WWJD? (What Would Joe Do?) 12/22/10


With Jordan posting that the Cubs appear to have lost out on the Brandon Webb chase to the Texas Rangers, and no other free agent starting pitching targets being named yet, it appears more likely that the Cubs will hang onto Tom Gorzelanny and Carlos Zambrano (trade veto rights aside). That pretty much leaves no rumors left out there at the moment regarding the Cubs, after they successfully completed the other two tasks at the top of their off season priority list. Those two of course were plugging the hole at 1B (see Pena, Carlos) and adding a veteran arm to the pen (see Wood, Kerry). So in terms of holes, there is actually nothing more to fill this offseason other than the miss of adding a starting pitcher. The roster actually has plenty of depth all around, including the starting rotation. But the quality and talent of the depth, now that is a different story.

So I bring you the second installment of my WWJD? series.

The Rockies MLB.com reporter mentioned on Tuesday that Colorado looked into making a deal for closer David Aardsma of the Seattle Mariners. However, it appears the conversation did not get very far because the Mariners were looking for an “impact bat”. Aardsma made $2.75 million last season, and is in line for a pay raise through arbitration for 2011 based on his success in 2010, in which he saved 31 games while posting a 3.44 ERA with practically a rate of one strikeout per inning. With the dollar amounts being thrown at relievers this offseason, Aardsma could easily ask for a bump to $6 million for the season, if not a little more.

Considering Aardsma’s name has been tossed around, you would have to assume the Mariners are comfortable with their pen depth without him. Combine that with their need for a quality bat sets them up as a willing trading partner. The Mariners recently dealt for Cardinals SS Brendan Ryan, who apparently was expendable when St. Louis traded for former Cub Ryan Theriot from the Dodgers. With Jack Wilson already at SS, I would assume Ryan would be moved to 2B, which in turn would bump Chone Figgins to 3B. Where the Mariners lack depth are catcher and the OF.

So that got my Sam Smith cogs turning inside my brain. “Impact bat” if you ask me, sounds like “power bat”. The current Mariners roster, as it stands, does not have a single player who hit 20 or more home runs. The last remaining power hitter of note left on the free agent market is 3B Adrian Beltre. The same Beltre that signed with the Mariners as a free agent prior to the 2005 season for mega millions, only to fail to come close to the career numbers he had in his contract year of 2004. The Mariners would not dare repeat the same mistake twice would they?

Cue Joe “Hendry”. I would call up the Mariners and propose this deal. Alfonso Soriano, either one of Welington Castillo or Robinson Chirinos, and one of the young bullpen arms (read as not Chris Archer, Chris Carpenter, or Andrew Cashner) for Aardsma (who they are already dangling) and CF Franklin Gutierrez. Aardsma, as mentioned above, figures to get at least $6 million for 2011. Gutierrez is due $16 million through 2013 with a team option for $7.5 million more in 2014. The salary difference basically results in the Mariners only adding $50 million to their payroll spread over four years for a power hitter that will provide them at least 25 home runs a season (something they currently lack) from the OF. As their sole “pure” power threat, the strikeout totals Soriano accumulates would be an acceptable “side effect” considering the rest of the Mariners line-up is filled with more contact oriented hitters like Ichiro and Chone Figgins. Seattle would also get an above average catching prospect that they could play immediately at the Major League level or in a platoon with any of the light hitting veteran catchers still left on the market. The young bullpen arm would help provide a potential future replacement for the departed Aardsma, as well as being another prospect to help sell the idea of taking on Soriano’s contract. And if necessary, the Cubs could also send back the $6 million the Mariners gifted to Chicago in the Carlos Silva-Milton Bradley swap.

The Cubs would be out from under Soriano’s contract, would save $50 million through 2014 (if they do not pick up Gutierrez’s option) and would save $8 million immediately for the 2011 season. They add yet another veteran arm in the bullpen in Aardsma, and Gutierrez is a 2010 Gold Glove winner that can roam CF at Wrigley and allow manager Mike Quade to juggle Marlon Byrd, Tyler Colvin, and Fukudome between the corner OF spots.

Reading back over this, the idea is more Sam Smith fable than I anticipated, but when it comes to trying to deal Soriano and his contract, you got to look at every angle possible right? Until next time…