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Counterpoint: Why the Mariners should sell, sell, sell

It's trade deadline time, and the Mariners are in their usual position. Which means - sigh - that they should probably do their usual thing.

see ya, skip
see ya, skip

It isn't any fun to write this. It feels heartless, unoriginal - the same old schtick that we've been hearing for the last three years. Sell. Sell sell sell sell sell. Ugh. I don't want to write this.

But dammit, Mariners, you went and fielded a crappy team again!

From an emotional standpoint, I would absolutely love to see the Mariners keep their current team more or less intact. I'm with Colin on that one, for sure. Even if they aren't playing for anything in particular, it'd be great to see the team make a run at respectability. But from a rational standpoint? I can't justify it. The Mariners have an opportunity this deadline, as they do every deadline: an opportunity to make their franchise better in the future than it is in the present. And I can't bring myself to suggest that they refuse that opportunity.

The simple fact of the matter is that several of the players on this current team have no place in its future. Oliver Perez isn't going to be around next year. Jason Bay isn't going to be around next year. Michael Morse isn't going to be around next year. Brendan Ryan isn't going to be around next year. Raul Ibanez is going to be in an old folks' home next year. Joe Saunders has a mutual option, but as far as I can tell there's no difference between a mutual option and "hey we should talk about re-signing after this season maybe". And, rationally, why should the team refuse to trade present for future, given that the present is a lost cause anyways?

One of the many arguments I often make in favor of sabermetrics is: "When making a decision, why would you deliberately ignore any data?" People who say that advanced baseball statistics mean nothing are essentially advocating throwing out evidence that could be used to draw a conclusion. Ignoring advanced statistics while making baseball decisions is like refusing to use forensic examination techniques while investigating a murder. It's deliberately rejecting an opportunity - for what? What tangible benefit is there?

The same line of thought applies to the trade deadline. Why would the Mariners refuse to deal the players who aren't a part of their future for players who can be? Why reject an opportunity for improvement? What tangible benefit is there?

They wouldn't gain value in the last two months of the season. Ryan, Ibanez, Morse, Bay, Perez, Saunders - not one of those guys is good enough to make a big difference in the team's 2013 record. If you take salary into account, things look even grimmer:

Name Season WAR Salary Season Surplus Value RoS WAR RoS Salary RoS Surplus Value
Morse 0.3 $6.8M -$5.225M 0.5 $2.81M -$185K
Saunders 1.0 $7.5M -$2.225M 0.2 $3.10M -$2.05M
Perez 0.7 $2.1M $1.575M -0.1 $869K -$1.394M
Ryan -0.3 $3.2M -$4.775M 0.3 $1.32M -$255K
Bay 0.2 $500K $505K 0.1 $207K $318K
Ibanez 1.2 $3.05M $3.25M 0.1 $1.26M -$735K
Total 3.1 $23.15M -$6.895M 1.1 $9.57M -$3.795M

The WAR figures in that table all come from Steamer, the more optimistic of the two projection systems posted on the Fangraphs player pages. Now, WAR isn't perfect, and Steamer adds extra imperfection on top of WAR's imperfection, but I think it's pretty telling that a normally reliable projection system thinks these guys will have a negative WAR-value-to-salary differential as a group for the rest of the season. These players are costing the Mariners money to run out onto the field. More money than they are bringing back in with their performance - since no rational fan cares whether the team hits mid-September with 67 wins or 68. They aren't adding value in 2013.

And they aren't adding value in the future, either. Do you really think that Ibanez can continue to be productive at age 42? Or that Bay's power will suddenly rebound? Will Brendan Ryan re-sign with the Mariners despite having no chance at the starting shortstop job? Will Joe Saunders use his mutual option to stay with a losing team? What about Perez? The free agent market consists of more than just the Mariners. Morse? Morse is a type of player that very often winds up overpaid: do you even want him back, knowing that the price will almost certainly be above $7M per year? All of these players... I either don't want them to stay, or I can't see them wanting to.

In short, none of these six guys offer any on-field value to the Mariners. Whatever present value they may have is irrelevant because of the team's position on the win curve, and they have no future value because they aren't going to stick around. So why not trade them for whatever you can get? Isn't any return at all better than the big fat nothing that these guys offer? Each prospect the Mariners acquire is another draw at the deck of greatness. The odds may not be good - but they're better than zero.

Now, in the case of Ryan and Ibanez, there's a little bit more than just on-field value. Ryan's defensive genius is, I'm sure, something that the team is hoping will rub off on Brad Miller and Nick Franklin, thus improving the team in the future. Ibanez's work ethic and leadership skills are, I'm sure, something that the team is hoping will rub off on all of its young players. But the question that I have to ask is: what are the youngsters going to learn from two more months of being in these guys' presence that they haven't learned already? And whatever that is, is it really worth the prospect that you might net in return for a trade? I wouldn't trade Ibanez or Ryan for cash, but beyond that...

You may note that I haven't mentioned Hisashi Iwakuma, Tom Wilhelmsen or Kendrys Morales. That's because I think the team should keep them. They're better than those other six, and the team has a real chance to extract future value from them. Iwakuma has two more years of control, Wilhelmsen's value is down at the moment, and Morales is likely trapped by the qualifying offer. Just because the Mariners are selling doesn't mean they should dump everyone.

But aside from those three (and Felix)? If the buyers come knocking, offering any kind of prospect at all for a veteran piece... I'd be selling. Selling, selling, selling.

Dammit, Mariners.