The Mariners Tried To Trade Dustin Ackley

Jeff Sullivan · June 30, 2014 at 6:15 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

That’s the headline I would use, were I a worthless sensationalist. Odds are, you’ve seen this by now, but not too long ago the Astros had their internal data system hacked, and where a few years ago that would’ve meant we’d get our eyes on hand-drawn sketches of a flying giraffe in a baseball cap, these Astros actually keep track of relevant baseball conversations, so we get to consider nuggets from what were supposed to be private exchanges. We get to see, for example, how Jeff Luhnow tried to market the exhaustingly mediocre Bud Norris. We don’t get to learn all that much, to be honest, and this is the sort of thing that could happen to almost any organization, but there is a little bit where the Mariners play a role, so, we’re going to do this. We’re going to turn this into a story that’s Mariners-relevant.

A blockquote of a note from last November:

[Luhnow] spoke with [Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik]. Jazk Z said he’s getting a lot of calls from Clubs asking him if he can get Castro from us. Jack Z asked if we would do Ackley for Castro. JL said no, we wouldn’t do that. Jack Z asked if there was someone he could add to Ackley. JL said he would take a look.

That’s basically it. If Luhnow took a look, there’s nothing else on the matter in the data dump, and obviously the Mariners never added Jason Castro. Based on the wording, and based on Mike Zunino, it’s not that the Mariners were really trying to acquire Castro so much as they were trying to facilitate a three- or four-way trade that would bring Castro to Seattle and then move him somewhere else. The Mariners were involved with teams interested in Jason Castro, and from those teams the Mariners would’ve wanted help, but we can’t identify the desired help, so this doesn’t really go any further.

Why would teams ask the Mariners to get Castro, instead of get him themselves? Maybe, based on the conversations with the Astros, the Mariners seemed like a better trade fit. Or maybe teams just felt better trying to take advantage of Jack Zduriencik than Jeff Luhnow.

GM: Luhnow’s driving a hard bargain.
GM: He’s probably not going to let up.
GM: Let’s try to get our guy from Jack.
GM: Let’s go ahead and try to involve Jack in this.

The meat: the initial offer. If this is all true, Jack Zduriencik tried to get Jason Castro for Dustin Ackley. It’s not a bad attempt, in that Jason Castro is a lot more valuable than Dustin Ackley is. Luhnow, naturally, turned the offer down, and it doesn’t seem things went much further. A year ago, by WAR, Castro was four wins better than Ackley, and while Ackley had a successful second half, and while Ackley is under team control a year longer, Castro’s a catcher with skills both at the plate and behind it. It’s evident that Zduriencik valued Ackley quite a bit lower than Castro, given that this was offer No. 1. It’s evident that Zduriencik isn’t totally committed to Ackley in the present or the future, which is wise given that Ackley looks more and more like a total bust with every passing day. Maybe what he needs is a different organization, or maybe what he needs is just more time, but the best thing about Dustin Ackley is what he’s done in Triple-A, and he’s approaching 2,000 trips in the bigs. Over this season’s last month, he’s slugged .227.

There are a couple more things we can take away from this that are at least somewhat relevant to the Mariners:

(1) The Mariners aren’t totally opposed to a move of significance within the division. I guess we already knew that, based on the John Jaso/Michael Morse three-team trade, so this isn’t major news, but while a lot of people like to think that dealing within a division is a non-starter, that doesn’t hold up to reason and it doesn’t seem to bother the Mariners all that much. Unless, of course, Zduriencik doesn’t value Ackley at all, and he was just trying to rip the Astros off. But if that were true, Ackley wouldn’t be starting for the Mariners right now. Zduriencik might value Ackley too much. The point — the Mariners were willing to send Ackley and more to the Astros, and the Astros play in the same division as the Mariners.

(2) The Mariners aren’t the only front office that makes laughably lopsided trade proposals. Something I’ve heard multiple times before is that Zduriencik has a habit of making offers that are borderline insulting. And that, of course, can be off-putting, but it can also be a way to kick off a negotiation, given that you have to start somewhere and you might as well factor in some ground to give. Luhnow was acting kind of crazy about the Bud Norris sweepstakes, in that he figured there was even such thing as a Bud Norris sweepstakes, but Norris still ultimately got moved, and not for very much. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do to make lopsided offers, but the Mariners aren’t alone on that island. Truth be told, it’s probably pretty common. It might just be a way to start a dialogue. Maybe it even lightens the mood! I don’t have a good gauge of general manager senses of humor.

