Armstrong Speaks

Dave · September 3, 2008 at 5:54 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Ross Newhan wrote a piece for the LA Times where he looks at the state of the American League West, from a “can anyone catch the Angels” perspective. In the piece, he gets a few interesting lines from Chuck Armstrong:

“I don’t think the Angels have anything we can’t catch up to,” he said from the West’s basement, “but after thinking it was going to happen this year I’m not predicting it’s going to happen next year.

“It’s not going to be a quick fix, because we’re going to have to grind through some of these contracts we’ve obligated ourselves to. Our attendance is going to go down in connection with our performance, and as chief operating officer here it’s my job to be fiscally and financially responsible, so you’re not going to see the Mariners go out and commit high dollars to free agents. We want to get back as quickly as we can, but we want to build something that will endure. If you don’t build a strong foundation in a market our size, you’re going to have some volatile swings in your record.

This is the most declarative public statement about what the organization is planning for the future we’ve heard since Bavasi was fired, and it seems clear that Lincoln has settled on rebuilding. Stating in September that “you’re not going to see the Mariners go out and commit high dollars to free agents” just doesn’t make any sense if you’re going to entertain any possibility of retooling and trying to win next year. These comments make it fairly obvious that the team is going to tear it down, cut payroll, and take their lumps for a few years.

This pretty much rules out Pat Gillick’s return (thank God), as you’d imagine that the GMs they’ll interview will be ones with experience in player development/franchise building. Don’t be surprised if John Hart, who recently said he was interested in the job, becomes a leading contender – Armstrong’s comments lead us to believe that we’re going to see a Cleveland-style rebuilding, and Hart is the most experienced guy in building a franchise through player development out there.

Enjoy Adrian Beltre’s last month in September – these kind of statements make it exceedingly likely that he’ll be traded this winter, as the M’s go young and cheap next year.


35 Responses to “Armstrong Speaks”

  1. NODO Dweller on September 3rd, 2008 6:09 pm

    Maybe I’m misreading, but that article seems to be quoting Armstrong, not Lincoln…

  2. Steve Nelson on September 3rd, 2008 6:10 pm

    Minor nit: Newhan attributes the quote to Armstrong, not Lincoln.

  3. great gonzalez on September 3rd, 2008 6:14 pm

    it seems clear that Lincoln has settled on rebuilding. Stating in September that “you’re not going to see the Mariners go out and commit high dollars to free agents” just doesn’t make any sense if you’re going to entertain any possibility of retooling and trying to win next year


  4. G-Man on September 3rd, 2008 6:19 pm

    Well, OK, but new GM nonwithstanding, I don’t know that these guys have any more skill at rebuilding than they do at signing good free agents to win now.

    As for Beltre, I hope they don’t dump him for a mediocre prospect or two. It’s a big paycheck, but you need some sort of veteran base and leadership for young guys, and you know they aren’t going to use the $ they save to reduce ticket prices.

  5. DMZ on September 3rd, 2008 6:27 pm

    I like that he’s flogging the “small market” thing again. You’d think that myth was long dead.

  6. Sentinel on September 3rd, 2008 6:30 pm

    Rebuilding is great as long as they’re making smarter decisions. I can put up with a period of horrible W-L records for a while, as long as the end-product is a competitive baseball team that I enjoy watching. It worked for the Rays, right?

  7. seattlesundevil on September 3rd, 2008 6:54 pm

    G-Man.. If the asking price for Beltre when Minnesota was interested is any indication, he will not come cheaply (thank God)

  8. Jeff Nye on September 3rd, 2008 7:12 pm

    Honestly, with all the regressions we’ve seen this year, I’m much less optimistic about turning things around for 2009 than I was.

    Just too many holes to fill, but we still won’t see a Cleveland style rebuild.

  9. eponymous coward on September 3rd, 2008 7:12 pm

    Gosh, you’d think that if you weren’t going to commit money to free agents and were going to “grind through some of those contracts”, you’d do things like, say, trade Washburn for peanuts to the Yankees at the All Star break, as long as you got out of his contract for 2009.

    I dunno, maybe Chuck LIKES grinding through contracts, as well as having too many starting pitchers (Felix, Bedard, Washburn, Silva, Batista, Morrow, Rowland-Smith, Feierabend, Dickey).

    I’d also guess that the team will likely sell low on Beltre AND Bedard, since that’s what will actually fetch any return other than a delicious and cold Sprite. It’s sad, really, because I don’t think they are as far away from being decent as Armstrong portrays. A competent DH, !B and LF and some infield defense is not an impossible task for an offseason, especially since bargains at those positions are usually pretty common.

  10. msb on September 3rd, 2008 7:20 pm

    Maybe I’m misreading, but that article seems to be quoting Armstrong, not Lincoln…

    I think Dave is saying that Lincoln has made the decision that Armstrong is discussing (unless this comment relates to a change since made…)

    I do wonder though (as we have discussed before) whether Beltre is valued as highly by others as he is here…

  11. Eastside Crank on September 3rd, 2008 7:26 pm

    That quote could be straight out of Bull Durham only instead of being the baseball speak for players it is the one for owners. Armstrong has been a club executive for 23 years and he could not figure this formula out in year 22 and saved the farm system? Give me a break, I do not see anything here that suggests upper management has a clue about what they are doing. To paraphrase: We put a putrid product on the field and ripped out all hope for the future and now we are going to put an even more putrid product on the field because the fans stopped coming to games. Wake me up when the Mariners actually start putting sensible value on players and stop using money as a crutch for their poor decisions.

