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July 28, 2011 at 10:50 AM

Get set for busy weekend on the trade, player movement front for Mariners

Despite all the public posturing and all the theoretical discussions about whether the Mariners really are “buyers” or “sellers” or simply “adding talent” (isn’t every team trying to do that latter thing?), the team will be making a good deal of moves between now and the end of Sunday’s 1 p.m. PT trade deadline.
Teams normally don’t have the luxury of losing 101 games, then dropping 17 in a row the next season en route to another 90+ losses without making the traditional moves expected of deadline “sellers”. No matter how badly they try to not admit that they’re actually selling.
The acquisition Wednesday night of Wily Mo Pena is another of those attempts small and mid-market teams employ in a bid to catch “lightning in a bottle” without spending any serious money on updrades. This is sort of like last summer’s Russell Branyan trade, only without giving up a mid-level prospect like Ezequiel Carrera in the process. Pena has been assigned to Class AAA for now, but will surely be moved up to the majors once one or more veterans are either traded away or released outright.
Pena gives the team a right-handed DH bat that can either be platooned with lefty Jack Cust or — more likely — somebody else. Cust has never been a favorite of manager Eric Wedge and that little calling-out session Wedge had yesterday in which he mentioned several vets by name — including Cust — pretty much signaled the end of the affable slugger’s days in Seattle.
Ichiro and Chone Figgins? Not much Wedge can do about them or their contracts. But Cust and Jack Wilson are just taking up room and won’t be here much longer.
On the trade front, general manager Jack Zduriencik knows he has to unload Erik Bedard if he can find any type of taker. Rumors this morning have both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees interested and if Zduriencik can get any type of future pieces back, he has to make the move. He’ll be fortunate to have the chance, given Bedard’s inactivity the past month — which is probably what makes him so attractive in the first place: the chance to get him cheap.
Bedard will be owed quite a bit of seven-figure money in incentives going forward and an organization that’s been as tight with extra money as the M’s when it mattered can’t afford to be squandering dollars now that they’re out of it. Same goes for Brandon League, who could have value this coming winter and next season as well — but only if the M’s are willing to gamble with a closer for the second year in a row.

Remember, we’ve told you that sources have indicated the M’s had a deadline-day deal in-place a year ago with the San Francisco Giants involving David Aardsma. The Giants were to send a couple of prospects Seattle’s way but the M’s are said to have pulled out of the deal at the last minute.
The rest is history. Aardsma got a raise to $4.5 million last winter and never threw a pitch for Seattle in 2011. He was found to need hip surgery, then suffered an arm injury that required “Tommy John” ligament transplant surgery last week and could miss most of 2012 as well.
So, that’s a $4.5 million gamble that failed.
League will earn anywhere from $4.5 million to $5 million in arbitration and, as I said, could theoretically fetch a trade return this winter or next summer. But again, you just never know. If this team isn’t ready to contend in 2012 — time for everyone to be honest again — then it might just be best for the M’s to deal him now and sleep better at night.
Doug Fister will draw a lot of interest at the deadline for all the right reasons. Unlike Jason Vargas, he’s still pitching well. And unlike Vargas, he’s not arbitration eligible until the 2013 season. That means, when Vargas shoots up to roughly $5 million in salary next season, he’ll be making 10 times what Fister will.
So, if you’re the M’s, you’d like to clear Vargas off your books if offered a decent return. With Fister, it would have to be something substantialy stronger because he’s given you No. 3 starter stuff at worst for a guy who still costs what a rookie fifth starter makes.
There are also the usual veteran pieces, like Cust, Wilson, Adam Kenendy etc. who don’t factor into the team’s long-term plans and could be flipped for something that might.
The M’s don’t have to deal all of those players. But they will have to move some of them out to clear roster room and yes, trading some of them away is the right and the responsible thing to do for a team that has spent the past two winters bargain shopping for bats. It’s one thing to say you’re on a budget and don’t have a ton of extra money to spend.
But then, it’s another thing to horde pieces that don’t really factor into your future plans and which are going to cost you a good deal of money going forward. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say you’re on a budget and keep cooking everybody macaroni and cheese, then insist on having your nightly cocktails at The Four Seasons.
One way or the other, there has to be some consistency. Of course Zduriencik wants to “add talent” to this team. It just lost 17 in a row and is on pace to drop nearly 200 games over two seasons. He has to add talent. And he has to start this weekend by going into seller mode. Not fire-seller mode, but seller mode nonetheless.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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