Mariners trade for Austin Jackson, Chris Denorfia, and other trade reactions

For a lot of people I could see how the Mariners trading for Chris Denorfia seems stupid. He’s not a great offensive player, and the Mariners need offense goddammit. Denorfia hits lefties well, and even while struggling this year has been decent against southpaws, and shouldn’t have too hard a transition going from Petco to Safeco.

The Mariners aren’t transformed into a World Series contender by acquiring Denorfia, but they gave up Abraham Almonte and a pitcher most people haven’t heard of for about a projected half-win from Denorfia, who could regress positively on offense, and who is certainly an overall upgrade from whoever the team planned on playing the rest of their innings in right field if the team didn’t make a move. Denorfia is a nominal center fielder, and I’m a bit surprised at how crappy his defense has been in relatively limited time there. He’s a plus defender in a corner, and pretty bad in center. He’s 34 years old, so there’s not much regression expected towards improved defensive results. He’s under contract for the rest of 2014. This isn’t a sexy trade. Though exotic sounding, Denorfia’s name doesn’t warm the loins of any baseball fans. It’s a marginal gain at a minimal cost though. Anything Denorfia does is almost exclusively surplus value, because he cost nearly nothing to acquire, and makes very little money.

The team was also involved in a trade that included David Price, and apparently Oakland and Detroit are compelled to just have all of the pitchers. The Mariners didn’t get Price in the deal, but got Austin Jackson. I don’t love Austin Jackson, and considering the early peak of elite defense, it’s worrisome that Jackson has negative defensive value for more than a season-and-a-half. He’s not a great hitter, and has a moderate reverse split, meaning the team’s marginal gain against lefties is minimized. He can play center field though. Essentially nobody else in the Mariners organization can do that at this point. Everyone sucks at center field but Jackson, which means Jackson is a large upgrade.

I don’t like giving up five years of team control on Nick Franklin for him, though at least Franklin is all the Mariners had to include. Jackson is projected for 0.9 WAR the rest of the season and about three wins next year. After the 2015 season Jackson is scheduled to become a free agent. If that remain true, the Mariners will have traded considerable potential value in Franklin’s future for 1.5 years of an above average center fielder. The team is drifting away from a wildcard berth right now, and their chances of a deep playoff push are also remote.

Jackson is due the rest of $6 million this year, and should end up somewhere between $7-8 million in 2015. That’s $10-11 million the team could allocate to a free agent, or to an extension for a guy like Kyle Seager. It shouldn’t be backbreaking, though the Mariners have been stingy with money in the past half-decade, but it is the perfect representation of opportunity cost. The team may not have been able to find an elite center fielder in next season’s free agent class, but Jackson isn’t an elite center fielder. He’s fine, and if they can sign him to an extension next offseason, they could potentially buy out his prime years for something under market value and earn some surplus value. The Mariners know much better than I do if they’ll be able to do that, but from where I sit, it’s hard to combine the opportunity cost of both the money and Franklin and see the Mariners coming out way ahead.

For Franklin, this trade represents a couple of things. He’ll probably get a shot in the infield, which is good for him. His value is probably maximized at second or third base. He grew up in Florida, and while I don’t really think that means much, I think that if he’s successful Mariners fans and Rays fans may sluff off some of the blame with “moving closer to home” as the catalyst for his success. I like Franklin’s game, and I am scared as hell to make a deal with the Rays almost always, because the Rays are smart. Generally I think the Mariners are dumb, so I think they’re prone to make a bad deal with any team, but the Rays are one of the best run teams in the league.

It’s a bit surprising that the Rays only got Franklin and Drew Smyly for Price. I like Smyly, but he’s been basically a bullpen/rotation for the Tigers, albeit a Tigers team with an incredibly deep rotation. If I had my druthers, I’d have rather seen the Mariners figure out who the Rays thought was as good as Drew Smyly, and gotten 1.5 years of David Price instead of Austin Jackson.

In other trade news

Today the A’s traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. Gomes pretty much replaces Cespedes immediately, if not completely. Lester is very good, but the A’s can’t capitalize on tendering him a qualifying offer. It’s doubtful anyone had a Cespedes trade on their radar for anyone, especially in a Lester trade. The deal has a ton of present value for the A’s, who should barely skip a beat, and the Red Sox should get at least 1.5 of Cespedes’ prime years. This is kind of ideal for both teams, as the A’s probably couldn’t afford to keep Cespedes past 2015 when they’d have to extend him, and the Red Sox, who stand to lose both Gomes and Lester in free agency.

The Red Sox struck immediate value again trading for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig in exchange for John Lackey. Craig should find Fenway favorable for his bat, and while I’m not in love with Kelly’s peripherals, he’s touted pretty highly by some prospect analysts.

The Marlins are stupid and the Astros are smart. Colin Moran was one of the Marlins top prospects, and while Jarrod Cosart, the principle player coming back in the trade they made with the Astros, may have good results, they’ll be aided substantially by his home ballpark. This year’s Marlins have seen Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi experience good results with questionably peripherals, namely lackluster strikeout rates, with much of the credit belonging to Marlins Park. The Astros also receive Jake Marisnick, a glove-first center fielder who has ranked on prospect lists in the past.