We are just coming out of the All-Star break, and already the trade rumors are swirling. The AL West is baseball’s best division, so it should be no surprise that the Angels and Mariners are involved in these trade rumors to try and catch the Oakland Athletics.
The Seattle Mariners are currently 8 games behind the Athletics for first place in the AL West. My personal opinion is that the Mariners are also the Athletics’ biggest threat, even with the Angels right on their heels, just 1.5 games behind. The Mariners have the pitching to stay out of a slump. It’s their offense that needs a boost. That is why they have been linked in 3 possible trade scenarios.
The first is a deal for Phillies’ outfielder Marlon Byrd. Byrd is approaching 37, but has slugged 18 HR and driven in 54 while batting .264. While the added pop may be nice for the Mariners, there are no-trade clause issues that come along with Byrd. If the Mariners were to acquire Marlon Byrd, those power numbers wouldn’t continue at Safeco.
Another trade rumor out there for the M’s is their interest in Billy Butler. Butler makes a little more sense because of his age (28), but no sense because of the season he is putting up. Currently, Butler is hitting .273 with 3 HR and 36 RBI. Butler is also relegated to full-time DH duties and doesn’t add much on the base paths. Betting on a turnaround in the second half, and buying low is a bold strategy. It could also be a long-term one. The Mariners’ touted prospects are starting to produce in the majors, and adding a bat with the potential of Billy Butler could be huge–next season.
The final trade rumor for the M’s is the juiciest. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Mariners have been talking to Tampa Bay about acquiring Ben Zobrist, and possibly David Price. Adding Price would give the Mariners one hell of a one-two punch with Felix Hernandez. Let’s focus on Zobrist though, since of the two, he is more likely to be on the move. Zobrist, like Butler, is having a down season. The attributes that make Zobrist appealing are his .352 OBP and that he can play multiple positions.
There is also the intangible of veteran leadership with Zobrist. With the Rays, he is familiar with a second-half run that propels a team to the playoffs. He’s a part of one nearly every season. Of the trade rumors for the Mariners, the addition of Zobrist is the one that would make them the best this season. The Mariners have the pitching to be a threat in the playoffs, but getting there may be the hard part for them.
As for the Angels, they have been involved in one trade rumor that has been fairly intriguing so far. They have been asking the Padres about former Athletic, Tyson Ross (7-10, 2.85). Obviously this would be a huge blow to the Athletics, solely because former A’s have a knack for performing extremely well against the current A’s roster. All jokes aside, this would be a solid addition to an Angels’ staff that ranks 11th in baseball with a 3.81 cumulative ERA. The only 2 AL teams ahead of them? The A’s and Mariners.
While adding Ross would give the Angels a boost in the rotation, their bullpen this season has been far worse, ranking 24th in baseball with a 3.89 ERA. They recently added lefty Joe Thatcher to the bullpen mix, but their closer at the moment is Joe Smith. Smith has been doing a tremendous job, accumulating a 2.32 ERA in 42 2/3 IP. The only reason his ERA is even that high? The Oakland A’s have teed off on Smith on a couple of occasions.
It is fair to speculate that adding a reliever to the mix is more important to the Angels than another arm in the rotation. A starter gets the ball every 5 days. A reliever can influence 3 games in that span.
If any of these trade rumors become more than rumors by the deadline, the teams chasing the A’s will have gotten better. If they are good enough to catch this Oakland team, we’ll just have to wait and see.