Seven trade targets for the Mariners
Seattle's offense needs outside help. So, I came up with a list.
Full disclosure: I’ve never been good at projecting Mariners trades. There have been many attempts through the years - most ending with a big swing and miss.
Not only that, the Mariners organization is teeming with experienced executives, big-brained analysts, and talented scouts. All knowing infinitely more than this dull-minded blogger about players on other clubs - and their own.
Still, fans do enjoy talking trades. So, I’ll take another stab at providing you with food for thought. This time, it’s a list of seven hitters potentially capable of helping the team’s inconsistent run production effort.
A few notes before we begin.
Some players we’ll be discussing are on clubs currently chasing a playoff spot - just like the Mariners. Therefore, they may never be available. Then again, a lot can change over the next 6-7 weeks. Today’s contenders could be sellers by August 1. Who knows? Maybe Seattle is peddling players by late-July.
It should be understood that any player can serve as a designated hitter. So, I’m not listing DH next to their names unless they’ve spent considerable time at the position in 2023.
Ages listed on tables are as of July 1, 2023.
Sorry, no finance or trade return talk. It just doesn’t interest me. Plus, I have no clue regarding what it’d take to acquire any baseball player. Spoiler alert: Most of the folks suggesting they do know, don’t.
First up, a hitter playing on the South Side of Chicago.
Andrew Vaughn,1B - White Sox
Selling points: The right-handed hitter’s hard-hit rate is top-25 in the majors and would rank second on the Mariners behind Julio Rodríguez (52.9%). Furthermore, Vaughn controls strikeouts and draws walks at a league-average rate. Only 12 players have more doubles than the 25-year-old.
Potential concerns: Vaughn has relatively neutral home/away splits over three big-league seasons. However, his .814 OPS at home this year is significantly higher than what he’s produced away from the Windy City (.674).
The third overall draft pick in 2019 isn’t a burner on the bases. His 25.2 ft/sec sprint speed falls well below the 27 ft/sec MLB average. Only Ty France (24.9 ft/sec) is slower on the Mariners this season.
Thoughts: Obviously, adding another right-handed hitting first baseman would add a layer of redundancy. But having both Vaughn and France would provide an opportunity to significantly upgrade a designated hitter position that’s been woefully underproductive.
Josh Naylor, 1B/RF - Guardians
Selling points: Similar to Vaughn, the 12th overall draft pick of 2015 has a knack for pairing loud contact with an excellent strikeout rate. It’s worth noting France (15%) is the only Mariners regular striking out less frequently than Naylor.
After a sluggish April, Naylor’s current slash numbers closely resemble what he delivered for Cleveland last season when he smacked 28 doubles and 20 home runs.
Potential concerns: In five big-league seasons, the left-handed hitting Canadian has been much more productive against right-handed pitching (.790 OPS) than southpaws (.577). Also, Naylor’s 37.5% chase rate is thirteenth-highest among hitters seeing at least 300 pitches outside the strike zone in 2023.
Thoughts: The notion of adding a left-handed complement at first base capable of serving as a designated hitter and spot right fielder is intriguing to me.
Zach McKinstry, UTL - Tigers
Selling points: McKinstry has made double-digit starts at second base, third base, and right field. He’s also played shortstop and left field and has even pitched an inning.
The left-handed hitting McKinstry won’t be confused for a power bat. But he does boast a respectable 7.4% barrel rate and 37% hard-hit rate. The Ohioan has also done a nice job of controlling strikeouts, while his walk rate is top-20 among qualified hitters ranking just behind Seattle’s walk leader - J.P. Crawford (13.5%).
McKinstry has put his 28.4 ft/sec sprint speed to good use with 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts.
Potential concerns: McKinstry’s offensive history is brief. Therefore, it’s tough to know whether his current level of production is sustainable. The 28-year-old has already exceeded a personal high for plate appearances. Moreover, his current AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS+ are significantly better than what he’s produced since debuting in 2020.
Thoughts: Acquiring McKinstry wouldn’t be hailed as a big get for an offense. But a left-handed bat possessing the Central Michigan alum’s positional versatility is something the Mariners currently lack.
Jorge Soler, DH/RF - Marlins
Selling points: Soler is a masher. The right-handed hitter’s 11.2% barrel rate is eleventh-best in the majors. More importantly, he’s top-20 in SLG and only three big-leaguers have more home runs: Pete Alonso (22), Aaron Judge (19), and Max Muncy (18).
