When I first saw it, I winced. As a retweet of Morosi skipped down my Mariners list, I thought "And this is why you don't leave a general manager hanging in the wind, making moves to save his job." Though, as I pondered it more, and realized Peavy is not a one-year rental, I became intrigued.
Well, "intrigued" is the lazy word for how I feel now, or the average for how I've felt going from horrified to desperately wanting it to a little more tempered now. But still, it's a deal worth strongly considering.
There's much to weigh, with Peavy and the price, but it starts by looking first at the Mariners. Where are they and is this type of move even worth it? And let's get something out of the way: the team that started the season is not the team we're seeing now. It's obvious, but you see a lot of "the Mariners can't keep this up," and 1.) Well der, they can't play .900 ball but 2.) we don't know what this team can do—it isn't like anyone's unsustainably carrying them right now. Your "That's unsustainable!" is my "gambler's fallacy!"
When the year finishes—or hell, right now too—the team will sport a respectable record and a horrid run differential. And you probably see where I'm going with this so let's skip to it: this isn't 2007 and it isn't Erik Bedard. The Mariners resurgence is supported entirely by young players, and young players who aren't playing drastically over their heads. The Mariners, right now, are a good team and when you look up and down the lineup, it isn't easy to explain why they shouldn't be. Over this stretch of strong play, no one's doing anything we shouldn't expect them to be capable of doing.
So it's worth asking then: how far away are we? I don't think we're close, but we're not horrifyingly far either—and Peavy helps you take a major step.
The big part, for me, is 2014—but having Peavy for whatever the hell 2013 has become isn't without consideration. I won't try to convince you that the Mariners stand a great chance of making the playoffs, but with three more games against the Twins it's entirely within the realm of possibility the Mariners are looking up at at being only 6.5 or 5.5 games back of a playoff spot before the calendar flips over to August. Detract some of Peavy's value for 2013's slim odds, sure, but to write it off completely because this season isn't whatever a "contending season" is supposed to be would be foolish—and just a downer, too. Don't do that. Have fun. It's baseball.
But again, the big part is 2014. The Mariners need another starter, a respectable starter. The goal of roster-building is to create a situation where success is probable, not simply possible. You want your roster's "if"s to take you from good to great, not bad to mediocre or mediocre to good.
Acquiring Jake Peavy would be a strong step towards making success probable, not possible, with the infield and rotation essentially set; Felix/Iwakuma/Peavy/Ramirez would leave one spot for one of the kids or whatever next year's version of Saunders or Millwood will be.
As Dave pointed out recently, Peavy may be better than this trade season's top trade target. And while the concern is, of course, injury—Peavy's arm has been healthy since the beginning of last year. I don't mean to imply injury isn't a concern, because Peavy's last injury was his back anyway, but the Mariners would be pressed to find a pitcher with as much upside for 2014. Here are next year's free agents, and the only pitcher who pops out to me is Tim Lincecum. You stand the potential of signing Lincecum to a longer deal, and not giving up prospects, but you also don't get 2013—or the ability to kick it the side if things go off the rails.
So let's talk prospects. What does all of this cost? I mean, if it isn't much you do it. But it is much. I could be a lot of much. But think—does Paxton and Romero get it done? Does Maurer and Moran? Walker stays. Of course. But I'm willing to part with Paxton, and I'm willing to part with Maurer as long as they aren't together. Great pitching prospects flame out all the time, supposedly "sure thing" prospects even. And Paxton is not the latter—far from it even. He's been on a strong run as of late, even throwing a complete game recently, so while the risk is raised that Paxton does eventually become some great piece—it would also constitute selling high on an up and down prospect.
Again, I'm willing to go up to Romero, Paxton and a low-level prospect. No major league talent, not two high-level pitching prospects. Does that get it done? I don't know. But if it does, I'm in.
Lastly, related to cost, I don't think the salary is of much relevance here. The Mariners have the money. The recently-signed cable deal is rumored to be worth $2 billion over 17 years. That puts the AAV at $117 million. The Mariners, of course, don't get that every year from now until whenever (I think), but that's just cable money and it's some $50 million higher than the 2013 payroll sans Guti. They can afford Peavy, they can afford Morales, and they can afford to go after the outfielders they need.
And that's where 2013 matters. The Mariners are on the fringe of a playoff race Peavy would push them into the heart of. The infield is comprised entirely of young cheap talent, and they're performing. This team is showing that you can hit in Safeco, and you can hit for power. If you're a free agent to be, looking to sign a healthy longterm deal with a team just a couple pieces away from contending, why wouldn't you strongly consider Seattle?
And that's it. The Mariners are a couple pieces away. Not one, and probably not just two or three, but at some point you need to go outside the organization to add those pieces. Because once you do things may start rolling downhill.
And hell, once you arrive at contending—Felix, 'Kuma and Peavy looks like a damn good playoff rotation.