The MLB trade market figures to heat up when the annual winter meetings begin on Sunday in San Diego.

After two offseasons worth of rumors, the Seattle Mariners finally agreed to a four-year deal with Nelson Cruz worth $58 million on Monday, as reported by Bob Dutton of The (Tacoma) News Tribune. That clearly changes their strategy at the winter meetings, but the Mariners likely aren’t done yet.

Dutton adds that Seattle’s next priority will be to add a right fielder. The Mariners apparently believe Michael Saunders is not the answer, making him expendable and opening up a hole in the outfield.

Melky Cabrera and Torii Hunter are the best two free-agent fits remaining. However, that would force the Mariners to play one of them or Cruz on defense, which is far from ideal.

Instead, the Mariners may have to make a trade to get outfield help, which could very well happen at the upcoming meetings. But the deals general manager Jack Zduriencik avoids making will be just as important as the trades he makes.

Earlier in the offseason, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reported that the Mariners had interest in Yoenis Cespedes and that the Boston Red Sox liked Hisashi Iwakuma, setting up the framework of a potential trade.

However, Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times believes a straight one-for-one swap is unlikely and with good reason.

Cespedes may be a little overrated, but he is still a solid player with a .263/.316/.464 career line. He was worth 3.4 WAR a year ago and would presumably be somewhat of an upgrade over Dustin Ackley in left field.

Iwakuma put up 3.2 WAR last season, and there would be a substantial drop-off to whoever would replace him. Seattle would just be moving holes around with such a trade.

Justin Upton and Matt Kemp are potentially available, but the need is less after the Cruz addition. The Mariners are now going to be hesitant to trade six years of Taijuan Walker for one year of Upton or the $107 million remaining on Kemp’s contract.

Seattle’s roster could likely compete for a playoff spot as it stands. Still, there’s a sense of urgency to win now, and the Mariners might look to make a couple other moves to upgrade the outfield or add depth to the starting rotation.


Shop a relief pitcher

One of Seattle’s main strengths in 2014 was the bullpen, which led the majors with a 2.59 ERA. The Mariners don’t want to break that up too much, but relievers can be volatile year to year, and Seattle is deep at the position.

Fernando Rodney isn’t likely to be traded while the club is contending. Still, someone at peak value like Brandon Maurer or Tom Wilhelmsen could be a piece in a potential deal.

Seattle won’t get a big name at the cost of just a relief pitcher alone. But at the very least, the Mariners could grab a fourth outfielder who could platoon or fill in for Saunders should he be traded or miss time with injury.

Players like Justin Ruggiano and Marlon Byrd are among possible candidates. If Zduriencik can find a deal in the same vein as the Carter Capps for Logan Morrison trade of last winter, he should pull the trigger.


See what Chris Taylor or Brad Miller could bring back

It’s possible for Miller and Taylor to coexist on Seattle’s roster in 2015. Still, it would be better to get some value back rather than have one of them sit on the bench or in Triple-A.

Choosing between Taylor and Miller won’t be easy, however. 

Miller has posted roughly league-average numbers at the plate through the first 200 games of his career despite a horrible slump early last season and will likely improve.

Taylor hasn’t shown an ability to hit for any power whatsoever but brings value defensively and on the bases.

If the Mariners firmly decide on a starter, the backup could return a starting pitcher or outfield help. A package of a shortstop and a reliever lines up with the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ needs, but they would likely want more in exchange for Kemp unless the Mariners pick up a significant chunk of salary.


All stats via unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on