The Feed and the Long View

DMZ · July 18, 2005 at 11:36 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I’d like to take a different angle on the Feed — “what does this all mean?”

Short term, it’s a mixed bag, but there’s reason for hope. Take the Garica trade (woo-hoo!). I think they’re realistic, but some of the things I’ve continually harped on don’t seem likely to change (minor league depth to cover for things like the rotation collapse, working free-talent avenues harder, building a complete 25-man roster with useful, fitting parts, that kind of thing).

The most encouraging part was knowing that the team wants to win, but is trying to build a minor league system that can support a sustained competitive team. We talk about stars-and-scrubs, but this is how you want a team to build for a World Series title: develop stars, prospects for trade or who’ll become role-players on the cheap, and use your money to fill the holes around them. Then drink champagne and fly the pennants.

So when they talk about being buyers or sellers, that’s scary, but it’s almost irrelevant. They do want to put wins on the board, and keep people turning out at the park. They’ve got to keep people buying season tickets, and that’s where .400 seasons really hurt their bottom line. If getting to .500 this season requires them to sacrifice (say) Choo, that’s something the ownership’s going to want to go for, and I’m going to scream about.

It’s unlikely they’re going to continue on this mini-tear and expend significant resources on a division pursuit. And I think that even if that happened and the offer was rich enough, they still might punt on one of their marketable players.

I’m also encouraged by the last two years, and the cuts of guys like Boone and Olerud, Aurilia and whoever else. Bavasi’s shown he’s perfectly willing to get his rifle and go put Old Yeller down, whether it makes people cry or not. Duquette and others may be too impersonal, but there are times you need a GM to have no heart, or else you’re signing broken shortstops to 10-year deals that’ll cripple your team.

In the short-term, they know what we know. They look at the rotation and don’t see anyone they can count on to be a good, reliable starter for next year. And like me, I they’re worried it’ll be tough to come up with good solutions. The 2006 team’s going to be a weird one, depending on how well those things get patched up (and, again, that’s where my concern about the organization’s poor history in assembling the Duchscherer-type talent comes up).

After that, who knows? Looking down the road two years is tough. Three or four, we can’t and shouldn’t pretend to have any clue. Jeremy Reed could be a superstar centerfielder, and he could be mainlining Jack Daniels in the back of the Winger revival tour bus. There’s no way of knowing it. Miguel Olivo could be a Mike Piazza-lite clone who can throw. Or he could be Piazza without the bat, playing backup in Rochester.

That’s when the hidden side of this comes in.

I’m encouraged by a lot of things that aren’t getting play in the mainstream press. Bavasi’s got faith in Bob Fontaine, and Fontain’s got a record to prove it. He’s building an army. We’ve talked here a lot about how the Mariners have a huge economic edge on other teams, and how they might apply it to building a better team. This is one way to do it.

By putting more people on the ground, investing heavily in area scouts, cross-checkers, and so on, they know more about every person they’re looking at in the draft than their opposition. That’s amazingly valuable information. We can talk a little about the depth/breadth distinction at some point (Rob Neyer wrote a really good column about this I’d like to dig up and revisit). It makes your picks more valuable than another team’s. If you’re drafting a junior college guy in the 10th round that three good eyes have seen, you’re much more likely to turn that into a player than essentially flipping a coin between single-scout reports.

They can pay for the travel expenses. They can offer good scouts in other organizations more money, or more vacation time to be with their family, or a dozen other ways they can use their resources to make life better for those guys.

For all my reputation as a stathead, I agree with Bavasi that the farther you go down, the more you rely on good scouting. I think there’s a lot more that can be done using projections/etc, but I also think that a really good organization knows these things even without using the same kind of vocabulary. That is, Betancourt not striking out is one kind of a good prospect, and that he’s totally different than a possibly equally-good prospect who is more patient drawing walks and also strikes out more. In stathead terms, we might talk about comperables and profiles in the same way a scout attaches a set of names (“He’s a Jeff Kent-like player, with a Keith Ginter downside”).

