Last season, the Seattle Mariners were not afraid to take on some “bad contracts” in order to improve their deals in year one of their rebuilds. This off-season, they could do the same, but with just a little twist.
One of the benefits of the Mariners mid-market size is that they can absorb bad contracts for short periods of time in order to improve the haul of prospects they can get back. For example, by being able to take on the bad contracts of Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak, it allowed them to unload an even worse contract in Robinson Cano.
This option of basically “buying” better trade packages is not a luxury the teams like Tampa Bay or Oakland can afford when they go about rebuilding their rosters. The Mariners can. But with few veterans making serious money, taking on a big contract may not be in the cards this winter.
But there is a specific sub-group of players that aren’t prospects that could make sense for the Mariners. This group includes players who have disappointed in their current city, are making a significant salary, and have 2 or fewer years left on that contract.
Targeting these players at a heavy acquisition discount does two things. First, it makes your 2020 team more competitive. Second, and most important, it provides a nice opportunity to take a junk bond and turn it into an asset.
There is no shortage of bad contracts, but trading for an aging player who is well past his prime doesn’t make sense. But a player on his first big deal actually could. And acquiring that player could be as simple as flipping Dee Gordon, who has just one year at $13 million-plus a buyout left on his contract, for a player with a similar contract.
One name that comes to mind is Chicago Cubs RHP Tyler Chatwood. If that name sounds familiar, Chatwood was a bit of a sabermetric darling when he entered free agency 2 years ago before he signed a 3-year, $38 million contract with the Cubs.
Chatwood’s first year in Chicago was a disaster and while year two was better, it wasn’t great. With just one season left at $13 million, he is a lottery ticket worth taking for the Mariners. The Cubs would probably like to trade him for salary relief, so just passing on some C-level prospects could get it done.
Or perhaps a Gordon for Chatwood swap makes sense for both teams. Other players who fit this mold are Julio Teheran, Chris Archer, Jake Arrieta, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Danny Duffy, and possibly Carlos Martinez.
Seattle can’t be afraid to spend money this off-season, even if it is for short-term help. As long as the price is right, spending money to acquire stocks you believe you can profit off of is a smart move to make. Hopefully, we get to see just that.