2009 Position Players

Dave · July 23, 2008 at 11:09 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

One of the first tasks the new GM will have to do when taking over is do a real analysis of what he can expect going forward from the players already here. Since I’m a helpful kind of guy, I figured I’d just do it for him, using win values (as explained here) to gauge the true talent levels of each player on the roster and their relative value to the club. Also included is a comparison of their free market value compared to their current salary. Let’s just go right to the spreadsheet, with a tip of the hat to Colin Wyers for making this process much easier than the last time I did it.

To answer what should be the most popular questions ahead of time:

1. I included Ibanez in order to give context to whether the team should re-sign him or not. The answer is clearly no.

2. If you didn’t read the explanation in the linked post, here’s the short version: WAR is “Wins Above Replacement”, and tells how many wins that player would add over a theoretical league minimum Triple-A guy who could be acquired for free. A 25 man roster that equaled 0 WAR would finish something like 50-112, so you need about 40-45 WAR to be competitive.

3. WAR$ is our estimate of how much a player would get per season if he were a free agent and all 30 MLB teams valued him correctly, given that MLB as a whole is paying about $5 million per win in the free agent market right now. Actual is his real 2009 salary (or our estimate of that number) and the difference column is how much underpaid or overpaid he is relative to his free agent value. Obviously, guys who haven’t gotten to free agency yet will be underpaid – that’s how the system works.

4. Johjima and Morse work well enough as proxies for the bench players. This isn’t meant to be exact, and reserves don’t matter enough for anyone to flip out about the fact that I don’t have a full 13 or 14 player group here.

Okay, now, on to the Mariner specific points.

This group of position players is unbelievably horrible. As a group, they total about 11.5 wins above replacement. Beltre, Ichiro, and Clement are the only guys on the roster who would be starters for most contending clubs, and the Clement projection is pretty optimistic, honestly. LaHair doesn’t belong in the majors, so you can pick up ground by replacing him with a real first baseman, but there’s serious problems everywhere besides 3B and RF.

This team won’t win anything while hoping to get offense from all four of Lopez/Betancourt/Reed/Balentien. You might be able to get away with having one in your line-up, two if you surround them with a few all-stars. But if you give all four regular jobs, you might as well just punt the season.

Realistically, this team needs to replace one (or both) of Lopez and Betancourt with a +3 win infielder(s), acquire a +3 win outfielder, and find a +3 win first baseman, plus find a DH who doesn’t totally suck. Or, to put another way, the team needs about four more position players of Beltre/Ichiro quality.

I’ll do the pitching staff next. The news is a lot better there, thankfully, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that this group of position players is awful.

Comments

113 Responses to “2009 Position Players”

  1. Shrike on July 23rd, 2008 11:21 pm

    Depressing chart.

    Just out of curiosity, how do the Mariners compare to the Blue Jays? The Indians? [insert other ML team here]

  2. nickwest1976 on July 23rd, 2008 11:45 pm

    Great analysis, even as depressing as it is. Looks like this team is not going to contend in 2009 or even 2010 barring a minor miracle.

    But according to Riggleman after the game:

    “Losing the close games like we have tells us we’re a pretty good ball-club, we’re just not finishing the job.”

    Sigh.

    On this sunny note, I am off to bed.

  3. PADJ on July 23rd, 2008 11:51 pm

    “Losing the close games like we have tells us we’re a pretty good ball-club, we’re just not finishing the job.”

    Thanks, Riggs. What losing as many as you have SHOULD tell you is that you aren’t a pretty good ball club.

    But it is late…so just for giggles, to follow up on some of the needs Dave outlined above, what would it take to get Votto or Bruce from the Reds, or Antonelli from San Diego…or Snider from the Jays…or….zzzzzzz

  4. Phightin Phils on July 23rd, 2008 11:54 pm

    I thought I learned more about this game in 2001. No. These are the kind of years when you learn what it takes, and where the current team is. As depressing as it is, it’s something to take away from this season.

  5. Sports on a Schtick on July 24th, 2008 12:15 am

    One of the first tasks the new GM will have to do when taking over is do a real analysis of what he can expect going forward from the players already here. Since I’m a helpful kind of guy, I figured I’d just do it for him

    Let’s not forget Kim Ng. I really hope she gets to right this awful organization.

    This sheet assumes no major injuries at every position. It’s not like the M’s organization is teeming with depth. What’s the bench going to look like next year? The return of Willie? Tui? Some crappy veteran? One crippling injury would wreak this squad like very few. Thanks Bill.

    As for 1B the M’s should shoot some feelers for Hee-Seop Choi. If he can be had from his Korean club the team would get a cheap left-handed bat who’s under 30. Certainly not a +3 win guy, but in terms of price/production he’d be a bargain.

  6. Benne on July 24th, 2008 1:49 am

    It’s extremely discouraging how little Lopez and Yuni have progressed. Only a few years ago they were considered cornerstones, two guys who would lock down the middle infield for many years to come. Now they’re both liabilities.

    One of the new GM’s top priorities should be to sell high on these two (especially Yuni, given that he’s still considered a good defender), before the rest of the baseball world catches on to how mediocre they are. I can live with Lopez until a better option comes along, but Yuni needs to go on the trading block pronto.

    When LaHair is your best option at 1B, something went seriously wrong.

  7. Mothy on July 24th, 2008 2:11 am

    I imagine to get Choi the Mariners would have to pay a substantial fee like with Japanese players, although I’m not sure of that, so I think he may not be as cheap an option as you imagine.

    I’m still a little unsure that Raul absolutely has to go. His WAR is 1.11 and his $WAR is 5.71. While if we keep him we end up overpaying for him, those numbers aren’t so bad seems to me (although since I’m pretty new with the numbers I may still not be fully understanding them) and to overpay for a known commodity on a team that is willing to have a high payroll seems better than paying market value for a somewhat unknown commodity. So unless something else falls in our laps, I’d still be happy with Raul coming back.
    But something absolutely needs to be done with Yuni. He’s awful.

  8. itea on July 24th, 2008 2:57 am

    Benne wrote:

    It’s extremely discouraging how little Lopez and Yuni have progressed. Only a few years ago they were considered cornerstones, two guys who would lock down the middle infield for many years to come. Now they’re both liabilities.

    A few years ago? More like 5 months ago, when Dave wrote on Valentine’s Day in the post linked above:

    Betancourt, Johjima, and Lopez, as a group, project to be just a bit below average. The M’s total cost for those three – $6.95 million. There aren’t too many other teams in baseball getting that kind of quality production for next to no money at those up the middle spots. While they’re all flawed players in their own way, they’re also three of the most valuable assets this organization has

    I think Dave was right the first time. Yuni and Lopez aren’t all that good, but looking forward they aren’t the problem, because they don’t make very much money. The problem players are those that contribute very little yet take up significant payroll. In 2009, that’s Silva/Batista/Washburn/Johjima, who (I’m using numbers from here) are on the books for $38M next year. Those players are the problem.

    People can bitch about Bloomquist, Cairo, Lopez, and Yuni, but combined they make $3.55M this year (with Lopez and Yuni getting modest raises in 2010 and 2011). They aren’t the problem – on the major league scale, the commitment to those players is miniscule, and the salaries they are drawing isn’t preventing the Mariners from getting someone better.

  9. vj on July 24th, 2008 4:46 am

    The table compared with the one in the linked prior article handily shows that Ichiro in right field is not a good use of resources.
    Question: if he moves back to Centerfield and Reed/Balentien platoon in left, how much improvement would that bring? Is two wins realistic? Ichiro goes from 2.45 to 3.75 in WAR according to your tables, Reed and Balentien should improve their wOBA when facing predominantly opposite handed pitchers. This would also open a slot for a good right fielder, if there’s one available.

  10. Bryce on July 24th, 2008 5:54 am

    FYI Dave – it looks to me like the right side of the chart is chopped off, so I see nothing past the $WAR column. I had to export it to Excel to see the whole thing, in case anybody else has the same problem.

    And ugh. That’s just horrible. Comparing it to the earlier chart, it’s somewhat amazing how much of a cliff Johjima’s fallen off this season.

  11. Spanky on July 24th, 2008 6:47 am

    I understand that Riggleman has to put on a happy face in front of reporters and all, but does anyone get a sense that the organization as a whole understands this or are they all drinking the same kool-aid and can’t see the problems? I can’t stand another offseason of picking up a few spare parts for too much money with the team thinking they just need a tweak to get them in contention.

