About a month ago, Rum Bunter had an article regarding the possible interest the Seattle Mariners could have on Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Now, here we are in November and it seems this was a valid rumor.
On the evening of November 20, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports and MLB Network reported that the Seattle Mariners did indeed call the Pittsburgh Pirates. Already to believe to have checked in on Tony Watson, Morosi reports that the Mariners wanted to talk about Andrew McCutchen.
According to Morosi’s twitter account, talks did not advance very far. Morosi tweeted:
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“Sources: #Mariners inquired on Andrew McCutchen earlier this offseason; those talks with #Pirates did not advance.”
The interest from Seattle makes sense from the stand point that they could use a right-handed outfield bat, and more specifically an impact outfield bat. As of now their current outfield is made up of all left-handed hitters, such as Leonys Martin in center, Seth Smith in right, and Ben Gamel in left. Seth Smith has always been a platoon player in his career, Ben Gamel has struggled in his first 33 games so far, and he looks to be more of a platoon player as well. Both Gamel and Seth Smith do not bring much on the base paths or in the field either. Martin who is adequate with the bat if not unimpressive, brings really strong defense, so he is a lock to stay in Safeco’s spacious center field.
Enter Andrew McCutchen.
Cutch could turn into the Mariner’s everyday left-fielder. The Pittsburgh Pirates could take Seth Smith back in the trade. Smith is entering the last year of his contract at a relatively cheap rate of seven million dollars. With that, I am sure the Bucs would want some money coming back in the deal. This would allow the Pittsburgh Pirates to have a stop-gap outfielder until Austin Meadows‘ arrival. Then Smith could become a left-handed fourth outfielder like Joyce was, or a trade chip. With no long-term contract either or would benefit the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This all sounds great, but the issue is Smith is not the value the Bucs would be trading to receive. Smith would be a throw from the Mariners. This would be in order to make room for Andrew McCutchen. Meanwhile the Smith would fill the hole left from Cutch’s departure. The true value would be in the other pieces the Bucs would want back in a deal. Here in lies the issue of trading with the Mariners.
Seattle has one of the weakest farm systems in baseball. They do not have many attractive prospects to pick from in regards to what the Bucs would be looking for. The main piece the Pittsburgh Pirates believe to be searching for is a young/controllable pitcher. The Mariners do have two candidates in Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. However it seems neither are available for trade, especially Paxton. The main reason being is because if they dealt one for Cutch, the Mariners would be filling one need while opening up another in their rotation.
Outside of Walker and Paxton, the other piece of interest would be breakout closer and 2016 rookie Edwin Diaz. Diaz had a 2.79 earned run average in his first season. He also compiled 18 saves, and an ultra impressive 15.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched ratio. However, like with the starters, but to an even more extreme point, Diaz figures to be their closer for a long time. With no other real options in the back-end of their bullpen and the contractual control, the Mariners would not be inclined to trade away their stud closer.
Most Likely Not a Match
This is where it all ends. Looking at the Mariners they do not have any intriguing arms that they could send back other than Paxton or Walker. Felix Hernandez is not going anywhere, Iwakuma only has one year remaining on his deal, and pitchers like Ariel Miranda and Nathan Karns are not the types of arms you want when dealing Andrew McCutchen.
As stated earlier, the Mariners farm system is very weak compared to the league. They typically rank in the bottom 12 or so on most major sites. Outside of their top four prospects, the rest of their system is fairly weak. Their number one overall prospect Kyle Lewis is not going anywhere. He was their 2016 first round pick and put on a show in his first action. He ended up missing the end of the season with a serious knee injury. Then their top two pitching prospect are not estimated to reach the majors until 2018 or 2019, and neither are considered to be top prospects. They would be nice pieces, but not pieces you would want as the center piece of a deal.
All in all, the Seattle Mariners are not a great match for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They have a few pieces that could interest the Bucs. Specially young pitchers like Paxton, Walker, and Diaz, but chances are they would not be willing to move them. Combine that with a farm system that is lacking elite, top prospects and the Bucs would be better served to look elsewhere.
One other note. Although the talks did not go very far, that does not mean the Bucs or the Mariners will not have more discussion. The Mariners could have simply called and asked what the Bucs are looking for with the idea of taking time to mull over their other options. Same with the Pittsburgh Pirates, they now know the Mariners have interest. The Pirates could be trying to figure out if there is any package they would like from the Mariners. They could have also got a list of players from the Mariners. The list would be who the M’s would be willing to move and are looking over options. Also, the Bucs could have said they aren’t trying to move him unless it is significant. Thanks for the call. We really do not know what went on between the two sides. What we do know is Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners have interest. It would not be surprising to see the two in contact at the Winter Meetings in two weeks.