The following is a guest column from blingboy.
John Mozeliak plays close to the vest during the off season, which can be frustrating for the rest of us. A cryptic mention of low hanging fruit or dry powder is all we can hope for. That is why a couple of articles concerning Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik and his frustration trying to get value for his top prospects this winter caught my attention.
Over the last few years, the Mariners, like the St. Louis Cardinals, have turned their farm system into one of the best, featuring some highly-rated prospects. Mr. Zduriencik was hoping to use prospects as currency in trade this winter. While that has been an effective strategy in the past, it isn’t working out that way this year.
The market for prospects is not what it was.
Reasons given for the devaluation of prospects include the second wild card and all the TV money sloshing around, but Mr. Hendrix of prospectinsider thinks the market will rebound in a few years.
“I’d expect the value of prospects to go up once the TV money begins to run dry, which could be within the next 2-4 years. Add in the fact that many teams will indeed get burned mortgaging their future for immediate success, and the value of prospects will again soar.”
I don’t know about that, but for now at least, Mo and the Cards are looking at a down market. If it is bad for Seattle, it might be worse for the Cards. I say that because the mlb.com 2012 Prospect Watch ranking, which includes results of the 2012 season, has the Mariners with two prospects rated higher than anything the Cards have to offer. RHP Taijuan Walker and LHP Danny Hutzen are ranked 4th and 8th, while Oscar Taveras and Shelby Miller are 12th and 19th.
Mr. Hendrix argues that recently-traded OF Wil Myers, 3rd, and C Travis d’Arnaud, 11th, did not fetch what similar top prospects would have in past years, and Mr. Zduriencik has been disappointed with the value of his top prospect Walker so far this winter.
As bleak as all that may be, the Cards are not the Mariners, and the differences may present an opportunity. Mr. Zduriencik, who is thankfully more talkative than Mo, says that the devaluation mostly affects prospects unproven at the major league level. Walker and Hutzen fall into that category, as do Myers and d’Arnaud.
Since trying to trade away a top prospect without major league experience is being on the wrong side of this year’s market, then trading for one is the right side. The right side of the market is where opportunity always lies and Mo is positioned to pounce.
Unlike the Mariners, the Cards have enough top young talent with MLB experience to be sellers if they choose. Although one can never have too much pitching, there are Miller, Lance Lynn, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly, all young and proven, and with others behind them who will be ready for a try in St. Louis soon. The rich pitching environment also features young(ish) veterans in the pen, and seasoned veterans in the rotation. There are also Matt Adams or Allen Craig (theoretically), and perhaps others.
We have seen for ourselves how expensive the free agent market is, in both dollars and years, and the opportunity is there for Mozeliak to use the present market for prospects to his advantage. It would involve risk of course, but being on the right side of the market helps minimize it. It seems like a golden opportunity to try to set the team up with a shortstop of the future or plug other holes. Hopefully he is ready to pounce while the time is right.