Why It Would Be Okay To Trade Michael Pineda

Dave · November 29, 2010 at 9:35 am · Filed Under Mariners 

The last few weeks of Justin Upton related conversations have given rise to perspectives on the relative trade value of most of the M’s young talents, including the three young guys who seem close enough the majors that you should expect to see them at Safeco this summer – Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Michael Pineda. Besides Felix, these are the three guys in the organization that get people excited about what the future might hold, and for many of you, the idea of trading any of them away is painful. As Shannon Drayer wrote on her blog, initial reaction is often “hell no” when the topic of moving two of those players for Upton is broached.

However, Shannon came around to the idea of making a move with some limitations – for her, the guy she wants to keep is Michael Pineda. Personally, I’m of the exact opposite opinion – he’s the guy I’d be most willing to deal, and given the Mariners situation, I think it might actually make sense for the M’s to use Pineda as a bargaining chip this winter.

I realize that this might sound crazy. Pineda is the organization’s best pitching prospect by a country mile, as the drop-off after him is pretty substantial. He showed front-of-the-rotation stuff and potential in Double-A and Triple-A last year, and is widely expected to have a real chance to break camp with the team to start the 2011 season. After Felix, the M’s rotation options are a bunch of slop-throwing, pitch-to-contact guys, none of whom have anything resembling Pineda’s upside. If the M’s did trade him, they’d need to acquire two starting pitchers to fill out their rotation this winter, and it’s never easy to get two useful big league starters in the same winter.

However, while Pineda is full of upside, he’s also brimming with risk. Pitching prospects are notoriously fickle, as they are the most likely players on the field to get hurt and don’t follow traditional development curves. Just as an example, here are the pitching prospects that Baseball America ranked in their top 25 prospects before the 2007 season began.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (#1)
Phil Hughes (#4)
Homer Bailey (#5)
Andrew Miller (#10)
Tim Lincecum (#11)
Yovani Gallardo (#16)
Mike Pelfrey (#20)
Matt Garza (#21)
Adam Miller (#23)
Clayton Kershaw (#24)

Despite being a really strong year for pitching prospects, that is a decidedly mixed bag. Dice-K is generally considered a bust, and is nothing more than a #4 or #5 starter at this point. Hughes has turned into a good starter, but it took him four years and a trip to the bullpen in between. Bailey has mostly struggled, finally showing some progress in the second half of last season. Andrew Miller is a bust, as he’s battled arm injuries and is now a reclamation project with his third organization. Lincecum is the big success story, though Gallardo and Kershaw have also developed into high quality starters as well. Pelfrey has established himself as a decent mid-rotation guy, as has Garza, though it took him a change in organizations to live up to the hype. Adam Miller rounds out the bust group, as finger problems have derailed his career.

This is basically how it goes with pitching prospects – even premium ones. There’s a chance that Pineda turns into a really good starting pitcher, but there’s an equally large chance that he gets hurt or simply can’t translate his minor league success to the big leagues. In fact, given Pineda’s history of arm problems and limited workloads, chances are almost certainly better that he busts than that he booms. He’s a high risk prospect even by normal pitching prospect standards.

Volatility is the nature of the beast when it comes to prospects, but the Mariners have some circumstances that suggest it might not make sense for them to be the ones to take the risk on Pineda’s development. The big factor here is Safeco Field. As we’ve talked about ad nauseum, the stadium’s asymmetrical alignment makes it a pitcher’s paradise for southpaws, but it isn’t nearly as friendly for right-handed pitchers. The team has a built-in competitive advantage with left-handed pitchers, where they can take a guy who would be marginal in another park and make him a viable starter because of how the field plays. This gives them a chance to get value out of players who won’t command a huge return in the market, as their skills don’t work in other places as well as they do in Seattle.

This isn’t to say that the Mariners should only have left-handed starting pitchers, but filling the rotation with right-handers does come with an opportunity cost. With Felix and Fister already around, adding Pineda to the rotation leaves a maximum of two spots for lefties, which prevents the team from using the dimensions of its home park to full advantage. Or, to put it another way, replacing Pineda’s production may actually not be all that hard for the Mariners, given their unique ability to extract maximum value from pedestrian left-handed pitchers. If you could get a 4.25 ERA from a guy like Jeff Francis simply because of how the park plays, you would not lose all that much from what Pineda is likely to give you, even if his true talent level is significantly lower.

The other factor is that a team in the Mariners position can’t afford to see one of their primary assets lose a large chunk of his value overnight, as would happen if Pineda’s arm started hurting at some point this year. For a team that needs to be adding value to their major league roster, having two of their five most valuable pieces be pitchers under the age of 25 exposes them to significant downside. Swapping Pineda for a position player, or using him as a piece in a trade that brings the team an everyday player, would reduce the likelihood of the team facing a catastrophe.

I’m not suggesting that the Mariners should give Pineda away, of course. As one of the best pitching prospects in the game, and a guy who could step into a big league rotation right away, he should have a substantial amount of trade value. I’d simply suggest that the Mariners may want to consider cashing in that value if an opportunity to get a quality young position player presents itself. The risks of Pineda flopping are pretty large, and the organization would lose a big asset if he doesn’t develop as hoped. For where they are in terms of roster construction, it may be wise to take a little less reward to minimize risk.

If the Mariners are going to trade any of their premium young talent this winter, Pineda should probably be the one they move.

Comments

99 Responses to “Why It Would Be Okay To Trade Michael Pineda”

  1. gwangung on November 29th, 2010 10:00 am

    Agreed, for the reasons stated. I’m not sure this is argued that much around here. If the Ms traded Pineda, Franklin, Aardsma, League and Saunders for Upton, I’m not sure I’d complain. The relievers are from a position of possible strength and Pineda is a question for all the stated reasons.

  2. nwade on November 29th, 2010 10:07 am

    Dave – Good article, as always! I think there’s an issue that you (and others who are thinking along these lines) should put more emphasis on in your posts: Trading away a hot prospect does not automatically make you a “Bavasi”. The key difference is what you seek in return. What you (and a few others) are proposing is to get young talent in return – talent that has several years of team control left and is not demanding free-agent money. That is a huge difference from the trading habits of the Bavasi-era Mariners!

  3. TomC on November 29th, 2010 10:30 am

    I think the ‘Bavasi’ problem was his over-valuing of veteran players, not the recognition that prospects sometimes don’t work out.

    I am not sure I agree with Dave but I will listen to the argument.

    This does illustrate, however, the immense importance of a deep farm system and an effective talent development system. Talent is, to some extent, fungible. For example, you can often trade a surplus catcher prospect for young infielders who can hit. If we had other high quality pitching prospects this would not be nearly as much of a problem for the organization.

  4. Pete Livengood on November 29th, 2010 10:34 am

    Fair enough, Dave. The logic of your position is undeniable, yet for me I still feel the tug of doubt, and I think it is for these (probably irrational) reasons:

    First, you can’t keep trading away good pitching prospects forever and expect to contend. I guess this comes down to the question of whether you can expect to “contend” earlier by maximizing value out of FA guys like Jeff Francis who fit the ballpark, or by waiting to “hit” on a pitching prospect in the hopes you get a Lincecum or (to a lesser extent) a Kershaw. While the answer also might depend on how each of us defines “contend,” it is probably easier to get to the lower levels of whatever that word means with the strategy you are suggesting. It may be less possible to ever get to the higher levels of “contention” that way, though, and at some point fans get frustrated as the team consistently seems to be pushing “the future” further and further into the future.

    With the Mariners in little position to contend next year, regardless of which strategy they employ, I guess I would rather roll the dice and hope that Pineda comes up 7s. Irrational? Probably, but it also depends on what level of “contention” I want to shoot for, and how soon. And for me, that affects whether I want to consider a deal of this sort *at all*, not just which of the three I’d feel most at ease about trading.

