I’m sure some of you must have said “Boy, I can’t get enough of Derek, what with his column at Baseball Prospectus, his blogging here, and his constant complaining. I wish I could get more… but only if I could actually hear his voice, as if over a cross-country phone connection and then highly compressed into a lossy-but-internet-friendly-format.”
Now’s your chance! BP has posted the segments from my guest-host stint last week at Prospectus Radio. Thrill to the raw cliff-crumbling instability of my first time trying to host a radio show! Mock my overuse of certain terms and phrases when nervous! Estimate in gallons how much I sweated trying to pull this off. Look strangely at your speakers when my hand-selected new tunes replace the sports-talk standard issue hip-hop themes!
Scott McCauley’s intro
Larry Dierker, part one
Larry Dierker, part two
Everett Aquasox broadcaster Pat Dillon
Voice of the Rainiers Mike Curto
Scott McCauley’s outro, featuring another fine musical choice
“Future greats of tomorrow” indeed. Little Ed Wood moment for me there — “Future events such as these will affect you in the future…”
And I’d like to re-state my position that what the team really needs to do is offer Pudge enough money for him to take a 2-year deal. Honestly, if that’s $15m a year and he’d take a four-year deal for $40m, I’d still take the shorter deal. Unless Rodriguez wants to make the last two years vesting options based on some seriously aggressive goals (like, uh, finishes in the Top 10 in MVP voting or something) that would ensure he isn’t paid $10m in four years when he’s broken and unable to catch or stand in the batter’s box.
My point is that the upgrade both offensively and defensively over Wilson/Davis is so huge it’ll be worth it, and I’m loathe to give up Lopez, who might be Boone’s replacement soon, particularly considering that barring some insane chain of events, this is a team that needs to get younger in the coming years… oh, who am I kidding? At this rate, Gillvasi’s going to have the team get dramatically worse and more veteran-y every year and this might be the only decent shot to even get into the playoffs at all.
After Kaz signs the papers later today, the Mariners will designate him for assignment and place him on irrevocable waivers. This will remove him from the 40-man roster and clear his salary from the budget. While there is a 48-hour waiver period, the Mariners do not have to wait until that period is over to begin negotiating with the pot-of-gold that this situation has left them with. Whether Sasaki gets claimed by another team or not (and he won’t) will not affect his deal with the M’s. Theoretically, that $9.5 million should be in play starting today. All signs point towards the Mariners using it to make a run at Pudge Rodriguez, which I’m against, making it even more likely that the deal will be completed. You just don’t sign 32-year-old catchers to four year contracts. I wouldn’t give Pudge more than two years, and I can’t imagine he’d take a two year deal from us over a four year deal from Detroit.
However, the M’s have to spend this windfall or the public relations nightmare will grow exponentially. It may be wise to hold several million back for a trade-deadline acquisition, but the fans have been conditioned to believe that this team won’t make a trade in July, and will see a promise of future spending as a shallow attempt for the owners to pocket the money. Even if this is not true, faith in management has been shattered, and the Mariners will face a humungous backlash if the money isn’t spent before spring training. So, in that vein, what should they do?
Option 1A: Trade for Carlos Beltran.
This is the dream scenario, and perhaps the only one that could rescue this entire offseason and make the Mariners favorites in the AL West again. Beltran was 14th in the AL last year in Runs Above Position, marking him as one of the elite offensive players in the league. When you factor in his defensive prowess in center field, he was easily one of the ten best players in the league, and you could make an argument that he was in the top six or seven. He doesn’t turn 27 until after opening day, meaning he is entering the prime of his career. Unlike Raul Ibanez, his numbers weren’t greatly inflated by Kauffman Stadium. He’s historically much better in the second half, and that matters to some people (though not me). He’s also hit well at Safeco Field in 34 at-bats, and again, that matters to others. He’s the best baserunner in the game, having been successful on 150 out of 170 career attempts for a remarkable 88 % stolen base percentage. In the past 4 years, he is 123 for 135, or a ridiculous 91 % mark. All of his indicators are improving and nearly every projection system out there thinks he’s in for a monster, MVP type season. Toss in the fact that he’s a terrific defensive center fielder, which will have a positive cascade effect on the pitching staff, and he is the perfect addition to this team. Tremendously talented, entering his prime, on the cusp of superstardom but still not completely appreciated, and skilled at every aspect of the game. These types of players don’t become available very often.
Therein lies the rub. While Beltran is the perfect fit, most people assume that he simply isn’t available, or at least not for a reasonable price. The Royals believe they can contend in the Worst Division in Sports, and signed Juan Gonzalez to complement an offense that needed a lift. Trading their best player wouldn’t fit with the rest of their offseason moves, designed to contend in 2004. However, Beltran is a free agent at the end of the year, is advised by Scott Boras, and the Royals have next to no hope of retaining his services. Allard Baird, GM of the Royals, has repeatedly and recently been quoted as saying that he has “to be willing to listen”, but “for anything to happen, I need a return that helps us in the short term and in the long term.” Basically, Baird wants to receive enough talent to insure that his team can still compete in 2004 and replenish the team with young talent greater than what he would receive in compensation for Beltran signing with another team (assuming the Royals offered arbitration, which is not a sure bet).
Obviously, the Mariners would include Randy Winn in any trade. He is a Royals-style player, and would be attractive with the new, two-year contract he signed during the offseason. He is due $3.5 million this year, and $3.75 million next year, so the financial savings for the Royals would be significant, allowing them to acquire another mid-level free agent to help in their pennant chase. However, Winn is still a far cry from Beltran, and Baird has been quoted as desiring a major league ready third baseman, second baseman, and catcher in the past year. The Mariners have effectively blocked Justin Leone for the remainder of his useful years, so adding him to the trade adds little value. He would essentially be a throw-in. Ben Davis’ usefulness to the Royals expired when they signed Benito Santiago to a two-year contract, so don’t expect him to have any value to Baird. The Mariners lack a major league ready second baseman, but you can be certain that Jose Lopez would help increase the odds of this trade going down. While Lopez is considered the Mariners shortstop of the future, I wouldn’t hesitate to include him in the deal. He is at least two years away, and has a similar skillset to a great number of failed prospects. His plate discipline and conditioning are legitimate concerns, and I have a hard time seeing him as more than a Tony Batista type player right now. Adding in a pitching prospect the caliber of Rett Johnson, Travis Blackley, or even Clint Nageotte is not something you should do lightly, but all three would have value to the Royals as potential 2004 contributors and the future value that Baird will require.
So, essentially, the Royals would be looking for a package of something like Winn, Lopez, R. Johnson (to pick one), and Leone for Beltran. I know some will scream that the price is too high to pay, but I make that deal, and I don’t have any regrets. Carlos Beltran is a difference maker, and he’s the only one in the deal who will ever have anything close to an MVP type season. He is the type of player you overpay for.
Over the next few days, I’ll run down my list of other options, though Beltran should be the one in the sights. You do everything you can, within reason, to acquire him, and only move on to the rest of the bunch when you are convinced that you cannot strike a deal with Kansas City.