Marquis on the Move? – Don't Make the Claim

Brian Walton looks into the factors behind why a rumored trade of Jason Marquis seems most unlikely – and they have nothing to do with players on the field.

A very exciting thing happened on Saturday in Washington's RFK Stadium. Cardinals' righthander Jason Marquis, 27, tossed his first career complete game shutout, a two-hitter over the Nationals. Marquis was the emergency starter, pushed up one day when scheduled pitcher Mark Mulder was scratched due to a neck injury.

Sure, RFK is a big ballpark and there were some big flies and some good defensive plays made behind him, but Marquis walked no one and got 27 outs in only 91 pitches against a legitimate Wild Card contender.

Prior to Saturday, Marquis' recent struggles have been well-documented. Seven consecutive losses with six runs or more allowed in four of his previous five starts, etc…

Not only was his rotation spot under scrutiny, so was his place on the team's postseason roster. In fact, some fans were lobbying for Marquis to be included on the playoff squad only for his value as a pinch hitter.

As a result of Saturday's actions, the trade rumors really heated up.

A well-respected writer from the Post-Dispatch wondered out loud in the RFK press box if Marquis wasn't moved up to Saturday to showcase his skills, as if pitching the next day as originally scheduled in the same park wouldn't have accomplished the exact same thing.

On Sunday, Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News reported that the Nationals have interest in Marquis. No kidding. After all, he had just shut them down the day before, right in front of their very eyes. While primarily pointing to after this season as the likely time for a deal, Rosenthal also left the door open for a possible Marquis trade now. Rosenthal link

That has been re-reported and embellished since. In fact, there is a lively discussion going on at our message board right now about the players Washington should provide in return for Marquis.

And that is where I have a problem.

There are only two ways that Marquis could be traded now. Both assume that he had been placed on waivers by the Cardinals, which no source has even hinted about, let alone substantiated. Getting past that potential show-stopping objection leads to even more head-scratching, unanswered questions.

Option 1: Waived, claimed and traded. If Marquis was waived and subsequently claimed, then the Cards could negotiate with that one random team which picked him. This makes it very low odds to orchestrate a trade because the other team has to really be willing to make a trade, instead of just trying to block some other team from claiming Marquis.

Plus, even if the claiming team wanted to trade, the player(s) to be offered in return would have also had to pass through waivers if they are major leaguers. And, as we know, the Cards are not looking to trade major leaguers for prospects right now.

And even if Marquis was waived and claimed in this manner, and if the Cards could not make a deal with the claiming team, then Marquis cannot be waived again this period. That means he would be unable to go anywhere else.

Option 2: Waived, cleared and traded. If Marquis cleared waivers, that would mean that 29 other teams passed on claiming a still-young, still-promising pitcher who only makes $3 million this season and is not free-agent eligible until 2007. Whether Marquis would make $4.5 million in arbitration or not for 2006, he would be viewed as a very good risk by any number of teams. I peg it at just slightly above zero chance that he would have cleared.

Still, a very optimistic colleague of mine postulates that Walt Jocketty could have secured a prior "gentlemen's agreement" with his peer general managers to enable Marquis to clear waivers unclaimed.

While I have the utmost respect for Jocketty's expertise and imagine the other general managers generally feel the same way, let's think through this for just a minute.

Does anyone really believe that Atlanta's and Florida's and Houston's and Philadelphia's and San Diego's GMs and all the others would allow a trade to help their strongest rival, the team with the best record in baseball and arguably the best chance of winning the World Series, get even stronger a month before the playoffs?

Sorry, but it just ain't gonna happen, folks...

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.


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