  12. b_rider on July 24th, 2008 7:09 am

    How sad it is that we only have one player (Ichiro) that is projected to have even a slightly higher than average wOBA! That’s crazy.

  13. mpowercc on July 24th, 2008 7:15 am

    Dave,

    I noticed that you have given Ichiro a defensive adjustment of 1 win in this 2009 version of the chart, but granted him just .5 wins prior to the season. Is this because defense is position adjusted or because you have a new defensive metric indicating that he is closer to +10 runs than +5?

    Also I was only able to note this because you use Ichiro as the example in the 2008 explanation (the defensive adjustment isn’t spelled out on the old chart). Are there other players that have similar shifts with respect to their win values? I have to admit that I was surprised at some of the players who have no adjustment (Clement and Balentein come to mind) when it seems that their defense is below average. Is there simply not enough information on their defensive performance at the Major League level to adjust either way?

  14. jro on July 24th, 2008 7:18 am

    One of the first tasks the new GM will have to do when taking over is do a real analysis

    As a matter of course, what do actual GMs do in their jobs when executing their analysis? I’ve already got an idea that the Mariners use something ala Obi-Wan’s “the force”, but I’d be interested to know what Billy Beane and Mark Shapiro do when they analyze their teams.

  15. cody on July 24th, 2008 7:43 am

    You said it, but your projection for Clement is really optimistic. Even if he takes a big step forward, he probably won’t be in the 2 WAR area by next year. He’s playing below replacement level right now.

    Also, Sean Casey is due for free agency at the end of the year. We could replace LaHair with him. How does he project for ’09?

  16. sass on July 24th, 2008 8:04 am

    Wow, its a bit surprising that Ichiro is so overvalued, just from a numbers perspective. It actually seems to make the case to trade him, if that is what you are going from. But, of course, that WAR is more important than the “difference” column.

  17. JMHawkins on July 24th, 2008 8:12 am

    Certainly not a +3 win guy, but in terms of price/production he’d be a bargain.

    One of the things this post shows is that $/WAR isn’t the only factor to consider. Total WAR matters too. Lopez, Betancourt, Reed and Balentien are all + in the diff column (being salary bargains), but at Dave correctly says, we can’t start all four of them and hope to compete. That’s because regardless of how much of a salary bargain a player is, he always costs exactly one precious spot in the lineup. We need to average 2.5 to 3.0 WAR from each lineup spot (depending on the pitching staff) to be a legitimate playoff contender.

    Getting good salary bargains at a few positions allows the team to overspend on the others to get the high-WAR players they need. I completely agree with Dave, this team needs three or four more above-average players in the lineup.

  18. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on July 24th, 2008 8:54 am

    Should we be concerned that Ichiro has fallen so far from his real value as indicated with the same salary point last year? I mean it’s a significant drop – something like a win and a quarter. What should we be making of that? Is this a positional adjustment based on a move back to RF? OR Is it likely a momentary blip given a tougher start this year, or do you see him in real decline? I thought, at first, that maybe it was a salary issue, but you pegged last year’s WAR on 17mill as well. He’s clearly still one of the two best position players on the team, but does it get easier to trade him in a year or two based on what you are seeing from a purely value per dollar perspective?

  19. b_rider on July 24th, 2008 8:56 am

    I noticed that you have given Ichiro a defensive adjustment of 1 win in this 2009 version of the chart, but granted him just .5 wins prior to the season. Is this because defense is position adjusted or because you have a new defensive metric indicating that he is closer to +10 runs than +5?

    That is because Ichiro is defensively only average to slightly above average relative to the class of centerfielders but well above average relative to other right fielders. So he gets a higher defensive bonus when he is at right field than when he is in center. However, he gives back those gains and then some (for WAR) because centerfield gets a much higher positional bonus than right field. It is much harder to find a competent centerfielder than to find a competent rightfielder.

    Should we be concerned that Ichiro has fallen so far from his real value as indicated with the same salary point last year? I mean it’s a significant drop – something like a win and a quarter. What should we be making of that? Is this a positional adjustment based on a move back to RF?

    I believe his WAR falls so much for the same reason. The offensive level of a replacement rightfielder is just higher.

  20. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 9:07 am

    We shouldn’t be looking for bargains in 2009.

    We should be looking to spend our money intelligently, but the players that will be required to turn this thing around aren’t going to come cheap.

    To use a player that has been mentioned a few times as a possible answer in the offseason, Rafael Furcal:

    Cot’s has him at $13m in 2008; he might get slightly less due to injuries this season, but he might not.

    Don’t get hung up on the example and debate whether Furcal will be worth $13m again or not; the point is, we’re going to have to spend in the free agent market to get this team turned around for next year, so we shouldn’t be looking at bargain-basement guys like Hee Seop Choi, except to just fill spots after we’ve picked up some difference-makers at other positions.

    Being in a position where you have to try to patch your team in the free-agent market is not a good thing, but if you spend your money the right way, you can avoid it being disastrous.

    In other words, less Richie Sexson, more Adrian Beltre.

  21. b_rider on July 24th, 2008 9:09 am

    Ichiro’s decline in WAR is not entirely because of the position change, of course, but that’s part of it.

    Also, _are_ there going to be any Beltre-type free agents on the market this year?

  22. Dave on July 24th, 2008 9:13 am

    I’m still a little unsure that Raul absolutely has to go. His WAR is 1.11 and his $WAR is 5.71.

    Okay, say you keep Ibanez and DH him. How do you go about adding the +9 or +10 WAR that you need to add to the position players now that you’ve made sure we can’t upgrade at DH?

    Ibanez is a below average player (+2 WAR is average), and this team can’t afford to fill the line-up with below average players. DH is an opportunity to get a real hitter, and we can’t waste it on Raul just because he’s cuddly.

    Yuni and Lopez aren’t all that good, but looking forward they aren’t the problem, because they don’t make very much money.

    Opportunity cost – if you keep Lopez, you can’t sign Orlando Hudson or Mark Ellis as free agents. Lopez will be more cost effective, but Hudson or Ellis will help you win more games. The M’s need to be adding good players, not just good values.

    The table compared with the one in the linked prior article handily shows that Ichiro in right field is not a good use of resources.

    Ichiro’s drop in WAR from my presseason post breaks down like this: -1 win for position switch, +0.5 wins for defensive bonus (he looks better compared to RF than CF, but not enough to offset the move entirely), and -.75 for playing time. If Ichiro stays healthy, he’ll blow that 600 PA away, and his win value will be higher. He’s fine, don’t worry about Ichiro.


    FYI Dave – it looks to me like the right side of the chart is chopped off, so I see nothing past the $WAR column.

    It looks fine to me. If you’re running a monitor with low resolution, you should get a scroll bar that allows you to move the chart all the way to the right.

    You said it, but your projection for Clement is really optimistic.

    Don’t overly swayed by 150 major league at-bats. 1995 A-Rod has a 72 OPS+ in 142 at-bats, and then had a 160 OPS+ in 1996. Clement isn’t A-Rod, obviously, but you can’t read too much into the small sample of at-bats Clement has had so far. That’s not the true talent level he has to improve from.

    Also, Sean Casey is due for free agency at the end of the year

    He’s not a starter in the majors at this point.

    But, of course, that WAR is more important than the “difference” column.

    You can’t overpay everyone, but you can overpay stars. Ichiro is not the problem here.

  23. Steve T on July 24th, 2008 9:27 am

    The thing that scares me is, where are we going to get the 4 WAR superstud we need? Or more than one? We can pick up a little ground here and there by getting rid of dead weight, but at some point we’re going to be faced with a situation where we have no more 2 WAR gains left, only .25 WAR gains, and we’re still a mile short of 40-45.

  24. Matthew Carruth on July 24th, 2008 9:30 am

    This sheet assumes no major injuries at every position. It’s not like the M’s organization is teeming with depth.

    Actually it looks like it’s forecasting some minor injuries all around. 600 PA is what you’d get from a 9 hitter playing 160 games.

  25. gwangung on July 24th, 2008 9:35 am

    Don’t overly swayed by 150 major league at-bats. 1995 A-Rod has a 72 OPS+ in 142 at-bats, and then had a 160 OPS+ in 1996. Clement isn’t A-Rod, obviously, but you can’t read too much into the small sample of at-bats Clement has had so far.

    Or, ahem…..Adam Jones this year.

    It’s a point that even semi-numeric people tend to stumble over (small sample size syndrome?). And I think the Mariner organization suffers from a bad case of this, from top to bottom.

