With the news that Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano will serve an 80-game suspension and become ineligible for the postseason after violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the club must decide where to go from here.
The short-term answer is to move Dee Gordon back to the keystone and allow Guillermo Heredia to play more in the outfield. Gordon remains an option to reassume the center-field job later in 2018, as he's provided adequate defense despite his inexperience as an outfielder.
But the Mariners are going to need an offensive boost, both during Cano's suspension and the postseason -- if they manage to end the longest playoff drought in American professional sports, that is. General manager Jerry DiPoto will also need to keep roster versatility in mind when exploring potential acquisitions, as Cano will be back in early August.
1. Acquire Eduardo Nunez from the Red Sox or Josh Harrison from the Pirates for No. 18 prospect Seth Elledge (RHP) or No. 20 prospect Rob Whalen (RHP)
The big plus with both Nunez and Harrison is that they can play all over the diamond and have thrived as super-utility players in the past, giving the Mariners excellent versatility once Cano returns. Although neither is perfect defensively (Harrison is the better of the two), both players could handle second base in the interim. From Boston's perspective, the club would free up some payroll dollars, make room for the rehabbing Dustin Pedroia and add a prospect who could provide bullpen depth later in the season.
As for the Pirates, the club shopped Harrison this past winter and has Jung Ho Kang preparing to help the Major League team at some point. Harrison may still be available for a reasonable price, especially because dealing the veteran wouldn't prevent Pittsburgh from remaining competitive in the National League Central. The Pirates are 25-17 and tied for first in their division, even though Harrison has been out since mid-April with a left hand fracture.
2. Acquire Starlin Castro from the Marlins for No. 3 prospect Sam Carlson (RHP) and No. 7 prospect Max Povse (RHP)
The Marlins and Mariners have already completed one deal together recently, with Miami sending Gordon to Seattle last December. A Castro trade makes sense for both sides, as the Marlins are in a clear rebuild and Castro is a quality veteran second baseman for a club with postseason aspirations. Additionally, with Castro in the fold, the Mariners would have the option to shift the 35-year-old Cano to first base or designated hitter down the stretch (and remain there next season) to put less strain on his body.
3. Acquire Cesar Hernandez from the Phillies for Carlson and No. 9 prospect Matthew Festa (RHP)
Hernandez was reportedly available during Spring Training, as Philadelphia was looking to make room for prospect Scott Kingery, but the Phillies ended up opening the season with both Hernandez and Kingery on the roster. The club might be more reluctant to trade the veteran now, as Hernandez has been one of the Phillies' most valuable players during their surprising start, while Kingery has struggled. However, the Mariners could offer a prospect package rich enough to get the job done, especially if the Phillies cool off by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Like Castro, Hernandez would give the Mariners the option to have Cano transition to a less demanding position as the veteran enters the twilight of his career.
4. Acquire Adam Jones from the Orioles for Carlson
With this deal, Jones would return to the team that drafted him in 2003 and then sent him to the Orioles as part of a package for Erik Bedard in 2008. Jones has gone on to become one of the top players in Orioles history since the trade, but he will be a free agent after this season and isn't likely to have a chance to reach the postseason with this year's Baltimore club. Jones' leadership and lineup presence are exactly what the Mariners need without Cano. This trade would also give the Mariners the option to push Cano to first base or DH, at least through the end of the season, as they can leave Gordon at second base with Jones in center. With Jones headed for free agency, the M's could reconfigure their alignment for 2019 with Cano at second and Gordon back in center.
5. Acquire Manny Machado from the Orioles for No. 1 prospect Kyle Lewis (OF) and Povse
Acquiring Machado would be a bold move, but it makes perfect sense for the Mariners. Current shortstop Jean Segura played second base for the D-backs in 2016 and could move back there with Machado at shortstop. Machado will be a free agent after this season and the bidding will be fierce, so acquiring him would be a major risk. But there's no denying the impact Machado would have on the Mariners' lineup as the club attempts to make the postseason for the first time since 2001.
Jim Duquette MLB.com