Reload: The Offseason Plan To Win in 2009

September 30, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 94 Comments 

For years, I’ve been posting suggested offseason plans for the M’s, laying out potential moves they could make to improve the roster and try to build a winning team. This year, however, it’s a little different – the organization doesn’t really know what they’re going to do, since they don’t have a GM, and they seem to be leaning towards a rebuild. So, until we know what the decision on the GM is and what he feels like the team should do with this roster, there needs to be two sets of suggestions. Double the work for me, but hopefully, twice as much fun for you guys.

So, here’s part one – a step by step outline of how the organization could retool this winter and attempt to come back as a contender in 2009. There’s a ton of talent hitting free agency this winter and the M’s already have some pieces in place, so it’s possible, even coming off a disastrous season. Here’s one potential roster that could legitimately contend in the A.L. West next year.

And here are the moves that would create said roster:

Trade Jose Lopez, Wladimir Balentien, and Jarrod Washburn to the Brewers for Corey Hart and Brad Nelson

Sign Rafael Furcal to a 3 year, $40 million contract

Sign Milton Bradley to a 3 year, $36 million contract with a vesting option for a 4th season based on PA

Sign Reed Johnson to a 1 year, $3 million contract.

Sign Jeremy Affeldt to a 1 year, $4 million contract

Fairly simple – one trade, four free agent contracts, and a position change for Betancourt. I have a hard time seeing the Brewers turning down that offer (especially with how badly Hart finished 2008, and the fact that he’s arb. eligible this winter), and the contracts for Furcal and Bradley are calculated risks, offering guaranteed years and significant cash to guys with health questions. As far as make believe rosters, I think this one’s quite a bit more realistic than most of the ones I’ve proffered in the past. It requires the M’s to keep their payroll essentially even with what it was in 2008, but wouldn’t require the new GM to come in and demand to be able to trade prospects off for a win-now fix or for a budget increase to spend on veterans. This roster can be built with the resources readily available from day one.

Why would this team win?

Rough calculations put the offense at about +10 runs above average over the full season. Those projections assume a minimal rebound from Betancourt and Hart’s poor seasons, a slight uptick by Beltre and Ichiro, slightly below average production from Clement and Nelson, and Bradley only being a good hitter, not a great one. There’s certainly room for more in the offense – Hart turns 27 next year, and his power is legitimate, so a slightly better approach could lead to a big step forward. Clement could be quite a bit better than the projection, and Bradley might not regress nearly as far as this suggests.

The defense is also remarkably better. Lopez is essentially replaced by Furcal, a pretty huge upgrade with the glove. Ibanez is replaced by Hart, which is like driving by McDonalds and ending up at Mortons. Betancourt’s less of a problem at second base than at shortstop, and while Nelson/Clement won’t be very good over at first, Morse offers some potential as a solid glove there. Overall, this should be an above average defense, probably by the margin of +10 to +15 runs or so.

The pitching staff benefits from a potentially healthy Bedard, the importation of Affeldt to be the bullpen’s primary lefty, and a better back-end of the rotation with RRS, Morrow, and a version of Carlos Silva that can’t possibly be that bad again. Batista, Dickey, and Feierabend provide rotation depth to make up for the innings gap that the starting five will certainly leave, so there’s eight in house starting pitchers already around. Overall, this pitching staff is, much like the rest of the team, slightly above average. Depending on Bedard’s heatlh and the progression of Morrow and Rowland-Smith, I’ve got them at +10 runs above average, but it could jump to +30 if Bedard can pitch the whole season at peak level.

Put it all together, and you’ve got a team that looks like an 85-87 win team based on talent level. Good enough to be the favorite? No, certainly not, but a huge step back to respectability while simultaneously building to the future. No major prospects are sacrificed – Balentien is essentially replaced by Hart, a better version of the same skillset, and while Lopez is shipped off in favor of the older Furcal, Luis Valbuena gets to hang out in Tacoma and push Betancourt for the 2B job if he doesn’t improve.

The guys around which the franchise should be building are still here, and the new talented veterans give the team time to let their prospects develop while also keeping the fan base on board. The team gets younger and significantly more exciting, and the new additions create an opportunity for a playoff berth if enough things go right – Felix breaks out, Bedard stays healthy, Beltre has another monster contract year, whatever. They’re not the favorites, but they’re within striking distance, and there’s real upside on the roster.

