As the Major League off-season rolls into January, rumors continue to swirl. The Seattle Mariners, who projected to be heavy in the free agent market earlier this off-season, appear to have turned their focus to the trade market as baseball inches closer to Spring Training. After acquiring Kendrys Morales from the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle continues to surface in trade talks with the Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks Recent emphasis has been placed on the Marlins, Dodgers and Diamondbacks as Seattle continues their search for an impact bat. While the clubs sights have been aimed all over Major League baseball, in recent weeks the team has reportedly targeted Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton and Andre Ethier.
While acquiring any of the previously mentioned hitters may push Seattle beyond where they feel comfortable in their time of rebuilding, ruling this scenario out indicates that General Manager Jack Zduriencik is predictable, which he is not. With their 2012 roster composed of many players acquired via transaction, it's not inconceivable to think about Seattle making a splash in January.
With this in mind, let's take a look at Seattle Mariners that could be on the move.
**Interested Teams -- Clubs bolded have off-season ties to player, non-bolded clubs are speculative**
Capps became the second player from the 2011 draft to make his Major League debut when he took the field August 3rd against the New York Yankees. The right-hander faced 109 batters during his debut season, striking out 28 and allowing no home runs. His game may be built around his ability to close out contests; however, the right hander threw eight outings of 2.0+ innings of baseball in 2012 in 18 total appearances. With his fastball velocity (97.8) registering third in baseball (min: 20 IP) and his cutter velocity (98.3) edging out Alexi Ogando for highest in the Major Leagues, Capps has established himself as one of hardest throwers in baseball at 22-years-old. Complimented by his large frame (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) Capps recorded a maximum velocity of 100.9 during his debut season, striking out 10.1 batters per nine innings.
Capps hinged his game heavily on his fastball and cutter (79%) in 2012, throwing just 3.8% of his deliveries as a change-up. While curveballs represent the remaining 17.2% of deliveries from the right-hander, he will further solidify his game as he develops his change-up into a pitch he feels comfortable throwing in 5%-9% of his deliveries. The big bodied reliever has time to work on his delivery, not entering arbitration until the 2016 season.
Pryor suffered a groin injury in mid-June, missing significant time, if not due only to the clubs concern of his future. Regardless of the recovery time granted, which would benefit Seattle in staving off inquiries of the injuries impact, the 23-year-old right-hander was a different pitcher in the second half. The 23-year-old would finish the season allowing 5.09 walks per nine innings pitched, registering a 12.5 BB% against batters faced. Despite struggling at times, Pryor would join Capps in Major League's Top-15 for fastball velocity (96.2), striking out 10.57 batters per nine innings. He has been dubbed primarily a set-up arm, throwing five outings per week on multiple occasions during his debut season. With a slider and change-up in tow the flamethrower projects to be a strong Major League piece moving forward.
Pryor is ready to attack three seasons of pre-arbitration baseball with one of the top velocities in baseball. While his slider requires refining, batters swung at a total of 39% thrown outside the strike zone in 2012, generating a swinging strike percentage of 19.1%. Those percentages will continue to rise as his confidence in that delivery grows. The velocity is not going anywhere, his arm is electric.
The Gold Glove defense provided by Gutierrez has earned him the nickname ‘Death to Flying Things' and it rings true. Committing an error towards the tail-end of the 2012 season placed him in the record books, capping his American League record 846 consecutive errorless chances. Prior to signing his 4-year, $20.25 million extension with Seattle the center fielder was one of the top all-around players in the game. His 6.2 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) was 11th in Major League baseball during the 2009 season, complimenting his stellar defense with a solid bat. He drove in 70 runs and hit 18 home runs on his way to batting .283 that season, driving in 64 the following season. The native Venezuelan has totaled 132 games over the past two seasons while battling a number of injuries, including lingering stomach ailments.
Gutierrez has established himself as an elite centerfielder. While his ability to man the corners has been lightly tested in recent seasons, it should be noted that Gutierrez was primarily a right fielder in Cleveland early in his career. While the price tag for the 29-year-old's services for 2013 is guaranteed at $7.0 million, the final year of his four year extension (2014) comes with a $500k buyout, providing the payroll flexibility a team may require to take a chance on his health.
