What I Would Do

Dave · May 3, 2005 at 12:35 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Despite the fact that the M’s are significantly better than they were last year, and are actually playing to the expected level of performance we had for them heading into the season, there are always decisions that we would make differently than the organization. So, a month into the year, here’s my list of things I would change about the M’s roster if I was given the title of czar for the day. For the purpose of this exercise, I won’t be acquiring any new talent from outside the organization.

1. Option Shin-Soo Choo to Tacoma, place Bobby Madritsch on the 60 day DL, and purchase the contract of Abraham Nunez.

There could be a case for Choo being with the team if Hargrove was committed to using him, but he’s not, so the Mariners are essentially burning a roster spot and playing short-handed. Choo doesn’t do anything well enough to convince Hargrove to use him in any specialized role, and he’s not going to start ahead of the established players at his position, so I’d rather have him in Tacoma playing everyday.

Nunez isn’t much of a major league player, but as a switch hitter, he may be able to wrangle more playing time out of the roster spot than Choo was able to.

2. Option Greg Dobbs to Tacoma and recall Justin Leone to take his roster spot.

Greg Dobbs stinks.

Leone would provide a power right-handed bat off the bench to combat LOOGYs and give the Mariners a legitimate pinch-hitting option. At 28 years old, playing regularly in Tacoma won’t be significantly beneficial to him, and the Mariners could use his bat on the bench.

3. Designate Matt Thornton for assignment and place him on waivers. Purchase the contract of Dave Hansen.

If Thornton clears waivers (and I think that’s actually likely), send him to Tacoma. If he doesn’t, well, I’m not concerned. Baseball is teeming with power arms who can’t throw strikes, and the M’s don’t need a 12 man pitching staff.

Hansen gives the M’s a LH pinch-hitter to fill the role that Grover has been using Dobbs in. Despite his lack of power, Hansen’s still a semi-useful player, and if used in combo with Leone, could give the M’s at least an interesting L/R platoon pinch-hitting tandem.

4. Switch Bret Boone and Raul Ibanez in the line-up.

I’m of the opinion that Boone is basically done as a hitter. He’s an easy out with occassional power who will hit something like .260/.310/.400 this year, and there’s no way you want that kind of guy hitting 5th if you don’t have to.

Ibanez, on the other hand, has increased his walk rate this year and is one of the few productive players in the lineup. Getting his .377 OBP higher in the line-up can’t hurt the offense, and breaking up the Beltre-Sexson-Boone trio of right-handed hitters is a nice bonus.

5. Designate Aaron Sele for assignment for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release. Call up Jorge Campillo from Tacoma to fill the 5th starter position.

Sele is a replacement level pitcher adding nothing to the team. He pitches poorly and doesn’t soak up innings and has no chance of improving. There’s no upside here. He is what he is, and he’s not very good.

Campillo is the kind of pitcher who you can learn very little about through his minor league performances. He’s a pure junkballer, mixing a steady array of breaking balls and change-ups and rarely breaking 86 on the gun. At 26-years-old, he’s essentially refined his craft, and the adjustment to Tacoma has been an easy one for him. He’s most likely a sink-or-swim proposition, but at least there’s a real chance that he could baffle the league with his crap and provide some legitimate innings for the M’s.

I go back and forth on whether to cut Nelson loose to bring George Sherrill back, but for right now, I’m okay with Nelson on the roster, and would rather have Sherrill in reserve for when someone gets hurt. But I could easily be convinced that Sherrill belongs on the major league club, and I’m not real passionate about Nelson keeping his job, either.

None of these changes would have a huge impact on the club. It is what it is, but they’d make it slightly more interesting and perhaps a little bit more competitive.


77 Responses to “What I Would Do”

  1. AK1984 on May 3rd, 2005 4:08 pm

    Re: #44

    Yeah, the M’s can buyout the last year of Scott Spiezio’s deal for $250,000.

    Ron Villone is a lucky guy; George Sherrill could do what he does at roughly 1/6 the cost.

  2. Todd on May 3rd, 2005 4:10 pm

    In regards to Shiggy’s vesting option, Hargrove’s 12 man bullpen will insure that no one pitches in 58 games.

