In two of the past three days the Mariners offseason has taken some major hits in terms of its allure.
When the Dodgers signed Zack Greinke it seemed like the Mariners took a pretty big hit in the Josh Hamilton department, as the Rangers seemed to only have the resources to sign one of Hamilton or Greinke. We don’t know that that’s true. We made huge assumptions to think that. But we thought it. It makes sense logically. By signing a guy for a lot of money, the Rangers would have had less money. If we assume they don’t have an unlimited supply of money, they would certainly have been closer to their limit after signing Greinke.
Now Kevin Towers has come out and said that the Diamondbacks are “highly unlikely” to trade Justin Upton, the same day as he traded for his future shortstop in Didi Gregorius, first baseman Lars Anderson, and reliever Tony Sipp. So the Diamondbacks GM came out and said the team wouldn’t be trading Upton. He also gave up Trevor Bauer, so I’d assume that if you called him up and offered him every top Mariners pitching prospect he’d change his mind, but I’d also assume the Mariners don’t value Upton that highly. I don’t know if the Rangers have the pitching prospects to complete that trade, either.
If the Mariners don’t sign Hamilton though, it seems likely they’ll only to be able to make a big splash in trade, as the free agent market seems to be drying up. The segment of the market that remains strong in terms of supply, though, is starting pitching.
I remember when Bobby Valentine interviewed in Seattle, and after being considered the favorite before the team signed Eric Wedge as their manager, the Mariners sent Valentine away. It was a comical moment, as Valentine has been oft-considered a good—albeit volatile—manager, and appeared in demand after a couple of years on ESPN after coaching in Japan. The headline that stands out to me from that day was this one from Lookout Landing: “Bobby Valentine Must Be One Lousy Interview.”
It seems like the same must be true for Edwin Jackson.
Obviously a job interview as a means for players to convince future employers to hire them requires some poetic license. It’s not like Jackson is waiting a lobby sweating through an Izod shirt and clip-on tie. Instead, he’s been worth basically four wins per season for the three seasons leading up to last year, and was worth nearly three last year. He’s been on par with Anibal Sanchez peripherally, but has a much smaller market it appears.
Last year when he signed a one year deal with the Nationals, NASORB writer Sean Kramer sent me a text message proclaiming Jackson a capitalist. He wasn’t concerned with winning surmised Kramer. Well, Washington won the NL East, in part because of Jackson’s contributions.
Jackson dumped perennial greed-monger Scott Boras as his agent, turned in another good season, pitched for his fourth team in three years, having pitched well at each stop, and still he has no market. Sure, Jackson has likely built himself a bit of a reputation as greedy, and it’s hard to blame all of his greed on Boras, but as the bottom drops out of Jackons market again it may be time for the Mariners to position themselves in a place to catch him.
But the Mariners need a goddamned bat!
Let’s say the Mariners go out and trade for Asdrubal Cabrera. He’s a shortstop who plays a pretty bad shortstop. He’s lost the Indians nearly 30 runs in the past three years compared to replacement level, and most teams inquiring about him this offseason have been looking to move him off the position. If he stays there, his three-win average is barely a gain over Brendan Ryan‘s two-win average. If he takes over third base he pushes Kyle Seager off the position, either to left field or second base in all likelihood meaning Cabrera would most likely be stealing plate appearances from Dustin Ackley, who has been bad but represents a large part of the future, or one of the Mariners three-and-a-half outfielders. The team is likely to receive a one-win-ish marginal gain, but pay significant dollars and prospects to get it.The Mariners need offense, but they’re at a point where they have about three-and-a-half outfielders for four spots, the largest part of their catcher platoon filled, second and third base, shortstop, and utility infielder filled. Save for an obvious outfield starter like Cody Ross, the Mariners only option is going to be to acquire an outfielder or first baseman in trade, or marginalize the value of any acquisition they make by taking plate appearances away from an otherwise productive regular.
But the Mariners have only three rotation spots sewn up, maybe four if you consider Erasmo Ramirez a lock for the fourth spot. Still, signing Jackson wouldn’t take productive time away from Erasmo Ramirez, rather, it would probably mean that Blake Beavan doesn’t start for this team. In the WAR formula, Beavan is about a perfect representation of replacement level, so any improvement in one of the second-to-fourth starter spots becomes a net gain that is equal to the gross gain.
Jackson may still have delusions of receiving a multi-year deal at an annual salary that ends in “teen.” If that’s the case the Mariners should simply hang up the phone and move along. But if he’s available for less than that, say two years, $18 million, the Mariners should be all over him. He’d instantly be the team’s second best starter, no matter what rotation slot he ended up in, and would reduce the pressure on bringing Danny Hultzen or Taijuan Walker up, and is still young enough that he’s got potential to remain productive and sign again in Seattle without forcing them to sign him deep into his post-prime years, and would help account for mitigating what seems like the inevitable drop in production from Jason Vargas next year.