MLB hot stove: The Mariners are reportedly considering a full-blown rebuild and they have several good players to trade
The longest active postseason drought in North American sports was extended another year in 2018. The Seattle Mariners, who last reached the postseason during Ichiro Suzuki’s rookie year in 2001, went 89-73 this past season and finished eight games out of a playoff spot. At one point the Mariners were 55-31. They then went 34-42 to close out the season.
The club’s continued failure to get over the hump and into the postseason despite spending lots of money and making lots of win-now trades has the Mariners reportedly considering a full-blown rebuild this offseason. They might take a step back, tear things down and essentially reset the organization, and try to set themselves up better for the future.
The Mariners are stuck in the AL West with the upstart Athletics and the powerhouse Astros who, despite having some sudden rotation issues, look poised to control the division long-term. They are loaded with young talent. So are the Athletics, for that matter. Those are the teams Seattle is competing with for a postseason spot. It won’t be easy.
If the Mariners do tear things down this offseason — it’s important to note the decision to rebuild is not yet final — they do have several attractive pieces that could net significant returns. Robinson Cano (owed $120 million through 2023), Dee Gordon (.637 OPS in 2018), and Felix Hernandez (5.55 ERA in 2018) probably won’t net much at this point, even if the Mariners eat a bunch of money. But, among others, Seattle can still offer:
- Edwin Diaz: Dominant closer under team control through 2022.
- Mitch Haniger: All-Star outfielder under team control through 2022.
- James Paxton: Above-average starting pitcher under team control through 2020.
- Jean Segura: Above-average shortstop owed only $60.4 million through 2022.
Think the Yankees would like to get their hands on Paxton? What about the Indians and Haniger? Pretty much every team in baseball would take Diaz, even rebuilding clubs because he has four more years of team control remaining. The Brewers and Phillies jump out as potential suitors for Segura. The Mariners have pieces to trade, for sure.
For what it’s worth, Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto didn’t seem too enthusiastic about a potential rebuild during his end-of-season press conference a few weeks ago. Here’s what Dipoto said, via Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times:
“Guys like Haniger, guys like Marco Gonzales, guys like Edwin Diaz, these are the pieces that you’re trying to build around, not the pieces that you’re trying to send away,” Dipoto said. “So you know, we want to be conscious of the fact that we have built up what we think is that next sustainable young core, and built toward it. Those are guys who are all in their mid-20s.”
Dipoto added the standard, “I don’t think there’s ever a player who is truly off-limits” caveat, as you’d expect. I suppose the alternative to a rebuild would be spending heavily and maybe using Diaz as a trade chip to bring multiple young pieces into the organization, then replacing him with a free agent. Standing pat won’t cut it. If the Mariners go for it (again), they have to really go hard at free agency this offseason.
The Astros and Cubs are the most referenced examples of a rebuild going right (understandably so), but there always exists the possibility of things not going according to plan. The Padres and Reds have been spinning their wheels for a while and the White Sox’s rebuild hit the skids a bit this year with Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, and Lucas Giolito stumbling, and Michael Kopech getting hurt. Rebuilds are wonderful in theory but difficult in practice.
Given their roster situation — the Mariners had the third oldest roster in baseball in 2018 — and the fact they’re stuck in the same division as the Astros (and Athletics), it seems to me the Mariners are due to rebuild. They’ve been throwing money at their problems for years and they’ve yet to get back into October. It’s time to try a different approach. I imagine we’ll find out whether ownership and the front office feel the same way fairly soon.
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