The MLB trade deadline tantalizes fans every year. It has a way of instilling hope that the tipping point between contention and obscurity rests on the success of a last-minute deal for some cellar-dweller’s expendable veteran.
Sometimes it works, like in 2015 when the New York Mets acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in a deal with the Detroit Tigers. Cespedes played at an MVP-level in for the Mets, leading the team to a World Series appearance.
Sometimes, it doesn’t. Mariners fans may recall — or maybe, with enough therapy, learned to forget —the name Heathcliff Slocumb. The reliever arrived in Seattle from Boston at the 1997 deadline in a deal meant to buttress a putrid bullpen. Slocumb floundered as two prospects, pitcher Derek Lowe and catcher Jason Varitek, blossomed into perennial All-Stars for the Red Sox.
Needless to say, there is an inherent risk when a team sacrifices young talent for an immediate fix. The goal is finding the missing piece without mortgaging the future, something the Mariners seemed to do last year with the acquisition of pitcher Luis Castillo. The price, however, was steep as it cost the team four prospects, including two in the top 100. For now, it seems like a win for the M’s (21-22), who are fourth in the AL West.
Mariners fans hope for a similarly impactful addition at this year’s deadline. Perhaps it is a designated hitter to bolster MLB’s second-worst team batting average or another arm in the rotation to supplant pitcher Robbie Ray, lost for the season after elbow surgery.
The following players are options for the M’s, ranging from highly improbable to fairly plausible. The trade deadline is Aug. 1.
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angles Angels (Chance of happening: .000001%)
So you’re saying there’s a chance?
The two-way talent and baseball cheat code that is Ohtani boasts a top-20 slugging percentage, with 10 home runs and a .292 average. He also might be baseball’s best pitcher.
Although his addition solves two problems for the Mariners and would make them instant World Series front-runners, the same rings true for just about every team in baseball. His trade value is unprecedented and it may cost an entire farm system — plus Blackbeard’s lost treasure — to snag the impending free agent from the Angels.
Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers (Chance of happening: 1%)
The 28-year-old has 40 strikeouts and a 1.04 WHIP over his past seven games, according to MLB.com. His addition to the staff with the fifth-best ERA in baseball would create the best rotation in Seattle’s history.
The first-place Brewers sit atop a weak NL Central, with no indication they wish to move the right-handed ace. Should they plummet in the standings and veer toward a rebuild, a hefty haul may convince the Brew Crew to strike a deal. However, a depleted Mariners farm system, ranked 24th by MLB.com, makes it closer to a pipe dream than reality.
Brent Rooker, Oakland Athletics (Chance of happening: 10%)
The perpetually rebuilding A’s found a gem when they claimed outfielder Rooker off waivers in 2022. His 11 home runs ties him for eighth in MLB.
He’d be a big upgrade at DH for the Mariners, who rely too often on the likes of outfielder A.J. Pollock and his .158 average. Competition for the right-handed power bat figures to be steep, but the A’s need more talent pretty much everywhere.
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox (Chance of happening: 15%)
The entire roster for the White Sox, likely headed toward another massive rebuild, deserves inclusion on this list, but infielder Anderson is the marquee name.
Coming off four consecutive seasons of hitting .300 or better, the two-time All Star would give the M’s a consistent bat to replace struggling infielder Kolten Wong.
Anderson’s $14 million club option for 2024 makes a potential deal even more attractive for suitors. The Mariners are not alone in their need for an infield bat, and competition for Anderson’s services could include the Dodgers, Braves, Marlins and Angels.
Carlos Santana, Pittsburgh Pirates (Chance of happening: 23%)
When all else fails, do what worked last year. The Mariners made an early splash in the trade market last season when they acquired first baseman Santana from the Royals. Although he didn’t play great, his clubhouse leadership and clutch hitting proved useful down the stretch.
He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the offseason and started well, hitting .287 in April. His bat has cooled since, but the 37-year-old remains a viable option for Seattle at a relatively cheap price.
Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies (Chance of happening: 25%)
The 36-year-old outfielder is a career .296 hitter with an OPS of .783. While skeptics point to the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field as key to this success, the lefty posts a serviceable .254 average and .751 OPS on the road in 2023.
However, making a prediction about the Rockies at the trade deadline is about as difficult as guessing Kim Kardashian’s next love interest. It could go a number of different directions, and no one really knows anything about the decision-making process.
If the Rockies start a rebuild and trade veteran assets, the Mariners are a team in need of a reliable bat in the middle of the order.