Asking The Question Slightly Differently
I get that a lot of people think the idea of trading Michael Pineda away is crazy. It’s just not something you see teams do – in almost every case, they keep their best young players around and hope for the best. But, let me turn the tables and present the question in a slightly different manner.
Let’s say that the team was in exactly the same position in the standings that they are right now at 39-42, 4 games out of first place. However, instead of Jack Cust struggling at DH, they had 24-year-old Yonder Alonso, a left-handed hitting line drive guy with some upside. Instead of Adam Kennedy and Chone Figgins platooning at third base, they had 25-year-old Todd Frazier adding some right-handed power to the line-up. The rotation featured a 24-year-old lefty in Travis Wood who had racked up +3.2 WAR in 196 innings at the big league level and was a perfect fit for Safeco Field. And, down on the farm, the best prospect in the system was a 22-year-old switch-hitting catcher with patience and power, the fruit of the team’s high selection in the first round a year ago.
Would anyone here really be suggesting that the Mariners trade three guys off their Major League roster and their best prospect remaining in the minors – one of the very best catching prospects in the game, by the way – for a starting pitcher? Anyone?
I’ll suggest that the answer is no, and as evidence, I’ll point to the discussions we were all having at this time last summer. The Mariners were going to trade Cliff Lee and everyone knew it, so the month of July was essentially non-stop speculation about what kinds of players the Mariners should target. The public opinion was nearly unanimous – the package of players coming back should be centered around the best hitter the team could get. The general reaction to a rumored package from Minnesota that might include Scott Baker was “no thanks, we want bats!”
That’s why the focus the last few weeks was on the teams who could offer up a top hitting prospect in return – the Yankees dangled Jesus Montero before the Rangers finally caved on Justin Smoak, but this was the kind of guy the Mariners were after when trading Lee, and the kind of guy that nearly everyone in the fan base wanted to see the team get in return. There just wasn’t any kind of push to use Lee to get a young pitcher in return, even though the rotation was mediocre and in need of some serious help.
Last year, no one wanted to build around pitching when making a trade that would almost certainly bring back an elite young talent. Now, all of the sudden, a premium young pitcher is a more valuable commodity to the team than a position player despite the rest of the rotation getting even better and the team using the #2 overall pick in the draft on a premium pitching prospect?
I get that watching Michael Pineda is exciting, and dreaming of what he could be is one of the most fun things about being a Mariner fan right now. However, if the tables were flipped and Pineda was already in Cincinnati, and the Mariners had Grandal, Alonso, Frazier, and Wood in the organization, I just don’t think we’d be seeing massive support for trading them all away to acquire Pineda and build an uber-rotation. I think the reaction to that suggestion would be something along the lines of “the pitching is already very good, why create huge holes on the roster to upgrade the strength of the team?”
I’m just saying that if you wouldn’t make the trade if the tables were turned, then maybe it’s not such a crazy idea after all.