On Sunday evening as the Winter Meetings kicked off, Geoff Baker wrote that the Mariners had been in trade talks with the Pirates about Garrett Jones. Itís tough to tell how serious the discussions really were, but the fact that the teams got to the point of exchanging names means the Mariners were at least mildly intrigued.
Dave and Jon already dismissed the idea as ridiculous, and I'm not arguing against them. Jaso is signed to a longer contract, is less expensive, and is two years younger. While Jones would provide offense and fill a position of need (first base/ right field), his raw totals are slightly misleading. His 27 home runs sound nice, but the total is inflated by his sheer number of plate appearances and a high 17.3% HR/FB rate.
Iím also puzzled at the Marinerís apparent willingness to deal Jaso, or to at least include him in trade talks for a player of Jones's caliber. Shopping Jaso while his value is at its highest is a good idea in theory, but it appears that the Mariners are not expecting to extract much of a return for him.
Last season, Jaso was one of the Mariners's best hitters, racking up a team high 143 wRC+. Even with a stark platoon split, Dave made the case that Jaso is still highly underrated. That the front office is fielding offers for Jaso in return for a 2-3 win player at best seems to support this claim. Hopefully with catchers Mike Napoli and Russell Martin now off the board, Zduriencik will be less inclined to dangle Jaso in trade talks.
The most interesting part of the supposed proposal mentioned by Baker is not the Jaso/Jones part of the swap, but the other players included. The rumored transaction also had the Mariners shipping Hector Noesi and Justin Smoak to Pittsburgh in exchange for Joel Hanrahan.
First of all, I canít help but wonder why the Mariners would be looking to add an established, expensive closer.
Hanrahan is coming off a relatively poor season, as he posted a 3.63 ERA to go along with a middling 4.45 FIP. By contrast, Tom Wilhelmsen did about as well as can be expected from a reliever, posting a 2.89 ERA and a 2.50 FIP. Yes, 2012 was Wilhelmsenís first season as a closer, and he may fall back a bit next year. But Hanrahan has been a full time stopper for only a year longer than Wilhelmsen, and it's not like the M's are hurting for quality relievers either: the Mariners have two potential closers waiting the wings in the forms of Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps. Adding Hanrahan to the bunch would only limit the innings and developmental opportunities for both youngsters.
There are also monetary ramifications to adding Hanrahan, as the Bucs closer is expected to make about $7 million next season in his final year of arbitration. Even if the Mariners have $20 million to play around with this offseason, thatís still a significant investment, and one that would limit the teamís ability to pursue a top end outfielder like Josh Hamilton or Nick Swisher.
Iím alright with including Smoak and Noesi in a potential trade, as neither figures to be a part of the long-term plan in Seattle, (unless Smoak's September was no fluke). Noesi still has value in Seattle ( a guy with his arm will always have a job) but if the right deal sends Noesi out the door, the Mariners can easily pick up another Kevin Millwood type veteran to fill a potential hole in the rotation.
The bottom line is the deal didn't make sense for the Mariners on a variety of levels. I can only hope that the front office quickly spurned the offer.