More M’s accounting in the media

DMZ · November 1, 2004 at 8:41 pm · Filed Under Mariners 


How much money do the Mariners have available to work with for free-agent signings this offseason? Also, who are the M’s players that are currently scheduled to be returning to the 25-man team (and their salary commitments)? — David Smirnow

Howard Lincoln, the team’s CEO, has said that the payroll budget would not be cut this season, which suggests that the organization will spend about $93 million next season. As of Nov. 1, the team has 11 players under contract next season for $53.68 million. They also owe Jeff Cirillo $4.78 million, and will pay $500,000 to buy out pitcher Kevin Jarvis. Starting pitcher Gil Meche is eligible for free agency and figures to get at least $1 million. With the remainder of the 40-man roster expected to make at least $7 million to $8 million, it is believed that general manager Bill Bavasi will have between $13-15 million to lure free agents to Seattle.

Okay, so factual error #1 is that Meche isn’t eligible for free agency.
#2 is that the Mariners spread a $92m number last year, but that was fictional and they never spent the “Sasaki money”. Actual payroll was much lower.

Assuming you grant him everything else, though, as our readers point out, the numbers still don’t add up.

53.68m + 4.78m to Cirillo + .5m for Jarvis + Meche at 1m + “remainder of roster” at 8m = ~70m, which would mean the team would have, by the logic at the start of the article, $23m to spend on luring free agents to Seattle.

That’s a 8-10m math error *even if you agree with all of the assumptions there*.

I want to point this out to make two points, though:
First, errors like this occur all over the place if you pay attention. That the editors couldn’t be troubled to add the numbers up and see there was a huge error should tell you a lot about the standards of MLB. This wasn’t even a subjective judgement call, either.

Second, when Finnigan runs an article with random numbers in it to justify a weird conclusion, well, he’s not alone.

Update 11/3: they pulled the Q and the A from the page.


18 Responses to “More M’s accounting in the media”

  1. John on November 1st, 2004 9:36 pm


    Boom boxes don’t come cheap these days.

  2. Brent Overman on November 1st, 2004 9:52 pm

    Technically, wouldn’t the contract option for Jarvis have been declined when they released him, or do they really have a separate transaction requirement to make this offseason to decline what is now a non-existent contract?

    It’s only $500k, but let’s get nit-picky…

  3. Kip on November 1st, 2004 10:32 pm

    I wrote a letter to Bob Finnigan and had it posted on the official Seattle Mariners Forum. After a somewhat unbelievable written response from Finnigan himself earlier today, I posted Finnigans letter on the same message board. Posters there told me that the U.S.S. Mariner would be interested in seeing these. Because the Finnigan thread has somewhat passed on, I figured I’d place it here, since this page also talks about the alleged 13 million dollar payroll.

    You can see my letter here:

    You can see Finnigans response, as well as an even MORE colorful response to another fans letter; here:

  4. Kip on November 1st, 2004 10:36 pm

    Sorry if this is the second time I posted this, the site seemed to “eat” my first attempt.

    I wrote a letter to Bob Finnigan and had it posted on the official Seattle Mariners Forum. After a somewhat unbelievable written response from Finnigan himself earlier today, I posted Finnigans letter on the same message board. Posters there told me that the U.S.S. Mariner would be interested in seeing these. Because the Finnigan thread has somewhat passed on, I figured I’d place it here, since this page also talks about the alleged 13 million dollar payroll.

    You can see my letter here:

    You can see Finnigans response, as well as an even MORE colorful response to another fans letter; here:

  5. Jerry on November 1st, 2004 11:47 pm

    I sincerely hope that this is just another reporter doing bad research. However, this is two Seattle media guys who are likely to be getting some type of inside information. Espeically Street, who I would imagine is among the most likely to be acting as an outlet for the front office’s propaganda. Scary.

    Man, I just hope that this is a big ploy by the front office to make all of us fans very pleasantly surprised when they spluge in the free agent market, and not just them getting us ready for a big disappointment.

    I read a new post on Leoneforthird and he says that “the Mariners could conceivably approach ST 2005 having added Beltre, Clement, and Renteria to the 25-man roster.” You just can’t buy that for 13-15 million bucks. $23 million is a little closer, but is still not going to get that done. $25 million would probably do it, but the M’s would have to really skimp on other areas.

  6. AJP on November 2nd, 2004 8:54 am

    The M’s have some large commitments comming off of the books in 2006. They could conceivably sign [place your 3 favorite free agent names here] in 2005 for “$13M-$15M” if they get creative, and take the biggest hits for those contracts in 2006.

    Anybody else see a scenario coming where they make a free agent splash, structure the contracts to take the biggest hits in 2006, actually spending very little in 2005, but claim they spent beaucoup bucks, and then claim it again in 2006?

