BROCK AND SALK

Buying and selling continues to get more complicated.

Jun 29, 2009, 7:43 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:51 pm

by Mike Salk

It seems like we’ve been talking about this year’s trade deadline forever now. And each time we revisit the topic, there is a new spin or a new twist.

It was almost two weeks ago that I suggested the Mariners should be looking for a way to “sell high.” In my opinion, they needed to maximize the value of all of their potential trade chips, and that meant considering moving free-agent-to-bes Jarrod Washburn, Erik Bedard, Adrian Beltre and/or Russell Branyan. But not just selling for the sake of selling – I argued that they should trade their chips when they were worth the most, even though that can be the most difficult time to think of trading them.

I’m still not sure I was wrong, but a lot has happened since then (on both sides of the issue). On one hand, both Bedard and Beltre have gotten hurt. Bedard is due back this weekend but that return has already been delayed twice now. And Beltre will likely miss 6-8 weeks after surgery. With the two injuries, the trade value for those players has obviously dropped (in the case of Bedard) or plummeted to zero (Beltre).

But while the injuries continue to pile up for the M’s, they have dug deep and continued to win – to the tune of 18 of 28 games and 8 of 9 series. Combined with the recent struggles of Texas and Anaheim, the M’s find themselves right in the thick of things in a mediocre AL West, and only four games behind the Yankees for the Wildcard.

So, imagine yourself now as Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik. You had a plan to compete for a title sometim beyond this year. But now your team is performing better than expected. You know where you need to go, but you might have to seize an unexpected opportunity when it presents itself.

And yet it’s still hard to figure whether this team should be buying or selling at the deadline. So let me inject one other element into the discussion. And it’s a big one…

MONEY.

This year’s trade market is more complicated than ever because money is scarce almost everywhere. Teams are under orders to either keep payroll from rising or possibly, in some cases, shed payroll by the July 31st deadline. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti joined our show on Friday and laid out the situation very clearly.

“I think that as we go into this July and the end of the month, more and more teams will look at their financial footing, how they sold tickets this year and how their season ticket base is,” said Colletti. “They’ll look at their commitments going forward for 2010 [and wonder if they] can they take on somebody that has another year or two left on a contract not knowing what the foreseeable economic future will be globally or domestically and I think it plays a much larger role than it’s ever played in it because people just don’t know.

Basically,the economic realities are making the traditional “veteran for prospects” trade more difficult because the buyers can’t afford the salaries for the veterans and most of the sellers are selling because they never had any money to begin with! Remember, “seller” and “have-not” are often synonyms in this league.

So how does all this relate to the Mariners?

Well, one thing we have learned about economic slowdowns is that they tend to provide an opportunity for someone with money to get a great deal on an undervalued asset. In the stock market, that might mean purchasing a stock that has fallen way down but is likely to rebound. Even though most people don’t have enough money to purchase that stock, the wealthy tycoon sees an opportunity and gets even richer!

In baseball, a team that is willing to be a seller while still spending money has a unique opportunity to get significantly better.

We know that M’s have some assets that other teams might like (in a world without money). But we also know that many of those teams won’t be willing to pay the additional salary for those players while still giving up quality prospects in the trade. But what if the Mariners are willing to include cash in the deal to pay the remaining salary? If they were one of the only sellers to do this, wouldn’t that put them in a unique position to get back some real difference-makers?

And while money is tight for this organization as well, they do not appear under any orders to SHED salary, so this shouldn’t be a huge problem for the bottom line. After all, they were already planning on paying Washburn, Bedard etc. this year.

So for a GM, if the other team has a top prospect that you covet, your chances of landing that prospect would improve if you are willing to eat the salary of your veteran trade-chip.

One more thing…

I want the Mariners to win a World Series as soon as possible. Even if it means making some short-term sacrifices. I also believe acquiring young talent is the best way to achieve that goal. For a few reasons:

-Young talent is inexpensive, at least for the first 3-6 years of their major league career.

-In a post-steroids world, athletes start to decline much sooner. We used to believe that a baseball player’s prime was between ages 27-32. During the late 1990’s and into the early 2000’s, we saw extraordinary numbers for guys 34+. That now seems to be a thing of the past.

-Young players are also best equipped to handle the rigors of travel. This is especially important in Seattle where travel is harder than for any other team in the big leagues. Remember, when they eliminated steroids from baseball, they also removed amphetamines. As Colletti explains, “The schedule is rigorous, and this sport is relentless and non-forgiving from a schedule perspective…It’s not like you get emailed or faxed from one place to another. We have to fly from one place to another. I think the schedule is so tedious that you see a lethargic effort from time to time and so the younger your team has the better chance of having players that are playing clean and are also more physically able to compete on a daily basis at this level.”

Got thoughts? Questions? Comments? Leave them below or call in to the show at 206-421-ESPN.

Talk to you at 11:00!

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Buying and selling continues to get more complicated.