Welcome back to the 29 trades in 29 days series. Every day, I will be taking a look at a new MLB team in an effort to find a trade package that makes sense for the Kansas City Royals to hypothetically pursue. For some ground rules and an example, check out the first installment of the series. Today, let's wrap up our run with the American League West as I examine a possible trade involving the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners became one of America's teams towards the end of the season, as it seemed like a bulk of the neutral fans wanted to see them finally snap their long playoff drought. I was not one of those fans.
To put it frankly, I think what the Mariners did last year was a complete fluke and that putting three guys in the lineup who are either below or right at the Mendoza line is not conducive to winning 90-plus games. The Mariners also know this as well and if they're going to break through in a tough AL West, they need to look for someone to help them get over the top.
Fortunately for the Mariners, the Royals have the exact player to get them over the top and fortunately for the Royals, the Mariners have a litany of players to choose from in order to recoup some solid value.
Seattle Mariners Receive: UTL Whit Merrifield
Kansas City Royals Receive: LHP Marco Gonzalez, RHP Paul Sewald, 3B Milkar Perez
Royals fans have been split into two camps when it comes to Merrifield. There's the side that thinks he should be traded every single year for players and prospects, and then there’s the side that wants to keep him on the team because he’s usually a top member of the club. However, now might be the perfect time for the Royals to finally trade him to get the package they’ve been looking for. These two sides were also rumored to be engaging in trade talks last year, and both teams have had time to evaluate their positions.
The Mariners' biggest weaknesses in the lineup were in left field and at second base, both positions that Merrifield could hold down with ease. He'd also be adding some much-needed veteran leadership to a team that will lose Kyle Seager this offseason. Another issue for the Mariners was stolen bases, as the only player with more than 10 swiped bags in 2021 was Dylan Moore, and he hit .181 on the year.
Merrifield, even off a down season last season, would’ve still ranked third on the Mariners in terms of WAR, only behind Ty France and J.P. Crawford. He also would have led the team by a mile in stolen bases and ranked second in batting average. The Mariners need a player like Merrifield in the same way the Royals needed Ben Zobrist to get to the World Series.
In return for giving the Mariners a massive upgrade, the Royals get what they desperately need: quality pitching and versatile prospects.
We’ll start with Gonzalez who, after a rough beginning to his career, has turned himself into a solid middle-of-the-rotation left-handed pitcher who can get you 25-plus starts a season and put up an ERA in the 3s. What’s even better than picking up a veteran left-handed starter is getting one who can be acquired at a reasonable cost, as Gonzalez is only on the books for $5.75M next season and $6.75M the following year, with his salary rising to $12.25M in 2024 with a $15M team option for 2025.
The second pitcher in this trade is Sewald, a veteran pitcher who could add some experience to this Royals pitching staff. The concern with Sewald is the lack of prior success. When you compare this past season to the ones he had put up prior, his ERA in the four seasons prior was 5.50. His FIP was over a run lower than his ERA over that stretch, though. He put up solid numbers out of the Mariners' bullpen in 2021, with an ERA of 3.08 fueled by an effective fastball, slider, changeup mix. Add in the fact that he’s also under control until 2025, and the Royals will be getting lasting value out of this trade.
Perez is the prospect in this trade for the Royals that I would like to see them pick up but if the Mariners make an ultimatum of making them have to choose either Sewald or Perez, I’d like for the Royals to take the more experienced option in Sewald. That’s not to say that Perez doesn’t have tools, because he does.
Perez has an elite level arm which not only allows him to have a potential at both third base and shortstop, but it could also see him get moved to the outfield if the need arose. It seems like his bat will be the actual determining factor of where he plays, as he has great bat speed that generates a lot of line drives and fly balls but doesn’t result in elite level home run production. He hits for a good average and got on base at an insane .455 rate this year in Single-A. His versatility makes him a very intriguing prospect going forward and if the Royals have to add a sweetener like Mike Minor or Joel Payamps to the deal to make it happen, I wouldn’t be against it.
Outside of the players, the best part about this trade is the amount of roster control the Royals would gain. As hard as it might be to say goodbye to a player that has done so much for the franchise during some pretty bleak years, it’s a necessary step to take in order to push the franchise forward.
For the Mariners, they are the owners of the current longest playoff drought in baseball. If they want any chance of breaking that streak and qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2001, they need to realize that having a three-man run of futility at the bottom of the lineup will not lead them back to the postseason. This trade presents a true and rare win-win opportunity for both sides.