Offseason Planning

Dave · September 27, 2005 at 7:33 am · Filed Under Mariners 

All three local dailies check in with a story about the M’s convening meetings, starting today, to plan their offseason. The difference in quality between those stories is astonishing.

Bob Finnigan launches the Times six-part season retrospective with a piece on the outfield. Because we’re trying to be nice to Finnigan, I’ll just point to the link and leave it at that. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, right?

John Hickey pens a story for the P-I that points out the M’s glaring need for help in the rotation, and discusses the M’s preparation for next year with Mike Hargrove and Ron Hassey. He makes a few uncited assertions that raise eyebrows, mainly the possibility of a Morse/Dobbs platoon in left field, which would be something you’d expect of the Devil Rays or the Royals. But overall, it’s a solid piece.

Then Larry Larue kicks the crap out of both of them with a terrific piece at the News Tribune. He gets a great attributable quote from Pat Gillick–““That first offseason was a mess for Bill,” Gillick said. “I saddled him with a lot.”–and gets a straight answer, on the record, from Bavasi on every relevant question you could think of.

Can Bavasi see an infield of Sexson, Jose Lopez, Beltre and Betancourt returning next April intact?

“Yes,” he said.

Good news. That’s the best plan, I believe. And no mention of Willie Bloomquist to be seen.

What about an outfield of Ibañez, Reed and Ichiro Suzuki?

“Yes, although I’m not sure whether Raul will be the left fielder or the designated hitter,” Bavasi said. “That might be a place to add more left-handed power, or we might use both Mike Morse and Chris Snelling out there. Left field gives us options.”

He mentioned previously in the article that the #2 priority was adding “left-handed sock”. Basically, that sock is going to come from the LF position, whether it be through the new hitter playing left or DH’ing and pushing Ibanez back to left field. But I don’t think there’s any way they go to camp with a Morse/Snelling platoon as their starting left field plan.

“I don’t think we’ll need to put a lot of money into the bullpen, which means our money can go into our rotation,” Bavasi said.

More good news.

“How many of our starting pitchers will be back for sure?” Bavasi asked, then laughed. “I know one, for sure. Probably two or three.”

That’s Felix, Joel, and probably Moyer. In other words, the decision has been made on Gil Meche. The team knows they need two new starting pitchers, at least. Even more good news.

“I don’t know that we have any players in the minor league system who are a year away now from helping us, but I said the same thing a year ago,” Bavasi said. “ (Infielder) Adam Jones is probably the closest, and he could be two years away.”

Jones’ days as an infielder are probably over, but LaRue can be forgiven for not knowing that. It’s interesting to see that the M’s aren’t looking at Foppert, Cruceta, Nageotte, or Livingston as guys who could help next year. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of that group actually contributed to the ’06 roster, but I’m glad to see the M’s won’t build the roster counting on it.

“What can we expect (from Beltre) next season? I think if you take the three years prior to his MVP-level season and average them out, then find the midway point between those numbers and his numbers from 2004, you’ll be close,” Bavasi said.

Interestingly enough, that’s basically what every sabermetric analyst worth their salt said at the time of the signing. That’s the kind of comment you would expect to be published at Baseball Prospectus.

“He did a great job. We’re on the same page. We always will be,” Bavasi said. “He’s due a lot of credit for handling so many young players and being positive about it. His approach is very rare. Most managers want nothing to do with young guys because they see them as a serious delay in their chance to win. Mike doesn’t.”

All the Fire Hargrove people can officially go nuts. Of course, all the Fire Hargrove folks are the same people who were screaming Fire Melvin, and that didn’t exactly lead us to the promised land. Maybe, eventually, people will realize that nearly all managers are basically non-factors, and getting so bent out of shape about Hargrove isn’t worth the time or the energy.

Truly terrific piece by LaRue, though, and a lot of good news contained in that article. The Bavasi Plan sounds an awful lot like the USSM plan. Now we’ll just have to see which players they decide to throw their money at.


