What's Their Situation?
When writing the title for this article, I thought to add a question mark after the word "Mariners." Such a thing would have served two purposes. The first would have reflected the surprise some may have when they realize that the Seattle Mariners are in wild card contention (1.0 games out as of Tuesday morning), with the second being the enigmatic future of the team. Will they buy? Will they sell? Quite honestly, I am not even sure that Jerry Dipoto knows. On Tuesday, they swung their first major deal in an odd swap with the Astros that, according to Dipoto, will make sense once all of their planned deals have been completed. The team was also in on Adam Frazier before San Diego, as per usual, swooped in to pick him up. In the dead of night on Tuesday, Tyler Anderson was swiped from under the Phillies nose. Knowing Dipoto’s love of deals, we are in for some truly wild stuff.
What Do They Need?
Bats, and a lot of them. The team has just a 91 wRC+ as a whole as their team batting average infamously dipped below the Mendoza line for a portion of the year. They have somewhat rebounded as their wRC+ since the start of June is 100, but holes still exist at significant positions.
Second base has been a particularly nasty position for them as either Dylan Moore or Shed Long Jr. have participated there this season with little success. They also have no significant prospects at the position.
Beyond that, there is no real clear-cut need in the lineup. Many of the Mariners' position players are either in flux due to injuries or are just warming the spot of a significant prospect. Even with their poorly performing players, I find it challenging to put together a trade because the team is in such a major transition. Perhaps they usurp one of those prospects with an unexpected deal, but I do not see that happening. Again, I must stress that nothing is out of question with Dipoto, to the point that them bringing in Miguel Sanó or Max Kepler would not be out of the question.
Their starting rotation, however, is more apparent as a point of concern. Yusei Kikuchi has been outstanding, and Logan Gilbert looks to be the real deal, but the rest is uninspiring. Chris Flexen is hilariously overperforming, Marco Gonzales has regressed, and Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield have been flimsy during their time in the majors. They have prospects to fill these spots, but most of them will not be ready until 2022 or beyond. They did fill a need by acquiring Anderson.
Which Twins Are The Best Fit?
In a beautiful twist, the best fit may be an ex-Mariner.
Michael Pineda would be a consistent presence in a rotation full of youthful arms. He could provide the exact type of 5-6 inning guarantee that few other pitchers on their roster can promise. Depending on the price, the team may add him for a more negligible cost than what other, more major names may net.
A shocking trade for José Berríos may not be out of play. The Mariners have well learned that pitching prospects are far from promises, and Jerry Dipoto is an absolute madman, so a move for an established arm could be in their plans. Still, Berríos looks to depart after 2022, and that kind of uncertainty will probably turn off a team looking towards the future.
If you squint hard enough, then a surprising deal for Luis Arraez also may be in the cards. The second base position has been a black hole for the team, and they could use a long-term player with the ability to play third as Kyle Seager is unlikely to return following the end of the season. The team knows this as well-they tried to acquire Frazier, as mentioned earlier, and other second baseman have been connected to them Still, the Twins' asking price for Arraez and the Mariners' willingness to meet that mark are probably on two separate continents.
Beyond them, the team may look to add a bullpen depth piece like Tyler Duffey. Originally I had written Hansel Robles in here as well, but his performance on Tuesday reflects a player who is anything but valuable.
Do you like pitching prospects? Good. Their top 7 or so prospects are likely untouchable, but beyond them, they have:
Wyatt Mills: A 26-year-old pure reliever with enough funk to make George Clinton proud. Eric Longenhagen wrote that Mills' "combo of repertoire depth (though he's been exclusively fastball/slider so far in the big leagues) and command are both rare for a reliever." Yes, a pure reliever prospect is not the most exciting option, but he would satisfy a desperate need.
Sam Carlson: A 22-year-old Minnesota boy with upside. Carlson is almost entirely unknown as a prospect as a combination of Tommy John surgery and an absent minor league season in 2020 forced him to go four years between throwing a pitch in a professional setting. In any case, Carlson's pedigree as a 2nd round pick reflects an arm with potential.
Matt Brash: A more typical hard-throwing righty with quality stuff. Brash is a prototypically modern pitching prospect who possesses great ability with questionable command. If he reigns it in, he's an All-Star; if not, he's a reliever. He can be yet another lotto ticket in the Twins farm.
Quite frankly, a trade with the Mariners made much more sense a week ago-when this article was first written. The Cruz trade and the Anderson deal have thrown any predictions out the window. All I can really say now is "be prepared for something weird from this team."
The Mariners are genuinely in the great unknown as a team. All signs point towards them selling, but their record so far has gifted them a chance to become soft buyers in the hope that other franchises crash and burn around them. Players like Duffey, Pineda, and potentially Robles may be of interest to them. The partnership is certainly odd, but it would not be all too surprising if the two teams find a way to make a deal with each other. Remember, the Twins did trade Zach Duke to the Mariners in 2018, so a prior relationship does exist.