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:
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.
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.
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