Potential concerns: The foundation of Soler’s offensive résumé is built upon the ability to crush left-handed pitching. The Cuban currently has a .333 AVG/.438 OBP/.889 SLG slash-line when facing lefties compared to .208/.285/.399 against right-handers. His platoon splits were similarly extreme in 2022.
Thoughts: Soler does struggle more against right-handers. But it’s worth noting his eight home runs against righties this season would tie Cal Raleigh for third-most on the Mariners against all pitchers.
Note: Soler holds a player option for 2024.
Brent Rooker, DH/LF - A’s
Selling points: Since debuting with the Twins in 2020, Rooker played for three big-league teams before finding a home in Oakland this year. With the A’s, the right-handed hitter’s OBP, SLG, and wOBA are top-25 in MLB. Furthermore, he’d lead qualified Mariners in all three categories, plus home runs.
Rooker plays home games in the dreary Oakland Coliseum - a ballpark even less conducive to offense than pitcher-friendly T-Mobile Park. Yet, the Tennessean has managed to put up strong home numbers (.238 AVG/.343 OBP/.441 SLG).
Potential concerns: Rooker has a .204 AVG against breaking balls, which have been kryptonite to Seattle hitters this year. Furthermore, the former Mississippi State Bulldog doesn’t have a track record of success beyond what he’s accomplished in 2023. It’s plausible he could be a one-year wonder.
Thoughts: Could Rooker crater later this season or next year? Sure. But it’s important to note he was a first round pick of Minnesota in 2017 - he has talent. Perhaps all he ever needed was an opportunity to thrive. He’s certainly doing that with the A’s.
J.D. Davis, 1B/3B - Giants
Selling points: The California native’s strikeout rate is about seven-percent lower than last season. At the same time, he continues to earn free passes at an above-average rate and clobber baseballs.
The right-handed hitting Davis is equally productive against southpaws and righties.
As a member of the Mets, Davis hit 20 doubles and 24 home runs with a .281 AVG/.361 OBP/.469 SLG in 532 plate appearances at Citi Field. A ballpark, much like Seattle’s home field, known for depressing offense.
Potential concerns: Whether it’s first base, third base, or left field, defense has always been the concern with Davis. The Cal State Fullerton product historically rates as a below-average defender, according to defensive runs saved (DRS) and outs above average (OAA).
Thoughts: Davis has a 119 OPS+ in over 1,600 career plate appearances. He also has a history of being productive in a pitcher-friendly venue. In my mind, he’s a very appealing candidate for the Mariners.
LaMonte Wade Jr., 1B/LF/RF - Giants
Selling points: Wade has demonstrated an ideal blend of plate discipline and offensive productivity this season. The left-handed hitter currently has one more walk (44) than strikeouts (43). Only Luis Arraez and Juan Soto have a higher OBP than the Baltimore, MD native.
Primarily a first baseman this season, Wade has also made 10 combined starts in left and right field. In previous seasons, the former Maryland Terrapin has patrolled center field in a pinch.
Potential concerns: Wade has been healthy this season. However, availability has been a challenge in the past. Minnesota’s ninth round pick in 2015 has appeared in over 100 games just once in five big-league seasons. In 2021, he appeared in 109 contests with San Francisco.
Thoughts: The on-base ability of Wade would be a great addition to Seattle’s lineup, as would his ability to play multiple positions. Sure, his injury history provides pause. But he’s healthy now and producing.
As we recently discussed, the solution to many of the issues plaguing the Mariners’ lineup is already on the roster. But the club could also use a bat from outside the organization. In my mind, the hitters listed above could help to some degree. My top-three candidates: Davis, Naylor, and McKinstry.
The fact Davis was successful over four seasons at the Mets’ home field provides confidence he'll be able to perform at a high level at T-Mobile Park. Like it or not, this is a reality to be considered.
Naylor’s left-handed bat paired with France at first base or designated hitter is an ideal team-up in my mind. Plus, he can help in right field. Positional versatility matters - at least it does to me.
For this reason, McKinstry is third on my list. Kolten Wong, the only left-handed bat on Seattle’s bench, has played second base in all but 10 of his 968 career starts. Furthermore, he’s enduring the worst offensive campaign of his 11-year career.
Conversely, McKinstry is much more productive at the plate and possesses the ability to play multiple infield and outfield positions. Traits that could potentially give manager Scott Servais more flexibility with the lineup card or when he’s making in-game adjustments.
The Mariners probably don’t acquire any of the hitters I’ve suggested. They never do. Still, the organization must find help for its offense soon.
Otherwise, as I suggested earlier, Seattle could end up being sellers next month.
My Oh My…
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