  26. Graham on July 24th, 2008 9:36 am

    That 0.00 for Clement’s defence is pretty interesting, Dave. You think he’ll stick at catcher without being too embarrassing?

  27. don52656 on July 24th, 2008 9:43 am

    Dave, I think your analysis is right on. It’s seems hard to imagine a scenario where the M’s can fill all or most of these holes in a short time frame because there don’t appear to be many internal solutions to the problems. Maybe your pitching analysis will indicate that we have “excess” value on the staff that we can flip for hitting talent, but I’m going to guess it won’t have much of an excess, if any.

    If we assume that the roster can’t be significantly upgraded by the 2009-2010 time frame, then the only two current offensive assets, Beltre and Ichiro, will start to become players we’ll need to think about replacing also. Also, what do you think the odds are of Felix wanting to sign a long-term contract with a franchise that may be many years away from competitiveness? To me, this seems to make the situation much bleaker and very urgent.

    Speaking of internal solutions, do you have any explanation regarding why every one of our minor league call ups seem to fail initially, and sometimes permanently, for the M’s? Reed has a .320 or so lifetime minor league BA, Clement hits HR’s seemingly daily, Balentien is doing the same. Last year, Jones was tearing up AAA. They get called up and then can’t seemingly hit a thing. Same thing with our pitchers…the list of failed prospects is huge (Nageotte, Blackley, Anderson, et.al.). Is this just bad luck, bad handling by the M”s, a misperception on my part, or what? It seems to me that if the M’s were more successful in developing internal talent above AAA, we wouldn’t have needed to waste our money on the free agent market so often.

  28. gwangung on July 24th, 2008 9:50 am

    Speaking of internal solutions, do you have any explanation regarding why every one of our minor league call ups seem to fail initially, and sometimes permanently, for the M’s?

    SSSS. The Mariners freak out when a young player does badly in their initial callups (which a lot of them do), and they have no mechanism or coaching in place to ease them over the hump.

  29. JMHawkins on July 24th, 2008 9:55 am

    The thing that scares me is, where are we going to get the 4 WAR superstud we need? Or more than one?

    No kidding.

    C: Clement +2.0
    3B: Beltre +2.5
    CF: Reed +1.0
    RF: Ichiro +2.5
    Lineup Total: +8.0 WAR + whatever from 1B, 2B, SS, LF, DH.

    Starting Rotation: +12.0 WAR
    Bench + Bullpen: +4.0 WAR (assumes healthy Putz)

    Total: +24.0 + 1B, 2B, SS, LF, DH.

    We need +16 WAR out of 5 spots? Holy guacamole, +3.2 per spot. The average quality of the guys we need to add is “better than Ichiro”. Of course, that assumes a rotation with a couple of +1 WAR filler guys (which, if we don’t trade Wahsburn we’re guaranteed to have at least one of, and maybe two if Silva doesn’t bounce back a little).

  30. eponymous coward on July 24th, 2008 10:02 am

    Or, to put another way, the team needs about four more position players of Beltre/Ichiro quality.

    So the M’s need 6 position players capable of All-Star/HOF levels of performance in any given year, counting Beltre and Ichiro? That’s a pretty steep hill to climb for most organizations.

  31. itea on July 24th, 2008 10:10 am

    Dave wrote:

    “Yuni and Lopez aren’t all that good, but looking forward they aren’t the problem, because they don’t make very much money.”

    Opportunity cost – if you keep Lopez, you can’t sign Orlando Hudson or Mark Ellis as free agents. Lopez will be more cost effective, but Hudson or Ellis will help you win more games. The M’s need to be adding good players, not just good values.

    Sure, it’d be nice to have 3-win players at every position, especially if they all came cheap. Realistically, the Mariners will be lucky to get a couple of them in the off-season.

    And if the Mariners are only going to get a couple of these guys it makes a lot more sense to look for the help at OF/DH/1B, where they would replace bad overpaid players, than to look at the middle infield, where they would replace bad low-salaried players.

    I’m not disagreeing that ideally, the Mariners would replace 2/3 of the everyday players. It’s very unlikely that they will, however, and so we might as well prioritize. Getting the 1B and the DH is far more important than replacing 2B and SS. If the choice is a SS or nobody, then I vote SS. If the choice is a SS or a 1B or a DH , then I’d choose the 1B or the DH.

    The Mariners operate under a de fact salary cap. It’s not a hard cap, but they aren’t going to have a $200M payroll, so prices matter. Saying that “Ichiro is not the problem” ignores that fact. He doesn’t kill the team, but if the Mariners had 6 Ichiros they’d be spending 100 million dollars to gain 16 wins, and would be relying on minimum players to get them then next 25 wins towards the playoffs.

    So I think Ichiro is just as much a part of the problem as Lopez is. In reality, the salaries do matter. Ichiro is a much better player than Lopez, but that’s a different discussion. Would Ichiro be part of the problem at $50M a year? Where’s the tipping point? To find that out one would do exactly the analysis you do in this post, and the result here is that Lopez is just as valuable, even with a non-linear evaluation of WAR.

    (Caveat: this is theoretical, based on your projections. If Betancourt is actually the player he’s been this season, then he’s not worth having on the roster for free. In actuality, I have differing opinions about what we can really expect out of many of the players – for example, if Johjima isn’t playing hurt, then I think he’s quite likely to be through, because his power has dropped precipitously, and he doesn’t have the OBP to compensate.)

  32. Sports on a Schtick on July 24th, 2008 10:17 am

    Ichiro brings in so much revenue that any talk about him being overpaid doesn’t hold water.

  33. itea on July 24th, 2008 10:24 am

    Ichiro’s financial effect off the field is irrelevant to the discussion, or at least to my discussion. We can pretend to quantify it in various ways, but we don’t actually know what it is, and we don’t really know what the opportunity cost is either, so it’s more of a generic excuse.

    I like Ichiro, and I think it’s fine to pay him what he’s making. In general, I prefer the athletes to have the money as opposed to the owners – Sexson may suck on the field, but I’d rather put 15 million in his hands than in George Steinbrenner’s (I know the Mariners are paying the tab, I’m just choosing an owner I find very distasteful for an example).

    At 17 million a year, he’s no more underpaid than Jose Lopez. That’s what I’m saying.

  34. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 10:25 am

    It’s not even about that, really; but if you decide to punt Ichiro for whatever reason (ignoring whether it’s even realistic to do), you have to pick up that slack either at his position or another.

    This team desperately needs to hang onto the few quality players it has; getting rid of Ichiro, Beltre, Felix or Clement shouldn’t even be on the radar.

  35. Dave on July 24th, 2008 10:38 am

    You’re focusing way too much on value. The idea is to win the world series, not be the Florida Marlins.

  36. itea on July 24th, 2008 10:43 am

    The Mariners aren’t going to trade Ichiro, so the discussion is theoretical. With that understood:

    The Mariners’ goal, presumably, is to have a team that is consistently in the playoff race. To do that, they probably need to win 90-95 games a year.

    To get to those 90-95 wins, they need to improve in a lot of areas. It’s very unlikely that they’ll get there next season. If the plan is to spend 50 million dollars in the coming winter on great free agents, plus re-up Felix, then I completely concur with you. I don’t think that’s what the Mariners are going to do. I think that they have a budget in mind, and it’s not enough to fix this team in one off-season. So the Mariners ought to be looking at least two seasons out. Sure, they don’t want to be horrible in 09, but they aren’t a “win now” team, to state the obvious.

    There’s a reason Ichiro didn’t make Dave’s top 50 MLB Trade Value ’08 list.

    Ichiro is a great player, he’s fun to watch. He turns 37 in 2010. And he might fetch an awful lot from a contending team that needs an outfielder right now.

  37. cdowley on July 24th, 2008 10:45 am

    Opportunity cost – if you keep Lopez, you can’t sign Orlando Hudson or Mark Ellis as free agents. Lopez will be more cost effective, but Hudson or Ellis will help you win more games. The M’s need to be adding good players, not just good values.

    Plus, if the M’s actually do manage to go out and get Hudson (Ellis doesn’t fit into the equation for me. He’s had a nice year, but I think this is his peak), they’d have the freedom to trade Lopez, which while it wouldn’t get a superstar-level haul, there ought to be a number of teams lining up to get him. A cheap, locked up, young second baseman who occasionally flashes All-Star level skills, and who looks to need a change of scenery? Should nab a good prospect plus one or two decent ones, at least IMO.

