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Controversial question: Should Seattle trade Michael Pineda?

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Should the Seattle Mariners quit while they're ahead with Michael Pineda and trade the fireballing phenom in a pitching-thin trade market this month?

That's the paradigm-twisting question being posed by Dave Cameron of USS Mariner and Fangraphs over on 710 ESPN Seattle right now.

The knee-jerk reaction, of course, is that it's a ridiculous idea. Pineda is a 22-year-old right-handed rookie, but pitches like a vet who's 10 years older. He's 7-5 with a 2.65 ERA and 99 strikeouts over 16 starts (and 102 innings) this year. The only questions being asked about him right now are when the Mariners might think about shutting him down and if he'll make the All-Star team. He'd be the AL Rookie of the Year in a landslide if the season ended today.

So how do the Mariners talk themselves into spectacularly shedding a valuable asset that they have under cheap team control through the 2016 season? Cameron believes they could convince themselves if they receive the right package of position players to overhaul the team's awful offense. (He suggests a deal with the Cincinnati Reds, who find themselves in the exact opposite position of the Mariners when it comes to talent distribution.)

Cameron also points out that being a great pitcher at 22 is not a guaranteed indicator future of success.


I know that teams are loath to trade away stud young pitchers, but in reality, they are some of the riskiest assets in baseball. If you look at the best pitching performances from players at age 22 over the last decade, you see names like Mark Prior, Scott Kazmir, Rich Harden, Dontrelle Willis, Oliver Perez, and Anibal Sanchez. All of these guys experienced significant problems with injuries and/or a loss of velocity after bursting onto the scene as dominant young hurlers. Even looking at last year's phenoms, we see guys like Stephen Strasburg, Mat Latos, and Brett Anderson -- all of whom have lost real value from where they were last summer.

Of course, if you check out Baseball-Reference's Play Index and do a search of 22-year-old pitchers who had an ERA+ of 139 or better — Pineda's current level — there are plenty of stars on there, too. Bert Blyleven, Fergie Jenkins, Mark Buehrle ...

At one point, Cameron mentions Seattle's success with Felix Hernandez and wonders if the Mariners should really expect lightning to strike twice with Pineda. But though Pineda has given no indication for us to think that a 1-2 rotation punch for the ages might not happen, Cameron's column and reasoning is an interesting one.

Can the Mariners even entertain the idea of selling high here?

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