The M’s Should Sell Brandon League Soon

Dave · May 11, 2012 at 11:02 am · Filed Under Mariners 

The Mariners are going to be sellers this year – that’s been obvious since day one. They’re rebuilding around young players, and they aren’t legitimate contenders, so guys who aren’t going to be part of the long term future here probably won’t spend the whole year in Seattle. The team has two obvious trading chips that other teams would likely be willing to give up something of value to obtain – Brandon League and Jason Vargas.

Vargas is pitching well and likely has helped his stock a little bit with his strong early performances, but at the same time, the Mariners aren’t really in a position where they should be looking to punt one of their two quality starting pitchers. Besides Felix, Vargas is the only guy in the rotation that isn’t a significant risk for a disaster start, and the team doesn’t have anyone who could step in and take his place without making the team significantly worse. Holding onto Vargas for another month or two in order to give Hultzen and Paxton more time to get their command in order is probably in everyone’s best interests, and another 5-10 strong starts could continue to help contenders see Vargas as a legitimate quality starter for the stretch run.

However, with Brandon League, the situation is quite a bit different. While his 2.25 ERA and 8 saves have retained his shiny Proven Closer label, he isn’t throwing the ball all that well right now. His trademark two-seam fastball last year averaged 96.4 MPH, and he regularly topped out between 96-98 with it. This year, his sinker is averaging 95.1 MPH, and he’s rarely cracking 96. As Felix is currently demonstrating, velocity isn’t everything, but League doesn’t have Felix’s off-speed stuff. He needs his fastball to help him get ahead of hitters so he can put them away with a splitter in the dirt, and he relies on the power sinker in order to generate a lot of ground balls.

Right now, League’s fastball isn’t helping him do either of those things. His GB% stands at just 46.8%, well below last year’s 57.1% mark and even further from his career 60.7% ground ball rate. He’s not trading grounders for swinging strikes, either, as opposing batters are making contact 83.2 percent of the time they swing, well above his 77.6 percent career rate. He hasn’t posted a contact rate this high since 2008 – the year he spent half the season in Triple-A and only threw 33 innings in the big leagues.

It’s still early, and we’re only dealing with 231 pitches, so all of this could just be a short blip that requires a small adjustment and League could get right back on track. However, League hasn’t had the kind of high profile meltdown that can come with these kinds of struggles and quickly erase a pitcher’s reputation for being a shutdown ninth inning guy. Within the first month of the season, we’ve already seen Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol, and Javy Guerra demoted from the closer’s role, and a bunch of other teams are hunting for bullpen reinforcements because of the struggles of their own ninth inning guys. The line between being a Proven Closer and a heart-attack-waiting-to-happen is smaller than people are willing to admit. It wouldn’t take much for League to move from one category to the other, and with the way he’s throwing right now, it’s more likely than the Mariners should be comfortable with.

There’s a market for relief pitchers right now. Very few are for sale, and pretty much every contending club in baseball is shopping for bullpen help. The Padres just flipped Ernesto Frieri – an extreme flyball setup man who had made his living in the best pitcher’s park on the planet – for a couple of interesting pieces, and he’s not seen as an elite caliber reliever. If the Mariners made League available right now, they’d have significant leverage, and could probably garner a pretty solid return even without waiting until the July trading frenzy.

The other part of this coin is that, for the Mariners, League is easily expendable. Tom Wilhelmsen has been terrific in the 8th inning role, and he has both closer stuff and a legitimate future in this organization. Meanwhile, Steve Delbar has been a surprising revelation as a power setup man, running up a 20/3 K/BB ratio in 16 inning so far this season. Likewise, Shawn Kelley has looked strong since giving up the HR to Yoenis Cespedes in Japan, and his fastball is back in the 92-94 range, a good sign for his ability to handle the seventh or eighth inning if needed.

And, down on the farm, the Mariners have several power bullpen arms knocking on the door. Earlier in the week, they promoted Stephen Pryor from Jackson to Tacoma after he ran a 24/5 K/BB ratio in Double-A, and he’s whiffed five of the first 11 batters he’s faced in Triple-A since being challenged with better competition. Pryor’s fastball has been clocked in the 99-100 MPH range multiple times, and like Delebar and Wilhelmsen, his power fastball sets up hitters and he can put them away with a strong breaking ball. Pryor could easily step into the 6th-7th inning role while he gets his feet wet in the majors, and his stuff should allow him to transition to the big leagues with ease. Back in Jackson, 2011 third round pick Carter Capps is still blowing hitters away as well, and he could easily spend the second half of the year in Seattle.

Put simply, the Mariners don’t need Brandon League. Their bullpen will be just fine without him, and he’s a piece that they could extract a real return for, especially when other teams are shopping for bullpen help and few teams are selling. With League throwing in a way that suggests that he might not be able to keep getting easy saves against better opponents, it makes sense to move League sooner than later rather than risking a meltdown that could put his Proven Closer label at risk.

