Taijuan Walker Trade Bait for the Seattle Mariners? Top Ten Trade Targets


I feel like I have established myself as the resident optimist on the staff, so I am not going to sit here and write about the Mariners’ below-average 5-7 start. Or Robinson Cano’s terrible base running mistake on Jackie Robinson Day. Or how terrible our pitching staff has been. Or how we got swept in L.A. Nope, I’m not going to write about any of those things.

What I am going to write about is Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias. So far in two starts, Walker–who had a 0.67 ERA in 27 Spring Training innings–has made it through just 7 1/3 innings and allowed 14 earned runs. That… is not very good. In the mean time, we have a southpaw down in Tacoma who posted a 3.85 ERA in 163 2/3 innings for the big league club in 2014. It appears that Walker will get the start tonight at home against the Houston Astros, but one more tough outing and he might be packing his bags for Tacoma.

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Taijuan Walker is a puzzling piece for the Seattle Mariners’ organization. Since he was drafted out of high school in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft, the hard throwing righty has been highly-touted by both the Mariners organization and baseball media nationwide. That being said, Walker has already had a couple of late season stints with the Ms in 2013 and 2014, and his slow start to 2015 has been nothing short of discouraging. Of course, it would be foolish to just give up on a top young arm like Taijuan Walker after a couple bad starts, but given the depth that Seattle has in their rotation with Elias and Danny Hultzen, trading Walker is not out of the question.

Aug 30, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher

Jesus Sucre

(2) and Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Roenis Elias (29) talk during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Trading young prospects is a difficult game. There is no question that Taijuan Walker would draw interest from many teams around the league, but the question is how much a team would be willing to pay for him. Although Walker is an extremely valuable piece to let go of, that is the point exactly. It is a risk/reward situation. You hang on to him and either A) he continues to struggle until he becomes just another Hector Noesi or B) he grows from his struggles and becomes the ace that he can be. On the flipside, if you trade a guy like Taijuan Walker now while he is extremely valuable, you can get a much higher return on the trade. If you wait two years and he turns out to be a devastating bust, you get much less value when you try and ship him off.

I have scoured through the rosters of the other 29 teams in the MLB and compiled a list of the top 10 players that the Mariners could go for with Walker. I looked only at players with two years or less on their contracts, as the Mariners would be looking for that kind of rental if they are in contention come late May or early June.

Top 10 Trade Options for Taijuan Walker:

Mar 24, 2015; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter

Chris Carter

(23) bats against the New York Mets at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

10.) Chris Carter, 1B, Houston Astros, 1 yr/4.175 million

This guy has power. Although inconsistent at times, he has refined his approach at the plate in Houston, and would be the kind of guy that could put balls out of Safeco. He could play first base if LoMo is struggling, or DH when Nelly Cruz is out in right field.

9.) Ryan Braun, LF, Milwaukee Brewers, 1 yr/12 million

Yeah, the dude has some baggage. But I think we can all agree that baseball has moved on from Braun’s 2013 suspension for PED’s. The bottom line is that Ryan Braun is an MVP left fielder that produces every year, steroids or not. He’s a bit pricey for an aging star, but could provide a massive spark for the Mariners if they are chasing down a deep playoff run.

8.) Mike Morse, 1B, Miami Marlins, 2 yr/16 million

Haha… NOT!


Jean Segura

, SS, Milwaukee Brewers, 1 yr/0.534 million

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This is one of the more intriguing guys that I found. The 25 year old shortstop has a career .274 average in his four seasons, and made the 2013 National League All-Star team in his first full season. While he is a highly valuable player, the Brewers do need some pitching and could be one of the top suitors for Walker.

Brad Miller is off to a decent start this year, but if Miller and Taylor turn into a couple of Yuniesky Betancourts come June, Segura could fill the position nicely for many years.

6.) J.D. Martinez, LF, Detroit Tigers, 1 yr/3 million

J.D. Martinez had a break-out year in 2014 for the AL powerhouse Detroit Tigers, batting .315 with 23 dingers in only 123 games. Having established himself as an above average offensive outfielder, Martinez will be looking for a long contract after 2015, and if I were Jack Zduriencik I would love to give him one. With Dustin Ackley beginning to lock down left field, the right handed bat of Martinez would fit in nicely in right field.

Apr 7, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder

Mark Trumbo

(15) triples in the second inning against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

5.) Mark Trumbo, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks, 1 yr/6.9 million

We watched Mark Trumbo hit a lot of home runs for the wrong team when he was with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Wouldn’t it be nice to see him do the same thing for the good guys? The 29-year-old averaged over 31 homers a year in three seasons with the Angels and drove in 100 runs in 2013. Trumbo’s 2014 was hampered by an injury, but he still managed 14 long balls and 61 RBI in only 88 games for the Diamondbacks. Trumbo is another guy that can put balls out of any stadium, and would be an offensive upgrade from Logan Morrison at first base.

