Originally, the Mariners were in the clear. Then, they weren’t.
Now the question yielded is should the Mariners make a run at him?
Those who lack the short memory of a good closer surely recall the Bill Bavasi era. Trade useful pieces of the future in exchange for trying to win now—the most referenced, of course, being the Erik Bedard fiasco. Send the farm and all our spare baseballs for an oft-injured pitcher.
It’s true that Bedard came with huge risk considering his injuries and time remaining on his contract. What we learned later was that the risk came without much potential for reward. Even if he had pitched 35 games in 2008 and 2009 at top level, his contributions would not have helped a flawed roster. Then, he probably takes off for a big payday.
Our consolation, even under that best case scenario? Draft pick compensation that now has to be developed to replace the near-major league ready talent we shipped out in the first place.
So should the Mariners dare history to repeat itself?
What would the price be to acquire Upton? The Diamondbacks don’t need to trade him, and they very well may not. They are willing to listen, though. Being in that position, you can almost certainly expect the price tag for the Mariners to start with Michael Pineda and one of Justin Smoak or Dustin Ackley.
Pineda is the top-ranked pitching prospect in the organization. Smoak was the prize piece in the Cliff Lee trade. Ackley was the No. 2 overall pick who rocketed through the minors.
Is that price too steep? Which of the position players would you be more willing to give up? Who replaces any of the three when you realize the system has nothing close in the organization at their respective positions? What do we do with Michael Saunders now?
These are all good questions, which may lead many fans to just say “no thanks” and prefer that the team continue to build on the current young foundation. Of course, we all still remember the dizziness after swallowing the Bedard pill.
This pill is quite different, though. Justin Upton is a 23-year-old budding star locked up for several more years at what could be a huge bargain. The risks with a position player are historically far less than those of a pitcher, so Pineda for Upton is a good swap. But you still have to add Smoak or Ackley.
Can the team survive the loss of two of those three? When payroll wiggle room arrives in 2012, your core of Felix Hernandez, Ichiro, Upton, Franklin Gutierrez and Smoak or Ackley gives you a solid foundation to start dipping into free agency. This could be a move to gain long-term value from a player who has already shown he can play at the highest level—and he might get even better.
This won’t end with the pleasant surprise that acquiring Gutierrez in the J.J. Putz deal did, as Upton is already on the map. However, I think we can all rest assured that Jack Zduriencik’s scouting skills will help him make the right decision.
The notoriously close-lipped front office won’t be giving us any hints, but with the winter meetings kicking up next week, keep your eyes and ears peeled. Jack will be going to work.
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