Trying to maximize a potential return for some of their sought after trade chips, the Pittsburgh Pirates have reportedly asked for the inclusion of right-handed pitching prospect Taijuan Walker in a potential deal with the Seattle Mariners. The request, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune, has been turned down by the Mariners. The two sides may continue talking, but it’s unclear how close any potential deals may be between the two sides.
Talks between the two sides first surfaced in a report yesterday, published by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, in which it appeared that conversations had taken place on an informal basis over the past few weeks between the Pirates and Mariners. Outfielder/first baseman Garrett Jones appears to be the focal point of said talks. Baker continues to point to one specific proposal that was made in which the Mariners would acquire Jones and closer Joel Hanrahan, potentially with a third player added into the mix, and send first baseman Justin Smoak, catcher John Jaso, and right-hander Hector Noesi to Pittsburgh. The report goes on to speculate as to why such an offer could make sense for both sides. Seattle would get some power production at first base and a veteran presence to offer some reliability at the backend of the bullpen in case the team’s young relievers – specifically Tom Wilhelmsen – faltered. Pittsburgh would get some salary relief, while taking on a player who still might have some potential left in Smoak.
The trio of players reportedly involved in this deal could all still potentially offer some value to the Mariners. Smoak has been a bust since arriving in Seattle, batting just .227/.304/.382 in 1,146 plate appearances over the past three seasons, but is still just 26 and under team control for three more seasons. There’s still time he can offer some value. Jaso helps share the catching duties, since it seems evident that Jesus Montero isn’t destined to be a full time backstop. Noesi took a beating for the Mariners last season, suffering to a 2-12 record in 18 starts for the team, but had a strong track record through the minor leagues, suggesting that he’s a better pitcher than he’s shown.
Biertempfel does not elaborate on other details pertaining to Pittsburgh’s request, so it’s unclear if the Pirates were looking to acquire Walker in a one-for-one deal for Jones or if there were other players involved in the proposal. Walker, unanimously considered to be one of the Mariners top prospects despite posting just a 7-10 record and 4.69 ERA in Double-A this past season, would be a high price to pay for the team to acquire nothing more than Jones, so it’s no surprise to see such a request turned down.