Choose Your Own Conclusion
It’s not quite an adventure, but the Morrow for League/Chavez trade is certainly a departure from what we have come to expect from the Mariners over the last year. Safe to say, there are not too many Mariner fans who like the return. Whatever you think of Morrow, an arbitration eligible reliever and an A-ball version of Wladimir Balentien is not exactly what we expected his market value to be.
So, I think this trade leads to three possible conclusions. You can pick any of the three.
1. These guys are not fans, at all, of Brandon Morrow, and had no interest beginning the season with him in the starting rotation. They shopped him all winter, and this was the best they could do. They like League as a reliever more than Morrow as a reliever, and since they didn’t see Brandon as a starter, they took the chance to upgrade the bullpen. This also requires us to conclude that no one in baseball sees Morrow as a particularly valuable piece, since this was theoretically the best the team could do during a winter where it was obvious that he was going to be traded.
2. This trade is a setup to another deal. Some yet unnamed third team wanted League or Chavez, and the M’s will use them as chips to get something that they couldn’t use Morrow to get. Or perhaps some team wants Aardsma or Lowe or Kelley, and the Mariners preferred to bring in their replacement before they trade them away.
3. This deal was part of the Cliff Lee trade. It was always weird that the Halladay and Lee portions of the deal were announced together, yet they were essentially two separate transactions, with no players going back and forth between Seattle and Toronto. Remember, we all feel like the Mariners got Lee for significantly less than he should have cost, and the expectation the entire time the rumor was developing was that Morrow was going to be in the deal. Perhaps that portion of the negotiations just couldn’t get finalized before the trade had to be announced (remember, the Phillies only had 72 hours to negotiate with Halladay), so the Mariners and Blue Jays agreed to work out the Morrow aspect of the trade at a later date.
Personally, I think I believe #3. Can I prove it? No, of course not. But it makes the most sense. Does all of baseball not valuing Morrow strike anyone as likely, especially after rumors of Detroit offering up Edwin Jackson for him and the Brewers coveting him for several years now? Does it seem likely that the Mariners would trade Morrow for a less valuable reliever and a mediocre prospect in an effort to make another deal without actually securing that deal at the time? Jack knows how to make a three way deal, so if he was flipping parts to another organization for someone else, why wouldn’t they just do it at the same time?
To me, the last one is the most logical. The M’s didn’t give up enough to get Lee unless you include this as part of that deal, in which case the price is much more fair. This makes the Halladay deal look a lot better for Toronto, and explains why they were willing to kick in $6 million in salary to help Philadelphia be able to make the deal. It also explains why Philadelphia shipped Lee to Seattle, rather than shopping him for a better package somewhere else.
If we conclude that this deal was part of last week’s trade, then it answers a lot of questions. It explains why a team that has made so many good moves inexplicably makes a lousy one. It explains why the Mariners were able to get Cliff Lee for three mediocre prospects. It explains why the Phillies weren’t willing to look for another team who would pay more for Lee in the three way deal.
So, that’s my theory. The M’s actually traded Brandon Morrow, Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, and JC Ramirez for Cliff Lee, Brandon League, and Johermyn Chavez.