COMMENTARY | It's been a quiet July on the trading front so far, but there are plenty of potential pieces floating around as contending teams try to shore up weaknesses and bad teams try to build towards a better future.
The Seattle Mariners clearly fall under the latter category, indicating they should be sellers at the July 31 deadline.
Still, the situation is different for the team than it was even three weeks ago. Before July, the Mariners looked likely to sell every single veteran player that wasn't locked up long-term. Since the beginning of the month, however, the team has been playing very well, winning games and scoring a bunch of runs. That means players like Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez are far less likely to be traded at the current moment than previously thought.
Trading one or both is not necessarily a bad option, but the Mariners are likely content with hanging on to the two -- particularly if they can extend Morales long-term in the offseason. However, the team still has some other valuable assets, and here are five reasons it will be an overall seller come July 31:
The playoffs are out of reach
This is the reason any team ends up selling at the trade deadline. The 2013 Mariners might be remembered as taking the proverbial step forward, but not because they made the playoffs. The Mariners are fun to watch right now because they are optimistically inching toward .500 while playing a bunch of prospects every day that actually might not bust this time, not because fans realistically expect a crazy winning streak to put them in contention.
The Mariners are 11.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics and 9.5 behind the Texas Rangers, and those two teams clearly are more talented. So, it's not going to hurt Seattle to sell a couple of pieces and try to close that future talent gap.
The organization needs an outfielder
There's a pretty clear distinction in which positions the Mariners are sure of their future plans at and which positions have uncertainty. The current major league infield is proof enough, as each member (with the possible, but unlikely exception of Justin Smoak) is going to be on the team next year. Pitching depth wouldn't hurt, but the trio of Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton are expected to make major league contributions.
Outfield is a different story. Jason Bay won't be on the team next year, and at some point the magical run of the ageless wonder Ibanez has to come to an end. Dustin Ackley remains a huge question mark, and Michael Saunders can't seem to put together an entire season of productivity. Stefen Romero is really the only call up option and he has a .782 OPS at AAA Tacoma, so the cupboard is fairly bare. If the Mariners are going to make a trade, an outfielder should be their first priority.
A valuable relief pitcher
As a reliever on a one-year contract, Oliver Perez seems like a logical choice for the Mariners to ship off. Perez has been absolutely dominating this year, with an ERA under 2.00 and a K/9 of 12.4. He can get both left- and right-handerss out, as well as step into the closer role if need be, and a team in need of bullpen help like the Detroit Tigers might send a decent prospect over for him.
The Mariners' bullpen has been bad, and Perez departing would leave an even bigger hole. A move might cost a couple of wins over the rest of the year, but it's a sacrifice that could pay off in the future.
A defensive wizard
There's only one reason any team would inquire about shortstop Brendan Ryan, and it isn't his production at the plate. With the emergence of Brad Miller, Ryan is hardly playing at all, and there isn't much use in not trying to trade him and get at least something in return.
If used primarily as a late-game defensive replacement, Ryan could certainly make a difference. He would be a defensive upgrade for almost every single contending team, with the possible exception of the Atlanta Braves and Andrelton Simmons.
A back-of-the-rotation upgrade
I previously wrote an article about how Joe Saunders was a good trade chip for the Mariners, and things have only gotten better since then as he has won four consecutive starts while pitching fairly well. Now that Saunders has figured out how to pitch on the road, he could certainly be a decent four or five starter on a team that is contending.
The Cleveland Indians or Arizona Diamondbacks would probably be willing to send over a solid B-level prospect for a starter like Saunders. The Mariners would have to give a few starts to somebody like Hecter Noesi or Blake Beaven, which isn't desirable, but September call-ups are coming soon enough, and Seattle is expected to bring up some new pitchers anyway.
Nathaniel Reeves is a lifelong Seattle sports follower who is studying journalism at the University of Washington. He currently covers sports for The UW Daily.
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