I’ve been waiting to do these trade posts, and I’m not going to let a little thing like “it’s not going to happen” stop me. So I want to make that clear. None of this is going to happen. The Cardinals are not going to trade for a Mariners pitcher. They just won’t and they probably shouldn’t.
But hypothetically, they could. It would instantly transform the offseason, at least from the pitching side. We’ll see how much it hurts the offense, but the Cardinals would be incredibly improved at starting pitcher and the bullpen (by virtue of Steven Matz moving to the pen). So, it still seems worth asking: what would it cost to acquire a Mariners pitcher?
I decided to focus on just three pitchers: the established ace, the middle of the rotation piece with lots of team control, and the salary dump. The established ace is of course Logan Gilbert, who also comes with the added bonus of four years of team control. The middle of the rotation piece is Bryan Woo, which is slightly misleading because he certainly doesn’t have the track record to conclusively state such a thing. But he looks like a good bet. And the salary dump is Robbie Ray.
Projected WAR: 14.7
Projected Salary: $41.1 million
How did I arrive at those numbers? ZiPS projects Logan Gilbert for 3.6 WAR in 2024, so I projected him for 3.5, 3.4, and 3.2 WAR in the next four seasons. Normally I institute a 0.5 decline (without knowing the three-year ZiPS), but given his age, it feels like the decreasing WAR would be solely due to innings pitched to account for injury risk. This feels more than fair. For the salary, I used Point of Pittsburgh’s arbitration figures, which say that Super Two players get 18% of their market worth and since he is projected for $4.9 million, that gave me the figures for his next three arbitration guesses (as of now).
Basically, over the course of his team control years, Gilbert is currently projected to provide $147 million of value for the measly price of $41.1 million, making his trade value $105.9 million. For context, Jordan Walker as a prospect was worth about $60 million, so if this were to be a purely prospect-driven package, it would basically deplete the farm.
Any trade for Gilbert 100 percent starts with Nolan Gorman. There’s no question about it. Brewers cast-off Luis Urias and Diamondbacks cast-off Josh Rojas are slated to be their starting 2B and 3B, so I don’t think they’d have a problem kicking either of them out of the starting lineup for Gorman.
To figure out Gorman’s value, which was tricky, I did two things: I just assumed you could count on him for 2.5 WAR for the next five years. This would not be the shape of his value and I think ZiPS would actually be higher on Gorman than this, but given his strikeout issues and the uncertainty of his defense, I don’t really think you can assume - in terms of trade value - that he will have the best season of his career multiple times going forward.
I looked at a comparable HR hitter who entered Super Two (which Gorman is likely to be qualified for) and found Isaac Paredes, but Gorman will have more of a track record by then so I started at a $4 million salary, and landed at $37.5 million for team control years. So his value was $87 million. That’s a huge chunk of the value, but we still have some work to do. It’s hard to calculate surplus value at this point and I’m just going to throw a few more players in this trade who seem like they would approximate the remaining $20 million or more.
The Mariners need offense, offense, offense. Their current projected corner outfielders are Cade Marlowe, Dominic Canzone, and Taylor Trammel. Alec Burleson makes too much sense not to be in this trade. Burleson’s trade value is (in my opinion) definitely less than $20 million. This trade is really going to deplete the offensive depth, but I’m also including Thomas Saggesse, who would seem to be a 45 future value prospect, or worth about $6 million.
Lastly, they won’t have a starting five without Gilbert with Emerson Hancock a half season away and Robbie Ray a half season from returning from injury (if not more), so who is a solid option to start games without necessarily having a ton of value? Zack Thompson. I think I cracked a trade that might actually work.
The downside of this trade is that the Cardinals lose all of their offensive depth. They have a good starting nine and not a whole lot behind them if anybody gets injured. The minor league depth at infield will have almost zero potential, unless you’re higher on Cesar Prieto or Jose Fermin than I am. We hold onto Victor Scott II at least and Dylan Carlson is thrust into a more prominent spotlight. On the bright side, on the pitching side, it’s a 1 for 1: Gilbert for Thompson.
From the Mariners’ perspective, while they lose upside on the pitching, their pitching depth is not actually affected. Offensively, they gain two starters and a pretty solid infield prospect whose main attribute is offense. They get their offense for Gilbert. Am I crazy in thinking the Mariners might accept this deal?
