Dave’s 2006 Offseason Plan
Okay, so, after several shorter posts explaining parts of the ideology I’m taking into this offseason, and hinting around at some of my ideas, I’m finally unveiling the offseason plan. These are my suggestions on how to reshape the roster to best contend both next year and in the future. Essentially, this is what I would attempt to do if I was handed the keys to the front office and given full power to make personnel decisions.
While this kind of exercise cannot reflect reality, I’ve done my best to make sure that the transactions involved are at least within the realm of possibility. The trade values and free agent dollars are close to what I would expect the actual cost to be. And, as always, keep in mind that the ideas are more important than the names. The main thrust of this post is to get the concepts of how I would build this team across, and not necessarily an advocacy of acquiring a specific player at any cost. So, without further ado, the roster:
|3.||Jose Cruz Jr||OF||$500,000|
|4.||R. Lopez/A. Guzman||Starter||$1,000,000|
|5.||C. Baek/T. Redding||Starter||$350,000|
|2.||Mark Lowe||RH Setup||$350,000|
|3.||George Sherrill||LH Setup||$350,000|
|4.||Jon Huber||RH Middle||$350,000|
|5.||Eric O’Flaherty||LH Middle||$350,000|
|6.||Emiliano Fruto||Long Relief||$350,000|
Whew. That’s a lot of changes to digest, I know, so here’s the specific transactions that lead to a 25 man roster that comes in at just under $89 million.
Sign Ichiro to a 3 year, $42 million extension from 2008-2010.
While this doesn’t necessarily have to be the first chronological move, it is the first domino that needs to be discussed. The way this team needs to be built this offseason, uncertainty about the team’s star center fielder (and man, it’s nice to say that) is not something they can afford to deal with. If they’re going to build a team around him, they can’t have him walk away at the end of next season. He either needs to be re-signed or traded. I’m betting on, and pulling for, re-signed.
Bid $25 million in posting fee to secure rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka and sign him to a 3 year, $30 million contract.
Convince ownership that, like they did with Ichiro, this should be a special expenditure that does not count against the budget. The key in the contract negotiations will be to not grant him free agency when the deal is up. After this contract expires, he’ll be arbitration eligible, and still under Mariner control through 2012. To justify the posting fee, the Mariners have to control his rights for six years.
Trade Richie Sexson to San Francisco for DH Eddie Martinez-Esteve and OF Nate Schierholtz.
The Giants badly need hitters and have truckloads of cash to spend, but they’ve shown a strong resistance to giving out long term contracts. Sexson’s 2 year, $28 million deal is a bargain compared to Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soriano’s demands, and the Giants get their cleanup hitter for a pair of outfield prospects who may or may not develop into major league regulars. The Mariners clear salary space for other acquisitions, as well as acquiring two bats who could potentially help in the second half of 2007 or 2008.
Trade Ben Broussard and Julio Mateo to Baltimore for RHP Jim Johnson.
The Mariners continue to clear salary and roster spots, saving about $5 million in salary in this deal and bringing in a 23-year-old starting pitching prospect who could be stashed in Tacoma and provide rotation depth. The Orioles badly need some power in their line-up, as well as bullpen help, and they have a surplus of younger starting pitchers. Johnson adds depth to the Tacoma rotation, giving them another guy with a good arm who is a couple improvements away from being in the mix for an end-of-rotation starter spot.
Trade Rafael Soriano, Jeremy Reed, and Francisco Cruceta to Boston for DH Manny Ramirez.
The annual Manny Ramirez trade request has reportedly occurred again, and the Mariners are one of a few teams that could actually swallow the $38 million he’s still owed, have a need for a DH, and have the young talent the Red Sox will demand in return. The Mariners significant bullpen depth will allow them to survive the loss of Soriano and Curceta, while Jeremy Reed’s spot with the team has essentially been usurped by Chris Snelling. Reed gives the Red Sox a cheap legitimate center fielder, allowing them to shift Crisp back to left field and significantly upgrade their outfield defense. Soriano gives them a young flamethrowing reliever to replace Papelbon, and Cruceta gives them depth in middle relief or as a swing starter. Boston also sheds $19 million in salary commitments each of the next two years, allowing them to chase another top tier free agent.
Trade Eduardo Perez, Wladmir Balentien and Justin Thomas to St. Louis for Jim Edmonds and $2 million in cash.
