Posted by Jason A. Churchill on July 4, 2006
Including July 4, the Seattle Mariners have 28 days to decide, with their performance on the field, whether or not they are buyers or sellers on this year’s trade deadline.
Three games back doesn’t sound like much, but they have two teams to catch. But that’s the bad news. The good news is, Oakland and Texas aren’t very good and certainly not likely to run away and hide.
We’ve talked ad-nausea about which internal moves we’d like to see made, including swapping Carl Everett for Chris Snelling and replacing Joel Pineiro in the starting rotation.
Exhausted are the ideas that make the Seattle Mariners a better ballclub in 2006. Add a bullpen arm or two, seek another middle infielder for the bench, blah, blah, blah.
But what if the Mariners find themselves six or seven games out – with two teams to catch – with the trade deadline just hours away?
Not only is that “sell mode”, it’s semi firesale mode.
Ichiro, Felix, Jose, Johjima, Betancourt, Sexson, Soriano, Sherrill and Putz are all part of the answer. Which means everyone else is either part of the problem or must be included in moves to jump-start the thought process for 2007.
It’s easy to say that the club should trade Adrian Beltre and if they can do so while putting themselves in a better situation, you can bet they will. But let’s be realistic.
The biggest questions are Gil Meche and Jamie Moyer. Moyer would likely turn down a trade unless the club made a handshake agreement on a free-agent contract for 2007. The M’s are very unlikely to do so – they would not agree to such terms a year ago when they had a deal on the table with the Houston Astros for RHP Ezequiel Astacio and 2B Chris Burke.
Meche has pitched fairly well this season and certainly has at least some value on the trade market. If the Mariners are somewhat blown away with an offer for the antagonistic tease, they should, and probably will, jump all over the idea.
But what if the best offer is ho-hum. Not terrible, but nothing of imminent impact.
Does Bill Bavasi do it in ordrer to get something for the pending free agent? Most would say that you absolutely have to get something in return, rather than losing a player for nothing.
Meche’s remaining salary stands at about $1.8 million right now, so he’s not a financial burden in the slightest. This is strictly a baseball decision, and ya know what? I would NOT trade Meche away unless I am getting one or more pieces that are likely to break the 25-man roster in 2007 and/or a prospect package that more than matches market value this summer.
Pitching isn’t available, so Meche may command more than what he’s truly worth on the field. if the club can take advantage of that, they certainly will – who wouldn’t? But anything short of a legit prospect or an everyday big leaguer and I’m holding onto Meche.
Because he’s pitching well enough right now, and there’s enough evidence to suggest he can sustain his performance enough to finish the year with league-average numbers – or better – across the board, and that means Meche is likely to be a Type B free agent.
Take Meche into the offseason, wait for him to file for free agency, offer him arbitration with the utmost willingness to pay him $5.5-6 million for 2007 and get a first-round draft pick when he signs one of the multi-year offers he is certain to get.
Why am I willing to pay Meche $5.5-6 mil in 2007? Several reasons, starting with the fact that he’s a healthy live arm and even though there are several of those in baseball, not many are starting pitchers and very few are going to be available this winter, neither in free agency nor trade.
With Jarrod Washburn and Felix Hernandez the only starters that are sure to return next spring, the M’s need three arms to fill out the rotation and Meche is much more likely to pitch at a league-average level in 2007 than Francisco Cruceta, Bobby Livingston or Cha Seung Baek.
Moyer’s status will be up in the air, but even if he is re-signed and the M’s luck out and snag Daisuke Matsuzaka, there’s still a hole in the starting five.
If Meche decides to accept arbitration, the M’s have a viable 200-inning starter.to team with Hernandez and Washburn If he bolts for greener pastures, the most likely scenario, the M’s pick up a first-round pick in next June’s draft – expected to be significantly better than the ’06 crop.
Lots to think about with Moyer and Meche, and for the record, I’d prefer to replace his spot in the rotation with either a better pitcher or a cheaper version, so don’t roll off your chair onto your soap box and act like I’m promoting Meche as the savior.
Next up… I’d seriously consider including George Sherrill in a trade if it can finish off an impact deal. Sherrill has been solid this year and is terror versus left-handers, but you can pick up lefty relievers every day of the year. The M’s have much more damning holes to fill. Sherrill may fit in as a nice second piece of a trade that could net the club some more young talent.
Obviously, Jeremy Reed is available and may have enough value to serve as a light-weighted part of a trade. If the M’s deem that Shin-soo Choo does not have a full-time future in Seattle, he carries more value than does Reed, depending on how Choo performs offensively in the bigs during the second half of the season.
Maybe Meche, Sherrill and Reed are worth something solid together? Maybe two of them and a C+ level prospect? Maybe… maybe not. Choo, Meche and Sherrill should be able to bet a worthwhile prospect or a 25-man roster member or two.
If Meche pitches as well in the next three weeks as he has the first three months, the Mariners will likely have one of the best pitchers on the trade market. Good position to be in if you are Bavasi, considering the lack of arms expected to be available.
I smell a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers or San Diego Padres. Meche could be a nice addition to the Astros rotation if Brandon Backe is unable to return to form after returning from the disabled list.
Sherrill fits just about any roster and Reed, when he returns from the broken thumb, could be optioned to Triple-A or serve as a fourth outfielder or defensive replacement.
St. Louis is a really good fit for Reed, by the way.
While the M’s are still just three games out of first and a lot of interesting ideas on how to improve the club are going to come about, it might be more interesting to see what Bavasi may do if they think they are out of contention.