    Second, while I am not necessarily opposed to trading Pineda in a package for Upton (I am truly on the fence about that – leaning against), for me the guy I would be most willing to give up is Smoak. Just as it is a truism that pitchers break down and don’t follow normal development patterns, I think most would agree that filling first base is relatively easier than filling top-of-the-rotation pitching (even if discounted for injury/lack of development) or an average 2B/DF guy with high AVG/OBP potential like Ackley. So, I am less willing to give up Ackley (and to some extent, Franklin – his discount comes more from just being further away) than either Smoak or Pineda, but I’d hang on to Pineda before Smoak. And if a deal can’t be done without including two of these guys (plus guys like Aardsma, Saunders, and maybe Lopez as a throw-in along with some B-prospects), then I’m just not sure it is worth doing at the point in the development/contention curve where the Mariners sit right now.

  5. SonOfZavaras on November 29th, 2010 10:41 am

    I’m of the same mind, Dave.

    While I’m not in an abject hurry to trade Pineda without the right deal in place, the fact that a Gerrit Cole (UCLA righthander) or a Matt Purke (TCU lefthander) stands to join the org in the June draft would really soften the loss for me.

  6. wsm on November 29th, 2010 10:53 am

    I’d be willing to trade Pineda to bring back a longterm impact bat, but that’s what I’d have to get. I’m not sure such a deal is out there.

    Gutierrez, Pineda, and Triufel for Rasmus?

  7. maqman on November 29th, 2010 10:58 am

    It simply depends on what you get in return. I still trust Z to determine that it would be in the team’s best interest to trade any player. I think we have some valuable pieces in the pipeline and would want full value in return for any we give up.

  8. Duncan Idaho on November 29th, 2010 11:00 am

    The fact that the Mariners have Felix means that as long as they get average production from the other four guys they will most likely be one of the better pitching teams. Felix, in essence, makes Pineda redundant. And as Dave said there is no guarantee that Pineda turns into the very good number two starter that his stuff portends. Also the presence of Felix makes the Mariners contenders in any postseason series. He is a true ace and that is an advantage that few teams have. Also I for one am worried about that arm slot from a guy who is 6′ 8″.

    I agree with Dave 100%. If we can cash in the Pineda chip now for a good young position player with a fair amount of team control I would do it in a heartbeat.

  9. Duncan Idaho on November 29th, 2010 11:03 am

    wsm, that might be my favorite trade idea of the offseason up to this point. I just don’t know if St. Louis does that with their lack of left handed hitting. It seems to me that the Cardinals are one team who would want Ackley way more than Pineda.

  10. BlackHaloBender on November 29th, 2010 11:09 am

    I hope Towers doesn’t read this blog.

  11. J-Dog on November 29th, 2010 11:18 am

    I have no issues with trading Pineda for a decent return. However, I cringe at the thought of dealing Pineda AND any of Smoak/Ackley/Franklin. Trading away 2 of those 4 is a pretty big cost.

  12. Alec on November 29th, 2010 11:20 am

    I am hesitant to give up Pineda since I get attached to good pitching (It was hard for me to accept losing Cliff Lee even though I knew he had to go, part of me wanted to give him whatever he wanted to keep him around so I could keep watching him). But Dave’s right, pitchers are hard to predict, and can lose it all out of nowhere. An Ichiro, Guti, Upton OF would be a HUGE advantage (2 CF’s and an average to plus corner OF) and would amplify what Dave pointed out about the Safeco advantage for fringe to average starters. Add in the cost control of Upton with the time frame of Ackley/Smoak’s development and the offense could be getting a big boost in the next few years.

    Also, who knew anything about Pineda before this year? He came out of nowhere (to me at least). Another pitcher could break out, or the absolutely LOADED draft class of college arms could give us someone who rockets through the minors a la Lincecum. Speaking as someone who has watched him a lot live at UCLA, I think Garret Cole’s stuff would already play in the bigs (remember, the Yankees drafted him #18 out of HS), not sure how much he would need to be stretched out.

  13. Carson on November 29th, 2010 11:21 am

    Should Upton’s shoulder injury be a concern at all?

    If the answer is no, or probably not, I’d be fine with sending Pineda for him.

    But, should we absolutely expect that to also cost us Smoak or Ackley as well? If so, which could you live parting with more? Do you think Pineda/Saunders + B prospects is not enough?

  14. wsm on November 29th, 2010 11:24 am

    I thought about that Duncan, but I don’t think LaRussa cares much about lefty-righty balance. Last year they went with Rasmus and Schumaker as their only everyday lefties. I’m not sure that would be a deal breaker. Next year they’ll have Jay and Schumaker or whoever they bring in to play 2B/3B/SS.

    I wouldn’t trade Ackley for Rasmus.

  15. epeyt88 on November 29th, 2010 11:30 am

    Great point.
    At first I really didn’t want to see us trade away Pineda. I always love watching an ace go to work and the possibility of have a “Felix #2″ is my dream, but I think you’re right…a lot of us may be getting ahead of ourselves a bit. I’m guilty of this. I think this could be a win/win situation though. Upton is a solid player, but we could have something special in Pineda.
    Gonna be fun to watch this play out.

  16. Alec on November 29th, 2010 11:31 am

    Upton’s shoulder should absolutely not be more worrying that Pineda’s arm. Smoak/Ackley + Pineda would be a tough pill to swallow for me, however. I’m not sure if I would give up two of them. Does anyone know if Reynolds has ever played 1B? I haven’t heard it brought up so I’m assuming its not an option, but he would play nicely in Safeco and that would somewhat offset the cost of losing Smoak.

  17. xxtinynickxx on November 29th, 2010 11:34 am

    I agree with Dave, just because I agree with the idea no one is off the table and it all is relative to the deal being offered.

    Also it would be nice to see a good trade and JZ will bring that if it is out there and reasonable. I predict by the middle of Dec. we will hear something :)

  18. Badbadger on November 29th, 2010 11:41 am

    I tend to agree with Dave, but the best comparison would have been to talk about the hitters from that same list and how they did. Pitchers certainly are more injury prone, but there are plenty of position players who don’t pan out.

    I think that the point is largely moot. There are other teams more able to trade blue chip prospect for Upton than we are. If half a season of Cliff Lee is worth what we got for him, how much more is 5 years of Upton worth?

  19. Westside guy on November 29th, 2010 11:48 am

    I agree with Dave, but my thinking (or what passes for that particular commodity in the real world) is far simpler even if somewhat simiar.

    We saw, last year, that having two stud pitchers didn’t actually accomplish much given our historically pathetic offense. We also saw the past two seasons that the Mariners did well in the field despite not having multiple aces. It’s apparently not too hard for a smart GM like Zduriencik to put together a competent rotation that’s “good enough”. So if a premium pitching prospect can return useful parts, I’ve got no issues with it.

  20. xsacred24x on November 29th, 2010 12:02 pm

    Can we just play our players like every other successful teams? Like the Rays and Rangers for example why do we have to trade players away and make gaping holes. Trading Pineda away would leave us with one ace and some mediocre pitching. Besides Upton has a bum shoulder and is Right Handed it would be Beltre part 2.

  21. xsacred24x on November 29th, 2010 12:09 pm

    Was going to add if we traded this players and got burned i don’t think i could stomach watching this team any longer. We have been burned to many times trading away “Just” prospects. Jason Varitek,Ortiz,Adam Jones,Shin Shoo Choo,Derek Lowe. Sure Jack made a good trade getting Cliff Lee with throw aways but not this time i don’t risk it with top prospects when your team has to many question marks.

