What if Pineda Is Traded (i.e. What Is Smoak's Trade Value)

So, Joey Votto is currently en vogue, huh? Don’t get me wrong he would be a huge upgrade in the middle of this line-up. He’s far and away one of the top hitters in all of baseball and while we could debate the value of having Pineda +prospects vs. trading them away and signing Prince Fielder let’s just say– for the sake of this post/argument–  that the Mariners this off-season work out a deal with the Reds and decide that is the road they wish to travel down.

Since Dave threw out the basic constructs of a supposed deal in his post, we’ll use them and run with it. We’ll say the deal consisted of Michael Pineda, Brandon League and maybe someone out of the numerous depths of outfielders. The deal is done. We have Joey Votto.

There is of course a residual effect of any trade. That being the pieces that you traded away have created organizational holes. 

I believe the bullpen is quickly becoming strength of this team (see:  Wilhelmsen, Ruffin, Lueke and Delbar). The Mariners may not have a proven closer, when the season opens up in 2012. But with the depth and ability of this team, Eric Wedge has an opportunity to open the job up to nearly half-a-dozen candidates. Compitition. It’s how David Aardsma accedended.

Speaking of which this bullpen will get a shot in the arm when Aardsma returns late July/August time frame (assuming he’s tendered a contract and still with this club). That in and of itself is going to be a huge should they decide that next year they really want to step up to the plate and start competing against the west. Which is what a Votto trade would mean to me. Aardsma could have the same effect that a mid-season trade would without having to give up an asset. That to me is worth tendering a contract to Aardsma.

That Mariners have minor league depth too, so I’m not really worried about having to give up a minor leaguer. So long as it’s not Top-5 guy. Like Catricala, Franklin or Pimenetel. So that said the biggest issue with this trade is that the starting rotation is looking a little … thin.

Sure you have Hultzen and Paxton. Both could very well make an impact at the big league level by May. But, do you really want 2/5 of your rotation to depend on two rookies making that big of a jump? Both have huge potential but I hate rushing it. But, you’ve traded your second best pitcher and that means in some manner you have to replace him. The question is how are you going to go about it.

Earlier this season I would have been pretty confident to say that Jason Vargas could slide into the #2 spot and be that candidate for the front of the rotation. But, he’s been extremely inconsistent during the second half and while he’s turned in some real solid performances and even made some mechanical adjustments, he is still working things out.  And while Vargas may in fact work things out I personally believe he’s a better middle of the rotation option, than anything more.

Blake Beavan is pretty much a back of the rotatition. I’d perfer using him as a 5th starter but if you have Vargas at 3 and you are trying to break in Hultzen, I’d imagine the team would opt to you use him at the #5 spot. This would make sense on a couple of different levels as the organization did the same with Michael Pineda coming out of spring training.

So it begs the question what to do at #2?

There is free-agency, but I’m not a fan of the available options. Really, if you look over the various free-agents signing over the past five years the success rate is rather s ominous. You might be able to get lucky and pull a middle-of-the-rotation arm off the scrap heap. But, ultimately it’s slim pickings.

Guys like C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson even Brad Penny and Jason Marquis are all going to get more money from teams than what I’d feel comfortable offer any of them.  Chien-Ming Wang, Brandon Webb, Rich Harden, Doug Davis and Erik Bedard all are interesting “what if” options. But hardly dependable enough to throw any real amount of money at any of them.

Two small and slightly interesting options do exist in Chris Capuano and Hisashi Iwakuma. Capuano’s ERA could scare a few clubs off, which in my opinion is a good thing, but he’s quietly pitch really well for the Mets this year and I think he’d be a great addition. There is also Iwakuma is going to get posted again this off-season and he too also makes for an interesting option. Both pitchers represent in my mind inreguig options but neither are are front line pitchers.

If you want a real answer for 2012 the Mariners –one that will help gives the M’s a chance at competing – you are going to have to make a corresponding trade to the Joey Votto deal.

Looking at the available assets within the organization and who could have the most value in this sort of trade, Justin Smoak obviously becomes somewhat expendable. There are even quiet a few different teams (Orioles, Blue Jays, Rays, Indians, Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers) that I would imagine would become interested in Justin Smoak’s services should he be made available .

Now let me make this clear. You don’t have to trade Smoak. In fact to be honest, I think it would be a mistake. I like the thought of putting Votto in this line-up between both Smoak and Carp and seeing what could happen. But, if you realistically want to keep the farm system in tact but compete in 2012 there are limited options going forward. Justin Smoak is the Mariners best trade chip and one that could potentially bring back a top of the rotation arm.

 

The biggest problem with using Smoak as a trade chip is establishing what exactly is Justin Smoak’s trade value at this time?

It’s a difficult question to answer because while there are advanced trade calculators out there that help determine a said players value or worth and can be super helpful in determining what would be a suitable return for a specific player. Those calculators specifically take into account past performance or how a said young prospect is rated upon amongst prospect guru’s. Smoak no longer has said prospect juice, he’s been a big leaguer for the better half of two years. But, at the same time he has yet to produced the expected numbers at the big league level –though he has managed to show more than just a brief glimpse of his ability.  

