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December 22, 2009 at 2:21 PM

Some No. 1 picks ain’t what they used to be

Lots of disappointment in the local blogosphere today over the news that the Mariners will be getting Class A outfielder Yohermyn Chavez, along with reliever Brandon League, in that Brandon Morrow trade.
My first reaction was that Chavez’s inclusion makes the deal a whole lot less sexy than it sounded this morning when other names were being bandied about.
My second reaction is — stop doing it.
Stop overvaluing what Seattle had to trade.
We see this done locally all the time. Fans of teams, media that cover them and the teams themselves tend to overvalue their own prospects.
And that’s what Morrow is right now, at least as a starting pitcher. He’s a prospect.
Look at it from Toronto’s perspective. In League, they see a reliever with a ton of potential and raw ability who has never quite put it all together. Sounds familliar, right?
Morrow has a little more value here given his potential to be a starting pitcher. He also offers Toronto one more year of club control than League brings Seattle. But what Morrow doesn’t offer is any guarantees he’ll be an effective starter. Hence, the added value he brings is still limited.
That’s why you have Chavez to balance things out. Not a top prospect and — after two full years of Class A — a guy who is still a few seasons from the majors. I seriously doubt Toronto GM Alex Anthopolous viewed him as a threat to crack the big league team any time soon or possibly later.

What Chavez does bring is some minor league depth that was lost when Tyson Gillies was dealt last week. And at the age of 20, he’s still young enough that a breakthrough, in spite of all his strikeouts, isn’t out of the question.
But the “even up” quotient on this trade didn’t call for anything more. I thought it might initially last night when I heard League was coming. But the more I think about it, League as a reliever might have more upside than Morrow as a starter or reliever. He hasn’t proven otherwise.
And it’s likely Jack Zduriencik views it that way, too. Remember, Zduriencik was the guy who made a call on Phillippe Aumont going to the bullpen last March. At the time, Aumont had enjoyed even less time than Morrow at trying to become a professional starting pitcher.
Maybe Morrow had all the time Zduriencik needed to see. He doesn’t seem to waste much time in making these tough calls. Also doesn’t seem to have much respect for the first-round picks of former GM Bill Bavasi.
Time will tell. But it looks as if Zduriencik concluded that Morrow was never going to be better than the top three or four guys — maybe even the top five guys — in the Seattle rotation right now. By making this deal, he brings in a potential back of the bullpen arm in League. And that gives him the option of perhaps dealing one of his other Big 3 bullpen arms — David Aardsma, Mark Lowe or Shawn Kelley — later on in a much bigger swap.
Or, he simply bought some insurance in case Sean White isn’t fully recovered from that end of season injury. An upgrade over White from the looks of things.
But we should always try to see things from the other team’s view. We here in Seattle fell in love with Morrow, his draft slotting and his high-90s stuff very early on and dreamed of the possibilities. We are now three seasons into his career, though, and the shine on him has faded.
Morrow may revive that in Toronto and I truly do wish him well. But as a starter, he is still a very uncertain commodity.
Back in 2007, many folks were willing to sacrifice the season rather than trade Jeff Clement or Wladimir Balentien for a veteran reliever. And where are Clement and Balentien today? Franchise cornerstones? Nope.
Morrow will always have that upside. But at this point, Zduriencik appears to think he’s better off salvaging a bullpen arm,like League than waiting to see whether Morrow can ever be something more than a bullpen arm. And one who wasn’t too successful in the bullpen last year at that.
Put all that together, it’s tough to imagine Toronto wanting to give up much more than has been handed over here. The Jays are the ones taking the real risk. League is the more proven commodity in the role he’ll be asked to handle.
It hurts, I know. But at this point, it doesn’t matter whose fault it was for Morrow’s delayed foray into starting. What matters is who will benefit the team in the long run. At this point, I’d say it’s a toss-up at best.



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