Why would this team lose?

Easy – it’s brittle as hell. Furcal gets a huge contract for sitting four months in 2008. Bradley never plays more than about 75% of the season. Bedard’s coming off shoulder surgery. Morrow and Rowland-Smith enter spring training as starters for the first time in their careers. Those five guys are all major durability question marks, and they’re all being counted on. If more than one bites it, this team isn’t going to win. They have to stay healthy.

But what do you really lose by trying this roster out? Say Bedard doesn’t come back, Furcal’s back is still a problem, Bradley misses a bunch of time due to nagging injuries… they just get replaced by the kids you were going to play if you decided to rebuild before the year started, and you can still shop around guys like Beltre and Putz at the trade deadline if you want prospects in lieu of more draft picks.

Yea, there’s some financial outlay, but none of it is guaranteed beyond where Silva and Johjima’s ugly extensions already take us, so it’s not prolonging the years of bad money on the books. If you go into a full scale rebuild, you’re not winning for 2-3 years anyway, so the money spent on Bradley and Furcal isn’t going to push back your timetable one single day. And if the team bombs while either or both of those guys stay healthy and productive, you have a couple new trade chips to hasten your rebuild.

The team has issues, but there are players available that can address those issues, and the team has the resources to get those guys in uniform. The Mariners don’t have to rebuild – with some good roster management, they can restock the major league roster without sacrificing the future. It doesn’t have to be an either/or, win now or rebuild situation. With an offseason like this, the team could win in 2009 and rebuild at the same time.

Hickey says Towers can’t interview either

September 30, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 4 Comments 

Noted here. I think I’ll be adjusting the “sitting GM” percentage downwards tomorrow.

Cashman Signs 3 Year Extension with NY

September 30, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 25 Comments 

Cross Brian Cashman off the candidates list – he’s re-signing with the Yankees. 3 years at a reported $2 million per year.

From what I’m hearing, it’s more likely that the M’s are going to go with a first time GM over an experienced guy. It’s not set in stone, but right now, bet on Hahn, Lacava, or Ang.

Current GM Handicapping: Tuesday

September 30, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 16 Comments 

A semi-random gauge of who’s likely to get the job. Based on current press coverage, rumors, substantiated and un, educated guesses, and so on. We claim no insight into front office machinations. Please, no wagering.

For names and brief resumes, check our potential GM candidates post.

Who Percent
LaCava 25%
Hahn 23%
Woodfork 21%
Ng 10%
Avila 5%
DiPoto/Hinch/Hoyer 3%
Antonetti 1%
Evans 1%
Forst 1%
Pelekoudas 1%
White 1%
Bulk candidates  
Sitting GM 3%
Field 5%

“Sitting GM” is someone who currently has a GM job: Kevin Towers, for instance.
“Field” is everyone not listed.

New to the list: Rick Hahn, White Sox assistant general manager.
Significant change: DePodesta drops to 0%

Updated to take Mike’s suggestion and clean up a typo.

GM candidate: Rick Hahn

September 30, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 16 Comments 

Current job: Assistant GM, White Sox (VP,AGM)
Job history from Baseball America
Puff bio from the MLB site:

Hahn’s primary responsibilities include assisting Senior Vice President/General Manager Ken Williams with all player acquisitions, evaluations and contract negotiations, as well as with overseeing all elements of the club’s baseball operations, including the scouting and player development departments. Williams credits Hahn with negotiating multiyear contracts with several current White Sox players, including 2006 All-Stars Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski.

(shudder) Sorry. Make of that list what you will.

Former agent.

Other GM job news:
Previously interviewed for the Cardinals job along with Antonetti and Peter Woodfork, who you’ll also see on our leaderboard. The Cardinals hired their interim GM.

Declined to interview for the Pirates job, as did Antonetti. LaCava, who you’ll see on our leaderboard, did.

Background scoring:
Contracts and player negotiation: strong
Player scouting and development: ?
Modern baseball analysis: ?

