On Wilkerson

January 31, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 139 Comments 

knee xray

Just a couple years ago, I was a pretty huge Wilkerson fan, and not just because Jonah Keri forced me to pay attention to the Expos so I could understand what he was talking about all the time. Wilkerson was a pretty studly player there for a while. But over the last few years, it’s really come apart for him. He’s been repeatedly injured, his hitting’s been way off his peak when he was contributing, and you don’t really know what you’re getting. If he’s healthy and the injuries haven’t robbed him of his ability, maybe you luck out and get a left-handed bat in the lineup hitting .260/.375/.470 (hot cha cha) and some of his defense comes back so he’s not a huge liability in the field. Then he’s like super-Broussard without the music, except with Jones gone, he’ll be playing all the time.

The problem is that doesn’t seem real likely. From fangraphs, here’s the three projections we have already:
Bill James: .240/.345/.451
CHONE: .240/.340/.431
Marcel: .240/.329/.427

Those aren’t Safeco Field projections, btw.

The average AL right fielder last year hit .286/.348/.465. If Wilkerson’s healthy next year and can hit well and play some defense, that’s a cheap, effective plug for the hole they just created.

But to uphold the USSM virtues of pessimism, pessimism, and pessimism, I wonder what the chances of that are. Given his recent history, it seems a lot more likely that he’s going to miss at least a decent chunk of time and be maybe a little better in right than Guillen. Ichiro’s going to need a defensive sub to rest his legs is what. And it’s a lot to expect him to hit, post-injuries, as well as he did as a peaking, healthy 25-27-year-old.

The good news is he’s a lefty, so hopefully Safeco doesn’t take much from him at all. Here’s hoping. I’d love to see Wilkerson have a career resurrection in Seattle.

I wonder if the M’s were so encouraged by Vidro that they decided to take on another guy who’d suffered a lot of leg injuries to see if they can do it again.

broken x-ray” picture from [177]’s flickr stream, used under the Creative Commons license

Wilkerson signed to the M’s

January 31, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 120 Comments 

Updates as they happen. Certainly would indicate Jones is gone. Whee.

An Extension for Bedard?

January 31, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 90 Comments 

As part of the never-ending rumor mill surrounding Bedard and the trade, there are now reports that Baltimore is considering offering him a long term contract, and will only go ahead with the trade if he turns it down. The Baltimore Sun threw out 7 years and $100 million as a possible figure. Since many people assume that the M’s would want to work out a contract extension with Bedard after acquiring him, I figured we should answer the question of what Bedard’s worth in terms of a long term deal.

Figuring out what a players worth is simply combining several calculations – how many wins will that player add to the roster and how much are those wins worth? Due to a lot of hard work by guys like Tango and others, these questions are actually pretty easy to answer.

If we assume Bedard stays healthy, then for 2008, he’s worth about 5 wins above what you could expect to get out of the Baek/Morrow/Ramirez/Rowland-Smith crop of pitchers – in other words, he’s a +5 win player when compared to replacement level. That’s his 2008 marginal win value.

How much is a marginal win actually worth in 2008? Approximately $2.5 million. Major League Teams are going to spend about $2.7 billion on their payrolls next year, when they would only spend about $360 million if everyone paid the league minimum to every player. So, they’re spending that extra $2.34 billion to try to win more games than their opponents. Since we know that a team full of replacement level, minimum salary guys could win about 50 games, the amount of wins a team buys beyond that 50 win mark are the marginal wins. So, there are approximately 930 wins in MLB to be bought, and teams will spend $2.34 billion to try to buy as many of those 930 wins as they can. $2.34 billion divided by 930 = $2.5 million. This has been the dollar value of a win for several years now – it hasn’t changed all that much.

So, if Bedard’s a 5 win pitcher, and a win is worth $2.5 million, then basic math tells us that Bedard is worth something like $12.5 million in 2008. That’s his actual value to the team in dollars.

