The Mariners in recent weeks touched base with the Cubs on shortstop Starlin Castro, asked the Royals about designated hitter Billy Butler, talked to other clubs about other hitters.

None of the talks progressed, according to major league sources. Virtually every team contacted the Cubs about Castro after a published report said he was available (he wasn't). Butler, too, remains relatively untouchable (he's under club-friendly salaries through 2015, and the Royals consider him a core piece.)

The point is not that a trade is about to happen; the Mariners just were doing their due diligence, conducting their normal pre-July business. No, the point is that the Mariners are in position to make a trade happen — if they choose.

Call it "Michael Pineda: The Sequel."

I've written before about the logic of the M's trading ace right-hander Felix Hernandez, prompting a flurry of "Hands off!" missives from the Pacific Northwest — as if King Felix is guaranteed to stay in Seattle beyond the expiration of his contract in 2014.

Well, trading Felix for the right package still would make sense, given the Mariners' offensive deficiencies. But if the M's prefer, they can deal from a different position of strength, offering one or more of their big young arms for a hitter of comparable age and promise.