By Brent Stecker

As the July 31 MLB trade deadline approaches, the Mariners have a few decisions to make. Are they buyers or sellers? What are their needs? Who is expendable?

perez
Oliver Perez sports a 0.98 ERA this season, which should make the Mariners' left-handed reliever a hot commodity at the trade deadline. (AP)

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs, U.S.S Mariner and ESPN.com joined "Seattle Sports at Night" to address those questions this week, and the baseball expert singled out one trade chip that could help the Mariners plug some holes.

"I think, realistically, Oliver Perez is the most valuable trade target on this team," Cameron said of the Mariners' left-handed relief pitcher.

Perez has been one of the few bright spots for the Mariners this season, holding a 0.98 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 38 strikeouts in 27.2 innings pitched, and he could help solidify a contender's bullpen. Cameron has a specific suitor in mind.

"(If I'm the Mariners), I'm calling (Tigers general manager) Dave Dombrowski every day, because the Tigers have spent all this money, they have a really great rotation, they have Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, but their bullpen stinks. They need a couple more good relievers, and they have some decent interesting prospects, including an outfielder named Nick Castellanos, who they don't necessarily have room for."

Castellanos, a 21-year-old playing in Triple-A, might require more from the Mariners than Perez to acquire his services.

"I'm calling Dombrowski every day, saying, 'Oliver Perez plus what gets me Nick Castellanos?' Maybe it's something you don't want to give up, but you're pestering him and trying to get Nick Castellanos for some package of relief pitching and maybe you're throwing Brendan Ryan into that deal, maybe you're even throwing Michael Morse into that deal if they want a pinch-hitter. You're doing whatever you can to sell Oliver Perez and stuff to the Detroit Tigers."

If the Mariners decide to be buyers instead of sellers, Cameron said they'd be fighting an uphill battle.

"With the second wild-card, very few teams are selling," he said. "(Only) seven other teams besides the Mariners (are selling), and there's not a lot of good players on (those teams). That's why they're selling in the first place.

"If you were going to look at an outfielder under team control for multiple years, which is really what the Mariners need the most, the only guy who fits that bill ... is Alex Rios of the White Sox. He's probably the best position player on the market, so if you want Alex Rios, you're out-bidding every other contender who's looking for an outfielder. You're probably gonna have to pay too high a price to get him."

According to Cameron, the Mariners will be best off waiting for their moment to acquire big-name talent.

"I really think that it's probably in the Mariners' best interests, if they're gonna look to upgrade their offense, to wait until the offseason," he said. "Don't pay the deadline prices. Let the contenders overpay for this year, and then go get more options in the offseason."

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