The Mariners Tried To Trade Dustin Ackley
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.