The success of your 2014 Seattle Mariners has blown more than a few minds in recent weeks. The Twitter mesosphere, for one, has devolved into a cesspool of inane trade rumors (Nick Franklin in exchange for Superman, Jesus Christ, and your finest bottle of Veuve Clicquot) and constant bickering even in light of victory (We’re winning, but we’re not winning well enough…), which essentially means fans are excited about this ballclub once again.
That’s good news for everyone who considers him or herself a fanatic of the Mariners. The bulk of the past decade has been spent enjoying the equivalent of a two-month baseball season encompassing April and May. By June, the team’s prolific early-season failures usually allow apathy to creep in and spoil an entire summer’s worth of contests at Safeco Field. Whether or not this year is the year remains to be seen, but for now the M’s are at least maintaining a firm grip on the region’s interest.
The debates that have ensued over how this ragtag group of misfits (or something like that) can vault themselves into the postseason centers around a small handful of talking points, none more bandied about than the lineup’s need for a right-handed power bat.
The season-long disappointments of de facto designated hitter Corey Hart have put a spotlight on the middle of the batting order, a place not unlike the soft, fleshy underskin of one’s genital area, more commonly referred to as the “taint.” Hart, when healthy, has been Lord of the Taint, as evidenced by his unimpressive .203 batting average and .618 OPS. Time is running short for the 32-year-old to prove he belongs on a big league roster. In the interim, fans and pundits alike scour the internet for possible replacements.
The list of available right-handed bats is not pretty. You can blame the advent of the second Wildcard spot for the slim pickings, as any team with a .500 or better record remains in playoff contention. Of course, the second Wildcard spot in the American League currently belongs to the Mariners, so in some sense the second Wildcard giveth and the second Wildcard taketh away.
The following list of potential trade targets is culled from the active rosters of MLB teams with sub-.500 records, those that are generally considered to be out of postseason contention. This list only includes batters who can hit from the right side of the plate, but not does not include every right-handed or switch-hitting batter available. Rather, we’ve attempted to narrow it down to those right-handed hitters who meet at least some of the following criteria: proven major league hitter, “power” hitter (the term semi-loosely defined), tradeable commodity (the team that owns the player’s rights would have to be willing to trade the property), desirable commodity (the Mariners would have to be willing to acquire the property).
Without further ado, shield your eyes and allow us to introduce you to the men who could become your newest Seattle Mariners (listed alphabetically).
Name: Marlon Byrd
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Salary: $8 million
The 36-year-old Byrd is one of the better players on this list, having already amassed 18 home runs and 52 RBI in an otherwise lost season for the Phillies. His current .804 OPS is 40 points better than his career .764 mark, so some regression in the second half might be in order. Still, Byrd played a key role in helping the Pittsburgh Pirates to a playoff berth a year ago, providing a .318/.843 line in 30 games after being acquired from the Mets. Byrd can play both corner outfield spots and would provide a legitimate presence in the middle of the order.
Name: Chris Carter
Team: Houston Astros
2014 Salary: $510,000
The enigmatic Carter has been a boom-or-bust type for the duration of his career, providing the feast or famine of home runs or outs and little in-between. This season, the 27-year-old has belted 15 dingers to the tune of an eyebrow-raising .189 average, which leaves more than a little to be desired. Still, Carter’s current .690 OPS is due for an uptick, as his career .741 mark might suggest. And as one of the few available bats that’s not yet 30 years of age, Carter provides at least a hint of longterm potential.
But easily the most intriguing factoid about Carter is his success at Safeco Field. With a .282 average, .941 OPS, seven home runs, and 18 RBI in 24 career games at the Safe, Carter has proven he can hit in Seattle. That alone might make Carter worth investigating.
Name: Chris Denorfia
Team: San Diego Padres
2014 Salary: $2.25 million
Denorfia is a right-handed hitter, yes, but provides little in the way of traditional power. Still, he makes this list as a veteran outfielder who has proven he can handle left-handed pitching. With a .301/.814 mark against southpaws over a big league career dating back to 2005, Denorfia would be a solid addition as a platoon corner outfielder. I know what you’re thinking right now. Platoon. There’s no sexier term than that. Right up there with “beige underpants.”
Name: John Mayberry Jr.
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Salary: $1.6 million
As you may recall, way back in 2002 the Mariners spent their first round draft pick on a high school outfielder by the name of John Mayberry Jr., son of former big leaguer John Mayberry Sr. Mayberry Junior was taken 28th overall in that year’s amateur draft and promptly opted to fulfill his college commitment to Stanford University and ignore the Mariners advances entirely. Three years later, Mayberry left Stanford and was taken again in the first round of the MLB Draft, this time 18th overall by the Texas Rangers.
Now 30 years of age, Mayberry has struggled to become anymore than a platoon (there’s that word again) option for the Phillies. Still, he’s always managed to hit left-handed pitchers much better than right — he owns an .877 OPS against lefties this year — and would be an upgrade over Hart in that regard.