  22. Tek Jansen on November 29th, 2010 12:16 pm

    Trading away prospects is fine if you get equal value in return. The problem with xsacred24x’s examples are that they were bad trades, not that the M’s traded away prospects. If you don’t want to give up good prospects, don’t expect a good return. On the other hand, if you are going to trade good prospects, aim higher than Heathcliff Slocumb or Eduardo Perez.

  23. xsacred24x on November 29th, 2010 12:30 pm

    Trading away prospects is fine if you get equal value in return. The problem with xsacred24x’s examples are that they were bad trades, not that the M’s traded away prospects. If you don’t want to give up good prospects, don’t expect a good return. On the other hand, if you are going to trade good prospects, aim higher than Heathcliff Slocumb or Eduardo Perez.

    Right but your still throwing away 2 good bats in the process in Ackley and Smoak if they devolop. I know for a fact Upton will not survive in Safeco how many times have we seen right handed bats die here? Seriously this would be a dumb trade. Not saying you have a lineup full of lefties but i would never give up good prospects for a right handed hitter. Its like the Bavasi trade in a sense that your not getting an older player but your getting a player who does not fit your Ballpark. Lets not forget either Upton was to blame for alot of the DiamonBack strikeouts he had one good season i don’t risk prospects on that. If he does this and Upton doesn’t proof to be the super star people are making him out to be he deserves to be fired wasn’t he brought in to get talent to devolop?

  24. Liam on November 29th, 2010 12:38 pm

    We have been burned to many times trading away “Just” prospects. Jason Varitek,Ortiz,Adam Jones,Shin Shoo Choo,Derek Lowe.

    This issue is the same one that comes up when people say that Mariner players always get better when they leave. That obviously isn’t true, but you only hear about the ones that do have success. The All-Stars you listed will stick out in your mind a lot more than a busted prospect.

    Remember that guy who never turned into anything? Yeah, me neither.

  25. Celadus on November 29th, 2010 12:43 pm

    Actually, I think you’d have to give up less for Colby Rasmus than for Upton. I’m not sure why everyone is so much more excited about Upton (OPS+ last year 111) than Rasmus (OPS+ last year 132).

    Rasmus is a year older (24) but is arguably a better hitter–plays in St. Louis, not Arizona; walks more than Upton, about the same power as Upton. Decent outfielder. Has only used 2 years of eligibility, which is less than Upton. Rasmus also still has considerable upside.

    Although they’ve made up in public, Larussa has a small history of becoming disgruntled with certain players and (inferentially) putting some pressure on his GM to trade them. I believe that Rasmus strikes out too much for Larussa’s liking and making up, whether truly or just for the sports news, isn’t likely to change that.

    That being said, there’s a decent chance that Rasmus could be had for less than two of the three main Mariner prospects.

  26. xsacred24x on November 29th, 2010 12:44 pm

    This issue is the same one that comes up when people say that Mariner players always get better when they leave. That obviously isn’t true, but you only hear about the ones that do have success. The All-Stars you listed will stick out in your mind a lot more than a busted prospect.

    Remember that guy who never turned into anything? Yeah, me neither.

    What players did we have to bust? They were all traded away…We finally have some prospects to get excited about. Don’t even mention Morrow the way Bavasi brought him up was just terrible and now look what hes doing for the Jays he looks pretty good to me. Besides you can’t tell me that Justin Upton won’t suck in a M’s uniform this park kills right handed hitters and its been proofen. Either way we lose this deal even if one of those prospects just turns out to be average. But ya there just “Prospects” Trading away 2 of our best is going to turn our team around i mean who cares about the rest of the holes the team has.

  27. Dave on November 29th, 2010 12:45 pm

    Can we just play our players like every other successful teams? Like the Rays and Rangers for example why do we have to trade players away and make gaping holes.

    You know how the Rangers got Josh Hamilton? They traded Edinson Volquez, their top pitching prospect, in order to get him.

    You know how the Rays got Matt Garza? They traded Delmon Young, the consensus best prospect in baseball just two years earlier, in order to get him.

    I know for a fact Upton will not survive in Safeco

    No, you don’t.

    Also, use proper grammar, use spellcheck, and condense your thoughts into one comment. You’re polluting this thread with hard to read drivel. Knock it off.

  28. Tek Jansen on November 29th, 2010 12:46 pm

    I know for a fact Upton will not survive in Safeco

    There is no possible way that you can know this “for a fact” unless the definition of the word “fact” has changed.

  29. xsacred24x on November 29th, 2010 12:50 pm

    [More incorrect grammar. Learn.]

  30. xsacred24x on November 29th, 2010 12:55 pm

    [Incoherent.]

  31. Tek Jansen on November 29th, 2010 12:58 pm

    Well, I guess I won’t respond after all.

  32. Pete Livengood on November 29th, 2010 1:01 pm

    xsacred24x wrote, “I know for a fact Upton will not survive in Safeco how many times have we seen right handed bats die here?”

    With all due respect for you as a person and for the generally true point you are trying to make, you do not know this for a fact.

    Dave’s original post on Upton made clear that he is not a prototypical pull-RH hitter, which is the kind that has historically been most hurt by Safeco Field. There was considerable evidence presented in that post to the effect that Upton goes the other way quite well, even for power.

    That sort of right-handed hitter has been able to succeed in Safeco Field. The particular RH hitter I am thinking of hit 293/404/475 in 378 games played in Safeco, over the last 5-1/2 years (age 36-41) of a long career, with those numbers skewed significantly downward by performance toward the very end (in his first four – well, 3-1/2 – seasons in Safeco, from the middle of his age 36 year through his age 39 year, he hit 394/479/535, 304/423/563, 305/425/515, and 303/442/545).

    Not ALL right-handed hitters are killed by Safeco.

  33. awestby51 on November 29th, 2010 1:07 pm

    Upton isn’t your standard RH power hitter. Read Dave’s post, “The Big Splash Option.” Capitalize “i” and use “an,” not “a,” before M’s.

  34. MrZDevotee on November 29th, 2010 1:08 pm

    The part of Dave’s reasoning I like involves the Safeco Field effect. I had Pineda in my mind as an untouchable, but I think a large part of that is also my gut reaction that involves a feeling that “pitching is all we have!” Thus, my gut tells me NO WAY IN HELL do we trade away a pitcher.

    But in reality, the likelihood of finding another Fister or Vargas, or the next Jamie Moyer (if we go the veterans route), is more imaginable for the next two years than finding the next Albert Pujols or Joe Mauer by accident.

    The dropoff from a Felix Hernandez to a Jason Vargas doesn’t seem nearly as far, and insurmountable, as the dropoff from a Josh Hamilton to a Ryan Langerhans in the lineup.

    My only reservation is trading TWO of the ‘big three’ (Pineda, Smoak, Ackley), which I think I said in a previous post was really only because, again, of the risk factor. If something went wrong with Upton (injury, or otherwise) losing two top prospects for a busted ‘breakout potential’ guy doesn’t sound as attractive, and that could happen at any moment.

    Also, like someone else said, I think a better value might be Colby Rasmus. I’d be as excited about Rasmus as Upton, and he isn’t being dangled about the league with the same “he’s gonna cost everything you have” verbage that Upton is. Not to mention, St. Louis would seem to be the type of team to be more excited about a pitching prospect like Pineda than Arizona is– the Diamondbacks have been talking more about needing to replace position players.

    Either way, as a longtime Mariner fan it would be bizarre to actually have a complete outfield for the first time in our club’s history. One of my longest running personal gripes with the M’s has always been “is it REALLY this hard to find a left fielder?” (Even if it means moving a centerfielder over?)