170 Responses to “Offseason Planning”

  1. John D. on September 27th, 2005 7:34 pm

    THE PITCHING PROSPECTS – (From Larry Larue’s comments): “In the fall of 2003, the Mariners were an aging team with….a front office that was enamored of the young pitching it believed was coming hard and fast toward the major leagues.”
    It should be noted that the euphoria over the young pitching prospects was not confined to the Mariner FO. It was a feeling that was prevalent throughout baseball. For instance, “Baseball America” suspected that Tacoma had the best rotation in the upper minors.

  2. Scraps on September 27th, 2005 8:31 pm

    Speaking of managers not mattering all that much: Jayson Stark has a piece on ESPN’s front page about the Braves’ 14-year run atop their division, and who does he give the lion’s share of the credit? John Schuerholz? Leo Mazzone, even? Nope: Bobby Cox.

    Not that Cox has done a bad job; obviously he’s been good. But more responsible for the Braves success than Schuerholz? Come on. And then there’s the fact that Cox’s terrible short-series management is the main reason the Braves have only one championship to show for those fourteen division titles.

  3. Eric on September 27th, 2005 8:48 pm

    152, and who is the one manager that Cox managed to beat in the series:-)

  4. bookbook on September 27th, 2005 8:51 pm

    +he Mariners are still below replacment level at SS, 2B, LF, CF and C. You can’t compete giving that many outs away.

    This is unquestionably not true. Betancourt is a replacement level hitter wielding one of the best gloves in the game. By any standard, he’s significant above replacement level for a shortstop. He’s also 23 years old.

    Jose Lopez’s numbers at Tacoma project him to be an average major league second baseman right now. His performance in Seattle puts him well above replacement level. He’s 21 years old.

    The current left fielder is Raul Ibanez. He’s pretty obviously not replacement level.

    Jeremy Reed, struggling as he has, is well above replacement level. He, too, is 23.

    Yorvit Torrealba is significantly above replacement level.+

    Betancourt and Reed are above replacement level and 23. Yet, I do worry that bad 23-year-old hitters don’t turn into 27-year-old stars. They turn into mediocre 27-year-old hitters. Reed’s star has lost some lustre based on this year. Betancourt, as a member of the Mark Belanger school, can someday start for a championship team, but help push a team towards a championship in the “whip-handle bat” era? Not with much horsepower. I believe in Lopez, despite a couple failed trials. What’s Torrealba’s upside? (I know – backup to Clement.) If Ibanez is the LF, can we argue that Dobbs/Morse projects at about replacement level as DH?

  5. Eric on September 27th, 2005 8:52 pm

    135 I hate to pile on since others have called you out pretty well. I just have 1 question, what do you consideer replacement level? A borderline all-star:-)

  6. Long Suffering on September 27th, 2005 9:02 pm

    Most people don’t get broken into the big leagues at 23. Those that do are usually the Pujols/Cabrera type of impact players. There’s not much precendent for what just an above average player at his peak (25-29) would do in the bigs at 23.

  7. Scraps on September 27th, 2005 9:52 pm

    Plenty of ordinary players break into the majors at 23 or younger. Just searching for a few minutes give me: Claudell Washington, Jose Cardenal, Roy White, Lloyd Moseby, Daryl Boston, Jerry Morales, Ken Henderson, Jay Johnstone, Bobby Tolan, Juan Beniquez, Lee Mazzilli, Cleon Jones, Ruppert Jones, Candy Maldonado, Sixto Lezcano, Mike Davis, Larry Herndon, Joe Orsulak, Jeffrey Leonard, Mike Lum, Dan Meyer, Junior Felix, Leron Lee, Paul Householder, Danny Bautista, Mike Marshall (the outfielder), Ben Grieve, Juan Encarnacion, Phil Plantier, Eric Anthony, Butch Huskey, Mel Hall…. I could go on listing them all day, and none of these guys was pushing their 23rd birthday when they came up. There’s tons of precedent for what an ordinary player does in baseball at age 23.

  8. Adam S on September 27th, 2005 10:22 pm

    The Mariners are still below replacment level at SS, 2B, LF, CF and C. You can’t compete giving that many outs away.

    This is unquestionably not true.

