A couple of weeks ago, I wrote up my predictions for what the M’s would do this offseason. With the start of free agency only eleven hours away, now it’s my turn to extrapolate on how I would rebuild this team. I did a short suggestion write-up and a longer team construction post last year, and as you can see, the team basically gave me the finger, signing four players from the “Stay the Heck Away” category. I’m more optimistic that the team’s thinking this year is at least within the same stratosphere as my own. Keep in mind that this is entirely hypothetical, and I’m making a lot of assumptions on possibilities that we can’t know are true or not. An explanation of the moves will be found below the roster. All the salaries listed will be actual payout in 2005, rather than average annual value.
Position Player Salary C Olivo 0.4 1B Ibanez 3.8 2B Boone 9.0 3B Beltre 9.0 SS Reese 1.5 LF Kearns 3.0 CF Drew 10.0 RF Ichiro 12.0 DH Jacobsen 0.3 C Wilson 1.0 Inf Spiezio 3.1 Out Reed 0.3 Util Leone 0.3 Util F. Lopez 1.0 SP1 Clement 6.0 SP2 Madritsch 0.3 SP3 Pineiro 4.2 SP4 Meche 3.0 SP5 Moyer 7.5 Closer Guardado 4.5 Setup Osuna 2.0 Setup Sherrill 0.3 Relief Hasegawa 3.0 Relief Putz 0.3 Long Atchison 0.3 Total: 86.1
Free Agent Signings:
Adrian Beltre: 7 years, $84 million, escalating from $9 million in 2005
Pokey Reese: 1 year, $1.5 million, club option for 2nd year at $2 million with $250,000 buyout
J.D. Drew: 3 years, $33 million, mutual option for 4th year at $14 million
Dan Wilson: 1 year, $1 million
Matt Clement: 3 years, $22 million, escalating from $6 million in 2005
Antonio Osuna: 1 year, $2 million, club option for 2nd year at $2.5 million, $300,000 buyout
Ryan Franklin, Clint Nageotte, Shin-Soo Choo, and Julio Mateo to Cincinatti for Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez.
Randy Winn to Baltimore for Matt Riley
Explanations by position:
Olivo is neither as good as he was in Chicago or as bad as he was in Seattle. Considering the available options, giving him a chance to start is the best option. Dan Wilson’s return is simply a public relations move coming off a season where the team cannot afford to alienate any more of its fans. Finding a reasonably priced backup catcher who would be a significant enough upgrade on Wilson to offset the loss of goodwilll from sending Wilson packing is nearly impossible. Despite the fact that he doesn’t really belong in MLB, I would bring Wilson back for one last season simply as a gesture of good faith.
I’m not a believer in spending big money on a position that is this easy to fill. Ibanez is a liability in left field with the glove, and his defensive limitations can be hidden, somewhat, with a shift to first base. This also allows for an easy platoon with Jacobsen against left-handers. Spiezio fills in as defensive replacement.
Boone’s contract is immovable, so you simply hope he performs well enough to be trade bait at the deadline. The acquisition of Felipe Lopez gives the team a legitimate option to turn to if Boone’s decline continues.
The crop of free agent shortstops are simply not inviting. Pass on the overpriced and overrated and offer Pokey Reese a chance to play most every day for a pittance. His defense will be a boon to the pitching staff, and Felipe Lopez can provide offensive support if his bat fails to show up at all. The hope is that Lopez’s improvements are real enough where he can claim the everyday job during the season, relegating Reese back into the utility player role he was born for.
Yes, it’s overspending, but not to the point where it’s going to be a burden even if Beltre performs to peak level. There’s some built in risk, but the Mariners need a franchise talent, and 25 year old MVP candidates at premium positions aren’t available very often. Take the risk.
The Reds just don’t know what to do with Austin Kearns. He’s been working out at third base during the offseason, but that experiment isn’t going well. He can certainly be had for the right price, and the hope is that a package that brings the Reds an innings eater, a league minimum young reliever, and two solid prospects while saving them approximately $1 million in 2005 salary is enough to make the deal. Kearns has an all-star bat and is one of the few opportunities to buy low on a potential elite player. He’s simply a 500 at-bat season away from being a monster, and he will never be available for this little again. Reed spells Kearns and provides help as the fourth outfielder.
