Sunday, May 23, 2010

MARINERS COLUMN: Let's Talk Trades, Part 1: Who to trade for

Since the Mariners are 10+ games under .500 on the year, it’s never too early to look ahead and talk potential trades. Just so you know, baseball fans are always talking about potential trades. Whether they’re relevant or not, we come up with deals on how to get this guy, how to get rid of that one, and subconsciously find ways to bring in our favorite players here to Seattle.

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To us, the trade deadline is more dramatic than an American Idol finale. Baseball Tonight is our Gossip Girl. And is like our TMZ. Sometimes the deadline is great, and sometimes nothing happens and we’re all left saying “what the hell?”, much like the series finale of the Sopranos.

Much to our chagrin, this 2010 Mariners team may be done for the season (I really hope not, but they're showing little signs to prove otherwise), which gives us a good excuse to be buyers in this year’s trade market. GM Jack Zduriencik has made it clear that he’s willing to pull the trigger when given the right chance. He’s the one that brought us Franklin Gutierrez for J.J. Putz. Jack Z also was the mastermind to bring in Cliff Lee during the offseason for mere peanuts. So what’s in store for this season?

Let’s start with the basic, most dramatic need this team is lacking, which is a threatening power hitter to put in the middle of the lineup. Right now, our best hitter is Franklin Gutierrez, who’s more of a contact hitter than anything. And frankly, no pitcher is terrified of facing Guti. If anything, they’ll just marvel and be jealous of how good-looking he is.

So we need a power hitter, and preferably a left-handed batting one to take advantage of the porch we have in right field at Safeco. During the prior offseason, Adrian Gonzalez of San Diego was the talk of the league, mostly because he’s the next Mark Teixeira, about the make Mark Teixiera-money once he’s a free agent after this season. Everyone thought Gonzalez would be on the trading block since the Padres were expected to finish in last place in the NL West, and chances are the Padres aren’t going to be able to compete with offers from Boston, New York, (Seattle?), in the free agency market.

No such luck. Although Gonzalez would be a beast in Safeco Field (i.e. each game of this past weekend series here in Seattle), the Padres are in first place of their division and they have no reason to get rid of their best player.

The good news (or at least semi-good news) is there are other options available. First player that comes to mind is Brewers first-baseman Prince Fielder. Most of you know the extremity of Fielder’s home-run power. I mean, when he hits them, he HITS them. Reports have been sprouting that the Brewers may be interested in dealing Fielder before season’s end in solving a similar situation the Padres are dealing with Gonzalez. Since Prince Fielder is a Scot Boras client, he’s going to get a maximum contract whether he deserves it or not.

Even better news: the Brewers are losing badly this season, much like the M’s. Additionally, Jack Z worked for Milwaukee’s front office prior to jumping on board here in Seattle, where he built a solid relationship with Fielder to begin with. It may not seem like it, but these things tend to give a team the upper hand in making trades with one another.

Next in line after Price Fielder would be Florida Marlins 2B Dan Uggla, who’s hit 25+ home runs in each of the last four years in Miami and has already hit 12 for 2010. After the dramatics in the clubhouse from last week concerning an under-achieving Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins seemed to catapult themselves to the trade market. But after making amends between the players and manager, it may be less likely they’ll be able to make a move. Unless you make them an offer they can’t refuse.

Dan Uggla provides a bit of risk to the Mariners considering that he bats Right-handed and starts at second base. Right-handed batters have historically had rough careers adjusting to Safeco Field in recent memory (remember Richie Sexson?).
Ideally, Uggla would be a premier DH in the American League. It should also be noted that Uggla is 30 years old, and although he’s shown no signs of distress, it may be a good idea to preserve his talent for as long as possible to make him most effective over time.

Speaking of effectiveness over time, the Boston Red Sox are dealing with clubhouse drama as they have an extra designated hitter whose aching to get on the field and play again. No, I’m not talking about David Ortiz, who’s been tearing it up in the month of May. Instead, I’m talking the-biggest-eyebrows-in-baseball Mike Lowell, who in 24 games is hitting .238 with only 1 HR (100% more home runs than what Jr. is hitting, mind you).

Lowell has the same RH batter dilemma as Dan Uggla, and may not provide the same power threat that Uggla or Fielder might provide. However, Lowell has been a double machine in his years with the Sox, and not just against the green monster in right field but all over the field. But given a full-time starting role, or at least platoon the position with Mike Sweeney more so than with Ortiz right now, perhaps he can build enough confidence to perform well here in Seattle.

And most importantly, confidence breeds confidence. Simply put: if and when the M’s add an effective big-league hitter, the effect that has on a lineup can work wonders for the clubhouse.

Stay tuned until tomorrow to see what the Mariners need to give up in order to bring one of these big bats to Safeco Field.

Reach Jacob Kehle at