So how do we assess his value at this point?

First, you can do it through history of similar players traded. One that specifically stands out to me is Alex Gordon, someone who had shown some potential but dropped off a bit. The Royals expected a “prime prospect” in return for Gordon this past off-season.

While I think prime is a bit much in term of what I’d expect back I think you get the idea. He’s not to be given away. Unfortunately using this method the value is set rather arbitrarily. Both parties have to be using the same case studies; someone may think the compairson to Alex Gordon is fair. Both teams have to value and quantify production and value in similar if not exact ways. All together it’s just a messy process.

Second and more preferably to me, you could based value upon an accomplication of projected ability. This of course is also arbitrary. But with a more defined medium that can translate to monetary a prospective and provide a more concrete –as well as a relatable – value.

As it stands right now I would project Smoak for between 10-12 wins above the replacement at first basemen over the next 4 seasons. This is assuming that he could become a little bit better than a 2 WAR first basemen which I think is fair and more than plausible. You also have to take into account that any team that is interested in Justin Smoak and what he brings as a player is buying into the theory that he isn’t a complete product. They must believe he will mature, get better and become (at the very minimum) an average player, if not better than that.

12 WAR is worth at least $42m on the open market. This is assuming that the current price of an open market win is currently 3.5 which is a pure estimation. All this value while he’s yet to hit arbitration. So while it was difficult to estimate his overall value now taking the future cost of salary and determining net work this becomes a bit more difficult.

Consideration the last pay raises for an “average” first basemen in their first ($4m), second ($6m) and third ($8m) arbitration years. You are looking roughly at $18m, giving you a net worth of about $24m. I based this off a couple of different first basemen over the past few years.

According to people smarter than me, 24 million dollars worth of value can buy you just about nearly anything on the prospect market. That said, you most likely won’t find a team willing to part with their top tier prospect pitching prospect and as it stands If I’m the Mariners I’m looking for a younger pitcher with some service time. With that in mind here are a few guys and really the basic idea of what the Mariners should be looking at in 2012. I’m not saying that all of these guys could be had in a 1 for 1 trade. There maybe a little extra needed to smooth things out.

But overall this is the basic idea.

 

James Shields, Rays – Shields continues to be one of the most under rated pitchers in baseball. A team that doesn’t under rate Shields, his own team the Rays. They certainly understand his value and though they have been quietly shopping him over the last year (and maybe more) they’ll want a strong piece back. Smoak could be that strong piece. As the Rays have limited long term options at first base and while Casey Kotchman has worked for them this year, he’s hardly said long term solution.

With Shields options available for 2012,13 and 14 versus his average career WAR per season (3.6), I roughly gauge his net worth at almost 10 million dollars. While the numbers don’t quiet come out “even” in a one for one trade, this is what I’d consider an ideal move. Not just for the Mariners either as this sets both teams up for multiple years. 

Justin Masterson, Indians – Masterson, despite the acquisition of Urbaldo Jimenez, is quietly turning into (and maybe already) the ace of Clevelands staff.  While the Indians are a little short on big upside arms they would love to find a piece that could replace the failed Matt LaPorta at first and at the same time keep Carlos Santana behind the plate. Masterson is just entering into Arbitration and while he’s a successful pitcher he isn’t in the traditional power pitcher mold that maintains value from huge strike out numbers. That potentially could keep him from getting big pay day numbers.

I personally believe this would be one of the harder moves for the Indians to make. Carmona is looking like he may never be the pitcher they need and while they also have Jimenez, they gave up both Alex White and Drew Pomerenez to acquire him. They have limited organizational arms in which to back fill Masterson.  But, the chance to get a full time piece at first with Smoak maybe enough for them to be willing to sacrifice Masterson.

Matt Garza, Cubs – This would be an interesting option. If the Cubs decide it’s time to try and rebuild maybe they flip their ace for a long term answer to their first base situation. They may not get Prince or Pujols and they may see it’s going to take a little longer to reboot this roster with a new General Manager. It would be a cheaper solution while still providing some value at a postion they don’t have an immedate answer for at the moment.

 This is the potential “Cliff Lee-esque” move for the Mariners. Someone who could be a big time answer for the club and should things not work out you can flip him at the deadline and bring back something that fits better into your organization.

None of these solutions are perfect. I think they are interesting and all would be a lot of fun to see in the rotation next year if you were going to try and take down the Rangers, Angels and maybe even the Athletics.

Again, I’m content to keep Smoak. Even if you make a said trade for Joey Votto. I want to see an improvement with this club but not at the cost of sacrificing the farm system or key offensive pieces. That said if the team is going to flip Smoak in the effort of trying to seriously compete next year. This is how I’d want the organization to do.

Tags: James Shields Joey Votto Justin Masterson Justin Smoak Matt Garza Michael Pineda

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