Relevant articles… ummm…. if you find anything good, please drop them into the contents. I didn’t turn anything up except this radio interview: Hahn discusses offseason needs, 11/30/2007

Thiel and Lincoln

September 30, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 51 Comments 

Art Thiel spends some quality time with Howard Lincoln and asks a lot of questions. There’s actually some good stuff in his answers, so it’s worth reading. Basic summary:

They liked the results Gillick gave them (no world series appearances, destroyed farm system, WOO!) and didn’t like the results Bavasi gave them, so they’re going to try to find someone who gets better results. No mention of any change in process that might lead to better results, of course.

When given a direct chance to give credit to the A’s for their success, Lincoln avoids doing so and instead talks about the Twins. The M’s have never really acknowledged that the A’s are just way, way better at this running a baseball team thing, and they probably never will.

Can’t evaluate the Erik Bedard trade as a disaster “until it plays out”. Again with the judge-strictly-by-results philosophy, which is one of the main reasons this organization is about 20 years behind the rest of baseball.

They won’t trade Ichiro.

There’s not much else we can say until we see who they hire – hopefully the new GM understands that the processes need changing if the results are going to improve. You know what, I’m just going to steal Paul DePodesta’s success matrix:

The Mariners are in the lower right hand corner. The goal is to be in the upper left hand corner. You can’t just hope to shift left, Howard – you need to move up too.

No DePo

September 29, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 8 Comments 

For those of you hoping that the M’s would interview/hire Paul Depodesta for their next GM spot, you can cross him off the list – the note that I put at the end of the GM update about DePodesta agreeing to not pursue a GM job in exchange for the three year contract extension he received has been confirmed by a “clubhouse insider”. And yes, I just wanted to use that term.

So, DePo’s out. At least we can keep reading his blog, which is awesome.

Current GM Handicapping: Post-season edition

September 29, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 29 Comments 

A semi-random gauge of who’s likely to get the job. Based on current press coverage, rumors, substantiated and un, educated guesses, and so on. We claim no insight into front office machinations. Please, no wagering.

For names and brief resumes, check our potential GM candidates post.

Who Percent
LaCava 30%
Woodfork 25%
Ng 12%
DePodesta 10% 0%
Avila 5%
DiPoto/Hinch/Hoyer 5%
Antonetti 3%
Evans 1%
Forst 1%
Pelekoudas 1%
Towers 1%
White 1%
Field 5%

“Field” is everyone not listed.

Dave adds: I’ve heard DePo gave up the right to interview for GM positions this winter when the Padres re-signed him to an extension a month or so ago.

And It’s Over

September 29, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 19 Comments 

Thank God. I think we all agree that the 2008 season was one of the most frustrating, disappointing seasons of baseball we’ve ever followed. And it’s mercifully over.

So, let’s talk about the future.

Despite how badly we all agree that this organization has been run, there’s no deep dark abyss that the team is about to fall into. There’s actual, tangible hope to be found within, with real talent at all levels of the system. Clement, Balentien, Halman, Saunders, Valbuena, Tuiasosopo, Moore, Johnson – there are eight position player prospects at AA or AAA with legitimate chances at major league careers. For all the talk about how the M’s have been terrible at developing from within, they’ve got some guys knocking on the door. Maybe only a couple of them make it and the rest wash out, but that means a couple of them make it, and the team would have two or three good young position players around which to build. And led by Carlos Triunfel, there’s more on the way.

Felix and Morrow and Rowland-Smith give the team three young starting pitchers. Yea, there’s nothing else coming for a couple of years, but the rotation isn’t an urgent need anymore. There’s time to let Aumont and Ramirez and Pineda develop. They don’t have to rush the teenage arms up to try to patch holes.

They’ll have the 2nd pick in the draft next summer, and for all the talk Stephen Strasburg has garnered, there’s a college shortstop named Grant Green who could be a franchise type player at a position the M’s could use a significant upgrade. The M’s are going to get a terrific player next summer even if Washington does take Strasburg.

The major league team needs some work, but there’s talent in the organization. Don’t let despair overwhelm you, because help is on the way. Most of it won’t be ready in 2009, but there’s a legitimate core of a good major league team coming. There’s reason to hope.


September 28, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 54 Comments 

Hey, readers. If you’re reading this, thanks for sticking it out this horrible season. You’ve been great, and knowing (and having met many of) you all really has made it easier to find the time to keep writing, keep the site running, and all of that.

Hang around for the off-season: it should be a doozy, and we’re going to be all over it.

But more importantly– thanks.

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