December 6, 2003 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

The Mariners have made some front office moves, including the hiring of a new scouting director, Bob Fontaine Jr. The other moves were in-house promotions and a slight reorganization to help ease Roger Jongewaard into retirement and redistribute some of his responsibilities. A quick rundown:

Jongewaard: From Asst. GM to consultant. He’ll be more active than Gillick, but more of a part-time employee.

Looper: From director of player development to VP of player development and scouting. More say on major league side of scouting, less involvement in the farm system.

Frank Mattox: From scouting director to director of player development. Now in charge of farm system administration, player promotions, and the minor leagues in general.

Greg Hunter: Named director of minor league operations. A fancier job title and more responsibility for the rising star in the organization’s front office.

Bob Fontaine: Named director of scouting. Will be in charge of amateur signings and the June draft.

It isn’t a big surprise that Bavasi brought in his own guy to be the scouting director, though Frank Mattox staying on with the organization wasn’t guaranteed. Fontaine and Bavasi are friends from their days with the Angels, and both are long time baseball men. This continues the organizational trend towards hiring people with experience who believe in the tried-and-no-so-true methods of old school analysis. It has its place, but the last thing this organization needed was another old-school thinker.

Bob Fontaine is a pretty intense individual with a very strong set of beliefs. You won’t be seeing a drastic change in the way the M’s draft, though Fontaine will likely draft more college players than Mattox did. The focus will still be on athletes over players, however. Hiring a new scouting director should help alleviate some of the tension that has been created between the Mariners organizations and agents during the Gililck/Mattox regime, but don’t look for wide ranging improvement in the M’s ability to turn draft picks into useful players.

All in all, it is a continuance of the old-school philosophy that relies heavily on subjective analysis. While I’m certainly a fan of scouting (to the point of being labeled an anti-stathead recently), good organizations have balance, and the Mariners currently lack an understanding of the value of objective analysis. As they continue to bring in like-minded thinkers, they fall further into the trap of not seeing their own flaws and repeating the mistakes of history.

December 6, 2003 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

According to this from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the M’s have called the Pirates to ask about catcher Jason Kendall. That’s interesting, given the seemingly never ending presence of Dan Wilson on the roster, as well as that of Ben Davis. Kendall is owed a boatload of cash ($42M) over the next four seasons, and at age 29 isn’t getting any younger. More importantly, his power has dipped to scary levels the past three years — SLGs of .358, .356, .416 beginning with 2001. While I have no doubt that he’d be a big improvement over Wilson, I don’t see picking up that sort of salary for a soon-to-be 30-year old catcher being a good idea. If the M’s are looking to throw $10M+ a year at someone, it should be Vladimir Guerrero.

December 6, 2003 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Huge moves brewing as the M’s contemplate offering arb to their players. Given the spin they’re putting on this through local media, of the big four, I predict they’re going to let Freddy walk, Guillen walk, Cameron walk (booooooo), and may offer arb to Hasegawa and Rhodes both. The first batch of decisions (potential FAs) has a Sunday deadline.

Reports on Tejeda’s contract demands vary: I’ve heard both that he wants a super-long deal and that he doesn’t. I guess we’ll see how this shakes out.

December 6, 2003 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

There’s quite a bit about Miguel Tejada to like, as much as you’re probably expecting us/me to rip him. For starters, he’s extremely durable — he’s played in all 162 of Oakland’s games each of the past three seasons, and in 150 and 159 games the two seasons before that. Offensively he has good pop for his position, and while his walk totals have been erratic, he has at least shown the willingness to exceed the 10% threshold (66 walks against 607 at-bats in 2000). I don’t have an opinion on his defense one way or the other, though it’s not as if he’d be replacing Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel out there.

Clubhouse chemistry? Team leader? I generally don’t put much stock in such things, though all things being equal (they never are), I’d certainly rather have a player who’s known for his leadership than for being a dreaded clubhouse cancer.

There’s also reason to like the M’s offer to Tejada. Whether it’s a three, four or five year deal, the fact remains that Tejada only turns 28 next May — a contract of that length covers his prime years without extending too far into his likely decline years. This isn’t like offering a 32-year old player a three year deal.

That the M’s are able to make such an offer is amazing for two reasons: One, it just doesn’t seem like them. And two, a year ago it looked like Tejada would get something like a seven-year, $100M deal on the open market thanks to his career year in 2002 and subsequent MVP award. Now, not only did his batting average drop off by 30 points last season, but those sorts of contracts just aren’t being given out anymore.