  35. chrizmillr on November 29th, 2010 1:10 pm

    Someone wanted to see what BA’s top 25 hitting prospects were to compare with the risky results of the pitching prospects.
    Here they are:
    Alex Gordon, Delmon Young, Cameron Maybin, Evan Longoria, Brandon Wood, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Troy Tulowitzki, Reid Brignac, Carlos Gonzalez, Andy LaRoche, Fernando Martinez, Billy Butler.
    I know way less than Dave about this, but I’d consider Gordon, Wood and Martinez full-on busts.
    I’d say Maybin, Brignac, LaRoche have been mixed bags.
    Upton, both Youngs, Longoria, McCutchen, Bruce, Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Butler are all really good. Anywhere from really good to ridiculously awesome, in fact.
    Small Sample Size Theater, but while it was still a risk having a top-25 hitter in 2007, it wasn’t quite as risky as a top-25 pitcher.

  36. niterunner on November 29th, 2010 1:12 pm

    Why do the Mariners need to lose prospects? Sign Vlad for slightly more than Upton’s 2011 salary and DFA Bradley.

  37. MrZDevotee on November 29th, 2010 1:23 pm

    I should have clarified in my previous post:

    by “Left Fielder” I meant = someone who can hit, run, AND field… not just one, or possibly two, of the three. Randy Winn was the closest we’ve had in my mind…

    (Although I’ve read that Michael Saunder is working hard on his hitting this off-season… And is certainly not a cast-off yet.)

  38. lamlor on November 29th, 2010 1:23 pm

    Here is my point the trade:
    2010 World Series Champs SF Giants.

    How did they build a winner? 3 home grown SP’s and a bunch of cheaper end free agent bats.

    I see Felix as our Lincecum. Pineda as our future Cain (who they thought of traded the in 2008 & 2009). Could Vargas be our Sanchez? Maybe with the Safeco Park factor he could be. Heck, we even have our own Zito since we are still paying Silva.

    We tried to duplicate the offensive signing, but struck out on all attempts (i.e.- Kotchman, Sweeney, Griffey and so on).

    Am I saying not to trade Pineda at all? No, but make sure it is the right deal. You mentioned that Texas got Hamilton for Edinson Volquez who was a prospect like Pineda but I don’t view Upton’s potential like Hamilton’s. Yes Hamilton had other issues, but to give up the same type player plus 4 more including possibly another top position prospect for roughly the same type guy at best doesn’t make sense to me. If Upton was he teams leading hitter by a large margin, then maybe. But he was 4th on their team in RBI’s and his totals were really not much better than Smoaks on a per AB season and they are both the same age (Upton- 69 RBI’s in 571 PA’s vs Smoak- 48 in 397 including Seattle stats where he actually averaged more homers per PA’s with them then with Texas).

  39. Westside guy on November 29th, 2010 1:31 pm

    That sort of right-handed hitter has been able to succeed in Safeco Field. The particular RH hitter I am thinking of hit 293/404/475 in 378 games played in Safeco, over the last 5-1/2 years (age 36-41) of a long career, with those numbers skewed significantly downward by performance toward the very end (in his first four – well, 3-1/2 – seasons in Safeco, from the middle of his age 36 year through his age 39 year, he hit 394/479/535, 304/423/563, 305/425/515, and 303/442/545).

    Not ALL right-handed hitters are killed by Safeco.

    Man, I still miss watching him hit. I think it went beyond being a Mariner fan – it was just plain fun watching such an amazing hitter ply his craft.

  40. lubin_cuban23 on November 29th, 2010 1:37 pm

    Dave,

    I am with you on Pineda, but are you supporting a trade for Upton for Pineda AND Smoak? I know you are big on Ackley.

    I for one would give up Pineda but no way another one of the big four. Anybody’s thoughts??

  41. Pete Livengood on November 29th, 2010 1:38 pm

    Me too, Westside guy. Me too. He was simply the best.

  42. just a fan on November 29th, 2010 1:41 pm

    The M’s do need right-handed hitters. With Safeco, they need right-handed hitters with power to right. Upton has that. So, assuming he’s not plotting to replicate his brother’s career path (do we have a geneticist that can ease my fears?), that he hasn’t hit his peak early, and that his shoulder is not a problem, he is exactly the kind of hitter the M’s need. I’d be ok with losing either Smoak or Pineda, depending on whatever else goes with them.

    My main concern though, is that the M’s don’t have much depth in the minors. We’ve got these three really good prospects, then a number of average-upside guys like Liddi, one premium lower level guy (Franklin), and then guys like Poythress and Chavez who are a long ways off and have glaring holes to overcome in the meantime.

    I guess we just need to trust on this: If Jack Zduriencik is best at his scouting and trading, he’ll be capable of determining which young prospect has the highest trade value relative to their likelihood of flaming out. He’s even better at this than me, and I don’t even watch minor league baseball!

    Come on, Jack, this is what you’re supposed to be good at.

  43. Liam on November 29th, 2010 1:42 pm

    What players did we have to bust? They were all traded away

    Go back through old Mariner top 10 prospect lists and see how they turned out.

    Jeff Clement
    Yuniesky Betancourt
    Carlos Triunfel

  44. Shizane on November 29th, 2010 1:46 pm

    Dave – What would you do if Pineda were a LHP instead of a RHP? Keep him and trade Ackley?

  45. xsacred24x on November 29th, 2010 1:59 pm

    [Stop it. Go take an English writing class or something.]

  46. The Ancient Mariner on November 29th, 2010 2:25 pm

    just a fan, you might be selling Chavez short.

    For my part, I’m in agreement with Dave: if we end up dealing a big prospect this winter, I’d rather send out Pineda than anyone else. (And as odd as it may sound, I’d be almost as uncomfortable seeing Franklin dealt as Ackley.)

  47. johnnyzen on November 29th, 2010 2:57 pm

    After reading this excellent post about Pineda, it occurred to me: if the Yankees don’t sign Cliff Lee, would Pineda be on their radar? Would Pineda + be enough to get Montero, who they are obviously willing to move?

  48. gwangung on November 29th, 2010 3:02 pm

    Hard to call Yunie a failure his batting was terrible but his fielding was pretty good.

    Urgh.

    Hard to say you have any credibility when you say Yuni’s fielding was “pretty good.”

    Urgh.

  49. just a fan on November 29th, 2010 3:05 pm

    gwangung, but what about all those amazing diving stops Yuni made? I mean, sure, he threw the ball away after he got up, but those diving grabs! WOW!!!!!!

  50. just a fan on November 29th, 2010 3:07 pm

    Ancient Mariner, I want to be very high on Chavez. But I’m waiting until he’s in Jackson a few months before I smoke him.

  51. spankystout on November 29th, 2010 3:10 pm

    I wouldn’t trade Pineda and a package for Upton. Justin’s BABIP in 2010 was .360, and in 2009 it was .354. Upton has not played more than 140 games. He is right handed and strikeouts a lot. Upton also has benefited from his home park in AZ. He looks like someone who is due some regression if he moves to Safeco.

  52. nathaniel dawson on November 29th, 2010 3:11 pm

    There’s another side to this coin that needs to be considered, and is integral to the Mariner’s hopes of fielding a competitive team within the limitations of not only their current budget, but also their expected mid-term budget. It’s pretty much an axiom (and well understood here at USSM) that the M’s need to assemble a large group of talented, club-controlled players that can contribute a lot of wins without costing a lot of money. This leaves more room in the budget to hire some key, expensive, impact-type free agents that can fill in the holes and bring them up to the level of a contending team.

