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July 31, 2011 at 8:58 AM

Mariners off to good start at trade deadline, but unlike on-field team, they need to finish

This deadline trading season, in theory at least, got off to a good start for the Mariners yesterday with the deal that brought outfielder Casper Wells, lefty pitcher Charlie Furbush, Class AA third baseman Francisco Martinez and a rumored top-three 2010 draft pick from the Tigers for Doug Fister and David Pauley.
The deal gave the M’s an immediate outfield upgrade in Wells over what they already had as well as a potential — read: potential — starter in Furbush and, at very least, the latest candidate as the lefty reliever long missing from this club. They also have some prospects coming in with potential upside.
Fister was a steep price to pay, given his cost certainty in coming years. But hey, this team has plenty of upcoming starters who fit the back-end bill. Yeah, Fister was looking more like a No. 3 starter, but you can also go out and pay for those via free agency. He wasn’t a staff ace and never will be one.
This team needs bats. In Wells, they’ve at least upgraded over what they’ve been running out there all season in the outfield and potentially could have more once he develops. Again, in theory, this was a good trade. To become a championship club, the M’s need Wells to develop into more and for the prospects to pan out.
In theory, the prospects recevied in the Jarrod Washburn deal of two years ago — Luke French and Mauricio Robles — looked good. But they have yet to pan out. In theory, the Jack Wilson/Ian Snell trade receipts looked good. In reality, they never panned out.
So, we’ll see.
But the M’s can’t stop here.
They still have trade pieces they have to flip. This on-field season has gone down the tubes — even with yesterday’s fine one-hitter by Michael Pineda and the bullpen — and the M’s might as well max-out on all the trade pieces they have to offer.
It begins with Erik Bedard.
Photo Credit: AP

There is no reason for the Mariners to be hanging on to Bedard past today, given that he becomes a free agent at season’s end and will accumulate further costs for the team the longer he pitches in the second half due to incentives.
This team has recently been using accumulated costs as a reason not to spend bigger money in the off-season and we’ve seen the results the past two years. It would be nice if GM Jack Zduriencik didn’t have to go dumpster diving this winter the way he did last and the one prior when it comes to upgrading the club.
No more Ryan Garkos. No more Eric Byrnes. No more Jack Custs.
So, when you have a chance not to pay for more of Bedard between now and season’s end, you have to take it.
The Boston Red Sox did not complete the Rich Harden deal because of medicals and are still in the market for a pitcher. So are the Yankees. No, you probably don’t get Jesus Montero back from New York for any combo of players the M’s currently have (well, maybe Bedard/Brandon League plus, in which case, I’d jump at that offer) but even if it’s a lesser piece for Bedard, you still have to take it.
Again, there are no reasons to hang on to Bedard past today.
And for those worrying about whether trading Bedard lessens the chances of re-signing him next winter, I’d be more worried about the red flags cropping up around baseball as to why teams wouldn’t want to trade for him today. The M’s keep returning to the Bedard well every off-season and every year that follows, they get what his reputation says they’ll get: a guy who, when healthy, starts well but can’t finish.
And at some point, the M’s and their fans have to ask themselves if this is really what they want to go through each and every year. Is this really what their championship team of some distant future is really going to be about?
It’s nice to dream about having Bedard in the post-season. I’ve been the first to suggest the M’s would look like a World Series contender with Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Bedard in a short series.
But when’s the last time Bedard pitched in September?
As my favorite show as a kid, Star Trek (yes, I’m a Trekkie) used to say “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
How about three or four times? At some point, you cut bait and stop dreaming. The M’s have wasted too many seasons dreaming about stuff and not spent enough time building towards something tangible. Not something always a year or two away. Something all fans can have a realistic expectation of reaching out and touching someday.
That’s why they have to trade Bedard for something today. Because keeping him, with the hollow line that “Hey, it gives us a better chance of re-signing him” that we’ll hear from some quarters, may turn out to be just as hollow a victory. In fact, history suggests it will be.
Brandon League? It’s great that he’s put it all together. I have written that he’s arguably been the best closer in baseball this season.
And if the M’s can’t get anything back for the best closer in baseball — with a year of club control still to go in 2012 — then that is not a trade deadline victory. That is a defeat.
The M’s are very unlikely to “go for it” next year. And if that’s the case, there is no reason to keep League beyond today. He will cost nearly $5 million next season for a team that already has several potential closers in its system. That alone is reason enough not to hang on to him. The David Aardsma lesson of this past year is reason enough not to hang on to League beyond today.
League will be a $5 million arm with one year left if you try to deal him next winter.
He’s currently an arm costing less than $1 million for a contender right now. A contender that will have the option of paying him more next year.
Draft picks? Sure, League can get you some of those Type A picks for the June 2013 draft if the M’s hold on to him through next year. Uh-huh. When exactly is this rebuilding plan supposed to work out? June 2013 for picks that won’t reach the majors before 2015 at the earliest? Folks, we’re in 2011.
Time to trade League. That’s $5 million more the team can spend on hitting next winter.
And you deal Adam Kennedy if he turns the tables your way in the right package.
And Jason Vargas, who will be a $5 million pitcher next year.
Vargas would have been the preferable arm to trade rather than Fister because of the economics. But the Tigers aren’t dumb. They weren’t going to give up anything worth getting unless they got somebody who was worth something.
So, the M’s swallowed deeply and dealt Fister. I have no doubt they’d have rather parted with Vargas.
As we wrote a couple of days ago, the M’s probably won’t trade all of these guys.
But they do have to move some more. Trading Fister was not a priority for this team. Trading some of these other guys is — for reasons that are monetary and practical.
And if they all stay put, this trade deadline for the M’s will be a so-so venture.
They appear to have gotten a solid return on their one deal so far. But there were other deals going in that had to be made. And if they don’t get any done, it will make the team’s future that much tougher to attain. Not impossible, but tougher. The M’s have already sacrificed the 2011 season.
Let’s hope they don’t sacrifice any more of the future that doesn’t have to be.

Comments | Topics: Jesus Montero


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