Amidst all the rumors circulating from the General Managers’ meetings in Florida, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal dropped an interesting nugget in his notes column late Wednesday night. As the Kansas City Royals are considering making an attempt to bring back Carlos Beltran, Rosenthal speculates if such a move were made, that would open up the possibility of trading Billy Butler.
Of course, as has been the case and will be throughout the winter, the Seattle Mariners conveniently pop up as one of the teams rumored to be very interested in trading for Butler, as they were a year ago. But that wasn’t the rumor that caught my attention from that particular piece. After suggesting the M’s as a trade partner, Rosenthal subtly notes Seattle actually tried to trade for Rookie of the Year Wil Myers last offseason, before Royals’ GM Dayton Moore went in another direction and opted for the Tampa Bay Rays proposal centered on right-hander James Shields.
What were the Mariners offering, you ask? Rosenthal reports they were focusing on a one-for-one deal, where Seattle would ship one of Taijuan Walker, James Paxton or Danny Hultzen to Kansas City for Myers.
But alas, that is in the rearview mirror. However, there is no reason why a similar trade couldn’t occur this winter. For the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume Seattle isn’t going to trade Walker unless it’s for Giancarlo Stanton or someone along those lines. And Danny Hultzen’s injury prevents him from going anywhere anytime soon. So, following a strong September showing, perhaps other teams would be interested in acquiring James Paxton and value him enough to ship off something the Mariners need?
Trade Proposal No. 1: Seattle trades LHP James Paxton and 2B/SS Nick Franklin to Kansas City for 1B/DH Billy Butler
This deal would be predicated on the Royals acquiring a hitter via free agency, such as Beltran. Even then, who knows if Moore would be interested in moving Butler for two unproven talents. Perhaps they would insist on Walker, which is too much with which to part, at least from my point of view. But this type of move could make sense for both clubs if the right mix of players is involved.
Seattle would be acquiring a right-handed hitter not solely reliant on the long ball, adding balance to a lefty-heavy group from a year ago. Butler is a career .300 hitter, can hit both lefties and righties, and is arguably just entering the prime of his career at age 27. Instead of having to mix and match at designated hitter, they would be able to plug Butler in everyday as they did Morales in 2013. Butler is durable too, having missed only 11 games the past five seasons.
Kansas City would unquestionably have a tough time letting go of one of their cornerstone players the past five seasons, but acquiring a young starter in James Paxton should be enticing. I’m no expert, but with Ervin Santana unlikely to return, the Royals shouldn’t place all their eggs in the basket of Jeremy Guthrie, Luis Mendoza and possibly Bruce Chen, if he re-signs. Paxton is a bit of a wild card, but he has the potential to be a solid No. 3 starter. With the addition of Nick Franklin to the deal, the Royals can stop playing roulette at second base with the likes of Chris Getz and Emilio Bonifacio, and actually build on the middle infield of Alcides Escobar and Franklin.
Butler is signed through 2014 at $8 million, with a club option for 2015 at $12.5 million or a buyout between $1-2 million.
Trade Proposal No. 2: Seattle trades LHP James Paxton to Colorado for CF Dexter Fowler
The possibility of the Mariners acquiring Dexter Fowler has been circulating throughout the rumor mill lately, including this tweet from Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi.
Honestly, I do not believe the Rockies would trade Fowler straight up for Paxton, but if I’m the Mariners, that’s the most I would offer, at least in terms of potential impact talent. Fowler isn’t exactly a spring chicken anymore — he’s actually the same age as Billy Butler — and he is injury prone. An injury prone, but potentially dynamic center fielder, where have we heard that before? No I won’t go there.
In his five seasons as the everyday center fielder, Fowler has not been able to stay healthy for even one full season. This past year, he missed a career high 43 games. His on-base percentage has remained steady over the years, hovering around .350, but that’s about the only constant in his game. He’s not a regular source of power and his stolen base numbers have steadily declined. Still, he’s a legitimate defender in center — albeit not elite by any stretch — and the switch hitter is strongest from the right side. It’s also noteworthy that his swing fits Safeco Field well.
He would provide some stability at the leadoff spot, when healthy, and he is only one year removed from his career year in 2012, where he hit .300 and provided decent pop. One major question: Fowler’s career numbers away from Coors are not very good — .241/.333/.361 with 13 of his 40 career long balls.
The Rockies have always had a tough time luring pitchers to the Coors Field, and Paxton would provide them with a young pitcher that isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2017. Left-handed pitchers have had success at Coors Field recently, too. Take a look at Jorge De La Rosa, who went 10-1 with a 2.76 ERA in Denver last season.
This one is probably the most far-fetched of the three as I do think the Angels would be giving up a little much here — or would require more in return. But, did you see their pitching staff last season? Yeah, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson aren’t going to cut it.
Trumbo would provide the M’s with the right-handed power they have been seeking at a much, much lower cost than, say, free agent Nelson Cruz. He is going to strikeout. He is not going to hit for average. But he will hit for 25-plus home runs. He’s not much of an on-base guy, either, however, so there are some holes in his game that make his salary critical to his value.
Bourjos, for me, is a prime trade target, one the Mariners should pursue heavily even outside the parameters of a deal such as this one. His 2013 campaign was injury-riddled, but the speed and outfield defense he brings to the table would offset any potential defensive downgrades the M’s make by signing a Cruz/Trumbo/Beltran type player. Like Trumbo, he is another cost-effective upgrade that would keep payroll open to go after another bat on the open market.
For the Angels, it’s a matter of enduring the dynamic duo of Blanton and Hanson again, or swapping them out for a couple young guns with a lot of potential in Paxton and Ramirez. They’re stuck with Blanton’s contract, but can cut bait with Hanson — if they have other options.
Paxton’s September performances were promising, though limited, meaning the jury is still out on his value. The Mariners could be missing out on a solid starter for years to come by shipping him out to acquire offense, but at some point that is the price they have to pay to bring hitters to Safeco Field and to improve upon an offense that has not surpassed 700 runs scored in six seasons.
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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