The bad deal
Okay, so the deal of doom has been reported by just about every media outlet known to man. The Mariners are still refusing to officially confirm that a deal is in place, but they’re no longer denying it, and it’s clear that this trade is going to happen, barring an 11th hour miracle.
The Mariners have traded a good 27-year-old pitcher for a mediocre 27-year-old pitcher.
Forget everything else you’re going to hear for a minute. Forget the starter vs reliever designations, years of service, groundball rates, all of it. The M’s traded a pitcher who will be 27 in two weeks for a pitcher who turned 27 two weeks ago in a straight up, one for one deal. It’s a challenge trade, essentially. The M’s chose left-handedness and a designation as a starting pitcher over talent and performance. They swapped a good pitcher for a mediocre one, and none of the issues about rotation vs bullpen can wipe that away.
This is a bad deal. We’re obviously against this in every way, shape, and form. Horacio Ramirez is not the kind of guy you trade arms like Rafael Soriano’s for. Horacio Ramirez is the kind of arm you pick up as a throw-in to a deal or that you sign for a cheap, one year contract as a free agent. Like they were going to do with John Thomson. He’s John Thomson’s left-handed twin.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, this deal still has a good chance to look okay for the M’s in retrospect? We were in favor of dealing Rafael Soriano this offseason for the same reason the M’s were willing to give him up – I believe that it’s only a matter of time until he needs surgery on his arm again, and that he’s one of the highest risk pitchers in MLB. There’s a very real chance that he blows his arm out in May and spends the next year and a half rehabbing, returning just in time to become a free agent after the 2008 season.
That chance that Rafael Soriano was going to turn into a near useless asset if they held onto him, and that he was going to be used as an 8th inning setup man, made it wise to deal him. There’s still a very real chance that Rafael Soriano is going to turn into a near useless asset. He comes with all kinds of risk, and the reward for the Mariners wasn’t as high as it should have been.
And, for all his mediocreness, Horacio Ramirez does some things well. In 520 innings in the majors over four years, he’s posted a groundball rate of 49.7%. He uses a two-seam fastball to induce a lot of grounders, which reduces the need to post an excellent strikeout rate. Miguel Batista, for instance, has been using this skillset to be a decent back-end starter for years, and there are plenty of left-handed, 50% GB guys who don’t strike anyone out and regularly post decent to average seasons in the rotation.
Most of them have better command than Ramirez does, however, and all of them have better health records. For all the talk about Soriano’s arm, Ramirez isn’t exactly a workhorse. He’s already had shoulder surgery, and missed half of 2006 recovering from problems with his arm, his groin, his hamstring, and his finger. Durable isn’t a word used to describe the man.
He’s only got three full years of major league service, so he’s not free agent eligible until after 2009, and he’s certainly going to command less in salary than a comparable free agent starting pitcher. If he’s healthy and everything goes well, he could give the M’s 200 league average innings for the next couple of years, in which case this trade would probably be a win for the Mariners.
But trades aren’t evaluated by the performance of the best case scenario for the guy you’re getting and the worst case scenario for the other guy. Yes, this trade can work for the M’s if Ramirez stays healthy and Soriano blows out his arm. But that’s not how you evaluate whether you should make a deal or not.
Soriano’s just a better pitcher than Horacio Ramirez, and the M’s a worse team for having exchanged the two.
To this deal, I just have one word: Boooooooooooooooooooo.