The Cardinals have made overtures about declining the option on Jim Edmonds’ contract and paying him a $3 million buyout rather than having him under contract next year at $10 million. His injuries have hurt them this year, and at 38, he’s definitely at the end of his career. However, he’s still a productive player when he’s on the field, and the Mariners should take advantage of the Cardinals need to retool. Balentien and Thomas give them two midlevel prospects, Perez gives LaRussa another bat off the bench, and they save $1 million in cash by not paying the buyout to make him a free agent. The Mariners, in turn, get a patient left-handed slugging outfielder whose swing is perfect for Safeco Field and would provide an all around upgrade in the outfield. His defense isn’t what it was, but he’d be a major improvement in left field, and his offense against RHP is still among the best in the league.
Trade Jake Woods, Nate Schierholtz and Michael Wilson to the Cubs for RHP Angel Guzman.
Guzman is a classic change-of-scenery guy. A former top prospect, who has dominated the minors with his fastball/change combination, has struggled in Chicago, and at age 25, the Cubs are running low on patience. Their desire to add a veteran to the rotation this offseason likely eliminates his chances of landing a job in the 2007 rotation, and the Cubs could certainly use a couple of outfield prospects with some power in their bats.
He gives the Mariners another league minimum option as an end of rotation starter with significant upside. He uses his changeup as an out-pitch weapon to miss bats and has shown good command throughout his career in the minors. His breaking ball is still average, but the change-up is good enough to feature as his offspeed pitch. As a flyball pitcher, leaving Wrigley for Safeco would be a dream come true. Baseball is littered with guys who profiled as Guzman did, struggled early in their careers, and developed into useful starting pitchers later. Call it the Carl Pavano mold.
Sign C Todd Greene, RHP Rodrigo Lopez, RHP Tim Redding, and OF Jose Cruz Jr to one year contracts.
Having spent a huge majority of the payroll on Ramirez, Edmonds, and Matsuzaka, the M’s need to get some undervalued role players to fill out the roster. I’ve written up Lopez before, so read that post if you haven’t before. Greene gives the Mariners a backup catcher with a little power who would be a significant improvement over Rene Rivera, and Jose Cruz Jr gives the team a fourth outfielder that can hit left-handers and play both corners as well as center in a pinch. Redding comes in to challenge Baek for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Convert Raul Ibanez to first base.
For the pitching staff’s sake, Ibanez needs to get out of left field, but he’s been consistent in his desire to play the field. With the acqusition of Manny Ramirez, DH is taken, and the removal of Broussard’s contract was necessary to get the team under payroll. Ibanez has played first for long stretches before, and with an offseason of preperation and some work with Mike Goff, he should be adequate at the position. The defensive improvement Edmonds provides in left will more than make up for any frustrations we’d have with Ibanez at first.
Okay, so, that’s the team. The total payroll for the 25 man roster comes in at $88.7 million. The team is, in my opinion, significantly better than the one they’re going to end the year with, and a team that is good enough to win a World Series. Seriously. Let’s take a look at some strengths and weaknesses:
This team can hit. You’re looking at something like an .800 OPS, in Safeco, from this line-up, as long as Ramirez and Edmonds each play 140 games. Aside from the Yankees and their all-star lineup, it would have a chance to be the best in the American League. The defense would also be upgraded, which would have a cascading effect to improve the pitching staff. There’s not a bad position player on the team, and while the bench isn’t great, there’s depth in the upper minors. It also is a roster that doesn’t block the long term positions of the organization’s better prospects, and gives opportunities for young players to break into roles once they’ve shown they can succeed in the minors. And, for what its worth, Jim Edmonds is a revered clubhouse leader with all kinds of playoff experience, and should at least provide a respected voice in the clubhouse.
Injuries could be a big problem. Snelling, Ramirez, and Edmonds haven’t been pictures of health, and that’s the heart of the batting order. There’s not a true first baseman on the roster, so if Ibanez and Morse are absurdly awful with the glove, you have to live with it. The bullpen’s depth has been thinned out significantly, and you’d be leaning on unproven pitchers for significant contributions in the middle innings. The back of the rotation is filled with innings eaters who lack a true outpitch, and, with the exception of Angel Guzman, are not the power arms the organization covets. The pitching staff would be built around a 21-year-old and a guy who has never pitched an inning in the majors.
Knowing the risks and the potential failures, this is still a good team with a real shot to go deep in the playoffs. On paper, depending on what the rest of the AL West does, I’d pencil it in for 85-95 wins. The key players would be Edmonds, Felix, and Matsuzaka, with the performance of those three probably determining how far the team goes. It’s a good enough team to win the AL West in 2007, and it’s still a team that is young in the core and is setup to contend long term. The Mariners can win next year with this roster and not sacrifice the future to do so.