  38. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 10:47 am

    So, Ichiro didn’t make the top 50 MLB trade value list…but you think he’s going to fetch “an awful lot”?

    We’ve had the discussion of Ichiro’s trade value several times before, but to sum up:

    1) His age is pretty irrelevant because of his skillset and conditioning, there’s no reason to think he’s even close to entering his decline phase;

    2) His skillset is widely undervalued in the league, so you’re not going to get enough of a return to offset Ichiro’s actual value in helping you win games;

    3) I know you don’t want to talk about his value off the field, but it’s a factor that you can’t ignore when you’re deciding whether he should continue to be a Mariner or not.

    As much as it would pain me, I’d trade Felix before I’d trade Ichiro, because Felix has a much better chance of getting you back enough talent to make up for the talent you’re giving up.

  39. itea on July 24th, 2008 11:04 am

    No, I’m not “focussing way too much on value”.

    Are you going to patronize everything I write? If so, I’ll drop out of the discussion.

    If not, let’s look at particulars:

    Yes, roster size is a constriction. Getting 100 1-WAR players for the major league minimum won’t get you anywhere, because only 25 can be on the team and only half those get the playing time to actually achieve that 1 WAR.

    A team like the Mariners can plausibly aim for a breakdown along the lines of 3 3-WAR players, 3 2-WAR players, and 3 1-WAR players. Add a couple wins from the bench and 20 from the pitching staff (this breakdown is pitching heavy, but that seems to be the Mariner’s attempted strategy) and we’ve made it to 90 wins.

    Now it’s nice to have Ichiro as one of the 3-WAR players. They are the hardest to come by; I’m not advocating trading him, and I’m not saying he’s worthless.

    But it’s also nice to have young 1-WAR players who become 2-WAR players, and 2-WAR players who become 3-WAR players. I’m not giving up on Jose Lopez yet – his career to date isn’t so different from Carlos Guillen’s at the same age, for example.

    And the money being paid to Ichiro can get similar players. He makes 17 million a year. FAs generally end up with the team that pays them the most, and the Mariners will usually be able to get another player of Ichiro’s value with that 17 million if they need to.

    I’m not saying trade Ichiro. I’m not saying Lopez is better than Ichiro, or even a particularly good player. I’m saying that if you look at the players on the roster that are preventing the Mariners from being a playoff team, Jose Lopez is no more guilty than Ichiro, and the same for Betancourt if one agrees with the projection Dave has for him next season.

  40. Dave on July 24th, 2008 11:11 am

    Your entire suggestion rests around the plausibility of being able to replace Ichiro with a comparable player. Go look at the list of available outfielders and tell me which of them you want to give $17 million a year to. Abreu? Dunn? Burrell?

    Keeping Jose Lopez stops you from upgrading at a position where upgrading is possible this winter. Keeping Ichiro does no such thing.

  41. joser on July 24th, 2008 11:12 am

    Last year, Jones was tearing up AAA. They get called up and then can’t seemingly hit a thing.

    Ok, not to pick on you personally, but I hear this a lot — more elsewhere than at USSM, obviously, but you still see it here frequently enough — and it really bugs me. I don’t know if all the caffeine we drink around the Sound makes us absurdly impatient, or just the history of the team has caused us to preemptively expect disappointment, but this is a perception distorted by unrealistic timeframes and expectations.

    Jones, with the Rainiers

    '06: (380 AB) .287 / .345 / .484
    '07: (420 AB) .314 / .382 / .586

    Jones, with the M’s

    '06: (74 AB) .216 / .237 / .311
    '07: (65 AB) .246 / .300 / .400

    Notice the difference in ABs?

    Now Jones, 2008 with the O’s

    April (95 AB) .263 .311 .389
    May.. (93 AB) .226 .273 .312
    June. (99 AB) .323 .349 .455
    July. (67 AB) .328 .387 .507

    Again, notice the ABs — he got more in the first month than he got in either of his call-ups with the M’s. He now has almost as many with Baltimore as he had in his first year with the Rainiers.

    Unless you think the M’s put special “suck” juice in the Gatorade they put in the dugout at Safeco (actually…. no, nevermind), you have to look at his performance in Baltimore and conclude that — just like most rookie call-ups — he just needed time and a bunch of ABs to make the adjustment to the majors. He’s showing steady improvement and he’s now playing as well (or better, this past couple of months) than he did in the minors. Of course, if you’re the typical M’s fan, you would’ve looked at his line in April and concluded he was a bust. (“He DESERVES to be sent down! He can’t hit!”) If you were the brain trust running the M’s, you would’ve looked at his May line, combined with his April line, and sent him back down to the minors to “work on some things” and kept him there “until he was ready.” (As they did with Clement this year).

    The reality, as this clearly shows, is that more time in the minors is not the answer. You just have to hang on and ride out the adjustment.

  42. itea on July 24th, 2008 11:13 am

    Jeff, I wrote “might” before “fetch an awful lot”.

    And as I’ve also written, I wouldn’t give him away.

    You have no better idea than I (nor I than you) of what Ichiro might get in the open market, and the Mariners’ aren’t going to trade him, so there’s not much point in arguing it.

    More generally, if we are pretending that we live in a perfect information world (so all teams know how to value players precisely), it makes more sense for a team in the Mariner’s position to trade older players rather than younger players, because younger players tend to improve, and oldre players tend to decline, and the Mariners will need the marginal wins further in the future than teams that are contending now. So Ichiro has a greater value to a contending team than to the Mariners, even if both teams evaluate him perfectly.

    His age is not irrelevant. The idea that he is immune to injury is ridiculous; the idea that he’s not likely to decline over the rest of his contract is also unlikely.

    There’s some irony here. Many months ago, Dave wrote a post where he argued that Betancourt was just as valuable as Tejada, even if one ignored the salaries. When I responded with some comments in defense of Tejada, he wasn’t particularly impressed with my suggestions about Tejada’s ability to play every day, or the fact that Tejada wasn’t showing any signs of decline at the time. So perhaps it’s the two of you that should be discussing those points.

  43. itea on July 24th, 2008 11:22 am

    No, my entire argument does not rest on being able to replace Ichiro with another player.

    And I haven’t advocated trading Ichiro.

    What I actually have been saying is that I think it’s incorrect to consider Jose Lopez a major problem with the team. Similarly Betancourt, although that’s more theoretical based on Dave’s projection, which I actually think is optimistic.

    Let’s say the Dodgers, who are right in the middle of a pennant race and generally have a lot of money, decide that they are really bored of watching Andruw Jones hit .170 and offer up James Loney for Ichiro because they think they’ve got replacements in the minors for the infield (maybe 1B, maybe they move Nomar or Kent over). Would you accept it?

  44. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 11:31 am

    Who said he’s immune to injury? The fact of the matter, however, is that not all players follow the same decline phase curve, so you can’t just say “oh, he’s 37, he’s going to start sucking next year”.

    In particular, player with Ichiro’s skillset (speed and average) decline slower and later than players who already have “old player skills” consisting of power and walks. Rickey Henderson posted a .315/.466/.423 line in 1999 with the Mets during his age 41 season; that’s still a pretty valuable player. No, Ichiro isn’t Rickey Henderson, but he’s much more likely to follow a Henderson-style aging curve than that of Mark McGwire.

    Add in Ichiro’s conditioning that might be unique in baseball history, and there’s just no valid reason to proclaim that he’s about to enter his decline phase Any Day Now based on an arbitrary age cutoff.

    As far as what Ichiro’s value on the market would be; we can’t predict the exact trade you’d be able to get, but we do know that people around the league underestimate the contribution of a skillset like Ichiro’s towards winning baseball games is undervalued around the league, so the talent you’re going to get by trading him isn’t going to match his contribution.

    Miguel Tejada and Ichiro are two entirely different types of players; their aging curves aren’t going to be the same. So I don’t think Dave and I have anything to discuss in that regard.

  45. cdowley on July 24th, 2008 11:35 am

    Let’s say the Dodgers, who are right in the middle of a pennant race and generally have a lot of money, decide that they are really bored of watching Andruw Jones hit .170 and offer up James Loney for Ichiro because they think they’ve got replacements in the minors for the infield (maybe 1B, maybe they move Nomar or Kent over). Would you accept it?