However, market value doesn’t care so much about actual value, because MLB’s system is setup to steal money from young players and give it to older players. Since teams have these low cost young talents making far below their actual value, the extra cash savings from those players goes to the guys who are eligible to have their contracts decided either through arbitration or free agency. Since teams have money to fight over a limited pool of players, inflation kicks in, and the market value for a win is more like $4 million. That is, teams will pay $4 million for a win in free agency to fill out their rosters, hoping that the sum of their 25 man roster works out to something less than $2.5 million per win.

So, if we say that market value is $4 million per win, and Bedard’s still a 5 win player, that makes his market value for 2008 $20 million. You can see why the M’s want him so badly – a $12.5 million player (with a market value of $20 milllion) who could only ask for $8 million in arbitration is quite the bargain.

Now, because Bedard doesn’t have free market leverage yet, no team is going to want to get anywhere close to that $20 million per year figure by locking him up now. And Bedard, knowing that he’s only 12 months away from being able to demand something close to market value, isn’t going to want to give up his big payday for something close to his actual value.

So, in reality, an extension for Bedard will have to come in north of $12.5 million per year (to encourage Bedard to sign) and less than $20 million per year (to encourage the team to sign). If Bedard was only one year away from free agency, he could probably get closer to his $20 million figure, but since he’s two years away, the line will be closer to the $12.5 million mark.

In reality, I’d expect that neither the Mariners nor the Orioles will be willing to go past $14 million per year on an extension and for no longer than five years. That would put the deal at 5/70, far short of the 7/100 that has been tossed out as a starting point. After all, if Bedard will only command (estimates of) $7 million this year and $15 million next year, then both teams would have him under control for 2 years and $22 million, then by offering him 5/70, they’re really buying out his first three years of free agency for $48 million, or $16 million per year.

This is the decision Bedard will have to make – does he believe that the extra $4 million (or so) per year he’ll be able to command next winter after a successful, healthy season is worth the risk of having him blow out his arm and potentially lose out on a big payday. If he can get 5/70 now, or he can wait 12 months and try to get 5/100 then, is the shot at another $30 million worth the risk?

If I’m Bedard’s agent, I tell him its not – this is a guy with a long history of arm problems coming off the year of his life. The nature of pitching is so fragile that his $70 million could turn into $30 million very quickly, even if he stays healthy – just ask Dontrelle Willis or Josh Beckett.

So, if 5/70 (or something close to it) is the magic number at which Bedard should be signing a long term deal, is that a deal the M’s should be interested in?

Its a big risk, but I’d lean towards yes. I wouldn’t do much beyond 5/70, but at that point, I’d swallow hard and hope his elbow stays glued together.

Am I supposed to reset the counter or what?

January 30, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 141 Comments 

counter picture

If the team makes a bad move and it stalls, does that count for purposes of the “Days without a bad move” counter? It’s not a “bad move completed” counter, after all… but then, we haven’t been starting over for every Tony Clark rumor… shoot.

It’s horrible that after weeks of resignation that Jones would be traded, the deal’s finally consummated and then we get this limbo. Won’t someone think of the fans, and their blood pressure?

Photo from Marshall Astor’s flickr stream. Used under the Creative Commons license.

Bam! Santana trade!

January 29, 2008 · Filed Under General baseball · 134 Comments 


From ESPN, the Mets got him. Deal’s held up as they see how many dump trucks of money they’ll need to drive up to Santana’s house. The cost:

If New York can work out a contract agreement with Minnesota, the Mets will send outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Phil Humber, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey to the Twins.

Presumably, they mean “with Santana” there.

Wow. I didn’t see that coming. What’s that mean to the Bedard market?

Dave adds: This package of talent isn’t even close to what the M’s are giving up for Bedard. Gomez is a nice prospect, but he’s nothing close to Adam Jones. He projects as a solid CF down the line, but he’s not an elite young player. Guerra is the Mets version of Chris Tillman – good arm, not close to the majors, work to do. Humber and Mulvey are both moderate upside guys who might make decent back-end starters someday.

The M’s equivalent of this deal would be something like Jeff Clement, Chris Tillman, Wladimir Balentien, and Matt Tuiasasopo (they don’t have pitchers that are good comps for Humber/Mulvey, as they go for more high upside/risk arms).

