Maybe we deserved this. After all, reading yesterday's post about the current state of the AL West and how it looked for the Mariners, there was cautious, yet reasonable evidence to be optimistic about the Mariners competing for the top spot in the division. One might have even called them the favorite -- hell, the projected standings at Fangraphs were so bold, and they use unbiased projection systems! Even though the Mariners have had a mostly quiet offseason, simply holding onto their top projected contributors and making non-damaging moves has appeared to be safe, especially when Oakland was blowing up their current roster. What was Billy Beane thinking?
The #Athletics are on the verge of acquiring Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar from the #Rays, the @sfchronicle has learned.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) January 10, 2015
Amazingly, Beane has managed to do it yet again. The price tag? John Jaso, Daniel Robertson, and Boog Powell. Robertson is a very good, though non-elite prospect -- a 20 year old former 1st round pick who plays middle infield, but hasn't been ranked in Baseball America's top 100 -- yet. Powell is 22 and has a big bat but was also popped for a 50-game suspension this year. He hasn't advanced past A+.
For Zobrist AND Escobar, it's a great deal for the A's. And it shows that requests of somebody like James Paxton or Taijuan Walker in exchange for Zobrist was exorbitant. Now, the A's have a brand new infield of Zobrist, Escobar, Ike Davis, and Brett Lawrie -- and knowing how Beane's history, they'll probably be just as good as last year's batch.
There's not much to do but roll our collective eyes. It's no secret how badly we lobbied for Ben Zobrist on this site, and surely other sites did the same. Come on. Who doesn't need a Ben Zobrist? He's the exact kind of player Billy Beane would acquire. So he did. Since this A's only subtracted Jaso from their 2015 roster, this move will give them a large boost in the projected standings, certainly closing in on the lead the Mariners had, if you bought that they had one in the first place.
Maybe the M's didn't have the right package of players to get a deal like this done, and maybe they believe Zobrist wouldn't have been utilized to the same kind of value that he was in other places. The latter is certainly true, as the M's have two infield positions locked down cold.
From what we have seen so far this offseason, Jack Zduriencik is gambling. He's banking on the Mariners being good for a long time, and he's making incremental upgrades without buying one-year rentals. In some ways, I admire the strategy, but in others, it's unsettling. The Mariners are good enough to make the playoffs this year if this roster performs like it should. But they aren't good enough if some players bust, and the Mariners have a lot of volatility on this roster. Z is banking on talent. Other teams bank on certainty, like Ben Zobrist. Or Billy Butler. Or Brett Lawrie. Ok, so nobody knows what the A's are doing. And maybe this all falls apart like the bizarre offseason it looked to be a few hours ago. But are you really going to bet against Billy Beane?
There's still so many places the Mariners could upgrade. Replacing guys like Dustin Ackley, Logan Morrison, or Brad Miller would take some balls. It'd be unsettling. As fans, our inherent feeling that the Mariners have pummeled into us is not to sell for one-year rentals, it's to be great for a very long time. It's instilled from years of losing, wishing for years when this franchise can be something it's never been. That's what Jack Zduriencik wants, but sometimes, on days like this, it's fair to wonder if it's really in the best interest of the club. To be pretty good for a while, or be great for a year. At what cost? Who knows. I don't have answers, I have conflicting emotions.
Offseasons like the A's have had are fascinating. They've pieced together 2015 with chicken wire and duct take, but they've given themselves a whole set of new questions a year later. Given Jack Zduriencik's history, I'm not sure the "I'll figure it out next year" tactic Billy Beane employs is a strong one for the Mariners.
And so we wait. The offseason is far from over. We wait to see if there's more for the Mariners, or if we're once again rolling the dice on the system Jack Zduriencik has built. For better or worse, these are Zduriencik's Mariners, and these are Beane's A's. The way they've arrived couldn't be more different.