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Mariners “in talks with” Reds and Rays about a starting pitcher

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But which pitcher? A switch-pitcher? A pitcher who likes Quidditch pitcher? (No, it won’t be Chris Archer)

MLB: Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays
more like Drew Smirky imo
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday the usually-reliable Jon Morosi dropped this little pearl of info, and Mariners twitter scrabbled after it like a cat on a tile floor:

Obviously everyone wet their collective pants over the idea of Chris Archer, but reality check: the Mariners don’t have the pieces to get Archer. For example, the Atlanta Braves are also interested in Archer. The Braves, however, have approximately the entire population of Marietta in trade pieces—so much so that they gave us two probably useful pitching pieces for basically free, like that kid at lunch whose parent packed a real deli sandwich and two candy bars and chips and a soda, so of course they’ll let you have this half-unwrapped York Peppermint Patty for nothing. (It’s still a DAMN FINE CANDY, okay.) The point is, the Mariners don’t have the pieces for Archer. Forget it, move on, sign Tyson Ross (who also reads a lot! He is basically west coast Chris Archer and even though Jerry won’t sign him, he is the pony I am asking for this Christmas).

So let’s run down the other possible trade candidates it could be from the Rays, in order:

Jake Odorizzi - this is probably the name that popped into most people’s minds after they awoke from their Archer fever-dream. Odorizzi is appealing: he’s young (26), consistent (FIP in the mid-3s every year in the majors except 2016), and cheap. But Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times thinks the team values Odorizzi highly enough that they’ll put a premium on his services, meaning the Mariners are probably priced out of the market, even if Tampa Bay wants to deal him.

Drew Smyly - Smyly is my personal favorite; I draft him every year in fantasy. Just a tick older than Odorizzi at 27, Smyly struggled a little with injuries in 2014 and 2015. He did make all his starts in 2016, but his performance sagged a little with a career-high 4.49 FIP. Smyly is a strikeout pitcher, though (8.57 K/9!), able to get batters chasing on a good high fastball, which would make him a solid replacement for Walker. It’s worth noting Smyly is a lefty, too, which Jerry seems to dig. Smyly’s injury history and not-stellar 2016 campaign might make him affordable to the Mariners (DRays Bay posts a value of a 40--70 ranked prospect on him, or one Tyler O’Neill, but maybe they could be convinced to take a lesser pitching prospect and Dad? Smeth at first could still be a reality!). Another important thing to keep in mind with Smyly is that he earned 3.75m last year; this year he’s in ARB 2, and free agency isn’t too far on the horizon, so the Rays, one of the less economically advantaged teams in the league, are probably somewhat motivated sellers on Smyly, even in a pitcher’s market.

Alex Cobb - Cobb is the name that pops up the most alongside Smyly’s for trade candidates. He is yet even older, pushing 30, and has played for Tampa Bay for his whole career. Cobb put up really nice numbers between 2011-2014, with an FIP in the mid-3s, but had Tommy John in 2015 and only appeared in 5 games for the Rays in 2016. In 2013 and 2014 he posted K/BB ratios of about 15%, which is ludicrous, strikeouts of that nature. He would be way cheaper than Smyly, but he is definitely a risk.

Blake Snell, Matt Andriese - It would be so nice to get the local kid and Husky product Snell back. But it’s not going to happen. Both these guys are young and talented and cheap and the reason the Rays are able to shop their other rotation arms.

Erasmo Ramirez - Just say no, Jerry.

You’ll note that Morosi’s tweet also mentioned the Cincinnati Reds. Despite the fact that I am still lowkey mad at the Reds for not moving promptly on the Cozart deal, let’s break down their offerings, too:

Okay, it’s really offering, singular: Anthony DeSclafani. DeSclafani is a 1 in a weak Reds system where he’d probably be a 2 elsewhere. He has posted mid-3s in FIP every year, but has a wee bit of an ugly HR/FB rate (12.6%), probably thanks to pitching in the pizza box of GABP. A 7.66 K/9 and 2.19 BB/9 certainly puts him in the mold of a Dipoto Special. DeSclafani is only 26, and under team control until 2020. The Reds might decide not to trade him at all, instead choosing to build around the one thrower of baseballs in their system who isn’t a tire fire, but if they do, the price will be extra-steep. The Mariners do have a few pitchers on the farm they could offer for DeSclafani, but Texas was also reported to be sniffing around him, so the Mariners might already be priced out.

The other candidate Cincy is shopping is Dan Straily. Straily’s nice-enough 3.86 ERA covers up a yucky 4.88 FIP. His K% of 20% isn’t too bad, but his walk rate is astronomical by DiPoto standards, almost 10%. He’s not expensive, but he’s not really any better than anything we already have in the stable.

The rest of the Reds rotation isn’t worthy of trade consideration. Brandon Finnegan’s FIP last year was a 5-something, he issues a ton of walks, and he gave up a troubling 1.5 HR/9. Homer Bailey is on the wrong side of 30 and hasn’t started more than 10 games since 2014. Tim Adleman had a great 2016 in AAA and was able to parlay that into some success at the MLB level, when he made his debut this year. He’s 29. Robert Stephenson is the spring chicken of the bunch, at 23, but as he’s advanced levels he’s been walking more batters and striking out fewer. Not great, Bob!

Smyly might come at an inflated cost, but he’s certainly the most exciting of these names, and probably the only one the Mariners should seriously chase. Gambling on Cobb is too risky, and the Reds, outside of DeSclafani, aren’t any more attractive than Karns or Miranda. This rumor might be just noise on the barren post-Winter Meetings landscape--and even if it isn’t, talk is cheap—but it’s nice to dream on during a cold day.