Jon Heyman reports that the Mariners believe David Price “would be theirs” if they agree to include Taijuan Walker in a trade but that, welp, they don’t want to include Walker in a trade. Or James Paxton for that matter. Rather, they’d like to build a trade for Price around position players. Presumably Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin and guys like that.
Which, hey, good for them. But that’s not gonna get a trade for Price done.
And that may not be a bad thing. Walker, 21, is the Mariners top prospect and, depending on who you listen to, is someplace in the top five overall. He spent most of 2013 going between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma, posting an aggregate 2.93 ERA in 141.1 innings. He’s a guy who the M’s can and should expect to slot in behind Felix Hernandez for a long time and he should not be traded unless it’s for a damn good reason.
Price is a damn good player, of course, but he’s one who is only under team control for two more seasons and who will make a lot of money during that time. For him to stay around a lot longer it’ll take one of the larger long-term contracts a starting pitcher has ever received.
If the M’s are prepared to do that in addition to what they’ve spent on Robinson Cano — and if they’re prepared to continue to make moves to shore up the many weak spots on their team — well, cool, pull that trigger. But if they expect to make oly two big splashes and then let Price walk in two years, well, that won’t get it done and it will have made losing Walker a really bad choice in my view.
So: absent a change of plans, let us turn our attention more toward the Rangers, Dodgers and other teams who have been linked with Price.
Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.
Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.
With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.
As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.
As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.
I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.