If I’m Jack Z, I’m making Brandon League available right now, and telling prospective bidders that I’m going to be aggressive in making a deal, so they should bring an offer that allows a deal to be completed in the next 3-5 days. The Mariners should strike while the iron is hot. The time to move League is now.

Comments

69 Responses to “The M’s Should Sell Brandon League Soon”

  1. jld on May 11th, 2012 11:07 am

    Would love to see a list of the teams hottest for RPs right now, and what interesting pieces they could bring to to the table that would fit the Ms rebuilding plan.

  2. eastcoastmariner on May 11th, 2012 11:12 am

    Great post, Dave, couldn’t agree more. With that in mind, what kind of player should the M’s be looking for in return for League?

  3. terry on May 11th, 2012 11:13 am

    Dave,

    What return might League reasonably be expected to command on the market?

    I’ll hang up and take the answer over the air….

  4. Floyd Gondoli on May 11th, 2012 11:16 am

    I would have to think that the Dodgers would be near the top of the list of buyers. Javy Guerra has blown three saves in 11 opportunities. They are off to a hot start and look to be competitive in their division this year; a “Proven Closer” would be a much desired commodity. I only worry that the Mariners might not get much in return for League. Didn’t the Dodgers consider Trayvon Robinson to be a fairly solid prospect?

  5. msfanmike on May 11th, 2012 11:16 am

    Shhhhhh

    I like the idea Dave (very much), but we don’t want to say anything to diminish League’s value.

    Hopefully, the potential trade partners are not reading your stuff. However, even if they aren’t, ROOT will probably have it on tonights broadcast, anyway.

    Never mind … scream it from the rooftops!

  6. Paul B on May 11th, 2012 11:18 am

    What is Leagues’ contract status? How many years of club control are we talking about?

  7. msfanmike on May 11th, 2012 11:20 am

    Paul: The COTS contract info is only a google and click away.

  8. JoshJones on May 11th, 2012 11:21 am

    My pipe dream would be the Angels…trumbo or Trout. But i know that wont happen. Perhaps Peter bourjos?

  9. Paul B on May 11th, 2012 11:22 am

    I just checked, he’s a free agent in 2013.

    If he stays healthy and continues to close, he’d be a Type A free agent, no?

    So for a return on a trade, I’d be looking for something better than a couple of 2nd round draft picks.

    Although, you could make a case that pitchers are always risky, so you could accept a slightly lower return due to the risk.

  10. IdahoFan on May 11th, 2012 11:24 am

    No objection to trading League but the meager return to date for recent mid-season, pitcher trades leaves me pessimistic that the Ms can acquire significant value in return. Perhaps the Ms don’t scout well or perhaps acquiring hitters is just a crap-shoot.

  11. Paul B on May 11th, 2012 11:24 am

    As to Vargas, there’s less of a hurry since he is arb eligible next year and isn’t a free agent until 2014.

    I’m not sure I’d be looking to trade him this year unless someone made an offer that couldn’t be refused.

    Part of that is my hope that the Mariners can compete for a wild card spot next year.

  12. vertigoman on May 11th, 2012 11:28 am

    League could just switch dugouts this weekend.

    I doubt that the NY media would appreciate more Cashman/GmZ dealings. That in itself makes it appealing.

  13. Ibuprofen on May 11th, 2012 11:28 am

    The Angels have gone off the deep end and apparently shopping Peter Bourjos for a reliever. If Z managed to pull that off I’d be thrilled.

  14. shortbus on May 11th, 2012 11:29 am

    I think we can forget Trumbo or Trout but the Bourjos pipe dream might work. I wonder if the Angels would take League + Jaso for him now that they need a catcher. If course WE need a catcher too so this might not be smart.

  15. just a fan on May 11th, 2012 11:30 am

    If the M’s trade League to the Angels, let’s hope they spike his arm like they did with Pineda.

  16. JoshJones on May 11th, 2012 11:33 am

    League for Bourjos seems fair. But i’d look to add a trayvon robinson or someone comparable and upgrade there. A.K.A league for Bourjos is fair, but we want to win the deal. So take Trayvon and give us something better.

    Because of coarse, we must “win” the deal :)

  17. coreyjro on May 11th, 2012 11:34 am

    My thought would be to go for a former top prospect that has struggled to date. Travis Snider and Domonic Brown come to mind.

  18. Ichirolling51 on May 11th, 2012 11:46 am

    I totally agree Dave, we should deal League this instant, if a team comes at us with an acceptable offer. I just wonder what we could reasonably expect for League. The Marlins would be an interesting destination. Maybe we could get one of their top 10 prospects, plus Emilio Bonefacio (sp?). That, and they need bullpen help. I’ve always been high on Bonefacio, he has elite speed, and can play every position, while holding his own with the stick.

  19. Ibuprofen on May 11th, 2012 11:51 am

    Maybe we could get one of their top 10 prospects, plus Emilio Bonefacio (sp?).

