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Bad News For Josh-Hamilton-Or-Bust Camp

Jamie Squire

Yesterday evening, as you've probably heard, the Reds, Indians, and Diamondbacks pulled off a three-way blockbuster, sending different players to all three locations. The Indians wound up with a really interesting pitching prospect. The Reds wound up with a right fielder who they will try to make a center fielder because why not, it's all the outfield. The Diamondbacks wound up with a shortstop they think will be good even though other people are more like "ehh". Kevin Towers already compared him to a young Derek Jeter even though they're kind of like opposite players. You might not see a direct effect on the Mariners. This is because there is no direct effect on the Mariners. But there is an indirect effect. Let's discuss!

This isn't about how the Mariners reportedly also tried to trade for Shin-Soo Choo, although Ken Rosenthal says their offer was insufficient, obviously, since nothing happened. If you've been paying attention to the rumor mill, you know the Diamondbacks were looking to deal Justin Upton for a young, franchise shortstop. Nobody wanted to send them one, so they got what they think is one in Didi Gregorius for Trevor Bauer and other stuff. You might think this would make Upton more available, since a shortstop is no longer specifically needed. But the Diamondbacks say Upton probably won't be traded, now. They satisfied themselves without having to move him, so why move him? And the Rangers were known to be in on the Upton discussions.

So if Justin Upton is out as a possibility for the Rangers, that means that Josh Hamilton is probably more in. They're running out of potential impact acquisitions, and Hamilton and the Rangers have already expressed a fondness for one another. Hamilton intends to give the Rangers an opportunity to match any offer he gets before he signs his name on paper. It's not a foregone conclusion that Hamilton will re-sign, especially if he gets an offer that exceeds what the Rangers would find comfortable, but it's more likely, now, and at the very least, the presence of the Rangers will probably drive up Hamilton's price.

So for those of you who are thinking Hamilton or bust for the Mariners, yesterday's news was unwelcome news. Hamilton is now even less likely to sign with Seattle, most probably. And those of you who are Hamilton-or-bust are probably also not-Michael-Bourn-or-bust, I'm guessing, and so, hey, double the bad news. The Rangers are more likely to re-sign Josh Hamilton, and the Reds are no longer in the market for a center fielder. There goes another would-be Bourn suitor, as his market continues to dwindle.

Ultimately there's really no need for us to speculate. Our speculation accomplishes nothing, as what will happen will happen regardless. But speculation and rumors do serve some meaningful purpose -- they fill our time, they give us something diversionary to think about. They give us experiences, as ridiculous as that probably sounds. My sense right now is that Hamilton is not the Mariners' top priority. I think they're quietly looking harder at Bourn, and I think they're also quietly looking harder at Nick Swisher. This is my sense. I don't know Jack Zduriencik, and even if I did, do you think he would tell me anything? It would be a very lopsided friendship in terms of the exchange of information.

It's interesting to listen to Zduriencik right now. He keeps repeating that he's happy with what's been built, and that he's unwilling to do anything rash, just for the sake of making a move. That is, of course, the responsible thing. If nothing good is out there, don't deliberately do something bad. It's as if Zduriencik has been setting us up for a quiet winter. But then we've been through this before, and Zduriencik has pulled major moves right out of his hat. Is this mind games? You start playing mind games with yourself, trying to figure out if Jack Zduriencik is playing mind games with our minds. What is Zduriencik's angle? What message is he trying to send?

He'll always tell you it takes two to tango. He alluded last night to the idea that not every free agent is willing to play in Seattle, even if the Mariners are in on the negotiations. I don't know if that was a reference to Bourn or Swisher or whoever, or just a general statement. The Mariners can't force any players to do anything, although big offers tend to be persuasive.

One thing's for certain: in terms of public relations, this is a delicate time. That's only so important, but we came into the offseason cautiously optimistic, and the Mariners were talking about spending money and boosting payroll. Remember that $91 million figure that got bandied about? People started expecting that moves would be made, and Zduriencik has been raising the possibility that the Mariners might more or less stand pat. People aren't going to stand for that, in the short-term. Not after the Mariners were rumored to be in on anyone and everyone. Many of those same people would spit on a Michael Bourn acquisition so maybe those aren't the people a team ought to try to please, but it's dangerous to raise people's expectations, because the offseason market can't be predicted or controlled. Without at least one impact move, Zduriencik's going to have to dodge a lot of tomatoes and eggs.

Yet: the Mariners can say they want to spend up to a certain level, but why spend just to spend? You hope to find fits, and you can't force fits since other players and other teams have their own ideas of what they want to do. Zduriencik is clearly reluctant to deplete his accumulation of prospects. He's clearly reluctant to guarantee too many years or too many dollars to a free agent. You can talk about how the Mariners need to take more risks, but every risk has a point at which it becomes too risky. Should the Mariners give Josh Hamilton $40 million a season for ten seasons? Of course not. One hundred percent of people would agree that would be stupid of them. So then you lower the figures, and lower the figures more. At what point do things become reasonable? For everyone, it's just a matter of degrees, and Zduriencik has to be the most responsible person out of everybody. Fans and even writers can and will be influenced by emotion. Zduriencik, to a certain extent, cannot be. He has to stay the course.

I still feel like the Mariners are going to do something significant. Maybe even a couple somethings. They have holes, they have flexibility, and nobody seems to want Michael Bourn or Nick Swisher right now. We'll just see, though. The most we can say right now is that the Mariners are probably less likely to end up with Josh Hamilton than they were a little while back. And also that the Mariners are not a lowland equatorial evergreen rain forest. If there's one thing of which I can be absolutely certain, it's that the Seattle Mariners are not a lowland equatorial evergreen rain forest.