The Seattle Mariners were fairly active on Monday when they shipped off relievers Brandon League and Steve Delabar in two separate moves following their win in the opener of a three-game series with Toronto. SeattleClubhouse took a look at the three players that General Manager Jack Zduriencik got in return in those deals for subscribers last night. Today, with a few expendable pieces still on the big league roster, the club didn't find the right fit, and the 1pm Pacific trade deadline passed without any further moves being made.
The Mariners reportedly fielded calls and had discussions with teams on various pieces, but Jack Zduriencik said that he's, "not in a position to give players away." Presumably that means veteran pitchers Jason Vargas and Kevin Millwood. Vargas and Millwood are veterans that are both pitching pretty well this year for Seattle, but with expiring contracts and without front-line stuff, their real value in a trade scenario is probably not as high as most fans would like to think. In the end, the GM said that in those discussions he had on players he just didn't feel, "that it [making a trade] was the right thing to do.''
With a very specific trade need in mind -- young, controllable offensive talent -- the Mariners didn't exactly have the pieces that contenders were looking for in order to acquire such players. Millwood, 37, and Vargas, who leads MLB with 25 homers allowed, were second- or third-tier starting pitching options for most clubs, and the offers that Jack received on the two likely reflected that assessment. Surely the two weren't garnering a lot of offers laden with young, proven MLB hitters
The most coveted such players rumored to be on the market this past week include the Diamondbacks Justin Upton -- a right fielder -- and Stephen Drew -- a shortstop -- and former Seattle outfielder, now with the Indians, Shin-Soo Choo. But Arizona and Cleveland are in similar situations, on the outside of the playoff race looking in, still within shouting distance, but with young rosters and a true contending timeline somewhere down the road. Those clubs were likely looking for the exact same type of talent as Seattle, so there wasn't a match.
Having made it through the deadline with all three of those players staying with their respective teams, however, perhaps now Seattle can focus their attention on the possibility of acquiring one or more of them during this upcoming off-season. The Mariners top trade chips remaining on the club in terms of value are likely their four top prospects: pitchers Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton and shortstop Nick Franklin. All of those players are well regarded prospects, but none of them has made their big league debut at this point. Teams looking to acquire pieces for a stretch run and a playoff shot aren't looking to acquire minor leaguers. In the offseason, though, as GM's look at restructuring their rosters and getting payroll under control, those prospects become all the more intriguing.
The Mariners not only could change, but many would say must change, the face of their franchise this offseason if they have ideas on being a true competitor in the near future. They only get there if they are willing to part ways with one or more of their top prospects in trades. Eric Thames, Leon Landry and Logan Bawcom are nice pieces, but they aren't putting the M's over the top in the AL West in 2013. Bringing in a middle of the order bat -- like the club attempted to do with Jesus Montero last winter -- once again has to be the top priority for Zduriencik and his staff for the 2013 season. Being willing to trade a Paxton or Hultzen or Walker -- and possibly even a Kyle Seager or Dustin Ackley -- has to be on the mind of Zduriencik if he plans to move this club out of the rebuilding phase and into the contending phase in 2013 and beyond. That is the only way that Seattle is going to get its hands on a player the pedigree of Upton, Drew or Choo -- or maybe even the Cardinals' Allen Craig or David Wright of the Mets.
Just because the blockbuster, franchise-face-changing move didn't happen at the deadline today doesn't mean that the club doesn't have designs on making that move. The prospect cost will be steep, but the return will likely be a whole lot quicker. And after a decade of various levels of ineptitude, this city, this fan base, this club needs a quicker return.
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