However, rebuilding a farm system is at least a three year project, and often takes five to really see the effects, even if you go from incompetence to excellence. The question may end up being whether Bavasi & Co. can keep the major league club winning enough to have job security and reap the benefits.

There are a couple things I’m still concerned about with player development:

The M’s have seen some really good guys leave the organization lately, like Kerfeld, who did a fine job in indy league scouting. Is that normal turnover, or could those losses have been prevented?

What about the Dobbs/Bloomquist guys? Dobbs is a great guy, and if he wants to turn into a coach or something I think he’ll do well. But the organization fell in love with his swing when he couldn’t hit, and so he ended up a wasted roster spot.

A couple years ago the Pacific Rim operation was the envy of the rest of baseball. Now it seems like players we should have been after and who’d have helped have gone elsewhere. Is international scouting getting tougher, and if so, did the M’s make a decision not to try and remain the top organization out there because it was too costly, or because they saw an opportunity domestically?

Do they understand that a modest free agent signing may not be worth the draft pick you give up? Do we have to put up Conor Jackson pictures throughout the offices to serve as a constant reminder, or what?

The draft is risky and that can’t be controlled. You can make the best bets possible, but teams with bad scouting organizations luck out, while teams can draft all the best players and have them all get hurt, or go to college, or explode. There’s no guarantee that four years from now, the Mariner system will have superstar players pushing to replace Sexson and Beltre.

And even then, say it’s 2008 and the Mariners have a great young core of superstars. Do they make the right free agent choices? I’m worried about that, too. We’ll see in the next couple of years, but I’m worried they’ll commit to players they pursued this last off-season like Pavano, who are a lot of money for a little upgrade. I don’t know, though.

Bavasi may have the worst of all possible fates: to take the blame for rebuilding an aging, shaky team he was handed, and unable to see the fruits of the scouting organization they’re constructing.


120 Responses to “The Feed and the Long View”

  1. strong silence on July 19th, 2005 11:00 am

    Batgirl wrote a great column about Boone. For that service, we should get Santana!

  2. dw on July 19th, 2005 11:01 am

    BTW Ancient M, I’m just outside of Boulder, so there is one more of us here!

    Heh. I spent five years of my life in Boulder getting a four-year degree.

  3. Eric on July 19th, 2005 11:03 am

    180 Ks are better than 180 DPs:-)

    Seriously he will make lots of outs, but he also walks a lot and when he does hit it it goes a long way, and he hits it often enough.

  4. Evan on July 19th, 2005 11:11 am

    Why should they? Overall he’s making fewer outs than most players, and he hits the ball a really long way.

    He’d be a lot like Sexson, and as I mentioned above, Sexson is our best hitter.

  5. Chris Becker on July 19th, 2005 11:26 am

    Have you all read Larry Stone’s column today? Very good. Check it out here:

    Overall, I agree with Stone’s assessment on who to trade and who to keep.

  6. roger tang on July 19th, 2005 11:27 am

    re 100

    Um, no. Strikeouts by themselves aren’t particularly useful. I mean, 250 strikes wouldn’t be a bad stat if the player also gets on base at a .550 clip and whacks 50 homers…You’d take that, wouldn’t you?

  7. Evan on July 19th, 2005 11:33 am

    104 – I don’t. I’d happily move Guardado or Villone for value.

    Meche, even, if it got us someone like Dunn.

  8. Xteve X on July 19th, 2005 11:48 am

    2 or 3 of Piniero, Guardado, Morse, Putz for Dunn? I’d do that deal in a heartbeat and not look back. That would be a dream trade for the Ms.

  9. strong silence on July 19th, 2005 11:52 am

    If you give up Guardado, Putz and Piniero then next year’s Mariners become very similar to the 2005 Reds – good hitting, horrid pitching.

  10. John in L.A. on July 19th, 2005 11:55 am

    Yeah, Stone is crazy. His article reads like a crazed fan on the iheartbretboone forums. His theory appears to be “trade only people we won’t get anything for”. Genius.