Something we learned about the Mariners today: early last offseason, they expressed interest in trading a not very good player for a considerably better player. Those trade talks didn’t go anywhere, and so Dustin Ackley is still here and still disappointing. There’s something to be said about the fact that, this quickly after being drafted, Ackley wasn’t good enough to land Jason Castro on his own, but whatever would be said wouldn’t be new and it wouldn’t be surprising. Dustin Ackley’s kind of been crap. Especially lately, but even several months ago, he was a man with a fading memory of excellence.

A big big part of me is glad this didn’t happen to the Mariners’ front office. An equally-sized part of me is sad.


11 Responses to “The Mariners Tried To Trade Dustin Ackley”

  1. coreyjro on June 30th, 2014 6:34 pm

    So interesting. I just want to know where Castro was going and who we were getting. Taking rosterbation to the extreme.

  2. mark s on June 30th, 2014 7:07 pm

    Ackley might be a good example of someone who needs a change of scenery, at least before it is too late for his career.

  3. Westside guy on June 30th, 2014 7:21 pm

    I could use a change of scenery – meaning the scenery I see in left field whenever I watch a Mariners game.

  4. PackBob on June 30th, 2014 9:39 pm

    I imagine it’s hard to give up on the top draft pick. They know that any pick can bust, but this was their guy, number two in all the draft, the guy who could hit .300 in his sleep. Ackley *should* have been worth Castro, easily.

    If Jack was a truly nice GM, he would have traded Ackley to the team that wanted Castro for their trade piece, flipped him for Castro, and then traded Castro for Ackley back. Then he could have marketed Ackley as the guy that was worth Castro.

  5. _Hutch_ on June 30th, 2014 10:10 pm

    Are we sure this leak was legit? I have a hard time envisioning the size of the balls on a GM willing to ask for a Dylan Bundy-Bud Norris trade.

  6. martini on July 1st, 2014 1:16 am

    Well, if he keeps it up, Ackley might break his all-time RBI record of 50 this year. I’d market that fact to other teams. Oh, wait, that will not be impressive.

    Like so many of the M’s first-round picks, this one did not pan out. He has gone from being a “prospect” to being “suspect” long ago.

    Unfortunately, I think we are seeing his true ability this year. This is it, and it is what it is.

    If he can’t hit, the least he can do is shave that gnarly beard. It is brutal to see in HD.

  7. leon0112 on July 1st, 2014 6:15 am

    It is impressive to me how hard it is to hit major league pitching. It is also impressive how hard it is to predict who will be able to hit major league pitching. Kyle Seager is a better major league hitter than Dustin Ackley. It is obvious now, but no one called that during the draft.

  8. liebkartoffel on July 1st, 2014 8:34 am

    Making an initial “insulting” offer is called the “door in the face” technique. It’s not a bad negotiating tactic, as any subsequent offer will have to seem reasonable by comparison. Of course, it doesn’t really work if the other guy knows what you’re doing.

  9. stevemotivateir on July 1st, 2014 8:37 am

    I don’t have a good gauge of general manager senses of humor.

    I’m sure many GM’s have had a good laugh at the expense of Jack.

    For some reason this reminds me of the interview in which Jack explains how they had a birthday cake for Jay Z and sang happy birthday to him, and the way Roc Nation was able to squeeze another year out of him to sign Cano.

    I don’t know about a sense of humor, but humor seems to be a byproduct of Jack’s dealings.

  10. Westside guy on July 1st, 2014 1:08 pm

    From what Divish has said, it’s pretty well known that other front offices have a poor opinion of the Mariners’ FO.

  11. shortbus on July 4th, 2014 11:31 am

    What’s surprising is that it looks like Ackley is contributing. I was looking at what it would be like if the M’s swapped Ackley for Dayan Viciedo in left. I think they’d be worse off. At least according to Fangraphs Ackley is a bit above replacement with his defense and baserunning. He’s also been about a league-average batter vs. lefties (wRC+ of 98) which is both weird and nice for the M’s who have trouble with lefties.

    Right now Ackley has a higher fWAR than Viciedo, Ethier and Kemp — all players that have been talked about as alternatives. I’d like to see an upgrade in left field, but Ackley doesn’t appear to be killing the M’s as much as his slash line would suggest.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.