Mariners Trade Rumors: David Price, Ben Zobrist, and Value


Rumors continue to surround the Mariners, as they find themselves well within contention for a Wild Card spot this season.

It’s no secret they need at least one or two upgrades if they plan to remain in this position throughout the stretch run and into October.

Most people expect them to target right-handed bats, but two names that don’t fit that bill, yet have popped up again nonetheless are Tampa Bay Rays David Price and Ben Zobrist.

The following two tweets from Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi caused many a Mariner fan and writer to take to Twitter and discuss their thoughts on the move:

Those fan and writer reactions seemed to be split into a few different groups: those who don’t think the M’s should target a pitcher and “utility player,” those who don’t mind the idea but think the cost will outweigh the reward, and those who seem willing to give up a lot, because Seattle is getting a lot in return.

No matter where you stand on the matter, I think we all can agree the cost is going to be massive.

I said on Twitter that my brain when thinking about the potential deal and its ramifications was akin to that scene in Liar, Liar in which Jim Carrey beats himself up in the bathroom.

I love what Price and Zobrist would bring to this team. But I don’t love what I anticipate to be a haul going to Tampa in exchange.

Price is in the middle of a very good season, in which he has posted a 3.23 ERA, 3.12 FIP and 3.0 fWAR in 147.2 IP. However, his contract ends after next season, and he has said before he wouldn’t extend in Seattle.

Zobrist hasn’t been quite as good as he was the last three seasons, but his ability to get on base and play almost anywhere still allows him to be extremely valuable. He currently owns a .266/.352/.401 line with 6 home runs, a 117 wRC+, and 2.7 WAR, or a pace of 4.4 WAR over 600 plate appearances.

Getting back to the first group of fans I mentioned above. Those who don’t think Price and Zobrist are the types of players the M’s should go after. Heck, their rotation has been one of the best in baseball, and their offense lacks right handed power. Why do Price and Zobrist make sense?

First, let me preface this by saying this is my opinion, and not everyone, including my fellow Sodo Mojo writers, will agree with the premise. In addition, I do no condone the Mariners making a blatantly bad trade simply because it is Price and Zobrist. You still have to make smart moves, and not give up more than makes sense.

What I am arguing is that, simply, value is value. When it comes down to it, the Mariners just need to improve. They need to win more games than the current roster projects to win. They need to add talent.

Now, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer a right-handed bat over a pitcher or defensive minded player, all things being equal. If that right-handed bopper was also a 4+ win guy like Price and Zobrist, and the cost was similar, then by all means, get the guy who fills a glaring need.

But that isn’t the case here. The players in question are not typical. Price and Zobrist have similar value as far as fWAR is concerned, so if you prefer a bat over an arm, I understand.

But guys like Marlon Byrd, Josh Willingham, or Matt Kemp — all right-handed bats that are thought to be available — are not in that class. They don’t bring nearly as much value to the team as Price and Zobrist.

So just because they are strong and hit from the right side, doesn’t mean they are the kind of guys — or at the very least, the only kind of guys — Jack Zduriencik should be targeting.

I believe it to be a myth that a team needs a certain amount of everything to succeed. This much speed, this much pitching, that much right-handed power.

Is it nice to have all of that? Certainly, and a team that can say they do is probably a pretty damn good one.

But it isn’t necessary for success, and if you buy into WAR (you should), then you probably see where I am coming from. Zobrist doesn’t look all that great apart from the OBP.

But that OBP is extremely valuable, and when combined with the ability to play anywhere on the field at an average or better caliber, you get a guy who is leaps and bounds more helpful to a team than Marlon Byrd or Josh Willingham.

With Price, it is a little different, but the roots are the same. Everyone knows Price is a top 10 pitcher in baseball, at least. Where the disconnect comes is when people see how good the rotation already is, and don’t think adding to it will be as helpful as adding to the offense.

The problem is, that just isn’t the case. Roenis Elias has fallen apart as of late, and there is no way he is going to finish out the year before being shut down. Chris Young, though possessing the ability to outperform his peripherals, is due for some sort of regression.

A FIP of 5 does not jive with a low 3’s ERA, even for a guy like Young. His career FIP-ERA is 0.62. This year it’s 1.80. He isn’t doing enough in terms of batted ball numbers to make up for that difference. As great as he has been so far, Young is going to start getting hit around some in the second half if numbers and history have anything to say about it.

So I think it becomes clear that the rotation will need something to keep it going in the 2nd half. Yeah, James Paxton should be back, but he is still a relative unknown. Taijuan Walker has been shaky since returning from his injury. And the guys previously looked at as solid rotation depth — Erasmo Ramirez and Brandon Maurer — have been terrible in their starts this season.

The bottom line is, you don’t say no to David Price because your overachieving rotation was good in the 1st half, and you don’t say no to Ben Zobrist because he isn’t right-handed power.

You say yes because they are both 4+ WAR players who would do tremendous things for this team.

If you do say no, it is because the price wasn’t right, or the cost outweighed the return. And again, that is perfectly okay. You still have to play smart baseball, and make positive moves. But the players not being of a certain handedness, or possessing a certain, very specific trait doesn’t render them bad targets.