The Case For Trading The Farm

Of course, when I say, “The Farm”, I’m only talking about a few guys.  Taijuan Walker, D.J. Peterson, Alex Jackson, and maybe two or three others.  When the average Mariners fan thinks of “The Farm”, that’s who they’re thinking about.  I don’t think anyone is going to give two shits if we can package the likes of Nick Franklin, Jesus Montero, or Erasmo Ramirez into a deal – and for good reason, because they likely wouldn’t fetch much anyway, because for as down as we are on these guys, the rest of baseball – the people in The Know – are even MORE down on these guys.

Nobody really wants to sell the farm.  We’re told from day 1 that the best franchises – regardless of sport – are those who draft and bring up their own stars.  That’s just the way it is.  And, as a result, fans get WAY too attached to the players in that organization.

But, what if I told you right now that by trading Walker, Peterson, and Jackson, the Mariners would bring in enough pieces to win the World Series in 2014?  I make no promises one way or the other going forward, but for at least 2014, the Mariners will be world champs.  Would you do it?

Some people would say no.  I happen to find that sick and absurd, because I would make that trade in a heartbeat!  The only problem with trades like these – where you’re a team in contention trading away young talent to the worst teams in hopes to rent a player for a few months and hopefully a playoff run – is that they backfire just as much as they work out.  Arguably, you could say they backfire way more – because only one team per year can win the World Series, and how many teams go out every season with the express goal of improving for that very championship?

And that’s just it.  No one can guarantee anything.  So, what if the Mariners and Rays work out some kind of deal that looks like:  Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, and Dominic Leone (and maybe another lesser player or two) for David Price and Ben Zobrist (and maybe another minor leaguer).  Would you do THAT trade?  That’s a lot of guaranteed years for two guys whose deals run out after 2014 (there is a team option for Zobrist, so he technically runs through 2015).  On the flipside, you’re giving the Mariners another ace pitcher and a rock solid #2 hitter who effectively ends Dustin Ackley’s career as an everyday starter.

I feel like that’s something of a realistic trade (I’m sorry, but the Rays aren’t going to accept Franklin, Ackley, Smoak, Montero, and Furbush for their two best players; I’M SORRY!), and a deal that helps both teams (one short term, one long term).  On the one hand, you could say the Mariners are getting ripped off in that deal.  The Rays would get a potential ace pitcher, a potential starting second baseman, a potential closer, and another prospect or two; and they’d only give up their current ace pitcher (who they won’t be able to re-sign after this year anyway, because they work on a shoe-string budget) and a jack-of-all-trades switch-hitter who otherwise (if they’d kept him) would be blocking a better prospect.

On the other hand, though, what if Taijuan Walker keeps getting injured and never makes it?  What if, instead of developing and refining his game, he continues to struggle with command issues for his whole (brief) career?  What if Nick Franklin is a dud, and Leone is only an okay reliever?  If that’s the case, even if the Mariners fail in their charge to win a World Series, I’d still call it a win for the Mariners.

The fact of the matter is, there are those two best-case scenarios for either team, and there are a million other variations in between.  You’ll never know unless the deal is made.

Those fans smarter than myself would bemoan the lost service time.  They’d complain (probably rightly so) that there’s no way in Hell that David Price will re-sign here after the season.  They’d love Zobrist, because he’s amazing, but they’d see his age (33) and make note of the fact that he might not be worth $7.5 million in 2015 (especially if his numbers this year continue what’s been something of a modest downward trend over the last year and a half).  Those smarter fans may be right, but you know what?  Part of me is kinda tired of waiting.  100% of me roots for the Seattle Mariners and not really its affiliates.  I don’t care if Seattle is considered as having one of the better minor league systems, because what I REALLY care about is how well the organization is doing at the Major League level.

Yes, I WOULD take 10 years of mediocrity if it meant a world championship.  I love the old Florida Marlins model of franchise ownership!  You’re telling me that group of morons were able to win not one, but TWO titles?  Where do I sign up?

Because, honestly, what would be the difference between that vast, savage hellscape and the one we’ve just emerged from between the years 2002-2013?

And yes, I trust Jack Z to make a smart trade for this organization like I trust him to drill into my skull without touching brain.  But, here’s the thing:  which deals does he get the most shit for?  The Smoak and Montero deals, of course.  Because they were unmitigated disasters.  Smoak and Montero were supposed to be high-upside studs and are instead steaming piles of manure.  It’s hard to say those deals backfired too much, because Cliff Lee was never going to re-sign with us at season’s end, and because Pineda has been injured and suspended more than he’s been healthy and contributing at the big league level.  But, here’s another doozy:  the Doug Fister trade.  That has netted us:  Charlie Furbush, a crappy left-handed reliever.  That one REALLY backfired, hard.

The point is:  Jackie Z doesn’t know shit about trading for prospects.  He’s been about as bad at it as anyone I’ve ever seen.  How he rose through the ranks in scouting is beyond me, because seemingly every trade he has made for prospects has totally tanked.  On the flipside, when he’s sending away prospects, he’s either been very lucky, or he knows what he’s doing.  There were all those losers we shipped off to get Cliff Lee here in the first place.  There was the Morrow deal (which kind of looks bad, until you see that Morrow has yet to throw 200 innings in a season, so it’s not like we gave up some true #1 starting pitcher).  There are probably some others, but nothing comes directly to mind, which means there’s no real nagging deal out there where I’m watching the likes of Adam Jones be awesome for another team.

If Jackie Z sees something in Taijuan Walker that leads him to believe Walker might not be as amazing as we all think he’s going to be, then I don’t really have a problem with shipping him off.  Just as long as we get some players coming back who will bring an immediate impact right away.  It’s not hard to look at David Price and Ben Zobrist and see a way they can help this team win.  Anything less … anything that brings with it a “who’s that?” from Mariners fans at large, and I’ll probably be irate.

Such is the thrill of contention in baseball!  Remember how we used to feel this way almost every year, from 1995 through 2003?  Remember how we’d talk about the trade deadline as a means to potentially make the team better NOW vs. in three years from now?  Remember all those years the Mariners “stood pat” and ended up either not making the playoffs, or losing prior to the World Series?  Conversely, remember all those years the Mariners traded away Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek and we still can’t fucking shut up about it?

It’s been one long bummer of a ride from the minute the Mariners set foot in Seattle lo those many decades ago.  But, as the Seahawks have taught us, it only takes one year to turn around a franchise’s fortunes.

This year COULD BE the year for the Mariners.  Of course, not as things stand right now; we’re at least two players away from serious contention for a championship.  Is it worth the potential cost of a future that might not even exist as we dream it?

I say yes, but that’s just the way I roll.  Instant gratification.  Give me a championship now and I can gnaw on that sucker for YEARS.  Do nothing, and that desire will only continue to gnaw at me, piece by piece, until I’m a broken husk of a man.

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