Name: Casey McGehee
Team: Miami Marlins
2014 Salary: $1.1 million
McGehee likely isn’t the Miami Marlin most Mariners fans would like to obtain, but he’s probably the Marlin that makes the most sense. A cost-efficient corner infielder who can even play second base, McGehee has proven he can hit for pop and average, which makes him a slightly more reliable bet than some of the pure home run hitters on this list. In the midst of a 14-game hitting streak right now, McGehee is peaking at just the right time — both for his team and the host of suitors likely to come calling.
Name: Martin Prado
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 Salary: $11 million
A one-time All-Star, the 30-year-old Prado is a veteran super-sub who can play a handful of positions, including shortstop and both corner outfield spots. Don’t get him confused with Willie Bloomquist, however. Prado has more talent than grit, despite slumping to a near-career low .678 OPS in 2014.
Signed through the 2016 campaign, Prado probably won’t intrigue the Mariners quite as much as he would some other teams — he’s expensive and isn’t really a middle-of-the-order power bat — but he should be available nonetheless.
Name: Alex Rios
Team: Texas Rangers
2014 Salary: $13.5 million
One of the few remaining healthy Rangers, Rios has carried the Texas lineup for most of the 2014 season. With a .304 average and .774 OPS, the 33-year-old outfielder would cost the Mariners more than most on the trade market. Asking the Rangers to sell a big bat to a divisional foe would be no easy inquiry, but the two organizations do have a semi-recent history of deadline bartering (see: Lee, Cliff).
Signed through the end of the year, Rios could be the ultimate rent-a-player. And with a team option for 2015, a strong performance down the stretch could convince any team that adds Rios to retain him at his $13.5 million price tag through next year, as well.
Name: Cody Ross
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 Salary: $9.5 million
Each fall when I tune into postseason baseball, it’s almost a guarantee that I’ll see Cody Ross on my TV screen before the evening is complete. A perennial playoff contender, Ross always seems to be the missing link on teams in need of a right-handed bat.
This season may be a bit different, however, as Ross has struggled mightily en route to a .224 average and .557 OPS. He may not offer much more than the Mariners already have in Hart, but he could be had for a bargain basement rate.
Name: Justin Ruggiano
Team: Chicago Cubs
2014 Salary: $2 million
Another one of those platoon options, Ruggiano has put together a decent 2014 campaign, hitting .290/.838 with four home runs and 17 RBI in a season interrupted in May by injury. The 32-year-old owns a career .832 OPS against left-handed pitching and could provide a fair mix of average and pop for a contending team.
Name: Alfonso Soriano
Team: New York Yankees* (*recently designated for assignment)
2014 Salary: $18 million
Not much needs to be said about Soriano, who was once one of the premier hitters in all of baseball. The aging veteran was DFA’d by the Yankees over the weekend and will soon be traded or released. The 38-year-old is rumored to be considering retirement, but with a fair amount of interest from teams around the league, he could just as easily find himself playing meaningful baseball the rest of the summer.
Name: Dayan Viciedo
Team: Chicago White Sox
2014 Salary: $2.8 million
Everybody and their mother is seemingly in on Viciedo, arguably the most discussed hitter on the trade market to date. The 25-year-old Cuban offers promise both now and in the future, as he won’t be eligible for free agency until 2018. With clear evidence of pop in his bat over the course of a brief four-year career, Viciedo would be an instant upgrade in almost any lineup and could likely be had for a package of B-level prospects.
Name: Josh Willingham
Team: Minnesota Twins
2014 Salary: $7 million
Coveted by the M’s in free agency a few seasons ago, Willingham has carved out a decade-long career as an above-average right-handed hitter that can play left field. Age has apparently caught up with Willingham this year, however, as he’s scuffled to the tune of a .217 batting average, despite maintaining a robust .804 OPS. The OPS will be enough for most teams, as Willingham is all but certainly bound to don a new uniform before season’s end.
Name: Ben Zobrist
Team: Tampa Bay Rays
2014 Salary: $7 million
A Ray for his entire big league career, Zobrist is one of those commodities who is probably worth more to his current team than most others, meaning his value probably won’t equate to the net return Tampa Bay is looking to obtain for their super-sub. Still, the Rays have been actively shopping the 33-year-old Zobrist, who has become one of the premier Swiss army knives in all of baseball in recent years. Capable of handling almost any position on the field, Zobrist has turned into an everyday player with a new role each game. Along the way, he’s become a reliable bat from both sides of the plate.
Zobrist makes the most sense in Tampa, even as the Rays struggle to stay afloat this year. Should he be moved by the deadline, it likely won’t be to Seattle.
Longshot Trade Possibilities: Jonny Gomes, OF, Boston; Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego; Mike Napoli, 1B, Boston; Mike Olt, 3B, Chicago Cubs; Carlos Quentin, OF, San Diego; Scott Van Slyke, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers.
Super Longshot Megadeal Probably Never Gonna Happen Trade Possibilities: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona; Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers; Marcell Ozuna, OF, Miami; Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami; Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado.