Review: 2005 Offseason Plan
Every year, I annoint myself ruler of the Mariner Kingdom and start wildly spending money in my imaginary universe, rebuilding the M’s with my kind of players to build a roster that would hopefully not suck. The results have been a mixed bag, from the good suggestions (Vladimir Guerrero!) to the not so hot (Matt Clement!), but it’s always entertaining for me, at least. So, we’ll do a 2006 Offseason Plan after the season ends, but for now, let’s take a look back at my suggestions for last year and see how they look a year later.
Dave’s A Genius!
I suggested signing him a 2 year, $7 million deal, which is just a bit less than he actually got, but the idea was basically the same. We were pretty sure Johjima was going to be a significant upgrade offensively, and he certainly has been. No question, he was one of the best free agent signings of the offseason.
He continued to defy age and gave the Mariners 150 decent innings, then waived his no-trade clause and brought us a couple of pitching prospects with a pulse. For the cost, this was clearly a win for the M’s.
He got one more year than I expected, but the $5 million average salary was right on target, and he’s been as good as advertised. He’s hitting .285/.330/.501 while playing a quality outfield. Since the plan called for Jones to start in left field, with Ibanez shifting to DH, he would have been something like a 30-40 run upgrade over Carl Everett. Additionally, he would have given us another CF option when Reed sucked and got hurt, allowing us to skip the whole Bloomquist/Choo/Jones center field debacles. He also would have made Ben Broussard unnecessary. Clearly, the M’s would have been significantly better off had they signed Jacque Jones, and he was a very good fit for the needs of the organization. Unfortunately, we got C-Rex instead.
I argued that the M’s needed a RH bat who could spell the corner infielders and hit lefties, as well as be a top pinch hitter off the bench, and that Helms would be perfect for that role. Indeed, he has been, but for the surprising Marlins instead of the Mariners. His .306/.364/.520 line has made him one of the best reserves in baseball. His presence would have allowed us to skip the regrettable Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez trade as well. Helms, like Jones, would have been a fantastic low-cost role player, but the M’s eventually had to go out of the organization to acquire a player to fill this role during the season, at the cost of one of their better prospects. Ouch.
Dave’s An Idiot!
A. J. Burnett
We all knew he was a health risk, but I supported throwing significant money (4/46 was my suggested offer, not that far from the 5/55 he signed for) at the best pitcher on the market. He’s pitched well when he’s been healthy, but he hasn’t been healthy enough to justify the contract. He may yet be worth the money, but after one year, this is a thumbs down.
Loaiza tried to pitch through an injury early in the season and was one of the worst pitchers in baseball in the first half. After shutting it down and getting his velocity back, he’s been terrific, and he was named AL pitcher of the month in August. That said, the total package hasn’t been worth the contract, and the A’s would probably go another direction if they had it to do over again. It’s certainly a better deal than what they gave to Washburn, but signing Loaiza wouldn’t have made the M’s any better than they have been.
He retired, so, who knows. I still think the idea was sound, if not the player who became the role model for the idea.
If you look at my suggested roster, you certainly don’t see a playoff team. Jones and Helms would have helped the offense significantly more than Carl Everett, for sure, but not enough to compensate for the sucking wound that was Jeremy Reed and the decline of Richie Sexson and Ichiro. The team’s offense would likely have been average at best.
The pitching might have actually been worse, believe it or not. Between the DL stints of Burnett and Loaiza, we’d have ended up giving 150 innings to random Triple-A starters, and Burnett/Loaiza haven’t been any better than Washburn/Meche. Instead of having a long term commitment to a mediocre pitcher, we’d have a long term commitment to a seldom-healthy pitcher.
The organization would probably be in better shape going forward, as they’d have valuable assets like Jones, Choo, and Cabrera instead of Perez and Broussard, but the overall change in performance and cost wouldn’t have been significant.
All this to say, essentially, that while Bill Bavasi made some very questionable transactions last winter, there probably wasn’t much he could have done to make this team win. The Mariners hopes for contending rested squarely on the shoulders of Felix, Beltre, Sexson, and Ichiro, and those four were underwhelming this year. The supporting cast as a whole actually performed well enough to get this team into the playoffs (especially the bullpen, which was downright awesome), but the franchise players weren’t good enough to win with.
The story for 2007 will probably be similar. The M’s are going to have some chances to improve this ballclub, but in the end, this team probably rises and falls with Felix, Beltre, and Ichiro. If they succeed, the Mariners should have a chance to succeed as well.