“The process of building a world championship team, which is what were doing here, Zduriencik said upon announcing the deal, “is based on continually acquiring more top talent for the organization. Were looking ahead.
Its a good philosophy. Its one that 30 different Major League teams try to employ.
The trouble is, last years future is this years now. And theres an excellent chance that the Lee trade, problematic for Seattle even last year, may prove to be equally so this year, despite Lee having moved on from the Rangers to the Phillies as a free agent.
Thats because Lee wasnt the only player the Mariners traded. They also let veteran right-handed reliever Mark Lowe go. Lowe was recovering from back surgery at the time, so his inclusion in the deal that brought first baseman Justin Smoak, infielder Matt Lawson and pitchers Josh Lueke and Blake Beavan was overlooked at the time.
Now, not so much. The Mariners are looking for someone to close for a month or two while David Aardsma is recovering from hip surgery. A healthy Lowe would have been perfect, were he not in Ranger Red.
There may be a time when the trade of Lee, a former Cy Young Award winner, to Texas may not seem like such a downer for the Mariners. That time is not likely to be this year. Right now the question the Mariners have to face is whether or not they should have traded Lowe, a player the Rangers insisted on, even in his injured state.
Without Lowe in the deal, Rangers sources say, the Mariners never would have gotten first baseman Smoak, who is the only one of the four players in the deal sure to make the 2011 roster.
“We made the best deal we could at the time, Zduriencik said Wednesday. “Were pleased with it. Its good to hear that Marks doing well.
“Well barely scratches the surface. Lowe told sportspressnw.com Wednesday he feels better than hes felt in years. More than that, the Rangers seem to be on the verge of handing Lowe the closers job. Ranger manager Ron Washington is trying last years 40-save closer, Neftali Feliz, in the starting rotation, and if Feliz sticks, Lowe is likely to get the job.
The Mariners, meanwhile, are in tough spot with Aardsma. In the wake of his January hip surgery, hes still on crutches. Hes been on the field every day with his crutches just to be close to the action and his teammates, and on Wednesday he was able to get around the periphery of the workout without using the crutches, but he needs to have them handy, just to be safe.
“Thats all David, Seattle manager Eric Wedge said Wednesday. “He wants to be out there, supporting his teammates. I told him how much I personally appreciate it. And I told him it hasnt gone unnoticed.
Still, Aardsma cant walk properly, much less throw. The original plan was that he would be back in mid-April, but now even the most optimistic projection has been pushed back another month, likely more.
Lowe, whose back surgery cost him most of 2010, sympathizes with Aardsma, because he knows how much time and effort goes into coming back.
“I think his coming back is going to be tough, since he still needs the crutches, Lowe said. “I know how it was for me. Theres a 30-day program just to get going and get ready to throw. Then there is bullpen work and facing hitters. And thats just to get back able to throw in a game.
“You almost never see pitchers come back sharp right away. You need to find the right arm angle, the right stride in your delivery, the right release point. When you are throwing every day, those things come naturally. When you havent thrown in a long time, they can be hard to locate. They were for me.
The Mariners probably will go with former Orioles closer Chris Ray or setup man Brandon League in Aardsmas stead. Ray, a non-roster pitcher, has seen five years and a long injury recovery cycle of his own go by since he saved 33 games for the 2006 Orioles. League was 6-for-12 in save opportunities last year, although only a few of them were classic ninth-inning-with-the-lead chances.
So the Mariners are in a situation where they need Aardsma to come back to form, and sooner rather than later if neither Ray nor League is ready for the ninth inning, which is possible.
“We have some confidence that hell be back (in early May), Zduriencik said of Aardsma.
Aardsmas presence on the field underscores his willingness to push his body. Its just not clear that the Mariners will be able to count on his body responding as quickly as his mind would want.
And until everything does click for Aardsma again, Seattle may have to look back and wonder if some other permutation of the Lee deal could have been put together without Lowe accompanying Lee to Texas.
“We didnt want to trade him, Zduriencik said. “They wanted him.
They got him. And for now, analysis suggests the Rangers are still ahead in this deal.
John Hickey is a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)