The Winter Meetings have been significantly more active than last winters and we are beginning to see a trend amongst the big market teams. A trend that the Seattle Mariners are uniquely positioned to take advantage of.
The new trend we are talking about is the glorification of the “salary dump”, where franchises worth billions of dollars owned by some of the wealthiest men in the world, cry poor and tell their GM’s to trade away some largely unmoveable and almost always, bad contracts. The Mariners did something similar with Robinson Cano last year.
Now to be fair, my description is a bit simplistic of the idea as a whole, but let’s focus on the baseball aspect of things and ignore the business side for a moment. Whether or not teams should be doing it, they are and this is where GM Jerry Dipoto can take advantage.
You see, the Mariners’ current projected Opening Day payroll is just under $100 million. While they are rebuilding and signing slightly above-average players to long-term deals isn’t wise, using the mistakes of other franchises to your benefit should always be in play.
With GM’s under strict orders to move these large contracts, they are being forced to attach good, young talent to these deals while still not getting much of anything in return. The issue with this is that teams are much smarter today than they were 20 years ago.
Allow me to explain. If you are a team who could use the above-average(or worse) player making a ton of money, you can probably sign a similar player to a similar deal and not lose your good prospect for nothing. In addition, most of these teams have bad contracts they would move if possible.
So perhaps the winning clubs can unload their bad contracts on bad teams? The prospects are nice to collect and any rebuilding team should be interested, right? Well, perhaps not. Keep in mind, there are a handful of teams who rarely spend big on any player, so taking on a disappointing one at above market price isn’t the smartest move for them to make either.
The ideal team to salary dump to is a Top 15 payroll team, who has a lot of salary relief and is closing in on their rebuild goal instead of just beginning it. Sound familiar? It should. I just described the Seattle Mariners.
We already tinkered around with this very idea, using J.A. Happ as our example, but more than a few bigger names make sense as well. A few of the players being rumored to be available in such a trade are Wil Myers, David Price, Shin-Soo Choo, and to a lesser extent, Robbie Ray.
While these deals tend to be complicated with a lot of moving pieces to account for, they can get done. In fact, one was completed today at the winter meetings. The LA Angels attached their 2019 first-round pick, Will Wilson, to Zack Cozart and only got a PTBNL or cash in return.
Cozart, who only had one year at $12 million left on his contract, got the Giants a potential everyday infielder with above-average power and hit tool. Imagine what the Padres would need to add to Myers to move his $68 million deal?
Seattle is in a unique position to take advantage of this new trend at least once. And if they won’t use their copious payroll space in free agency, they could use that space to advance their rebuild this way.