This is a great year to be a Seattle Mariners fan. The team is competitive, some of the young players on the team are having a lot of success, and the team is still relevant in June.
With the Mariners battling for first place, and above .500 for the first time since early April, some Mariners fans may want to see a big move. Those fans are wrong, and I'll tell you why.
Erik Bedard, Jack Wilson, Jack Cust, Adam Kennedy, and Jamey Wright will all be free agents at the end of the season, and while Bedard, Kennedy, and Wright have performed well this year, chances are they haven’t done and can’t do enough to bring their games up to Type A or B levels.
By far the most intriguing name on that list is Bedard, however, if the Mariners find a team looking for a platoon partner, left-handed hitters Cust and Kennedy could draw interest, while Jack Wilson could have some value (assuming the Mariners pay his salary) to a team looking for a glove-first shortstop. Wright could be a great waiver deadline candidate, as he can fill a ton of roles for interested teams, from the rotation to late-inning relief, if this year is any indication.
One could argue that any and all of the veterans mentioned in the previous slide is in some way keeping a prospect out of the Major Leagues. That isn’t necessarily bad, but considering the Mariners have guys like Dustin Ackley, James Paxton, as well as for-now Mariners like Carlos Peguero, Greg Halman, and Mike Carp to fill those positions, it may be the best option for the team to trade away its veterans.
Some of these guys have spent a lot of time in the Mariners farm system, and if they’re going to remain it would be nice to see them at the Major League level.
Of all the guys mentioned as veterans on previous slides, Erik Bedard is not only the best player, but also the youngest of the group (about two months younger than Cust). Perhaps the Mariners and Bedard could come to some sort of discounted pact this offseason, but I’d hardly like to see them take on that kind of risk considering the package they may get in return for Bedard.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve suggested that the Mariners sign Jason Vargas to an extension, and trade Doug Fister or Bedard (or Vargas for a big package). The team needs to compile some organizational talent depth, rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel with new smoke and mirrors every season.
As Sean Kramer is known to say after a Mariners victory, “It is great to be scoreboard watching in June.” The Mariners being in contention is one of the coolest things going on in Seattle sports at the moment. While attendance numbers may not show it, people care about this team more than past years.
But fan interest and viability are two different things. The Mariners may have scored just about as many runs as they’ve given up this year, but they’ve been statistically lucky, and walked a razor-thin tightrope of great pitching, and sometimes timely hitting. Even if the Mariners make it to the postseason, they’d probably struggle against better teams, and even the “lightning in a bottle, any team can win it” cliché is too far-fetched to start trading the young players Jack Zduriencik has worked so hard to stack up, just for a first round playoff exit.
With no ace of any kind available, so much parity in the MLB right now, and a high premium placed on late-inning relief of late, the Mariners are holding two very valuable potential pieces in Bedard and Brandon League. For each type of player, we’ve seen significant compensation in the past couple of years.
In the case of League, there may be no better example than Matt Capps. Capps was coming off an offseason that saw him get non-tendered by the Pirates, and posted good numbers in a brief stint with the Nationals before they traded Capps for Wilson Ramos, a guy once reportedly offered to the Mariners for Cliff Lee (along with Aaron Hicks). The Nationals added a very good catching prospect to an organization already fairly deep at the position, but Ramos was rated as the 58th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America prior to the 2010 season.
Bedard’s case is a little murkier. He’s definitely no Cliff Lee, who had a couple of really solid, consistent years that included a Cy Young Award under his belt when the Mariners traded him. One potential parallel is Ted Lilly, who was traded for a package whose best prospect was Blake Dewitt. Dewitt has turned out pretty bad so far in Chicago, but he was considered a viable prospect at the time.
The Mariners will not get Jesus Montero, but a B-prospect and a couple of interesting throw-ins is better for the future than another half-season on a non-contendor.