Dipoto faces Deadline with future in mind

August 27th, 2020

SEATTLE -- Although it’s been hard to project too much about the 2020 season due to the unique circumstances surrounding the 60-game campaign, one thing has remained crystal clear regarding the Mariners.

This season has always been about developing the young nucleus of players and setting things up for the future, so general manager Jerry Dipoto heads toward Monday’s 11 a.m. PT Trade Deadline with that goal still firmly in mind.

The Mariners have seen impressive performances from some of their youngsters -- topped by outstanding showings from center fielder Kyle Lewis and left-hander Justus Sheffield -- and are typically starting at least five rookies every game as well as several more with just a year of Major League ball on their resume.

Not surprisingly, that young roster hasn’t resulted in a winning record yet, but the foundation is being laid, and if Dipoto can add pieces to the future puzzle at the Trade Deadline, he certainly will.

An important wrinkle this year is that teams can only trade players who are part of their 60-man player pool (assigned either to the big league team or the alternate training site). Clubs are permitted to include players to be named later in trades, however. In addition, scouts have not been allowed to attend games, so all assessments of prospects have been done based on video, data and prior knowledge.

Here’s a quick look at the Mariners' situation as the Deadline approaches:


The Mariners clearly fall into the “sellers” category, which is a smaller group than normal due to this year’s expanded 16-team playoff format. It remains to be seen how many contending teams will want to give up future assets in exchange for one month’s worth of help, but supply and demand could drive up the trade market a bit since there aren’t that many teams selling.

In addition, the short preparation time for this year’s season after the three-month shutdown has led to an increased number of injuries, particularly among pitchers. So there definitely is a market for healthy arms.

What they want

It’s all about the future for the Mariners, so they’ll be looking for prospects who can supplement their plans going forward. The farm system is pretty stocked with outfielders, but the infield and catching positions could certainly use some added depth, and teams can never have enough pitching.

What they have to offer

Dipoto isn’t looking to move his young core of players and doesn’t have many healthy veterans to deal, but there are a few with expiring contracts who might draw interest. Starter Taijuan Walker headed that list, and -- not surprisingly -- he was traded on Thursday to Toronto, as he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season and has pitched very well as he comes back from Tommy John surgery.

Numerous teams are looking for bullpen help as well, which means Matt Magill and possibly Yoshihisa Hirano -- if he has time to show where he is after his recent activation from the injured list -- could be in play. Carl Edwards Jr. would have fallen in this category as well, but he’s been sidelined by a strained right forearm. In the right scenario, relievers with future team control, such as Dan Altavilla and Taylor Williams, could be moved.

Third baseman Kyle Seager is the lone remaining veteran with much trade value, though his contract situation -- $18 million for 2021 and a $15 million team option for ’22 that turns into a player option if he’s traded -- remains a sticking point. The Mariners have shown a willingness to take on some of the remaining money to deal other veterans, but they don’t have any elite third-base prospect waiting in the wings, and Seager has been a steadying force on this young club.

The Mariners just traded Daniel Vogelbach to the Blue Jays as well in a minor cash deal, and it’s always possible they could move Dee Gordon or Mallex Smith in a similar swap if any teams are looking to add some speed.

Chance of a deal

Even though this figures to be a relatively quiet Trade Deadline league-wide, the Mariners are already in with the trades of Walker and Vogelbach. Given Dipoto’s penchant for making moves and his desire to add prospects wherever he can, it’s possible more deals could happen by Monday, though with Walker off the board, those odds probably dip to 50-50 now.