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Brandon League Trade Rumors Coming Soon

this actually makes me a little sad
this actually makes me a little sad

Last Wednesday, Brandon Morrow hurled a complete-game shutout against the White Sox on the road. That followed a start against the Orioles in which Morrow pitched into the seventh and was charged with one run. On the year, he's got a 2.90 ERA with nearly three strikeouts for every walk, and in January the Blue Jays signed Morrow to a three-year contract with a fourth-year option. Johermyn Chavez has a career .694 OPS in double-A. These are facts that I would not consider fun facts, and sometimes I consider some really shitty facts to be fun facts.

So the Mariners are not very good and we're entering the trade season, so this won't surprise you as much as other things would surprise you, like, say, a guy on a zip line crashing through your living room window. "Whoa, I am so surprised!" is the first thing you would exclaim. Nick Cafardo:

Seattle has received some inquiries for League, who has a great arm but has been erratic. While the Mariners haven't given indications that they will sell off veteran pieces, teams are targeting them as a seller.

Does this count as a trade rumor? Does this count as multiple trade rumors? My feeling is that this is not yet a trade rumor, but a step toward the proliferation of trade rumors. But I don't know the definition of "trade rumor" or what one requires, so this is something of a gray area. Let's file this away as trade talk. I'm not comfortable yet saying there are Brandon League trade rumors, but there is Brandon League trade talk, thanks to Nick Cafardo.

And, of course there is. Maybe you haven't realized it, but this is League's last year of team control, and he's set to become a free agent this November. He's 29, and while he was recently demoted from the closer role, he does have 54 career saves so he'll be thought of as a guy with a good arm and who's proven in intense situations. Relievers like League are heavily discussed in trade talk every summer, because the teams that have those relievers don't need those relievers, and the teams that want those relievers will never feel like they have enough quality relief.

You could say that the time to trade League has already passed. The Mariners apparently didn't want to trade him enough, and now we're here, with League pitching in the middle innings with inconsistent success. His stock is lower than it was, because he isn't racking up saves with a sub-3 ERA.

But it's not like the Mariners have much to gain by keeping League. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to re-sign him, with cheap options developing or emerging. Tom Wilhelmsen looks like he could close, Stephen Pryor might soon be able to close, Carter Capps is dominating in the minors, Shawn Kelley's fine, Charlie Furbush is fine, and so on. League's making $5 million in 2012, and in 2013, he'll be making more than that.

And other teams aren't going to think of League as some pile of crap because his results after 28 innings are shy of spectacular. League's numbers are mediocre but his repertoire is the same, and teams understand better than ever that reliever performance can be volatile, even when the underlying skills haven't changed.

The Mariners would probably like to get League back to closing and pitching well before they trade him, so they can argue that he's back to being his usual self. That might not happen, and the longer you wait, the less value another team stands to gain by making a move. Additionally, it's worth noting that League's trade value is probably down for another reason, having to do with the new CBA. According to the new rules, if League gets traded his new team will not be able to get draft-pick compensation were he to leave as a free agent. So that's off the table, which will affect League trade negotiations, and most trade negotiations.

If League were pitching as well as he did last year, I don't think the Mariners would be in position to score big. They're now in position to score even less big, but League's an obvious trade candidate and trade talk makes things more interesting, so prepare to become unreasonably interested for a time in a toolsy double-A outfielder or a minor-league starting pitcher whose sum is greater than the parts. "Why would the Mariners ever trade for a minor-league starting pitcher?" you might ask. Because have you ever heard of what happens to young pitchers?