    That would be the most ridiculous fleecing of a deal, League is not worth that much.

  20. Dave on May 11th, 2012 11:51 am

    You’re not getting Peter Bourjos for Brandon League. Try to be rational.

    In reality, you’re selling him for a prospect, and since Type A free agency doesn’t apply (they’d have to offer him a minimum salary of $12.5 million to get compensation, and he’d just accept it in a heartbeat), you can’t use the hold-him-for-picks thing as leverage.

    That’s why waiting until July isn’t as valid a strategy anymore. The team has leverage now because no one is selling. Once multiple closers are available, his price may very well go down.

  21. bat guano on May 11th, 2012 12:05 pm

    I’d call Kenny Williams and offer him for Chris Sale. It would be poetic justice to get Sale now that the Pale Hose are treating him the way we treated Morrow.

  22. CCW on May 11th, 2012 12:15 pm

    I’d take just about anything for League right now. Gawd I hope they do it.

  23. Choo on May 11th, 2012 12:16 pm

    The Yankees have a ton of catchers in their system, but what is a rational asking price for League? Gary Sanchez? Probably not, but what about Isaias Tejeda or Austin Romine?

    The Tigers, Mets and Angels are rumored to be seeking immediate bullpen help, but there are plenty of potential buyers. On the flip-side, it seems the only obvious sellers at this point are the Nats (deep bullpen, needs CF), Astros (Brett Myers), and Mariners (Brandon League).

  24. daddydriz on May 11th, 2012 12:25 pm

    I agree about League but Vargas should be a longer-term starter. If the M’s can parlay League into a decent prospect, we might not feel so lousy every time Morrow has another great outing. That was not one of Z’s better trades.

  25. amnizu on May 11th, 2012 12:27 pm

    Big picture, how does selling League and Vargas help this team win in 2013 and 2014 while we still have Felix? Is it time to sell on him as well and play for 2015 and beyond?

    The sale of these two players don’t hurt us this year, that is obvious everyone knew this team was gonna be bad. However, it further weakens the #2 starter next season and perpetuates a revolving door of prospects in, up and out similar to the 1980s.

    I really fear the M’s are turning back into the farm team for the rest of the league. Selling better than average players on a gamble that they’ll hit the jackpot on another Griffey, Arod and Johnson.

  26. just a fan on May 11th, 2012 12:28 pm

    Would it be possible/wise to get a high upside, A-ball player? What sort of return is reasonable, and at which position should the M’s be looking? (CF?)

    Is there an example player or example deal? Thanks.

  27. Johnny Slick on May 11th, 2012 12:42 pm

    Not to belabor the point too much, but if the Angels want “bullpen help” for Peter Bourjos, who are they going to get who is better than Brandon League? Maybe the Angels want a couple of bullpen pieces… well, I’d be fine with giving up League and a Shawn Kelley (I’m not sure other teams perceive much of any value with Wilhemsen yet). I mean, unless “bullpen help” is code for “we want a starting pitcher so we can demote one of our current starters to the ‘pen”, I’m seriously not 100% sure there’s a lot out there that’s both available *and* as good as League.

    Then again, even the Angels are going to be skittish about trading young talent to a division “rival”.

  28. themedia on May 11th, 2012 1:13 pm

    I completely agree with the facts of this post, Dave. It is, of course, 100 percent correct that the M’s do not need Brandon League in 2012 the same way the Yankees or Angels do. The M’s should ostensibly want to trade players whose value is greater to other teams than it is to the M’s. Not only that, but League may be perceived to be better than he’s actually been. Yes.

    Transition.

    I’m reminded of your post about Joey Votto. In that case, you were, like this time, factually correct about WAR, values, etc. In that case, however, as in this case, you seem not to understand (or care, actually—I doubt you care too much about this) how baseball operations actually work on the ground. If Z trades League in the next 3-5 days, that would be interpreted as the M’s jumping ship on 2012. We can all debate the merits of jumping ship, and I’m sure you could also examine how trading a closer would actually help more than it would hurt—even in the short term. That would be a rational response.

    I can already see the general response: “Don’t speak unless you have something to say that you can back up with statistics.” You’d be right, in a way. I can’t back up this post with a statistic.

    This may seem like a fruitless post. After all, what exactly am I advocating? I’m glad you asked. A few posts up there (^^^ that way), you ridiculed rosterbation: “Try to be rational.” I suppose you should try to be less rational, if that makes sense. It seems like rationality, when taken to its logical conclusion, cripples our ability to understand the (baseball) world around us. We’re left wondering why in the world Brandon League remains on the roster, for example. The reason is pretty clear, it seems to me, and it will still be clear in a month when he’s still the closer for the Seattle Mariners. Perhaps, then, we should think about ways to use statistics without forgetting that statistics are not the only factor used to make decisions in the front office.

    It’s a cruel, confusing world out there, but we’re all a part of it.

  29. tylerv on May 11th, 2012 1:19 pm

    Annual time to ship a pitcher off to Detroit. Except both teams need hitting.

