What This Trade Does
The weird thing about the internet age is that by the time big moves are announced, they’ve been analyzed to death and there’s not much more to say. We got one of the best pitchers in baseball without giving up any real significant pieces of the franchises future. This is amazing, but you know this already.
So, at the risk of moving on from celebration prematurely, I’d like to spend a few minutes and talk about what this trade does to the team and the rest of the off-season.
Lee’s addition is a huge lift to the team’s true talent level, as the M’s have essentially swapped out (for now) one of Doug Fister/Jason Vargas/Carlos Silva for an all-star. They added about 4 to 5 wins to their expected total for 2010, depending on how much you like the collection of 5th starters the M’s currently have. This move, combined with the Figgins signing, gives the Mariners a true talent level of about 84 wins. And that’s with Saunders in left, Carp at first, and Griffey DH’ing.
The Mariners are now contenders. This vaults them into a similar arena of ability with the Angels and ahead of the Rangers and A’s. This team now has a legitimate chance to win the division in 2010, and because they’ve gotten bargains on Figgins and Lee, they still have the resources to go add a couple more pieces to fill out the roster and really give themselves a chance to play in October next year.
So now, the calculations change a bit. 2010 just got more important relative to the future than it was last week. The M’s have now put themselves into a position where the value obtained from upgrading the roster has a far more dramatic effect on the team’s chances of making the playoffs. In terms of the risk/reward balance of transactions, the reward for any move that improves the 2010 team just went up.
I talked about this a bit on FanGraphs last week, but the Mariners have just put themselves in a situation where the marginal value of each additional added win just went way up. The wins that push the team from 84 to 85 wins, 85 to 86, 86 to 87, and so forth have a much higher rate of return. The price the M’s should be willing to pay, both in acquisition costs and in the long-term/short-term trade-off, needs to reflect that. And I think you will see the team be aggressive in landing two more quality position players and perhaps a reliever, reflecting the reality that adding 4 to 5 more wins to this roster would make the M’s the best team in the AL West.
Before this trade, picking up a solid left fielder might not have been such a great idea, as the short term addition of a win or so over what Saunders could be expected to produce wouldn’t be worth the long term cost of not letting the youngster develop. Now, that win is important, and you can justify getting a guy like Luke Scott to take Saunders job. You can justify trading Brandon Morrow while his value is still lower than it could be if you get a significant upgrade at another position. You can justify putting together a huge package to try to convince the Padres to move Adrian Gonzalez (though that is still very unlikely).
This move changes everything. The M’s are contenders.