The trade between the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds involving Zack Cozart never came to be during the 2016 MLB season, but the talks are on again during the offseason, probably a more comfortable setting to make it happen this time.
The Mariners don’t feel they have to get the shortstop, but they also feel that Ketel Marte could use some more time developing in the minors. Just like the Cozart deal: It would be beneficial, but it’s not a must. Marte, 23, played in 119 games last season for Seattle. He batted .259 and posted a .610 OPS, showing slightly disappointing numbers in his first almost full season, way lower than his 2015 stint in the majors. In short, his rookie year showed a lot more promise than his sophomore one. The Mariners are a team looking to contend, and know they need someone better, not feeling any rush when it comes to Marte. Keeping him as a backup or sending him down at times next season seems like an option they’d like to have.
Cozart, who’ll be a free agent at the end of the 2017 season, has six years of major league experience behind him. He batted .252 last season, and most importantly hit a career high 16 home runs. He’s 31, which means that if the Mariners do add him, it might not be for the long term but more to finally give themselves another piece to make it to the playoffs. He’s also a terrific defensive player, which would make a substantial upgrade over Marte, at least short term.
Last season the deal would have included Cozart and a minor leaguer to Seattle in exchange for Luiz Gohara. I’m not sure that’s the kind of deal that will work in Winter time.
It doesn’t mean there are no concerns regarding Cozart. He had an ACL and LCL tear in 2015 and knee problems in 2016 made him miss 41 games. But he looked solid and healthy in September, and that means the Mariners aren’t the only team trying to get him. The Reds have mentioned a time or two that there’s interest in Cozart, and they have interest in moving him. He made $2.9 million last season, and there’s no long term deal coming. He’ll probably be making around $4.7 million through arbitration, unless the two sides strike a one-year deal or something like that. It’s unlikely the Reds will go down that road.