To Trade Or Not To Trade Taijuan Walker

There are a few things I think the majority of us can agree upon.

  1. Robinson Cano is a great baseball player
  2. Robinson Cano is not enough – by himself – to make the Mariners a contender
  3. At some point – probably in five years – Robinson Cano’s contract will start to really hamper the Mariners
  4. There is a very select window – probably 3-5 years – where the Mariners need to be thinking about seriously contending for a World Series (because Felix and Cano aren’t getting any younger)
  5. Corey Hart and Logan Morrison may be improvements over what we have on-hand, but they’re not enough to push us over the top

I don’t think it’s really all that possible for the Mariners to position themselves perfectly for a World Series run in one offseason; they simply have too many holes to fill and there aren’t enough quality free agents to fill them all.  You can try to make trades to bring in the players you need, but at some point you’re going to run out of quality trade chips.  The last thing you want to do is to trade guys you’re counting on to make an impact at the Major League level.

Which is why, seriously, stop talking about trading Kyle Seager.  There is NO way the Mariners are trading Seager!  Guys like Seager can help us make that next step to playoff contender.  Guys like Seager are the guys we should be trading FOR, not the guys we should be trading away.

Taijuan Walker is another animal.  Similar animal, but not exactly in the same species as Seager.

I think most of us can agree that we don’t want to see Taijuan Walker shipped off to the Rays or anyone else.  The simple matter that the Rays want him should be reason-enough to hold onto him, because the Rays are smart.  We should observe what smart teams do and try to do those things, because what they do tends to work more often than not.

But, to go back to my point at the top:  we have a small window of opportunity.  People say it’s foolish to trade 6 years of club control in Walker for 2 years of more-expensive club control in David Price, because Walker could be amazing for a lot longer.  And besides, Price has stated he won’t talk about an extension with the Mariners at this time.  Of course, that doesn’t mean he can’t change his mind later, finding the Mariners a good fit.  But, let’s just say for the sake of this argument, that David Price would come to Seattle for no more than two seasons.

Well, guess what!  That fits right into our window of opportunity!  If the Mariners want to win now – as they should, because otherwise they’re just squandering Cano and Felix while they’re still in their primes – then they have to act boldly.  The Mariners are more likely to be a better team in the next two years with David Price than they would be with Taijuan Walker.  This is a fact.  Walker will be on pitch- and innings-counts for the next two years, as he is still incredibly young and the Mariners are wise to limit him early to build him up for a longer haul.  As we’re more likely to see Walker going 5 innings per game – while we’re more likely to see Price going 7 or 8 innings per game – we’re also more likely to see Walker shut down after August, while Price will be a workhorse who is strong enough to dominate in September and carry his share of the load in October.

Price is a sure thing.  He has been good for a number of years and should prove to be good for the next two years and beyond.  Walker is still a work in progress.  He’s improving – and he’s a better pitcher now than most others are at his age – but he’s still not someone you can count on in a pennant race.  By the time Walker turns into what Price is now, it’ll likely be two years later.  Meaning Cano and Felix are two more years older.  And, at that point, will we be looking at two stars on the decline?

Look, I’m not trying to run Walker out of here, but I’ll tell you this much:  I’ll trade Walker right this second if it means the Mariners are World Series contenders for the next two years.  You’ve got to take your shots when they present themselves.  Worry about the future beyond that when it happens.  If Walker turns out to be a stud for the Rays, while Price moves on to pitch for the Yankees after his contract expires, that’s the price(!) you pay, I guess.  But, it’s a price I would GLADLY pay, if it means the Mariners have an amazing 2014 and 2015.

Here’s what people have to understand:  you’re not going to get players like Price if you don’t give up players like Walker.  The Rays didn’t get to where they are by accepting guys like Justin Smoak and Nick Franklin for superstuds like David Price.  It’s just NOT going to happen!  You know and I know that we have a glut of first and second basemen-types.  But, just because we have too many doesn’t mean that any of them are worth a damn!  The Rays don’t NEED to get rid of Price’s salary; they can take the hit for the next two years and get by.  Of course, to have the kind of flexibility they need (being a smaller-market club with a smaller payroll because their owners are cheap), it would be ideal to offload Price for some quality prospects.  But, they’re not in a desperate position to sell.  This is still a seller’s market.

All of that having been said, if I’m the Mariners, I’m not giving them anything outside of Walker.  Maybe some D-level prospects to pad things out, but there’s no way I’m giving them two or three major prospects for a guy in Price who is only around for two more years.  If anything, I want to hold onto the rest of those prospects to trade with OTHER teams to help continue the building.  In a straight-up Walker for Price swap, the Rays get more years of a potentially-elite, #1, Ace pitcher.  They give up a guy who costs a bundle and who will only be around for two years.  They have to understand the sacrifice we’re making in that trade.  They would have all that extra money to help their ballclub, PLUS they’ll have Walker who – while still on a pitch count – will still be very good this year.

I make that trade in a heartbeat, if I’m the Mariners.  I do that, I hope Paxton has what it takes to be a Major League starter in 2014, and I pick up a veteran to be our #5 and let him duke it out with Erasmo Ramirez and whoever else we have in Spring Training.

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