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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

June 8, 2009 at 6:25 AM

The difficulties of kicking off the trading season early

We get set to kick off this second week in June with the Mariners 5 1/2 games out of first place and a game out of second. They have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games and won three series in a row.
And they have yet to trade anybody.
While there are some advantages to getting a head start on the trading season, it can be a delicate balancing act determining when the time has arrived to abandon hopes for the current season.
Nobody has to tell that to the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose GM has taken all kinds of heat over the trade of all-star outfielder Nate McLouth — from his own players. Sure, the Pirates got three prospects back, one of them Grade A. But the deal was a tough sell for a Pirates team that had designs on reaching the .500 mark and going beyond.
Things got so bad that Pirates GM Neal Huntington had to explain the rationale behind the move to his season-ticketholders. No, it wasn’t obvious. Not with two-thirds of a season still to play. Pulling the plug on a campaign is not an exact science.
And while there are some who insist trading away somebody like Erik Bedard can be done with an eye on keeping the current team strong, well, that just rarely happens. Let’s face it, if the Mariners are to contend in 2009, Bedard will be a key part of that. The Mariners showed this week what they can do with a strong front trio of starters, even when the offense has trouble scoring three runs per game.
The Mariners are showing they can win regularly when the offense is spread out just a little bit more. It’s not the combined OPS you have to look at. Sure, Russell Branyan could experience a drop at roughly the same time Jose Lopez starts to take off. In theory, the OPS would tend to be roughly the same overall when that happens.
But it’s really about balance.
An offense with four guys sporting an OPS of around .800 would sure balance out the attack better than having two guys approaching .900 and the rest at .600.
In other words, the rises of Lopez and Adrian Beltre could help the offense enormously, even if Branyan and Ichiro eventually slide a little from their lofty perches. As long as they don’t crash to the .600 OPS level, where Beltre and Lopez had been, things should get better.
At least there is somebody else around to carry the load now on days when Branyan and Ichiro aren’t doing it by themselves.
Which is why, for these Mariners, it still appears to be too early to deal. Not without a lot of double-takes and internal questions.
The Bedard question could be a big one come next month. But best wait until then, when the Mariners could have already decided their fate by falling too far back. They are right on the cusp at present.
Besides, Bedard is likely headed to Type A free-agent status. You’ll likely get two high draft picks for him if he leaves as a free-agent at season’s end. It would take quite a haul to pry him away from Seattle in June, I’d suspect. We’ll know the answer to that in three weeks or less.
As for the answers to this Mariners season, with a schedule of weaker opponents looming, it might take well into July before we get the true picture of what they’re all about.
Photo Credit: AP



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