  3. AK1984 on May 3rd, 2005 4:10 pm

    Re #50:

    The Detroit Tigers management signed Magglio Ordonez this off-season to a horrendously absurd contract; they’d trade Bobby Higginson for Scott Spiezio. Basically, Dave Dombrowski is an idiot.

  4. Paul Covert on May 3rd, 2005 4:10 pm

    In other financial news, I hope Mike Hargrove and Bryan Price realize that Shigetoshi Hasegawa has a vesting option for 2006; let’s all hope that he does not pitch in 58 games.

    Thanks, AK; you’ve just produced the first coherent argument for the 12-man staff. 🙂

  5. Dave on May 3rd, 2005 4:23 pm

    If you were Bavasi, and you were going to try to get some talent from outside the organization, what would you try to do?

    Shortstop is obviously the massive gaping hole on the roster. Valdez has been solid defensively, but he’s an atrocious hitter, and the fact that we don’t have any better options speaks very poorly of the organization’s ability to evaluate talent at the position. I suggested acquiring Felipe Lopez from the Reds over the offseason, and I still think that would be something worth exploring. Or perhaps picking up a player like Maicer Izturis from Anaheim on the cheap. The franchise needs younger players with some upside potential who can be given a chance to play regularly for the first time in their careers. They may or may not pan out, but if they don’t, you’ve lost nothing, and if they do, well, that’s one less problem to solve.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing the M’s dangle Guardado and Winn.

    Not going to happen. The crowds at Safeco have been unimpressive to date, and the front office wants no part of even appearing to wave the white flag on the season. You won’t see them trading players off the major league roster.

    Matt Thornton isn’t all that bad.

    I don’t totally disagree with this. He’s a slightly above replacement level middle reliever. In an organization swimming with them. At some point in the next year, you’re expecting at least one or two of Felix Hernandez, Bobby Madritsch, Scott Atchison, Jorge Campillo, George Sherrill, and Rafael Soriano to join the major league roster. Maybe even three. Thornton’s going to have to get better quickly to survive on the major league roster all year long, and I don’t see him becoming a terrific lefty setup man this year.

    And, realistically, do we really care if he goes somewhere else and throws 50 league average innings for the next few years? Do we stay up at night bemoaning the loss of Brian Fuentes? He’s a reliever, and he’s not particularly good. Half of the roster in Tacoma could perform at a similar level. He might have enough value to another team to be worth a waiver claim. But to us, he’s just another arm.

    Dave, what do you think the chances are any of these happen in the short term?

    Hansen will be up soon. Maybe this week. Choo probably goes back down at that point. And I could see an Ibanez/Boone swap pretty soon, too. But that’s about it.

    Spiezio could net an overpaid bust who is in the last year of their respective contract (e.g., Bobby Higginson, Preston Wilson), which would give the M’s some financial and roster flexability throughout the subsequent two seasons.

    You do realize this isn’t the NBA, right? There’s absolutely no inherent benefit to an expiring contract. None. The M’s could pay Scott Spiezio $6.5 million tomorrow and be rid of every financial commitment they have to him for the rest of his life. Just like that, he’s gone. He’s not “on the books” anymore. Why pay an extra $3 million to Preston Wilson just because his contract is due this year. It’s dumb.

    I’m not by any means a Sele fan, but it seems that pulling the plug on him now is premature, given that we haven’t seen yet if he’ll be proportionately worse in Dave’s scenario against better hitting.

    I’m of the opinion that someone who receives something they didn’t deserve initially doesn’t then inherit the deservedness after having it handed to them. Realistically, Sele never really belonged on the team, and so he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt for not having pitched himself out of a job yet.

  6. AK1984 on May 3rd, 2005 4:30 pm

    Yeah, Dave, you’re right about how the MLB isn’t the NBA, as there aren’t strict financial restrictions regarding trades; still, aren’t Spiezio’s earnings deferred throughout the length of his contract? I remember Damian Easley and Greg Vaughn were released in 2003 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, even though they had two years left on their respective deals…didn’t they have their money spread out over two years? Or was it given to them in one lump sum? Moreover, I thought that the M’s considered financial obligations such as player’s contracts to be annual, so if Spiezio was released, then they would just claim that they can’t spend the extra $3 million-plus the following year due to the fact that they are obligated to pay out the duration of his deal; am I wrong?