    I like Loney, but it’d take more than him to get Ichiro IMO. Probably a lot more. Add in either Andre Ethier or Delwyn Young, and one or two pitchers, possibly James McDonald, Jon Meloan, or Travis Schlichting. Even then, I’m not sure I would take that…

    Add that to the fact that the Dodgers likely would not make that offer, and the deal has almost zero likelyhood.

  46. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 11:42 am

    Loney for Ichiro, straight up? I’d hang up the phone, and I think Loney is a stud.

    First base is one of the easiest places to find value; center field is one of the hardest.

  47. joser on July 24th, 2008 11:44 am

    Let’s say the Dodgers… offer up James Loney for Ichiro. Would you accept it?

    Maybe, but (a) that’s not going to happen, because even the Dodgers aren’t that stupidly veteran-centric, and (b) do you think M’s ownership would accept that?

    Theoretical arguments are fun and all, but I think we need to focus on reality rather than how many outfielders can dance on the head of the pin (an infinite number, if they’re all Ichiro). Ichiro isn’t going anywhere.

    Total WAR matters too. Lopez, Betancourt, Reed and Balentien are all + in the diff column (being salary bargains), but at Dave correctly says, we can’t start all four of them and hope to compete. That’s because regardless of how much of a salary bargain a player is, he always costs exactly one precious spot in the lineup. We need to average 2.5 to 3.0 WAR from each lineup spot (depending on the pitching staff) to be a legitimate playoff contender.

    This is exactly right. If this was the Pirates or the Marlins, you’d be looking at the bargains to the exclusion of everything else. But for a team with a top ten payroll, the real scarcity is roster spots, not dollars. You need to look at wins/position. There are only nine spots on the field (counting the DH) and if any of them aren’t pulling their weight you need even more from one or more of the others. As Dave says, the opportunity cost of living with a Betancourt is that you have to go looking for an even better player at 1B or LF or whatever. Given the pyramid shape of talent distribution in the majors, the better the player you need the harder he is to find (and the more you have to pay him, of course, but that’s a secondary consideration). So for every below-average guy in the lineup the harder it is to find talent elsewhere to reach your goal.

    Having said that, I agree that it makes sense to prioritize based on need, and the M’s likely are looking at a two season turn around. It’s highly unlikely that exactly the players they need will be available (at a total price they can afford) via trade and/or FA this offseason. Some of them will be, and if they’re smart about taking what’s available and giving out one year (Jose Guillen / Frank Thomas) deals to plug some holes without handcuffing themselves for the 2009 trade deadline and offseason they certainly could do it. But as Dave’s earlier Washburn post suggested, they also need to start now to make the situation better this offseason by clearing more salary and maybe picking up some minor league pieces. As much as I don’t trust Lee P (or anyone in the FO) to make smart moves, they really need to do something now to give themselves (or, hopefully, the new smart GM) more flexibility this winter.

  48. cody on July 24th, 2008 11:45 am

    45- You are asking waaaaaaaaaaaaay to much for Ichiro. You’re right, there is no way the Dodgers or any team would offer that much. Maybe Loney and one of the other guys you mentioned would be plausible. Maybe even that’s a little far fetched.

    But, then again, we aren’t going to trade Ichiro, so I guess we’ll never know.

  49. itea on July 24th, 2008 11:46 am

    Age 37 (1996) is where Rickey became quite mortal – his 1999 season was very good, but every other year was average, below average, or just plain bad.

    Why do you believe people around the league underestimate his contributions? Are there names for these people? We’re not talking about Kevin Cowherd, are we? He makes the All-Star game every year, and he gets a Gold Glove every year, and he was 8th in MVP voting last year, so it’s not like he’s got this bad rep with all the fans and writers.

    Ichiro is Ichiro. He’s high average, great defense, low walk totals and not much power. Great baserunner. He’s 35 in October, and he plays every day. Entertaining. Overall, a very good player.

    I didn’t say he’s going to start sucking next year. I’m saying that he’s in his decline phase, and his added wins aren’t as valuable to the Mariners when they are 30 games out of the playoffs, and he makes a huge amount of money.

  50. cdowley on July 24th, 2008 11:55 am

    45- You are asking waaaaaaaaaaaaay to much for Ichiro. You’re right, there is no way the Dodgers or any team would offer that much. Maybe Loney and one of the other guys you mentioned would be plausible. Maybe even that’s a little far fetched.

    But, then again, we aren’t going to trade Ichiro, so I guess we’ll never know.

    I think you have him dramatically under-valued if you think Loney + one will get him, myself. Yes, maybe I have him somewhat over-valued (keep in mind, I wasn’t saying it’d take every player on that list, the actual offer would have been Loney + 2-3 players I listed), but I think what I was thinking is much closer to his value to the Mariners than what you have. Between his offensive skills, defensive skills, and the tremendous revenue he brings in here in Seattle, he’s worth a lot to this organization. I think the services portion of his contract really show how much they value him.

    But your last statement is absolutely correct. This team will NOT trade Ichiro unless they get blown away by an offer, and probably not even then. Given that, I suppose we likely will never know what it’ll take to get him.

    By the way, this pic of Ichrio is hilarious when you look at his face.

  51. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 11:58 am

    You’re not going to get an exact comparable for Ichiro (it’s part of why PECOTA hates him); Henderson was just another example of a player with a similar skillset who didn’t suddenly fall off a cliff at 37.

    I’ll try to hunt for a better example this evening; I had a sneaking suspicion someone would pick apart the specific example and ignore the point it was meant to illustrate as I was posting it, but couldn’t think of who would be better off the top of my head.

    However, the point remains; not all players follow the same aging curve, and we know that players with a speed/average skillset have a slower/later age curve than those with a power/walks skillset.

    At the very least, saying that he’s in his decline phase is pretty premature.

    As far as his trade value goes, All-Star votes (heh), Gold Gloves and MVP votes aren’t the discussion we’re having; GMs around the league look at Ichiro and see a very good player but not a great player, because a lot of them just can’t get their brains wrapped around how much he helps you win ballgames, because he doesn’t walk and doesn’t hit home runs.

  52. don52656 on July 24th, 2008 12:03 pm

    Joser, I’m not feeling particularly picked on, since I agree with everything you said. It is my observation that the M’s have consistently demonstrated a marked lack of patience with their minor league prospects when they are called up to the big leagues. They did it last year with Jones, which I can almost understand because they thought they had a chance to be a playoff team. Of course, I don’t understand why Jones didn’t get to play regularly after the 11-game losing streak which effectively eliminated us, but neither do most of us.

    The M’s have handled the Clement and Balentien situation similarly this year, with similar results. Reed puzzles me completely, however, because it seems to me that his translated minor league stats should produce a better major league record than it has, and we’re no longer talking about small sample sizes for him, either.

    Last year, the Red Sox brought up Ellsbury in the middle of the pennant race, stuck him in the lineup, and he went nuts (granted, the league has seemingly adjusted to him this year). Joba Chamberlain was brought up, inserted into an important role in a pennant race and was very successful until insects provided his Achilles heal. Clay Buchholz pitched a no-hitter, Ian Kennedy was successful as a starter. Asdrubal Cabrera was brilliant with the Indians. Etc. Contrast the handling of these prospects with the way the M’s handle theirs.

    I guess my real hypothesis is that the Mariner’s handling of their minor leaguers, when they are called to the bigs, creates a greater probability of failure than other clubs. For example, if the M’s had handled Adam Jones in a manner similar to the Red Sox handling of Ellsbury, Jones would likely be a contributor to an M’s team with a brighter future than we currently have.

  53. eponymous coward on July 24th, 2008 12:04 pm

    I didn’t say he’s going to start sucking next year. I’m saying that he’s in his decline phase, and his added wins aren’t as valuable to the Mariners when they are 30 games out of the playoffs, and he makes a huge amount of money.

    If your argument is that Ichiro isn’t likely to contribute to a contending Mariners team before he’s garbage, you’re also saying that Felix isn’t likely to contribute to a winning Mariners team before he hits his free agency eligibility (or gets close to it).

    In light of that, doesn’t it make sense to trade the 22 year old superstud pitcher who’s at below-market salary rates right now, as opposed to the mid-30′s CF who makes 17 million? If you’re going to blow it all up and assume this team is DOA until 2010-2011, you might as well cash in for the most value you can get.

  54. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 12:08 pm

    Maybe Loney and one of the other guys you mentioned would be plausible.

    Loney, Ethier, and a mid-level pitcher? That I’d have to think real hard about. I’d probably still say no just because I <3 Ichiro and I just don’t think you give up the opportunity to have such a unique player play in your ballpark every day, but it’d be defensible from a talent exchange standpoint.

    But that’s the point I’m trying to make; the offer you’re actually going to get for Ichiro probably IS just Loney straight up, and I don’t think that’s a deal you should make.

  55. itea on July 24th, 2008 12:14 pm

    I agree that Ichiro’s kind of skills traditionally hold out longer. In fact, he’s already proven it.

    I disagree about the GMs. I don’t think you have any serious evidence for what you’re saying. Perhaps to the extent that defense may be undervalued by almost all baseball people.

    And as far as his trade value “really” is – again, Dave didn’t put him in his top 50, and he did put Loney there. Are you suggesting Dave got it wrong?

    I’m not trying to prove you wrong. At the same time, there’s a moving target here. In February, Dave wrote:

    However, it does mean that, if given the choice between trading Ichiro and trading Yuniesky Betancourt, I would trade Ichiro – it would be easier to replace his performance with the $17 million that became available than it would to replace Betancourt with the $1.25 million that became available if he was traded.

    Five months later, I write something that’s not nearly as declarative, and I’m hearing the exact opposite.

    Why was Ichiro’s performance easier to replace in February? It’s not like his 2008 has been so productive that we need to raise the bar on his predicted performance in ’09 and beyond.

    I think Ichiro will stay productive, but will decline. He’ll slow down a bit, his bat speed will go down. He may start walking more, and that could compensate.

    Davey Lopes was a phenomenal player from 37 to the end of his career, if you want an example. Rickey was not bad in his later 30s, just not exceptional, and then at the end he got pretty bad.

    Tony Phillips had one of the more unlikely resurgent careers in his later days.

  56. JI on July 24th, 2008 12:15 pm

    but he’s much more likely to follow a Henderson-style aging curve than that of Mark McGwire.

    McGwire has a pretty remarkable post-age 32 run for a TTO guy.

  57. itea on July 24th, 2008 12:21 pm

    eponymous coward -

    My _personal_ answer would be to not trade anyone – but I watch baseball for entertainment, don’t care that much about winning, and enjoy continuity of rosters from a fan’s perspective. But I’ll answer from the “how do we make the Mariners a competitive playoff-quality team as soon as possible”:

    I’d trade Felix if the alternative was a shorter deal after which he’d be a FA. But preferably the Mariners will leverage their current contractual advantage into a longer term deal.

    The Mariners won’t be down forever. They have a very large budget and a cash cow stadium/fan base. 2010 is by no means out of the question – we can all envision the possibilities.

    I’m not advocating trading Ichiro. I want him to stay.

  58. sass on July 24th, 2008 12:27 pm

    This has nothing to do with Ichiro, and it may be a stupid question, but do you think that a hard-assed manager/coach could get Betancourt and Lopez back close to the range we’ve seen? Is it possible they are being lazy or cocky or whatever and this is fixable? We all know McRiggleman isn’t that guy, and I’ve heard a lot that managers don’t matter, but what do you think? Also, the same with walks. The reason I ask is, it seems like those numbers would be feasable if defense for them both went from negative WAR to positive (Yuni could be a 2.5 win guy with defense and some more walks, which I know is a big if). Maybe I’m too emotionally attached.

  59. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 12:28 pm

    That’s what happens when I try to come up with examples, and that’s why I’m just a mod and not an author. :)

    I was just trying to pick examples of a speed/average guy versus a power/walks guy, and apparently I picked badly with both examples.

    As far as what Dave posted in February (understanding that I’m not Dave), Betancourt has continued to regress really badly this year; so if your opinion of him in February was the same as it is now, you’re better at predicting future performance than I am, I guess.

    It’s not necessarily a “moving target” when we have half a season more data to evaluate a player on; in my mind, Betancourt’s gone from a player that we were worried about, to someone who has established themselves as a serious roster problem that needs solving.

    As far as “not having any serious evidence”, I’m not sure what evidence I could give you about what resides in the heads of major league GMs, so I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about that one.

  60. JMHawkins on July 24th, 2008 12:30 pm

    Add a couple wins from the bench and 20 from the pitching staff…

    Itea,

    +20 WAR from the pitching staff isn’t going to be very easy to get. Assume +2 WAR for a healthy Putz, and another +2 WAR from the rest of the bullpen. That’s +4. Assume Felix and Bedard pitch full seasons and are good, +4 WAR each. That’s +12. Silva will be around next year. If he rebounds, he’s a +2 WAR guy. That’s +14. We need two more +3 guys to fill out the back of the rotation.

    Where do they come from? Morrow might eventually be a +3 starter (unless of course the M’s continue trying to develop him into a +2 WAR reliever), but probalby not in ’09. No other in-house options are even close to +3 in ’09 (RRS, Dickey, and Feierabend are all +1 to +1.5 guys, and Aumont is too far away).

    Granted, finding two borderline All-Star SPs isn’t much harder than finding four borderline All-Star position players, but…

    I think it’s incorrect to consider Jose Lopez a major problem with the team. Similarly Betancourt,

    The M’s have lots of problems (natch, for any 100+ game loser). One of the major problems is too many near-replacement level guys holding starting jobs. Lopez and Betancourt are two of them . Individually, they may not be major problems, but collectively they are

  61. abender20 on July 24th, 2008 12:39 pm

    How about trading for Tony Pena Jr., and then turning him into a short reliever? I mean man alive

    This is just impressive

  62. notanangrygradstudent on July 24th, 2008 12:50 pm

    Jeff-

    I’m not sure how you can say with a straight face that it is premature to say someone is in the their decline phase at age 35. Now you may be right that Ichiro is the exceptional player that won’t decline much in the next several years, and as you have noted, he has “young player” skills, so it is unlikely that, even if he does decline, he will fall off a cliff (see Sexson, Richie). But age 35 is the start of the decline phase for just about any player, even an exceptional one.

    The thing that actually makes Ichiro unique from the M’s point of view is the Japan connection. They are worried that if they lose Ichiro, they lose market penetration overseas. Perhaps they are right. On the other hand, how much penetration are they going to get as the team sucks and Ichiro’s skills decline?

    Personally, I think one of the characteristics that make this a bad organization is evidenced by the amount of assurance we all feel that Ichiro WON’T be traded. It is pretty much stupid to take the discussion of ANY player off the table, particularly one on the wrong side of the age equation.

  63. TomC on July 24th, 2008 12:57 pm

    #61 – That video is further proof of how easy it is to find competent bullpen help and foolish it is to spend big (money or #1 draft choices) to get it. For crying out loud – Tony Pena Jr!

  64. cdowley on July 24th, 2008 12:59 pm

    How about trading for Tony Pena Jr., and then turning him into a short reliever? I mean man alive

    Dang, you work with that kid and you could have a legit set-up man. Nasty drop on that curve for the arm slot, and looks like he can change speeds OK.

    Plus, low 90′s fastball from a kid who hasn’t pitched in ten years? Dang…

  65. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 1:00 pm

    The (much smarter) Jeff over at Lookout Landing has said it much better than I could:

    Ichiro Is Fine

  66. itea on July 24th, 2008 1:14 pm

    +20 WAR from the pitching staff definitely won’t be easy – I didn’t intend to sound as if it was. What I wrote was that it was plausible, and it seemed to be the Mariners’ general strategy being that they spent a lot of money on three different pitchers.

    Getting +20 WAR from the Mariner’s pitching staff is difficult in the way that it’s generally not easy to go from a 65-win team to a 90 win team in the span of a year. It’s not likely, but it’s not a ridiculous plan, or at least I don’t think it’s any more ridiculous to hope for +20 WAR from the pitching in 2010 than it is to hope for +30 from the batting/fielding side of things. Neither is impossible. That’s basically what you’re saying anyway, so I think we agree.

    It’s been theorized that it might be easier to get pitchers to come to Seattle than it is to attract hitters, because the stadium flatters their statistics. Who knows?

  67. notanangrygradstudent on July 24th, 2008 1:23 pm

    65 – All I’m saying is that if you are trying to predict future performance, and you aren’t factoring his age into the equation, you are probably wrong.

  68. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 1:26 pm

    Factoring in age is one thing.

    Setting an arbitrary cutoff age for all players regardless of skillset where they WILL start their decline phase (35, 37, or whatever age you name) is entirely another.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t be that surprised if Ichiro retires before we start to see a significant decline phase from him. He’s a freak, particularly in the way he takes care of himself physically, and I could see him being a productive player into his 40s.

    I’m not predicting that mind you, just saying it wouldn’t surprise me. I do think it’s more likely than Ichiro being a bad player in two years, though.

    I am an admitted Ichiro fanboy, but here’s a quote from Jeff in the comment thread on LL for the post I linked:

    “You’re mistaking me for an Ichiro fanboy. If I saw evidence of a decline, I’d say he’s on the decline. But I don’t.”

    Really, go read the link, it’s a good article (LL better pay me for pimping them like this. Graham, I’ll tell you where to send the check).

  69. itea on July 24th, 2008 1:28 pm

    Thanks for the video link.

    Pena’s career OPS in 261 games is .571.

  70. notanangrygradstudent on July 24th, 2008 1:43 pm

    I think we are talking about two different things. You say he ISN’T IN decline. OK, fine. I don’t necessarily disagree.

    But I’m saying you need to PLAN FOR a decline, because there will almost certainly be one, and probably sooner rather than later. The best time to trade him is before the decline begins, so the M’s should be pretty happy it hasn’t happened yet. Once it starts, you have already lost value.

    An objective franchise would know this, and would use it to their advantage. This is the kind of assessment I would expect someone like Antonetti to make. Literally NO ONE should be untradeable, not even Ichiro.

    When one is buying a house, the rule is: never fall in love with the house you are trying to buy. The same mantra should apply to baseball players in a well-run franchise. Everyone gets evaluated objectively, and handled accordingly. Heck, a well-run front office would trot out your very arguments as they shopped Ichiro around.

  71. sass on July 24th, 2008 1:46 pm

    Sooo, no one wants to answer my question. Maybe Dave?

  72. Graham on July 24th, 2008 1:50 pm

    Baseball franchises are trying to make money, not to win games. Most of the time the two go hand in hand, but in Ichiro’s case?

  73. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 2:07 pm

    Oh, sure, I absolutely agree with you; you want to trade him before his decline phase starts.

    But I just think that Ichiro is the sort of player that you can’t really accurately predict a decline phase for; he could really be starting his decline phase now (although I agree with the LL post that I linked that he probably has just been really unlucky) or he might not start it until he’s 42.

    With what we know about him as a player, and the way he deals with his conditioning (I keep bringing it up because I think it makes a big difference), I think it’s a risk worth taking with him, particularly when you take his position on the defensive spectrum into account.

  74. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 2:10 pm

    sass, I missed your question and I’m not Dave, but:

    I honestly don’t think so. I have to think the Mariners have been trying, and it’s just not working.

    They might bounce back with different coaching or once they realize that they’re at risk of losing their careers entirely; but I don’t think you should bank on that to happen, so I think moving them now while they still have some perceived value is the right thing to do.

  75. cdowley on July 24th, 2008 2:32 pm

    As I said earlier, I think the main thing Lopez needs is a change of scenery. He seems to have that “just off” mentality that often is fixed by playing somewhere else.

    Yuni may be the same, or maybe he just needs someone to walk up and kick him in the rear so hard he can’t sit down for a week…

  76. msb on July 24th, 2008 2:39 pm

    Yuni may be the same, or maybe he just needs someone to walk up and kick him in the rear so hard he can’t sit down for a week…

    I get the feeling that Drayer would like to be the one to do it– she has commented more that once about him being possibly the fastest player on the team, yet never stealing, how he doesn’t bunt, his failing to take extra infield …

  77. hark on July 24th, 2008 2:39 pm

    Yuni may be the same, or maybe he just needs someone to walk up and kick him in the rear so hard he can’t sit down for a week

    I propse that the FO locate every hamburger restaurant in a 10-mile radius from Safeco–Applebee’s, Red Robin, McDonald’s, whatever–and cut them weekly checks of ~$1000 to refrain from serving Yuni. See how much of an improvement his range sees when we get him back down to the skinny little pole we saw in ’05…

  78. JMHawkins on July 24th, 2008 2:42 pm

    Sooo, no one wants to answer my question.

    The one about a manager or coach getting Lopez or Betancourt turned around?
    Hmmm. Hard to say.

    Lopez seems to have mental lapses in the field. My subjective memory says he wasn’t like that when he first came up, but I don’t know for sure (since no one keeps stats on Brain Farts). It could be that he’s always been that way and we just didn’t notice it when he was 21 because that’s what you expect (and you also expect him to grow out of it). At the plate, he’s definitely swinging at fewer pitches this year and making more contact (and getting more line drives), so his K% is way down, but it seems to have come at the expense of power. His ISO is way down from his first three years. I wonder if this is the result of the M’s stupid attempts to make him into a diffent hitter a couple of years ago. Maybe a different set of coaches could motiviate him to pay attention in the field and undo the damage done to his swing. I’d like to think so, but this may be who he is now.

    Betancourt was never going to be an offensive superstar. His plate discipline is terrible (and worse this year than ever before) and because he makes so much contact when swinging at crap, he pops up way too often for his average to every be very high. Coupled with never walking, his OBP won’t be high, and he doesn’t have the power to get his fly balls over the fence often enough for his SLG to be very good, so he’s pretty much never going to be more than a mid .700′s OPS guy. Defensively, he seems bigger, slower and more, shall we say Vidroesque. A conditioning coach might regain some of his range, but I don’t know. Guys tend to get bigger and slower as they age. Betancourt may have just gone down that road faster and sooner than most.

  79. msb on July 24th, 2008 2:47 pm

    Drayer mentioned the other day that Yuni’s favorite player growing up was Griffey, and that she wonders if he geos up to bat thinking he’s Jr

  80. hark on July 24th, 2008 2:58 pm

    msb (79)-

    Which would be fine if he doubled tripled quadrupled quintuppled his power numbers to go with that Griffey-esque batting average…

  81. bergamot on July 24th, 2008 3:13 pm

    Drayer mentioned the other day that Yuni’s favorite player growing up was Griffey

    That’s a puzzling comment, since it’s hard to run into the right field wall like Junior if you’re playing shortstop.

    Maybe Yuni could start running into Silva, it would produce the same result.

  82. revbill on July 24th, 2008 3:35 pm

    Pena’s career OPS in 261 games is .571.

    I think we found our new DH!

  83. cody on July 24th, 2008 3:36 pm

    81-
    I don’t think that the outfield wall would eat Yuni like Silva might.

    78- Ya, you’re probably right. Maybe with a good conditioning coach and maybe a better fielding coach we could turn Yuni into a decent fielder.

    But that’s a big maybe.

  84. cdowley on July 24th, 2008 3:40 pm

    83-
    What if he could figure out a way to run into himself? I think that’d do the job…

  85. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 4:27 pm

    What if he could figure out a way to run into himself? I think that’d do the job…

    Maybe with this?

  86. scott19 on July 24th, 2008 4:33 pm

    What if he could figure out a way to run into himself? I think that’d do the job…

    Hey, for entertainment between innings, they could always recreate the old Dick Van Dyke schtick and have the Moose go out and set an ottoman in Yuni’s way. :)

  87. killer_ewok18 on July 24th, 2008 4:37 pm

    MLBTradeRumors.com: …talks have progressed on a possible Washburn-Yankees trade. Price says the Ms aren’t sold on Kei Igawa, but the Yankees are willing to discuss Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner.

    Lesser of two evils I guess. Milky Cabrera. Blech.

  88. Jeff Nye on July 24th, 2008 4:40 pm

    I have to say I’d like Melky Cabrera coming back in that deal a heck of a lot better than Kei Igawa.

    Is he still a credible center fielder defensively, or does he fit better in a corner?

  89. joser on July 24th, 2008 4:42 pm

    Silva is a more immovable object than the outfield wall. But better padded.

  90. scott19 on July 24th, 2008 4:51 pm

    I’d rather have Cabrera than Kei Igawa, too.

    Heck, I think I’d rather have Kai Winn (from Deep Space 9 infame) on the roster than Kei Igawa.

  91. C. Cheetah on July 24th, 2008 4:52 pm

    Dave,thanks for the post.
    However, I have a different take than most it seems. I can not help but think the future looks HORRIBLE.
    Our young “stars” are not getting better…
    Our current stars – Bedard and Beltre – are anxious to leave…
    We have nothing of value in our old stars, so we all hope they go away. Too many to list…
    Our rookies – Morrow, Clement, Balentin, RRS, and several others are at best 2WAR, and thus NOT enough to get us to even mediocrity…
    And last our minors suck or are many years away.
    How are we going to improve?
    We don’t want Texeira, probably won’t have enough cash to get Sabathia or Sheets…
    Heck we may catch the Cubs in terms of futility.

