News of the day

October 31, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 135 Comments 

The Angels may be in or out of the A-Rod bidding, depending on who you read and when. Mostly in. Also, the Dodgers.

Former M’s centerfielder Mike Cameron got popped for a 25-game suspension under the stimulant policy, which’ll probably put a dent on his search for a new multi-year deal.

Curt Schilling posted a list of teams he’d be willing to sign with if he didn’t return to Boston. Seattle’s not one.

Dave’s Offseason Plan, v.2007

October 30, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 133 Comments 

For the fifth year in a row, I’m putting out an offseason plan – sort of. Each of the last few years, I’ve offered up suggestions for offseason roster maneuvers based on players I was in favor of acquiring, encouraging the team to continue to build its core roster while also giving themselves a chance to contend.

This year, I’m going to do it slightly differently. Looking back over the posts of the last four years, the suggestions hold up well in terms of the philosophy we’d like to see the organization adopt, but don’t work as well in terms of practical suggestions. It’s one thing to explain why the Mariners should be interested in guys like Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, or A.J. Burnett, but its another thing entirely to actually complete that kind of acquisition, especially given the constraints that the front office operates under.

So, this year, I’m breaking it into two posts. This one is more practical, less dramatic, and offers some suggestions that are actually within the realm of possibility given the current organizational structure. I’ll do another post at a later date that acts as more of an idealistic scenario where we could shape the roster how we wanted it worrying about the P.R. impact or how those moves would be looked upon by the executives or the guys in the clubhouse.

In this post, I’m taking into account the logistics of the people in place – John McLaren is the manager, Bill Bavasi is the GM, Chuck Armstrong is the president, and the team is coming off an 88 win season. Trading a bunch of veterans and turning over half the roster just isn’t going to happen in this kind of framework. These guys want to keep their jobs, and to do that, they’re going to try to win as many games in 2008 as possible. They have inherent biases towards experience that have to be accounted for. So, I’ve tried to take all those external factors into account and find options that both fit the necessary criteria while also improving the roster without destroying the future of the franchise.

So, without further ado, here’s the roster.

Lineup Player Position Salary
1. Ichiro Suzuki CF $17,000,000
2. Jose Vidro DH $6,000,000
3. Adrian Beltre 3B $12,000,000
4. Raul Ibanez 1B $5,500,000
5. Kenji Johjima C $5,200,000
6. Geoff Jenkins LF $8,000,000
7. Adam Jones RF $400,000
8. Yuniesky Betancourt SS $1,300,000
9. Jose Lopez 2B $500,000

Bench Player Position Salary
1. Ray Durham Util $7,500,000
2. Willie Bloomquist Inf $950,000
3. Jamie Burke C $400,000
4. Mike Morse 1B/3B $400,000

Rotation Player Position Salary
1. Felix Hernandez Starter $500,000
2. Miguel Batista Starter $9,000,000
3. Jarrod Washburn Starter $10,000,000
4. Bartolo Colon Starter $10,000,000
5. Ryan Rowland-Smith Starter $400,000

Bullpen Player Position Salary
1. J.J. Putz Closer $3,800,000
2. Sean Green RH Setup $450,000
3. George Sherrill LH Setup $450,000
4. Jeremy Affeldt Middle $3,000,000
5. Eric O’Flaherty Middle $450,000
6. Mark Lowe Long Relief $450,000
7. Cha Seung Baek Long Relief $450,000

And here are the actual transactions that were assumed:

Trade Richie Sexson and $4.5 million in cash to San Francisco for Ray Durham
Trade Ben Broussard to Baltimore for random prospect with a pulse.
Non-tender Horacio Ramirez and decline option on Chris Reitsma.
Sign Geoff Jenkins to a 1 year contract worth $8 million.
Sign Bartolo Colon to a 1 year contract worth $10 million.
Sign Jeremy Affeldt to a 3 year contract worth $9 million.

Three free agent signings, none of them considered major, and a couple of minor trades. In all, a fairly boring winter, and one that probably incurs an initial reaction of “That team sucks”. However, hear me out, as I think there’s some logic here.