  7. AK1984 on May 3rd, 2005 4:33 pm

    Re #56:

    Wait, Easley was not released by the Devil Rays, but rather by the Tigers; my error.

  8. Dave on May 3rd, 2005 4:35 pm

    The M’s have the choice. They can buy out his contract with a lump sum payment, usually for less than the total value owed over the remainder of the contract, or they could simply send him checks until the contract expires. What they choose to do and how they account for it on their books is totally up to them. They could offer Spiezio $5 or $6 million cash tomorrow to go away, and save themselves a little bit of money over making payments. And they could count that as a hit on the 2005 payroll. Or they could decide they’d rather have the cash on hand earning interest for them, and they would simply pay him every two weeks for the next two years.

    Either way, how they decide to account for their payroll payments is completely in their control. There is no league mandate that forbids them from having Spiezio’s $3.5 million come off the ’06 payroll and be applied to the ’05 payroll. It’s simply up to them.

    Either choice is more advantageous than paying Preston Wilson more money this year simply to “get the contract off the books”. There’s no salary cap that they need to get around, so expiring contracts have no value in and of themselves. Every contract can be an expiring contract if the club wants it to be.

  9. AK1984 on May 3rd, 2005 4:40 pm

    Okay, that makes sense; the M’s should just release Spiezio then—immediately.

  10. eponymous coward on May 3rd, 2005 4:47 pm

    Yeah, pretty much. He simply has no value this year at all- and with Beltre and Sexson blocking him, no real value next year either except as a backup/injury replacement, even if he’s healthy, and you have to wonder- if he’s 2 for 2 in obliques ruining his season, why won’t he be 3 for 3?

  11. eponymous coward on May 3rd, 2005 4:56 pm

    Oh, and…

    The crowds at Safeco have been unimpressive to date

    2.5 million over a full season unimpressive, perhaps?

  12. Ralph Malph on May 3rd, 2005 5:19 pm

    Does anyone know if it is the same oblique or does he have a matched pair now?

  13. Paul Covert on May 3rd, 2005 5:46 pm

    Dave– yes, I agree with Fuentes as a fair comparison for Thornton. (As I said above: Maybe or maybe not right for the 2005 M’s, but very likely right for somebody out there.)

    If we keep him, I’d rather see Hargrove use him as a long reliever (3+ innings at a shot) in preparation for an eventual #4-5 starter role. (Given that we seem to burning through starter candidates at a frightening rate, I’m reluctant to ditch anyone who could realistically start at or above replacement level for a couple years of cheap wages.)

    If we get rid of him, I’d hope to at least get a decent stopgap/backup middle infielder in return.

  14. MZak on May 3rd, 2005 5:47 pm

    Last I checked Pitching wasn’t costing us games. The problem isn’t Sele, Franklin, Nelson or Thornton and the solution isn’t Campillo, Sherill or even Felix. No one past Ichiro is hitting the ball with ANY consistancy. We could have the Marlins staff and still have the same record.

  15. Jim Thomsen on May 3rd, 2005 6:03 pm

    I don’t think it can be overemphasized how much Valdez’s lack of hitting is killing the M’s. We tend to think of him as harmlessly tucked away in the No. 9 hole, but for the most of the game he stands in between Ichiro and the guys who do comparatively get on base a lot in much the same way as prison walls stand between a condemned inmate and his freedom. We should keep track of how many times Ichiro is prevented form coming to bat in the middle of or late in games with runners on base or in scoring position … because Valdez, batting ahead of him, has struck out, grounded out or grounded into a double play.

  16. MZak on May 3rd, 2005 6:14 pm

    Look, even if Valdez hits a respectable .250, we still have problems. Dare I say that Beltre and Sexon occupy the 7th and 8th worst averages for the usual starting platoon?

  17. MZak on May 3rd, 2005 6:17 pm

    Correction, 6th and 7th for the big sticks.

  18. firova on May 3rd, 2005 6:39 pm

    Does anyone think a healthy Reese, if there will ever be such a thing, will field so much better than Valdez that his own abysmal hitting will be forgiven? They have a real problem here. It makes me think that either Winn or Reed should be in the 8 hole every night just to break up the catcher-shortstop black hole. Randy already spends a lot of time hanging out on the bases as it is; at least Ichiro would get an RBI shot now and again.