    The free agents are the key here. Historically, teams have gotten much better results from free agent position players as opposed to pitchers. Free agent pitchers are a risky lot, usually providing much less return on investment than position players. Any free agent can bust and become an albatross contract, but it happens more frequently with pitchers than position players. With the limitations of the M’s budget, reliance on free agent pitchers means less likelihood that they can get the level of production they need with the money they spend on free agents. It makes more sense to spend that money on position players, as it gives them a better shot at receiving the expected return on their investment.

    Of course, the only way to make that work is if you’re able to have talented pitchers that are under team control. As a long-term goal to become a perennial contender, it makes sense that they would try to focus on developing and acquiring those club-controlled pitchers, while expecting to fill the inevitable holes in the field with free agent position players. Trading away a guy that looks like he could be a long-term contributor to the rotation isn’t helping to further that goal, and would have to be considered a very special circumstance. Maybe Justin Upton is that special circumstance, but I’d hope that the M’s would be very reluctant to trade away a pitcher with Pineda’s type of potential.

    Certainly, there’s a considerable chance that Pineda could bust. But there’s also a considerable chance that any free agent pitcher the M’s were to sign could also bust. What’s different about these scenarios is the amount of money tied up in the two. If you gamble and lose on Pineda, it has relatively no impact on the budget. If you gamble and lose on an expensive free agent pitcher, you’ve really crapped out.

  53. eponymous coward on November 29th, 2010 4:09 pm

    I certainly could live with trading Pineda for the right guy, but this does leaves the M’s with really nothing but #5s behind Felix.

    I just am not sold that Vargas is really more than a #5 who had a good year (I tend to want repeats from marginal starters)- and even if you think 2010 is his real level of ability, go look at playoff teams and tell me which guy you’d rather have as your #2 in a playoff series: Vargas, or one of Lewis or Wilson? Vargas, or Matt Cain? Vargas, or Pavano? Vargas, or Phil Hughes? Vargas, or… well, you get the idea. If Jason Vargas is your second-best pitcher, unless you’re pitching Felix on an Old Hoss Radbourne schedule, your staff kinda sucks.

    Everyone else… well, they’re #5s.

    So you’d need to bulk up the pitching staff. And trading for Cliff Lee doesn’t seem to be an option this time around…

  54. JH on November 29th, 2010 4:14 pm

    The thing that compounds the handedness analysis Dave did in his post is that Pineda’s already very shaky vs. lefties. Left-handed hitters hit .265/.338/.462 against him in Tacoma, and .300/.347/.379 against him in Double-A. He dominated right-handed hitters at both levels, but I really worry about him against teams with multiple quality left-handed hitters.

    Unless Pineda’s changeup improves considerably as a weapon against lefties, he’s a really bad fit for Safeco. The ballpark neutralizes his greatest strength and exacerbates his biggest weakness.

  55. spankystout on November 29th, 2010 4:16 pm

    Another bit of information on Upton:
    His career wRC+ at home is 133.
    His career wRC+ on the road is 95.

  56. Chris_From_Bothell on November 29th, 2010 6:32 pm

    Will we see companion posts of “Why it would not be okay to trade Dustin Ackley” and “Why it might be okay to trade Justin Smoak”? Although come to think of it, the Ackley point’s probably already been made.

  57. NBarnes on November 29th, 2010 8:32 pm

    Home/road splits are only a very crude way to correct for park factors. We already have a tool for that; we call them park factors.

  58. the tourist on November 29th, 2010 8:53 pm

    I agree with the idea that trading Pineda would make more sense than Ackley or Smoak. I even think it would make more sense to trade Pineda than Nick Franklin at this point. Hitting (especially switch hitting at a defensive premium position) is what the team needs. Hitting and defense. Isn’t that how 2001 was built?

  59. spankystout on November 29th, 2010 9:41 pm

    From what I understand wRC+ is park adjusted.

  60. gwangung on November 29th, 2010 10:08 pm

    Hitting (especially switch hitting at a defensive premium position) is what the team needs. Hitting and defense. Isn’t that how 2001 was built?

    Harumph.

    What this team isn’t offense or defense or pitching. It’s RUN DIFFERENTIAL. You get that however you can. Focussing on just offense or pitching or defense leads you to tunnel vision.

  61. the tourist on November 29th, 2010 11:40 pm

    What this team [needs] isn’t offense or defense or pitching. It’s RUN DIFFERENTIAL. You get that however you can. Focus/ing on just offense or pitching or defense leads you to tunnel vision.

    Well who said anything about focusing on that? I simply pointed out a greater need at the moment. We do have Felix, also known as the best pitcher in the American League, who struggled to pitch in games that led to wins due to horrid offense. The team is in need of offense. The team’s defense has been much improved of late. The team’s pitching was overall quite solid. Pineda wouldn’t help Felix, or Vargas, or Fister, or Francis (or whoever Jack Z. targets this offseason) as much as another Smoak or Ackley would. So better hitting and good defense in a park that favors pitching isn’t a bad plan. If we didn’t have a Felix in there, then yeah, I’d say we need someone like Pineda. That was the one thing 2001 was missing: truly dominant starting pitching. *shrug*

  62. greentunic on November 30th, 2010 12:21 am

    Unfortunately, any argument about the value of a pitcher vs a hitter in trades will always be a perfect double-edged sword.

    Edge 1: Pitchers get hurt easier, less valuable.
    Edge 2: Hoard as many functional pitchers as possible, since many will get hurt.

    Edge 1: Position players play every day for us and therefore are “more valuable.” We should trade for position players.
    Edge 2: Towers will ask for more when trading a position player, who is “more valuable.”

    The argument here SHOULD be more focused on the talent of these two players (less on the job of the player), and their SPECIFIC injury risks relative to others playing their same position, which (to be fair) Dave does talk about. Anyway, good points all around.

  63. Jordan on November 30th, 2010 12:51 am

    Since we’re harping on grammar…

    use “an,” not “a,” before M’s

    Actually, when deciding which article (a/an) to use before a substantive, you do not refer to the abbreviation but rather the full word.

    [Stop it. Go take an English writing class or something.]

    Again, see above and take your own advice before bashing someone when they’re already correct. Even though I’m an English teacher and prescriptive grammar mistakes annoy me, attitudes such as yours are worse.

    Now, back to baseball…Dave, fair argument regarding Pineda. But, I’m still unwilling to move 2 of our big 3 or 4 prospects for Upton. However, I love the Rasmus suggestions. Do you see Rasmus as a possibility and more importantly what would you be willing to part with?

  64. spokaneman on November 30th, 2010 1:01 am

    Ryan Anderson, Jeff Heaverlo, Travis Blackley, Clint Nageotte, Joel Pineiro, etc etc. Go look at our top pitching prospects over the last 15 years, Felix is the only one that’s made it. That’s it.

    I realize just looking at one organization is a little narrow-sighted, but to the point, far more seem to flop that make it, yet people will value ‘top’ pitching prospects so highly before they make it because of the ‘if’ factor; ‘if’ they become something special.

    I’m 100% on board with trading Pineda in a package for some hitter of value: Upton, Rasmus, etc. Makes a ton of sense.

  65. eponymous coward on November 30th, 2010 6:34 am

    The team’s pitching was overall quite solid.

    Yeah, can’t wait until we have Cliff Lee starting back to back with Fel-oh, wait.

    Seriously? No, it’s not. The pitching is basically comparable to 2008-2009: Felix and a bunch of backend guys who are 4-5s, who look OK at Safeco with a good defense behind them, but clearly aren’t very good and as a group are below-average, talent-wise (none of them have anything resembling good fastballs and ability to strike people out). Realistically, if Jason Vargas goes on to have Jarrod Washburn’s career he’ll be doing pretty well. Would you be saying how our staff was OK if our #2 was Washburn instead of Vargas?

    The bullpen isn’t very good, either- too many guys with the same profile (RHP with fastball and poor command basically describes most of the ‘pen).

