Thursday, January 13, 2005

Trade Winn Blowing 

I like trade rumors. They are fun to contemplate and discuss whether they are realistic or not. The key is not to get one's hopes up for the trade rumors that sound good, and just enjoy them for what they are. Two trade rumors that I saw yesterday in Seattle Mariners discussion forums (SportSpot and PI Forum) are very interesting to contemplate. I'll try to list the rumor, the source, and why both teams might or might not do such a trade.

Randy Winn and Scott Spiezio to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Javier Vazquez.
Origin: PI Forum Member "INSIDER TRADING".
What's In it for Us: The Mariners get a true top of the rotation starter in Javier Vazquez, AND get to dump Scott Spiezio's contract. The original post also indicates that the Mariners would receive cash in this deal. So we give up two players who we have adequate replacements for, dump an average of $7.5 million in salary for the next two years and acquire a $11.5 million salary for the next three years. So, for less than $4 million a year, we add a potential #1 or #2 starter. This one seems like a no-brainer for the Mariners.
What's In It for Them: This is the tricky part. The Diamondbacks DO need a centerfielder to go in their outfield with two health risks in Shawn Green and Luis Gonzalez. They have been talking to the A's about Eric Byrne, and have been looking closely at Jeromy Burnitz. Acquiring Spiezio would potentially block Chad Tracy from playing 1B or LF, but would provide a significant defensive upgrade at 1B. It would also further save the DBacks some money, which going into this Hot Stove season most would've thought a priority. That perception has changed somewhat with the acquisition of Troy Glaus and Shawn Green. Javier Vazquez had a poor second half, so the DBacks may be afraid of him, and Vazquez has indicated a preference for the East Coast that possibly nixed the original 3-way deal with the Dodgers. This would make that the Mariners problem.

Some might say this is a no-brainer for the M's and a terrible trade for the Diamondbacks. That is certainly my inclination, as I feel Vazquez is a 28-year-old stud who is a lock as a #2 and could easily be a #1 starter for the Mariners. Essentially, he looks like another Joel Pineiro, except he is 2 years older, has 3 more years of experience and has never missed time due to injury. But if you look at his second half dropoff with the Yankees, red flags could be thrown up. Is/was Vazquez hiding an injury? Can he not handle pressure? What happened?

Before the All-Star Break, Vazquez' numbers were right in line with the growth you would have expected on top of an excellent career. K/9 rate had dropped to 7 from the 9 rate of 2003 and K/BB rate had dropped from 4 to 3, and his BAA was a nice .233. A slight slip from the elite numbers he put up in 2003 but still excellent numbers that showed up as a 10-5 record with a 3.56 ERA. But the wheels came off Vazquez in the second half. K/9 rate dropped to around 6, K/BB dropped to 2, and BAA rose to .286. The bottom line was a disastrous 4-5 second half with an ERA of 6.92.

So depending on your opinion on Vazquez future, you could either see a staff ace, or a $34.5 million albatross. If the Diamondbacks see him as a tradeable commodity, then this deal or something similar could certainly happen. I think it would be a fantastic use of resources by the M's. We could then pickup an inexpensive 4th outfielder off the remaining free agents (Danny Bautista, Doug Glanville, Ben Grieve, Brian Jordan, Ray Lankford) or use Jamal Strong, Chris Snelling, or eventually Shin-Soo Choo. Scott Spiezio is not needed as we have Bucky and Ibanez to backup first base and Justin Leone to backup third. We would lose defensive depth, but gain a top of the rotation starter.

Randy Winn and Clint Nageotte to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Kip Wells
Origin: Sportspot user "Dr. Detecto".
What's In it for Us: The Mariners get a top of the rotation starter in Kip Wells. Where Vazquez compares to Joel Pineiro, Wells is probably comparable to Gil Meche, as a pitcher with high upside, who has not completely filled it yet.
What's In It for Them: Wells just signed a one-year deal with the Pirates for $2.5 million. This is a $2 million raise from last year, and next year Wells is eligible for free agency, so the Pirates are unlikely to keep him past this year. The Pirates have a number of inexpensive starters ready to break through and Clint Nageotte would join Oliver Perez, Sean Burnett, Ryan Vogelsong and John VanBenschoten to form a strong, inexpensive pitching staff which the Pirates can build around. And Randy Winn fills a need the Pirates have for a centerfielder and a leadoff hitter, as Tike Redman (310 OBP in 2004) should not be starting for ANY team right now, and neither Jason Bay or Craig Wilson field the corners very well. Winn may be a one-year fix, or the Pirates could have him for two with Winn's mutual option.

Kip Wells has similar upside to any of the free agents signed this offseason (Pavano, Wright, Clement, Perez) at one-third the cost. So this looks like an excellent trade idea for the Mariners. It strengthens the front end of the rotation at the cost of Winn and a pitching prospect whom many think is headed for a career in the bullpen.

There may be no truth behind either of these rumors, but they are certainly the kind of deals that you would like to see Mr. Bavasi pursuing. Randy Winn's trade value will likely never be higher and it may go down if he ends up in some sort of odd platoon with Ibanez, Reed and Bucky. If we believe Jeremy Reed is the answer in centerfield and #2 hitter, then we have little need of Winn's skills and are best advised to maximize what we can get for him by trading him before the season starts. And if we can get a top of the rotation pitcher like Kip Wells or Javier Vazquez, lets do it!

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