07/26/12 1:45 PM ET
More Mariners' veterans may be on trade block
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
Clearly the Mariners are in a seller's position, sitting at the bottom of the American League West as they try to build for the future with a roster that got even younger with Ichiro's departure.
General manager Jack Zduriencik holds his cards close to the vest in these situations. Word of Ichiro's deal didn't leak until moments before that trade went down, such as was the case when Seattle sent Michael Pineda to the Yankees for Jesus Montero in the offseason.
FoxSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi wrote on July 15 that Zduriencik told him he planned to retain Ichiro beyond the July 31 deadline, and expected him to return to Seattle next season. Eight days later, he'd been traded to the Yankees.
But without question, Zduriencik is building the Mariners roster around youth, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see more moves made that fit with the future in mind.
"We'll see what happens from now 'til the Trading Deadline, and see what happens at the end of the year," Zduriencik said after the Ichiro deal. "It's perfectly clear what we're doing here. There's no running from it. They're right in front of our eyes. We'll continue to do what we're doing."
The most obvious trade chips remaining are reliever Brandon League, and starting pitchers Jason Vargas and Kevin Millwood.
League and Millwood are in the classic "rental player" mode, as veterans who will be free agents at the end of the year.
League, 28, is earning $5 million this season after saving 37 games and receiving his first All-Star bid in 2011. He lost his closer job this year to Tom Wilhelmsen in June, but has posted a 1.64 ERA with four earned runs over 22 innings in 22 appearances since then. He could have value to a contending team looking to bolster its bullpen with a late-inning reliever who has closing experience.
Vargas, 28, is under club control for one more year, as he'll be in his final season of arbitration eligibility in 2013. After signing for $4.85 million this season, he figures to be in line for another significant raise. The left-hander has already equaled his career-high with 10 wins, as he's 10-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 21 starts.
Zduriencik will have to weigh whether he wants to deal another mid-rotation starter, having traded away Doug Fister and Erik Bedard at last year's deadline. But Seattle's organizational strength lies in its Minor League pitching, and if Vargas could bring some offensive help in return, Zduriencik might be persuaded to move him.
Vargas ranks fourth in the American League in innings pitched at 138, and is 10th in WHIP at 1.20, as he's given up just 127 hits and 38 walks while striking out 91.
Millwood, 37, is the type of veteran starter that could help a team in a pennant race, and he's on a $1 million contract after sticking with the Mariners out of Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. The big right-hander has suffered from a lack of run support, but has pitched effectively most of the year while posting a 3-8 record and a 4.13 ERA in 19 starts.
Veteran utility man Chone Figgins and catcher Miguel Olivo also are surely available, having both lost playing time to younger players. But neither has hit well, and Figgins still has one more year on his contract at $8 million.
With Ichiro gone, the club figures to have roster and payroll space to pursue a power bat in right field to supplement its young prospects, and Zduriencik will no doubt have his ears open in that regard. But those types of moves usually are made in the offseason, when both free agency and trades come into play.