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The Deadline Dance

With the trade deadline coming up, if you don't already check out MLB Trade Rumors (or follow them on Twitter at @mlbtraderumors), I recommend you do. The site is one-stop shopping for trade rumors, both big and small, along with links to sources. Last night they fired off a post specifically about the Mariners. Based on the reports, it looks like:

The trade deadline is wonderful for false reports and smoke screens. Jack Zduriencik, if anything, has proven that he keeps information close to vest too. I usually completely tune out Mariners reports for both of these reasons.

This simple one from MLB Trade Rumors hits the nail on the head though. I bet it is both completely bogus and entirely true at the same time.

Trades are all about leverage. The instant a team feels that they have to make a deal, they lose leverage. No opposing team is going to offer something better than what the Mariners ask for either, barring a remarkable bidding war. There is an art and psychology to striking a good deal.

It sounds like the M's are asking for exorbitant returns on every player right now, and I have a hard time believing Jack Zduriencik is oblivious to this. That's why I believe these reports are totally bogus. I bet the Mariners' internal prices on these players are lower than the rumors flying right now.

However, what incentives do the Mariners have to swing a deal at this moment? They are already out of contention, and everyone knows it. What other teams are likely to suddenly become sellers this close to the deadline too? The market is what it is, until more players are traded. This, of course, would increase the demand as supply decreases. All of Major League Baseball is in a big, complicated game of chicken as we speak, Mariners included.

Z and company know what they are doing with trades. His front office has proven that it knows how to put deals together, and close them. The high price tags almost seem out of character from the transactions we have seen.

The current reports likely say very little about what the Mariners are actually looking for in any potential trades. Rather, they scream of bargaining leverage. In some ways, it is an unnecessary game, because everyone probably knows that the asking prices for all these players will sink in the coming days. However, what if teams really are deciding between Fister and Hiroki Kuroda? If and when teams decide Kuroda will not leave L.A., the price for Fister will automatically go up. Doesn't it make sense to keep Fister's price high, and give some team a chance to decide they must get Fister?*

*As Mariners fans, we know this kind of thinking happens. Remember when Bill Bavasi lost out on none other than Hiroki Kuroda? (Who, by the way, signed with the Dodgers over the M's in large part because he preferred L.A, the city. The L.A. love isn't a recent inclination of his.) Bavasi rather blatantly went out with the money he had reserved for Kuroda and threw it at Carlos Silva. Bavasi had to have a starter, and moved down the line until he got one.

The rest of this week will be interesting. I have a hard time believing that at least one starting pitcher won't be dealt. The holes on offense are too glaring, and I think some team will inevitably step up with a good enough deal. There are many likeable starters on the M's staff, but likeable does not equal untouchable.

Wouldn't a deal like Todd Frazier and some mildly interesting reliever for Doug Fister or Jason Vargas make reasonable sense? If Cincinnati really is interested in Chone Figgins, he could be a part of the deal too. Frazier can play third base or the corner outfield slots, and should bring a little pop and speed to the lineup. Unlike Kyle Seager, he has a year and a half of AAA experience, so he could be called up immediately and stand a better chance of succeeding.

Although, with that said, I am not convinced that Seager got enough time to really find his way in the majors. I remember Shin-Soo Choo getting a cursory look years ago, and Lord Bavasi determining he could not be the left-handed hitter the M's coveted.

I am fully confident that this year, like every year, we will never know the deals that were discussed and did not happen. We will never know which rumors had some truth, and which were merely glorified gossip. All that I am sure of is that the M's asking prices will come down, and the real question is how low they are willing to go to breathe some new life into this free-falling team.

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