Taijuan Walker Will Not Be Traded Unless He Is
Robinson Cano is amazing! He might not be amazing in ten years, or five years, or even two years, and for all I know he’ll be a big pile of crap in 2014, but that probably won’t be the case because he’s been one of the best players in baseball for a long time and he’s still not old. Cano is amazing and the Mariners have him, and in the short-term that’s just terrific. To be honest with all you guys, though, I haven’t been able to enjoy the rush to the fullest extent, because getting Cano signals that the Mariners are going for it. The Mariners going for it signals that they’ll be sacrificing more long-term for the immediate, and I’m terrified of a Taijuan Walker trade. Getting Cano makes me afraid about Walker, so this from earlier is some welcome reassurance.
“I don’t have intentions of trading Taijuan,” Zduriencik said. “You listen to any opportunities that present themselves and you go into discussions with a lot of people. And his name will come up. Why wouldn’t it? As do a lot of our guys, quite frankly. But Taijuan is high profile because he’s rated our top prospect. So if I was a club out there, why wouldn’t I ask about Taijuan Walker? That would be a smart thing to do because you never know where it’s going to take you. But I have no intentions of trading him.”
Also, from Bill Shaikin:
Jack Z on Walker, rumored as part of Price trade package: “I expect Taijuan to be with us.”
That’s a pretty direct response to the recent rumors about Walker and David Price. Now, this is Zduriencik from last December 3:
“I don’t have a desire to trade these guys,” Zduriencik said. “I’d be tickled pink to continue this plan and let them all become big leaguers for us and see what they’re going to be. But you can’t shut the door on an opportunity to improve your club for the short term and the long term.”
From a week and a half later:
“And I think what you find is, everybody’s seeking pitchers. That is a real strength of ours. So there’s this balancing act that you put this thing together, it’s starting to look like it’s really going to be something good going forward, and then you get these phone calls that offer you a player that has one or two years of control, and he typically is a high-money player from another ballclub.
“And it’s tempting because you know you can make your big-league ballclub better right now. But the discipline is to say ‘no, we are going to continue along this road.’”
The natural and obvious counterpoint is that Zduriencik did indeed try to trade Walker, to the Diamondbacks, in a package for Justin Upton. But there are two things to remember. For one, Walker’s stock is considerably higher now than it was a winter ago. At that point he was coming off a near-five ERA in double-A. Now he’s got experience in the majors. For two, Upton would’ve come with three years of team control. That’s only one more year than Price’s two, but another way of saying that is 50% more than Price’s two, and Upton came with lower locked-in salaries. So it’s not the same thing.
Based on Zduriencik’s words from a year ago, he wouldn’t move Walker for a high-money player with two years of control, which describes Price. The concern is that the situation is obviously different, with the Mariners now targeting a shorter-term window. I don’t think Jack would say they’re abandoning the rebuilding plan, but they’re certainly looking to win right away. Changing priorities can mean changing ideas and strategies, but it’s still comforting to have Zduriencik go on record as saying he doesn’t want to move his top prospect. The pattern of behavior still suggests he wouldn’t do that for a one- or two-year player.
I can’t help but be reminded of two nuggets from recent history. In 2007, the Tigers declared Cameron Maybin untouchable, and then almost immediately included him in a package for Miguel Cabrera. More recently, Joe Maddon asserted that Matt Garza would pitch for the Rays a little before he was dealt to not-the-Rays. Organizations have changed their minds before, and organizations have deliberately misled the public before, and the point is that nothing is ever final. The Mariners could trade Taijuan Walker tonight. Maybe something will happen that causes them to change their mind. Maybe they don’t actually need to have their mind changed. Taijuan Walker won’t be traded, unless.
Thus the David Price rumors can’t be written off entirely. But, Jack could’ve said something along the lines of, you’re always listening, you’re willing to do anything to improve the ballclub. Just the other week he said something like that when it came to stretching the budget. Shortly thereafter, the team dropped a quarter of a billion dollars on Robinson Cano. What Jack chose to do was say he has no intentions of trading Taijuan Walker. That’s the right plan, at least until you start talking about an elite, cost-controlled talent coming back. For two years of almost anyone, Walker shouldn’t go. May Jack, in this instance, be telling the truth, and may he elect to stick with it. I choose not to over-analyze the use of the word “intentions”. Or “expect”. That’s for my own sanity.