  30. Dave on May 11th, 2012 1:28 pm

    You spent four paragraphs lecturing from a position of ignorance. Congratulations, you just wasted everyone’s time.

    I’m not wondering why Brandon League is still a Mariner. I understand very well how front offices work. This has nothing to do with how much stats play a role in decision making. This is just you acting pretentious.

  31. IdahoFan on May 11th, 2012 1:32 pm

    TheMedia: Speaking only for myself, I don’t agree that trading Brandon League would be interpreted as the M’s jumping ship on 2012. I’m following them closely this season, not because I have hopes that they will make the playoffs. I’m enjoying watching the younger players develop (or not). If Jack Z can trade League for a younger player with the potential to develop into a quality hitter, I won’t be discouraged at all. Trading Felix would fit your scenario, trading League isn’t an issue. Thank you for posting, we need more efforts to combine both worlds. Happy Felix vs. Yankees Day!

  32. themedia on May 11th, 2012 1:33 pm

    “You spent four paragraphs lecturing from a position of ignorance. Congratulations, you just wasted everyone’s time.”

    Oh, my; I underestimated your vitriol. I do think I captured the spirit of your post with “[d]on’t speak unless you have something to say that you can back up with statistics.”

    At least I was only “acting pretentious,” which seems better than actually being pretentious. No statistical evidence of my pretensions. I bet Bill James has something cooking; love that guy.

  33. themedia on May 11th, 2012 1:41 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, IdahoFan.

    I tend to agree with the point you made about Felix vs. League. Wedge would have to really sell Wilhelmsen as a “closer-in-waiting” type, but I think he could probably do that. I still think it would be hard to spin trading League for anything other than what it would be: a subtle acknowledgment that he, as Dave rationally points out, is not a part of the long-term plans for the Mariners, which are not in a position to contend in 2012. That acknowledgment is one I think Z isn’t ready to make.

  34. Nik Aitken on May 11th, 2012 1:44 pm

    Mark Trumbo is so obviously worse than Peter Bourjos, why do half the people on here think that Trumbo is untouchable while Bourjos isn’t. We won’t be getting close to either for League anyway.

  35. themedia on May 11th, 2012 1:46 pm

    That was lecture-y. My apologies, Dave.

    I hope my tone (using the word ‘understand’ was certainly a misstep, I see that now) didn’t confuse the spirit of my post. That is, while we all know that roster moves are not only determined by stats, I think it helps to keep that in mind when advocating roster moves. It helps to foreground that idea, I think. In other words, I suppose I’m interested in moves that are likely to happen rather than moves that “should” happen, although I can’t overstate the quotes around “should” enough. Those quotes indicate a whole lot of factors external to statistical analysis.

  36. GLS on May 11th, 2012 2:00 pm

    Like some others that have commented, I’d like to know what a reasonable return is. While I’m definitely biased in favor of this sort of move, I’m pessimistic that we’ll get legitimate talent for a player like League. It seems like relief pitchers get traded all the time and the talent that comes back doesn’t usually amount to much. Of course, I haven’t done an exaustive study or anything, so it could be a case where my perception differs from the reality.

    Using a player in our own system as a benchmark, could League bring back a Nick Franklin-level talent – in other words a player with legitimate tools and skills that has a decent chance of being an average or better major league player, OR would the likely return be more of a raw athlete?

    I do wonder if League might be better used as part of a package.

  37. cnote on May 11th, 2012 2:03 pm

    themedia: it’s also not a “giving up on 2012″ move if you’ve got someone that can take over League’s role with similar skills and abilities–someone like Wilhelmsen (as Dave already pointed out). It would take 3-5 days to sell League, and it would take the same amount of time for any disgruntled fans to come around on it–we would’ve acquired a prospect or two that you (“the media”) would’ve successfully pumped up, and Wilhelmsen would have a save or two under his belt showing the team won’t miss a beat (provided the M’z could actually win a game during that time).

  38. Typical Idiot Fan on May 11th, 2012 2:05 pm

    If Z trades League in the next 3-5 days, that would be interpreted as the M’s jumping ship on 2012

    Not necessarily. Teams, even contending teams, have been known to replace the old player with a new hotness. As long as the Mariners anoint a new closer with the “we want to give him the job and see what he can do” rhetoric, then it wouldn’t be seen as punting the season. Likewise, they’ll be all candy and flowers over League, expressing their gratitude to his work for the last couple of years and how much they respect that he still wants to be “the man” in the bullpen, so they’re sending him off instead of forcing him to take a backseat… etc etc bullshit bullshit bullshit…

  39. JoshJones on May 11th, 2012 2:06 pm

    You’re right Dave. Trading League for Bourjous is “irrational.” The Angels are a class organization that doesn’t make stupid trades based on need. They wouldn’t possibly make that trade.
    Like when they traded Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera for Vernon Wells.

    Oh…wait.

    .

