Much like what we eventually hope to see from James Jones, Mike and I are bucking historical trends today. This edition of the Email Exchange comes sans focus article. Because, for the sabermetrically sodomized among us, today is, like, actually Christmas in July. It’s the MLB Trade Deadline!
I want to make this Mariners-focused, but it’d be silly for me to start with anything but the obvious. This morning, A’s GM Billy Beane did what’s become expected of him, in that he made a move no one was expecting. Amid speculation that Jon Lester would land on either the favored Dodgers or dark horse Pirates, Beane humbled industry insiders, acquiring the left-hander for himself. Getting the third-ranked pitcher by WAR, though, was obviously not cheap. Oakland had to send Yoenis Cespedes Boston’s way, he of the .50 caliber arm and Derby-winning power stroke. (The A’s also got Jonny Gomes in the deal, but 0-win players tend to be forgotten when discussing All-Stars.)
Beane has now made the two biggest trades of the season, after bringing in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs earlier this month. Mike, I know you detest conjecture, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess Oakland is going for it all in 2014.
Maybe that’s a good segue into the start of our Mariners talk. At this point (a point which, really, started about three weeks ago), Seattle has no chance of winning the division. They’re 11 games back of the A’s, who probably just got a bit better. And even were the M’s to throw together a miraculous run at the AL West crown, they’d have to leapfrog the Angels as well, who are arguably the league’s second-best team after Oakland. If Seattle makes the postseason, it’s going to be via the second Wild Card slot, and they’ll have to win a one-game playoff to advance to the Division Series.
Which puts the M’s in a bit of a predicament as 1:00 pm PDT nears. This is the most promising season the franchise has had in a long, long time. For once, dreams of October aren’t that ludicrous. And with just that in mind, buying at the deadline — perhaps even heavily — sounds like an okay idea. The fans are as starved for postseason ball as Jesus Montero is for anything semi-edible.
But, yeah, the predicament thing. The M’s need to improve their roster if they want to contend for the playoffs, that much is certain. How much young talent do you give up, though, if, AT BEST, you’re looking at a dicey one-game series with the powerhouse Angels? Exchanging Taijuan Walker for an ALDS birth is fairly easy to stomach. Doing so for a coin-flip opportunity at that birth, maybe not so much.
This has been a lot of summarizing so far, so let’s start talking specific areas of need and actual names. The Mariners pitching is pretty damn good, anchored by what probably remains the best one-two punch of any rotation in the league (fuck LA), a season of literal magic from Chris Young, and a top-three bullpen. James Paxton is also on his way back, and hopefully the aforementioned Walker fixes whatever problems he’s currently experiencing.That’s all to say, the M’s have more room to improve on the offensive side of things. Especially with Samardzija and Lester now gone, any attainable arm probably wouldn’t benefit Seattle as much as an available bat would.
We could really, really use some help in the outfield. By WAR, our OF has ranked 27th in the majors this season. (As have our first basemen, but Jack Z apparently thought imprisoning Kendrys Morales once more would solve that problem.) Shitty thing is, the market’s a bit dry this year, in terms of good OF. Names that have been connected to the M’s: Ben Zobrist, Marlon Byrd, Alex Rios, and as of this morning, sadly, Chris Denorfia.
Mike and I discussed Zobrist in an earlier Exchange. Zorilla is a great player, would be a great fit on this team. Two problems, though. One, the Rays are on an unbelievable hot streak at the moment and may be inclined to try their chances at the postseason, which would mean keeping Zobrist. Second, someone of his caliber would cost a lot, which then raises that question about how much talent you give away to potentially make a one-game playoff.
Byrd has been good this year, and was really good last year, and his price wouldn’t be nearly that of Zobrist. Again, there are problems, though. He’s turning 37 next month, and you can’t help but worry it’s just a matter of a weeks before his old ass stops producing. The M’s have also been told they’d have to pick up Byrd’s option for 2016 if they want him, which makes the whole age concern even more frightening.
As for Rios and Denorfia, neither is very good. Like, not worth any young talent. Please, please, Z, do not try saving your ass with one of these guys.
The guy I think I’d actually like to see the M’s make a run for is Cespedes. As I was writing this, the Red Sox also traded John Lackey away, getting Allen Craig and Joe Kelly in return. So it looks like Boston may just be re-upping for next year, in which case Cespedes wouldn’t be on the block. But if he is, the M’s have the prospects to acquire him, and he’s a pretty appealing option. He’s good at the plate, solid on defense in the outfield corners, and is signed through next year, as well.
Wow, Mike, this has taken absolutely forever to write. I’ll hand it over to you, without any questions to burden. Say what you will, respond to whatever thoughts of mine you’d like, make some predictions, whatever. I took so much change from this rap game, it’s your go.
I’m going to have to agree with you here, Cam — it’s pretty clear the A’s are all-in, like this guy. Hopefully, for them, it works out a little bit better.
