Ken Rosenthal reported last night that the Jays traded sometimes-brilliant, occasionally-frustrating pitcher Brandon League to the Seattle Mariners for sometimes-brilliant, occasionally-frustrating pitcher Brandon Morrow. The Jays also included a "prospect" in the deal but we don't know who that is - although according to MLB Trade Rumors, it should be someone pretty good to make it a fair deal.
Morrow, the 5th overall draft pick in the 2006 draft, was rushed to the majors, as per Seattle's organizational philosophy and made the team's opening day roster in 2007 as a reliever. He has made a few starts since then, but things have kept pushing him back into the bullpen - from the acquisition of Erik Bedard to various arm problems to his own erraticness. His pitching for the past three seasons has been marked by respectable overall numbers other than sky-high walk rates, which have really hurt him. There's no doubt that there is significant upside in Morrow - the walks are a huge problem but at 25, there's still a chance Morrow can put it behind him. Morrow is eligible for arbitration. It's hard not to like someone with a career 9.3 K/9 at 25, but there's also a significant history of arm problems. I really hope the Jays make him a starter this season and just leave him there - if the Jays trade League and one of their top prospects for a reliever I won't be happy with the deal.
As for League, he put up fantastic peripheral numbers last year (3.6 K/BB and a strong groundball rate) but they didn't translate into a good ERA. I'm pretty sure it was just bad luck - a reliever's ERA isn't a very good indicator of true performance because the sample size of innings is too small and a reliever's ERA is very dependent on the pitching of others (since they often leave or enter in the middle of an inning). The surfing Yonsei is one of just a few pitchers I have seen who I would say are truly one-of-a-kind. I would have liked to just stick League in the closer's role in 2010 and let him run with it, with Downs and Frasor likely to leave after this season, but if the Jays think they can make Morrow into a starter and didn't give up too much else in the deal, I'm okay with him leaving. I won't be surprised if League has a fantastic season for the Mariners though, and becomes a key piece of their bullpen in a season in which they hope to contend. League is under team control through 2012.
Ultimately, this deal will come down to who the prospect is, and we'll update as soon as we know (or feel free to do it for us in the comments, as well as let us know what you think of the deal)
Leaguer, if this is it, it's been fun having you on the Jays. You often amazed, occasionally frustrated with your crazy sinker and constantly morphing mechanics. Your tattoos gave hope to Asian-Americans everywhere that they could be thought of as cool. Good luck and enjoy the West Coast!
Update: Jays outfield prospect Johermyn Chavez was the prospect included in the deal. Chavez had a very nice season last year in A ball but is still a ways off from the majors.