  12. DAMellen on September 3rd, 2008 7:30 pm

    You say John Hart is experienced, but you’ve also repeatedly mocked relying on experince. What do you actually think of the guy? Does he know how to evaluate talent? Do you think he’ll be able to deal Beltre/Bedard/Ichiro/whoever for high level minor league talent or will he acquire a bunch of tall guys that throw the ball a million miles an hour and can’t find the strike zone?

  13. terry on September 3rd, 2008 7:32 pm

    Screw Hart IMHO.

  14. Gomez on September 3rd, 2008 7:55 pm

    I remember many of us originally wanted the M’s to do a rebuild, and they instead went for big money free agents and tried to patch together a competitive team.

    This is a few years too late, sure, but something tells me that, ultimately, this is for the best.

  15. joser on September 3rd, 2008 8:02 pm

    but you need some sort of veteran base and leadership for young guys

    Really? Who is doing that for the Rays? Cliff Floyd? Eric Hinske? Mike Difelice?

    I remember many of us originally wanted the M’s to do a rebuild, and they instead went for big money free agents and tried to patch together a competitive team.

    And in the process gutted a big chunk of the farm. So now they’re in a deeper hole, facing a longer rebuilding period.

  16. Steve Nelson on September 3rd, 2008 8:04 pm

    I guess the difference now is that the team executives have dispensed with “we have the resources to rebuild and compete at the same time. We don’t need to do a Cleveland style teardown.”

  17. DMZ on September 3rd, 2008 8:10 pm

    But is that good? They do have the resources to rebuild and contend at the same time — that they couldn’t figure out how doesn’t make it true that it’s impossible to do so.

  18. eponymous coward on September 3rd, 2008 8:22 pm

    What DMZ said.

    The problem with the Mariners wasn’t signing Adrian Beltre or Ichiro, or Johjima’s first contract. It was signing Sexson, Washburn, Silva and Batista, and Johjima’s SECOND contract.

    The problem is that the Mariners are spending money on the wrong kinds of players, NOT that they are spending money instead of building from the farm system.

    If the Mariners has anything approaching an understanding of replacement value and the idea that middling free agents in their 30’s shouldn’t be locked into multi-year contracts, they’d have been fine. Fix that, and they could do fine. In a lot of cases, there’s some talent in the system that can patch some holes (Morrow, Hulett, Wlad, Reed, Clement)- and some of the other holes (basically, the M’s need a couple of credible bats at the low end of the defensive spectrum, and some gloves at the high end of that spectrum) are solutions you CAN find on the FA market without spending a zillion dollars on a multi-year deal, because the minor leagues generally produce these kinds of players cheap, plus a number of them are underrated (the Beane-style “market inefficiency” thing).

    Really, this team isn’t as far from things as it seems. It just needs to pare deadweight and make some better choices.

  19. cody on September 3rd, 2008 9:21 pm

    I would say that if the mariners are able to make some smart and prudent decisions we could think something like 75-80 wins next year and maybe (BIG maybe) catching the Angels in 2010. 2011 might be the safer choice, though.

    But then again, with our market size we can afford to go the risky way so why not?

    Edit: Awwwwww.. What happened to “Add my light to the glowing firmarment of discussion?”

  20. DAMellen on September 3rd, 2008 9:50 pm

    So I got one negative opinion. Anybody else want to weigh in? John Hart as GM? Good or bad?

  21. eponymous coward on September 3rd, 2008 10:39 pm

    It depends- Hart + Fontaine + some new blood could be pretty good, especially if Lincoln and Armstrong STFU, especially if Hart brings in the next generation of Shapiros to learn the trade.

    If it’s Hart + Fontaine + the same old crowd responsible for the 2004-2008 debacle that got us here, with Amrstrong and Lincoln putting THEIR two cents in, though, ugh.

    Basically, it all boils down to whether senior management lets Hart run things ala Cleveland, or is in his face ala Hicks in Texas (“No, you HAVE to resign Raul to a four year deal- he’s important to CHEMISTRY!!!!111”).

  22. Gomez on September 3rd, 2008 10:51 pm

    You can rebuild and compete. It’s just a matter of compiling talent efficiently. If you can find enough affordable MLB-capable players who can produce and get enough young prospects to pan out, you can build a reasonably competitive squad. The Marlins managed to squeeze out a couple of somewhat competitive seasons with no payroll and a handful of legitimately talented players. The Mariners, who would have far more resources even with a cut payroll, certainly can do so.

    Of course, that would involve a GM that operates this team with an intelligence uncanny to the precedent set by his/her predecessors, but it’s certainly possible.