The Yankees and Red Sox didn’t budge on their stance to not include their studly young major league players. The Mets didn’t even give up their best prospect! Next time someone tells you the M’s are paying market price for Bedard, you can send a swam of bees after them.

Photo from .A.A.’s photo stream at Flickr, used under the Creative Commons license

Today’s Bedard thread

January 29, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 155 Comments 

Remember when Angelos nixed the Sele deal and the M’s got a pitcher for two years for what, $1? Good times.

It sucks that Jones, in answering a reasonable question, ended up getting what must have been a severe ass-chewing and is now reduced to saying what the team wants to. This whole situation is ridiculous.

Mariner of the Day: Mark Langston

January 29, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 39 Comments 

In total, Mark Langston contributed as much to the overall success of the Mariner franchise as any other player in franchise history, and I’m not at all joking.

Drafted in 1981 in the second round, Langston was pick #35, the M’s second in that round — they took Kevin Dukes with #27, and he never made the majors. Three good pitchers came out of that round, Gubicza right ahead of him, and Frank Viola two picks later (John Elway was drafted at the end of the round, other picks were Darrin Jackson, Mike Gallego, and Sid Bream). Three years later, Langston started 33 games for the Mariners and went 17-10 with a 3.40 ERA in the Kingdome. He gave up only 16 HR, walked 118, and struck out 204. He finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting, behind Alvin Davis.

Between Langston and Jim Beattie, the Mariners had two worthwhile pitchers and a chance to win even with their undistinguished offense. It’s too bad his relief was so wretched. That 1984 team went 74-88 with an offense made up of Alvin Davis and parts of Dave Henderson and Ken Phelps. It was the second-best finish in franchise history.

That closeup on his baseall caard didn’t do him any favors, though.

Click on the picture for the ebay auction. The guy only wants $1 for that card.

Then he sucked in 1985. Really sucked. And he was better but not good in 1986.

1987, though, he went crazy.

1987: 19-13, 272 IP, 14 complete games, 30 HR, 114 BB, 262 K, an ERA of 3.84 when the league ERA was 4.74
1988: 15-11, 261 IP, 16 HR (!), 110 K, 235 K, an ERA of 3.35 against a league ERA of 4.17.

That’s crazy. The M’s 78-84 finish in 1987 was as much Langston’s as anyone’s.

In 1989, then, he had to be traded. The M’s sent him to Montreal for what many people thought was a pretty crappy haul: Gene Harris, Brian Holman, and Randy Johnson. Their record with the M’s:

Brian Holman: three seasons including 1989, started 80 games, threw pretty well.
Gene Harris: tossed to the Padres in 1992 after three seasons of unremarkable relief
Randy Johnson: Leads the Mariners in career (with the M’s) ERA, win percentage, WHIP, H/9, K/9 (at 10.58, he’s 2.4 ahead of Mark Langston at 8, shutouts (19, ten more than Langston at 9), walks (hee hee), wild pitches (66), and hit batsmen (89).

The single-season Mariner board is dominated by Randy, Jamie Moyer, Langston, and Erik Hanson’s brief glory (we’ll get to that).

Trading for someone like Randy, you never know what you’re going to get. The minor and major leagues are both chock-full of pitchers who, if only they could do that one thing, would be truly great. Refine their command a little. Locate their fastball consistently. Throw their breaking pitches for strikes. Randy Johnson at the time of the trade was a huge, painfully thin, emotional pitcher with amazing talent and an uncertain future. He turned into a sure Hall of Famer.

But back to Langston. Like many players of the time, he signed with the Angels and made our lives pretty much miserable from 1990 on, until 1995, when in the one-game playoff against Randy, Randy pitched one of the finest games in Mariner history, a complete-game three-hit shutout in which he gave up one home run – the only run – walked one and struck out 12. 12.


And then there’s this:

MARINERS 7TH: Blowers singled to left; T. Martinez reached on a
fielder’s choice on a sacrifice bunt [Blowers to second]; Wilson
out on a sacrifice bunt (third to second) [Blowers to third, T.
Martinez to second]; Cora was hit by a pitch; Coleman lined to
right; Sojo doubled to right [Blowers scored, T. Martinez
scored, Cora scored, Sojo scored (error by Langston)
struck out; 4 R (3 ER), 2 H, 1 E, 0 LOB. Angels 0, Mariners 5.

