The free agent market is moving along at a fairly quick pace this year, and the most recent set of splashes are Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez both shipping off to Boston. Hanley isn't expected to play shortstop, which means he'll probably move into left field. This gives the Red Sox approximately 11,000 outfielders, a position of which they already had too many. The factual part of the previous sentence is the reason why everyone has been searching for rumors around Yoenis Cespedes, the latest of which has been born out of speculation.
To summarize, there's been rumblings that the Red Sox like Hisashi Iwakuma, and the Mariners like Yoenis Cespedes. Wonderful! Who wouldn't like Iwakuma? He's been a highly effective starter, he barely costs anything relative to his production, and it's a chance to buy lower than he would have cost the year before. Naturally, people have started to suggest an Iwakuma for Cespedes swap as a team that "makes sense" for both teams, as the Red Sox could use another starter and the poor Mariners are always starved for power.
Before we get into just why this is a bad idea built on shoddy reasoning, let's face some facts. Yoenis Cespedes is a wildly entertaining player with mammoth power, and he's put it on display in both games and exhibitions. He exudes star power, and as such he's been valued that way in most trade discussions. Which is pretty unfair, because he's far from a star. I've been pretty vocal about Cespedes, and it's not because I dislike him or anything, he's just not the star he's often made out to be. He's definitely not a great hitter -- his 2013-2014 wRC+ is just 106 and his OBP is .298. While his overall value in that timeframe is good, it's far from justifying the valuations people -- fans and media alike -- tend to toss around with him. His 5.6 WAR over the last two years ranks 62nd in baseball among position players.
Let's move forward with one conclusion. Yoenis Cespedes is overrated as hell. But that doesn't mean he isn't worth trading for, if the cost justifies it. But swapping Iwakuma for Cespedes? No.
With the Mariners needing to add talent to get over the playoff hump, taking a major step back to take a major step forward is pointless. Stupid, actually. And while you can argue that the Mariners could deal Iwakuma and sign somebody like Ervin Santana to replace him, that's not a safe assumption to make. We all know how difficult it is to get free agents here, and each of the mid-level free agent pitchers come with their own set of concerns, or at least a semi-significant financial commitment. Get the free agent first, then talk about a trade. Even then, it's not like the Mariners are suddenly swimming in pitching depth.
Essentially, the ever-present argument that the Mariners need right-handed power isn't being viewed with any context. Boston has tons of outfielders, but the Mariners don't have tons of pitchers. Behind Felix Hernandez and Iwakuma remains uncertainty with Chris Young departing/having a questionable ability to repeat or stay healthy. James Paxton is awesome but oft-injured, Taijuan Walker still remains a question mark, and Roenis Elias did it once, but can he do it again? Pitching depth is essential to the Mariners, and while I'm not totally against trading Iwakuma for the right return, this isn't it.
Plus, there's long-term consequences at play here, at least in theory. Yoenis Cespedes will become a free agent at the end of his age-29 season in one year's time, and Iwakuma's contract is up as well. Cespedes has recently changed representation, and will surely look for a massive payday. Given his star profile and age, somebody will probably give it to him. On the other hand, Iwakuma has already extended with the Mariners once, comes with some injury history, and given his age -- 34 at the end of 2015 -- he'll be unlikely to command a huge long-term commitment. Going forward, it makes some sense that the Mariners could retain Iwakuma past 2015, if they want to. Cespedes...not so much.
I'm all for the Mariners targeting good players that make their team better. Yoenis Cespedes is a good player! But giving up who I consider to be a better, more important player to the Mariners doesn't make any sense. Sportswriters who want to keep hyping the Boston all-in revival can keep building one-sided narratives. I'm just here, with my little voice, telling you that it doesn't make any sense for Seattle. Two teams each liking a player on the other team's side doesn't mean they should just swap them. It's lazy, and this time around it doesn't make any sense for Seattle.