There’s concern among many fans that the Seattle Mariners may trade Taijuan Walker or Mike Zunino, plus other pieces, to Tampa Bay in exchange for left-hander David Price. Signing Bartolo Colon is a better idea.

Thus far, we’ve seen Ricky Nolasco sign a 4-year, $49 million deal with the Minnesota Twins, Phil Hughes join him for three years and $24 million and Tim Hudson ink a two-year, $23 million contract with the San Francisco Giants. On top of that, Scott Feldman signed a 3-year pact with the Houston Astros worth $30 million and Scott Kazmir signed with the Oakland Athletics for two years and $22 million. The Royals gave Jason Vargas $32 million over four years.

The rest of the starting pitchers that have signed have settled for one-year deals, including Ryan Vogelson, Josh Johnson and Dan Haren. Most of the top names remain on the market, waiting for that market to develop, perhaps beyond five years, suggesting if the Mariners wish to add a starting pitcher of significance, they’ll have to hand out a long-term contract. One notable arm that is not seeking five-plus years is Colon.

Colon is 40 years of age, but had another very strong season in 2013. ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney reported via Twitter Wednesday morning that Colon’s agent is “focused on getting two-year deal,” which, as Olney notes, make sense right now since he can always get a one-year contract, even if he passes up some one-year deal now.

It appeared early on as if Nolasco’s deal might set the market for the likes of Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana — each getting more years and dollars in all likelihood — but the consensus seems to be that the hold-up with the posting system for NPB and the potential availability of right-hander Masahiro Tanaka has stagnated the higher-end starting pitching market.

One name that is being mentioned in reports is Bronson Arroyo, who is being linked to the Minnesota Twins, as well as the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds, but still not much on Garza, Jimenez and Santana.

In the buy-low, risk-little, high-reward department, injury-riddle free agent arms are being discussed by some clubs, though many could sign late in the offseason as opposed to now.

Among those garnering some level of interest include right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka and southpaws Johan Santana and Dallas Braden. Matsuzaka returned from from elbow surgery last summer while Santana had a second shoulder surgery last spring. Braden, too, had a second shoulder surgery.

Braden is throwing the ball very well this winter, a source tells Prospect Insider.

For the Mariners, for depth purposes, any of these three names make sense, but more importantly giving Colon the two-year deal he wants right now may be a way they can gain an edge on the market. If Hudson can get $23 million at age 38, Colon’s market can’t be all that far off, though it’d be a surprise if he netted $20 million or more in guaranteed dollars.

Still, the floor on Colon’s next two seasons is probably somewhere between safe and decent, making such an investment a solid one without a lot of risk.

This is why the idea of trading Walker or Zunino in a deal for Price is such a poor one. Price will earn more money over the next two years than Colon — likely somewhere around $30 million total — cutting into the available monies more than does Colon. Going the route of Colon instead allows the Mariners to keep Walker, and any other demands the Rays may have in talks for Price.

The best part about the idea of adding Colon for a team like Seattle? His contract, even if he were to get Hudson money, doesn’t impact the attempts to add two more hitters, nor does it prevent the club from making a play for Garza, Jimenez or Santana, too. Yes, the best of all worlds.

It’s more than plausible that Seattle could do what they want to do adding bats, sign a pitcher like Colon, and sign another quality starting pitcher, such as one of aforementioned top names remaining. They may cost 5-6 years and $65-90 million, but they won’t cost Walker, James Paxton or any other young talents the club should be hording, if at all possible. Well, it is possible.

Staying away from a costly Price deal makes the following starting rotation possible for the Mariners in 2014:

Felix Hernandez
Hisashi Iwakuma
Matt Garza/Ubaldo Jimenez/Ervin Santana
Bartolo Colon
James Paxton/Taijuan Walker

That’s a rotation that can eat more than 1000 innings of above-average baseball, and if supported by even an average lineup and bullpen, can pitch a team into October.

If you want the Mariners to pass on Price due to cost, pull for the club to be aggressive on Colon and stay in the market for a second starter on top of that. It’s not necessarily the only route that makes more sense than Price, but it’s the easiest path with the least chance to fail.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

11 Comments

  1. The Mets got Colon, 2/20… drat

  2. Signing Colon comes w/out loss of a draft pick, which is very nice after the Cano signing. Curious, what do you do w/Walker-Paxton in this scenario..? Send one to AAA for more seasoning, make Paxton long reliever? I would assume signing any FA pitcher likely means the end of one of Maurer/Beavan/Ramirez, and they could be packaged with Franklin to bring about a starting OF (that could preferably hit R and L handed pitching).

  3. That’s a good get, no matter what the cost. Way to go GMZ!

  4. Absolutely agree with Jason on Colon. I doubt if he would cost $20M for 2 years. I can see $10M for one year but something like $16M for two years, but I could be wrong. There’s so much money in the market values are being eroded. Price doesn’t want to come to Seattle, his agent made that crystal clear today.

    Hiroshima Carp right-hander Kenta Maeda has further fueled speculation that he could be posted, as Maeda told Japanese media this week that he wants to play in MLB. Maeda said he has felt that way for some time. Maeda, 25, ranked as Baseball America’s No. 7 prospect at the WBC among players not affiliated with a major league team. Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68 million contract with the White Sox, was No. 3. Compared to Tanaka, Maeda doesn’t throw as hard or have a devastating out pitch like Tanaka’s splitter, but he is the No. 2 pitcher in Japan and would go immediately to the majors if posted. This past season, Maeda led Japan’s Central League in ERA and ranked second in strikeouts, posting a 2.10 ERA in 175 2/3 innings with 158 strikeouts (8.1 K/9) and 40 walks (2.0 BB/9). In 2010, Maeda won the Sawamura Award, Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young. (Tanaka won it this year.)

  5. Per Heyman, Hart signs with Seattle.

  6. Cory Hart could be an M today! It is between the M’s and Brewers the M’s are believed to have offered the most money and years. Really would like to see him at 1B/DH this year for the M’s.

  7. I love going this route. The Ms have quite a bit of money to spend and I rather them use salary rather prospects to improve the 25 man roster.

    I sure do hope Tanaka gets posted. Putting an extra TOR guy on the market drives down the trade market if we miss out on a SP

  8. It’s not a bad idea at all, although there is significant risk in signing any player that old. Eventually, time will catch up with him. But on a 2-year deal, it’s a relatively minor risk.

    One thing I like about this idea is flexabiity. I thunk the M’s should go all-in if/when Tanaka is posted, as he’s the best starter on the market this year. But adding Colon wouldn’t negate that option, and would give the M’s a shot to wait out the market without getting left with nothing (or having to potentially overpay for someone like Santana). Plus, he won’t cost prospects or draft compensation.

    And even if he doesn’t rack up a lot of innings, it would give the M’s the chance to let Paxton, Walker, Hultzen, Maurer, and Ramirez continue to develop at their own pace.

  9. This winter?

    First and foremost, be aggressive with the free agent market.

    Don’t trade the best kids unless you can’t get any more of the better remaining free agents signed.

    Sign first, trade later.

  10. Exactly. This is what a smart GM would do. Along with signing Colon and another starter, you make sure you don’t tie in a no trade clause to those contracts. If Paxton and Walker are pitching lights out over the first half you would have the opportunity to flip one of the new pitchers or a Paxton/Walker for another piece to help your playoff push. Add pieces don’t send them out the door.

  11. I’m with you 100% on this one.

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