One More Bat
With spring training a few weeks away, we have a pretty good sense about most of the roster.
Johjima and Clement are going to split time behind the plate. Depending on how much Clement shows defensively, the M’s may or may not carry Jamie Burke as a third catcher.
Beltre is at third, Betancourt is at short, and Lopez is at second. Branyan is penciled in as the first baseman, and Chris Shelton will fight Mike Morse for the right to be his platoon partner. Reegie Corona is currently the reserve middle infielder/pinch runner, but the team is looking to upgrade and might bring in a better player to unseat him.
In the outfield, Gutierrez is the center fielder and Ichiro is in right. Endy Chavez and Wladimir Balentien are the current candidates for the LF job.
However, Zduriencik has made it clear that his preference would be to add one more good major league hitter, preferably a lefty, before the club gets to Arizona. With the other six spots essentially taken, the new player will have to come from the LF/1B/DH pool. Here are a few of the more popular options, as they currently stand, if we allocate approximately 2000 plate appearances and 2,900 defensive innings to those three positions.
In this scenario, the M’s would likely run different platoons with Chavez and Balentien in LF, Branyan and Shelton/Morse at first, and a rotating wheel of DH’s that would look something like this:
LF PA Innings wOBA UZR Chavez 300 850 0.304 10 Wlad 300 600 0.313 -5 1B PA Innings wOBA UZR Branyan 400 850 0.337 -3 Shelton 275 600 0.335 3 DH PA Innings wOBA UZR Clement 300 0.338 Wlad 150 0.313 Branyan 100 0.337 Shelton 75 0.335 Johjima 50 0.304 Lopez 30 0.324 Beltre 10 0.338 Ichiro 10 0.338 Total 2000 2900 0.325 5
The wOBA projections come from Sean Smith’s CHONE projection system – I put in the defensive projections. The offense would be -8 runs over 2,000 PA, the defense is +5 runs, the position adjustment for these three is a total of -35 runs, and the replacement level adjustment is +67 runs. Add it all up, and you get +28 runs above replacement, or +2.8 wins. That’s the status quo.
Trade for Nick Swisher
Here’s my preferred alternative – trading for Nick Swisher and giving him all of the PA’s that would have gone to Wlad (he’d either go away in the Swisher deal or in a separate trade) plus some of the PA’s that would have gone to Chavez.
LF PA Innings wOBA UZR Swisher 600 1100 0.360 5 Chavez 150 350 0.304 4 1B PA Innings wOBA UZR Branyan 400 850 0.337 -3 Shelton 275 600 0.335 3 DH PA Innings wOBA UZR Clement 300 0.338 Branyan 100 0.337 Shelton 75 0.335 Johjima 50 0.304 Lopez 30 0.324 Beltre 10 0.338 Ichiro 10 0.338 Total 2000 2900 0.340 9
The new wOBA from these three positions is .340, which translates to a 26 run offensive increase. There’s also a 4 run defensive increase, so the group goes from 28 runs above replacement to 58 runs above replacement, or +5.8 wins. Using Nick Swisher to replace Wladimir Balentien and cut Endy Chavez’s at-bats gives the Mariners a +3.0 win surge for 2009.
The other fun thing about Swisher is that his experience as a 1B gives you some serious flexibility. In late game situations with the lead, you could move Swisher to first and use Endy as a defensive replacement in the outfield, maximizing his defensive innings without giving him that many at-bats. You could also use Swisher as Branyan’s platoon partner instead of Shelton/Morse. Lots of options with Swisher on the roster.
Sign Adam Dunn
For those of you who are salivating over Adam Dunn sitting out there without a real contract offer, here’s the same analysis, except we sub in Dunn for Swisher.
LF PA Innings wOBA UZR Dunn 500 1000 0.373 -12 Chavez 150 450 0.304 5 1B PA Innings wOBA UZR Branyan 400 850 0.337 -3 Shelton 275 600 0.335 3 DH PA Innings wOBA UZR Clement 300 0.338 Dunn 100 0.373 Branyan 100 0.337 Shelton 75 0.335 Johjima 50 0.304 Lopez 30 0.324 Beltre 10 0.338 Ichiro 10 0.338 Total 2000 2900 0.344 -7
Instead of a .340 wOBA and a +8 defense, the team gets a .344 wOBA and -7 defense. That’s a seven run offensive increase and a 15 run defensive decrease. Instead of being +5.8 wins, the team would get +5.0 wins from these three spots. That makes Dunn a +2.1 win increase over the status quo and a -0.8 win decrease over trading for Nick Swisher. Considering Swisher’s contract (3 years, $22 million with a club option that could make it 4 years and $31 million) and Dunn’s reported demands (4 years, $56 million), in order for Dunn to make sense, he’d have to either cut his asking price in half or the Yankees would have to be demanding the moon for Swisher. Neither of those seem likely. As long as Swisher’s a possibility, Dunn doesn’t make sense.
Sign Ken Griffey Jr
It won’t help the team. I promise.
LF PA Innings wOBA UZR Chavez 300 600 0.304 8 Wlad 250 500 0.313 -4 Griffey 150 350 0.332 -4 1B PA Innings wOBA UZR Branyan 400 850 0.337 -3 Shelton 275 600 0.335 3 DH PA Innings wOBA UZR Griffey 250 0.332 Clement 150 0.338 Wlad 100 0.313 Shelton 50 0.335 Johjima 30 0.304 Lopez 25 0.324 Beltre 10 0.338 Ichiro 10 0.338 Total 2000 2900 0.326 0
The team would get an extra run on offense and lose 5 runs on defense compared to the status quo. Yep, that’s a downgrade. They’d be a half win better by not adding Griffey. Whatever money you’d spend on Griffey would be wasted, both in terms of improving the club on the field and in limiting the playing time of players with some career ahead of them past 2009. Toss in the opportunity cost of not acquiring a real hitter to fill the void, and it’s a move that doesn’t make any sense at all.
So, to sum this up:
Make no more moves, platoon Wlad/Chavez in LF: +2.8 wins
Trade for Swisher: +5.8 wins
Sign Dunn: +5.0 wins
Sign Griffey: +2.4 wins
One of these options is clearly superior to the rest of them. Nick Swisher please.