PEORIA, Ariz. -- What course of action might the Mariners take when they hit the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline?The answer depends entirely on how things play out over the next four months. But it's fair to say this Mariners squad is built to win now, and if general manager
PEORIA, Ariz. -- What course of action might the Mariners take when they hit the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline?
The answer depends entirely on how things play out over the next four months. But it's fair to say this Mariners squad is built to win now, and if general manager Jerry Dipoto believes his club is contending in July, he won't shy away from making moves to bolster those chances.
Furthermore, the newly aligned ownership group, led by CEO John Stanton, would love nothing more than to end MLB's longest postseason drought and get Seattle into October for the first time since 2001. Which means Dipoto presumably will have some payroll flexibility if that time comes.
Assessing the Mariners' potential needs now would be pure guesswork. Their biggest question marks going into the season appear to be at first base, where expected rookie starter Daniel Vogelbach has already been sent down to Triple-A Tacoma for further seasoning, and in the bullpen, where some injury situations have thinned the pool.
Injuries and poor performance can always change the picture quickly, but Dipoto has put together a lineup that appears well-balanced and a pitching staff with some decent depth.
The Mariners aren't loaded with elite prospects to compete for big-time trade targets, but Dipoto seems to have a knack for finding workable packages of players to move when he finds a suitable target, as evidenced by his MLB-leading 40 trades since taking over 17 months ago.
Not surprisingly, Dipoto didn't shy from Deadline deals while with the Angels. He acquired Zack Greinke from the Brewers in 2012 for three young prospects, including shortstop Jean Segura, whom he re-acquired for the Mariners this offseason. In '14, he acquired closer Huston Street from the Padres at the Deadline.
Dipoto made a series of moves this past July for a Mariners team that was hovering on the edge of contention, shipping Mike Montgomery to the Cubs for Vogelbach, swapping reliever Joaquin Benoit to Toronto for Drew Storen and sending Wade Miley to the Orioles for Ariel Miranda.
The Mariners got better in 2016 in part by promoting their own prospects who proved capable of helping. The decision to move Edwin Diaz to the bullpen and eventually to Seattle's closer role proved fortuitous, as did the midseason arrivals of southpaw James Paxton, catcher Mike Zunino and hard-throwing reliever Dan Altavilla.
Vogelbach could be poised for a similar path this year if he develops his game in Tacoma. Slugger Tyler O'Neill, starters Andrew Moore and Max Povse and perhaps reliever Thyago Vieira are other possible midseason boosts.
The bullpen may get its own boost long before July, as former closer Steve Cishek, promising young right-hander Tony Zych and hard-throwing acquisition Shae Simmons could all be healthy sometime in April.
Of course, it's also possible the Mariners fall out of contention and Dipoto approaches the end of July in sell mode instead. That scenario isn't as pretty, but Dipoto would have some veterans to dangle on the trade market if it comes to that.
Teams in that situation typically look to move players who are on the verge of becoming free agents in exchange for prospects, and the most prominent Mariners in that situation are Valencia, starter Yovani Gallardo and outfielder Jarrod Dyson.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [
@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.