On paper, the Sexson-Durham swap is basically one free agent disappointment for another, with the M’s covering all but $2 million of the differences between their ’08 salaries. It’s not a big cash savings deal, and Durham is one of the few players in baseball that was actually a worse regular than Sexson last year. Durham turns 36 in a month and, based on his .218/.293/.343 line from last year, looks just about finished as a ballplayer.

However, take a closer look. This is a guy who hit .293/.360/.538 in 2006, making him a borderline all-star, and his underlying performance didn’t change all that much.

BB%: 2006 – 9.2%, 2007 – 11.0%
K%: 2006 – 11.0%, 2007 – 14.0%
GB%: 2006 – 46%, 2007 – 46%
LD%: 2006 – 17%, 2007 – 14%

His walkrate and strikeout both went up slightly, indicating that he was starting to lose a little batspeed and compensated by working the count more often. This is pretty common in aging players. His groundball rate remained the same, so there wasn’t a dramatic change in the arc of his swing. His line drive rate dropped a bit, but this is less predictive than you might think, and a 3% drop isn’t nearly enough to account for the massive change in results between 2006 and 2007.

So where was the difference? Here:

Batting Average On Balls In Play: 2006 – .292, 2007 – .238

Among major league hitters with 300+ PA, Durham posted the third lowest BABIP in the major leagues. Richie Sexson actually posted the lowest (.217), with Dave Ross (.228) coming in second. Some other low BABIP guys include John Buck, Jason Kendall, Dan Johnson, Adam Kennedy, and Andruw Jones.

BABIP is definitely a result born out of a collection of skills for a hitter (unlike with pitchers), as high contact/speed guys (Ichiro, for instance) will almost always post higher BABIPs than base-clogging sluggers. However, performance in batting average on balls in play is still influenced significantly by factors beyond the hitters control, and it’s not at all uncommon for players to experience wild swings in their BABIP from year to year.

In fact, if I was going to make a list of the most likely hitters to rebound in 2008, Richie Sexson, Ray Durham, and Andruw Jones would all be on the list. It’s no coincidence that all three guys appear to have fallen off a cliff in 2007, but had their performances significantly dragged down by extremely low BABIP rates. For a projection going forward, we should expect all three to perform significantly closer to their career average BABIP marks than their 2007 BABIP marks.

J.C. Bradbury actually built a model called PrOPS, or projected OPS, that essentially gives us an expected BA/OBP/SLG line that accounts for the variance in BABIP. According to PrOPS, Ray Durham “should have” hit .257/.332/.392, all significantly better than his actual ’07 performances. Sexson, by the way, should have hit .264/.346/.474, so PrOPS would suggest an even stronger rebound from Richie next year.

However, as you guys are probably sick of hearing, offense is only part of the story. The projected rebound by Sexson gives the Giants a valid reason to want to acquire him to serve as a power hitting first baseman that they’ve been missing for years, but the Mariners simply have too many 1B/DH guys on the roster as is, and one of them has to go. In Ray Durham, the team acquires a rebound candidate who offers extreme roster flexibility.

A natural second baseman, Durham would give the team a legitimate option to push Jose Lopez next year, hopefully motivating him into living up to his potential. However, Durham is also athletic enough to play multiple positions and fill the super-utility role that Mark McLemore made famous years ago. Durham’s made it clear that he’d be open to moving to another city if it gives him the chance to play everyday (the Giants would prefer to hand the second base job to youngster Kevin Frandsen), and entering into his contract year, it shouldn’t be too tall of a task to convince him to pick up additional positions to offer flexibility and added value.

As a switch-hitting 2B/3B/1B/LF/RF/DH candidate, Durham would offer McLaren all kinds of options in putting out a line-up. Jose Lopez is struggling? He plays second base, and the team doesn’t experience a huge dropoff. Adrian Beltre need a day off? No problem. Raul Ibanez’s hamstrings are acting up and the team’s facing a RH pitcher? Durham plays first base, with Ibanez sliding to DH. Jose Vidro hits like the no-power wuss we all think he is? That’s okay, because there’s a switch hitter with a better bat on the bench. Durham could easily get 300-400 at-bats playing six positions. Swapping Sexson for Durham clears a positional logjam while giving the Mariners another useful role-player and no long term financial commitment.

Durham also gives the team a potential platoon partner for new left fielder Geoff Jenkins (and yes, I’d rather have him in right with Jones in left, but I don’t think McLaren’s up for that). Jenkins is the classic Safeco Field hitter, an extreme-pull power lefty who could take advantage of Safeco’s short right field porch, much like Raul Ibanez has. The team badly needs another left-handed power hitter, and with Jose Guillen looking for big money on a multiyear contract, the Mariners can go back to the free agent well for a one year stopgap deal while evaluating how Wladimir Balentien develops in Tacoma. Jenkins is basically a better defensive version of Ibanez, offering basically the same offensive skillet but with actual range in the outfield. Like Ibanez, he can’t hit lefties, and would be best served rarely starting against southpaws. With Durham on the roster, this isn’t a problem, as Jenkins can be best used in his role of left-handed power hitter and deployed appropriately.

With Jenkins, Durham, and Jones essentially replacing Sexson, Broussard, and Guillen, the team gains significantly more flexibility in the daily line-up, allowing McLaren to give more rest to the everyday players without forcing Willie Bloomquist into regular action. The team also improves by leaps and bounds defensively, getting Ibanez and Guillen out of the outfield and replacing them with significantly better defenders. In Safeco Field, this is a big deal.

Ibanez is unlikely to be much defensively at first base, but this roster also presents options. If Durham adjusts to 1B as well as I expect, he becomes a legitimate option, as does Mike Morse against left-handers. Ibanez could easily slide to designated hitter with Jose Vidro getting relegated to pinch-hitter extraordinaire, and all of the sudden, a Durham-Lopez-Betancourt-Beltre-Jenkins-Ichiro-Jones defense goes from one of the leagues worst to something that should be above average, and potentially very good.

Overall, the offense should be similar to the 2007 version – overly aggressive, inconsistent, but about average in terms of scoring runs. The line-up depth makes up for some of the weakness in the middle, and by retaining Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien and storing them in Tacoma, the organization has some internal options in case a bat is needed at mid-season.

Now, to the pitching. I laid out the case for Bartolo Colon last week, and to me, this is the obvious move of the winter. I slotted him in for $10 million because I’ve historically underestimated the cost of free agents, but I think he could reasonably be had for $7-$10 million without a long term commitment. He gives the team a veteran, World Series tested arm with a track record, as well as adding another strikeout arm to a rotation that pitches to too much contact. If I could only make one move this winter, this would be it.

Behind Colon, I’d make Ryan-Rowland Smith the favorite for the #5 starter job heading into camp, making Cha Seung Baek and Brandon Morrow significantly outpitch him in March to beat him out. Rowland-Smith has the skillset that is perfectly aligned to Safeco Field, and is exactly the kind of pitcher who can fill innings at the back-end of a rotation just through throwing strikes and letting the home park do the rest. By improving the defense as well, RR-S can simply focus on putting the ball over the plate, and his three pitch repertoire should be good enough to be a capable fifth starter.

Baek makes the roster in the long reliever/6th starter role, offering a fill-in for any starters who need to skip a start, while Brandon Morrow heads to Tacoma to work on learning how to pitch. With a Tacoma rotation headed by Morrow-Feierabend-White-Rohrbaugh-Campillo, the team should have enough internal options behind Baek should they need to get some replacement starters from Triple-A during the year.

The core of the bullpen remains mostly unchanged, with only lefty Jeremy Affeldt as a newcomer. A local white kid who always loved the Mariners growing up and now has World Series experience, he fits in perfectly with the kind of player the organization loves to acquire. A groundball lefty with good enough stuff to miss bats and two breaking balls that keep both lefties and righties honest, he fits in well as a multi-inning middle reliever and a nice complement to Sean Green and George Sherrill. His command is his biggest weakness, but as Morrow showed last year, that can be somewhat overcome in relief if you keep the ball in the park (Affeldt does) and get your fair share of strikeouts. He also has experience as a starter and could be an option in the rotation if need be.

Mark Lowe is penciled in as a low leverage reliever, but this spot is basically up for grabs in spring training. If Kameron Mickolio and his 96 MPH fastball prove ready to get major league hitters out, I have no problem sending Lowe back to Tacoma to get some work. Low leverage innings are perfect for guys like Lowe or Mickolio, who can simply work on gaining experience against major league hitters without being put in critical game situations to begin the year.

So that’s the roster, and including the money being paid to San Francisco as part of the Sexson deal, the team comes in at about $105 million for 2008, with $47 million of that coming off the books after next season, giving the team significant financial flexibility going forward.

Here’s the basic expectations for this team compared to the 2007 model.

1. Significantly improved defense, especially in the outfield. Having three guys capable of chasing down flyballs, two of whom are good enough to play center, should improve the run prevention by 20-30 runs.

2. Improved left-handed power in the line-up. Jenkins gives the team another LH bat, making it harder for teams with RH heavy rotations (such as the Angels) to just shut down the offense.

3. Better roster flexibility. Durham and Morse give the team the ability to platoon if desire, and Durham’s potential to play five positions on the field while providing decent offensive production gives the team options when guys are hurting or need a day off.

4. A somewhat better rotation. Batista and Washburn are both candidates to take a step back, but that should be mitigated by Colon and Rowland-Smith improving the back end, and Felix’s potential to take a big leap forward is still a wild card.

5. More depth. With Clement, Balentien, and Morrow hanging out in Tacoma at the beginning of the year, the team has talented options in case an internal solution is needed to an unforseen problem (or a forseen problem, such as Jose Vidro being terrible) and valuable trade chips if the team is contending in the summer.

Now, despite those strengths, I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t a great team, an 80-85 win roster that could get to 92-95 if absolutely everything breaks right. However, if the Angels sign A-Rod and Bonds, we’re hosed, because this team isn’t going to keep up with Los Angeles in that case. But I’d argue that if LA goes for broke, we’re hosed no matter what, and this plan at least keeps the nucleus of a potential contender in place beyond 2008 without saddling the team with any more long term contracts.

For $105 million, perhaps we should be able to get more than “we might contend if the Angels don’t sign A-Rod”, but considering the constraints this roster and an 88 win season put in place, I think this is a viable plan to put a quality team on the field next year without sacrificing the future of the franchise in an ill-fated attempt to win at all costs.

A-Rod, Johan, and Perception

October 29, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 126 Comments 

So, A-Rod’s a free agent again. He’s going to get a lot of money again. He won’t get it from the Mariners, though – that’s for sure. So this post isn’t about bringing Alex Rodriguez back to Seattle. It won’t happen.

I have a question, though. There’s a large contingent of people in Seatle, especially in the local media, who have spent a significant amount of time lobbying for the Mariners to acquire Johan Santana, regardless of the price. It doesn’t matter that he’s in the last year of his contract or that he’s going to lap the field in terms of dollars given to free agent pitchers next winter. They’re fine surrendering every player on the roster besides Felix to get Johan Santana to Seattle. If it takes Adam Jones, Jeff Clement, and Carlos Triunfel, no problem – they’re just prospects. And if it takes $200 million to sign Johan for 7 years, well, that’s the market price for pitching, and this team needs pitching.

When it comes to Johan Santana, the talk about spending too much money on one player goes out the window. Chemistry is never brought up as an issue, and no story about Johan ever mentions that he’s never won a World Series title despite playing on some pretty good teams the last few years.

Meanwhile, good luck reading a story this winter that doesn’t mention A-Rod’s postseason failures. The amount of writers and talking heads that will disparage Rodriguez because of a personal dislike for him (earned or not) as a person is going to be staggering.

Why is it okay to blow up the farm system and the budget to acquire Johan Santana, but no one has any interest in throwing similar amounts of money at the best player in baseball – the guy who won’t cost you Adam Jones and a handful of good prospects? Are we really at a point where we’re just not interested in adding the best player in the game because he comes across like a pompous jerk?

I’m sorry, but for an organization that employs a lot of people who actually are pompous jerks, that reasoning rings a little hollow.

I know Alex Rodriguez isn’t coming back to Seattle, and I’m fine with that. I am, however, somewhat annoyed by the reasons the organization and a large percentage of people in Seattle don’t want him back.

Monday reading: MGL on outfield defense

October 29, 2007 · Filed Under General baseball · 21 Comments 

Check it out.

There’s some interesting tangents in there, particularly in the infield positions. Also, it’s cool to see that in working out the fair territory area, it does appear that Seattle (at ~109,000 sq ft) is not that large a field at all.

