With the trade deadline rolling in on Saturday, fans seem to be split into two groups at this point:
Group A: Frustrated by the losses, wanting to see a complete youth movement, and preparing themselves for several years of mediocre baseball clubs while waiting for new management to save the club.
Group B: Those who want to keep the team mostly together, get a big bat, and hope everyone plays better next year. They don’t trust prospects and think a youth movement is a waste of time.
Considering how harsh we’ve been on the front office and our long time stumping for guys like Justin Leone and George Sherrill, we’re almost always lumped into Group A. However, as I’ve said before, I’m against a Cleveland-style teardown where the team goes into the tank to develop 15 rookies at once. The Mariners have a humungous advantage with their revenue streams and are capable of fielding one of the top five payrolls in the game every year. There’s no reason the M’s shouldn’t be able to contend with a $95 million payroll spent well. As bad as the 2004 Mariners have been, they’re only two all-stars out of contention. Don’t believe me? I’ll show you.
The Mariners have had giant sucking holes at 3rd and 1st base this year with Scott Spiezio and John Olerud combining to be worth about 10 runs over replacement for an entire 162 game season. For $10.5 million, it’s one of the worst returns on investment any team is getting in the game. Among the upcoming crop of free agents, the Mariners could potentially acquire Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew (my top two choices, assuming that Carlos Beltran is already trying on his pinstripes) to fill those holes, with Ibanez shifting from left to first. The Beltre/Drew tandem is going to be worth approximately 175 runs above replacement this year. Beltre/Drew instead of Spiezio/Olerud gets the Mariners approximately 16 games in the standings and right in the playoff hunt, depsite all the things that have gone wrong for the team this year.
It’s pretty clear to me that if the Mariners can spend their money well this offseason, they can contend again next year. This is also a large part of why I believe the M’s should do whatever it takes to move the salaries of Bret Boone, Randy Winn, Eddie Guardado, and Ryan Franklin. Those 4 will make approximately $19 million next year. You would be amazed what $19 million will buy you, especially in a free agent crop as deep as this one.
However, let’s work under the assumption that those four are sticking around, as well as the three immovable contracts of Spiezio, Ibanez, and Hasegawa. That still leaves the Mariners with approximately $35 million to spend to fill out the roster. Below is Dave’s shopping list, with the goal being to land 3 of the players listed below. If the M’s could dump Boone and Winn, you could easily make it 4.
Top Tier: Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, J.D. Drew
Beltran’s a home run if you can get him, but the Yankee interest might price him out of reasonable range. Beltre and Drew would be a perfect tandem, providing a lefty/righty punch in the 3-4 spots that are both in their offensive prime and bring solid defense at positions the Mariners have weaknesses.
Second Tier: Matt Clement, Nomar Garciparra, Magglio Ordonez
Two risky hitters who have had some health problems while leaving their primes and an enigmatic starter who has apparently turned the corner. You don’t want to go more than 4 years on any of these guys, but you should be willing to pay a premium in the short term to get this kind of talent.
Third Tier: Richard Hidalgo, Troy Glaus, Edgar Renteria, Carl Pavano
Hidalgo’s hot streak with the Mets may be pricing him too high. Glaus and Renteria could be impact talents at discounted prices, while Pavano is one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. His strikeout rate isn’t great, but he’s a strike throwing machine and built perfectly for Safeco Field.
Fourth Tier: Kevin Millwood, Matt Morris, Eric Milton
Solid middle-of-the-rotation starters who would benefit a good deal from Safeco Field. If Morris gets healthy, he could pull a Jason Schmidt and turn into an ace. The M’s would do well to see if they could get one of these “underperformers” at a discount.
That’s a pool of 13 players I’d like to see the M’s chase, and it doesn’t include many of the top free agent names available. Ignore Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado, Jeff Kent, Richie Sexson, Jason Varitek, Corey Koskie, and Russ Ortiz. Let other teams chase the decline phases of their careers. There is better, younger talent to be had.
Realistically, I believe the Mariners could get Beltre, Drew, and Milton for around $30-$35 million. Fill in the holes with players from Tacoma and those improvements alone make the M’s a threat to contend next year. If they’re able to clear even more salary and add a fourth player from the pool, or upgrade for Milton to Clement or Drew to Beltran, all the better.
The M’s do not have to go into a rebuilding process. With some understanding that moving payroll now can result in big rewards during the offseason, the M’s could set themselves up for an instant overhaul into a good team. But it should begin now with a real attempt to move the deadwood off the roster. If you have to package Eddie Guardado with Bret Boone to convince someone to take his contract, do it. There’s enough interest in Randy Winn and Ryan Franklin to ship them off, and do whatever you can to get Spiezio, Hasegawa, and Ibanez off the roster as well. The M’s have a chance to make a huge splash this offseason. But they have to start jumping in the pool right now.
Yup, I was in LA and San Diego last week. And last night I was out playing baseball, where my team got stomped. In rec league sports, I’ve noticed there seem to be, generally, two kinds of teams:
1) Teams of people with some natural talent and interest, of random ages, out to have fun because they enjoy playing the sport
2) Teams of people who played the sport at high levels and now play the sport for fun (but they don’t seem to really enjoy it) at extremely low levels every night, joining many teams and competing in many tournaments
My team is of the first type. We ran into a team of the second type, which included a former Phillies minor leaguer who hit a monster home run over a scoreboard in centerfield, probably a 400-foot blast.
Anyway, so I came to work today and when we people asked how we (the Mariners) did, I would tell them we (the semi-company-affiliated baseball team) lost 13-0 and they’d say “we got shut out? I thought Blackley…” and then we’d have to clarify which team got stomped.
I watched the M’s get stomped in a cool dive bar in LA where our server made fun of me.
I saw box scores of the M’s getting stomped.
Other BP guys would stop me and say “Hey, the M’s only lost by (crazy margin) today.”
Lance Armstrong did complete the greatest athletic feat of my lifetime on Sunday, so I’m happy.
Overall, though, no, my time traveling didn’t go so well.
In any event, I’m back. I’m going to try and answer some emails, hang out. Maybe hit the batting cages and work on my switch-hitting.
Wait, Pineiro’s out? What? Melvin’s all-time managerial record’s still over .500? I’ve got some catching up to do.