  66. gwangung on November 30th, 2010 7:40 am

    Well who said anything about focusing on that? I simply pointed out a greater need at the moment.

    You are STILL saying it by focussing on “greater need.”

    You are trying to divide out an area when it should considered as a whole. Not just offense. Or pitching. Or defense. But all of them together.

  67. Badbadger on November 30th, 2010 8:15 am

    I think what we should focus on is any area where we can get the biggest improvement. If we have a shot at improving pitching a lot, we should take it. If we have a shot a improving hitting by a greater degree, we need to take that. I personally would be more happy to see an improvement in hitting because offenseless losing teams are hideous to watch.

    I would gladly trade Pineda for Upton but that won’t get the trade done. We can’t really afford to pay what it will take to get him.

  68. gwangung on November 30th, 2010 8:42 am

    I think what we should focus on is any area where we can get the biggest improvement. If we have a shot at improving pitching a lot, we should take it. If we have a shot a improving hitting by a greater degree, we need to take that. I personally would be more happy to see an improvement in hitting because offenseless losing teams are hideous to watch.

    Again, it’s run differential that’s important. An improvement in defense or pitching can be leveraged so that a smaller improvement on offense would be needed to get more wins.

  69. Badbadger on November 30th, 2010 9:55 am

    Again, it’s run differential that’s important. An improvement in defense or pitching can be leveraged so that a smaller improvement on offense would be needed to get more wins.

    Sure. My point though is that it should (in theory) be easier for the M’s to improve their offense than their defense. The M’s allowed 698 runs last year, 6th best in the American League. They were dead last in runs scored with 513, and team #13 (Baltimore) scored 613. A decent DH (for example) would represent a bigger gain than a decent starting pitcher because our pitchers were adequate last year and our DHs were horrific.

  70. gwangung on November 30th, 2010 10:02 am

    Sure. My point though is that it should (in theory) be easier for the M’s to improve their offense than their defense. The M’s allowed 698 runs last year, 6th best in the American League. They were dead last in runs scored with 513, and team #13 (Baltimore) scored 613. A decent DH (for example) would represent a bigger gain than a decent starting pitcher because our pitchers were adequate last year and our DHs were horrific.

    Yeah, that’s true. You won’t have a defense cost if you improve the DH slot; you aren’t trading one thing for another. In that way it’s easier, and probably get more bang for the buck.

    I just don’t want fans to get so focussed on OFFENSE!OFFENSE!OFFENSE! that they forget that it’s a means to an end. A medium bat at DH is going to help a lot (over the putridness we had), and it’ll probably have as big of an impact as a Big Name Bat if we also improve our pitching (see, there’s that run differential thing again).

  71. Westside guy on November 30th, 2010 10:04 am

    Seriously? No, it’s not. The pitching is basically comparable to 2008-2009: Felix and a bunch of backend guys who are 4-5s, who look OK at Safeco with a good defense behind them, but clearly aren’t very good and as a group are below-average, talent-wise (none of them have anything resembling good fastballs and ability to strike people out). Realistically, if Jason Vargas goes on to have Jarrod Washburn’s career he’ll be doing pretty well. Would you be saying how our staff was OK if our #2 was Washburn instead of Vargas?

    The team pitches half its games in Safeco. You can’t say “well sure, they’re fine in Safeco but…” – an intelligent team is put together with its home park at least somewhat in mind.

    As Badbadger just mentioned, our pitching and defense combined to be the sixth stingiest in the American League. Pitching really isn’t the problem! You have to look at the whole defensive package to get some context.

    And if you think comparing Vargas with Washburn is somehow making a point, think again. The real issue with Washburn – as was spelled out on this site and others many times – was not his skill set, but the salary that he was getting for a less-than-star-pitcher skill set. With a guy like Vargas, you’re getting a somewhat similar pitcher for something like $9 million a year less! If the Mariners could’ve picked Washburn up for Vargas’ salary, I doubt many people would’ve been down on the move.

  72. nadingo on November 30th, 2010 10:40 am

    Jordan – you should really follow your own advice. According to this and this, you use “a” or “an” depending on how the abbreviation is pronounced, not the full word. So if you’re actually saying “ems” as an abbreviation for “Mariners,” you would say “an Ms uniform.” On the other hand, if you wanted to talk about the inappropriate apostrophe use in “M’s,” you might have a case. Also, the first quote you cited was from a post by awestby51, while the second quote you cited was left by one of the moderators. Not the same person.

  73. Duncan Idaho on November 30th, 2010 10:57 am

    That devolved rather quickly.

    And I think the future posts would be titled; “Why Smoak should be as off limits as Felix”, and “What it would take in return to deal Ackley”.

  74. the tourist on November 30th, 2010 10:59 am

    I just don’t want fans to get so focussed on OFFENSE!OFFENSE!OFFENSE! that they forget that it’s a means to an end.

    Yeah, let’s not strive to improve our greatest weakness. Let’s improve our strengths… and then still fail because our weakness is greater than our strength. According to Bill James, baseball is 42 percent hitting, 8 percent baserunning, 37 percent pitching and 13 percent fielding. And I read Dave Cameron agreeing with this, or only slightly modifying it recently (can’t remember if it was here or fangraphs, on a chat I think). So if we’re dead last in something that’s 42 percent of the game, it makes more sense to focus on that than anything else, because if your hitting is an “F” and everything else is a “B”, you’re still going to fail because of how importantly weighted that “F” is.

    Yeah, can’t wait until we have Cliff Lee starting back to back with Fel-oh, wait.
    Seriously? No, it’s not. The pitching is basically comparable to 2008-2009: Felix and a bunch of backend guys who are 4-5s, who look OK at Safeco with a good defense behind them, but clearly aren’t very good and as a group are below-average, talent-wise (none of them have anything resembling good fastballs and ability to strike people out). Realistically, if Jason Vargas goes on to have Jarrod Washburn’s career he’ll be doing pretty well. Would you be saying how our staff was OK if our #2 was Washburn instead of Vargas?
    The bullpen isn’t very good, either- too many guys with the same profile (RHP with fastball and poor command basically describes most of the ‘pen).

    Hey, guess what! There is free agency. I know, crazy concepts, right?

    Also, if our pitching was so bad, why were we still smack-dab in the middle of run-prevention? 2.5 months of Cliff Lee?

    All in all, I’m saying trading Pineda would be a good thing if it could get us equal value in return with a bat/decent defender. Overall, bats and defense>>pitching… and look for pitching elsewhere (see half a dozen reclamation projects available this off-season; cheap and incentive-laden).

  75. Badbadger on November 30th, 2010 11:18 am

    I just don’t want fans to get so focussed on OFFENSE!OFFENSE!OFFENSE! that they forget that it’s a means to an end.

    I don’t really disagree, but I do think there is a reason why offense gets more attention than fielding; it is more fun to watch your team score than to watch them prevent a run. As a fan I don’t want to watch the M’s only score 513 runs again, and given that context I think it’s fair to be more focused on offense this off season.

    Yeah, let’s not strive to improve our greatest weakness. Let’s improve our strengths… and then still fail because our weakness is greater than our strength.

    That’s not really what he’s saying, he’s making a more general point about the value of offense and defense.

  76. gwangung on November 30th, 2010 12:23 pm

    Yeah, let’s not strive to improve our greatest weakness. Let’s improve our strengths… and then still fail because our weakness is greater than our strength

    I’d say you missed my point completely. Mostly, I think it’s because most fans are stuck in a binary mode when it comes to their team. Either a team’s offense is good, or it’s bad–you’re not measuring it quantitatively. The whole point of looking at run differential is that you improve so that your weakness is LESS than your strength.

