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November 20, 2009 at 2:27 PM

A Mariners-Tigers swap makes a whole lot of sense for both teams

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A bit of a news update here: Chris Jakubauskas has been claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Today was the final day for teams to set their 40-man rosters and Jakubauskas was obviously removed from it.
“It’s kind of bittersweet news,” Jakubauskas told me, adding that he was blindsided by the move. “The Mariners called me today and told me what they’d done and my first thought was ‘Wow, I hope I get claimed.’ Then the next thing they told me was that I’d been claimed by the Pirates.”
Pirates GM Neal Huntington called Jakubauskas about 40 minutes later to welcome him to that organization. They had a brief conversation about his role — he’ll head to camp as a starter and possible long man bullpen candidate. Jakubauskas understands why the Mariners did what they did.
“They gave me my first shot and got me in the business,” he said. “I’ll always be grateful for that. They took a chance on an older guy and a lot of teams wouldn’t have done that.”
Larry Stone has more of the nuts and bolts of the move on his blog.

Been getting tons of emails the last 24 hours about the rumors that have the Mariners and Detroit Tigers looking at some kind of swap, be it two-way or three-way, that would send pitcher Edwin Jackson to Seattle. I’ve spent the past day or so trying to look at the rumors and have made some calls to figure out what’s going on.
Here’s what I know as of today.
The Tigers are exploring possible trades involving both Jackson and center fielder Curtis Granderson. That in itself raises a whole lot of questions about why they would do this. Neither player is a clubhouse cancer. In fact, both are known as excellent clubhouse guys.
From what I’m told, the big reason concerns money. The Tigers have limited payroll flexibility, spending roughly $130 million per year on a bunch of contracts that are only getting larger over time. Think Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, etc.
But in Detroit, there is also the realization that the lineup the team is fielding by 2011 could be vastly different from what’s there right now. The Tigers have some talented young players pushing at the fringes of the major leagues and are looking to maximize the value of trade returns they could get for some of their current players.
For instance, Jackson still has two years of arbitration eligibility left before he becomes a free agent. But his agent is none other than Scott Boras, and while the Tigers don’t mind dealing with him when it comes to draft pick clients and such, going into a protracted negotiation over an existing major leaguer is not high on their wish list. I’m told the Tigers have no intention of letting Jackson enter his 2011 “walk” year.
As for Granderson, he’s entering the third year of a five-year extension deal that will pay him $5.5 million next season, $8.25 million in 2011 and $10 million in 2012. There’s a $13 million club option in 2013 with a $2 million buyout.
Again, that’s not terrible money for a lefty power hitter who is excellent in the field. But the Tigers are looking ahead to what their team will look like in a couple of seasons. They have a young outfield prospect named Casper Wells tearing up the Arizona Fall League (I saw him play, since he’s on the Peoria Javelinas team that includes several Mariners prospects.) Wells could make this year’s Tigers out of spring training and could also be a replacement for Granderson in center.
If you’re the Tigers and looking to maximize value in a Granderson trade, better to do it now when he’s still making $5.5 million per year then in another year or two when the contract starts rising.
So, how would these guys look in Mariners uniforms? Very good, I’d say. And the Mariners have the type of trade returns the Tigers are looking for — namely, Brandon Morrow and some cost-containable left side infielders.
Photo Credit: Seattle Times


First off, Jackson is the type of pitcher this Mariners rotation needs. In other words, he slots in as a potential No. 3 or higher on a club that now has Felix Hernandez and a slew of No. 4 starters.
As for Granderson, he’d be the team’s starting left fielder and give the Mariners hands-down the top offensive and defensive outfield in the majors. You can build a playoff team off that kind of foundation. Granderson doesn’t hit lefties very well, but the M’s do have Bill Hall, who could play left every fourth day against southpaw starters.
The thing is, both of these guys would be excellent fits for a Mariners team that likely envisions itself contending by around 2011. Maybe sooner, who knows?
But you have to give up something to get something.
I’m told the Tigers are very high on Morrow. They had him up on their draft board in 2006, but eventually selected pitcher Andrew Miller. Morrow was gone by the time their next draft pick came around.
But is Morrow alone enough to get a deal for both Granderson and Jackson done?
Not really. As good as some people project Morrow to be, he’s shown very little as a starter and there remains a mindset around the game that he’s better suited as a reliever. That No. 1 draft pick status only lasts you for so long. Ask Jeff Clement.
One priority for the Tigers, I’m told, is to acquire young, talented players for the left side of the infield. Guys who can play third base or shortstop and be around for five or six years under club control.
We know the Mariners have Matt Tuiasosopo , who has shown he can play some second base as well as third. Shortstop? A bit of a stretch.
There is one guy, of course, who fits Detroit’s wish list like a glove.
I’m speaking, of course, about Class AA prospect Carlos Triunfel, a guy who might have made the majors this season if he didn’t break his leg last April. Triunfel is a shortstop who has also been playing second and third base down in the AFL this fall. There was talk, back when Bill Bavasi was still GM, that Triunfel might eventually be moved over to third base. In any event, he’s a natural glove. A better glove than Tuiasosopo with a ton of upside hitting-wise.
He’s also a top Mariners prospect. Before he got hurt, maybe the best prospect in the entire system.
It hurts to trade those. I’m not saying the Mariners would trade him, but if you want to open eyes and get a deal done, a Morrow-Triunfel package would be a heck of a start.
In this case, where there’s smoke, there can often be plenty of flames to follow. The Mariners and Tigers nearly pulled off a three-way deal involving J.J. Putz a year ago. last summer, they did the Jarrod Washburn trade. There’s a relationship between these two teams where deals are concerned and Tigers GM “Dealin’ Dave” Dombrowski doesn’t like to sit back and wait all winter for things to happen. He pulled off the first major deal of last year’s winter meetings and will likely look to move sooner rather than later to get something going with Granderson and Jackson.
Giving up on Morrow and Triunfel will not be easy. But remember this: while Jackson saw his slider desert him midway through last season, leading to a drop in his numbers, Morrow at his absolute best next season may not be any better than Jackson is right now. It’s worth considering. And while Triunfel could very well become a cornerstone infielder in three or four years, Granderson is one of the better outfielders in the game.
As good as Adam Jones was when the Mariners traded him, the team has already found a guy, Franklin Gutierrez, who is as good or better at this stage of his career. Very few players are irreplaceable. There are quite a few options the Mariners have open to them if they want to make this team better right now and in the forseeable future.
That’s my take. I’m sure plenty of discussion will follow amongst some of you. Let’s hear it.
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Geoff Baker

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