Proposed offer: Logan Gilbert for Nolan Gorman, Alec Burleson, Thomas Saggesse, and Zack Thompson
Projected WAR: 10.2
Projected Salary: $28.1 million
Woo’s value was tricky, but essentially here’s how I figured it out. Woo’s 2024 projection is 1.6 WAR over 116 innings. I foresaw ZiPS seeing an innings increase in 2025, so the shape of his production is 1.6, 1.9, 1.9, 1.8, 1.6, 1.4. I am not real confident about this projection to be honest, but I don’t really see how you could foresee a whole lot better than that at this current moment given he was not a top 100 prospect and his projection is essentially a league average performance. So his surplus value is $73.9 million
So he’s not worth Gorman. But at least relative to the trade market, he’s probably worth Brendan Donovan. I couldn’t put a dollar amount to his value, but it has to be close to $73.9 million. Pitchers projected to be league average with six years of team control are not cheap.
Again they’re still going to want to keep their pitching depth with this trade though so I feel like a close to the majors starter needs to be included. I feel like the gap between Donovan and $73.9 million is a little too narrow for Thompson, but it sounds like a 45 future value pitcher would maybe fit. It’s either Gordon Graceffo or Sem Robberse, but since I’d prefer to trade Graceffo, that indicates Sem Robberse should probably be in this trade. Whatever hurts the most is probably the right gut instinct on who would be accepted.
Again the pitching depth is essentially not affected, but in this case it’s less clear this actually benefits the 2024 Cardinals. It’s trading offensive value for pitching value. (Which is naturally true of the Gilbert trade, but Gilbert is at least likely to be better than Gorman in 2024)
Again I think the Mariners might take this, don’t think the Cards would though.
Bryan Woo for Brendan Donovan and Sem Robberse
Projected WAR: 4.5
Salary: $73 million
How did I figure out his projected WAR? ZiPS has Ray with 2 WAR in 131 innings, but well he had Tommy John surgery in May so it would be insane to think he will throw 131 innings this season. If you give him exactly half of his starts, you would project 88 innings and 1.3 WAR. Still feels mildly optimistic. I have his 2025 and 2026 as 1.6 and 1.6 WAR as his innings will bounce back, but the performance to slightly decrease. That gives him a surplus value of $-28 million.
Why would the Cardinals do this, aside from pitching depth? The only way I can figure it is if the Mariners attach Andres Munoz to the deal. Munoz is on a ridiculously team friendly deal getting paid $4.5 million over the next two years with three club options that total $24 million. His ZiPS projection is 1.3 WAR and given his age, I suspect he’s more or less projected for more than 1 WAR for a few years. His last club option is $10 million, so the safe bet is that is either declined or exactly market value. So I foresee him being worth $49 million (4.9 WAR) over the next four seasons, giving him a trade value of $30.5 million.
Ideally, the Cardinals throw in a nothing prospect, but the Mariners will want something back and also the Cardinals aren’t going to want to be on the hook for Ray’s contract. Okay so I have a bit of a problem formulating a trade here, because the “ideal” way this trade works for both sides is that the Cardinals give up a fair amount of value and the Mariners give up a fair amount of money. The Mariners also need hitting.
Problem: the Cardinals hitting prospects are either way, way too valuable or not really valuable enough. A hitting prospect where the Mariners throw in a few million is not accomplishing either goal. In theory, Alec Burleson could be that guy, but I do not think he’s headlining this kind of trade. Just a gut feeling.
So the only way I feel I could make it work was to give them a pitcher and then throw in a MLB ready hitting prospect who isn’t that valuable: Matthew Liberatore, who has around $15-$20 million in value and Luken Baker, who effectively has zero value. But you can see why a team whose current DH is Taylor Trammel might want to give Luken Baker a shot. Mariners fans won’t like this trade whatsoever, but I don’t think any fan likes attached bad contracts to good ones, so that is not the barometer.
Robbie Ray (Mariners the hook for $14 million of his salary, $7 million each in 2025 and 2026), Andres Munoz for Matthew Liberatore, Luken Baker
So yeah I don’t think I’d do any of these trades, but this is about what you’d need to do I imagine. In theory the two teams fit, but when you actually try to work out the value, you can also see why a trade just won’t get done.
Would you do any of these trades? Do you think these pitchers could be had for less, or am I underselling their value? Keep in mind I’m not sure a trade possibility exists for pitchers like Logan Gilbert or Bryan Woo where you’re happy with what you gave up.