The MLB hot stove is alive and well, now that we’ve had some significant action. The Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees made waves on Monday for a deal that will put ace James Paxton in pinstripes for the 2019 season.
[RELATED: A's and Giants poised to feel ripple effects of James Paxton trade]
As it turns out, that stove may just be warming up, particularly as it relates to Seattle. There are reports abound that the Mariners are entering a full-on rebuild, with their focus now on competing during the 2021 season.
Prior to sending Paxton to New York, Seattle traded catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s two big pieces of their 2018 roster now elsewhere, and if the Mariners follow through with this rebuilding plan, there may be more moves coming soon.
Rumors coming out of the GM Meetings insisted that even in the event of a rebuild, Seattle would prefer to hang onto their young, valuable contributors like closer Edwin Diaz, outfielder Mitch Haniger and starting pitcher Marco Gonzales. That message was reiterated by Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto following the trade of Paxton on Monday:
However, if the Mariners are dead set on a full-blown sell-off, some uncomfortable moves may need to be made. So, would any of Diaz, Haniger or Gonzales make sense for the Giants or A's? Let's go one at a time.
With 57 saves in 2018, Diaz saved at least 14 more games than any other pitcher in baseball last season, posting a 1.96 ERA with 124 strikeouts in 73.1 innings.
How he fits with the A's: Blake Treinein ranked third in the AL in 2018 with 38 saves, sporting a 0.78 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 80.1 innings. His job is safe. Diaz to the A's isn't happening.
[RELATED: Treinen misses out on AL Reliever of the Year to Diaz]
How he fits with the Giants: San Francisco blew 30 saves last season, more than any other MLB team. Mark Melancon is still owed $38 million over the next two seasons. Diaz comes significantly cheaper and is one of the best bang-for-your-buck closers in the game, but it's unlikely the Giants would be able to offer the kind of prospects in return needed to get a deal done.
Haniger broke out in a big way for the Mariners last season, batting .285 and accounting for 26 home runs and 93 RBIs. The 27-year-old right fielder is a Bay Area native, having graduated from San Jose's Archbishop Mitty High School. Could a return home be in store?
How he fits with the A's: They're not taking Khris Davis' bat out of the lineup. Stephen Piscotty is under contract for the next five seasons. Ramon Laureano burst on the scene in August. Still, Haniger made only $560,200 last season, and his .366 OBP ranked 10th in the AL. Factoring in his age, position and skillset, he'd fit right in with Oakland, and they might have the combination of prospects and cheap veterans that Seattle would find acceptable in return. That said, here's assuming the Mariners would rather not trade Haniger within the division.
How he fits with the Giants: Come on down!
Seriously. The Giants desperately need an infusion of youth and power into their outfield, and with Hunter Pence now departed, right field is wide open for the taking. He hits for power, average and to all fields. So, yes, Haniger would make a ton of sense for the Giants. The question, again, is whether or not they possess the assets to make a deal.
Gonzales went 13-9 with a 4.00 ERA in 166.2 innings for the Mariners last season. He was 12-5 with a 3.37 ERA through the end of July, but the 26-year-old lefty withered down the stretch, losing four of his final five decisions.
How he fits with the A’s: Oakland had only three players pitch at least 100 innings for them last year. Sean Manaea led the way with 160.2, and he’s expected to miss all of the 2019 season after undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder in September. Jharel Cotton, A.J. Puk, Daniel Gossett and Kendall Graveman are all coming off Tommy John surgery. Jesus Luzardo had a tremendous season in the minors, but may need more seasoning. Mark Fiers, Frankie Montas, Andrew Triggs, Paul Blackburn and Aaron Brooks remain under contract, but that’s the extent of the A’s starting pitching options currently on the roster.
That’s a lot of quantity, but how much quality remains to be seen. Gonzales is due to make $900,000 in 2019 and $1 million in 2020, with three more years of team control beyond that. Financially, it would certainly be feasible, but it’s possible the additional cost (in terms of assets going the other way) may be prohibitive to the A’s. It’s also worth mentioning Gonzales underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016.
How he fits with the Giants: Johnny Cueto (33) is due to make $21 million each of the next three seasons. Jeff Samardzija (34) will make $19.8 million in each of the next two. Madison Bumgarner is entering the final year of his contract, and if the Giants do end up re-signing him, it certainly won’t be for cheap.
Suffice to say, San Francisco could really use an affordable, dependable lefty in their starting rotation. Dereck Rodriguez came out of nowhere to be the bright spot of an otherwise forgettable season in 2018 and figures to be a staple in the rotation moving forward, but he needs help. Gonzales would check a lot of boxes for San Francisco, but again, they might not have what the Mariners would be looking for in exchange.
Of course, the A’s and Giants wouldn’t be limited to those three players in a potential trade with the Mariners. Seattle won 89 games in 2018, so it’s not as if their cupboards are bare. Perhaps a player like shortstop Jean Segura, who batted .304 with 10 home runs and 20 steals last season, could be a fit for either team, although a position change would almost certainly have to be involved on someone’s part.
The fact of the matter is, the A’s and Giants are facing significantly different realities right now. Oakland is building off a surprisingly successful 2018 campaign, fully capable of fielding a competitive team in 2019 and beyond. San Francisco, on the other hand, has considerably more question marks moving forward.
Despite those differences, however, both teams should be looking to improve whenever and wherever possible. If Seattle is truly intent on expediting a rebuild, both Bay Area teams have the potential to take advantage.