With just one week remaining until the Trade Deadline, reports surfaced via MLB dot com’s Mark Feinsand that the Seattle Mariners have entered the list of potential suitors for Oakland A’s ace, Sonny Gray. After dealing for Marlins’ reliever David Phelps and former first-round pick, LHP Marco Gonzales of the Cardinals in the last week, Dipoto appears ready to add talent to a roster that he clearly believes can contend over the next year and a half. So, without further ado, let’s dive a little deeper into these recent rumors and what they mean for the club going forward.
Gutting the System?
One of the most important pieces of information from Feinsand’s story on the M’s interest in Gray was this sentence:
To land Gray, Dipoto would likely have to include outfielder Kyle Lewis, the club’s top prospect.
It doesn’t take much for Mariners fans to have flashbacks to the ghost of Erik Bedard, the only paranormal specimen who routinely requested to retire after exactly 100 frights.
The thought of parting with a top-flight athletic outfielder in return for an upgrade to the top of the starting rotation sounds a lot like the Adam Jones-Bedard deal on the surface, but let’s remember that Jerry Dipoto, no matter how many trades he makes, will never be Bill Bavasi.
For starters, the depth of the Mariners system has been awful since the day Dipoto took over as GM. It was evidenced most recently by the trade of OF Tyler O’Neill last week, which had many fans up in arms. For all the impressive numbers and power displays that O’Neill has had during his career in the Seattle minor league system, he’s still a guy whose only true plus tool is his power. Cost-controlled starting pitching has been a clear priority of Dipoto since day one and adding somebody like Marco Gonzales in exchange for a player who didn’t even have a spot in the lineup this season (and maybe even next) seems par for the course. One could argue that O’Neill could have fetched more value and less risk in a deal, but “what-if’s” don’t drive trades at the major league level.
As it stands, the core and veteran leadership of this Mariners roster has a relatively small window to win due to age and projected regression, so even if Kyle Lewis was traded, he would be a small part of a farm system that will take far longer than a season and a half to develop.
Will it Happen?
Ultimately, if the Mariners end up acquiring Sonny Gray, it will be due to a great deal of creativity from Jerry Dipoto unless the deal involves a high volume of prospects. The only premium prospect in their system is Kyle Lewis, and there are sure to be a bevy of other teams, even ones in their own division like the Houston Astros, that will have a much easier time putting a more enticing prospect-laden deal on the table.
The other issue for Seattle is that due to a lack of organizational depth, they would likely need to pluck talent from the major league roster to land Gray. This could mean breakout outfielder Ben Gamel, however the trade of O’Neill tells me that Gamel is the player they feel more comfortable sticking with long-term. While I don’t necessarily believe that selling high on Gamel would be a bad thing, I don’t see the justification in taking that much of a hit to the M’s lineup unless there’s another deal for an outfielder to supplement it.
Dipoto’s primary motivation seems to be setting a cost-controlled path for the rotation for 2018 and beyond. Hisashi Iwakuma and Yovani Gallardo both have club options for 2018, both of which I imagine will be declined unless Seattle finds a trade partner for Gallardo at the deadline.
That means that aside from Felix (club option in ’20) and standout lefty James Paxton, the M’s rotation is in need of some more depth. Rookie right-hander Andrew Moore, along with Marco Gonzales, appear to be options for the back-end of the rotation moving forward.
Sonny Gray still faces two more arbitration years before becoming an unrestricted free agent, so the ability to add him to the roster and form a nice top half of the rotation while more depth is added to the system is certainly a very intriguing opportunity. An opportunity that may very well be worth it if Gray’s addition puts the team into the playoffs in either of the next two seasons.
What would it look like?
As with any Trade Deadline article, I’ll include a potential deal prognostication so that if it does in fact happen, you can come back to point and laugh at just how far off it was. Thanks for reading and let’s be sure to all enjoy #DeadlineSeason.
Mariners acquire: RHP Sonny Gray, OF Jaycob Brugman
A’s acquire: OF Kyle Lewis, OF Ben Gamel, RHP Thyago Vieira, OF Luis Liberato, 2B Gianfranco Wawoe