We’ve been talking up J.D. Drew’s bat for quite a while, and now that Boras has stated his willingness to play center field, he moves up the list. His range is adequate for the position, while his offense makes him a superstar. The health risks are definitely there, but on a three year contract, the payoff is high enough to justify the move. Will this contract be enough to talk him into leaving Atlanta? Probably not in a perfect world, but the Braves are feeling a severe budget crunch and may be hard pressed making Drew a legitimate offer. Reed and Ichiro’s presence on the roster provide insurance in case of injury.
Ichiro’s still pretty good. Kearns moves to right field when Ichiro needs a day off, with Reed sliding into left.
Bucky deserves a chance to at least enter the season as the regular DH. At $300,000, there’s no risk, and he offers potential of average performance for peanuts. Leone should get some time here, as well.
Matt Clement is a solid pitcher with enough positive markers that its reasonable to believe that he could take a Jason Schmidt-style leap. The best value pitcher on the market, and Safeco will only help him.
Madritsch was one of the premier pitchers in the American League in the second half. While he’s as good as he’s going to get, the ability to keep the ball in the park and throw consistent strikes makes him a solid bet to be an above average starter for several years.
Pineiro’s health is still a big question mark, but he’s a solid third starter if he can overcome the injuries. Matt Riley’s acquisition is entirely driven by the questions surrounding Pineiro’s health, and he would be first in line for this rotation spot should Pineiro not be ready to go on opening day.
There’s valid evidence to expect Meche to be an above average starter next year. There’s valid evidence to expect him to join Scott Sanders in the Christmas-Tree-Hall-Of-Fame. There’s valid evidence to expect him to spend a significant part of 2005 on the disabled list. Hello crapshoot!
Moyer’s done as an effective starting pitcher and is simply holding this place warm until someone not eligible for social security takes his job away from him. Hopefully, that’s Matt Riley, once Pineiro proves healthy.
Guardado is not likely to be ready in 2005, but since he’s on the roster for $4.5 million and wants to pitch, you might as well try and let him. The M’s are out $9 million over the next two years anyways, so there’s little downside to hoping the rest-and-rehab plan pans out. Don’t ask me to hold my breath and bet on Guardado finishing the year healthy, though.
The loss of Rafael Soriano was a crippling blow, and this team needs a right-handed arm that can provide solid relief work. Antonio Osuna has been one of the more underrated relievers in baseball for some time, but his injury history will probably keep him on one year contracts for the rest of his career. He’s a good risk.
George Sherill pitched his way onto the opening day roster last year. He’s probably not going to be outstanding, but for $300,000, he’s a great fit as a late inning lefty reliever.
Shigetoshi Hasegawa isn’t going anywhere with his $3 million contract, so you just hope that he can smoke-n-mirror his way to another decent enough campaign.
J.J. Putz is overvalued by the club, but pitched well enough at times to earn an extended look. Again, for the league minimum, there’s very little risk.
Scott Atchison actually pitched the best of the Tacoma relief corps but got little notice for it. Stuff isn’t good enough to be a great weapon out of the pen, but a career as the next Ryan Franklin is definitely within reach. A great swing guy for the league minimum.
The roster isn’t good enough to rebuild into a favorite to win the west in one offseason, so my theoretical moves are designed towards building a solid core to go forward with. Players on the wrong side of 30 are mostly avoided and holes that cannot be filled for the longterm and patched with one year contracts of semi-useful players. The emphasis is on acquiring talents who have potential to be performing at a level similar to their peak value in two to three years, which leads to the likes of Beltre, Drew, and Clement and away from Delgado, Sexson, and Varitek.
Realistically, the team listed above is probably going to win 80-85 games in 2005 with the chance to get into wild card contention with several positive breaks. It is designed to give opportunities to younger players at little cost, while allowing breakthrough minor league performers to move up without dumping a high priced veteran. With most expecting Felix Hernandez to be in the big leagues in late summer and Rafael Soriano potentially returning in 2006, the young talent would be in place to make a run in the latter half of the decade. By keeping the payroll flexibility in 2006 to add another impact player next offseason and building around players with a chance to sustain or improve their current performances, the M’s would set themselves up as a team on the rise. Honestly, it’s been about nine years since the team has been on its way up, and it is high time for this team to return to a place of hope.