    (Oh, and please note…I specifically said that improving your pitching and defense will make any improvements on offense more efficient).

    I don’t really disagree, but I do think there is a reason why offense gets more attention than fielding; it is more fun to watch your team score than to watch them prevent a run. As a fan I don’t want to watch the M’s only score 513 runs again, and given that context I think it’s fair to be more focused on offense this off season.

    Granted, it’s a whole lot more fun to see the team win 5-0 than 1-0, but now we’re getting into the area of style points; style points don’t count in the standings. If we win 92 games by 2-1 and 1-0 scores, fans will take it (though they’ll be a lot of coronaries).

  77. the tourist on November 30th, 2010 12:39 pm

    You must think I’m a typical idiot fan (not to be confused with THE typical idiot fan). Every hypothetical thing I’ve said has been in the context of the original post–Michael Pineda could be worth a lot more if he’s traded for something else, something of equal value, but less volatile.

    Sigh.

    I’m done.

  78. Duncan Idaho on November 30th, 2010 12:43 pm

    Yeah Gwangung and when the reason for a poor run differential is one of if not the worst offense in the DH era, I would say finding a way to score more runs is a priority. No one here has said to do that at the expense of the pitching staff (as a whole) or the defense. But to look to improve the defense and pitching to a point where 513 runs is conducive to a winning season is madness. The offense has to be improved, period, end of discussion. If the Mariners field another 513 runs scored team they will lose at a greater rate than they win no matter how much better the pitching and defense get.

  79. JH on November 30th, 2010 12:58 pm

    Seriously? No, it’s not. The pitching is basically comparable to 2008-2009: Felix and a bunch of backend guys who are 4-5s, who look OK at Safeco with a good defense behind them, but clearly aren’t very good and as a group are below-average, talent-wise (none of them have anything resembling good fastballs and ability to strike people out). Realistically, if Jason Vargas goes on to have Jarrod Washburn’s career he’ll be doing pretty well. Would you be saying how our staff was OK if our #2 was Washburn instead of Vargas?

    Fister and Vargas were worth 2.9 and 2.6 WAR, respectively, using a stat that neutralizes the contributions of the defense behind them. More important, the traditional indicators that regression is on its way aren’t really there. Neither had abnormally low BABIPs or high strand rates. Both had lower than expected HR/FB%s, and that will probably go up from the 6.5% range to the 8% range, but it’s not like Safeco is going anywhere. Fister and Vargas have the scouting profile of back-end starters, but last year the both pitched like very good mid-rotation guys.

    The system wherein we use rotation slots as a proxy for pitcher quality dramatically over-estimates the depth of quality starting pitching around the league. 73 pitchers in baseball put up 2-WAR or better last year, and 10 of them were relievers. There are 30 teams. You do the math.

    Now, I’m a little concerned that Vargas will decline next year. His K’s dropped throughout the season, which is troubling. But last year both Vargas and Fister were very valuable.

    And to echo what a previous commenter said, it’s not like Safeco’s going anywhere.

  80. gwangung on November 30th, 2010 1:02 pm

    Yeah Gwangung and when the reason for a poor run differential is one of if not the worst offense in the DH era, I would say finding a way to score more runs is a priority. No one here has said to do that at the expense of the pitching staff (as a whole) or the defense. But to look to improve the defense and pitching to a point where 513 runs is conducive to a winning season is madness. The offense has to be improved, period, end of discussion. If the Mariners field another 513 runs scored team they will lose at a greater rate than they win no matter how much better the pitching and defense get.

    This is STILL binary thinking.

    One, I never said that I don’t want to improve the offense. I DID say that you don’t have to improve the offense as much if there are improvements in pitching and defense (and there are improvements to be made in the rotation and bullpen for sure). Stop trying to treat them as equivalent statements.

    Two, it’s certainly true that most value-laden way is to improve the offense. But there are limited ways of doing that while still remaining within budget and while still building for the long term. I think it’s clear that popping in an upgrade at DH can do that without affecting defense or pitching—I’m taking that as given and thinking about other options.

    Third, wasn’t there a post warning against making a Bavasi level mistake?

    Fourth, I still maintain that this is a quantitative exercise, where you need to calculate how much you’re gaining with a move and how much you’re losing; I’m not seeing that in a lot of comments.

  81. Badbadger on November 30th, 2010 1:15 pm

    Granted, it’s a whole lot more fun to see the team win 5-0 than 1-0, but now we’re getting into the area of style points; style points don’t count in the standings. If we win 92 games by 2-1 and 1-0 scores, fans will take it (though they’ll be a lot of coronaries).

    I agree that style points don’t count in the standings, but next season isn’t going to be about the standings because we aren’t going to be competitive. Style points, as you put it, become more important then.

  82. JH on November 30th, 2010 1:23 pm

    I’m curious as to when gwangung and the tourist will realize that they don’t actually disagree.

  83. lylepdx on November 30th, 2010 2:29 pm

    Not that it’s apropos of this debate, but does anybody recall there ever being any quasi-serious rumors surrounding Felix and more established players coming back during his ‘Just about there… but…’ phase?

  84. Shanfan on November 30th, 2010 2:46 pm

    As for trading Pineda, I would’ve been against it just because I wanted to hear Dave Niehaus call another one of those “stanky” sliders like he did last spring training.

  85. terry on November 30th, 2010 3:35 pm

    You know how the Rangers got Josh Hamilton? They traded Edinson Volquez, their top pitching prospect, in order to get him.

    And ironically enough, the Rays gave Hamilton to the Reds via the rule 5 draft! Sometimes life is better than fiction.

  86. gwangung on November 30th, 2010 5:07 pm

    I’m curious as to when gwangung and the tourist will realize that they don’t actually disagree.

    Oh, I realize already; I’m not calling him an idiot, after all.

  87. eponymous coward on November 30th, 2010 8:12 pm

    But last year both Vargas and Fister were very valuable.

    Jarrod Washburn had 4 years in his career of 2+ WAR, and 2 more years of 1.9 WAR. A 4.5 WAR season.

    Carlos Silva? 4 years of 2+ WAR. Several 3 WAR seasons.

    Vargas is also due a pay raise in arbitration.

    To be honest, I feel better about this statement than the one stated by Dave, though I agree with both of them: It Would Be Okay To Trade Jason Vargas.

    The pitching staff as it stands now isn’t good enough to contend. That’s obviously not the same as saying “the offense is good enough to contend, just add pitching”. The whole talent level of the team just kinda is sub par, save for a few players. So my objection is to the idea “well, the pitching’s OK”. The pitching is less bad than the offense, but it’s not great. It could use talent injections. Like Pineda (but as I said, if the right deal for the right position player comes along, he’s expendable).

    Hey, guess what! There is free agency. I know, crazy concepts, right?

    Yes, because Mariner history with free agent pitchers meant to anchor the rotation hasn’t been fraught with disappointment, from Bosio to Fassero to Washburn to Silva.

    If pitching prospects are risky… well, so are free agent starting pitchers. And as was pointed out, at least prospects are cheap.

  88. the tourist on November 30th, 2010 9:09 pm

    Yes, because Mariner history with free agent pitchers meant to anchor the rotation hasn’t been fraught with disappointment, from Bosio to Fassero to Washburn to Silva.

    How many of those guys did Jack Z. sign?

  89. eponymous coward on November 30th, 2010 11:42 pm

    How many of those guys did Jack Z. sign?

    Well, he traded Brandon Morrow. And I could point to good GMs who’ve made signings that failed, as well as ones that paid off.

  90. sexymarinersfan on November 30th, 2010 11:42 pm

    While I’m ok with trading Pineda, it sure is nice to think about a possible rotation of Felix, Michael Pineda, Gerrit Cole, Vargas, and Fister.

