With the MLB trade deadline quickly approaching, the Seattle Mariners have some tough decisions to make.
After coming into the season loaded with expectations, the Mariners have been one of the biggest disappointments of the first half. Despite some offseason improvements, Seattle has again struggled to score runs, and currently sits at 38-45.
That puts the Mariners 10 games back of the Houston Astros in a division race that looks pretty out of reach. A six game deficit in the race for a wild card spot is manageable, but the sheer number of teams Seattle has to climb over gives it long odds of making the postseason.
The future isn’t much brighter, as this looked like Seattle’s best chance to compete for a World Series. Robinson Cano is declining and due a lot of money moving forward, this is probably the best season the Mariners will get out of Nelson Cruz and almost all of the young talent in the system has graduated to the majors.
Barring some substantial turnaround in the next three weeks, the Mariners should be sellers at the deadline. The question is how much exactly do they want to blow it up.
The biggest problem is that the Mariners don’t have a lot of trade chips to use. Free agents to be Austin Jackson and J.A. Happ would be the easiest to sell off, but neither is getting a whole lot of value in return.
If Seattle wants to take it a step further, Seth Smith or a couple of relievers should also be on the block. It would be nice to get something in return for Hisashi Iwakuma, although he has to have a couple of strong, healthy starts before the deadline, which doesn’t seem likely at this point.
None of those players will return much beyond low-level prospects. If the Mariners really want to start over – and its something they should consider – Cruz should be considered a trade candidate.
It would be unfortunate to have to trade Cruz, who is putting up a great first season in Seattle as an impact free agent signing. But the Mariners are going to be hard pressed to contend before Cruz turns into a bad contract, and he easily has the most value of any player they would even consider dealing.
Cruz could return an impact prospect or some salary relief. Still, the Mariners are going to be very hesitant to deal him.
Jack Zduriencik knows he is likely fighting for his job and will be very reluctant to give up on this season. The more likely scenario is that the Mariners stand pat and hope something can spark the team to a second half run.
There’s enough talent on the roster for that to happen, but it feels like a very long shot at this point. Selling any short-term piece would be the best course of action for the team.
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