This article in today’s News Tribune suggests that “Tejada wants a deal twice as long as the four- to five-year contract Seattle offered,” perhaps throwing all my comments out the window. That said, is anyone going to give him an eight- or ten-year deal? No, they’re not.

December 6, 2003 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

The Mariners didn’t lowball Cameron because they think he’ll take it, or they think that’s what his value is — they lowballed him because Cameron’s said he wants to come back, and they want to make sure the offer they give him (so they can go to the fans and say “we tried”) is so low he absolutely won’t take it. This happens a lot, it’s slimy, and Cameron deserved better.

Much of the resentment of Cameron by fans stems from his strikeouts. I blame this entirely on too much exposure to the idiocy of the M’s broadcast teams, who harp on this continually, the M’s organization, which from Piniella on has made a big deal about getting Cameron to change what he does (and does well) in order to put the ball in play, and local media types in general, who point to his offense as a problem, which is only part of the story.

In 2003, Prospectus has him as the 11th-most valuable center fielder in baseball.

In 2002, even with his eye problems, he was 8th, behind Carlos Beltran.

2003 was also the first year his splits weren’t crazy-bad in Safeco Field:

Home: .235/.329/.429

Road: .268/.357/.432

2002 for instance, it was

Home: .218/.334/.370

Road: .258/.345/.509

Cameron doesn’t and has never hit well at Safeco. Haven’t I written this post before?

His defense, by almost any measure, is one of the best in the game. Subjectively, I went to a ton of Mariners home games this year, and you can sort of mark out a player’s range by how often you see them get to balls that drop here, and there, and sketch out a mental circle… this totally sucks, objective-stat-wise, but bear with me. After seeing a ton of games, if you’re really paying attention, you see that other outfielders don’t get to the balls he does. It’s totally obvious with really bad ones, but even with mid-tier guys, I noticed it frequently.

Cameron is a vacuum in the outfield. A vacuum mounted on a rocket sled equipped with AEGIS technology for ball tracking. I don’t mean to be rude, but if you think Mike Cameron is a bad defensive centerfielder, you’re watching some other Mike Cameron. Or you live in Bizarro World, where dropping balls is good. Or you’re just being contrary for the sake of being contrary.

If you buy into Win Shares (and you shouldn’t, but for reasons that are way too complicated to get into here) Cameron was the 10th-best *outfielder* in all of baseball last year, and he was the best defensive outfielder in baseball. Clay Davenport’s translations have Cameron worth about 20 runs more than the average center fielder. I have seen some particularly weird stats that don’t have him as super, but instead good, but if that’s the worst possible way the defensive stats come out: possibly good but most likely amazingly awesome — then we have to consider that maybe he’s pretty good.

If Cameron goes someplace that doesn’t severely punish all (non-elite) right-handed hitters, he’s going to put up (seemingly) career numbers and the people who today dismiss him as “an uncredited star” are going to have to recognize he is exactly that.

Now, what teams, generally speaking, are really good at recognizing undervalued players?

The Yankees, for one, who now have a spot for him if they decide to move Bernie.

The A’s are said to be sniffing around.

If Cameron goes to the A’s for $4, $5m and hits .285/.360/.500 for the season while playing stellar defense, everyone who was so eager to run him out of town, including management, should feel ashamed of themselves. And buy me beer.

Also, I believe that the Safeco Field of Lights thing looks really, really stupid.

I was going to write more about Guillen v Matsui v Tejeda again, but I’ve run out of steam. Just cross-apply my previous arugments… Matsui’d be Guillen-plus for a whole season but not a significant upgrade, and not for that kind of money. If the team is thinking about spending that money on a SS, Tejeda’s a far better option.

Tejeda’s a fair bet to put up his 2003 numbers for a couple more seasons. I’m still concerned about the age rumors, but still. The big problem I see is that he’s a righty, and righties get killed in Safeco (see: Mike Cameron, others) unless they’re nutty-good (see: Edgar Martinez). If Tejeda is putting up a .280/.340/.475-ish line in Safeco, he’s worth spending on.

I’m also concerned (warning: stat cap coming off) that Tejeda has some awful at-bats. People who complain about Cameron — unless Tejeda responds well to Molitor, these people will hate Tejada. Man in scoring position? First-pitch hacking, ground ball to short or second. Sometimes he has terrible pitch selection and doesn’t seem to give a crap about working the pitcher for what he wants, or even trying. This is a constant source of frustration for A’s fans I know, I saw it watching a lot of A’s games this year, and I hope it’s a product of something in Oakland rather than his approach.