4.) Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays, 2 yr/20 million

I don’t need to say too much about Encarnacion. He has established himself as a prolific home run threat in five seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, although the Jays do play at the offensive-friendly Rogers Centre. Encarnacion is 32 years old, which is a bit of a concern, but Nelson Cruz is almost 35 and he is doing just fine. A fairly expensive option, but the first baseman/DH would add even more star power to the Mariners’ stacked roster.


Jason Heyward

, RF, St. Louis Cardinals, 1 yr/7.8 million

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Since coming to the league at age 20 in 2010, Heyward has put up consistent offensive numbers as both a threat in the batter’s box and on the base paths. In five full seasons he has racked up an All-Star game selection and two gold gloves.

The only thing here is that the five tool right fielder was just acquired by the Cardinals in a trade this off-season, so I’m not sure they would be willing to deal him. If the price was right, however, Heyward could either provide a spark for the Mariners at the top of the lineup, or drive in some runs in the six or seven hole.

2.) Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals, 1 yr/11 million

I really wanted Zduriencik to go for Desmond in the off-season. Home-grown talent is great, but I’m getting tired of the unpredictability of the shortstop position that the Mariners have experienced over the past decade or so. Competing for a World Series berth is difficult, but it’s even harder when you don’t know what you’re going to get offensively or defensively from your shortstop. In his seventh season with the Nationals, the 29-year-old Desmond has a career batting average of .270 and would provide a solid bat from the shortstop position. Although he is known to have defensive struggles from time to time, Ian Desmond is one of the best offensive shortstops in the game and would be a fantastic addition to the Seattle Mariners.

Apr 15, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder

Justin Upton

hits a solo home run during the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park. The Padres beat the Diamondbacks 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

1.) Justin Upton, OF, San Diego Padres, 1 yr/14.5 million

I hesitated to put Justin Upton at number one, largely because of his contract, but I’m sticking with my guns on this one. Moving to the Padres in a blockbuster deal with the Braves this off-season, the 27-year-old Upton has averaged 26 home runs and 84 RBI per season in the big leagues, and can play any position in the outfield. Although Upton vetoed a trade to the Mariners back in 2013, Seattle is no longer on the list of teams in his no-trade clause. Upton would likely play right field for the Ms, and would sure look good in the middle of the lineup with Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

Honorable Mentions:

Ichiro Suzuki, RF, Miami Marlins, 1 yr/2 million

Wouldn’t it be fitting? “Ichiro Returns to Seattle to Help Take Mariners on Playoff Run”. Obviously, Taijuan Walker is worth more than just Ichiro Suzuki, who may not even be a starter on the Mariners current roster. That being said, the Marlins have loads of young talent, and it would be pretty sweet to see the all-time single season hits leader back in a Mariners uniform. If the Marlins could package together a tasty enough offer, this might actually make some good sense.

Ben Revere, RF, Philadelphia Phillies, 1 yr/4.1 million

The Mariners have shown interest in outfielders like Michael Bourn and Revere over the past few seasons, and the latter would provide a serious jolt of speed at the top of the lineup. At only 26 years of age, Revere is one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, and steals a whole lot of bags. As long as Austin Jackson continues to pick it up, the Mariners are more in need of a power bat than a speedster, but if A-Jax begins to falter, Revere would be a great option in the one hole.

Justin Morneau, 1B, Colorado Rockies, 1 yr/ 7.25 million (2016 option)

Aging? Yes. History of injuries? Yes. Former MVP and perennial All-Star? Yes. From 2006 to 2009, Justin Morneau was one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball, winning the MVP award in 2006 with a .321 average, 34 home runs and 130 RBI. Now, that was a long time ago, but the point is, this is a player that can do some things very well. He is an above average defensive first baseman and can still hit the ball a bit, batting .319 with 82 RBI in 2014 with the Rockies. Morneau would provide veteran leadership and a reliable bat in the middle of the lineup for skipper Lloyd McClendon.

Mar 30, 2015; Peoria, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Taijuan Walker (32) pitches against the Los Angeles Angels at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Taijuan Walker might dominate on Tuesday against the Astros and never look back. That would be fantastic, as the Mariners have been carefully developing the potential ace since day one. But things don’t always work out, and if the 22-year-old gets hit hard and struggles to find the strike zone again, some questions might be raised.

We know that Jack Zduriencik is not afraid to deal the young talent, who was reportedly part of the trade that Justin Upton vetoed in 2013. Only time will tell what comes of Taijuan Walker as a Seattle Mariner, but if he continues to struggle it may be best to sell him high, before it’s too late.

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