    By the way, Ryan Franklin’s record, 1-4, matches last year’s abominable 4-16, and more to the point, his ERA of 4.74 is creeping back to last year’s 4.90. So the post-KC predictions were true. USSM is the truth.

  19. Dave on May 3rd, 2005 6:57 pm

    The lumping of all “bad hitting” into one category that with no differentiation is wrong. There are levels of badness, just as there are levels of goodness. Just because Pokey is a bad hitter does not mean his regular offensive contribution’s are just as awful as Valdez’s.

    Pokey’s a career .248/.307/.352 hitter who is remarkably effective at stealing bases. Valdez is hitting .192/.213/.218 and has been caught stealing both times he’s ran.

    It’s a huge difference. Valdez does not equal Pokey, and our offseason support of Pokey does not mean we think Valdez is a major league player.

  20. Steve on May 3rd, 2005 7:01 pm

    If the Mariners owe Spiezio $3.05MM this year, $3.10 MM next year, and $0.25MM buyout in 200 2007, the scenario will probably play out this way.

    1. The Mariners will pay the money out over the next three years, just as if Spiezio were still on the payroll.

    2. The Mariners will tell Finnigan that it’s a $6.4MM hit to the payroll. Finnigan falls for the line that the added cost of releasing Spiezio has exceeded the payroll contingency for this year, which is money that was being held in case the team was in contention and needed to make a July trade. The Mariners will remind Finnigan that sound business practice dictates that budgets cannot be exceeded, but then add that if the team is contention, ownership could decide to dig into their pockets to add payroll for some July trades. (When the Mariners say owners will dip into their own pockets, they will really be referring to team reserve funds that have accrued as the team has been consistently under budget for ten years or so, not actual owner checkbooks, but Finnigan won’t bother to ask about that.)

    3. For 2006, the Mariners will show $3.35MM due to Spiezio as part of payroll. They will cite the money being paid to Spiezio as the reason why they can’t sign a front-line starting pitcher. Two weeks later they will tell us John Halama has been signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Bryan Price will remind us that Halama has shown he can pitch successfully and win in Safeco, because he is the Mariners’ team leader in consecutive wins by a pitcher. So all Halama need do is show that he’s not injured and he is guaranteed a spot in the rotation. Jorge Campillo will return to Tacoma after winning 20 games for Tacoma in 2005 with 3.00 ERA because the Mariners’ aren’t sure that performance in AAA can be projected to MLB.

    4. After the 2006 season Art Thiel will mention that the Mariners are finally free of the Spiezio obligation. This will prompt the Mariners to get out “their side” of the story, so they will contact Finnigan and remind him that they still owe Spiezio his buyout. They will also tell Finnigan when you combine the last Spiezio buyout money with some random arbitration case they lost that off season (let’s say it’s Willie Bloomquist), the combination of the Spiezio buyout money and the extra $1 million they are spending on Bloomquist means the Mariners can’t afford to sign a free agent catcher. Finnigan and the Times will rush to get into print a story that refutes claims by other Seattle sports writers that the Mariners hands are no longer being tied by the Spiezio obligation.

    5. One week later the Mariners will announce that they have reached agreement with Dan Wilson on new 2-year contract at $1.2 million per year with automatic vesting of the third year if he appears in 100 games – which everyone acknowleges he is certain to reach as it is 30 games fewer than he appeared in 2005 and 2006. The Mariners press release will say that many teams were interested in Dan, but Wilson chose to sign with the Mariners for less money than he could have gotten from another team because of his loyalty to the organization. Reached for comment, Rick Rizzs will state that the Mariners know how important Dan is to the team and by getting him under control for three more years, they’ve shown they will do what it takes to keep the heart of the Mariners team together and assure continuity with the 1995 – the greatest year in Mariner history. And, Rick will say, Dan can still bunt (and is the best bunter ever to don a uniform), block pitches, and call a game better than any other catcher in baseball. Over in the blogosphere, USSM will proclaim this the worst signing in the history of baseball, pointing out that Wilson’s arthritic shoulder prevents him from swinging a bat and from completing a throw to second on fewer than three bounces. All Wilson can do is block pitches, and bunt, and both of those are questionable as well. Meanwhile, a Trojan horse program in the server hosting USS Mariner will be triggered by the phrase “Mariners resign Dan Wilson”. The Trojan Horse will contact the IP address of every individual who ever registered at USSM to post comments, issuing a series of commands that will fade monitors to solid Mariner teal, with superimposed white letters flashing “Kill Bill!!”

