Johan, Finally

November 30, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 149 Comments 

So, I’ve been ignoring this topic for the last couple of weeks, but now that Geoff Baker has gone and written an article about it (by the way, welcome back Geoff), I guess we’ll address the Johan Santana situation.

It isn’t often that the best pitcher in baseball becomes available for trade. Johan is, without a doubt, in the middle of a Hall of Fame type career. Whether he has the durability to one day end up in Cooperstown is another story, but his peak is certainly induction worthy. He’s a truly great player. He isn’t Barry Zito – he actually is a good pitcher, worthy of a ridiculous amount of money and the acclaim being thrown his way.

So, if you’re the Mariners, you need starting pitching, and the best of the best is available – being interested is pretty obvious, yes?

Yes and no.

The Mariners absolutely should be interested in Johan Santana, and I’m glad Bavasi’s making calls and figuring out what it would take to get involved in the sweepstakes. It’d be irresponsible for the Mariners to not be at least somewhat involved in conversations about Johan Santana.

But should they be willing to compete with Boston, New York, and potentially others in a bidding war? I say no.

Johan Santana, for as great as he is, has to be projected as something like a 5 to 7 win addition to his new team (not accounting for the wins surrendered by giving up major league talent to acquire him). He’s an incredible pitcher, but the irrational exuberance surrounding the “Get Johan Santana, pair him with Felix Hernandez, win World Series!” type of analysis is just not realistic.

Look at the 2006 Twins – they had peak Johan, Francisco Liriano putting up a performance that we can’t even expect Felix to match, quality back-end starters in Brad Radke and Boof Bonser, the best bullpen in baseball, a legitimate MVP candidate in Joe Mauer, a non-legitimate MVP candidate who won anyway in Justin Morneau, solid role players in Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Bartlett, and useful years out of spare parts like Nick Punto, Luis Castillo, and Mike Redmond.

That team had a +120 run differential, won 96 games (squeeking out a division title by one game), and got swept out of the playoffs in the first round. And that roster ran circles around what the 2008 Mariners with Johan Santana would look like.

Johan Santana is a great player. He is not a panacea for all the ills that the Mariners are suffering from. This team is just not one pitcher away from greatness, so their situation is inherently different from that of New York, Boston, the Angels, or other teams that legitimately could claim that Santana is their missing piece.

The cost to the Mariners future – certainly the package would require Adam Jones, Brandon Morrow, and likely two additional players of significant value – is simply too high, considering their current situation. The cost benefit analysis just doesn’t work for the Mariners right now.

It’d be great if it did. Perhaps if the Mariners hadn’t screwed the pooch last winter, building an inflexible roster with three DHs, they’d be in a situation where giving up some future value to make a run at winning it all would make some sense. But for this organization, for this team, it just doesn’t. Not right now.

The Most Fun Trade Ever

November 28, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 116 Comments 

Tampa Bay and Minnesota have finalized a trade that is, if nothing else, endlessly fascinating. Details are as follows:

Minnesota sends RHP Matt Garza, SS Jason Bartlett, and RHP Eduardo Morlan
Tampa sends OF Delmon Young, 2B/3B Brendan Harris, and OF Jason Pridie

Delmon Young is, among other things, 22 years old, supremely talented, and was the #1 pick in the draft just four years ago. He’s got all-star talent, and is at a stage of his career where players of his caliber aren’t often dealt. For Minnesota to be able to acquire a guy like Young, at age 22, is pretty remarkable. And Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie could both help them win ball games as useful role players next year. The Twins picked up three players who can all help them win in 2008, make nothing, and should be in Minnesota for several years to come. That’s not easy to do, and they should be quite happy with their haul.

But just because this trade helps Minnesota doesn’t mean Tampa Bay got ripped off. I like this trade from the Rays perspective as well.

While Matt Garza is the sexy name, Jason Bartlett is exactly what this team needed – a legitimate major league defensive SS who can hit a little bit. We’ve talked before about how bad Tampa’s defense was, but swapping out Harris for Bartlett is going to be one of the largest upgrades any team makes this winter at any position. The difference between those two with the gloves is staggering. With Bartlett at short, Akinori Iwamura shifting over to second base, and rookie Evan Longoria stepping in at third, the Rays are actually going to have an infield defense capable of getting to balls in the hole and turning double plays.

The effect this trade will have on the Tampa pitching staff goes far beyond adding Matt Garza and his mid-90s fastball to the rotation, though that certainly won’t hurt. I’m not as big a Garza fan as some, but he has a live arm and stuff that can miss bats, so he’s worth taking a risk on. Teamed with Scott Kazmir and James Shields, Tampa now has three young arms who can get hitters out by themselves, and with the addition of Bartlett, they now also have the support of the defenders behind them.

Eduardo Morlan gives their bullpen another strikeout arm, and teamed with the rumored signing of Troy Percival, the Tampa bullpen should be deep with power arms next year. With Al Reyes and Dan Wheeler already around, plus a plethora of young kids fighting for jobs in the ‘pen, Tampa’s relief core has a chance to be outright good next year – a far cry from the total debacle it was in 2007.

Yes, they gave up Delmon Young, and usually the team that gives up the best player in any deal loses, but not in this case. Minnesota got better, but so did Tampa Bay.

And for once, it’s great to have a deal that was made strictly on talent evaluations. This is a baseball trade, and a fun one at that.

Raul Ibanez compared to the Weighted Companion Cube

November 27, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 38 Comments 

I realized today I had this draft sitting around, and since there’s nothing else afoot…

  Ibanez Weighted Companion Cube
Immobile Y Y
Compensated for efforts Millions of dollars Piece of cake*
Under the right circumstances, invaluable to victory Y Y
Irrationally beloved Y Y
Clubhouse inspiration Y Y
Joins you from Kansas City Royals Vital Apparatus Vent
Loyal N Y
Available as plush toy Presumably Soon
Baked as a cake No as far as we know, no True
Good interview subject Y N
Presence Y Y

Veteran presence

Doesn’t want to be a burden N Presumably yes
Brings you good luck ? Y
Career ends when euthanized in Aperture Science Emergency Intelligence Incinerator N Y

* cake is rumored to be both delicious and moist, however, so there’s that.

Q&A Thread

November 26, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 185 Comments 

We realize that the posting has been a little light here the last few weeks. Derek, Jason, and I have all been pretty busy with the non-baseball part of our lives, and it’s not like the Mariners have been making huge news either. I have a few posts that are in various stages of being finished, but since I don’t have the time to wrap any of them up today, I figured I’d throw up a question and answer thread, where you guys can fire off questions in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them if we can.

Stay away from the usual topics that aren’t allowed, but other than that, this is probably the thread for you if you’ve had an off topic question that you’ve been wanting to ask. Fire away.

Angels Sign Torii Hunter

November 22, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 117 Comments 

I called Torii Hunter a free agent landmine, and so it’s with some joy that I announce that the Angels have signed him to a 5 year, $90 million contract. As is the deal with most free agent contracts, this is just way too much money for a guy who isn’t as good as his reputation. The Angels will now shift Gary Matthews Jr to a corner OF spot, and Vlad/Garret Anderson will rotate between the other corner OF spots and DH.

This will improve the Angels outfield defense dramatically, but Hunter’s not the impact bat that the Angels have been shopping for. If they land Miguel Cabrera, that’s something else, but this is simply acquiring another useful but not great player at a contract that limits their ability to obtain real star quality talent down the road.

Or, put it another way – they Angels just gave Torii Hunter the same contract that the Mariners gave Ichiro five months ago. Advantage, Mariners.

Also, Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

The next Angel shoe to drop?

November 20, 2007 · Filed Under General baseball · 46 Comments 

In the wake of the Cabrera trade, which I thought was kind of baffling, I noted with interest the continuing competition between the Dodgers and Angels to land Miguel Cabrera. From Ken Rosenthal:

The Dodgers stand a better chance of acquiring Cabrera from the Marlins, major-league sources say, if they are willing to part with outfielder Matt Kemp along with third baseman Andy LaRoche and minor-league left-hander Clayton Kershaw.

The teams are in disagreement on only “one piece,” according to a source, who declined to specify what that piece might be. The Marlins are further apart with the Angels, the source said.