  40. cnote on May 11th, 2012 2:08 pm

    I don’t think Z would have to sell it too hard–let Wilhelmsen’s pitching speak for itself. M’z fans always want to “believe”…

  41. GLS on May 11th, 2012 2:08 pm

    I don’t think trading League would be viewed as giving up on the season. He isn’t significant enough.

  42. Kazinski on May 11th, 2012 2:15 pm

    You’re not getting Peter Bourjos for Brandon League. Try to be rational.

    Exactly, we’ll have to throw in our starting catcher, who led the team in HRs and RBIs too. I miss Tony Reagins.

  43. Miles on May 11th, 2012 2:15 pm

    The only thing wrong with League this year is he’s getting squeezed by the MLB umpires. He’ll come in, throw two stikes that sink, hit the bottom of the zone and get rung up for ball one and ball two. The umps have been forcing him to pitch up in the zone.

    I hold onto League at this time. When the M’s get home from this road trip, if for some stupid reason they are at .500, they then get Texan and LAAA of A for a home set. Let’s see where the M’s are at the end of the month before we cut bait.

    USSM preached that Seager was no more than a utility guy. Um, he’s not. Seager is a legit MLB bat. If Ackley and Montero heat up, Carp and Saunders stay afloat and Ryan does anything, add that to Jaso and Seager and this team will be OK.

    Things would be much funner if Zduriencik decided to be a buyer instead of a seller this year. Pryor, League, Wilhemson and Kelley in the same bullpen would be very solid.

    Also, how realistic is it that Hultzen or Paxton acutally pitch any significant innings in the MLB this year. Hultzen threw 126 innings or so between UofV and the AFL. Paxton threw like 90 to 100 last year. Is it fair to think these guys are going to throw more than 150 innings? I don’t think so. Especially after Pineda’s arm just fell off because of the increased work load last year.

  44. eponymous coward on May 11th, 2012 2:24 pm

    As to Vargas, there’s less of a hurry since he is arb eligible next year and isn’t a free agent until 2014.

    I’m not sure I’d be looking to trade him this year unless someone made an offer that couldn’t be refused.

    Part of that is my hope that the Mariners can compete for a wild card spot next year.

    Vargas is making 4.85 million in 2012. If he has his usual year, that means probably $7-8 million in arbitration in 2013.

    If the Mariners can’t replace a 2-2.5 WAR pitcher with their current talent base + what’s on the farm + what’s available in freed-up salary + whatever we get back for Vargas, the GM is likely incompetent, or there’s going to be a severe salary reduction for 2013 (in which case they can’t afford Vargas anyways).

    Sadly, we’re Oakland North these days, and that means like Billy Beane, we buy low (Vargas was one of the throw-ins in the Putz trade), and sell high. Vargas is a decent pitcher but replaceable in the right deal.

  45. eponymous coward on May 11th, 2012 2:32 pm

    Also, in the “wow, I think he’s officially a bust” department:

    Justin Smoak: .220/.306/.369, -.6 WAR in 1004 MLB PAs.

    At this point, I’m ready to go “Next!”. I’d like to see Casper Wells play every day, thanks.

  46. Adam B. on May 11th, 2012 2:49 pm

    I see the argument for trading League right now and I agree. However, I can also see the reasons why the M’s might want to wait until closer to the deadline before making this move; Eric Wedge loves his “prooven veteran” players and would put up a stink, potential negative PR from a perceived “abandoning 2012 contention”, and the relatively small deminished gains from a player who is never going to garner a huge return no matter when he’s dealt.

    In summary, I think best case scenario is J.J Putz, worst case is David Aardsma, but neither extreme is likely.

  47. BillyJive on May 11th, 2012 2:54 pm

    I agree 100%. Sell high on League. Forget about who we traded to get him, it’s about making the team better for the future, not about trying to correct past mistakes. Anyone that has watched ‘The Bartender’ pitch knows he could close in a heartbeat. Do it Jack!!!

  48. djw on May 11th, 2012 3:13 pm

    themedia,

    The problem with your long post wasn’t that it didn’t have statistics, it was that, as far as I could tell, it didn’t have a point.

    If I were hard-pressed to do so, I’d identify the closest thing to a point in that post as your observation that some people (who don’t understand how to value relief pitchers) would interpret the trade as giving up on the 2012 season. Which is surely true! But so what? People interpret things stupidly all the time. A general manager can’t do his job if he’s hamstrung from making moves by this possibility. And, to state the obvious, this is a fairly minor move; not the sort of thing that has any real chance of impacting attendance. I don’t care how low information fans, or fans with a poor understanding of player value, evaluate personnel moves. You seem to, but I have no idea why, because you don’t give a reason.

  49. The Wheelhouse on May 11th, 2012 3:13 pm

    If League leaves whose intro will I head bang to? I see your point about League and I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to move him if the price is right.

    I want to keep Vargas. I want to see some winning this year. With Vargas and Felix I know we have a good chance of winning, but any of the other starters make me nervous the whole game.

