Cubs Hindering Mariners’ Chances of Landing a Starter


The Mariners are well-known to be in the market for rotation help this August, and most fans hope that management will be able to do better than Erik Bedard.

Memories described as less-than-fond about the oft-injured Canadian who once cost the M’s Adam Jones resonate to this day, and at 35, anyone saying that Bedard is over the hill is being kind.

However, Jack Zduriencik may learn fast that the decision to not pursue that position with adequate fervor before July 31 may bite him right in the behind, as the now former Ray has been one of few pitchers that Seattle has actually had a chance to pick up a week into August.

While a few undesirable starters (i.e. Bedard, Vinnie Pestano and Roberto Hernandez) made it to Jack’s desk on the wavier wire, none of the pieces that could really help this year have reached contending teams.

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Yesterday, the Cubs claimed Miami’s Jacob Turner and Phillies’ ace Cole Hamels. While Hamels was completely off Seattle’s radar based on his contract and Turner would not be a better number five starter candidate than Erasmo Ramirez or Taijuan Walker, the names themselves are not important. This is a sign that 2014 will be, as recent years have been, cruel to teams that hope to significantly improve their roster for the final stretch.

Twenty years ago, the non-waiver Trade Deadline held less significance than today for the simple reason that come August, clearing a player through revocable waivers was almost a given. General mangers abide to an unwritten rule that strongly discouraged placing a claim for any reason.

That may have helped playoff teams stockpile talent but at the expense of losers taking advantage of one of the few benefits their abysmal record provided them.

Now, though, the paradigm has completely shifted, and those sorry franchises are not nearly so forgiving. The gentleman’s agreement has been succeeded by an era of rampant claims for a variety of reasons that are not by any stretch limited to acquiring a player.

In the Cubs’ case, the decision on Hamels in particular seems to be motivated by a desire to inflate the starting pitcher market.

Feb 14, 2014; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein watches the bullpen during camp at Chicago Cubs training facility at Mesa . Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago may have dumped Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but Jake Arrieta still resides on the North Side, and after last week’s mayhem he remains in the minds of many teams (perhaps including Seattle).

While the Cubs have no reason to give up a king’s ransom to take on the nine-figure burden left on Hamel’s monstrosity of a deal, preventing him from being traded at all moves Arrieta up the available SP leaderboard, thereby increasing their leverage if they move him.

None of that directly affects Seattle, but as the starter market becomes more and more seller-friendly, the chances of the front office finding the right fit at the right price diminish at a worrying rate.

In addition, Seattle has to of course contend with the more traditional problem of teams closer to but still behind them in the standings either blocking contenders, as Cincinnati may do to the Cards, Crew, and Bucs, or just beating Jack to the punch and acquiring an upgrade.

The sad reality is that unless Seattle manages to get “lucky” on someone like Bartolo Colon who is both too expensive for most contenders’ liking and too old for Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein’s master plan, they will be stuck with whatever is on the scrap heap.

If Jack Zduriencik truly wanted to get his team an extra starter, we can safely say that he will likely fail. The way he went about it befits not a competent GM but instead one who is stuck in the past, using a strategy that would have worked better in the ’90s.

A strategy well past its prime, just like Erik Bedard.