By Brent Stecker
The consensus opinion regarding what the Mariners should do before the 1 p.m. Wednesday MLB trade deadline is that there is no consensus.
Much of the fan base would like to see Seattle to build on its success over the last month and buy at the deadline. ESPN senior baseball writer Jayson Stark looked at the Mariners' slim chances at a playoff berth and said they need to sell. Another ESPN writer, Jim Caple, took an entirely different route, saying they should stand pat.
Michael Morse returned from a quad injury on Tuesday, but his days in a Mariners uniform could be numbered as he's a prime trade target for before the Wednesday deadline. (AP)
Frankly, it's not as easy as just choosing one of those options for Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. He's spent his entire five-year tenure with Seattle restocking a depleted minor-league system and trying to bring a consistent offensive lineup to the club, and after years of futility, the team has finally started to turn the corner at the plate over the last month. The last thing the fan base wants to see is any of the players responsible for the recent onslaught of runs packing their bags and heading off to a contender.
The Mariners aren't realistically in the postseason hunt, however, and they shouldn't waste an opportunity to turn a soon-to-be free-agent – especially one that hasn't been vital to their success – into a package of key prospects that may fit in nicely with promising young hitters like second baseman Nick Franklin, shortstop Brad Miller and catcher Mike Zunino.
That puts the crosshairs directly on one player that the Mariners should ship out: Michael Morse – which is something that has become evident to the team's front office, according to this tweet from New York Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman.
Morse, 31, returned to play right field Tuesday night against the Red Sox in what was his first MLB game since he was placed on the disabled list with a quadriceps injury on June 22. Because of that injury, he missed the entirety of the Mariners' hot streak in July, so trading him shouldn't raise too much ire among Seattle fans. And despite his injured quad, he has a lot of value in a trade market devoid of offensive firepower. He was among the American League leaders when he hit 11 home runs in the first two months of the season (though he hasn't hit one since May 27), and he has a 31-homer season and an All-Star nod to his credit from his time with the Washington Nationals.
Morse isn't as critical a piece of the Mariners' roster as first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who has a .278 average, 16 homers and 58 RBIs, and will likely be targeted by the Mariners to be re-signed after the season. He isn't as endearing to the fan base or as calming of a veteran presence in the clubhouse as fellow outfielder Raul Ibanez, who is in his third tour of duty with the Mariners and threatening to break Ted Williams' record for most home runs by a player age 41 or older. And unlike left-handed relief pitcher Oliver Perez, trading Morse wouldn't result in the Mariners losing their best player at a specific position.
Morse's proven power should be enough for the Mariners to get a bidding war from contenders over his services, and his departure would clear up a spot for young players like Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley to have one last chance to prove they can be everyday players at the Major League level. And if that doesn't work out over the final months of the season, there are a number of free-agent outfielders the Mariners can pursue, including 2013 All-Star and former Mariner Shin-Soo Choo of the Cincinnati Reds, and Oregon native and 30-30 Club member Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox.
Morse won't be important to a Mariners team that needs to focus more on developing its young hitters in August and September than making the postseason in 2013. His future in Seattle after this season is murky at best. The Mariners could do much worse than turning him into a few prospects.