Anyway, yeah, Trade Deadline! I love the Trade Deadline so much, even if the last couple years have been a bit underwhelming. So far, as of 10:37 PDT, it’s been decidedly not underwhelming (AKA overwhelming). I woke up to your text, Cam, that said “Cespedes for Lester?!?” My first reaction: no fucking way. My second reaction: shit, I have, like, five other notifications that say that. My third reaction: THIS IS ABOUT TO BE A BANGER OF A TRADE DEADLINE. So, yeah, I’ve been hyped since the moment I woke up.
As nascent bloggers, this deadline’s brought a bit more anxiety than past ones (at least for me), but I thank our lucky stars we’re not counted on to crank out content. It’s 10:30 am, and Fangraphs has published 11 articles, all at least 1,000 or 1,500 words long. That’s, like, wow.
Okay, so since this is our TRADE DEADLINE BONANZARAMACLUSTERFUCK Exchange, hopefully you, our faithful readers, can deal with some disjointed transitions and such, because that’s what’s happening right now. News just broke that David Price is “definitely moving,” and maybe that segues into some Mariners talk. Cameron, you’ve pointed out that the Mariners’ outfield situation is dire, and that is true: watching Endy Chavez and James Jones take daily AB is an extremely painful experience.
But! I subscribe to the general theory, pushed forth often by the man some may call the Godfather of Why Oh Why?, Dave Cameron, that the question teams should be asking isn’t “How can I improve my offense/defense/pitching?” but rather, “How can I improve my team?” And, well, David Price is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Yes, Price cannot play centerfield or hit a curveball, and he won’t improve the Mariners’ run scoring, but he sure as hell will improve their run prevention. The goal of the game is to score more runs than the opponent scores, not to score as many runs as possible. This sounds like the most obvious thing in the world, but it’s something that seems like 99% of people screaming at Ryan Divish on Twitter seem to forget.
And now Jim Bowden is reporting that the Mariners are one of the favorites for David Price (alongside the Dodgers), so this conversation becomes a bit more serious. Let’s look at what the Mariners rotation has right now: Felix (God), Kuma (very, very good), Elias (ehhh), Erasmo/Walker/revolving door (yeah…), and the magician, Chris Young. You referred to his season as literal magic, and it has been, to a certain point. But something changed near July — he started actually striking people the fuck out. His K/9 in July is 8.45, which is peak-Felix. We know that strikeout rate is generally something that can’t be faked too much, so that means Chris Young might actually be…good. Which then means, if the Mariners add Price, a Felix/Price/Kuma/Young rotation may be able to go head-to-head against the A’s, quality-wise. I’m getting excited!
You have to think that Z is going to trade for an outfielder, though, regardless of whether Price is a realistic option. The craziness of the trade deadline will take attention away from last night, but getting shut out on 85 pitches after the offensive drought the Mariners just went through begs Z to do something to appease the mob of screaming fans. I count myself amongst those people that are clamoring for an outfield improvement, just because it’s such an easy place to improve. We joke about Denorfia being, like, the most depressing thing that could happen on the Mariners’ side of things, but he could be almost a 1 to 1.5 win improvement over Jones/Chavez, just by being slightly above replacement level. That’s how bad Jones/Chavez have been. Players that are merely below-average, like Denorfia, can make as much of an impact as a David Price, if they’re replacing players that are really, really below-average, like Jones/Chaves. And Denorfia would be cheap as hell. There’s really no excuse for Z not to trade for an outfielder or two in the next 110 minutes.
More stuff will happen, so I’m gonna turn this over to you, Cam, and do some Twitter scanning.
Oh, one last thing before I go: this seems like a great opportunity to reveal my secret crush on the A’s. I love everything about their organization — their statistical progressiveness, the personality of their players, their small-marketness. They’re like the Bizarro Mariners — stable at the top, results on the field. I guess their owner is kinda shitty, though. But still! It sucks they have to be our division rivals. Anyway, yeah, go for it, Cam.
Not so fast, Mike! Ten seconds after you sent your email, the M’s got Chris Denorfia! How happy are you right now?
Weeee! I feel like I’m on drugs! I can’t tell if blogging the trade deadline makes it more fun or less fun. Yeah, Cam, as you pointed out, this broke seconds after I sent that last email to you. Some quick analysis:
As I wrote about five minutes ago, a Chris Denorfia upgrade could be as impactful over the rest of the season as a David Price upgrade. Wow, Mike, you may ask, are you actually on drugs? Surprisingly, no. Think about it this way. Endy Chavez projects as a negative half-win player the rest of the way. Denorfia projects to post half a win. All together, that’s a one-win upgrade for the final two months of the season. Meanwhile, Price projects as a 1.5 win player over the final two months. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that Erasmo/Elias/Paxton (depending on health) would be worth around half a win, so basically, this is an important move to make, even if Denorfia isn’t a world-killer. There are some caveats in that quick and fast analysis (Denorfia will probably platoon, the math isn’t exact), but the basic idea is that, considering the Mariners’ current roster construction, getting an average outfielder can be as impactful as a superstar pitcher.