    Dave is right, it’s not a for sure thing, no prospect ever really is. I guess when you follow the progress and status of the youngsters for so long you get attached to them and bond with them. You want them to be the best they possibly can for your franchise. I still believe that Michael Saunders has what it takes to be a very good everyday LF. Maybe not an All-Star, but a decent 6 or 7 hitter in the lineup.

    Saunders battled some injuries last year and flashed some power which I was really happy to see. Plus the FO was really happy with the way Smoak produced when he was recalled from Tacoma which was encouraging to here.

    Essentially this team has 5 up and coming youngsters on the brink of becoming regulars next year, and I want to evaluate every single one of them. It took Corey Hart playing in 3 major league seasons before he finally became a regular in the Brewers outfield. JJ Hardy was up and down for the first couple of seasons before he finally clicked in his 3rd year and smashed 26 dingers. So I’m a patient man. Not every prospect is going to be a Ryan Braun or an Albert Pujols and mash major league pitching their first year in the bigs. So I think as Mariner fans we can give a little bit of leeway to Moore and Saunders as they find their way with the team.

  91. Westside guy on December 1st, 2010 12:05 am

    So I think as Mariner fans we can give a little bit of leeway to Moore and Saunders as they find their way with the team.

    I agree with that (no surprise to anyone, given my past posts) – although I think, from a fan point of view, Moore’s got the tougher row to hoe thanks to RoJo’s legacy. I worry that people might not be patient enough to give Moore a chance if he doesn’t bust out of the gate hitting .350.

  92. the tourist on December 1st, 2010 1:29 am

    Well, he traded Brandon Morrow.

    Well now you’re just comparing apples and oranges. :-)

    While I’m ok with trading Pineda, it sure is nice to think about a possible rotation of Felix, Michael Pineda, Gerrit Cole, Vargas, and Fister.

    You forgot about James Paxton.

  93. jjracoon on December 1st, 2010 6:32 am

    Trading or not doesnt make a difference. It is how well you select what you trade for. Jack has done well with what budget he works with.
    You can see in the past deals that worked like Randy Johnson or Jamie Moyer as well as the ones that didnt like Silva and Slocumb. Pitcher wise the Mariners have found some good ones but offense wise I can say that they haven’t had as much success. Other than Buhner and Olerud most of the rest have not done very well. Cameron and McLemore were good contributors on a team with an offensive core. Boonie did well during the steroid period!!
    For every possible Pineda there are three or four times as many Andersons (Little Unit) or the Canadian kid that was a sure fire ace pitcher (forgot his name), or even injury prone Josh Fields.

    Crap shoot so you hope to roll sixes not twelves and have another chance.

    Upton may or may not be the answer but at last he gives the Mariners some chance of offense IF there is an increase in performance by the rest of the team.

  94. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2010 7:23 am

    Well now you’re just comparing apples and oranges.

    The point is no GM is infallible, even if they are good. You want the inevitable mistakes/bad luck to be as least damaging as possible. A pitching prospect who blows his arm out doesn’t kill the budget for years like having your 4 year, 55 million dollar guy blow his arm out.

    I would have to say if Vargas and Aardsma were packaged in a deal I wouldn’t be crying in my beer, though- or even Pineda for the right player.

  95. JH on December 1st, 2010 9:12 am

    “Jarrod Washburn had 4 years in his career of 2+ WAR, and 2 more years of 1.9 WAR. A 4.5 WAR season.

    Carlos Silva? 4 years of 2+ WAR. Several 3 WAR seasons.”

    The problem wasn’t Washburn’s talent, it was his pricetag. Safeco dragged down his FIP (used in WAR) by supressing his HRs allowed. We would have been perfectly happy with him at something like $4 million/year as a back-end starter. Unfortunately, he was paid to be a lot more than that.

    Ditto Silva. He looked decent enough before his signing, but nowhere near good enough to warrant a 4 X $12m contract. Of course he was absolutely terrible when he got to Seattle, but that’s a different issue.

    These guys were ~average (Silva a tick above a couple of tines) starters before coming to the Ms, and Bavasi paid them like solidly above-average starters, and for some reason he paid Silva like a bona fide star. Fister and Vargas are ~average starters who are paid virtually nothing. Fister will get the minimum, and Vargas will get low-7 figures in arbitration. The fact that last year was his first full season and the rest of his service time has come in snippets of seasons should lower his award pretty substantially.

  96. JH on December 1st, 2010 9:27 am

    The pitching staff as it stands now isn’t good enough to contend.

    It depends on context. If the offense were plus, the pitching staff would be fine with a true ace in front, a couple solid 2-2.5 WAR guys, and hopefully some quality additions this offseason to round it out. The Mariners’ 5 in-house returning starters (Felix, Vargas, Fister, Pauley, and French) had more cumulative WAR last year than the Rays’ did (Price, Shields, Garza, Niemann, Davis). Of course, the Rays will get an upgrade this year by swapping out Hellickson, but the point stands. The rotation was solid enough to keep an otherwise good team in contention.

    This assumes that Fister and Vargas repeat: they’ll both probably regress a bit in the HR/FB department, and Vargas’ late-season slip in K-rate worries me. So it’s certainly possible they won’t put up those #s again. But that’s where the other improvements come in. That rotation will not be the Ms’ rotation on opening day in 2011. Whether it’s Pineda or other acquisitions, I expect the rotation to improve.

    Of course, on this team, where offense is an even bigger issue, you’re absolutely right. This team as presently constituted would need five Cy Young contenders in the rotation for the pitching staff to be good enough for the team to compete.

  97. nathaniel dawson on December 1st, 2010 7:02 pm

    Interesting article over at Baseball Analysts that I just came across.

    What really interested me was the reply by Sky (not sure if that’s Andrecheck or Kalkman) in the comments section:

    Players are paid for future performance, not past performance. If we put 2010 WAR values into the chart, we get the following numbers (’7-’09 values in parentheses):

    Total WAR: 75 (104)
    Non-pitcher WAR: 44 (60)
    Starting pitcher WAR: 19 (34)
    Relief pitcher WAR: 12 (11)

    Total $$/WAR: $4.2M ($3.0M)
    Non-pitcher $$/WAR: $3.4M
    Starting pitcher $$/WAR: $5.5MM
    Relief pitcher WAR: $5.1MM

    Note especially the $$/WAR for non-pitchers and pitchers. Free agent position players last year cost teams $3.4 MM per win. For pitchers, it was $5.5. If you were a Major League team last year and you spent $30 million on free agent pitchers, you would have gotten 5.5 wins. If you instead had spent that money on position players, you would have gotten 8.8 wins.

    This is only one year — so I don’t know if that’s an accurate historical perspective — but based on my experience following baseball and from what I’ve read from a couple of other people that have looked at much the same thing, I’d have to believe that’s a pretty good reflection of reality. Position players are just a much better buy in free agency.

    For a team like the M’s with limited financial resources to put together a contending team, they have to take advantage of every edge they can get. But to take advantage of that discrepancy, they have to position themselves so they don’t have to go out and buy free agent pitching. Any time you trade away a pitcher with Pineda’s kind of potential, it makes it that much harder to get to that point.

  98. nathaniel dawson on December 1st, 2010 7:11 pm

    Link fail. Just click on any of the highlighted area to access the article.

  99. John D. on December 2nd, 2010 12:44 pm

    Agreed.
    Back in the USENET days, before USS MARINER, a Phillie fan, who called himself Mike Schmidt, criticized the Mariners for not trading Ryan Anderson and Gil Meche for Brian Giles.
    “You jump through the phone to make that trade,” he said.
    The principle still holds: always be willing to trade top pitchers for top position players.

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