  7. Aaron on November 2nd, 2004 10:39 am

    So I’m about 9 months late on this….but why do the M’s still owe money on Cirillo? I thought the whole point of taking back Jarvis was to clear Cirillo’s contract. Now we owe money to both? Should have just sent that extra money to SD at the trade, putting it on 2004’s books when they got the Sasaki bonus. Now they get to take the extra profit a year earlier, and hamper thier ability to make a bigger splash this winter.

    Why am I a Mariner fan, again?

  8. Jerry on November 2nd, 2004 10:51 am


    I was thinking the same thing. If the M’s were serious about rebuidling the team, they could: 1) sign players to backloaded contracts; and/or 2) increase payroll and then trim it back to $95 million for 2006.

    The Angels were in a similar situation a few years ago. They were coming off a bad season (2003) and knew that they had a lot of money coming off the books for 2004 and 2005. So they went on a spending splurge. Art Moreno automatically established himself as an owner who ‘does what it takes to win,’ and bought his club a lot of credibility in signing Vlad, Guillen, Colon, and Escobar. To do this, he increased his payroll. However, the Angels will probably trim about 10 million from their payroll to get back below the $100 million level. But since they have so many contracts expiring, they are still in the running for some of the better free agents on the market. The M’s are really in a very similar situation.

    The M’s have the salaries of Boone (9 M), Cabrera (1.5 M, assuming his option is picked up), Shiggy (3 M), Moyer (7.5 M) , the remnants of the Cirillo/Wiki/Jarvis $ (7.25), and potentially Meche (2-3 M) and Guardado (4.5 M) coming off the books next year. That could come to at least 28.25 million and potentially as much as $35.75 million.

    Obviously, several of the players on the roster will be due raises, and there might be some backloaded contracts signed this offseason that will get more expensive in 2006. But this allows Bavasi and Lincoln a little bit of leeway to either sign players to backloaded deals or just go over the budget for a year. They keep saying that they are willing to take a loss. Why not actually do it? This club is in serious need of a little credibility, and making a big splash in the free agent market would inject some respectabilty to the franchise.

    Given this situation, it is really disparaging that the club already seems to be minimizing what they will do in free agency. This is the time for them to go out and fix this team. If they spent 30 million this offseason (which would be about 7-10 over their creatively reckoned payroll), they could just trim off 5-10 million next year and be back at their 95 million figure. By spending 30 million, they could realistically get this team back to .500 in 2005, while putting the team on track to improve. For that money, they could pick up Beltre, Renteria/Drew/Delgado, and Clement, plus add a few role players. Even if they cut the payroll back to $95 million for 2006, they would still have enough money to sign another starter or add a few role players for a serious push for the playoffs.

    But instead it looks like they are posturing for some weak moves. If I hear the figure “12-15 million” again I am going to start burning Lincoln effigies.

  9. Lefebvre Believer on November 2nd, 2004 11:46 am

    #6, Agree with the comments, 1) We will know more about Nagouete(sp), Blackley, King Felix, so Moyer and Guardado will be replaced in 2006 without expense. 2) If they make weak offseason moves they will lose significant attendance in 2005 and hurt long term revenues. The M’s are like a car company with a bunch of aging models that needs to take a one year profit hit to invest in new models to insure their long term health.

  10. Ryan on November 2nd, 2004 2:01 pm

    I’m surprised Lefebvre Believer isn’t suggesting we bring back Greg Briley to platoon against right handed pitchers.

  11. Lefebvre Believer on November 2nd, 2004 3:06 pm

    Why not, Plattoon him at 1st Base, his stats are better than Spiezio’s.

  12. mfan on November 2nd, 2004 4:20 pm

    If you guys go back and look at Dave’s post concerning off-season predictions from about a week ago, the above strategy is implicit in his predictions. Most of his contracts in the predictions are significantly backloaded, taking advantage of the fact that more money will come off of the books next year.

  13. forgotten schmo on November 2nd, 2004 5:25 pm

    Send any Finnigan responses to

  14. Adam S on November 3rd, 2004 10:01 am

    I was going to write to Jim Street and point out his math error and ask for a correction. But following the link I don’t see a salary question in the mailbox when I follow the link. The story I see starts with a ? about Moyer. The previous week’s column (I assume the mailbag is once/week) talks about off-season and Olerud’s “bad deal”, but no discussion of $$.

    Did they get so much bad feedback that they pulled the question and answer? Or am I in the wrong place?

  15. PositivePaul on November 3rd, 2004 12:38 pm

    Kip, VERY tactful and shrewd e-mail to Pocket Lint, and very shrewd reply to the M’s forums on this. I think Finnigan honestly appreciated your well thought out letter, but was frustrated by the length, hence his last comment on the length of your letter. Kudos to you for taking that step, and keeping a cool head in all of this.

    I agree that Finnigan has been a little harsh in his responses, but I can completely understand why. He indeed felt personally attacked, which is what even the guys here at USS Mariner asked us NOT to do. I hope my letter was one of the 4-5 civil ones that he received, and I’m inclined to believe so because of my dialogue with him (and the more civil responses he gave me).

