SEATTLE -- As the Mariners prepare to open the second half, it’s crystal clear that this season now is strictly about getting better for the future. And that means more deals prior to the July 31 Trade Deadline, as general manager Jerry Dipoto looks to swap any veterans with short-term value to contending teams in exchange for younger pieces for his own club’s eventual rise.
The Mariners have some youngsters already on their Major League roster who will be part of that future, but accumulating more depth to continue reinforcing a much-improved farm system and provide competition in the coming years is priority No. 1.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the Mariners’ situation as they come out of the All-Star break and what to expect in the next few weeks:
Current status: Seller
Dipoto has been in sell mode since last offseason when he dealt veterans Robinson Cano, James Paxton, Jean Segura, Mike Zunino, Alex Colome and others for younger players and prospects in an effort to reboot a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2001.
Part of the return in those deals -- for salary exchange purposes -- were Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce. Dipoto has already dealt those two sluggers in the past six weeks, and he’s not about to stop now.
What they are seeking
It’s all about getting players pointed toward helping the wave of up-and-coming talent expected to arrive in the next year or two and beyond. The Mariners have some outstanding young outfielders in the Minors, with teenage standouts Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, 2016 first-round Draft pick Kyle Lewis and up-and-comer Jake Fraley, so they’d likely prefer adding infield depth and pitching, if possible.
What they have to offer
Right-handed starter Mike Leake, second baseman Dee Gordon and infielder Tim Beckham are the most often mentioned trade possibilities given they’re veterans who don’t figure in the long-term plans, but Dipoto could dangle 26-year-old outfielder Domingo Santana as well, since Santana only has two years of team control remaining and is a power bat, who could be intriguing to teams looking for an offensive boost.
Another name to watch is southpaw reliever Roenis Elias, given the large number of contending teams looking for bullpen help. Elias isn’t a typical lefty specialist, but he offers versatility and durability that could be appealing to clubs. He’s been closing for the Mariners, but he would be more of a setup or multi-inning option for most teams. Right-hander Cory Gearrin is another reliever who could be moved.
Leake to Atlanta for left-hander Tucker Davidson: The Braves are leading the National League East, but even after adding Dallas Keuchel, they could use one more starter. An innings-eating veteran like Leake would help protect youngsters Mike Soroka and Max Fried, and provide some needed insurance.
The Braves have some financial flexibility as well, though the Mariners likely would be willing to eat some of Leake’s remaining $16 million or so through 2020. Though Atlanta won’t part with any of its elite prospects, the Braves' pitching-rich farm system offers plenty of choices like the 23-year-old Davidson, their No. 18-ranked prospect who is pitching extremely well for Double-A Mississippi.
Elias to Dodgers for right-hander Josiah Gray or lefty John Rooney: The Dodgers are looking to solidify their bullpen for the postseason push, and it’s worth remembering that former Mariners assistant GM Jeff Kingston is now with Los Angeles and knows Elias well.
Elias is earning $910,000 this year and is under team control for two more seasons, so he should be able to get a decent prospect in return. Gray (the Dodgers’ No. 17 prospect) is a 21-year-old putting up the kind of control-the-zone numbers the Mariners love in Class A Advanced ball, while Rooney (No. 23) is a big 22-year-old in Class A, who was drafted in the third round in 2018.
Santana to the Indians for shortstop/third baseman Yu Chang and righty Aaron Civale: The Indians need offensive firepower to reinforce their playoff push, and if they decide to go for it at the Deadline, Santana’s powerful bat could bring a nice return.
Chang (the Indians’ No. 11 prospect) is a 23-year-old from Taiwan with good power who is close to being Major League ready, but he is blocked in Cleveland's system by Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. He could be a candidate at second or third base for Seattle. Civale (No. 24) is a 24-year-old strike thrower (just 11 walks in 58 innings at Double-A and Triple-A this year) with the kind of high spin-rate fastball that teams find intriguing.