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Taijuan Walker, Wil Myers, and winning now

Two years ago, the Kansas City Royals traded away their best prospect for a two-year shot in the arm. Last year, the Kansas City Royals played in World Series game 7... and lost. Was it all worth it? Should the Mariners do something similar?

oh man just do it already
oh man just do it already
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Something I've noticed: national media trade proposals never seem to favor the Mariners. It's like, back when Felix was the Giancarlo Stanton of everyone's trade fantasies, all the national sportswriters got so entrenched in the habit of making trade proposals that looked awful for Seattle that now they just can't stop. Yoenis Cespedes for Hisashi IwakumaJustin Upton for Taijuan WalkerJon Niese for Brad Miller. And whenever someone does make a trade proposal that slants in Seattle's favor - like Dave Cameron's proposed three-way swap with Boston and Washington - everyone loses their minds.

See, look. Literally while I was writing this article, here's Jim Bowden proposing Brad Miller and James Paxton for Ryan Braun (insider). Jesus, dude, you were an actual general manager? The mind - she boggles.

So it's wintertime again, and everyone's floating up awful Mariners trade proposals, and the flavor of the month is Taijuan Walker. Justin Upton for Taijuan Walker. Yoenis Cespedes for Taijuan Walker. Andrew Friedman's left toenail for Taijuan Walker. Say, d'you know what all these Taijuan Walker trade proposals remind me of? The Wil Myers trade.

As you already know, two years ago the Kansas City Royals flipped their top prospect (Myers) and three other pretty interesting pieces to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis. They got skewered for giving up ridiculous amounts of long term value without improving their team dramatically enough to win in the short term. At the time, I agreed with the skewerers. Then again...

Year Royals WAR Rays WAR
2013 6.2 2.7
2014 6.8 2.1

And again...

Denny Medley - USA Today Sports

The Myers trade was dumb on paper, but boy did it ever work out. The Royals absolutely flattened the Rays in the first two years of the deal, and although Shields is gone and Davis has only one year of control remaining, Myers' injury-plagued 2014 may mean that the Rays win the trade by fWAR without even considering time value. On top of that, there's the value of a playoff run to consider. The Royals didn't win the World Series, but they came as close as you can come, and as a result they're going to see an attendance spike that should provide a windfall of something like $75M over five years.

That's a pretty serious reward. I'm quite certain that no one in Kansas City would trade this playoff run to have Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi back. In retrospect, what the analysts who metaphorically killed Dayton Moore for making the Myers trade failed to account for was the upside of this kind of scenario. With two wild cards and unprecedented leaguewide parity, MLB has started to reward mediocrity, and hitting the middle of the win curve is probably more valuable than we used to think.

So the Myers trade - favored whipping boy of sabermetricians everywhere - actually worked out just fine. Does that mean the Mariners should trade Taijuan Walker for a one-year rental?

Well... no. Not for Upton or Cespedes, at any rate. A Taijuan Walker - Jason Heyward swap I could've maybe gotten behind, especially because Heyward seems like the most likely of the three outfielders to re-sign with whatever team he plays for last before he hits free agency, but definitely not the other two. Taijuan Walker might not quite be Wil Myers, but Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes aren't even close to James Shields. For one thing, Shields had two years of control remaining. For another thing, Wade Davis turned out to be something like half the return for the Royals in that trade. For a third thing, Cespedes and Upton aren't as good as Shields was at the time of the deal. If you thought the internet hated Myers-Shields...

Honestly, though, I think the Mariners already had their James Shields moment. It just wasn't a trade. It was the Robinson Cano signing. Outside of the Mariners blogosphere, that acquisition wasn't the most widely beloved, either. A lot of heads were scratched when Howard Lincoln ponied up $240M to improve a position of depth on an already mediocre team. But as we saw last year, the deal took the Mariners from mediocrity to the edge of the playoffs. (Perhaps not coincidentally, the 2013-2014 Mariners made almost the exact same win-loss jump as the 2012-2013 Royals.) In that way, the upside of a first playoff run in over a decade made the signing a little more palatable for the Mariners than it would otherwise have been.

But you can't make bad win-now moves forever. Once, okay, maybe I can understand that no free agent wants to come play for a losing team. But too many Wil Myers trades is how you end up like the Phillies (or, worse, the 2008 Mariners): old, bad, and with nothing left in the farm system.

Look, the Mariners are in a tight spot. They need to get over the wild card hump and into the playoffs, but the free agent market for their needs is weak, and the assets they're trying to acquire are some of the most overvalued in the sport. It's not going to be easy to make a "smart" move. But the fact that a "stupid" move worked out really well for the Royals does NOT mean that the Mariners should follow in Dayton Moore's footsteps.

If the Mariners are trading Taijuan Walker, they'd better get a hell of a lot back.