    I mean, Good God, if someone “covets” Meche… jump all over that.

    There is nobody on his list I wouldn’t trade if the offer was good.

  11. DMZ on July 19th, 2005 12:02 pm

    If you give up Guardado, Putz and Piniero then next year’s Mariners become very similar to the 2005 Reds – good hitting, horrid pitching.

    As opposed to the 2005 Mariners, who have bad hitting and pitching. Joel stinks, he’s not going to get better. Guardado’s got a bum shoulder. Putz is replacable. Those three for Dunn is a no-brainer, you make that trade before they come to their senses.

  12. strong silence on July 19th, 2005 12:10 pm

    Rumor: Dbacks trying to acquire Takatsu from the White Sox. Guardado and Putz for Jackson or Quentin?

  13. The Ancient Mariner on July 19th, 2005 12:11 pm

    Re #97 & #98: Well, three ain’t bad. I’m up in the mountains, in Grand Lake; we get folks in the summer from all over the place, but very few from Washington, so despite the kaleidoscope of rooting interests, I’m still pretty much the only Seattle fan up here.

    Re #110: That’s too harsh. I agree, I’d trade Guardado without compunction, and Meche as well, but I don’t think you’re being fair to Stone.

  14. Eric on July 19th, 2005 12:12 pm

    Silence, how is getting rid of Piniero and Putz hurting the Ms? Pineiro is horrible and easily replaced and Putz is upgraded by Soriano. Eddie is great this year, but closers are not that hard to find.

  15. John in L.A. on July 19th, 2005 12:13 pm

    If Dunn is the offer, I agree, absolutely make the trade.

    But I would much rather they got an equally good starting pitcher instead.

    I think the idea that we need power in the outfield is really thinking inside the box. We need power. There is no good reason why it has to be there.

    And why do people keep saying Doyle has no power? Slugging a career .478 and climbing isn’t “no power”.

    Again, like Dunn, would make the trade. Just rather trade for starting pitching than yet more outfielders. I already want less outfielders.

  16. msb on July 19th, 2005 12:24 pm

    so, is the idea that since Dunn hits arbitration this winter he might be available? I know O’Brien is claiming money won’t be a factor in trades 🙂

  17. Grizz on July 19th, 2005 12:34 pm

    If as Stone suggests the M’s exercise Guardado’s $6 million club option for next season (or sign him to an extension), any goodwill Bill Bavasi has built up in recent days is irretrievably gone.

    If Guardado comes back for the $4.5 million player option, you can live with it. But if he walks away, you can live with that too because it frees up $4.5 million — even if Bavasi insists on bringing in a Proven Closerâ„¢ brand pitcher, you can at least spend the money toward somebody younger and better like BJ Ryan.

    The Lookout Landing guys had it right a few weeks ago — there is a good chance Guardado will either not come back or get hurt, so you should trade him now while his value is high.

  18. ChrisK on July 19th, 2005 12:42 pm

    There is no way the Reds make that trade, for reasons DMZ and others have pointed out. Guardado is pitching with a fully torn rotator cuff. Why would Cincy want to invest in a guy like that when they are years from contending? They can (and probably will) get a top prospect for Dunn, no matter what combination of mediocre players we offer them.

  19. Itea on July 19th, 2005 3:56 pm

    #111 –

    Why don’t you think Joel is going to get any better? He’s pitched so poorly this year that I think it’s more likely that he can’t get any worse…

    Again, it’s not 100%, or even 70% that he’ll get back to 2004 form. However, when there is at least a plausible explanation for his decline (injury plus slow rehabilitation) which if true can be corrected, why not give him the opportunity to try to recover? And the benefit of the doubt to at least acknowledge that it’s possible he’ll get better? THere have been players who have been much worse over 200 innings who have come back to put up solid numbers for multiple seasons.

  20. Itea on July 19th, 2005 3:57 pm

    Quick correction – the above should have read “2003 form”, not 2004.