    The source of the program will be traced to a former BP author living in a partially remodeled house in a Seattle eastside neighborhoop. SWAT teams are called in after knocking on the door only results in maniacal screaming and repetitive thuds. Upon breaking through the locked door, they find the floors of the house is littered with the stubs of Mariners tickets and completed score sheets from old Mariners games. One room – it looks like a home office – is completely filled with confetti made of shredded copies of Baseball Prospectus. In the living room, the television is showing the Edgar Martinez’s double and Ichiro’s Catch in a continous video loop. In a corner of the family room they find a solitary figure in full Mariners uniform and catching gear, huddled in a corner wailing hysterically, while a pitching machine steadily throws ball after ball against an autographed picture of Dan Wilson that has been taped to the wall. Every few minutes the figure raises his head and screams unutterable words and sounds, before finally collapsing in total catatonia.

    That’s the kind of thing that happens when you play fast and loose with accounting numbers. Pray that it doesn’t happen to you.

  21. msb on May 3rd, 2005 7:03 pm

    #62–left oblique; he said at the time “It feels about the same place as last year”

  22. Avery on May 3rd, 2005 7:14 pm

    The only thing worse than Valdez at this point is Olivo. Maybe it’s time to let him work on his game at Tacoma. Sign someone a little less crappy like a Bobby Estalella (there’s still time for him to win that MVP like Baseball Prospectus predicted a few years back).

  23. wabbles on May 3rd, 2005 10:29 pm

    Sooooo…the person described (but not named) in 70 is….Martha Stewart? She played fast and loose accounting numbers, didn’t she?

  24. msb on May 3rd, 2005 10:44 pm

    #72– Estalella left the Reds after his release this spring muttering about retirement (“I’m going home and I’m going fishing. I’m not going to Triple-A. I’m a major-league catcher and this probably was it for me. I thought I’d give it one last shot.”) so I assume he’s gone back to selling Florida real estate…

  25. Bela Txadux on May 3rd, 2005 10:46 pm

    On Dave’s proposed roster ammendations”

    1) Choo down, Nunez up: sure. I thought that’s why Nunez was picked up, actually, to serve as the 4th OFer, and he’s hitting decently at AAA, too. He wouldn’t add anything, but Choo needs to play, so this is a natural.

    2) Dobbs down, Leone up: about frickin’ time, too. Leone has power Dobbs couldn’t buy, and is a righty bat, even better. Justin actually made some contributions at the major league level last year; Dobbs has three bloop doubles to make his name by. Leone can actually help on defense; Dobbs doesn’t have a position. The continued exile of Leone in Tacoma is Exhibit A on how the Ms FO plays favorites to the detriment of player development. There’s no time in their careers in the organization that Leone _hasn’t_ totally outplayed Dobbs except Justin’s one bad year in ’02. This swap is long overdue.

    4) Boone and Ibanez swap places in the lineup: good call. Raul is hitting consistently, and getting on base, and it makes a better lineup sequence. Grover needs to look past the ego issues here and do what is right for the team. Boone is still making contributions offensively, but at this point Ibanez is certainly the better hitter, ergo . . .

    5) Release Aaron “Poulsbo’s Finest” Sele, and bring up Campillo: ahh, let’s hold on a moment here. Now, I completely agree with Dave et al regarding how Sele has pitched, not even really a replecement level player, and likely to get mashed and badly when and as he takes the mound against effective offenses. And Campillo might very well pitch better. The problem is that Jorge is the ONLY starting pitcher who can be brought up from anywhere in the organization as a replacement (since Felix el Rey positively should not be called up before August, no way, no how). If Sele is canned, and Campillo is promoted, there is absolutely no one else to bring up if another pitcher goes down or loses all effectiveness—either of which condition is very likely to happen to one of the other four Ms starters. Moyer, Franklin, and Meche have pitched just about as well as one could possibly have expected, and Joel’s physical condition is still quite ambiguous. If one of these guys goes into a spiral, the Ms don’t have anyone even as ‘effective’ as Sele to plug in. For that reason, and that reason _only_ I would be more of the mind to hang onto Aaron until the middle of June, to see how the other guys shake out. By that time, the wheels will probably come off for Sele, yes, and Campillo coming up will seem like something of a godsend—if he’s not already up, for someone else.

