My favorite thing about the MLB trade deadline is that it’s not really the trade deadline. Teams can continue to make deals until August 31st – one full month after the infamous midsummer date that acts as some kind of unofficial holiday. The Seattle Mariners made three trades between the 30th and 31st of July, but like the deadline, they shouldn’t stop there. They should keep going by trading for Danny Valencia.
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First a note on how August trades work: MLB players must be passed through waivers before they can be traded. They can still be traded if they’re claimed, but only to the team that claims them. When that happens, the two sides have two days to negotiate a deal. If a player clears waivers, he can be dealt to anyone. Usually two kinds of players pass through waivers: a) bad players and b) expensive players. Which is why we have more fun at the July deadline.
If a player is designated for assignment, things simply proceed as they always do. The Toronto Blue Jays just designated Danny Valencia for assignment, meaning they now must try to trade him less they expose him to the waiver wire, where he would most certainly be claimed. Why is he such a sure bet to be claimed? Because, somewhat surprisingly, he’s in the midst of a strong season at the plate.
Valencia owns a career .266/.304/.415 batting line, though it’d be unfair to say he’s ever looked much like the 95 wRC+ hitter that such a line would suggest. His weighted offense relative to the league, year-by-year from 2010 to present: 117, 83, 26, 141, 85, 129. He has good years and bad years, which makes for an average… average. This is one of his best years, and he just got dumped in the middle of it.
This season Valencia has logged time at first, second, third, left, and right, though he was exclusively a third baseman up until a year or so ago. He’s 30 now, and this year he’s mostly played left, where he’s fringe-average. But it’s his hitting that should be of interest to the Mariners (or anyone aside from the Blue Jays, really), as he’s currently batting .296/.331/.506, a line that is better than the line of any Mariner not named Nelson Cruz.
Why is he available? Because the Blue Jays want to play Ben Revere and his 97 wRC+ every day, which is stupid. They picked Revere and Chris Colabello over Valencia, and that looks stupid, and it probably is stupid, and there’s nothing stopping the Mariners from pouncing.
The thinking here is that Valencia could be had for peanuts. If his cost is anything more than “peanuts,” then forget it. A left fielder is a luxury item for a team that’s way out of it and just made three future-oriented trades. But I’ll admit, this team is getting rather tough to watch. They suck, and in a way that is absolutely painful more often than not. Valencia gives them a competent bat to enjoy down the stretch. A luxury, but what a fun luxury.
And, more importantly, it lets them see how he can hit in Safeco Field, since he looks like a potentially attractive piece for the 2016 roster. By this point he’s probably a utility type going forward – it’d be surprising to see any team eager to decrease his flexibility, especially given his competence all over the field. The Mariners clearly want one of those – they’ve spent the year half-heartedly trying to transform all their shortstops into those. Valencia already is one of those, except he’s also got a 129 wRC+.
A free agent at season’s end, Valencia is probably going to be hard-pressed to find anything more than a cheap two-year deal, at max. His current team doesn’t want or need him, and we’ve seen these two teams reach agreement on a trade as recently as yesterday. Oh! By the way, Mark Lowe got the loss in his Blue Jays debut today. We’re still waiting for Rob Rasmussen‘s first Mariners
The Mariners need an outfielder. They need someone who can handle the infield in a pinch, and they especially need a competent bat. Danny Valencia is all of those things, and he’s currently available. If the M’s think he could help them compete for championships in the next couple years, they could do worse than to give him a two-month test run this summer. Besides, even at his worst he couldn’t possibly be worse than Dustin Ackley. Right??