We’re just a couple of days away from the the non-waiver trade deadline, and the Mariners are not yet selling. With a 50-55 record, the team is 12 games behind the first place Athletics, and 7.5 games behind the second Wild Card seed.
Most of the unwillingness to sell probably has to do with General Manager Jack Zduriencik’s job security. After numerous prospect flops, Zduriencik has little to show in terms of elite position players. Of Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, and numerous others, only Kyle Seager has shown the ability to hit over the long term. Yes, there is some hope that Nick Franklin‘s current production is real, and that Smoak has fixed his right-handed swing, but the Mariners’ last half decade of development has been pretty close to a disaster.
With Zduriencik’s job on the line, patience is no longer an option. The team’s final win-loss record for 2013 could be his ultimate litmus test. To get there, it looks like he’ll keep his most productive players, even the ones that are impending free agents. Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales would surely be trade chips in other years, but with a renewed importance on how they finish the season, the two sluggers would be sorely missed in a largely popless lineup.
One other impending free agent, Michael Morse has proven himself expendable though. The OF/1B has hit just .251/.313/.454 since joining the Mariners this season. Morse, who’s been on the DL since June 20th, has hit just 3 home runs since April, and proven himself largely replaceable in a lineup loaded with veteran outfielders, first basemen, and designated hitters.
As a team looking in, it’s not hard to find something to like about Morse. Though he’s not the strongest fielder at any position, he’s incredibly versatile, with the ability to regularly play the corner outfield positions or first base, as well as short stop in an emergency.
Morse has also shown a slight home/away split at Safeco, which isn’t all too surprising knowing the ballpark. He’s maintained a .783 OPS on the road, while posting just a .748 at home. Though Yankee Stadium isn’t usually very helpful for right-handed hitters, Morse has a ton of power to right field. Over his career, Morse sends 30.1% of his hits to right field, where he owns a .280 ISO (or a .693 slugging percentage).
Morse’s swing should be a good fit for Yankee Stadium and the other AL East ballparks, and his glove and bat-side fit well into the current lineup. Morse would be a high-quality platoon partner with Lyle Overbay, as well as an option at designated hitter, especially with Travis Hafner on the disabled list.
After an abrupt ending to a rehab yesterday, there was a lot of speculation that Morse could be traded. Indeed, it would seem that the Mariners may not have wanted to risk another injury in what was likely his final rehab game. Morse should be activated off the disabled list sometime today or tomorrow, but it might not be the Mariners who do so. As an impending free agent who probably wouldn’t see a qualifying offer, and as a player who is nonessential to Seattle’s current lineup, Morse could be traded very soon, and he’d be a near perfect fit for this roster.