashes of brilliance in an otherwise mediocre big-league career that goes back to 2016. Anderson is not under contract beyond 2021, but given the state of Seattle's ailing starting rotation, a rental might work out better here than in the infield.

The key issue in any of these speculations, though, is who would the Mariners give up in any trades. The obvious trade chip is closer Kendall Graveman, who's having a terrific season and is on a one-year contract. Catcher Tom Murphy has been made expendable by the promotion of rookie backstop Cal Raleigh, but there's only so much interest a sub-.200 hitter can draw. But the guy other teams are most likely to ask for is outfielder Mitch Haniger. Though not having a great year, Haniger is a solid Major Leaguer with a great deal of upside and another year on his contract. Dipoto has said it would take a huge return for him to deal Haniger, and frankly it doesn't make a lot of sense for the M's to even consider it. Yes, there are a surplus of outfielders in the mix for future seasons—Jarred Kelenic, Taylor Trammell, Jake Fraley, Kyle Lewis, and down the road a year or two, Julio Rodríguez—but aside from Fraley, who rather dumbly declined a vaccination and allowed himself to catch COVID and is out for a while yet, none of those guys has shown they're ready for prime time. (And that includes Lewis, who won his Rookie of the Year award on the strength of merely one month of good ABs.) Relying on that crew with no established presence alongside them could be asking for trouble.

We've got a week to go. You know Dipoto will do something, it's just a matter of how big a splash he'll make. Personally, I'm hoping for something on the small side, a Graveman-for-a-starter rental kind of thing with no big to-dos that take away from 2022. But, as the old slogan goes, anything can happen.


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