    I have to believe the poster meant below AVERAGE. Obviously Ibanez isn’t anywhere close to being only replacement level.

    Even on that standard, the team is average in LF. I do believe they’re below average offensively in CF, SS, and C.

  9. ray on September 27th, 2005 11:11 pm

    I hope Bavasi saw Ibanez’s play in LF tonight, Reed performance in the #2 hole, Choo’s bat, Hansen’s non-appearance appearance, and the whole genereally stinkin’ offense!

  10. Bela Txadux on September 28th, 2005 2:10 am

    In addition to being A) a great boss to work for, Bill Bavasii is B) honest, and C) in touch with reality. I’m not suprised to hear Gillick take the blame for a bad lot left to his successor, but it’s a good gesture, both for the record and to take a little heat off Bavasi (or whomever).

    The Ms rotation is obviously a major problem, and especially because there isn’t a single, in-system arm that projects clearly to move into that rotation next year, or even the year after. Reading Bill B.’s comment on the lack of players to bring up next year, I don’t think that he’s saying that Foppert, Nageotte, Livingston are out of the picture, only that they don’t project to move up to the rotation directly in ’06. And that’s a fair read: these guys are the back-up plan. One of them may very well make the rotation out of ST ’06; one of them may very well be in the rotation after the Break; none of them should be counted on as Plan A to fill a rotation spot to begin the year. That’s all I hear him saying, but that’s certainly what I’m saying. Meche is done here, and probably needs to go, but how other than a non-tender (which I don’t advocate)? He’s complained of arm issues for the last ten weeks of the season, and for the last six weeks he’s thrown a total of four innings. His trade value alone is a negative number, paricularly given his arb numbers. To me, this sounds like a bundle-deal for a trade, but.

    . . . And yet despite the major problems for the rotation, I disagree that it is Priority #1, only that there is not fallback plan in-system for this particular matrix of difficulty. With an offense last or near last in virtually all categories, it is the offense, to me, that is still the priority. Now, having Betancourt, Lopez, and Torrealba here all year will be an improvement at every position, but incrementally, not enough to change everything. LH sock is important, but this offense needs more than one bat.

    T-R-A-D-E, baby, that’s the word. The open market can add a rotation arm, but shouldn’t be counted on for two. There are no bats out there this year worth big monty. The Ms need to change the mix, and as part of doing that they need to put some bodies in play. We’ll get to this more later en blog, I know. Adam Dunn: I’d LLLoooooooVVVVE to see him here. To me, Oliver Perez would be a great play for some LH _smoke_, if the price was right. I agree with Dave that I think Tampa Bay could be an excellent trade partner for the Ms. The Marlins have more salary than revenue, and a history under Luria/Beinfest of turning the roster over regularly. I’d love to see a major play with that club. The Nationals have an uneven mix, and Bowden has always been something of a wheeler-dealer. The Phillies again disappoint, and they can’t seem to make up their mind on who to pitch. It’s hard to see Texas making a big trade with the Mariners, but again there are matchups there for mutually interesting deals, in principal.

    The only reason to pick up Guardado’s option is to trade a man under contract—but that is exactly what I think should happen. He is old, and has lost velocity, but is still effective, and he has the ‘proven record’ many teams value. He won’t be significantly more expensive than the best closer-types signed this year, although obviously costing more than the next tier of demonstrably effective guys. I’d be happy to see his option picked up, him packaged in the right deal, and then B. J. Ryan signed for the low-end of Eddie’s cost structure, regardless of who closes for the Ms in ’06. . . . Billy Wagner’s going to look great in a Red Sox uniform.

    . . . A stinker game tonight at Safeco, the last I’ll pay to see this year. Felix was still a pleasure, a bunch of great infield plays, but an inept Mariners offense completely unable to hit with men on base. *yuckkkk-pttooieeeeee* Felix showed a _devestating_ pick-off move early, a lighting quick throw across his body without fully opening that caught the runner completely by surprise, who lost his footing and was out by a mile but he was caught anyway. Is there anything that Felix _doesn’t_ do exceptionally besides put his trousers on, hey???