    I don’t understand why Iwakuma is not being given a starting job. The guy has shown he can pitch.

  50. The Wheelhouse on May 11th, 2012 3:22 pm

    Scratch that. I do like Blake Beavan. I know he’s not popular here, but I would put him in over Millwood or Noesi.

  51. G-Man on May 11th, 2012 3:32 pm

    Totally agree on trading League. Closers are overvalued and the bullpen players Dave named are solid.

    Paul D said a lot that I agree with:

    “As to Vargas, there’s less of a hurry since he is arb eligible next year and isn’t a free agent until 2014.

    I’m not sure I’d be looking to trade him this year unless someone made an offer that couldn’t be refused.”

    We have to have some semblance of a starting rotation, or pretty soon they’ll only be able to sell tickets on Felix Day. If they get nothing more in quality that the guys they got for Fister, it isn’t worth it. And don’t tell me that the Three Arms Of The Future are all going to be in the rotation next April.

    “Part of that is my hope that the Mariners can compete for a wild card spot next year.”

    Well, we can hope for that. The Mariners need to field a team that has some chance at it, or thousands more will become Sounders fans instead.

  52. Adam S on May 11th, 2012 4:09 pm

    In addition to the risk of blowing up and losing the proven closer tag, League loses value even if he pitches well. Unless he somehow pitches lights out insane.

    League is worth about .05 W/week (point is the same even if you think he’s worth more). Every week that goes by the team acquiring him is getting a little bit less.

    Move him now, tell the fans you want to give Luetge, Wilhelmsen, and Delabar in an expanded role. The fans won’t care.

  53. Johnny Slick on May 11th, 2012 4:49 pm

    While true, Adam, I’m not sure that teams think that way. They’re just as likely to worry about whether or not they’re signing a guy to help them contend in a year where they aren’t actually going to contend. I mean, if I were the Angels that would be the first thing on my mind. Granted, the Angels have not proven to be the brightest light of reason in the major leagues recently.

  54. MrZDevotee on May 11th, 2012 6:13 pm

    “At least I was only ‘acting pretentious,’ which seems better than actually being pretentious.” -TheMedia, May 11, 2012

    “We mainly criticize in others what we dislike about ourselves…” – chuang tzu, circa 300 B.C.

  55. MrZDevotee on May 11th, 2012 6:15 pm

    Dave said:
    “Besides Felix, Vargas is the only guy in the rotation that isn’t a significant risk for a disaster start”

    Whoops, Webster’s lists that very same sentence as the first definiton of “jinx”. (Crosses fingers)

  56. ppl on May 12th, 2012 12:27 am

    I agree with trade League ASAP and Vargas is the best mid-season player to deal off. I will be looking forwards to the returns they will get out it. I am Not looking forward to the irrational fan reactions to the deals. And worst of all is the usual jumping to conclusions about the merits of the deals based on small samples, but it happens all the time.

  57. SonOfZavaras on May 12th, 2012 1:40 am

    The Dodgers have ex-Mariner James Baldwin’s kid (also named James Baldwin) in the minors- he’s a toolsy lefty hitter with centerfield possibilities.

    He’s a kid I wouldn’t mind having in our organization.

    Frankly, we could use some beefing up in the centerfield/speed prospects all across our minor league affiliates.

    League to the Dodgers for Baldwin and a AA-level arm. I think I pull the trigger.

  58. goat on May 12th, 2012 9:24 am

    Theoretically, trading League to the Angels makes a lot of sense, as they need bullpen help and have lots of position players that could be starters who aren’t getting enough playing time. I don’t particularly like Trumbo, with the sub 300 OBP last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if last year will be his best year, and I’m not convinced he’s that much better than someone like Liddi or Carp, actually. Obviously a straight up trade for Bourjos is ridiculous, but the Angels do appear to be shopping him, and I think we could put some sort of package together that includes other players they might be interested in.

    I don’t see the wisdom in criticizing Dave regarding his proposed Pineda/Votto trade, as what did end up happening was remarkably similar.

    .254/.291/.477

  59. JoshJones on May 12th, 2012 10:25 am

    League to the dodgers? They finally gave kenley Jensen the closer tag. He was stuck behind Javy Guerra who has no business closing games. They don’t need league, Jensen might have the best stuff of any closer in the league.

  60. themedia on May 12th, 2012 11:10 am

    “themedia,

    The problem with your long post wasn’t that it didn’t have statistics, it was that, as far as I could tell, it didn’t have a point.

    If I were hard-pressed to do so, I’d identify the closest thing to a point in that post as your observation that some people (who don’t understand how to value relief pitchers) would interpret the trade as giving up on the 2012 season. Which is surely true! But so what? People interpret things stupidly all the time. A general manager can’t do his job if he’s hamstrung from making moves by this possibility. And, to state the obvious, this is a fairly minor move; not the sort of thing that has any real chance of impacting attendance. I don’t care how low information fans, or fans with a poor understanding of player value, evaluate personnel moves. You seem to, but I have no idea why, because you don’t give a reason.”