    3) DFA Thornton, and give his slot to Sherrill: no, I don’t think so. Paul Covert has put the line on Mattie pretty well, below average, above replacement, some chance to get better as long as he gets his Ks. Which he seems to do much better against right handed batters; it’s lefties who are killing him, especially off bad breaking balls. Thornton must have a fastball that bores in on the righthanders who obviously don’t get comfortable given his below-average control, but that means the lefthanders get a long, good look at a pitch ’cause Thornton can’t seem to throw inside to them. Or something. Thornton is also the team’s long man, which is a reasonably good role for him. He is not now nor will he ever be a starter (mediocre breaking pitch, sub-mediocre change-up, marginal control), nor is he sharp enough to be a late inning lefty at this point (particularly since he doesn’t pitch that well to lefties), which is what Sherrill will be. Thornton isn’t blocking Sherrill: Villone is, and Ron the Mon isn’t going anywhere, so kicking Thornton off the team is just, well, vindictive, as Matt is serviceable in the role he has been given, and it’s not a role Sherrill will fill.

    I don’t care for this 12-man pen at all, and it’s clear that the guys aren’t getting enough work, but the real problem is there are four righties and three lefties, with one of the lefties the closer—one of those right hand relievers should go. Now, I think the Ms FO did the right thing in camp lining up _too many_ bullpen arms; given the injuries and effectiveness problems virtually everyone in the pen except Villone demonstrated last year, the team needed to overstock and see how things shook out. But everyone is doing a decent job, a few better than that, and there are too many righthanders for everyone to stay sharp.

    Nelson is the one to go. He’s not throwing all that well because his control has been deteriorating, and lefties are hitting him pretty good, but he’s also always been a guy who has to work often to stay sharp enought to pick up the strike zone regulary. He is at least still getting his RH Ks. He’s experienced, and many major league pens are short right now, especially for middle relief types. I don’t think the Ms would get much at all for Nelson, but they could probably get something for him, and his departure doesn’t hurt the team at all, and will get other guys enough work. Moreover, it also opens up a 40-man slot for Nunez, and creates a potential slot in the pen for Sherrill in 1.5-2 months when the team does a more thorough overhaul.

    Regarding a replacement for Wilson Valdez, I’d loo-o-oove for the Ms to get ahold of Maicer Izturis, but I can’t think of a single reason why the Angels would do the Mariners that kind of favor. Nor do we have anyone to trade that would be of use to them, unless we sent them somebody like Villone who’s pitching as well as anyone in the pen; it’s been forever since the Halos had a good lefty short man. It would not be irrational for the Ms to trade Villone to the Angels for Izturis, and rework the roster to promote Sherrill, but there is no way, none, nada, that the Ms FO would ever, ever do that, it’s just not how they approach talent utilization. So: no Maicer.

    Attendance _has_ been bad; the stadium is half full against the Ms principle division rivals, and not at all surprising since Our Floundering Team can’t win a series with either of them, home or away. I heard tickets for the Yankee series being hawked on the radio today—which means that the one sure sellout that the Ms have each year isn’t sold out, or close to it by the sound. The Mariners just aren’t playing good baseball, and unfortunately I don’t see tat changing, as the ‘personality,’ talent level, and expectations of this group of talent seems to me to have gelled all too well. It wouldn’t surprise me at all for the Ms to slide badly in May to 7-8 games under .500, and have to spend most of the rest of the year struggling to get the record back to even-steven. . . . But that’s another post.

  26. James on May 3rd, 2005 11:29 pm

    Steve… that is why the world misses your blog. Hey Jeff… put that up on your site right now just the whole world has a better chance of seeing it.

  27. world series on May 4th, 2005 12:21 am

    The way Beltre is (under)performing right now I’d switch Boone with Beltre in the order for a week; Also for tomorrow before he’s sent down for Hansen, I’d have Choo spell Ibanez so we can see him play a whole game (RF, Winn would DH) but this will never happen because they’re too stupid or conservative.