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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

January 24, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Upton traded to Atlanta, and Michael Bourn still linked to Mariners

I’m sure most of you by now have seen the Justin Upton trade, with Upton going to the Braves, along with third baseman Chris Johnson, for Martin Prado and four minor leaguers: Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Brendan Drury and Zeke Spruill.

It’s not nearly as good a package as the one the Diamondbacks reportedly were going to receive from the Mariners until Upton vetoed it (and clearly was trying to steer the trade talks to Atlanta, where he now joins his brother, B.J.) . Prado is an underrated player (albeit just one year away from free agency), but none of the prospects are rated nearly as highly as Taijuan Walker and Nick Franklin, said to be in the deal

Whether or not the Mariners were offering too much is debatable. They were certainly offering a lot, but I felt it was worth it to get a potential impact power bat like Upton’s. Atlanta did very well by getting Upton for a lesser package. For the Mariners, it was a moot point, ultimately, because Upton obviously wasn’t going to go to Seattle under any circumstances.

There still is one top-level outfielder on the free-agent market: Michael Bourn. And Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted earlier today that the Rangers are out, and listed the Mets and Mariners as favorites.

Whomever signs Bourn would have to relinquish their top pick next year (a second-rounder for the teams picking one through 10, and a first-rounder for everyone else). The Mets and Mariners select back to back, 11th for the Mets and 12th for the Mariners, so right now either one would have to give up their first-rounder to sign Bourn. An interesting development is that the Mets reportedly may petition baseball to be allowed to give up a second-rounder, instead of the first-rounder, because they had the 10th worst record in baseball, and the 10 worst teams are supposed to be protected. But the Mets were bumped to 11th in the draft order because the Pirates didn’t sign their first-rounder Mark Appel last year, and thus get a compensatory pick this year — No. 9 overall. It would be an interesting case. I think the spirit of the rule favors the Mets (the Pirates won five more games than the Mets), but the wording is pretty clear in protecting the top 10 draft picks, not the 10 teams with the worst record. Word is that the union will support the Mets on this one. The compensation issue is a big factor in keeping Bourn from having signed already. The other factor is that his agent is Scott Boras, who has no problem with keeping a free-agent on the market all winter until the right offer develops. His client Prince Fielder didn’t sign with Detroit until Jan. 26 last year, so Boras is still two days ahead of schedule.

Bourn will cost somewhere in the five-year, $75-million range. The Mariners would seem to have the payroll capacity to absorb that. The addition of Bourn would solve a leadoff problem for Seattle but obviously create even more of a jam in the outfield. It would, however, also give the Mariners flexibility to trade some of those outfield pieces for starting pitching help. I would think Franklin Gutierrez would be an obvious trade candidate in that scenario, though I’m not sure how much he’d bring back with his injury history. Gutierrez is signed through 2013, with a club option for 2014. Casper Wells and Mike Carp are also obvious trade candidates, as neither appears to have a clearcut role for next year.

One factor to consider in potentially giving up the No. 12 pick next year is that the talent level in the 2013 draft is not rated highly.

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