    Not to completely defend Finnigan’s journalistic inaccuracies (which run rampant throughout that article, and through the follow-up e-mails he’s sending out), but at the risk of sounding like Pocket Lint’s Pocket Lint, here’s a couple of thoughts:

    1) Howard Lincoln is the real enemy. Others like Finnigan and Street are the symptoms of the problem, and that true problem is Howard’s relentless pursuit of the bottom line. He’s being paid the big bucks to have the M’s be a financially successful team. Unfortunatly the recent indicators really point to this team being on the verge of a financial collapse, and that this offseason will be yet another big step in the process for getting the ship righted. Ultimately, this offseason they’re even more in the spotlight for showing how committed they are to the fans and to winning a championship. Based on past performance, and what Pocket Lint is being fed, it’s highly unlikely that Lincoln has a waaay different interpretation of what the problem actually is.

    2) Finnigan functions as a reporter. If you want to criticize him, criticize him on facts. He doesn’t have much liberty for opining on the facts reported. Louder voices in the media exist and have more power and flexibility to opine than Finnigan, and if we’re going to target the newspapers to call out Lincoln, et al, on their fiscal horridness, then we need to have the sports columnists do it (Thiel, Stone, and Kelley — how likely this is to make any headway is certainly debatable).

    3) If you want to make a statement, talk to all the season ticket holders you know personally or peripherally. Ultimately, those people have the loudest voice for making changes. Until season tix holders are collectively more vocal and hold Lincoln accountable for his letters and comments, nothing will change. One thing that may speak louder than any media person would be for season ticket holders and big time fans in general to rally outside of Safeco and stop downtown traffic protesting Lincoln and the M’s poor support of their fans.

    Ultimately, I agree with Finnigan, and am inclined to think that the M’s are more likely to stay the course they’re on. I’m hopeful that they’ve finally gotten a clue and will make some sort of impact on the f/a market, and maybe the USS Mariner folks are more accurate in their prediction of what the 2005 M’s will look like, whether or not it’s a wisely-built team. But “Pocket Lint” is being fed this information, and I have no doubt that he’s had coffee with Rebecca Hale at least once. And, we all need to keep him accountable to the reported facts. It appears that Finnigan, though, actually is quite frustrated himself with the M’s, but cannot project that frustration into his articles. Let’s at least give him a little credit there, and for at least engaging in dialogue (however rude) with us radicals…

  16. Jerry on November 3rd, 2004 9:28 pm


    The point that you are missing is that the press have more power to sway what the front office does than anyone else. Season ticket holders might be able to have their voice heard. But the Seattle Times and the Seattle PI are read by thousands and thousands of fans. Most fans, whether they are casual or hardcore, get a lot of thier information from the paper. If the press bashes Lincoln for running this team like a Walmart, it will have an effect on their business. Just like a bad review will hurt the business of a restaurant. One or two scathing articles in the newspaper is far more damaging to the team than 100 people picketing, or 100 nasty emails to the front office. If they start complaining that Lincoln and the owner’s group are not putting enough money into the club’s payroll, it could actually influence what the payroll might be. Public opinion is huge.

    This is why it is so irritating when the press not only fails to call out the team for not reinvesting in the club, but actually writes columns about how the fans should lower their expectations. That is BS! I live in New York, and the press would tear the Yankees apart if they ran the club like that. You should see what they write about the Met’s. And they have every right to do so. If the M’s spend 13-15 million next year, and claim the payroll is $95 million when it is actually $78, like this year, the press had better say something about it. Otherwise, they lose any sort of credibility they might have had. And little bastards like Finnigan are just facilitating the front office to keep following the business model they have been for the past few years: rake in cash and don’t reinvest it.

  17. PositivePaul on November 5th, 2004 1:53 am

    Jerry, I agree that the press would have a HUGE impact on getting fans riled up about the BS that Lincoln is spewing. HOWEVER — Finnigan is honestly the wrong guy to write on this. He’s the mouthpiece of the M’s at the PI and has to function like a reporter. I’m inclined to believe that Finnigan indeed does want to lash out at Lincoln (he implied that in an email I got from him) but he can’t since he’s functioning merely as a reporter.

    That’s why, yes, we do have to go after the papers and the mainstream media. BUT we have to go after Thiel and Stone and Kelley — the sports opinion columnists. Finnigan doesn’t have the journalistic liberty to bash Lincoln. Stone, Kelley, and Thiel do. They’re the targets we should summons up.

    On the other hand, that doesn’t get Finnigan off the hook. He has to be held accountable for the info he is indeed reporting, which has been questionable, to say the least.

  18. PositivePaul on November 5th, 2004 3:00 am

    If this thread isn’t completely dead, then it’s entirely appropriate for me to post a link to my e-mail conversation with Mr. Finnigan. See: