2007 Free Agent Landmines

Dave · November 8, 2007 at 2:10 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Every year, teams wander into free agency with money to spend and a desire to improve a specific area of their teams. Every year, a few teams end up giving huge amounts of money to the best guy available that winter because, well, he was available, and their goal for the winter was to get the best player they could for that position. It’s short-sighted thinking and almost always ends in disaster, but this kind of roster building will exist until the end of time.

This crop of players are the group I would consider Free Agent Landmines – players with enough value to appear to be an asset, but who are extremely unlikely to live up to the contracts they’re going to get this winter. Previous landmines include Carlos Lee, Barry Zito, Richie Sexson, Mike Hampton, Jarrod Washburn, Carlos Delgado, Pedro Martinez, and Jason Varitek. All good players in their primes, but not good enough to justify the salaries they demand on the open market.

Here are the guys that fit into the mold this winter. Teams who sign one of these players will be quite likely to experience significant buyers remorse a year from now.

1. Torii Hunter, Center Field

Torii Hunter just had a terrific year at the right time, and he’s going to be paid for what he was in 2007, not for what he’s likely to be in 2008 and beyond. From 2004 to 2006, Hunter’s offense was worth about 15 runs above an average hitter – combined. He had settled in as a pretty consistent +5 offensive player, which as a center fielder with some defensive value, made him a borderline star, but not anything like a franchise player.

In 2007 alone, he was worth about 17 runs more than an average hitter, his best offensive season since 2002, and only the second time in his career that he’s been better than +10 runs with the bat. There’s no change in skillset to indicate that he actually improved as a hitter – he’s still the same aggressive free-swinger that he’s always been.

However, there’s this belief that Torii Hunter is a perennial all-star type of player, and he’s going to get paid like a premium talent. Part of that belief is predicated on his defensive reputation, which hasn’t matched his actual abilities in the field for several years, and will only continue to decline as he ages. Whoever spends $100 million on Torii Hunter is going to get themselves a solid player for the next 2-3 years, but certainly nothing like the value they’re going to pay for.

2. Carlos Silva, Right-Handed Starter

Despite the fact that he’s posted seasonal ERAs the last three seasons of 3.44, 5.91, and 4.19, I’d call Carlos Silva one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball. He does the exact same thing every single start – throw 90 MPH sinkers down the middle of the plate and let hitters put the ball in play. He has terrific command and refuses to walk anyone, so his results are almost entirely dependant upon the defenders he has behind him and the abilities of the hitters he’s facing. And, as you can see, those results can change wildly, even if Silva himself stays the same.

However, because Silva’s healthy, has a track record of throwing 180+ innings every year, and has gotten outs with his strikes, strikes, and more strikes approach, he’s going to get a multiyear deal for $10 million + per season. In reality, he’s basically just this year’s Jeff Suppan – a back-end starter with one skill that isn’t even really that hard to find. For all the whining about the scarcity of pitching in major league baseball, the minor leagues are littered with guys who have a very similar skillset to Carlos Silva. Ever heard of Nick Blackburn? I’m guessing not. He’s one of the candidates to replace Silva in Minnesota next year, because he’s basically the exact same pitcher. Blackburn’s just been putting his strikes and groundballs skillset to use in the minors the last few years.

There is almost no difference between Nick Blackburn and Carlos Silva, however. Silva has the name recognition and the track record, so he’ll get the big payday, but from this point forward, it’s a coin-flip to who has a better major league career. And it’s not like Nick Blackburn is a highly valued commodity throughout the game.

The strike throwing, no outpitch hurler is just a very easy skillset to find in a pitcher. Throwing a huge amount of money at Carlos Silva simply because he’s proven is a gigantic waste of resources.

3. Kyle Lohse, Right-Handed Starter

Completing the trifecta of former Twins, we have the most inexplicable somewhat coveted free agent in recent history. It’s essentially assumed that Lohse is going to get a contract in the $25 million range over 3 years. Why? I have absolutely no idea.

Lohse is what you would have if you took Carlos Silva, gave him mediocre command, and took away his sinker. He has below average stuff, average control, no outpitch, and was drummed out of the American League 18 months ago after posting a 7.07 ERA in 2006 before the Twins dumped him on the Reds. The move to the National League helped, as it would any pitcher, and made him appear simply not good instead of terrible.

The Reds sent him to the Phillies in a meaningless deadline deal this summer, and after pitching like the mediocre #5 starter he is in Philadelphia, even Pat Gillick doesn’t particularly want him back (quick sidenote – Gillick stole Brad Lidge from Ed Wade yesterday, and since I never say anything nice about him, here you go Pat – way to rip off one of the few GMs worse at trading than yourself). Lohse doesn’t have a strong track record of success. He doesn’t have good stuff. He doesn’t pound the strike zone. But, because he currently has a pulse, he’s a valued asset?

Every single 2008 Triple-A rotation will have at least one guy who could give you 95% of Kyle Lohse’s production for 3% of the cost. In an efficient market where major league teams understood how to evalute pitchers, Lohse would be lucky to get more than a few million dollars on a one year deal. However, he’ll stand as the new example of how badly teams misread pitchers, and he’s going to steal money from some unlucky franchise for the next few years.

Comments

95 Responses to “2007 Free Agent Landmines”

  1. WhyOWhy on November 8th, 2007 2:24 pm

    So, which one does Bavasi pick up?

    My money’s on Hunter, because that’s the one that doesn’t even address one of the team’s needs.

  2. msb on November 8th, 2007 2:26 pm

    how about Kenny Rogers, if he chooses FA…

    Previous landmines include Carlos Lee, Barry Zito, Richie Sexson, Mike Hampton

    btw, Hampton is giving it one more try, in this, the final year of that old 8-year deal.

  3. Mere Tantalisers on November 8th, 2007 2:27 pm

    I’m surprised not to see Mariano Rivera up there. I don’t know what kind of contract he’s expected to receive – I’m guessing it’ll look like Billy Wagner’s. And while the guy’s as consistent a reliever as you can find, I doubt he’ll be worth the number two starter money he’ll be getting.

  4. loki on November 8th, 2007 2:29 pm

    We were saved by San Francisco from falling on the Zito landmine last year.

    Are there enough big-spending teams out there to save us again this year?

  5. Mere Tantalisers on November 8th, 2007 2:35 pm

    #4-
    No, we were saved by the Dodgers from falling on the Jason Schmidt landmine last year. Zito was never that serious a target, i think, but Schmidt was right in the Bavasi crosshairs. Luckily he (we) escaped unscathed.

  6. Mat on November 8th, 2007 2:35 pm

    It seems like you’re being a bit harsh to Lohse. He’s shown he’s good for around a 4.70-5.00 xFIP, which puts him in the same category as Silva and Suppan. This still makes him a free agent landmine, but you seem to think his style (mediocre at everything) makes him much less valuable compared to the one-pitch wonders, but if there is any difference, it doesn’t seem to have shown up in their performance to this point. I agree he’s going to be overpaid, but I just don’t see any significant difference in value between Lohse and Silva.

    He has below average stuff, average control, no outpitch, and was drummed out of the American League 18 months ago after posting a 7.07 ERA in 2006 before the Twins dumped him on the Reds.

    The defense playing behind Lohse when he posted that ERA was laughable. Tony Batista and Juan Castro formed the world’s most coarsely-grained sieve known to mankind on the left side of the infield, and Shannon Stewart was running around on one leg. And while Cuddyer has a nice arm, his range in RF leaves a lot to be desired. Lohse was a little worse during that period–as his peripherals will attest–but nothing like that ERA. If you’re not sure how bad that defense was, you should try asking Scott Baker.

  7. AD_ROY84 on November 8th, 2007 2:39 pm

    Any thoughts on where Fukudome falls in on the sure thing vs. landmine debate? If you’ve already discussed this in a previous thread I missed, my appologies.

  8. Dave on November 8th, 2007 3:04 pm

    A 4.75 xFIP in the NL is not a 4.75 xFIP in the AL. You have to adjust for league quality.

  9. Bearman on November 8th, 2007 3:04 pm

    Dave I agree with you on both Hunter and Lohse neither will be worth the contract they sign in long run.

    Mainly because of injury waiting to happen in Hunter.
    I believe all his tumbles and jumps to try or take HRs away in the Dome and it’s surface will catch up with him with his new club much as the years of playing the KingDome eventally did with Griffey Jr.

    Lohse has been no more the #5 SP or long relief for last 3 years of his career.
    Also with his skill set as stand now he’s better off in the NL hopefully with a team with a solid gloves on the left side of INF.He just isn’t AL material anynmore he lacks the needed stinker to survive.

    However I can see taking a gamble on Carlos Silva but I frankly doult he’ll get the money you’re suggesting because of the Zito fiasico.
    Quite frankly the best he can hope for is 7 mil a yr anymore and you’re definately overpaying.
    In Safeco field he as pitcher who puts the ball in play and on the ground alot he’d benefit from the 81 games played there.
    #7: From what I’ve read of Fukudome’s #s and his defence etc…….I’d say he wouldn’t fall in the landmine side.I think he’s good sign and about as close to sure thing you going to find on available FAs in the OF.

  10. Matthew Carruth on November 8th, 2007 3:06 pm

    I’m wondering where A-Rod ends up falling on a list of this sort.

    He’s on the wrong side of 30, going to sign a mega length deal. His previous contract was based on him being a SS, which he’s nowhere near being anymore and might not stick at 3B that much longer either. He’s coming off a peak offensive season which gives inertia to bettering the contract he was already going to get, ignoring the positional aspects.

    he certainly doesn’t have the implodability of those on the list above, but I’m betting his contract is going to be bad.

  11. Matthew Carruth on November 8th, 2007 3:07 pm

    Quite frankly the best he can hope for is 7 mil a yr anymore

    I LOL’ed this is so wrong. Silva’s getting 10+. He’s probably getting ~4/50

  12. Mat on November 8th, 2007 3:15 pm

    A 4.75 xFIP in the NL is not a 4.75 xFIP in the AL. You have to adjust for league quality.

    And Suppan’s xFIP was 4.85 and 4.86 in the NL the last two years.

  13. SBG on November 8th, 2007 3:21 pm

    The Twins will be criticized heavily locally (here in Minneapolis) if they avoid both of the first two landmines. I will not participate in such criticism. In fact, failing to give Torii Hunter $90 million or $100 million or whatever will be a shrewd move by the Twins.

    As for Silva, he’s not a terrible sign if you are starving for pitching. I’d rather give him $50 million than a lot of other guys. Not that I’d want the Twins to give him anything, because they are not starving for pitching.

    As for Hunter, well, grow old on someone else’s payroll.

  14. bermanator on November 8th, 2007 3:21 pm

    Quite frankly the best he can hope for is 7 mil a yr anymore and you’re definately overpaying.

    The latter part is true — $7 million a season is way too high for Silva. But he’ll get a lot more than that, because he has the good fortune to be coming onto the free agent market in a really, really, really weak year for starting pitching.

    I can’t fathom the logic that would make Lohse anything other than a one-year deal with an option added. But I’m sure some organization will be dumb enough to come up with something to justify it…

  15. gwangung on November 8th, 2007 3:53 pm

    I can’t fathom the logic that would make Lohse anything other than a one-year deal with an option added. But I’m sure some organization will be dumb enough to come up with something to justify it…

    Let’s just hope it’s not the Seattle organization…

  16. Bearman on November 8th, 2007 4:15 pm

    #11 : Yes Silva is presently getting 10 mil but unless a team is so hard up for starters Silva can forget that kind of money.
    Now 7 mil or maybe bit more but that’s it even as bad as Bavasi is I seriously doult he’d go 10 mil for Silva.Reasoning is Weaver even with Boras for a agent only got a little over 8 mil.

    #13 – 15:I agree the MLB SP FA market is very weak but I believe even the most incompetent GM (Bavasi comes to mind) learn from the Zito and to an extend the Dice-K contract deals and how they both failed to live up completely to their deal preformance wise.

    Sure the contracts are going to be a bit rich for alot of just avg SPs because of that weakness but even pitchers like Silva can only expect B level money 5 to 8 mil a year only a Santana or maybe Kasmir will command 10 mil + anytime soon.

    futhermore 15 I agree with you Lohse is strict a 1yr with option deal but only to a NL team and like you say let’s hope the only AL club dumb enough to sign him isn’t the M’s.

    For all the reason above and others is why i such a advocate of the M’s turning more to the Japanese full FA list for the likes of Kuroda and a couple others as well as Fukudome.

  17. Evan on November 8th, 2007 4:23 pm

    (quick sidenote – Gillick stole Brad Lidge from Ed Wade yesterday, and since I never say anything nice about him, here you go Pat – way to rip off one of the few GMs worse at trading than yourself)

    Having just read three different pieces at BP telling me what a great deal Ed Wade made in unloading Lidge to Philly, I found this aside quite funny.

    Not that I disagree. Thse guys Gillick sent to Houston aren’t good.

  18. Mat on November 8th, 2007 4:33 pm

    I agree the MLB SP FA market is very weak but I believe even the most incompetent GM (Bavasi comes to mind) learn from the Zito and to an extend the Dice-K contract deals and how they both failed to live up completely to their deal preformance wise.

    Dice-K was the second or third best starting pitcher for a team with a $140M payroll that just won the World Series. I’m sure Theo Epstein really regrets that contract.

    The Chan Ho Park and Mike Hampton contracts flopped long before the ink was dry on the Zito deal. There will always be a GM around who will talk himself into too many years and too many dollars for a free agent starting pitcher.

  19. msb on November 8th, 2007 4:38 pm

    Park apparently has signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers

  20. Tom on November 8th, 2007 4:40 pm

    It’s amazing how we are going to spend money on pitching again when nothing is out there. . .

    But hey, we are supposed to be blissfully happy with our 88 wins while working with such a high payroll, right?

  21. pensive on November 8th, 2007 4:45 pm

    Dave–As written earlier, would say appreciate your time and effort to create post we may respond to.

    Along with Adam Jones and Ichiro, would Carl Crawford be the perfect match? If indeed Tampa is shopping him for bullpen help and ?.

    That would be a potentially better than replacement outfield for quite along time.

    Is it a pipe dream or do the Mariners have the players to match?

  22. Steve Nelson on November 8th, 2007 4:59 pm

    This is still the entertainment business, and perceptions matter. If a team signs Silva because he is the “best available”, much of the fan base will perceive this as making a serious effort to contend. But if a team signs a AAAA pitcher who would give the same production for a fraction of the cost, the team is perceived as not making an effort to compete.

    It’s column fodder for hacks such as Steve Kelley – especially when it makes a one-sentence paragraph.

    +++++

    Managers are also cut more slack for non-performance when a player is an established vet. If a GM signs Silva and does a pratfall, the GM can fallback on the notion that Silva is an established vet with a track record. But if a AAAA pitcher gives the same sorry performance, the GM takes more heat for putting an unproven player in a key role.

  23. Matthew Carruth on November 8th, 2007 5:02 pm

    @Bearman

    You’re wrong on Silva.

  24. Thom Jimsen on November 8th, 2007 5:21 pm

    #21: Everything I’ve read says the Rays are shopping Baldelli ahead of Crawford, as Baldelli is no more than a fourth outfielder in Tampa’s plans going forward.

  25. terry on November 8th, 2007 5:28 pm

    We were saved by San Francisco from falling on the Zito landmine last year.

    Don’t forget the Jason Schmidt landmine too.

    Then John S dangled Hudson and slipped us a landmine anyway….

    I don’t wish ill on anyone, but I have a fantasy where Bavasi is abducted by aliens right before this year’s December meetings. Am I a bad person if the aliens return him the day after the meetings having done minimal probing? They could even compensate him with a year’s worth of free pizza.

  26. terry on November 8th, 2007 5:34 pm

    Silva has barely made $10M during his entire professional career. He did not make $10M in 2007.

    The DiceK contract/posting was a great idea.

  27. cebo04 on November 8th, 2007 5:55 pm

    #18 – Dice K’s contract wasn’t bad at all. They’ll make the posting fee back and more with the increased Japanese interest/ media/ marketing/ merchandising in Boston. After that it’s a 9 million a year deal for a guy who is 26. If Seattle had done that, it would have been great…

    I read somewhere today that Capuano, in Milwaukee may be available. I know he was horrendous in 07 and I believe he just had surgery, but he’s young and may be had for not too much. Anybody have a feeling on this? I believe he is still working through arbitration?

  28. Mat on November 8th, 2007 6:05 pm

    #18 – Dice K’s contract wasn’t bad at all.

    Um, that was my point? I guess the sarcasm didn’t come across well. Let me try again.

    I’m sure that Theo Epstein reallllllly regrets that contract.

    Calling Dice-K the second or third best starting pitcher on a WS team was also in no way meant to be a slight to him or his talent.

  29. Steve Nelson on November 8th, 2007 6:09 pm

    There are also some (many?) GMs who believe that there is a big jump between AAA and MLB. IIRC, our own Bavasi has commented that he believes that is the biggest jump in baseball.

    If that is a atarting reference point for a GM, said GM will almost always feel more comfortable handing a guaranteed contract to a “proven vet” than he will relying on a AAAA player. At fan sites such as this, we generally regard AAAA players and lower tier MLB players as almost interchangeable. Many GMs don’t see it that way at all.

  30. cebo04 on November 8th, 2007 6:10 pm

    #18, my bad, completely missed it. geez….long week.

  31. bermanator on November 8th, 2007 6:11 pm

    This is still the entertainment business, and perceptions matter. If a team signs Silva because he is the “best available”, much of the fan base will perceive this as making a serious effort to contend.

    Eh. How much of the fan base even knows who Carlos Silva is? Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito were at least marquee names, and maybe the thought process was that you make some of the money back through increased ticket sales. But nobody is going to go out and buy Mariners tickets as stocking stuffers just because the team overpays to get Silva or Lohse.

    I’m more worried about a potential Willis trade than I am about signing one of those FAs. That would make more business sense if generating buzz is a goal — never mind the fact that the likely cost in trade, not to mention his salary, means it would make no baseball sense at all — and that makes me nervous.

  32. Jeff Nye on November 8th, 2007 6:22 pm

    I am fully expecting (or rather, dreading) that Dontrelle Willis will be in a Mariners uniform next year, and that the team will overpay in both money and talent to get him.

    Casual fans will see him as a former stud power pitcher that just needs a “change of scenery” (does that ever actually help anyone?) to be great again.

  33. cebo04 on November 8th, 2007 6:25 pm

    #31 – I certainly agree with you about Willis. I’ve wanted him for a long time but it seems as he has truly regressed this past year to the point that I think it would be a bad idea if it cost too much. But, in saying that, if we all understand that he has lost a lot of what he had, isn’t the price going to be significantly less for him. I don’t see the Marlins getting much more than maybe a comparable mlb player or mlb/ very low level prospect. Do we think the Marlins are going to make out on this.

    Even with all this being said, if we picked him up for something cheap, I think we could get a decent year or 2 out of him! I can’t help it!

  34. Steve Nelson on November 8th, 2007 6:25 pm

    #31: How much of the fan base even knows who Carlos Silva is?

    Among the casual fan base, I believe that many of them at least recognize the name. Those that don’t know who Silva is will see that he is a veteran pitcher who has had some success. They will also read some columnist talking about how Silva is one of the best FA pitchers on the market. With that they will be satisfied and feel the team is doing a good job.

    But if a team brings in some AAAA pitcher instead, they will wonder who this guy is and will believe the team management is ineffective for failing to land a MLB pitcher and putting minor league talent on the mound. Of course there will be some columnists excoriating team management for failing to address team needs.

    I believe those “casual” fans will cut a team some slack for not landing a marquee free agent – those fans have trouble comprehending how Alex Rodriguez could be worth $20 million per year. But they are likely to be unforgiving if they perceive the team isn’t effective in landing middle-of-the-road players.

  35. cebo04 on November 8th, 2007 6:27 pm

    [deleted, rosterbation]

  36. bermanator on November 8th, 2007 6:27 pm

    32-

    Sure, and I could write the column now. “Great job getting Dontrelle Willis! Safeco is a perfect park for him. He and Felix are a No. 1-2 combo as good as any in the league, and all it cost was Clement, Balentien, and some teenage shortstop I’ve never heard of with a funny name. Bavasi’s a lock to be GM of the year.”

  37. cebo04 on November 8th, 2007 6:29 pm

    [deleted, all caps]

  38. NBarnes on November 8th, 2007 6:30 pm

    22: The perception of not trying to win only applies if the franchise and the GM have a previous record of not winning. If you sign a AAAA groundball machine to be your #4 or #5 starter instead of Carlos Silva and then win 92 games, nobody’s going to complain that you’re not trying to win. And if you sign Carlos Silva and then win 76 games, people will still complain that you’re not trying to win. The solution to fanbase dissatisfaction is not overspending on ‘name’ players, but to grow a goddamn brain and sign good values and then win.

  39. Jeff Nye on November 8th, 2007 6:41 pm

    Dave has discussed Dontrelle Willis ad nauseam.

    Suffice it to say, he was never a stud pitcher, and will not be in the future.

    Less caps would be a good idea, also.

  40. cebo04 on November 8th, 2007 6:47 pm

    [deleted, check your email]

  41. Dave in Palo Alto on November 8th, 2007 6:49 pm

    #32 — Casual fans will see him as a former stud power pitcher that just needs a “change of scenery” (does that ever actually help anyone?) to be great again.

    Change of scenery seems to be a tonic for ex-Mariners. Need I read the dreadful role?

  42. joser on November 8th, 2007 6:56 pm

    Beraman: About $10mil/year for about 4 years is what everybody is predicting Silva is going to get, Zito be damned. Yes it’s too much, but somebody is going to pay it. And that’s also what Kosuke “bone-chips-in-the-elbow” Sure Thing Fukodome is predicted to get as well. I’m not convinced he’s worth it, vs using that money for something else and relying on Jones and/or Wlad, who are already paid for. And that “something else” would have to be pitching, but that leads us to…

    Santana? Well, the Twins reportedly offered him $18M / year last spring and he turned them down. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets something like ARod money (the contract he just opted out of). Six years, $150? Five, $120? But that’s next year.

    Will the Twins trade him this year instead? I’m going to assume this is one of those cases towards the end of the bell curve where Dave’s rule about letting your FA’s walk to get the compensation picks doesn’t hold up. Teams are going to give up a lot to get “the best pitcher in baseball” — maybe too much. Personally, I’d get into trade discussions with the Twins just to see which young players they ask for. Then don’t make the trade, but use that information to help you plan for the future, because the Twins are probably better at scouting your own players than you are. Well, they are if you’re the Mariners. But if Bavasi had the brains-to-ego ratio to do that, he wouldn’t have to.

  43. joser on November 8th, 2007 7:04 pm

    And I agree, for a lot of casual fans everywhere outside the NL East, Dontrelle is that charismatic guy they last saw winning a World Series for the Marlins (Josh who?). Which means (a) they’ve heard of him, and (b) they think he’s good, which actually (and unfortunately) makes him worth more in a “see, we’re doing something in the offseason” sense than just about any of the actual free agent pitchers.

    As for a “change of scenery” — going to the NL seems to help a lot of pitchers (and also hitters, if they’re leaving the M’s). Coming to the AL… not so much.

  44. cebo04 on November 8th, 2007 7:17 pm

    Completely agree Joser. Batista wasn’t outstanding but he made a decent transition.

  45. lailaihei on November 8th, 2007 11:32 pm

    Does anyone think that Gagne might go for cheap?

  46. JesseNYC on November 8th, 2007 11:47 pm

    Greg Maddux re-upped with the Padres the other day for $10M, same as he made last year, in what was generally considered to be a good deal. Maddux’s untranslated 2006 stats, pitching in Petco, were quite similar to Silva’s, pitching in the Metrodome. I’m no great fan of Silva’s and wouldn’t be too thrilled if the Mariners signed him, but he’s pitched 180+ innings the past four years, and been above league average for three of them, and he’ll only be 29 next year. $10 million a year is about the going rate for a pitcher like that, and if the Mariners could get him for $7 per (as was suggested earlier on this thread), they absolutely should–he should be at least as good as Batista and Washburn, both of whom will make more. Even a year or two at $10M wouldn’t be so bad. 4/40, not so good.

  47. nathaniel dawson on November 8th, 2007 11:53 pm

    You might want to rethink the value of Carlos Silva. One thing you have to keep in mind is that he’s been an above-average starter that relies heavily on groundballs while playing half his games in Minnesota. That’s no mean trick. No, he’s certainly not in the elite pitcher class, even if you consider how he would have done in a neutral environment, but he absolutely has value to Major League teams, and should remain a solid starter for several years.

  48. joser on November 9th, 2007 12:02 am

    Does anyone think that Gagne might go for cheap?

    Yes, and not worth it at half the price. The one thing the M’s have gotten right is not wasting money on the bullpen. The fetish for “one reliable veteran” (aka Mateo/Parrish/White/gascan) aside, the 2007 bullpen was a textbook example of freely-available talent.

    Somebody will get Gagne “cheap.” He may even have a “rebound” season. That doesn’t mean we should be spending a moment thinking about it in the offseason, or regretting it in 2008.

  49. Thom Jimsen on November 9th, 2007 1:14 am

    #48: When I think of Gagne now, I think of Bobby Thigpen, who set the major-league single-season record for saves in 1990 and washed out of baseball with the M’s in 1994, doing a brief Rick-White-like faceplant in the first week of the season. What Gagne did four years ago has no bearing whatsoever on his prospects going forward. He’s damaged goods who had a bad season. Why throw $5 million at that?

  50. Mat on November 9th, 2007 1:52 am

    You might want to rethink the value of Carlos Silva. One thing you have to keep in mind is that he’s been an above-average starter that relies heavily on groundballs while playing half his games in Minnesota. That’s no mean trick. No, he’s certainly not in the elite pitcher class, even if you consider how he would have done in a neutral environment, but he absolutely has value to Major League teams, and should remain a solid starter for several years.

    Silva was in a neutral environment. Looking at, for instance, the baseball-reference.com park factors, the Metrodome has been between two percent above average and four percent below average as a run-scoring environment for the last seven years.

  51. zeke5123 on November 9th, 2007 2:00 am

    #49: I’m sorry but I must disagree with you on Gagne. He is still a great RP, don’t be fooled by the media, he was just as a good in Boston as in Texas, he just got unlucky.

    If you compare their numbers, he did arguably better in Boston. 9.6 K/G, BB/G 3.9, his line drive rate was significantly up and his GB% dropped extremely low to 33.3%. In Texas he had an 8.5 K/9, a 3.5 BB/g with a lower LD rate and a 41.8 GB%. Despite a dip in GBs and an increase in LD, everything looks similar except a large increase in strikeouts. The biggest difference was an extremely high LOB rate in Texas (84%) to an extremely low one in Boston (62.5%). His FIP-ERA in Texas was 1.43 (he got a little lucky). In Boston it was -3.58 (extremely unlucky).

    Looking at his numbers, he compares nicely to a Sean Green caliber season (though in different ways, Green a GB who strikes out batters, Gagne a flame-throwing Fly Ball Pitcher). Buy low on Gange.He is undervalued by the market because “he couldn’t handle the pressure.”

  52. cebo04 on November 9th, 2007 6:51 am

    I’m guessing that Gagne’s salary will be driven up by the idea that he’ll be a closer on some team. I think the Mariners have done a great job by putting together a solid bullpen without breaking the bank. Now if we can only get our pitchers into the seventh inning and save our bullpen a little…

    I agree with Joser, $5 million and I’m sure as he did with Texas, there will be incentives a plenty!

  53. smb on November 9th, 2007 9:32 am

    49

    There’s been some interesting discussion about Gagne’s struggles in relation to Jason Varitek’s pitch calls. I still wonder how much of an effect that may or may not have had on his performance.

  54. Mike Snow on November 9th, 2007 9:33 am

    Gagne was just as good in Boston as in Texas – yes. Gagne is still a great RP – no. That statement is incompatible with “he compares nicely to a Sean Green caliber season” (another statement which is again correct enough, as far as it goes).

    Sean Green is a nice middle-inning or setup guy because he’s extremely cheap, as long as he’s not getting killed by groundballs getting through infield holes. Sean Green is not and will not ever be worth the kind of closer/ex-closer free agent contract Gagne can command. There is no “buying low” on Gagne.

  55. S-Mac on November 9th, 2007 11:01 am

    And with Gagne, there’s the whole Scott Boras issue to deal with.

  56. SDRE on November 9th, 2007 11:15 am

    Any interest in Troy Percival to setup JJ?

  57. zeke5123 on November 9th, 2007 11:21 am

    54#: Perhaps I am overvaluing bullpen help or it’s cost. Maybe five million is to steep, I would need to look at other bullpen figures. But regardless Sean Green was a very good eighth inning reliever last year (though not always used that way). I think their is value in that. He would also be an overvalued trading piece at the deadline.

    Furthermore, I believe his veteran experience will be mitigated by people’s bias towards the most recent performance. I already showed where Gagne wasn’t as bad as ESPN would have you believed. There is very good reason to believe he is a good bullpen arm. Perhaps I am overvaluing the Utility/Marginal Price of an 8th inning set up man, I don’t think so.

  58. Mike Snow on November 9th, 2007 12:26 pm

    Five million? I’m not sure how that number was arrived at, it seems to have materialized in this discussion out of thin air. Including incentives, Gagne was reportedly paid $9.85 million this past season. Even his base salary was more than that, and all the incentives were because this was a make-good contract to show he was healthy again. Presumably now he’ll be looking for multiple years if possible, and expecting to shift more of his compensation to guaranteed salary instead of incentives.

    You’re not going to get Gagne for $5 million this year. One of the most effective predictors of future compensation (after players have already passed through free agency once) is past compensation. Not that Gagne would be a particularly great value even at that salary level.

  59. junglist215 on November 9th, 2007 12:28 pm

    [off-topic]

  60. joser on November 9th, 2007 12:34 pm

    Why the obsession with trying to fix the one part of the team that isn’t broken? The bullpen had trouble during (and contributing to) “the slump” but that probably wouldn’t have happened if they had been able to stay somewhat fresh — if the starters had been able to consistently deliver, say, 4 or 5 innings. There’s your problem.

    I’m fine with picking up a bullpen arm on the cheap, or taking a flier on a guy that might not work out, but with the pitching market the way it is I’m not sure how many good deals are going to present themselves.

  61. joser on November 9th, 2007 12:38 pm

    Unnamed “Al executive” (as quoted in the NYPost agrees with Dave’s take on the Lidge deal:

    The general feeling was that the Phillies won their trade for Lidge. There was concern if Lidge could handle the small park in Philadelphia and the hostile fan base. But this was about more than Lidge’s great stuff and the tepid package sent back to Houston. This was about the Phillies being able to put Brett Myers back in the rotation where he projects to a 200-inning, 12-15-win man.

    “They solved two spots,” an AL executive said. “You can look at it as Philadelphia just got the best free-agent starter in the market.”

  62. Mike Snow on November 9th, 2007 1:02 pm

    Why the obsession with trying to fix the one part of the team that isn’t broken?

    I don’t know, to be honest. At least the organization seems to understand it’s not their primary concern right now (despite the machinations around the trade deadline, which are a different circumstance from offseason planning).

  63. DAMellen on November 9th, 2007 1:07 pm

    Richie had a spectacular year, a very good year and an awful year. He should’ve been an all-star his first year with the Mariners. He’s obviously overpayed, but would you really say he’s a landmine?

  64. eponymous coward on November 9th, 2007 1:14 pm

    Greg Maddux re-upped with the Padres the other day for $10M, same as he made last year, in what was generally considered to be a good deal.

    Most people using traditional analysis are lemmings as far as that goes, assuming that if the market rate (read: GM desperation and having a checkbook) for 180-200 innings of OK starting pitching is 10 million, it’s a “good deal”.

    Dave’s point is that you take a different approach to looking at the market, you’ll find that the value disparity between the Madduxes and Silvas of the world and the guys stuck in AAA isn’t that great- certainly not $10 million or multi-year contract great. The Mariners should be concentrating on finding undervalued talent. Unfortunately, that’s a skill this management group is at best irregular in exploiting.

    As for Gagne, he’s Chris Reitsma, v. 2.0: an attempt to solve a problem the M’s don’t really have (adequate bullpen depth) by sprinkling “veterans who’ve been through wars” on top of the bullpen like it’s sugar on your breakfast cereal. I’d pass, though with McLaren likely to be focusing on how the bullpen melted down in August and September and predisposed to do stupid thing (see: Parrish, John and White, Rick), I won’t be surprised to see a signing like that happen.

  65. eponymous coward on November 9th, 2007 1:31 pm

    Richie had a spectacular year, a very good year and an awful year. He should’ve been an all-star his first year with the Mariners. He’s obviously overpayed, but would you really say he’s a landmine?

    http://ussmariner.com/2005/01/11/updated-free-agency-rankings/

    Hey, look, there’s Richie Sexson! Landmine Ahoy!

    Let’s look at that list of bad contracts, by the way…

    Derek Lowe: OK, looks like Dave blew this one.
    Russ Ortiz: terrible
    Richie Sexson: we already know how this one is turning out
    Jaret Wright: pretty bad
    Troy Percival: turned out awful
    Pedro Martinez: has missed about a full season, was good the one year he was fully healthy
    Eric Milton: terrible
    Orlando Cabrera: has turned out OK, if perhaps overpriced at $8 million
    Vinny Castilla: terrible
    Corey Koskie: terrible

    So, that’s 2 wrong out of 10, with only two seasons outside of Lowe and Cabrera (Sexson and Martinez in 2005) where you can argue that the team in question got anything remotely approaching what they should have gotten from a player they signed to a multiyear deal. I’d say an .800 batting average on bad FA contracts is OK.

  66. joser on November 9th, 2007 1:54 pm

    When Dave talks about “landmines” he’s talking about contracts. What makes Sexson a landmine isn’t so much the man himself as the way the contract is structured. At $4.5M for the ’05 version of Sexson, the M’s got a good deal; but they only got that by backloading the later years. The ’07 and ’08 Sexson, at $14M apiece, are very much not good deals — and wouldn’t have been, no matter how he performed. And it’s not like that came as a surprise to anybody: time goes in one direction, and big lunky athletes over thirty only go one way too. Paying more each year as a player’s abilities get less and less is exactly Dave’s definition of a landmine (players “who are extremely unlikely to live up to the contract”).

  67. joser on November 9th, 2007 2:20 pm

    Forget players, let’s talk about TV contracts for second (normally I wouldn’t link Thiel, but he used to be a TV critic so he may possess a little more authority in this particular intersection of sports and commerce). The last M’s deal was $300/10; the just-announced one is something like $450/12. So they should have an extra $7M or so to play with every year. (Or put in their pockets while mumbling about poverty.) That’s what? This year’s discount Jeff Weaver? It’s not enough to pay for Batista. It’s just enough to pay for Vidro. It might be enough to pay someone else to take Sexson. Or, if you’re a smart team, it buys you Victor Martinez and Joe Borowski. Or it pays for Grady Sizemore… in 2011!

  68. msb on November 9th, 2007 2:38 pm

    Ichiro has won another Silver Slugger award…

  69. Mike Snow on November 9th, 2007 3:10 pm

    Do you have Thiel mixed up with John Levesque? Thiel has a lot more credibility than that.

  70. Red Apple on November 9th, 2007 3:14 pm

    Paying more each year as a player’s abilities get less and less is exactly Dave’s definition of a landmine (players “who are extremely unlikely to live up to the contract”).

    That’s beautifully stated. By backloading Richie’s contract, the M’s made him almost impossible to trade at this late date without forking over a pile of money. Baseball Reference shows his 2005 salary at $6m, then $13m for 2006, $15.5m for 2007, and (I assume) $15.5m for 2008. If they’d averaged it out, that would have been $12.5m per year. So to trade him, they should be on the hook for $3m in cash *plus* much more cash because of his eroded skills, knees, shoulder, and the initial badness of the contract. Good luck with that.

  71. JesseNYC on November 9th, 2007 3:30 pm

    64 – I don’t disagree with you or Dave at all, my only point is that for a team on the bubble of being competitive (and it’s debatable whether that describes the Mariners, last year’s victory total aside), there can be real benefit to signing a league-average or slightly-above-average innings sponge for some rotation certainty. Isn’t that basically what the Indians did with Jake Westbrook, a somewhat similar pitcher to Silva, with the 3 year/$33M extension? They seem like a team with a pretty good understanding of the importance of undervalued talent.

    I can’t believe I’m defending Silva, and I’m sure he’s going to be hideously overpaid, but as Dave said in the post, you know what you’re going to get. And unlike Lohse, who’s just going to be bad, Silva, in front of a decent defense in a forgiving park, could be a pretty useful part.

  72. zeke5123 on November 9th, 2007 3:40 pm

    64: It is quite unfair to compare Gagne with Reitsma. One is a good relief arm, the other isn’t. So skipping the sentiment that Gagne isn’t good (he is), we fall to your second point. Why strengthening an already strong area?

    There was a book called Good to Great. In this book, they developed the hedgehog concept. This is the concept that if you become very good at one thing, you will have the most success. Does that mean we should put all our resources into the bullpen? No, thats ludicrous. But with the starting pitching market, we should be taking cheap fliers (Colon, if you call it cheap). So should we have money left over it’s asine not to strengthening a strength. Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean it doesn’t need address. Actually if you do address it, it will move from being simply good to being great. An absolute instead if comparative advantge.

    Therefore Gagne is a good arm, and at the right price, he will improve the team.

  73. eponymous coward on November 9th, 2007 3:51 pm

    there can be real benefit to signing a league-average or slightly-above-average innings sponge for some rotation certainty.

    Meet Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista (and, one could argue, that’s what the M’s were hoping for from Jeff Weaver- 180-200 IP of 4-4.5ish ERA). How’s spending 30 million a year on a succession of mediocre pitchers working out so far, since that’s basically been the M’s strategy since realizing that the Pineiro/Meche/Franklin/Ryan Anderson/Clint Nageotte/Travis Blackley group of “best young pitching talent in MLB” wasn’t going to pan out?

    The Mariners would be better of looking for undervalued players as opposed to fishing a very shallow free agent pool, improving the team defense dramatically, and seeking ways of getting more bang for their buck by looking at trading for younger players who are cheaper and will be under team control for a while (e.g., Tampa Bay’s 6th/7th starters), while trying to develop their OWN inexpensive mediocre pitchers. Free agent starting pitching is buying at the absolute maximum price and risking getting the minimal return on your investment, and unless you are getting SUPERIOR players, isn’t as productive as finding underrated talent.

  74. joser on November 9th, 2007 3:52 pm

    Do you have Thiel mixed up with John Levesque? Thiel has a lot more credibility than that.

    Wait, you’re right, I do.

  75. eponymous coward on November 9th, 2007 4:04 pm

    It is quite unfair to compare Gagne with Reitsma. One is a good relief arm, the other isn’t. So skipping the sentiment that Gagne isn’t good (he is), we fall to your second point. Why strengthening an already strong area?

    Reitsma, before his arm fell off again this year, was a decent reliever. Gagne’s clearly a BETTER reliever, but he’s basically same song, second verse, a little bit louder: “ZOMG WE NEEDS A VETERAN WHO’S BEEN THROUGH WARS, he’s declined some since his injury, and he’ll likely be a multi-million dollar signing, if not a multi-YEAR signing.

    I see no real benefit to signing this guy for 5-8 million, as opposed to letting pitchers like Mark Lowe and Cam Mickolio fight it out in spring training for the role of “7th-8th inning specialist who throws 96 MPH fastballs from the right side”. It’s just not that hard to come up with guys who can do this: in the past few years alone, for the Mariners alone (I could make this a LONGER list if I tossed in other teams like the Angels), Rafael Soriano, Julio Mateo, J.J. Putz, Mark Lowe and Brandon Morrow have all managed to have good-to-eye-popping performances in this role that are every bit as shiny as what Gagne could deliver. And NONE of them cost millions of dollars.

  76. itch on November 9th, 2007 4:07 pm

    Speaking of undervalued players, I think guys like Baek and Feierabend have a chance to be pleasant surprises if given a chance, and they’d be less aggravating than gambling on a FA like Lohse (but you already [Weaver] know that).
    On the other hand, those of you old-timers would really like Carlos Silva. He’s the new Billy Swift.

  77. Bearman on November 9th, 2007 4:32 pm

    #76:Admittly Carlos Silva will get a fat contract mainly on account of the weakness of MLB SP FA market.
    He’s about the best available and quite frankly you know what you’re getting an inning eater who benefits from a strong D and with the friendlyness of Safeco to pitchers will see some improvement in ERA.

    #75:I agree the present bullpen as is now made up is solid and durable just needs better,longer innings from the rotation.
    However if the FO and Bavasi feel such a need to add to pen as they seem to be thinking then I advocate the signing of LHRP Jeremy Affeldt.
    He’s young but has been thur the wars with the Rockies and Royals with success and I think is know for a durable and dependable arm.
    Affeldt is well worth the 3yr/5 mil contract it may take to sign him but I believe he’ll accept 3 yr/3 mil easily.

  78. joser on November 9th, 2007 6:11 pm

    However if the FO and Bavasi feel such a need to add to pen as they seem to be thinking

    …and your basis for saying this is what, exactly?

    then I advocate the signing of LHRP Jeremy Affeldt.
    He’s young but has been thur the wars with the Rockies and Royals with success and I think is know for a durable and dependable arm.
    Affeldt is well worth the 3yr/5 mil contract it may take to sign him but I believe he’ll accept 3 yr/3 mil easily.

    Hmmm. Where could you possibly have come up with that idea?

    Except there’s no way he’ll be that cheap. Dave thinks the going rate for Mr Affeldt’s services will be more like 3 years / $9M. Dave admits he consistently underestimates the price of offseason pitching. Based on your other posts I believe you do also, but to an even greater degree. I guess we’ll see who has a better sense of the market.

  79. Teej on November 9th, 2007 8:39 pm

    you’re getting an inning eater who benefits from a strong D and with the friendlyness of Safeco to pitchers will see some improvement in ERA.

    The M’s defense was terrible last year. Unless the team makes some serious defensive upgrades, Silva would be likely to see his ERA rise if he came to Seattle. The Twins were about league-average at converting balls in play into outs last year. Only three teams in baseball were worse than the M’s.