The Angels, according to a rival executive, offered a strong package — right-hander Ervin Santana, second baseman Howie Kendrick, right-handed reliever Chris Bootcheck and another player, possibly Class AA right-hander Nick Adenhart. Another source, however, said the Angels did not offer that combination of names.

Oh, those zany sources.

Cabrera to Cabrera! Anyway, that’s a huge, huge haul if it breaks either way — obviously, if you’ve been around here, you’ve heard me rant about Matt Kemp, but wow.

I love this, too —

The Marlins first showed heavy interest in Kemp last spring, but at that time the Dodgers deemed him untouchable. However, the availability of Cabrera — combined with questions about Kemp’s attitude — could lead the Dodgers to alter their stance.

Questions about Kemp’s attitude, fueled about 50-50 from people in the Dodgers clubhouse stabbing him in the back and local media enablers, now mean that he’s going to get punted?

I would, if I were a GM (and I’m not, and should not be) inquire after guys like Kemp every time I could. Jeff Kent sticking knives in the rookie’s back? Allow me to remove the source of the contention… by which I mean the rook, of course.

Doyle reunited with… Pat Gillick? Really?

November 20, 2007 · Filed Under General baseball · 24 Comments 

From the MLB transaction wire:

Acquired OF Chris Snelling from Tampa Bay in exchange for cash considerations.

I wonder if he’s just going to tell his agent “When it’s time to report for spring training, call me and tell me what flight I need to catch and what complex to show up at, because I have better things to do than follow my own transactions at this point.”

Team leaves town, team comes to town

November 19, 2007 · Filed Under Off-topic ranting · 119 Comments 

We don’t do a lot of Seahawks or Sonics discussion here. I enjoy other sports but I don’t know nearly enough about how they’re played to do serious analysis. I’ve been arguing about baseball for ten years now and I know more about the Mariners than I think is frankly healthy. I’d feel dumb writing about, say, college basketball or whatever.

But amid the continuing saga of the Sonics’ attempts to get out of town*, I thought it was worth noting that Seattle will be getting an MLS soccer team. Of unknown quality, with an unknown manager… so why not put your season ticket deposit down now?

In many ways, soccer’s a lot like baseball (hear me out): casual viewing of a three-hour game will have a couple of pretty spectacular plays, but long periods of what appear to be tedium. But when you’re into baseball – watching the defensive positioning, how pitchers set up hitters, how the strategies all come together – it reveals much more.

As a result, both of them are tagged as “boring” by many people, compared to the breakneck once-every-minute collision of football play, or the near constant ball-in-motion shuffle of basketball, and that’s unfortunate.

But then, I watch professional bicycling telecasts, so I’m clearly not to be trusted.

Anyway — welcome, Team to be Named. I wish them great success.

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Angels Get Worse

November 19, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 107 Comments 

Good news for the Mariners today – the Angels have voluntarily made their team worse, sending SS Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox for RHP Jon Garland.

Despite his reputation, Garland is just a generic #4 starter. I’m not sure there’s a team in the AL that needed Jon Garland less than the Angels, who already have a quality rotation and some good young arms in the upper levels of their farm system. Meanwhile, the Angels don’t have any obvious candiates to replace Cabrera at shortstop – Erick Aybar is probably the frontrunner, but that’s a pretty big downgrade for a LAA offense that already had problems scoring runs at times.

This is a nice move by Kenny Williams, giving his team a legitimate major league shortstop and selling high on Garland, who should be easily replaced by any one of the number of decent backend starters the White Sox didn’t have room for before this deal.

Joe Posnanski, Still Awesome

November 18, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 12 Comments 

If you don’t read a lot of stuff about baseball that isn’t directly Mariner related, you may not know who Joe Posnanski is. He covers the Kansas City Royals and doesn’t go on any of those talking heads shows on ESPN. So, he’s not a household name, but regardless of that fact, he’s still the best baseball writer alive.

For instance, check out his latest post on his blog, where he lays out a very interesting argument for why the Baseball Writers Association of America – a maligned group, no doubt – have done a good job of making the MLB awards relevant. I never thought I’d agree with that position, but I don’t think I can argue with his case.

It’s worth reading, just like everything else Posnanski writes.

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