The A's, Nationals, and Mariners worked out a three-way deal on Wednesday. Who made out like bandits, and who acted like they were being run by a GM who spent the previous 39 hours drinking with a grown man in a moose costume? You'll just have to read and find out.
Grading a trade right away is stupid. There are prospects to develop, twists and turns of the regular season still to come. There were people upset that the Giants gave up Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera; there were Twins fans upset about giving up A.J. Pierzynski. There's no better way to look foolish in retrospect, with the exception of grading a draft right away.
But here at Baseball Nation, we've already looked stupid several times over. Check out last year's Miami Marlins preview! We thought they would be good. So stupid. The stupid horse has left the barn, so there's no sense in closing the door after it. With that in mind, here are the grades of Wednesday's blockbuster three-way deal.
The Nationals had Mike Morse to play first base. I would have been okay with that as a GM. It would have sat on my hands, rested on my laurels, and played Angry Birds for the months following the Winter Meetings. But Mike Rizzo saw an opportunity open up when teams refused to give a third year to Adam LaRoche. The choice for the Nats became:
a year of Mike Morse
two years of Adam LaRoche and whatever Morse brought back in trade.
And what Morse brought back in trade was a good pitching prospect -- one so nice, the Nationals had to acquire him twice. Obviously the Nationals thought really, really highly of A.J. Cole when he was in their system the first time, and they were likely reluctant to include him in the deal for Gio Gonzalez. They seem to know what they're doing with their young pitchers. After a surgery or two, at least.
The Nationals had a full rotation, a stacked bullpen, and a set lineup. They needed to get a prospect for Morse. They got one, and he's good. Well played.
Don't underestimate how hard it is to find a lefty-hitting catcher who can hit a little bit. The best are starters, obviously, like Brian McCann and Joe Mauer, but there's a huge drop-off after that. You start to get into the Koyie Hill zone, or you start to talk yourself into a guy who can't really catch, like Ryan Doumit.
After the McCann/Mauer tier, there's John Jaso. He's probably not as good as he was last year -- he almost certainly isn't as good as he was last year -- but he clearly has great patience as a hitter. This feels like an A's move from 2003, really. Defensive reports are less flattering, but he's still a legitimate catcher who will complement Derek Norris well.
The only reason for the lukewarm grade is that the A's already had George Kottaras, a lefty-hitting catcher, on the roster. The upgrade from Kottaras to Jaso is legitimate, but I'm not sure if it was enough to give up an arm like Cole.
The grade is incomplete because during the test, the Mariners went to sharpen their pencil. They got a body part stuck in the pencil sharpener, and then it caught on fire. As everyone else in the classroom ran for safety, the Mariners stared straight ahead with a ghoulish, absent grin, looking like Private Pyle when his head was shaved in Full Metal Jacket. Also, the pencil wasn't even a #2, so the test wouldn't have scanned right anyway.
This is one of the more inexplicable trades in recent memory. Unless you go with Occam's Razor, which would hint that this is a Hail Mary from a GM likely to lose his job before the end of the year. Let's hear from that GM, Jack Zduriencik:
It's certainly gives you some big pop in this lineup," Zduriencik said.
You're finishing in fourth place.
We were looking for a banger, and in Michael we got that. It gives you a different dynamic.
You're finishing in fourth place.
… when you are in position to acquire an everyday guy who hits the ball hard and far, that does change your game.
YOU'RE FINISHING IN FOURTH PLACE.
There is nothing you can do about that now, no series of moves that will allow the Mariners to leapfrog the Angels, A's, or Rangers. I can see a scenario in which one of those teams gets sucked into an injury woodchipper and doesn't make it out whole on the other side. Maybe -- maybe -- that means the Mariners finish third. But of all the teams in baseball in all the divisions, there isn't a simpler pick than "Mariners in fourth." Well, other than "Astros in fifth," but that helps prove the point.
That doesn't mean the Mariners should avoid making the team better. That doesn't mean they should stop acquiring players. But when it comes to trading chips in for a player, the Mariners did it wrong. They got a player who can't play defense, who is coming off a down year, and who will be a free agent at the end of the season. And they moved from a fourth-place team to a fourth-place team.
Also, that "incomplete" up there is an F-, if only because A.J. Cole made a squillion times more sense for the Mariners than Mike Morse did.
Other than that, the trade seems like it worked out well for everyone.