James Paxton to the Yankees
Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson, and Dom Thompson-Williams to the Mariners
So, yeah, this is what we all wanted, right? Stop pussy-footing around, trying to merely contend for a wild card spot, and start tearing things down to rebuild the foundation even stronger in the seasons to come. Will the Mariners suck in 2019? Absolutely. Were they going to be worth a damn anyway, if we’d re-signed Nelson Cruz, maybe brought in a guy or two from free agency, and tried to run it back with the same core of guys? Probably not. The Mariners were going to suck – or at best be mediocre – for years to come; I’d rather they REALLY suck and hope to hit on some young prospects, while waiting out the Astros and A’s and whoever else who are already good now, and figure to be good for a long time.
I’ll start with this: James Paxton had to be one of the first to go. That guy is a walking injury waiting to happen, he’s at the peak of his value as a front-line, ace-type starter, so we had to get him out of here while his arm was still attached to his body. Counting on him to survive a full Major League Baseball season is unrealistic, because he’s literally never been able to do it to date. Does that mean he’ll NEVER do it? No; I’m sure as soon as 2019 he’ll be a Cy Young contender. But, over the long haul, he’s going to be on the DL more than his fair share of times, and it would’ve been frustrating to try and root for the guy who can never stay healthy for longer than a month or two.
There’s also the very real possibility that the Yankees figure something out about his mechanics or whatever and fix him, so he goes on to have a Randy Johnson-esque career in his 30’s. Never rule out the ineptitude of the Mariners’ organization and its coaching staff.
As for the return? It’s underwhelming. It was always going to be underwhelming.
For starters, I’ll agree with what Mike Salk has said on 710 ESPN: I also hate trading for Yankee prospects because they ARE the most over-hyped prospects in the game. Now, part of that is due to the fact that they manage to find so many diamonds in the rough; their great teams are ALWAYS built on homegrown talent. So, yes, they do have an eye for it, but more importantly, they keep what’s going to work best for them, and they ship off the duds.
So, yeah, Justus Sheffield might be their best prospect NOW, but Jesus Montero was once their best prospect. It might be a down period for Yankee prospects (because so many of them have made it to the Major League level in recent seasons). Sheffield has also been traded twice in his young career; are we sure we want to get too excited about a guy that two teams have already given up on?
Sure, he COULD be the next James Paxton, but he could also be a back-end of the rotation nothing. He throws UP to 97 miles per hour, but how much do you want to bet he actually sits closer to 93-94? And that doesn’t even go into how trading for ANY pitching prospect is risky business, with all the injuries that befall pitchers nowadays.
The bottom line is, scouts around the game feel he likely tops out as a #2 starter, whatever that means. I guess it means he’s not going to be one of the top 10-15 starters in the league. For the purposes of the Mariners’ organization, he’ll likely be our #1, but he’s a #1 starter like Freddy Garcia was once a #1. It all depends on the rotation; someone’s gotta go on opening day.
That’s already underwhelming, and I haven’t even gotten to the throw-ins. Erik Swanson is another pitcher who’s already been traded twice in his career. He’s yet to actually make any Major League appearances, though (whereas Sheffield at least made it into 3 games in relief towards the end of last year). Swanson did pretty good in AAA last year – and both of these guys figure to at least get a look in Spring Training in 2019 – but I’d bet the family farm that he starts out in Tacoma. Swanson is projected to be a back-end of the rotation starter at best, with some guys projecting him to eventually end up in the bullpen. In which case, whoop-dee-freaking-doo.
Then there’s Dom Thompson-Williams, an outfielder who made it all the way to the high-A level last year. He’s young-ish, but probably should’ve made it higher than he has. He figures to start in AA in 2019 and I guess we’ll see. They say he plays center, but he projects more as a corner outfielder, and ultimately probably a 4th outfielder at the Major League level. Either way, don’t expect to see him on the Mariners before 2020 or 2021.
Which, incidentally, is what Jerry Dipoto said is the target for the Mariners to start turning it back around again. We’ll see. That sounds pretty optimistic.
As I said up top, I’m all for trading Paxton, but I dunno. Maybe we could’ve held off until AFTER Thanksgiving to see what we could get. Is this really the best deal out there? Are we sure there wasn’t another team willing to chip in just a little bit more? Obviously, we were limited. The teams who’d be in on Paxton are the teams who feel they’re World Series contenders RIGHT NOW. There wouldn’t have been any rebuilding teams, or middling wild card teams in on him, because those teams would be looking for better bets on long-term health. The Yankees are just hoping Paxton can keep it together for 1-2 years; if he has that in him, maybe they go to the World Series next year. Or, if he lands on the DL a bunch in 2019, they can always trade him next off-season to recoup whatever they can get.
My thing is, the Mariners believe in their ability to develop players more than I believe in them. The Mariners probably feel like they can get the most out of Sheffield, that with their coaches, they can turn him into an ace. I’ll tell you right now, that’s not gonna happen. Developing fringe talent into stars is probably the WORST thing the Mariners do. Killing it on social media, engaging with the fans, having cool ballpark give-aways, celebrating their retired stars? That’s more in their wheelhouse. It’s fine, we all have our special talents. Being good at baseball just isn’t one of the Mariners’.
Of course, I’m talking out of my ass, because I haven’t seen any of these guys play at all. They could shock the world and prove Jerry Dipoto to be a genius. Based on precedent, I have my doubts. I’m a Mariners fan, and as such I’m destined to always root for a loser.