The Seattle Mariners have had a tumultuous offseason, with their front office dragged through the mud, closely followed by a huge contract given to Robinson Cano. Since then, they've been dumpster diving for guys like Logan Morrison and Corey Hart, which leaves their club far short of being a legitimate playoff contender. While they could certainly use some more punch for their offense, they desperately need solutions for the back of their rotation. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik was given a one-year contract extension, so he's on a short leash that could lead him to desperation. With new rumors linking the Mariners to interest in the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija, that could mean a big haul of prospects for the Cubs.
Here are the articles I'm digging from:
If you're looking for MLB-ready impact players, the Mariners have one in Taijuan Walker, but it seems they'll be unlikely to include him in a trade for Jeff Samardzija. Outside of Walker, most of the Mariners' top talent have high ceilings, but are a long way away from the major leagues.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Triple-A: 57⅓ IP, 10.05 K/9, 4.24 BB/9, 3.61 ERA, 3.62 FIP; Double-A: 84.0 IP, 10.29 K/9, 3.21 BB/9, 2.46 ERA, 3.13 FIP
Walker is a major league ready potential #1 starter that is arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball. He throws an outstanding mid 90s fastball with arm side movement and an equally good slider (or cutter, depending on who you ask) that is thrown low 90s with a late break. His curve ball is just average and his changeup needs work but shows promise. The biggest issue with Walker seems to be command, but because he's so athletic (former standout basketball star), services seem to think it can eventually be adequate. It seems very unlikely that the Mariners are going to include a guy like this in a trade for a player like Jeff Samardzija.
James Paxton, LHP, Triple-A: 145⅔ IP, 8.09 K/9, 3.58 BB/9, 4.45 ERA, 3.55 FIP
Paxton is the rare lefty starter that can sit mid 90s with a plus fastball. His curve ball rates average to plus, but he seems to be inconsistent with the pitch. Neither his cutter or changeup are exciting pitches and one or both could end up being scrapped. Paxton's inconsistent delivery leads to command issues with all of his pitches and that jeopardizes his chances of becoming a starter. If Paxton can continue the improvement he showed at the end of last year with his command, he has the potential to be a mid-rotation starter and he's likely to be in the Mariners' rotation to start the year.
Luiz Gohara, LHP, Rookie Ball: 21⅔ IP, 11.22 K/9, 3.74 BB/9, 4.15 ERA, 2.83 FIP
Gohara is a long way from the major leagues at just 17 years old, but he shows the potential to be a top of the rotation starter. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can get into the mid-90s with the potential for it to hold in the mid-90s as he gains strength. He throws a slider, curveball and changeup, all of which need work but show promise. While services like his delivery, his command right now is poor and needs refinement. Some have compared Gohara to CC Sabathia due to his weight and the potential to be a power, top of the rotation lefty. That being said, he's going to need a lot of time to develop and he probably won't land in the majors until at least 2017.
Edwin Diaz, RHP, Rookie Ball: 69 IP, 10.30 K/9, 2.35 BB/9, 1.43 ERA, 2.81 FIP
Diaz is another guy that's a long way from the major leagues, but could be a potential #2 starter if he can put everything together. He throws a low-mid 90s fastball with movement that projects to be a well above average pitch, while also throwing a very good breaking ball (some disagreement over whether it's a curve or slider). In addition to those two strong pitches, Diaz shows good command for such a young pitcher. The knocks on Diaz are his weak changeup and weak physique that appears to resemble CJ Edwards. The good news is, he put on 20 pounds of weight last year so if he can continue to add weight, improve his stamina and refine his changeup, he could shoot up prospect rankings.
Victor Sanchez, RHP, Low-A: 113⅓ IP, 6.27 K/9, 1.43 BB/9, 2.78 ERA, 2.87 FIP
Yet another pitching prospect with mid rotation upside but far away from the majors, Victor Sanchez has at least hit full season ball. Sanchez commands his low 90s fastball well and keeps it down in the zone. He also does a good job of commanding his changeup and curveball, both of which need some work but have the potential to sneak above average. Sanchez is a big guy as it is (supposedly a muscular 250 lbs), so it's doubtful he'll add much to his fastball. But if Sanchez can refine his secondary stuff, his command and pitchability could carry him all the way to his mid rotation ceiling.
Danny Hultzen, LHP, Triple-A: 30⅔ IP, 9.98 K/9, 2.05 BB/9, 2.05 ERA, 2.19 FIP
Hultzen is your Mariner wild card. A top 30 prospect in baseball coming into the season, Hultzen was shut down early with a shoulder injury that was possibly brought on by an awkward throwing motion. It's anticipated he'll miss all of 2014. Prior to his injury, he had a plus fastball and an outstanding change up, but each of those played up because of a tricky delivery that may not be sustainable. Shoulder injuries are scary and I doubt the Cubs will be interested in Hultzen as a primary or even secondary piece in a deal for Shark.
Tyler Marlette, C, Low-A: 297 PA, .304 AVG, .367 OBP, .448 SLG, .375 wOBA
A catcher whose bat is ahead of his glove, Marlette could be an intriguing development project behind the plate. He shows a solid hit tool with some good power potential, but apparently needs to work on his plate approach a bit. While he has a great arm, he needs work on his fundamentals behind the plate. Marlette did approve his defense last year and his makeup and work ethic seem to lead some to believe he can continue to improve in that area. If he can continue to refine his defense and tap into some of his raw power behind the plate, he could eventually be a solid everyday catcher.
Others to keep an eye on:
James Paxton, Tyler Marlette and Danny Hultzen
That's about right:
James Paxton, Edwin Diaz, Victor Sanchez, Luis Gohara and Tyler Marlette
Any package that includes Taijuan Walker and doesn't require the Cubs to give up any of their big seven.
The Mariners certainly have a need for a rotation starter, so there's a fit there, but their lack of top pitching options beyond Walker make this deal difficult. My assumption is, if the Mariners are willing to include Walker in a package, that package is going to be heading to the Rays for David Price. But there were rumors this summer that the Mariners front office is enamored with power and, if that's the case, Soler and Vogelbach are two of the better power hitters in the minors. Outside of including Walker in a deal, the Cubs are probably going to demand a ton of the high upside pitchers the Mariners have that are far away from the bigs (I see these guys as Paul Blackburn-esque) in order to even consider moving Shark. The guess here is that the Cubs wouldn't take a package like that this offseason, but could consider it around the deadline if several of those high risk players take steps forward in the first half of the season.
So I ask you, can you build a reasonable package out of the Mariners' prospects that doesn't include Taijuan Walker? Who would you need to get?
Note: This is the last article in this series. I considered writing other articles about the Phillies, Indians and Braves, but I'm not sold on any of them being major players for Samardzija right now. If those teams get kicked up through the rumor mill, I'll do another article at that time.