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Phillies trade targets: Mariners prospects

Every other day leading up to the All-Star break, we'll examine packages of prospects the Phillies should look to acquire in potential deals for their talented veterans. We'll go team-by-team, looking only at realistic contenders and trade partners.

Over the past 10 days, we've examined the Orioles, Blue Jays, Yankees and Tigers.

Today, we look at the Seattle Mariners, who would be in the playoffs if the season ended today:

The three best teams in the American League based on run differential all reside in the AL West. The Oakland A's lead the way at plus-145, followed by the Angels at plus-89 and the surprising Seattle Mariners at plus-57.

Seattle currently holds a 2½-game advantage on Kansas City and Toronto for the second AL wild-card spot.

But, as always, the Mariners need bats.

They've been heavily linked to Marlon Byrd in recent days, with the latest report out of Seattle citing "serious discussions" between the Mariners and Phillies. 

The M's desperately need some right-handed power and Byrd is probably their best available option via trade. He is second among all National League outfielders with 18 home runs and has more extra-base hits than Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Justin Upton, Ryan Braun, Adam Jones, Chase Utley, Hunter Pence, Josh Donaldson, Adrian Beltre, Hanley Ramirez and Jose Bautista.

Seattle has been using defensive specialist Endy Chavez in right field. GM Jack Zduriencik seems intent on replacing him with a bat who could slide into the middle of the Mariners' order behind Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager.

What makes Byrd even more appealing to Seattle is that he has power to all fields, he's not exclusively a pull hitter. That is important because Safeco Field is death to right-handed power hitters. Righties have hit homers in just 2.37 percent of their at-bats at Safeco since 2013, fifth-fewest in baseball. 

Seattle is one of four teams on Byrd's no-trade clause, but the rightfielder has indicated he'd be willing to waive that right.

What might he command in a trade? It should be a lot. Byrd has plenty of value and it's clearly a seller's market with so many teams still in playoff contention.

Just don't hold out hope of an impact bat -- the Mariners have had a series of failed offensive prospects. Second baseman/outfielder Dustin Ackley has not panned out, nor has outfielder Michael Saunders or middle infielders Brad Miller and Nick Franklin. Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero, two young players acquired via trade, have also disappointed.

Throw in the disastrous 2009 Cliff Lee-to-Seattle trade and there's an understandable hesitance from Phillies fans to deal with the Mariners.

But you can't hold Phillippe Aumont against Taijuan Walker or Tyson Gillies against James Paxton.

Walker and Paxton are two top pitching prospects for the M's. Walker finally debuted on June 30 after battling shoulder soreness for the first two-plus months of the seasons. Paxton has been sidelined by a back problem since early in the year as well.

Both are highly-touted and both struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings in the minors. Walker was ranked the sixth-best prospect in baseball by MLB.com before the season and Paxton was ranked 57th.

Paxton, a lefty, has impressed in six big-league starts over the last two years, going 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA and 34 strikeouts and 36 innings. He throws a mid-90s fastball, a knuckle curve, a cutter and changeup, and over his last two full minor-league seasons has limited lefties to a .231 batting average.

Walks are a concern. Paxton has issued 4.0 free passes per nine innings in the minors. But if the medical records check out and the Phillies can land Paxton, they'd be obtaining a major-league ready starting pitcher for Byrd.

It's highly unlikely the Mariners would deal the 22-year-old Walker for Byrd, so Paxton is a more realistic possibility. Walker has tremendous upside and has been labeled untouchable in recent trade talks.

Perhaps a package of Paxton and Ackley (a low-risk flier) for Byrd would work. Seattle needs the offense from Byrd more than it needs Paxton's arm. Starting pitchers have a 3.32 ERA at Safeco Field since the start of 2010, showing that the park's dimensions have made even average hurlers pitch above their heads.

Plus, the Mariners haven't made the playoffs since 2001. It's been a long drought, and this season is Seattle's first opportunity in quite a while to play meaningul baseball in the second half of the season. The Mariners haven't even finished above .500 since 2009. They need to make the most of this opportunity and it's expected that they will after signing Cano to that 10-year, $240-million deal over the winter.

Do the Phillies need a young outfielder to replace Byrd? Absolutely. Does that young outfielder exist in Seattle's system? No, especially not if you're looking for someone who can be ready in a year or two.

The Phils' 2014 offense would be pretty weak without Byrd, but it would be a short-term move with long-term benefits. Acquiring a young, inexpensive starting pitcher with upside like Paxton would enable the Phillies to spend less money on the rotation and more on fixing an ugly outfield situation.

Tomorrow, we'll look at trade fits between the Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers.