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SEATTLE — The MLB Draft ended Tuesday, and with it, every front office’s attention will shift squarely to the trade deadline looming just two weeks away. With the Mariners firmly back in the playoff picture and playing in an effort to break a 21-year playoff drought, president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto could — and likely will be — among the most active in this year’s market. .
“As soon as we get through day three of the draft on Tuesday, it will really start to pick up on the business front,” Dipoto said. “And we will see. There are definitely ways to help our team improve, and so it’s an exciting time, really, all around.
It’s definitely an exciting time for the Mariners, especially after All-Star rookie Julio Rodríguez put on quite a show at the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday night, smashing 81 long balls in his Derby debut before falling against Juan Soto in the Finals.
Speaking of the Nats’ star outfielder, here are three ways the Mariners can attack the Aug. 2 deadline:
1) Run an errand to Juan Soto
This deadline has been more obscure to project given that there are not many known blockbuster types available. That was, at least, until Saturday when reports surfaced that the Nationals would be accepting offers on their superstar outfielder after he turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract offer.
Soto means so much to the Mariners. It’s not just that he’s arguably the Majors’ best hitter or that he’s only 23 or that he played such a crucial role in the Nats’ 2019 World Series title – it’s that he would bring a much-needed power left-handed presence to a roster that, until that 14-game winning streak, lacked a consistent run producer.
His numbers are down from his elite level, but he has an OPS of 1.431 in July, and he also has virtually no protection in the middle of Washington’s bottom lineup. Imagine Soto knocking between Rodríguez and Ty France, and doing it for three full playoff chases considering he won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season.
The Mariners’ farm system has taken a hit with the graduations of Rodríguez and George Kirby, but Seattle still has the prospect capital to secure a seat at the table. The asking price would be huge, likely involving No. 1-5 prospects Noelvi Marte, Harry Ford, Matt Brash, Edwin Arroyo and Emerson Hancock, if not all five, plus another big league-ready player (Jarred Kelenic, maybe) and possibly taking one of Washington’s bad contracts (Stephen Strasburg and/or Patrick Corbin, who are owed $200 million after this season).
But it could be done. The Mariners have worked diligently to transform their farm system from one of the worst in baseball to one of the best over the past three years. And while parting with so many pieces would be incredibly hard to digest, Soto is a generational talent that would keep Seattle from flirting with an American League Wild Card in a legitimate bid to win the World Series.
2) Calculate the second base
There’s no doubt that Adam Frazier has been a disappointment since the Mariners traded him last offseason. But he also had enough recovery to suggest he might have turned a corner, hitting 0.340/0.347/0.447 (0.794 OPS) during the Mariners’ winning streak.
Second base, on paper, looked like the clearest area of need and one that Dipoto could easily fill, as this position doesn’t usually cost a fortune in prospects. Some names available include Rougned Odor, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Schoop, Jonathan Villar and Paul DeJong, but all are having bad seasons.
If Frazier continues like this, exceptional. But using the next two weeks to make a decision for the rest of the year is perhaps more vital to this position than most on the list.
3) Add two pitchers — one starter, one reliever
Remember how effective Tyler Anderson was down the stretch last year, giving the Mariners valuable innings and helping stabilize the rotation? It wasn’t the flashiest acquisition, but it turned out to be necessary. Seattle’s starting staff are in a much better – and more talented – position than this time last year, but with Kirby’s innings tally already under closer scrutiny and the lack of depth to factor in an injury, there is a noticeable need for a role-playing beginner.
The same could be said for another backup arm, preferably a veteran who wouldn’t have a workload limitation but perhaps has playoff experience. Ken Giles was supposed to be that guy, but now that he’s been released with an inflamed right shoulder, it’s hard to count on him being a key contributor right now. Relievers are usually always available at this time of year and are usually much easier to find, so this goal seems achievable.