  92. scott19 on July 24th, 2008 4:53 pm

    Silva’s a more immovable object than an Antarctic ice shelf.

  93. Mothy on July 24th, 2008 5:47 pm

    Would an increase in WAR in our good players be reasonable to be expected if we did improve several of our other bats? I mean if I was a pitcher going against this lineup I would never give Ichiro a decent pitch to hit because I would know for certain that I could get almost anyone else in the lineup out. So we add a couple more good bats to the lineup and suddenly the couple of good hitters we do have in our lineup would be getting better pitches to hit.
    This seems to be the traditional thinking anyway. Have there been any studies as to whether or not it actually works this way, and if it does how much of a difference it would make?

  94. Milendriel on July 24th, 2008 6:45 pm

    93– Studies don’t show any evidence of a protection effect, but beyond that, the argument doesn’t really look good at face value either. I mean, besides the fact that good hitters still get theirs regardless of how you pitch to them, “not giving them a pitch to hit” is just going to result in adding a baserunner and not making an out. For an extreme example, look at 2004 Barry Bonds. 120 IBB’s gave him a ridiculous .609 OBP, and when he did record an official at-bat, he slugged .812.

    The protection argument is really irreconcilable with the accepted (and 100x more useful) adage that pitchers need to throw strikes to succeed.

  95. Mothy on July 24th, 2008 6:58 pm

    But with this measuring system, if I understood it right, a base hit, double, triple, homerun is worth more than a walk. So if they are walking less and hitting more other hits it could up their win value. And with free swingers such as Ichiro I would think more bad pitches wouldn’t up the walks that much but may up the outs, although Ichiro strikes me as a pretty good bad ball hitter so I’m not sure about that. So although protection may have no, or limited effect on OBP, it seems to me it could still have an effect on WAR.

  96. DAMellen on July 24th, 2008 7:03 pm

    Dave
    Two questions:
    1) You don’t sound real high on Balentien. I remember at some point you said you thought he could be a .300/.370/.530 hitter. Do you still think he has that kind of potential? Are you losing faith in him as a prospect or do you just think he’s still a few years away from being a major league contributor?
    2) What type of free agents will Hudson and Ellis be? I know they’re good, but do you think they’d be worth our second pick?

  97. Dave on July 24th, 2008 7:59 pm

    Mothy, no, that’s not how wOBA works. wOBA is a linear weights formula that gives correct run values to each result of every at-bat, then scales it to look like on base percentage.

  98. Steve T on July 24th, 2008 8:02 pm

    Balentien at .900? I’ll believe it when I see it, and probably not even then.

    I think the question of getting value by trading Ichiro, RF can be answered instantly in the affirmative. You trade him straight up for Ichiro, CF. There isn’t even any paperwork to fill out.

  99. joser on July 24th, 2008 8:14 pm

    1) You don’t sound real high on Balentien. I remember at some point you said you thought he could be a .300/.370/.530 hitter. Do you still think he has that kind of potential? Are you losing faith in him as a prospect or do you just think he’s still a few years away from being a major league contributor?

    Say what? Have you looked at the future forty? Dave has Balentien as a 2 on the reward scale, and I don’t recall him being higher. I don’t know if Dave has projected a slash line for him in a post somewhere, but he’s never been “high” on him — in fact I do remember him saying he thought less of Wlad than the organization (or Jason Churchill) did — and he’s always said he’s better-suited for a park that doesn’t punish pull RH hitters.

  100. msb on July 24th, 2008 8:17 pm

    Our current stars – Bedard and Beltre – are anxious to leave…

    Beltre? really? according to whom?

  101. nickwest1976 on July 24th, 2008 8:57 pm

    I would be VERY happy getting Melky Cabrera for Washburn. Melky is making around 500k and has only about a year and a half of service time according to Cot’s. He’s a lefty bat and 23 years old. I still think he has a lot of upside. Decent power and speed.

    Dave, do you have stats on Melky’s WAR? I would assume you would like him better than Reed moving forward but I could be wrong.

  102. DAMellen on July 24th, 2008 9:45 pm

    Dave talked highly of Balentien in this Future Forty post:
    http://ussmariner.com/2007/07/03/future-forty-updated-for-july/
    I’d like to draw some extra attention to this comment:
    The scout who compared Wlad to Ordonez meant it as a compliment, and he definitely meant to indicate that Wlad had .300/.370/.550 upside. That doesn’t mean he’ll put that line up every year, but he could have a nice peak run at that level.

    I can’t speak for Dave, but I don’t think a whole lot of Cabrera. He’s very similar to Reed. He’s a good fielder and he doesn’t strike out much (we all know how much the Mariners love a guy who doesn’t rack up Ks), but he doesn’t walk much either (we all know how much the Mariners love a guy who doesn’t rack up BBs too), he has absolutely no power, and he can’t hit lefties. He’s three years younger than Reed and there’s a decent chance he’ll improve so if you’re giving me my choice, I’ll take Cabrera, but he’ll never be more than a decent player and I wouldn’t take him ahead of a worthwhile infield/pitching prospect. I’ll take Reed, Balentien, Saunders, Halman, and a pitching prospect ahead of Cabrera, Reed, Balentien, Saunders, and Halman.

  103. Steve T on July 24th, 2008 10:42 pm

    Wow, selective memory kicking in. I certainly don’t remember Dave saying anything like that, but there it is in black and white. I think that was optimistic, in the glow of a good couple of weeks. I think Balentien’s peak in the majors is more like .800 than .900. I think it’s extremely unlikely that Balentien is ever as good as Raul, let alone Magglio Ordonez. Of course, I’m a pessimist.

  104. Milendriel on July 24th, 2008 10:48 pm

    102- I’ll take anything that involves Washburn going away. Like, I’d take Jose Vidro leading off and playing center field every day if it meant Washburn was off the team. Same for any of our horrible contracts, really.

  105. Mothy on July 24th, 2008 10:56 pm

    The post on wOBA says “Singles are worth a bit more than walks, but less than doubles, which are worth less than triples, and nothing is worth more than a home run”… So how would seeing less good pitches and there by getting walked or getting out instead of getting hits of any sort not have an effect whatsoever on wOBA? I could see how you could argue that the effect would be tiny and therefore meaningless, but I don’t see how if it weighs singles, doubles, triples, and home runs heavier than walks how it wouldn’t have an effect on the rating.

  106. Steve T on July 24th, 2008 11:11 pm

    Walks don’t come at the expense of hits, they come at the expense of outs.

    Walks are by definition on balls out of the strike zone, and despite everything you’ve heard about “bad ball hitters” everybody hits much, much worse on balls out of the strikezone. So those walks replace mostly outs, not hits.

  107. scott19 on July 24th, 2008 11:33 pm

    I’d take Jose Vidro leading off and playing center field every day if it meant Washburn was off the team

    The thought of that is both deeeeep hurting and deeeeep loathing!

  108. Mothy on July 24th, 2008 11:59 pm

    Oh wait… I understand the formula now. I’m an idiot. (I really need to get more sleep)

  109. Matt the Dragon on July 25th, 2008 6:57 am

    Our rookies – Morrow, Clement, Balentin, RRS, and several others are at best 2WAR, and thus NOT enough to get us to even mediocrity…

    Umm, +2 WAR is the definition of mediocrity (i.e. +0 Wins Above Average)

  110. Steve T on July 25th, 2008 9:09 am

    Ah, mediocrity. I remember that. Wasn’t it nice, compared to this?

  111. Graham on July 25th, 2008 9:54 am

    Ah, mediocrity. I remember that. Wasn’t it nice, compared to this?

    No. Mediocrity sucks. 2005 and 2006 were way less fun than 2004.

  112. G-Man on July 25th, 2008 11:52 am

    I assume Cot’s service times are as of the beginning of this season, so Melky is going to have 2.5 years at the end and perhaps even be arb-eligible then.

    Until I see five better starters in the offing for the 2009 Mariners, I am unwilling to simply dump Washburn for dreck. Maybe I am too caught up in his recent performances, but he doesn’t look that bad compared to an unknown arm we dig up this winter. If we could get a little bit of true value for him, that would be different.

  113. LordLes on August 20th, 2008 4:49 pm

    I’m having troubles seeing the entire spreadsheet.

    And may I have permission to print the spreadsheet and your comments to show other people?

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