  11. Scraps on September 28th, 2005 5:26 am

    Every time I see a comment here that’s several screens long, I know who it is without looking.

  12. firova on September 28th, 2005 6:51 am

    I like what we’re seeing from Lopez and Betancourt at the plate. Good gap power from Lopez (19 doubles now) and Betancourt is taking walks. Both are up to .262, creeping closer to league average.

    Lopez: .262/295/407
    Betancourt: .262/300/372

    OBP is still low for both, but then again, Beltre is at .304 (Bloomquist: .289). I think there is a reasonable chance that they both have better numbers next year, especially if the plate discipline continues to improve. Have to remember how inexperienced they are.

  13. Adam S on September 28th, 2005 8:44 am

    Meche is done here, and probably needs to go, but how other than a non-tender (which I don’t advocate)?

    Why wouldn’t you non tender Meche? I like Meche, but as you said he’s done. Two years in a row with an ERA of 5+ despite pitching in Safeco Field. Yuck.

    Might Meche be a free agent? I don’t know how service time counts for the two years he was injured.

    Firova, if Betancourt can be league average on offense, he’s an all-star. I’d take 260/300/350 next year and be happy. Funny that “no-hit” Betancourt and “overmatched” Lopez are outhittng the “offensive star” Bloomquist that they replaced.

  14. Steve on September 28th, 2005 9:07 am

    #160: His trade value alone is a negative number, paricularly given his arb numbers. To me, this sounds like a bundle-deal for a trade, but.

    That doesn’t make any sense at all. If his trade value is negative and you bundle him, then you get less value back in the trade than if you simply left him out of the deal.

    In that case, you’re better off making the trade sans Meche (to get maximum value back) and simply releasing (or non-tendering) Meche.

  15. Brian Rust on September 28th, 2005 9:11 am

    Out-fielding him, too, I would add.

  16. Adam S on September 28th, 2005 9:42 am

    It isn’t right either. Pineiro truly has negative trade value — he has a $6M contract and won’t be worth it. But there are plenty of players who are more negative (Pavano, Wright, Lowe) so you might take one of them back or you could bundle Adam Jones and Pineiro for nothing, clearing the $6M off the books. I wouldn’t do THAT trade, but I think that’s what was meant by bundling him.

    Meche isn’t under contract. You might find a buyer who thinks they can sign him to a low base, high incentive contract and fix what’s wrong with him. If they can’t get that done they can release him and have 0 salary, 0 talent which is not negative. He isn’t locked in to his potential arbitration salary.

    That said, see if any team shows interest in Meche before the contract deadline and make a deal if so, and non-tender if not.

  17. Long Suffering on September 28th, 2005 11:12 am

    Scraps, last I checked, ordinary and above-average were not synonyms.

  18. Long Suffering on September 28th, 2005 11:18 am

    Also, just to throw the name out there.

    Corey Patterson

  19. Scraps on September 28th, 2005 11:25 pm

    Long Suffering, since there are many, many ordinary players who come to the majors well before their 23rd birthday, shouldn’t it be logically obvious that above average players do so as well? What kind of sense would it make to say that impact players come up young, and ordinary players come up young, but the “above average” players between those ranges don’t come up young? At any rate, most of the players I listed — not all, but most — qualify as “above average”. I used the word “ordinary” because some of the players I listed didn’t even qualify as average, yet still were in the majors as 21-year-olds.

    It just isn’t true that there’s “not much precedent” for above average players coming to the majors that young, as you said. There’s plenty of precedent, even for ordinary players, let alone “above average” players.

  20. bookbook on September 29th, 2005 1:46 pm

    I’m pretty sure the poster of 135 meant that Ibanez is the DH, which is basically accurate even when he’s out there in LF.

    I don’t think comparing Reed/Betancourt/Lopez to Pujols/Cabrera makes any sense whatsoever. For instance, the latter two already have more career home runs (combined) than the former three are likely to ever amass (combined).

    Will R/B/L be above average? It can happen, I just wouldn’t want to bet the franchise on it. Certainly not on all three panning out.