League in the mix as Mariners explore trade opportunities

As we approach the last 24 hours before MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline — which is 1 p.m. PT on Tuesday — it’s clear the Mariners are interested in moving reliever Brandon League. No surprise there as League will be a free agent at season’s end and Seattle is in a seller’s position, sitting 10 games under .500 and 14 games out of first place in the AL West.

League’s name continues popping up as a potential match with the Dodgers, Giants and Angels, but I tend to not put much stock in any specific pre-trade talk because the guys doing the actual deals are usually the last ones leaking that news.

Did anybody know in advance that the Mariners were sending Ichiro to the Yankees? Any sources spreading early word on Michael Pineda going to the Yankees for Jesus Montero in December? How about last year’s trade deadline deals of Doug Fister to the Tigers and Erik Bedard to the Red Sox?

Nope, all those deals went down with no sources leaking word until right before the trades were done. So the fact the Mariners have talked to the Dodgers, Giants and Angels means little more than confirming what common sense already could have told you. League remains one of the Mariners main trade deadline chips, as we’ve said all along, and Jack Zduriencik is exploring the market.

Zduriencik has a couple guys that would make sense to move. League and Kevin Millwood are at the top of that list as “rental players” who’ll become free agents after the season, but could have short-term value to a team in contention.

Jason Vargas is the other one to watch. He has more value, since he’s under team control for another year as he heads into his final season of arbitration eligibility. He’s also having his best season as a starter. My sense is the Mariners won’t give up Vargas unless someone offers a pretty attractive offensive prospect in return, since they need middle-of-the-rotation starters behind Felix Hernandez and their young bucks aren’t ready quite yet.

Millwood is a different case. Manager Eric Wedge loves having him around as one of the few veteran leaders on the current club, but he’s 37 and in the final two months of a one-year, $1 million deal he signed as a non-roster invitee. Millwood has pitched pretty well this season, but lack of run support has left his record at 4-8 with a 3.90 ERA.

I asked him about a potential trade the other day and got the typical Millwood response.

“That’s just another thing I can’t control, so I try not to worry about things like that,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

What does he worry about at this point in his career?

“Not very much,” he said with a chuckle.

Millwood could help a playoff contender that needs a steady hand, so we’ll see if he goes.

As for League, he gave up three hits and three runs in Seattle’s 7-6 win over the Royals on Sunday, but has generally pitched better since losing his closer’s role to Tom Wilhelmsen in late May. Since then, he’s posted a 2.96 ERA with 27 hits, 8 runs, 7 walks and 14 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings.

Overall he’s 0-5 with a 3.63 ERA and nine saves this season. As a 2011 All-Star, when he saved 37 games, League is an experienced late-inning reliever who could bolster some team’s bullpen. He has about $1.8 million remaining on this year’s $5 million deal.

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