Assuming that Safeco’s marked fence dimensions are accurate, of course. I haven’t surveyed the field myself.

Congrats, Sox

October 28, 2007 · Filed Under General baseball · 52 Comments 

Demonstrating how a well-built high-revenue team does it.

News of the weekend

October 28, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 58 Comments 

Indians Assistant GM and USSM-Endorsed GM candidate Antonetti interviewed for St. Louis Friday. He’s passed up the chance to interview for other GM jobs, so we know at least that it’s attractive enough for him to pursue it.

LaRue in the TNT argues “Wretched Ramirez still worth keeping

Ramirez is a 27-year-old left-handed pitcher with a career record of 38-29 and a lifetime ERA of 4.61. In 2007, he was wretched – by any standard – but the week the M’s release him is the week another team picks him up.


GM Bill Bavasi would dearly love to see Ramirez make that trade with Atlanta last year – sending Rafael Soriano to the Braves – look better. But the real reason Ramirez is still here is that he’s a living, breathing pitcher with a history of winning.

Mentioned at length is Pineiro’s contract with St. Louis. Not mentioned: Pineiro was still not good, and the contract given to him doesn’t make that less true. Mentioned? Ramirez’s overall winning record. Not mentioned: there is no evidence that Ramirez can be an effective major league starter. Unless he shows up at spring training with improved control and better stuff, preferably thrown faster, he’s going to be the same sucky pitcher he was last year. What are you going to point to as reason for hope? Stretches of effectiveness? Nope. Good strikeout rate? Nope.

I’ll stop harping on this. HoRam is a bad, bad pitcher.

And to circle back on our new pitching coach: the good

“I have stolen little bits and pieces from each one of the pitching coaches I have worked with,” he said. “One thing I took from all of them is they all tried to work with people individually and not make everybody the same, which is impossible.”

I do always wince when I hear about pitching coaches who insist that all their pitchers throw with a 3/4ths delivery, or whatever their fixation is.

“I am a big, big believer in pitching inside and I will tell you this, the Seattle Mariners will pitch inside next year,” Stottlemyre said from his Sammamish, Wash., home. “I am not afraid of going on record with that, because pitching inside is an absolute must. I think you have to pitch inside to be successful outside.”

Pitching inside is the pitching coach’s “improved situational hitting”.

Doyle Finds Another New Home

October 25, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 100 Comments 

Well, if you thought I was overly pleased with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays front office before, you ain’t seen nothing yet – they claimed Doyle on waivers from the A’s.

Go Doyle Go.

The Hidden Gem Of Free Agent Pitchers

October 24, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 102 Comments 

Odds are, you’ve probably read a post by Derek or myself where we rail on the ludicrous pricetags for free agent pitching. The salaries have been so far out of touch with reality the last decade or so that the smartest teams have almost entirely ignored free agency as a way to fill out a starting rotation. It’s just a bad market, full of franchise-sinking contracts and overrated pitchers having money thrown at them simply because they have a pulse and a few ligaments in tact. In almost every case, it makes more sense to simply go another direction, build a lower cost rotation, and use the money to purchase other things in free agency.

However, the general insanity of the market doesn’t mean that every pitcher is extremely overvalued. We were okay with the Miguel Batista signing last winter, believing that MLB executives undervalued Batista as a pitcher, and he turned in a pretty solid season for the Mariners. Ted Lilly’s move to the National League worked out well for him, and that contract looks great in retrospect. It’s not impossible to find a valuable, fairly compensated starting pitcher in free agency – it just requires some creativity and an understanding of what the market overvalues and undervalues.

In general, major league teams have overvalued two main things: health and recent success. Jeff Suppan and Barry Zito cashed in at prices far beyond their ability because they’ve been able to avoid the disabled list. Jeff Weaver cashed in because the last memory everyone had of him was World Series hero, not regular season batting practice thrower. Teams find it much more appealing to give huge amounts of money to guys who have thrown 200+ innings the previous year, so expect the bidding for guys like Carlos Silva to go crazy.

