We continue our look at the deals and trades that were discussed but never came to fruition. And, once again, we have a deal in which the Mariners would have dealt Taijuan Walker.
When you cover a team that has made over 100 trades the past 4 years, you aren’t exactly strapped for trade content. The Mariners and GM Jerry Dipoto have been very good to us in that way. But we don’t hear about most of the trades that are discussed. For the 100 or so trades Dipoto has made, there have likely been more than 500 discussed with varying degrees of likeliness.
But for this writer, I have always been fascinated by the deals that were discussed that never got done. I read through the chapter “The Trade Desk” in Michael Lewis’ Moneyball every month or so. I am just fascinated by those types of things (side note, if you want to make a million dollars, write a book about the trades that got close but didn’t come to pass).
So now that we have some time off from the daily grind of baseball and the many transactions of Dipoto, it feels like the right time to discuss a few Mariners deals that nearly came to fruition but didn’t quite get there. Last time, we saw how close the Mariners came to stealing Mariano Rivera from the Yankees. Today, we see how they almost traded Taijuan Walker all the way back in the winter of 2014.
Seattle was looking to continue their growth in 2015 and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik was looking to save his job. There were some promising signs on the farm, namely from the young pitching arms of Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.
Robinson Cano had just wrapped up a successful first year in Seattle. He and Brad Miller looked like the future double-play tandem. Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma were great. Ketel Marte was knocking on the door. But Seattle was a good team that wanted to be great without waiting on their young guns to develop.
Knowing this, the Washington Nationals approached Zduriencik with a simple proposal:
Seattle would deal their talented young starter in Walker and their starting shortstop in Miller to Washington for Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmerman. The idea behind the deal was simple. Seattle wanted to compete in 2015 so they would trade the controllable youngsters (5 years of club control for Miller, 6 for Walker) for the 2 veterans getting ready to hit the open market.
But Zduriencik was unwilling to trade that much club control and eat $25 million of salary to acquire the duo. The two sides tried different combinations to make a deal work, but ultimately, they were unable to figure something out.
The Mariners would finish the season 76-86. Walker was quite good in first full season, posting a 1.2 bWAR and a 4.09 FIP. Miller would get a long look in 2015, playing multiple positions along the way, but posted just a 0.1 bWAR in 2015 and was traded by new GM Jerry Dipoto shortly after the World Series wrapped up.
Desmond would post a respectable 2.0 bWAR in 2015, but he struggled at the plate, hitting .233/.290/.384 before leaving as a free agent. Zimmerman was better, posting a 3.1 bWAR in 2015, though he did take a step back from his awesome 2013 and 2014 performances.
Whether or not this deal would have made any difference is tough to say. Zimmerman and Desmond would have added a few wins, but not enough to make up for the putrid offensive output and the first real signs of a Felix Hernandez decline and a mediocre bullpen.
Ultimately, the decision to not trade Walker and Miller was probably the right one. Giving up good talent for short-term, proven players is always tempting, but Zduriencik deserves some credit for not torching his farm system any more than he had in a desperate attempt to save his job.
Deals like this are fun to think about. Ultimately, if the deal had been consumated, it’s unlikely things would be drastically different now. Miller would be traded in 2015 and Walker the following year. Both Zimmerman and Desmond would leave in free agency after 2015.