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July 29, 2010 at 10:37 AM

Why the Mariners could still move David Aardsma in next 48 hours

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Wrote a blog post last week stating that GM Jack Zduriencik would need to have his socks knocked off in order to move David Aardsma. And that the Mariners were unlikely to trade Aardsma or Brandon League by the July 31 deadline, simply because they would be hard-pressed to hold any lead between now and the end of the season.
The same holds true. I don’t think Zduriencik will move Aardsma simply because he earns $2.75 million and will start moving up into expensive territory next year. We saw the rumor yesterday that the Giants asked for Aardsma and were told they could have him if they took Jose Lopez as well and gave up Pablo Sandoval, 23, a corner infielder/catcher who would undoubtedly become their third baseman the rest of this year and maybe next depending on what happens with Chone Figgins.
That would leave Zduriencik sockless, no doubt.
Sandoval’s offense is better than Lopez’s this year, with a .706 OPS that’s way down from his past two seasons — largely because of worse luck on balls put into play, coupled with small injuries and some off-field issues that required personal leave. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) this year is around league average instead of 60 points higher than that the past two seasons.
So, while it might not be all luck-related, it’s still an indication he’d be more of an average-hitting third baseman than an elite hitter. You can live with that on a rebuilding club, especially given that he’s under team control through 2014. The M’s could take a chance on Sandoval regaining some of that elite level form. And he’d probably be at least as adequate defensively at third base as Lopez, once paired next to shortstop Jack Wilson, who could cover to the left and make him look good the way he does for Lopez.
Or, if you plan on keeping Figgins for three more years and moving him back to third base, then Sandoval becomes a switch-hitting DH option and a backup at the corner infield and catching spots. That still works very well. Remember, the Figgins situation is anything but certain. He’s in the midst of one of his worst seasons, is well into his 30s and this is a team that lacks power and can’t afford to be squandering it at traditional corner spots if it isn’t compensating elsewhere.
Aardsma for Sandoval straight up would be a pretty good deal for the M’s, given how Aardsma’s salary will shoot up into less-than-cheap range through arbitration this year. He’s performed almost identically across the board compared to 2009 in his peripheral stats, other than having a few more fly balls leave the park.
And Lopez has almost zero trade value, so jettisoning him and his remaining money while upgrading with Sandoval looks very good for the M’s.
Still, that one’s not happening. But you can see Zduriencik might move Aardsma if the offer is right.
And I do think the M’s can do that with Aardsma rather than League, who, we told you last night, the Giants had a scout in the stands to see.
Here’s why the M’s can afford to move Aardsma more than League.
Aardsma just isn’t being used enough. League is on pace to be used more than any time in his career.

You check out Aardsma’s numbers and he’s thrown only 32 1/3 innings, leaving him on-pace for 51 innings in 56 appearances this year.
Last season, he threw 71 1/3 innings in 73 appearances. So, he’s being used far less for way more money.
And those projections are conservative. The way this M’s team is plummeting, the rate at which Aardsma is being used could drop even further.
So, if the argument for keeping him is that you need him to finish off games for you, the only way that works is if you start using him in the seventh and eighth innings. Because those ninth-inning saves just aren’t happening.
In League’s case, the opposite is true. He makes a little less than a third of what Aardsma does and is now being used in tight situations anywhere from innings seven through nine.
Despite recent setbacks. he’s been one of the team’s best relievers and could take over the closer role if Aardsma is dealt. Shawn Kelley should come back soon, don’t forget.
League is actually being used in an effort to finish off games on a regular basis. Believe it or not, he did his job last night. The decisive hit by Alex Rios came on a sinker pounded into the ground. That’s League’s job. To get hitters to pound balls into the ground. Problem is, Rios is one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now — and oneof the the strongest — and anything he gets his bat on turns lethal, whether it’s pounded into the ground or high in the air.
League is projected for a career high 84 innings and 75 appearances this year. That’s a guy this team needs going forward and even with a hefty raise through arbitration, he’d still make less next year than Aardsma earns this year.
So, don’t expect Seattle’s price to come down even if the Giants do make a pitch for League.
At this stage, this team has to get through the next two months.
We told you yesterday, if this July pace keeps up the rest of the way, Seattle will lose 108 games.
Take away their ability to finish off rare games in which they do have a lead — meaning, even a 5-1 advantage in the eighth isn’t safe — and you won’t believe how ugly things could get real quick.
League is being used to get the Mariners through games. Aardsma is not.
And that means. that if push comes to shove, teams looking to get a bargain by seeking League instead of Aardsma may be in for a hefty surprise.
The M’s need as many healthy, decent relievers as they can scramble together these days.
They just need Aardsma less than League.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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