The Seattle Mariners are in the midst of the longest active playoff of drought in Major League Baseball at exactly 20 years, so it’s not a surprise that with three days left before the trade deadline that they are actively pursuing deals to bolster their infield and lineup.
After taking three of four against the Oakland Athletics — the team directly ahead of them in the American League Wild Card — over the weekend, the Mariners find themselves at their high point this season — nine games over the .500 mark and just a single game back of the Athletics in the Wild Card.
The Mariners took the first game of a three-game series with the first-place Houston Astros by the score of 11-8, with Kendall Graveman picking up his fourth win of the season. Seattle has two more games with the Astros before Friday’s trade deadline and the start of a three-game series with the Texas Rangers.
Mariners in the Market
The Seattle Mariners weren’t expected to be in this position when the seasons started, and many picked Seattle to be in the bottom half of the AL West and to potentially lose the division. However, the Mariners have been able to stack quality pitching performances this season and have been one of the bigger surprise teams in the MLB, along with the Red Sox and Giants. The better than expended play has led general manager Jerry Dipoto into a buyers market as the trade deadline looms, according to Mark Feinsand.
Feinsand reported on July 25 that Dipoto and the Mariners are “making a push to trade for infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield.” Merrifield has long been a target that other teams have pursued at the trade deadline — and in recent offseasons — but the Kansas Royals have always refused to part ways with their most consistent hitter — potentially until now.
Merrifield isn’t having his best season in 2021 but was still named an All-Star earlier in July. Merrifield is slashing .272/.319/.403 with eight home runs and 53 runs. Merrifield has an OPS+ of 97, which is slightly below average among all MLB hitters this season. Merrifield has proven an ability to play multiple positions in his career, and he has done it again in 2021, splitting time between second base and all three outfield spots for the Royals this season. Merrifield has also proven to be one of the sport’s best base stealers this season. The 32-year-old has stolen 25 bases and has been caught just once in 2021.
Despite hitting at or near career-low marks this season, Merrifield had an incredible month of July when he hit .351/.375/.544. However, he hasn’t been able to replicate his red-hot June with a similar month of July. Merrifield is slashing just .211/.250./.263 this month.
The Mariners have a need at second base with Dylan Moore struggling to still hit over .200 this season. Moore has been a solid defensive second baseman, but acquiring Merrifield would allow him to moe back into a utility role, which he could be used in more advantageous situations.
Adding Merrifield would also give the Mariners a right-handed bat that is guaranteed to take professional at-bats, which is something that Seattle has struggled with this season. The Mariners have one of the worst offense’s in the sport, so adding a proven hitter, like Merrifield, would only help fortify a lineup that needs more on-base production.
What would it take to acquire Merrifield?
Trying to calculate what it would take for the Mariners to trade for Merrifield is a difficult game to play. The Royals have long held onto their star player, and they feel like they are on the cusp of competing again for playoffs spots in the near future, so trading away one of your best players who has multiple years left on his contract for prospects who can help in a few years could slow down that process.
The Royals have also been known to ask for a lot in recent trade discussions for Merrifield, and while the Mariners can offer some of the game’s best prospects, is Seattle’s font office willing to do that this summer?
It’s hard to imagine that the Mariners would be willing to trade either Jarred Kelenic or Julio Rodriguez. The two outfielders are both ranked in the top-five prospects in all of baseball, according to MLB. While the Royals would surely ask for Kelenic or Rodriguez, Dipoto is likely to say promptly answer with a no. Another prospect that would be hard for the Mariners to part way with is right-handed pitcher Emerson Hancock, the 23rd overall prospect in MLB.
If the Mariners wish to acquire Merrifield, they might have to part ways with at least one of their top-three prospects and George Kirby, another right-handed arm in the top-100.
The tough thing for Dipoto is that the Mariners could make the playoffs for the first time in two decades, but they likely aren’t true World Series contenders. How Dipoto weighs that decision could determine the likelihood of the Mariners adding a star at the deadline.
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