Word is breaking that the Mariners and Pirates have pulled a swap involving seven players total. I probably should wait a little longer to make sure the deal is correct, but it looks like the trade is going to happen. Seattle acquires SS Jack Wilson and RHP Ian Snell from the Pirates for SS Ronny Cedeno, C/1B/let's be honest, DH Jeff Clement, RHP Nathan Adcock, RHP Brett Lorin, and RHP Aaron Pribanic. It was obvious something was up last night when Jeff Clement was pulled from the game in Tacoma, but nobody had this rumor.
The trade makes perfect sense from Pittsburgh's perspective. Wilson will be a free agent at year's end, assuming his player option is bought out as it should be. Snell didn't want to pitch for Pittsburgh ever again. In return they get a middle infielder to take Wilson's spot on the roster, a guy to place first base in the wake of the Adam LaRoche trade, and three young pitching prospects. I'm surprised they had enough leverage to get this much for these two guys.
However, the Mariners didn't get fleeced. Jack Wilson is a big upgrade at shortstop. He's always been a great defender, and he's been among the elite this year. Wilson is arguably as big of an upgrade over Cedeno on defense as Cedeno was over Betancourt. On top of that, Wilson isn't a great hitter, but he's Babe Ruth compared to what we've seen at shortstop most of the year. Because of how bad shortstop has been for the M's this year, acquiring Wilson might help the M's as much as Holliday helps the Cardinals. That sounds crazy, but might be true.
Ian Snell should not be overlooked either. He is under contract for several years. He has struggled the past season and a half in Pittsburgh, but has dominated in AAA. Relations were definitely icy between Snell and the Pirates front office, so a change of scenery is great for him. I'm a little worried Snell has some character issues because of the situation, but the Mariners have a secret weapon, Mike Sweeney. I swear he is the cure for clubhouse cancers.
Giving up five players is scary for a shortstop who may be here for only two months, and a pitcher with possible character issues. However, this isn't anywhere close to the package given up in the Erik Bedard trade. Ronny Cedeno can't be sent to the minor leagues (he's out of options), so he couldn't be sent to Tacoma to work on his hitting troubles. Jeff Clement had no future with the Mariners either. He hasn't caught in months, and Mike Carp is the clearly the first baseman of the future.
Of the trio of young pitchers included, I'm most disappointed to see Brett Lorin go. However, he is no Chris Tillman. Pribanic profiles as a back-of-the-rotation type at best, and Adcock has a pretty big arm but still not that great of command. The M's have many young arms ahead of these three in the system, and several arms from the 2009 draft look promising already. The prospects in this trade are replaceable, and the M's may have already found them in last June's draft.
Even though the Mariners gave up five younger players, this trade did not deplete the farm system. I'd argue it barely put a dent in it, actually, and in return the Mariners got a couple guys who will definitely improve the team significantly right now.
Interestingly, this trade makes the M's look like buyers. I would probably be selling right now, but I'm still fine with this deal. Keep in mind that most players will sneak through waivers, so the M's can sell in August if they really want to.
Felix, Washburn, Bedard, Snell, and RRS could be the best rotation in baseball down the stretch, especially playing behind what may be the best defense in baseball with the acquisiton of Wilson, and impending return of Adrian Beltre. That's not an outlandish stretch. If Beltre comes back with a healthy bat, the offense will look significantly better too. All of sudden, this team looks pretty decent. A below-average offense can work with the best pitching and defense in all of baseball.
I'm sure many will say this was too much to give up, and this isn't a team worth buying players for. I like the deal though. It pales in comparison to the marvelous J.J. Putz and Yuni Betancourt deals, but it is a fine one. I'd like to think that this team can make a surge with Beltre's return, especially with Snell and Wilson added to the roster. It's nice to at least give the team a chance to make a push once they get back to full strength. They deserve that chance with how hard they've played, and how admirably well they've hung tough with all the injuries.
The plot seems to continually thicken with the 2009 Mariners. A new day, a new way indeed.
UPDATE (11:56 AM PDT) - The Pirates reportedly will pay virtually all of Wilson and Snell's salaries the rest of this year. Jack Wilson is not in today's lineup for the M's, and he is not listed as an option on the bench. Also, early comments from Jack Z indicate he may pick up Wilson's option, meaning Jack is probably more than a rent-a-player. Clement is going to AAA for Pittsburgh, and all the pitchers will be going to A ball. Also, for a closer look at Pribanic and Lorin, check out my post about the Clinton LumberKings a few weeks ago.