While SeattleClubhouse recently profiled that Carp can still make a difference, it is true he may not be the best fit for this roster. With Seattle the 26-year-old first baseman is playing in a pitchers ballpark and is among a number of corner outfield and first base options on a busy Major League depth chart. Void of remaining minor league options, many signs point to Carp being moved prior to Opening Day. Yet we enter January and not only is he on the active roster, news surrounding his possible departure has been non-existent. SeattleClubhouse suggested Carp might be on his way out of town prior to the New Year, with the following interest shown, "He's an interesting name," said a National League scout of Carp. "He's been buried on that roster in a big ballpark, and if you take him out of there, he may break out. He's someone you'd take a chance on." To further the above belief, that interest was shown prior to Seattle acquiring Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, and Kendrys Morales.
Carp hit 62 home runs total from 2010-2011, splitting time between Tacoma and Seattle. He is noted as a league average first baseman with the ability to play left field, two positions his production fits into when healthy. His flexibility in the field and possession of arbitration availability into 2017 makes him a controllable team asset. Despite 124 less plate appearances in 2012, Carp reached base via walk more often than he did during the 2011 season, displaying a significant increase in his K/BB ratio.
Wells greatest asset is his defense. The 28-year-old registered eight outfield assists in 87 games played from the field in 2012. Following a strong tail-end Major League debut in 2010 with the Detroit Tigers, Wells bat has been quiet for his two seasons in Seattle. Through 124 games the corner outfielder has posted a .225/.304/.406 batting line, underscored by a.219 batting average at Safeco Field. His bat was strong with Tacoma during the 2012 season; recording an .894 OPS and looking comfortable at the plate, drawing 20 walks to 17 strikeouts. Coming to Seattle in the trade that sent Doug Fister to Detroit, Wells was viewed as a future everyday outfielder for the Mariners. While his bat has fizzled in recent seasons, he could explode if traded into a batter friendly ballpark.
Wells is controllable through arbitration until the 2017 season and can play either corner outfield position with confidence. The Bill James Handbook 2013 cites Wells as hitting .245/.323/.446 through 92 games played in 2013, projecting as much time played as his previous season. Those numbers are projected within the confines of Safeco Field, a stadium that attributed to his career high 19.8% IFFB (Infield Fly) ratio in 2012. With a skill set centered around defensive prowess and viable power potential, Wells could be valuable to many Major League teams immediately in 2013.
Saunders, a former Baseball America Top-30 prospect, resurrected his career in 2012. The former 11th round selection in the 2004 Major League draft concluded the season one home run shy of posting his first 20/20 season. He would finish second on the Major League club in a number of areas, including home runs (19), OPS (.738), doubles (31), triples (3), slugging percentage (.432), total bases (219), runs (71), while leading the team in stolen bases (21). His .247/.306/.432 line might not impress in a hitter friendly stadium but earned the versatile outfielder a 110 OPS+ (adjusted to ballpark factors, 100 being league average) hitting primarily at Safeco Field. His ability to drive the ball into the gap and run the bases with speed, coupled with his 6-foot-4 frame makes Saunders very dangerous from the plate.
His stock is certainly on the rise after posting a season of 3.5 oWAR (Offensive Wins Above Replacement) at Safeco Field. His game trended upwards in all the right places last season as he delivered above league average defense from all three outfield positions. His game trended upwards in all the right places in 2012, making him a further break-out candidate in 2013. Major League teams in search of a value outfielder should have no reservations in inquiring on his availability, Saunders cannot test free agency until after the 2016 season.
Few current players have garnered the type of offensive comparisons that first baseman Justin Smoak received prior to being dealt to Seattle during the 2010 season. Two full seasons the sentiment that Smoak is not panning out in Seattle cannot be ignored. While Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge has been complimentary of the first baseman saying, "The way he's taking pitches, the way the ball's coming off his bat from both sides of the plate. I'm as encouraged as I've ever been with him", I would imagine the team would listen if asked of his availability. The Baltimore Orioles have shown interest in the former #1 overall prospect, likely due in part to the payroll implications in signing many of the first baseman on the free agent market. In the meantime the Orioles continue to be linked to interest in Smoak.
Smoak is a former #1 overall prospect, no matter how far the apple appears to have fallen; his upside has to be acknowledged. His bat has exploded towards the end of the season before (2011). But if you take stock in the quote from Eric Wedge above, and his swing altercations begin to pay off, he's as an All-Star in the making. For the month of September the first baseman batted .341/.426/.580, recording 11 runs batted in and five home runs. While any trade involving the 26-year-old will reach the level of the deal that brought him to Seattle, the return may still be significant, while the reward may be off the charts.
Given the recent rumblings surrounding the three sluggers listed at the beginning of this article (Upton, Ethier, Stanton); many of the seven players above could be moved as additional compensation in those deals. If there is one thing we have all learned, it's that you do not count Seattle's front office as a complacent managerial group, no matter how quiet things may seem.
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