Since there is a finite amount of money in team payroll, despite what it might seem like, if MLB as a whole is overvaluing one skill (such as durability), it follows that they’re also undervaluing another skill – the money being spent on innings eaters is coming out of someone else’s pockets. The key is to find the undervalued skills and the players who fit the profile of someone who has a strong probability of outperforming the level at which he’ll be compensated this winter.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, it’s a bad year for free agent pitching anyway, so that makes this task tougher. Lots of teams are going to be looking for a starting pitcher, and with a paucity of talent available, finding an undervalued arm will be more of a challenge. But, after looking over the list, I think there is one guy who stands a good chance of being the best free agent pitcher signed this winter, and almost certainly won’t command the paycheck that goes along with that potential reward.

That guy is Bartolo Colon. Yes, for the second straight year, I’m throwing my support behind a guy who posted an ERA of 6+ and has some non-trivial arm problems. Last year, I drove the Rodrigo Lopez bandwagon (and, shameless plug, but Colorado got some 80 good innings out of him before his elbow blew out), and Colon is this year’s version of the same idea.

From 1998-2005, Colon was a horse, throwing 200+ innings every year except 2000, when he threw 188, and posting an ERA below 4.00 in each season besides 2001 (4.09) and 2004 (5.01). Each of his “off years” were followed by a rebound season, and while Colon moved from being a dominant Cy Young contender to a good middle-of-the-rotation guy, he was one of the most reliable starters in the majors.

Then, 2006 hit, and the injuries began to take their toll. He battled shoulder inflammation that cost him most of the first half of the ’06 season, then lost the last two months with a triceps injury. He began the ’07 season the DL due to a problem with his rotator cuff, then fought the tricpes thing again, and was finally shut down with pain in his elbow.

He’s spent the last two years pitching hurt, and the results reflect that. He’s thrown just 155 innings and posted an ERA of 5.89 over the last two seasons. Considering the arm problems he’s faced, it shouldn’t be any huge surprise that he hasn’t pitched all that well.

However, as is often the case, ERA doesn’t tell the whole story here. In ’06, Colon was sitting 88-92 range with his fastball, and knowing he didn’t have the stuff to make anyone miss, he just threw it down the middle. He posted the lowest strikeout rate of his career, but also the lowest walk rate, while seeing his home run rate go through the roof. He was basically an extra large version of Cha Seung Baek.

This year, his stuff started to return, and he added a couple of MPH back to his fastball. Using the Pitch F/X data, including a start against the Mariners opposing Miguel Batista, he was regularly hitting 94 MPH with his fastball and matching Batista pitch for pitch in velocity and movement. The complaints about Batista are never about the quality of his stuff, and in the second half of ’07, Colon’s stuff was quite similar to Batista’s.

The results bear this out – his strikeout rate returned to the ’04/’05 level and his HR rate dropped significantly as well. The overall package was a guy who threw strikes (2.5 BB/G), missed bats (6.5 K/G), and got enough groundballs to keep the ball in the park at an acceptable level (41.7% GB, 1.28 HR/G). Based on those rates, we’d have expected his ERA to be somewhere between 4.30 and 5.20.

Instead, it was 6.34. Why? He was absolutely terrible at stranding runners (63.4% LOB%) and the balls that were put in play against him turned into a lot of hits (.361 BABIP). Among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title (and, to be fair, Colon did not, so he’s not part of this sample), only Jose Contreras posted a lower LOB% and no one posted a higher BABIP. As I’m sure you guys know by now, these two numbers are highly influenced by factors outside of the pitchers control and have very little predictive ability. In almost every case, we’re best off assuming that a pitcher will perform at a league average rate, or at least his own personal career average, instead of believing that performance in BABIP or LOB% will carry over from one year to another.

So, we know several things about Bartolo Colon.

1. When he’s healthy, he’s demonstrated that he’s one of the better pitchers in the American League.

2. He hasn’t been healthy the last two years, though he showed improved stuff in the second half of 2007.

3. His ’06 and ’07 ERA are significantly higher than we’d have expected based on his peripheral numbers.

I know it seems like he’s been around forever, but Bartolo Colon is only 34-years-old. If his arm isn’t totally shot (and his stuff and strikeout numbers say that it’s not), there’s no reason to expect him to be totally done as a pitcher yet. However, after battling injuries the last two years and having potential factors beyond his control push his ERA into the stratosphere, Colon is unlikely to be a highly coveted pitcher this winter. He will almost certainly be on everyone’s list as damaged goods.