Onto analysis of Denorfia, the actual player, and not Denorfia, the projection relative to Endy Chavez’s projection. Strangely enough, his play matches up with what you’d expect someone named Chris Denorfia to produce. He’s first and foremost a contact hitter with little power, with a lifetime slugging percentage of .397. Most of his value is accrued defensively, where he’s capable of playing all three outfield positions at an above-average level, or at least has the past two seasons. He’s probably a +1 to +1.5 WAR player over an entire season.
He somehow cobbled together a +4 WAR season last year, combining great defense with strong baserunning and a 108 wRC+, all the while staying healthy and playing 144 games. That’s never going to happen again, as Denorfia is 34 and not going to get any stronger or faster. But what he is is a pretty significant upgrade over Endy Chavez (or James Jones), and while he may not be exciting in any way, he’s decent, I guess. You have any further thoughts, Cam?
I’d like to add that I’m extremely sad that #JimBowdivGate had to happen on the TRADE DEADLINE BONANZA, because this would provide enough content for enough a week’s worth of Exchanges. #Ralph
Thanks for making me at least somewhat happy about this Denorfia trade, Mike. Oddly enough, I think I actually watched Denorfia’s first at-bat in the bigs live on TV. I remember that because, at least at the time, Denorfia had a really strange way of gripping the bat. He’d secure his left hand near the knob, just like normal. But he wouldn’t hold on with his right, he’d just kinda let the bat rest against his open palm. And, on top of that, he’d flutter his fingers. Childhood memories, man.
More information on the trade has been coming out the last half hour, and now we know who the M’s are giving up. San Diego will be receiving outfielder Abraham Almonte and reliever Stephen Kolscheen, who were both with Tacoma. Almonte was with the big league club earlier in the year, and sucked. He had a K-rate of 35%. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, that would be the worst number of any hitter in the MLB. There used to be a lot of hype surrounding Almonte, after he killed it in the minors and then held his own in a short stint late last year. But all that excitement is now gone. Anyone who watched him play knows he has the athletic ability to be a decent player, and his minor league track record supports that, but he’s going to have to get a lot, lot better at pitch recognition. It could happen, in which case the M’s probably end up the losers of this deal, but I’m willing to take that risk if Denorfia can improve as much as you think he can.
As far as Koscheen goes, I have no fuckin’ clue. But, generally speaking, relievers are expendable, especially those playing in AAA.
It looks like I’ve done a 180 since my first email. I’m kinda happy with this move, considering all that’s been said above. BUT, that said, it can’t be the only move the M’s make today. Trading for Denorfia means the team is, indeed, going into buy-mode. And if that’s the case, Denorfia alone isn’t enough. He doesn’t improve the team enough on his own to make them as serious contenders as they’d ostensibly like to be. As I type this, there are exactly 49 minutes left until the deadline. Trader Z, where ya at?
Oh, and just to clarify, when I specified that the M’s could use outfield help in my first email, I didn’t mean to champion the “We need a bat!” line of buzz-thought. What I had in mind was exactly what you hashed out about the Chavez-to-Denorfia improvement. You implicitly equated me to Twitter warriors above, which hurt, but I thank you now for writing out the thoughts I was too lazy to myself.
Yeah, you’re right, I’d be surprised if this was the only move they make. Gonna write this right now, so it doesn’t look like I’m just projecting this retroactively: the Mariners are going to trade for another outfielder today. It is currently 12:18 PDT, so we’ll see what happens.
Right now, Price to the Mariners still seems like a possibility, but it’s now being rumored the Tigers are the frontrunners, despite being left out of early rumors that mentioned the Dodgers and M’s as likely landing spots. If I learned anything from the NBA free agency bonanza, it’s not to trust any reports that resemble those I’ve just mentioned. So right now, I’m just going to pretend like the Mariners are right there in the race for Price.
One last thought on Denorfia, who I don’t want to dwell on too much. I didn’t mention that Denorfia historically rakes against lefties, posting a career .301/.367/.433 mark against southpaws (h/t Greg Johns). The Mariners are in desperate need for right-handed productivity at the plate against left-handed pitchers, and Denorfia fits that mold. From 2011-2013, Denorfia posted wRC+’s of 152, 150, and 136 against lefties. That’s pretty awesome. (Ignore the fact that he has a 85 wRC+ against them this year).
Okay, now we’re 30 minutes away from the deadline, and things seem to be settling down. Any closing thoughts (before David Price inevitably gets traded)?
Welp, Price to the Tigers.
(It’s currently 12:51 pm PDT, by the way.)
God dammit. Mariners might be involved.
I’m reading that we’re going to get Austin Jackson. He’s having his worst year ever in 2014, but has been pretty damn good in the past. If that is who we’re getting, who do you think we’re giving up? Who would you be okay giving up for someone of Jackson’s caliber?
Looks like Franklin is being sent to Tampa. Seems like that’s been coming for months.
That’s likely the end to the Mariners Trade Deadline action. Franklin for Jackson is something I think I can get behind. More than anything, though, I’m just glad we did something else besides the Denorfia move.
Looks like it might just be Franklin. If so, great, great return.