With six starters on the Mariners’ roster at the moment, fifth starter candidates Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen have both emerged as potential trade candidates. President of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto confirmed at today’s GM Meetings that other clubs were showing interest in Flexen back at the trade deadline and have expressed continued interest in the right-hander throughout this week’s GM Meetings in Las Vegas (Twitter link via Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times).
Flexen isn’t the only Mariners arm who’s drawn interest; Dipoto told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that his team is “getting hit constantly, up and down, with our bullpen, our starters.” However, Dipoto also stressed that he doesn’t plan to subtract from his bullpen via trade, but rather hopes to further augment an already strong relief corps.
As things stand, the Mariners have a deep rotation — with six starters for five spots. Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby make up one of the sport’s best rotation quartets, and they’re trailed by a pair of solid fifth starter options in Flexen and longtime Mariner Marco Gonzales. Seattle also has young Matt Brash as a potential option, and while the thinking is that he’s likely bullpen-bound for the foreseeable future, Dipoto told Divish that Brash would head to Spring Training stretched out as a starter and be downshifted into a relief role if the rotation remained healthy and did not undergo any other changes.
Those potential changes, quite likely, are in reference to a possible trade of Flexen and/or Gonzales. While neither is going to front any team’s rotation, both pitchers are serviceable options in the fourth or fifth spot of a starting staff, and both are relatively affordable. Flexen is set to earn $8MM next season after triggering a vesting option on his contract. He’ll only have three-plus years of service time at that point, but MLBTR has confirmed that the two-year deal Flexen signed upon returning from the KBO allows him to become a free agent next winter. As such, he’s a one-year rental.
Since returning from a one-year stint in the KBO, the 28-year-old Flexen has pitched 317 1/3 innings of 3.66 ERA ball for the Mariners. His 16.5% strikeout rate has been well south of league-average, but he’s better than average in terms of walk rate (6.8%) and limiting home runs (1.02 HR/9). Flexen has also averaged better than 5 2/3 innings per start and done a decent job minimizing hard…