The lobby at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville was filled with reporters and team executives by late this afternoon.
Things are bustling in the hallways of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel here in Nashville as team executives check in for the baseball winter meetings, watched ever-so-closely by media types from around the country,as well as Japan, Latin America and Canada. I saw Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik heading off with team president Chuck Armstrong not too long ago. Zduriencik got here yesterday and has been involved in an assortment of meetings both with his own staffers as well as others.
Earlier today, I outlined a series of potential trades and free agent signings the Mariners might pursue on the bigger end of the spectrum if they want to make an impact.
But I’ve also been told that the Mariners, in weeks leading up to these meetings, have had talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates concerning first baseman/right fielder Garrett Jones. Now, let me repeat: this is just one of many conversations the Mariners have had with various teams, but I’m told it got beyond the mere single phone call/hang up and that some actual names were bandied about between the squads.
One proposal went something along the lines of the left-handed hitting Jones and Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan going to the Mariners with potentially one other throw-in, in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak, catcher John Jaso and starting pitcher Hector Noesi.
Again, I don’t know that this was the only set of names tossed about and you can be pretty certain that it wasn’t. But there it is.
This is exactly the type of under-the-radar move Zduriencik likes to make that takes everybody by surprise and leaves them wondering why they’d never had an inkling of it beforehand. Doesn’t mean the two teams will ever pull the trigger on it. But it does show you that there can be more than one type of trade beyond the premium guys that the Mariners could explore and theoretically use to get better.
Let’s look at the particulars of this proposed deal and why it fits within the realm of the possible.
First off, Jones would give the Mariners a guy who hit 27 home runs and slugged .516 with an .833 OPS in the majors last season and can potentially cover two positions of need for Seattle, albeit likely as a plattoon guy against mainly right-handed pitchers. He is 31, but under club control through the 2016 season.
Second, Hanrahan, 31, would give the Mariners a proven, more veteran back-end reliever as insurance in case Tom Wilhelmsen falters — and remember, Wilhelmsen has only been a closer less than one full season — as well as a needed set-up man from the right side. While the Mariners have youngsters Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps profiling as potential late-inning righties, they lack experience in the role and could be better suited rounding into the majors earlier on in games while Hanrahan handles the eighth or ninth for a year before he hits free agency.
Third, the Mariners can pull this move off without giving up any of their top-rated prospects, other than Smoak, of course, who is technically no longer a prospect despite his first-round pedigree and status as the prime return in the Cliff Lee deal.
Fourth, getting a slugging first base/right field type in a deal like this would cost the Mariners far less short and long-term than some other avenues they’ve explored and leave them financially able to pursue another bat via free agency. Let’s face it, bringing in Jones on his own would not be nearly as interesting as adding him and using the saved money to bring in a premium bat or another player he could share playing time with at two positions.
Why would the Pirates do it? Easy: for the salary relief.