Trade Seager? The possibility is growing

December 16th, 2019

SEATTLE -- It's been widely assumed that 's contract assures that he will remain with the Mariners at least for the coming season, but a source acknowledged on Friday that Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto indeed has been receiving some trade interest in the veteran third baseman.

Here's a look at Seager's situation:

What exactly is his contract status?
Seager signed a seven-year, $100 million extension prior to the 2015 season. He still has two years and $37 million remaining on that deal, with $19 million owed this coming season and $18 million in '21.

But the contract also includes a $15 million club option for 2022, and that option becomes a player option if Seager is traded. So, while Seattle is on the hook for two years and $37 million, any team that trades for Seager is acquiring a guaranteed three-year, $52 million contract.

Why the growing interest now?
The third-base market in MLB has heated up as several clubs were pursuing Nationals free agent Anthony Rendon before he signed his seven-year, $245 million whopper with the Angels. The next free-agent prize is Josh Donaldson, who is on the market again after shining in a one-year deal in Atlanta.

But there are a handful of teams in the hunt for third-base upgrades. The Nationals now need a replacement for Rendon. The Rangers are still seeking solutions a year after Adrian Beltre's retirement. The Dodgers would like to move Justin Turner to first base. The Braves will have to fill Donaldson's spot if he signs elsewhere. The Twins have been mentioned as a pursuer of Donaldson as they would love to add a big infield bat.

So there is seeming potential for whatever teams get left out of the Rendon and Donaldson sweepstakes to wind up interested in Seager, who bounced back from a rough 2018 and slow start to '19 with a strong second half last year once he recovered from a torn tendon in his left hand.

Why does moving Seager remain a longshot?
Not all those teams are potential landing spots even if they get left out of the top-end pursuits, for various reasons.

The Dodgers are looking for a right-handed bat to balance their lineup, so a reunion with younger brother Corey seems unlikely. Donaldson figures to either end up back with Atlanta or solve the issue for the Nats or Rangers, which fills one of the holes. The Twins have flexibility on their own roster to fill third base and would likely just keep Miguel Sanó there unless they can acquire an impact bat like Donaldson.

There also are other viable options. Todd Frazier is among the remaining free agents and there's talk that the Cubs could trade three-time All-Star and 2016 National League MVP Award winner Kris Bryant if they can get enough prospects in return. The Yankees are also willing to move Miguel Andujar, who was supplanted by Gio Urshela last season while recovering from right shoulder surgery.

How willing are the Mariners to deal Seager?
Seattle surely would like to get out from under Seager's remaining contract, given his age (32) and remaining two-year window don't fit their long-term rebuild. They've already dealt numerous veterans in similar situations over the past year to create payroll flexibility for the future and open a path for younger prospects.

However, they don't have a prime third-base prospect waiting in the wings, so Seager is not blocking anyone currently. They also value Seager's veteran leadership as rebuilding teams benefit from having players who can show the ropes and set the right example to young teammates.

As for the contract? MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal speculated that the Mariners might be able to move Seager by including a prospect in any trade, but Seattle is trying to accumulate young talent, not give it up. The Mariners obviously also could eat a good portion of Seager's remaining money owed, but the "poison pill" aspect of the guaranteed third year at $15 million makes that harder.

It wouldn't make much sense for the Mariners to pay another club the extra $15 million owed Seager for his third guaranteed season when they could simply keep him two more seasons and not have to pay any of that final $15 million. So, any deal likely would hinge on just how much money the Mariners would have to absorb and whether they were getting enough prospect potential back to make it worthwhile.

Who would play third if Seager was traded?
The Mariners signed 28-year-old corner infielder Patrick Wisdom as a free agent last month to provide a backup option for Seager, as well as at first base.

Wisdom played 32 games with the Cardinals in 2018 and nine with the Rangers last year and hasn't hit much in his brief time in the Majors (.224/.306/.408, with four homers in 86 plate appearances), but he was a 2012 first-round Draft pick by St. Louis and has shown good power in Triple-A, slugging 31 homers in 127 games in 2017 and 31 more in 107 games last season.

The Mariners started Dylan Moore for five games at third last season, but they would prefer to keep him in a utility role. Rookie Shed Long started one game at third and moving him there would solve the logjam with Dee Gordon at second base, but Long's future is at second and slowing his development there wouldn't be ideal.

The Mariners' best third-base prospect in the Minors is 21-year-old Joe Rizzo, a second-round pick in the 2016 Draft who is Seattle's No. 19 prospect per MLB Pipeline. But he played at Class A Advanced Modesto last year, so he isn't ready for that jump yet.

The bottom line
There is indeed some interest in Seager from teams doing their due diligence, which is noteworthy. The market indeed could have a domino effect, and should the right team come up empty on Donaldson after Rendon, perhaps Seager becomes a backup option.

The Rangers have always liked Seager and he has a history of hitting extremely well in Arlington, though Texas is opening a new park next year. There are other teams that also might have interest in a veteran who has been very reliable defensively over the years at the hot corner, has hit 20-plus homers for eight straight years and has been an Ironman at a tough position, never missing more than seven games in a season until hurting his hand last spring.

But Seager's contract remains a hurdle and the Mariners don't have a ready replacement at third themselves, so Dipoto would have to be creative to get something done. That is always a possibility, given his history, but there's a lot still to be determined before the longest-tenured Mariner finds himself with a new team.