  23. Breadbaker on September 3rd, 2008 11:46 pm

    I think we have to worry that the window of opportunity closes when the A’s new stadium opens when all the kids they traded Haren, Harden, etc. for start producing and they can sign free agents.

  24. vj on September 4th, 2008 1:06 am

    WRT window of opportunity I am more concerned about Felix leaving as a free agent (when’s his last club controlled year? 2011?) and age catching up with Ichiro than about Oakland’s new ballpark.

  25. thefin190 on September 4th, 2008 2:48 am

    Realistically, if they are dedicated rebuilding like they say they are, is there a chance they could unload Silva, Johjima, Washburn, or Batista in the winter? I realize they either have bulky salaries (Silva, Johjima) or have no value (Washburn, as the market proved this summer, and Batista), but could there be a change they will get rid of them for almost nothing to free up roster space?

    And also, now it’s unfortunate that Beltre will be leaving, I think the casual fans are just starting to warm up to him.

  26. Tek Jansen on September 4th, 2008 5:09 am

    No one is taking Silva or Joh. The M’s are stuck with them. Wash and/or Batista might get a career minor leaguer back in return.

    I hope that the new GM realizes that he needs an excellent return for any possible Beltre trade. While I do not advocating turning down an excellent offer for Beltre, or signing Ibanez to a long term deal to play LF, it is still depressing to think of what the M’s lineup will look like without them. Ichiro and the nobodies.

  27. Evan on September 4th, 2008 8:41 am

    Of course we can rebuild and compete. We’re in a four team division, and Oakland has done a pretty good job of doing the same thing on a smaller payroll.

  28. joser on September 4th, 2008 9:14 am

    2012. That’s when the A’s will open their new stadium. The M’s have never been smarter than the A’s in the Beane era, and starting then they won’t be richer. And the M’s will be trying to hang onto Felix then too.

    Four years. That’s what they have to get things permanently turned around. Or get used to seasons like this one, at the bottom of the AL West.

  29. Steve T on September 4th, 2008 9:47 am

    Rebuild with what? Who has confidence that this management team could rebuild a frigging cardboard box, let alone a 21st-century baseball team?

  30. metz123 on September 4th, 2008 9:59 am

    Of course you can rebuild and compete. The M’s should be competing every year. They have a great revenue stream, they are in a 4 team division and they have more money than 2 of those teams.

    Boston has been competing and refreshing their roster since 2003. Yeah, they’ve now got the 2nd largest payroll in MLB. They do most things right, they trade for what they don’t have, they let players go that they don’t want sentimentality be damned, they build bullpens on the cheap and they get good talent through the farm system and turn it into productive major leaguers.

    The M’s could easily do the same thing if they just bothered to watch and LEARN.

  31. pgreyy on September 4th, 2008 11:23 am

    According to the Mayan calendar, the world will come to an end in 2012…so, perhaps this talk of the slow rebuild to contend again years from now is a bit shortsighted?

    (Oh, and my worry about the main quote above…”grind through some of these contracts we’re obligated to…”–might NOT mean ditching these players…but to accept that some non-producing elements of our roster will be trotted out there on a regular basis until their contracts are up. Grind, indeed. Without improvement, as an M’s fan, I’ll be a toothless bloody gummed mess by then.)

  32. joser on September 4th, 2008 1:13 pm

    The Mayan calendar doesn’t end in 2012 any more than ours ended at Y2K. It rolls over like an odometer. And according to actual Mayan scholars, as opposed to New Age nut cases and/or scam artists with books to sell, past roll-overs for the Mayans were an occasion for great parties and rejoicing. So perhaps that’s something for the M’s to look forward to (though, given how they aligned their calendar with anticipated stadium openings, I suspect that the Mayans were A’s fans).

  33. msb on September 4th, 2008 2:59 pm

    from Stark

    “For whom the Beltre toils: One more corner bat the Giants appear to be targeting is Seattle’s Adrian Beltre.

    “Beltre is playing really well right now, and he’s playing hard,” said one scout, “maybe because he thinks it will help get him out of there. I know the Giants have done a lot of work on this guy. They’re looking at him hard.”

    But to deal for Beltre, the Giants would have to overcome the same issue — trading away someone like Cain. There’s no way to know for certain whether interim GM Lee Pelekoudas or someone else will be making the decisions in Seattle. But every team we talk to about the Giants says it would want a starting pitcher back in any significant deal. And clubs that have spoken with Pelekoudas say that if it’s up to him, he “won’t let Beltre go without getting a quality pitcher back.””

  34. DAMellen on September 4th, 2008 8:29 pm

    Why a pitcher? Obviously, we have to get some quality players back, but why a pitcher? Do they think our lineup is so strong that we don’t have any use for position players? That seems like the Ms pigeonholing and role playing again. “You don’t trade a corner bat without getting a quality pitcher in return.” That’s dumb. And for the record, I bet when he says quality, he means has had at least one season with a good ERA at the major league level. Not actual quality.

  35. downwarddog on September 5th, 2008 2:22 pm

    Beltre has one year in his career that was great, the year before he came to Seattle. He hasn’t been remotely close since. That said, his contract is up, so expect 2009 to be pretty decent by Beltre standards. Completely expendable.

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