Colon, right now, reminds me a lot of where Orlando Hernandez was after the ’05 season. He’d struggled with injuries in Chicago, posting a 5.12 ERA and having everyone push him off the cliff as a guy on his last legs. The Diamondbacks acquired him that winter, then dumped him on the Mets the following May after 45 innings where he posted a 6.11 ERA despite good peripheral numbers, largely in part due to a high BABIP and a low LOB%. The Mets stuck him in their rotation and have since been the beneficiaries of 250 high quality innings, as Hernandez’s results caught up with his stuff.

Most major league teams have not yet learned to take smart gambles on pitchers coming off bad years due to factors beyond their control. Bartolo Colon fits the bill as just such a pitcher this winter. We know he’s got the talent – the only real question is health. However, since the team has already loaded up on durable innings eaters, the priority shouldn’t be getting another pitcher who can throw 200 mediocre innings, but instead on finding a guy who may be able to give you 100-150 high quality innings and can slot in as a real #2 starter behind Felix Hernandez.

Bartolo Colon could be that guy. In this market, I expect that his potential and name recognition will be enough to get him a decent payday, so I’m thinking he’ll end up with something in the $7-$9 million range for one year, potentially with vesting options for future years based on innings pitched.

Colon at 1 year, $9 million would be a bargain. I’d probably be willing to go 2/16 or 3/21 if need be. There aren’t any other pitchers of Bartolo Colon’s quality available for a reasonable cost this winter, and it’s not often that you get a chance to acquire a guy with this kind of potential at such a low price in free agency.

Bartolo Colon – USSM endorsed pitching acquisition of the winter.

McLaren announces coaching staff

October 23, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 107 Comments 

If you haven’t heard by now, John McLaren’s announced 80% of his coaching staff for the 2008 season – Jim Riggleman as bench coach, Eddie Rodriguez as first base coach, Mel Stottlemyre as pitching coach, Norm Charlton as bullpen coach, and Larry Bowa as the candidate-of-choice to be the third base coach.

I’m sure they’ll get offended by this, but by and large, major league coaches don’t really matter. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, these guys real job title is John McLaren’s Drinking Buddy. They’re around to make McLaren more comfortable, and their impact on the players on-field actions is going to be minimal.

However, it’s nearly impossible to not see the obvious trend here. We rode McLaren pretty hard in the second half for his ridiculous love of veteran players, and it’s not hard to see that McLaren went back to the experience well when picking these guys. Clearly, he values track record above almost anything else in decision making, and he’s far more comfortable with someone who has experience than someone who doesn’t.

Considering he’s Lou Piniella’s understudy, that shouldn’t come as any real surprise. Piniella hated young players, especially young pitchers, during his early years in Seattle. He mellowed as the years went on, but McLaren certainly has Piniella-ish tendencies when it comes to the experience bias.

If the coaching staff he chose is any indication, I’d expect another year of Rick White type inexplicable decisions, with old guys getting the longest leash imaginable and unproven players sitting around watching.

LaRue: Sexson wasn’t claimed on waivers

October 22, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 52 Comments 

msb pointed us to this, in the TNT:

Despite reports from ESPN, picked up by local blogs and beaten to death, Richie Sexson was never claimed on waivers this season. It simply didn’t happen. Not by Detroit, not by Baltimore – not by anyone.

The Mariners had Sexson and plenty of other players on waivers, but no one claimed him. If someone had, they’d be the proud owner of Sexson today. The Mariners wanted to move him, and hoped someone would put in a claim to block another team.

No one did.

I believe LaRue’s made this allegation before. If you look back through the Times/PI archives, there are references to the M’s testing the trade waters for Sexson but finding no takers, but I couldn’t find anyone either confirming or denying the waiver claim. Which seems odd, since that was a pretty big decision for the team (if they made it). And it’s entirely possible Jayson Stark got fed bad info: that happens allllll the time. But why would someone tell him the Tigers claimed Sexson and the M’s pulled him back? That seems odd.

Anyway, if LaRue’s right, then it’s likely that the team’s going to have to eat more salary to move him.

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