    I’m sympathetic to this reaction. I like that you looked for a point even thought you didn’t find the one that I was trying to identify. Your confusion was likely a result of two things: 1. Bad writing. 2. Bad reading.

    Number one is 100 percent my fault, but my raison d’etre was a pretty simple one: the acknowledgment of external factors in front office decisions is important. We tend to dismiss it out of hand on this blog as “stupid” (your word choice), and I suppose you and Dave don’t think that’s a problem. I can see why. I tend to agree to a point. Issues like fan perception, ownership perception, etc. arise from a critical perspective that we might call “ignorant” and “stupid.” Libertarians definitely would do that. Just kidding, libertarians. Some things are jokes at your expense. That was a digression, but my point there was that we tend to dismiss a lot of things that aren’t things we call rational or statistically measurable.

    On the other hand, I might point out that the 2012 Seattle Mariners have been constructed using a lot of metrics that we advocate. Dave identified John Jaso as an easily acquirable but valuable piece a long time ago, for example. The rotation seems to have been constructed using PITCHF/x, FIP, etc. Or, at least, we have several players who do well when measured using stats that might be peripheral to some clubs and certainly are peripheral to casual baseball fans.

    And here we are, struggling as an organization. Cutting loose Brandon League would likely hurt our 2012 organization. Dave has pointed out, and I think he’s right, that League could probably only fetch a marginal, young prospect. We can all agree that he’s worth that in the long term, and we’re all going to be Mariners fans no matter what. Trade him. Keep him. Doesn’t matter.

    I do think cutting League loose would cause even more people in Seattle to grumble. Maybe we don’t care about that, because it’s “stupid” and “ignorant.” I think it’s a perspective we should acknowledge. At the least, I think it’s a perspective we should acknowledge Z as acknowledging. Now *that’s* bad writing.

  61. djw on May 13th, 2012 9:20 am

    Cutting loose Brandon League would likely hurt our 2012 organization.

    As Dave points out in this post, we have a number of talented relievers, and League is showing some unfortunate trends and it probably pitching over his head right now. There’s no particular reason to think this will cost the team significantly. Furthermore, the rest of your comments seem to suggest your point is about the degree to which incorrect perceptions by other people (fans, I presume, but you’re still not being entirely clear about this) can (and should? You’re not clear here either) constrain a general manager. But here you seem to be saying you agree with those incorrect perceptions.

    I do think cutting League loose would cause even more people in Seattle to grumble. Maybe we don’t care about that, because it’s “stupid” and “ignorant.”

    I’m not interesting in insulting casual fans or doing things to spite them. That they’re incorrect about how to understand the value of relievers reveals nothing about their intelligence, to state the obvious. Most fans are casual; they use their brains for other (probably more productive and sensible) pursuits. So enough with that strawman please.

    But your position seems to be that a GM ought to cater to the whims of these fans when making personnel moves. This is a terrible way to run an organization (any kind of organization, not just a baseball team). To be clear, we shouldn’t care about it because a) it’s a persistent feature of trades in major league baseball that some fans will grumble, and b) it doesn’t have tangible negative effects. Look, to state the obvious: you get more value when you trade high than when you trade low. But fans like players who are doing well. Therefore fans will be more annoyed when players who are doing well are traded. Catering to the kind of casual fan whims you suggest would mean taking a distinctly suboptimal approach to personnel moves that a good GM can’t afford to take.

    At the least, I think it’s a perspective we should acknowledge Z as acknowledging

    You’re asking us to acknowledge something there’s no evidence for, other than your hunch. I’ll acknowledge it’s possible, if you’ll admit you have no idea if it’s true. You can’t peer into Zdurencik’s brain any more than I can. Furthermore, we are talking about a GM who has already traded a popular, successful closer once, so there’s that.

  62. themedia on May 13th, 2012 10:34 am

    “’ll acknowledge it’s possible, if you’ll admit you have no idea if it’s true.”

    Of course I don’t!

    The rest of your points are salient ones. I’m trying to emphasize the line Z has to toe rather than the legitimacy of that line, so when you undermine that line, you’re kind of talking past my point.

    Broadly, I’m trying to suggest that the reason Dave et al. often propose moves that have almost no possibility of happening (although I’m not sure the post about League is in that category; it’s close, anyway) is that this line exists. We are very often right about valuing performance, but we are very often wrong about what is going to happen. That seems kind of strange, yes?

    Remember that time Z said he’d only trade Aardsma for “an impact bat”? We were all like, “Um, okay, but you won’t get one.” Z didn’t budge on that request—at least not publicly. It seems like that points to the issue I’m trying to call our attention to. That is, we can read Z’s statement in one of two ways: 1. He doesn’t know how to value players. I believe Dave asked someone to “[p]lease be rational” when they suggested that we could get Peter Bourjos for League, and Peter F. Bourjos is not “an impact bat.” Therefore, if Z was serious about that trade request, then he does not know how to evaluate players “rationally.” 2. He knows very well how to evaluate players. He can assume other GMs do, too (maybe not Kenny Williams …). Therefore, making that statement has nothing to do with GMs. It has nothing to do with a trade that is likely to happen. It’s some kind of misdirection, yes, but for whom?