I don’t want to dwell on that, too much. It was one play, and the M’s would have won the game without it. And as much as my adoration for Randy threatens to overwhelm everything, we should recognize what Langston did for the generally hapless Mariner teams he played for: his record was 74-67, he started 173 games, threw 1198 innings. He struck out 1,078 hitters. His career RA/9 stood at about 4.5, his ERA at 4.

And for three full years when he was here – 1983, 1986 and 1987 – Langston was one of the few Mariner starters in that time I could see was pitching that night and not walk up those exterior ramps without having resigned myself to seeing the team get pounded for the loss (“Mike Trujillo’s starting? Why?”).

That deserves a moment of recognition. Thanks, Mariner of the Day Mark Langston. It was good seeing you play while you were here.

(and just to pre-empt the inevitable, Randy Johnson did not quit on us, I’ll be banning everyone who says otherwise, and I’m not kidding)

Ask for them by name

January 28, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on Ask for them by name 

bees! headed your way!

Photo by Todd Huffman, used under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

Deal not certain, unless it is

January 28, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 222 Comments 

Further speculation circulates (via Jayson Stark at ESPN) that Orioles owner Peter Angelos has not signed off on the Bedard deal yet, while the Orioles still deny that a deal is final or that Adam/George have scheduled physicals.

I’m skeptical. First, the denials from the Orioles have been almost non-nonsensical (“We are not trading for Adam Jones! You’re all crazy!” “He’s right there next to you, with an Orioles jersey draped over one arm.” “No! He’s not!”). And while I’d love to see him axe the deal, I’d be amazed if Angelos was totally in the dark all this while, for all the weeks these talks dragged on and on.

If I thought it would have made any difference, I’d have totally whooped it up as a victory (“we tricked the Orioles into thinking Jones was good! woo-hoo!”) and tried to work the buyer’s remorse.

Second, why would the two M’s we’ve heard from lie about being headed east to have their tender bits poked and prodded? And pulling Jones from his winter ball team was a pretty big deal, as Baker noted. They didn’t do that without a deal all but agreed to, and knowing Angelos’ history, I’d be shocked if Bavasi yanked Jones back to the states without knowing that the deal would go through and had Angelos’ seal of approval (or, at least, knowing that Angelos had approved the general deal — Angelos isn’t going to know who the fourth player is).

Answering Some Questions

January 28, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 85 Comments 

There are several recurring questions popping up in all the Jones-Bedard threads. Here’s my brief answer to some of them.

Why do you hate this team?

I spend hundreds of hours every year watching, thinking, and writing about the Seattle Mariners. I do crazy things like track Felix Hernandez’s pitch selection so that I can try to understand his inconsistency. I flew to Peoria last year so that I could watch 17-year-olds who might be Mariners someday take batting practice.

I’m not happy when the team loses. Some of my best memories in life involve the Mariners achieving success despite the odds. I’d cut off my left arm to experience 1995 again. I’m going to jump around like a crazed idiot when the Mariners finally win a World Series.

I want the Mariners to succeed. Badly. Unfortunately, I’m convinced that the philosophies they adhere to in their attempt to succeed are inherently flawed and will lead to failure. Years of rooting for a team to win in spite of itself is frustrating. Frustration, however, is nothing like rooting for failure. I would love nothing more than Erik Bedard to go 34-1, post one of the great seasons in baseball history, and the team to hold a parade in November.

But unfortunately, I’m too pragmatic to constantly believe in longshots. And the M’s are a longshot to make us all happy this year.

Isn’t Adam Jones just an unproven prospect? How is he any different than failed prospects of the past

The word prospect is essentially defined as a player with potential who has not yet reached the level of being able to compete in the big leagues. There is hope that, in the future, they will be able to contribute to the franchise with their on field abilities, but it’s understood that that time is not here now.

Adam Jones stopped being a prospect about eight months ago. He doesn’t need to improve one iota to be a quality major league player. If he never gets any better than he is today, he’ll have a nice major league career.

I know for many the paradigm of a prospect is a player who has yet to prove himself with major league performance. But that perspective, the I-won’t-believe-it-until-I-see-it ideal, isn’t one that we hold to in any other aspect of life, and it’s one that should be easily abandoned once we recognize it as an analytical flaw. If you purchase a new home, do you not believe that the roof will keep you dry until after you’ve lived under it through a rainstorm and examined your skin afterwards? Of course not. You understand the physical limitations of rain passing through dense material, and you believe – without having witnessed that particular roof do anything – that the roof has those qualities.

Your belief in Adam Jones’ current abilities doesn’t do anything to change what they actually are right now. Your perspective might change after you have more evidence, but the reality of Jones’ abilities is going to be the same regardless of a third party opinion. His skills are a tangible reality, and it’s our assertion that his skillset – right now, today, with no further development needed – is that of an above average major league player.

Things don’t become real after they happen. Adam Jones, right now, is not a prospect. Carlos Triunfel, Chris Tillman, Wladimir Balentien, Jeff Clement – these guys are prospects. They need to get better before they can help a major league team win baseball games. Adam Jones hasn’t been in that category of player for quite a while now.

But Erik Bedard is an ace! Two Aces! We’ll be unbeatable in a short series!

The Toronto Blue Jays featured Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, and Dustin McGowan at the front of their rotation last year. That’s a significantly better trio than Bedard, Hernandez, and Silva. The Blue Jays won 83 games.

Having two great pitchers is awesome, but unless you’re cloning Pedro Martinez in his prime, you better have a good supporting cast around them if you want to win consistently. The Mariners supporting cast now includes a DH in left field, a hole in right field, an enigma at second base, one of the worst first baseman in baseball, and a DH whose career is teetering on the verge of extinction. They also don’t have any organizational depth in position players, so an injury to a key player (say, Ichiro or Beltre) pretty much ends their season before it starts.

There’s just no way you can realistically believe that the 2008 Mariners are as good as the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Tigers, or Angels. Right now, they’re something like the sixth best team in the American League. Even with two frontline starters at the top of their rotation.

Isn’t Wladimir Balentien almost as good as Adam Jones? Why can’t we just plug him into right field?

Balentien, unlike Jones, has some significant progress to make before he can help a major league team. He can hit a fastball a long way, but the rest of his game still needs work. He still struggles with pitch recognition, leading to him guessing a lot. You can succeed as a guess hitter, but the margin for error when you guess right is minimal, and Balentien isn’t yet in the crushes-anything-he-hits category. Pitchers with any kind of command and off-speed pitch won’t find him especially challenging. And, defensively, he’s average at best in a corner.

Balentien in ’08 projects as a .240/.290/.400 type of hitter, and that’s just not a guy that a team trying to win its division can afford to give many at-bats to unless he’s playing excellent defense at a premium position. Maybe a few more months in Tacoma will give him the opportunity to refine his game and he could help the team in the second half, but the Mariners certainly shouldn’t count on it.

Well, if they need to get better to contend, now what should the M’s do?

Since the team is going all-in for 2008, mortgaging the future in a chance to steal the division from the Angels this year, they need to get serious about fixing some of the other problems on this roster. Right field is now a gaping hole, and unfortunately, the good free agent outfielders are already off the board. The best plan would be to pursue a trade for a new young outfielder (call the Cubs about Matt Murton or Felix Pie please), but unfortunately, the team’s going to be running low on trade chips after this deal is complete.

They’d also do well to not count on production from all three of Sexson, Vidro, and Ibanez to make the offense work, and bring in a new LF or 1B to make those guys fight for two spots. If they haven’t yet called about Nick Johnson, they better.

Dealing the farm for Bedard means you don’t have the luxury of hoping guys post career years or bounce back from decline to carry your offense. You better be able to score and prevent runs on a nightly basis, because it’s going to take 90-95 wins to make the playoffs, and then you have to get past two of Boston, New York, Cleveland, and Detroit.

They can’t call it an offseason and head to Peoria now. They’ve committed themselves to contending in ’08 – they have now actually finish building a contender.

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