December 5, 2003 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Finnegan reports that the M’s have offered Tejada a 3 year, $24-25 million contract. I’d heard $27 million, but other than that, this is pretty much dead on. I’m not a huge Miguel Tejada fan, but this is a good deal, and we should hope he takes it. It would even lessen the pain of the Ibanez signing, as the Royals would then have to settle for our second round pick. I’d sleep better at night knowing the 19th pick in the draft got us Tejada instead of Ibanez.

However, that isn’t really what I wanted to talk about. This is what got my blood burning this morning. LaRue details the M’s plan of action with their own free agents and the decisions to offer arbitration, specifically to Hasegawa and Rhodes but not Cameron.

Last year, the three were paid a combined $11.8 million. If each was offered arbitration before Sunday, then they all won their cases in the spring, that figure could double.

This just isn’t true. Can anyone come up with reasonable projections that place those three at a combined $24 million? Rhodes and Hasegawa, max, would get $6 million apiece, and thats extremely generous. That means Mike Cameron has to make up the other $12 million. Umm, yea. Not happening. Now, I generally like LaRue, but that statement is just blatently wrong, and by a giant margin. I’d project the actual value of all three players salaries (assuming they accept arbitration, don’t sign with another club, and then win their cases, which is extremely far fetched) to be around $15 million. Slight raises for Hasegawa and Rhodes, and Cameron leveling off at about the same as he made last year.

The Mariners have spent much of the offseason looking at upgrading the Seattle offense and Cameron – who made $7 million last season – is likely too big a risk for the team in salary arbitration.

Why? We’re afraid that the best defensive center fielder in the game, and a giant part of the reason this team has won so many games the past 3 years, might actually come back, and that would screw up our plans to keep Randy Winn? There’s a market for Mike Cameron, and the odds of him accepting arbitration are pretty slim. Even if he does, if you still feel the need to move his upcoming contract, he’s easily tradeable. The Twins just moved Eric Milton and his $9 million salary, and Milton tossed a grand total of 17 innings last year. If Cameron accepts arb., and you still determine you don’t want him back next year, trade him. Get a low-level relief arm. Whatever. It won’t bust the budget.

If that happens, the Mariners are unlikely to extend that offer to Cameron or Rhodes. If the team signs Hasegawa before then, it might offer arbitration to Rhodes.

I know many of you have asked for an in depth explanation of why I’d rather have Rhodes than Hasegawa, but I haven’t had time to write one yet. So, for now, I’ll just reiterate, choosing Shiggy over Arthur is dumb. If you can’t have both, you take Rhodes. The organization is teeming with right handed relievers. There is no point in paying Hasegawa to keep them blocked in AAA.

Because once offered, a team cannot avoid arbitration if the player accepts, and once the process is begun, an arbiter must pick between one of two salary figures – one from the team, one from the player.

This isn’t completely true. A team has the option of cutting the player once the arbitration case has been settled and before opening day (essentially, during spring training) and only owing 16 % of the total value of the contract. If Cameron was awarded $7 million, the M’s could cut him during March and be out just $1.12 million. So the risk is not nearly as high as LaRue, and the Mariners, are making it out to be.

Cameron, the Gold Glove center fielder and fan favorite, is seeking a multi-year contract, and there are teams willing to offer one. Seattle is not among them.

If the M’s know this to be true, then failing to offer arbitration is just stupid. The odds Cameron takes a one year tender with an undetermined salary to stay with a team who isn’t sure they want him over a guaranteed multiyear deal are about the same as Bill Bavasi hiring me as a special consultant next week. If there is a reasonable assumption that Cameron will sign elsewhere, you offer arbitration, because the reward justifies the minimal risk.

If they go to arbitration with Rhodes, Hasegawa and Cameron, then face the same process with their eight already arbitration-eligible players, there’s the potential of losing 11 salary cases.

Of course, any team who loses 11 arbitration cases in one year deserves to be disbanded and have their assistant GM’s hung in a public square. I believe, in all of baseball last year, that 4 players won arbitration cases. Most players willingly settle, and arbiters have been siding with owners more frequently anyways. LaRue’s comment on the possibility is absurd. There is a possibility that every computer in the world could break down and he’ll have to write his next column on papyrus using sap from a tree for ink, too. Talk about hyperbole.

Mike Cameron is getting jobbed by the M’s, and a 1 year, $4 million offer is insulting. There’s no reason for him to stay, and as much as I’d like him to, I know he’s going to play elsewhere next year. Which is why offering him arbitration is the only logical step; get your two draft picks and recoup something, at least.

But no, this organization is hell bent on making the wrong move on every possible transaction this winter. Sign a crappy LF and forfeit a draft pick in the process? Great! Let our most underrated player leave and ask for no compensation in return? Sounds good! Overpay for average relievers because they are “proven closers”? Sign us up! Why not just institute “Light Season Ticket Holders On Fire” night for next year?

This team gets harder to root for ever year.