    I would answer that it’s misdirection for M’s fans, ownership, etc., because I think Z knew damn well that he wouldn’t get a middle-of-the-order hitter for a closer. This sort of misdirection informs the choices Z (and other GMs) make; I think it’s worth acknowledging that this line exists when we speculate about what’s going to happen next.

  63. djw on May 13th, 2012 12:01 pm

    Broadly, I’m trying to suggest that the reason Dave et al. often propose moves that have almost no possibility of happening (although I’m not sure the post about League is in that category; it’s close, anyway) is that this line exists. We are very often right about valuing performance, but we are very often wrong about what is going to happen. That seems kind of strange, yes?

    No, it doesn’t seem strange at all. Trades in baseball have always been much rarer than speculation about trades in baseball.

    But again–after agreeing with me that your theory is entirely speculative and you have no idea if it has any merit, you attempt to leverage two things–the relative infrequency of trades and a public statement once made Zduriencik–as evidence that your theory is true. That’s pretty thin gruel, to put it mildly. And you certainly haven’t made any effort to explain how your theory can account for the fact that Zduriencik has already traded an “established” closer.

  64. themedia on May 14th, 2012 6:46 am

    Well, okay. What is a public statement? Why make a public statement?

    To interact with the public … ?

    And I’m drawing a blank on Z’s trade. Which established closer did he trade? If you’re referring to Brandon Morrow, I think that situation is much different than this one. In that case, Z actually traded a mystery arm *for* a closer. Many of us didn’t like that trade, myself included, but it seemed to be a short-term approach to pitching. That may not be the case you’re talking about, though.

    I didn’t just mean that we’re wrong about what actually happens in terms of specific trades. I meant that we’re discussing trades on this blog that get categorically dismissed when discussed by GMs. Again, think back to “the Votto trade,” which was essentially laughed off the internet. Dave made a strong case for that trade on paper; we all saw the way he smartly calculated WAR vs. $$$. It had absolutely no chance of happening. That was immediately evident to a number of people here. When reporters began to ask the Reds about trading Votto, they said it was something that had no possibility of happening.

    I don’t really think it’s a theory. Or, rather, I suppose it must be, but so is gravity. It seems like such an obvious factor when making roster moves, and I’m surprised you’re questioning its existence. I was trying to make the case that we should begin thinking about roster moves, lineups, etc. through a more complete lens more consistently.

  65. msfanmike on May 14th, 2012 8:13 am

    @themedia/Geoff:

    I believe the “established closer he traded” was J.J. Putz

    Morrow was not yet established as either a closer or as a starter. Since he was never established (an organizational blunder, for sure and for certain), he was traded for less value than he subseqently has provided to Toronto. However, I doubt that he is the ‘established closer’ being referred to above.

    As you recall, the J.J. Putz trade brought in a very nice haul. Easily the best trade Z has made to date. If/when Guti returns, the dividends will continue to compound.

    If it is possible to be served another dose of that type of medicine – by trading League – I will be all for it.

    So would you.

  66. kinickers77 on May 14th, 2012 4:53 pm

    Dave, c’mon. Your response to TheMedia was pretty childish to me.

    The logical thing for the Ms to do is exactly as you say. But they don’t always make logical decisions now do they? TheMedia has a point. They may very well care too much about the “appearance of giving up” and hold League for another month still.

  67. themedia on May 15th, 2012 9:09 am

    msfanmike: I am not Geoff Baker. I am so not Geoff Baker.

    Geoff Baker doesn’t care about advanced metrics. He cares about real baseball stuff like makeup, leadership, Nolan Ryan-ness—generally categorized as “cahones.”

    I am not Geoff Baker.

    And, yes, I forgot about Putz! How did I forget about Putz? What a putzy move I made when I forgot about Putz! If Z could turn League into another everyday CF, then, yes, I’d be satisfied, as would most M’s fans.

  68. msfanmike on May 15th, 2012 10:34 am

    I remember how “Geoff” slipped in there, but I also recall wanting to remove it before hitting “submit.” At one point, I felt like I was writing to him directly, because I did read the list of comments and the stream of consciousness seemed to be a pretty good match.

    Thank you for clearing up that uncertainty, though.

    I think your initial comment poked the bear and started the argument with Dave – a comment that you subsequently apologized for (I believe it was in regard to the word “understand”).

    What portion of the media do you actually represent … if you don’t mind saying?

  69. themedia on May 16th, 2012 11:41 am

    No part. It’s just the name.

    I picked it because “media” is tossed around haphazardly. Its cultural indeterminacy interests me (see above confusion).

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