  80. nathaniel dawson on November 9th, 2007 9:37 pm

    Mat, I was talking about Silva being a groundball pitcher in the Metrodome. I have yet to see park effects broken down to show GB/FB results, but you’ve got to think that the Metrodome absolutely kills groundball pitchers. Silva, had he been pitching in a park that was more suitable to his style of pitching, would probably have shown better results the last few years.

  81. Jeff Sullivan on November 10th, 2007 1:18 am

    Silva ERA in Minnesota, 2004-2007: 3.88
    Silva ERA on road, 2004-2007: 5.01

    Silva FIP in Minnesota, 2004-2007: 4.32
    Silva FIP on road, 2004-2007: 5.11

    Silva BABIP in Minnesota, 2004-2007: .296
    Silva BABIP on road, 2004-2007: .320

  82. JesseNYC on November 10th, 2007 10:23 am

    73 – You’re right, and really I’m thinking more about Silva’s inclusion on this list than I am about whether he’d be a good fit for the Mariners. I’m just having trouble reconciling my perception of him as an undervalued commodity with the fact that he’s now likely to be significantly overvalued as a free agent. Unlike other recent free agents with tantalizing arms but mediocre track records who’ve been rewarded for their potential with fat contracts (as Lohse is likely to be this year, Meche was last year, and Darren Dreifort was before them), Silva is exactly what he’s been the last few years, which is a pitcher who gives up well over a hit an inning and won’t strike out 100 batters in a full season. That’s not the sort of package that has interested traditional-minded GMs in the past, but however ugly his profile, Silva can offer real value to a major league rotation.

    I guess his presence on this list as a top potential landmine is an indication of just how weak the free agent market is. Dave’s Jeff Suppan analogy is certainly apt. Someone will likely see him as Chien-Ming Wang Lite and sign him to a deal that blows my mind.

  83. G-Man on November 10th, 2007 11:33 am

    I just read that Geoff Jenkins will not be a Class A or B free agent, so another team signing him would not give up any draft picks in compensation. Signing him sounds even better now.

  84. Steve Nelson on November 10th, 2007 11:58 am

    #82: Silva is exactly what he’s been the last few years, which is a pitcher who gives up well over a hit an inning and won’t strike out 100 batters in a full season. That’s not the sort of package that has interested traditional-minded GMs in the past, …

    I disagree. Traditional minded GMs believe that knowing how to pitch to contact, avoid a big inning, and strand runners is a repeatable skill that makes a pitcher valuable even if he doesn’t get many K’s. They will look at Silva and see him as exactly that type of pitcher. Most of those GMs also attach value to proven veterans.

    That makes Silva an attractive package for traditional GMs, and is what will garner him a multi-year contract at somewhere near $10 million per year. Meanwhile, the non-traditional GMs will avoid Silva.

  85. TAYTAY20 on November 10th, 2007 5:00 pm

    I think Silva would make a great M, we need the strikes.

  86. terry on November 10th, 2007 5:22 pm

    I honestly think a lot of GMs will simply look at 190 IP/yr and career ERA of 4.30 with the cursory perusing of his physical/medical report…

  87. nathaniel dawson on November 10th, 2007 8:42 pm

    Silva ERA in Minnesota, 2004-2007: 3.88
    Silva ERA on road, 2004-2007: 5.01

    Silva FIP in Minnesota, 2004-2007: 4.32
    Silva FIP on road, 2004-2007: 5.11

    Silva BABIP in Minnesota, 2004-2007: .296
    Silva BABIP on road, 2004-2007: .320

    Hmmmm….

    Now I would call that interesting. Especially the ERA. The other two numbes, eh. Not at all what you would expect, given what we know about that park. It’s only one pitcher, so we can’t make too much out of it, but it does get you to thinking. Now I’m very curious to know how all pitchers fare in the Metrodome, given their groundball/flyball tendencies. I just wish I had something that would give me the answer.

  88. Steve Nelson on November 11th, 2007 12:04 am

    AT mlb.com you can obtain GO/AO splits by season, with home and away splits. That should get you at least part way to where you want to go.

  89. scott19 on November 11th, 2007 3:09 am

    Silva strikes me as a bit of a right-handed version of guys like Tommy John (a poor man’s, albeit), Randy Jones or Rick Honeycutt from years ago…someone else mentioned Billy Swift…and BR lists Ramiro Mendoza as one of his comparables (the latter two, of course, right-handed). Probably not quite worth the contract he’s likely to get if it’s in the $10 mil/year range…but agreed, he’s still of considerable value to teams which are strong on defense (particularly infield).

    Question…is the M’s infield strong enough all the way around yet on a CONSISTENT basis (AB aside) to allow a guy like Silva to pitch to his fullest potential?

  90. naviomelo on November 11th, 2007 4:23 am

    88 – Considering we have no idea who’s going to be at 1B next year, who knows? It doesn’t make any difference anyway, since we might as well plug in some undervalued AAA guy (like Blackburn) and spend the savings elsewhere.

  91. scott19 on November 11th, 2007 3:31 pm

    87: I know it was only one game, but HoRam — oddly enough — had one of his few quality starts of the year in that building.

    You may be on to something with that Metrodome head-scratch.

  92. thefin190 on November 11th, 2007 5:41 pm

    91- And he probably would’ve won if it weren’t for Beltre’s couple of errors. Seems that things were a little reversed there.

  93. swershow on November 11th, 2007 10:10 pm

    Dave – With respect to the sidenote about the Brad Lidge trade . . .
    A) I was wondering why you see this as such a lopsided deal. It seems to me that Houston got rid of a player they have no need for in exchange for a fairly young and useful part in Bourn.

    B) BP mentioned that Luke Scott might be shopped around. Left handed power, corner outfielder, should be cheap . . . should we be interested?

  94. Chris88 on November 12th, 2007 2:25 am

    93 –

    A) Because Bourne isn’t that useful, and not even hard to find. The other guys are the same way, and Lidge can be dominating and doesn’t make a ton.

    B) Why don’t we just use Clement?

  95. CCW on November 13th, 2007 12:06 am

    Nate Silver at BP completely disagrees with Dave on the Lidge trade:

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/unfiltered/?p=665.

    Two smart guys… I’ll take the average and say it was a reasonably fair trade.

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