As the Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches on Tuesday, July 31st at 4:00 p.m. EST, there tend to be two types of “Breaking News” stories on the crawler at networks like ESPN, MLB, and FS1. There are those of real significance like the deal between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees where the Yankees re-acquire reliever David Robertson and added 3B/1B Todd Frazier and RP Tommy Kahnie while giving up the organization’s third ranked prospect in OF Blake Rutherford, some lesser touted prospects, and dumping RP Tyler Clippard. Then there are those trades that take up space on a local website or an insider feed that mean almost nothing like the Seattle Mariners acquiring a mediocre RP from the Florida Marlins in exchange for a handful of “prospects” who will never sniff the major leagues while throwing in a Chick-fil-A gift certificate.
The key difference? The Yankees had a marginal prospect to trade. The Mariners don’t really have anything to trade. So, while the Chicago Cubs were able to add a stud, front of the rotation pitcher like Jose Quintana and the Houston Astros are rumored to be near a deal for equally studly Sonny Gray, the Mariners will remain in the market for the David Phelps of the world.
That’s not to say that a lifetime 1.3ish WHIP and 3.9ish ERA from Phelps aren’t improvements to the Mariners bullpen. And, yes, a win here or there could actually be the difference between making the playoffs as a wild card and staying home. But this is not a major impact on the overall trajectory of the Mariners’ season in a way that the Cubs and Yankees have made recently and presumably the Astros and possibly the Boston Red Sox will make soon.
Also, I get it. GM Jerry Dipoto finds himself in an unwieldly position. The farm system has no real prospects to deal for major league ready players, while the big-league team is saddled with aging and, in some cases, declining talent. In order to stay relevant in the future, the Mariners must hold on to the farm talent that may at least be everyday players in the soon-to-be renamed Safeco Field. But, in order to contend now, a few impact players need to be added. You get those by dealing prospects. It’s a quandary.
The window is not-so-slowly closing on this Mariners team and, once the window is closed, the re-opening may take several years of smart drafting. Dipoto has played well with what he has been dealt, but at some point you get busted for re-raising with seven / deuce off suit out of position. In hindsight, it might have been a good idea to deal Felix Hernandez a few years ago when he had real value and in now-sight think about dealing Nelson Cruz.
There is now roughly a 20% chance that the Mariners make the crap shoot which is the one game play-in game called the wildcard. The second half has gone well so far. Heck, Seattle fans may well see post-season baseball soon. But, the prospects of a deep run in the playoffs this season, much less soon, seem more like fantasy baseball.