The Three Biggest Needs for the Seattle Mariners at the Trade Deadline

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The current Seattle Mariners' roster has a mix of young players that are expected to be a part of the team in the future and veterans on one-year contracts, making a clear distinction between who will be staying in Seattle past the trade deadline and who may be departing.

For yet another year, the Mariners are far out of contention nearing the All-Star break and will likely be looking to deal one or more players in exchange for prospects. Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Joe Saunders, and even 41-year old Raul Ibanez are all players with short-term contracts that could interest contending teams.

The only question left for general manager Jack Zduriencik is which prospects to look for to help build a contender three or four years down the line. Here are the three positions that are of the most need for the Mariners at this year's deadline.

Outfield

The future is now for the majority of the Seattle infield. Kyle Seager, Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, and Mike Zunino are all current everyday players that make up a big part of the expected future lineup. Of course, so-called "can't miss" prospects don't always turn out- the Mariners have proved that over and over again in recent years. Seager is the only one with enough at-bats to have proven himself as a solid major league player. Still, outfield is clearly of much more concern for the team for the team moving forward.

Ibanez, Endy Chavez, and Jason Bay have been getting a lot of playing time in the outfield due to injury and the struggles of young players. Those three will not be around by the time Seattle could possibly contend. Franklin Gutierrez simply cannot stay healthy long enough to be counted upon, while Michael Saunders is running out of chances at the major league level. Dustin Ackley to center is an intriguing move, but he remains a question mark, both at the plate and defensively.

As far as help from within the orginization, Stefen Romero looks like the most major-league ready player, but he has only been solid at AAA Tacoma this year with a .791 OPS. Zduriencik's first priority should be the outfield, and acquiring multiple players for the position isn't out of the question.

First Base

Justin Smoak is getting one last chance the rest of the year to prove himself as a major-league caliber player. While Smoak has shown some improvement the past couple weeks, a .690 OPS over 1450 career at-bats does not bode well for the future. Its nearly time for the Mariners to cut their losses from 2010's Cliff Lee trade and move on.

Nobody is exactly setting the world on fire in the minor leagues, either. Rich Poythress has shown potential, but his past power numbers have not translated to the high minors. Smoak has a small chance of working out, but a power-hitting first basemen will be a key for the Mariners in the future in any case.

Pitching Depth

Three of the top five Mariners' prospects are pitchers, but the organization should consider adding more. Ideally, the Big Three would fit in nicely behind Felix Hernandez in the future rotation, but the team shouldn't really on everything going exactly to plan.

The electrifying Taijuan Walker seems like a sure fire bet, but he is only 20 years old. Danny Hultzen's shoulder is starting to be a major concern after he was scratched from his start July 2, just his second since being initially injured April 26. James Paxton has struck out 10.3 per nine innings for his minor league career, but has struggled in AAA, giving up over a hit per inning.

Hernandez is the only starter locked up long-term, so Zduriencik may be looking to add depth. The three pitchers are promising, but the Mariners have been burned too often by highly-rated prospects failing to live up to their potential to remain content.

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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