The Bar Just Gets Lower

Dave · February 6, 2009 at 7:19 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

A few free agents have signed in the last couple of days, and while they don’t directly impact the Mariners, they will impact the perceived market value of talents on the roster or players the M’s are interested in.

Randy Wolf: 1 year, $5 million with ~$3 million in incentives with Los Angeles.

Randy Wolf is Jarrod Washburn with a better breaking ball. He’s a decent enough back-end starter, a flyball lefty with okay command who misses some bats and succeeds when he keeps the ball in the park. If he pitches lights out, the Dodgers owe him $8 million. If he pitches like Washburn, they only owe him $5 million. Given this signing, it’s pretty clear that the M’s would have to eat at least $5 million, and probably more like $6 or $7 million, to move Jarrod Washburn in this market. You’re just not going to be able to dump him and free up much salary.

Cliff Floyd: 1 year, $750,000 with San Diego.

You want to know what Ken Griffey Jr is worth in this market? $750,000. Floyd’s the exact same player – LH bat who can only hit RHP, can’t play defense, has health problems, and is an above average but not great hitter when he’s playing. The Padres gave him a little bit more than the league minimum to be a veteran presence in the clubhouse and potentially be a platoon outfielder. There’s no market for Junior, so if the M’s get to the point where they determine he’s the LH bat they’re going to settle for, this is about what he should sign for. Forget those $4-$5 million rumors – he’ll be lucky to get $1 million guaranteed.


40 Responses to “The Bar Just Gets Lower”

  1. Mr. Egaas on February 6th, 2009 7:20 pm

    At this point, if the M’s get Griffey for 1 million, he’ll make that up in ticket sales to the latte-drinking fans.

  2. Dave on February 6th, 2009 7:30 pm

    Yea. I’ve been pretty clear that I’m not on the bring-Griffey-back bandwagon, but even I’m not going to complain too loudly if they sign him for $1 million. No, it’s not the best use of playing time, and I’d certainly rather have Nick Swisher or Nick Johnson, but if the team is going to have to settle for a lower tier LH DH, then you might as well bring Junior in for $1 million, just do the whole sentimental thing, and then stick him on the DL in July if the team is contending and needs to upgrade.

  3. skipj on February 6th, 2009 7:40 pm

    Given the current economy, I must agree with Dave on this. At $1 million or less he will sell more tickets than he costs, perhaps jack ratings and suite revenue a bit and add a bit of nostalgia. I figure I can turn down the sound, or shoot at the TV/Radio when Rizzs asks him what his favorite Mariners moment is.

    ‘Well Rick, after my Dad hit that homer…’ POW! BLAM!

  4. gag harbor on February 6th, 2009 7:47 pm

    I completely enjoy reading anything/everything posted by Dave Cameron. You’ve made it fun and interesting to like the Mariners even when the organization has stunk it up for a few years (or more). The game of trying to build a roster is fun but I don’t completely get the point of managing the money spent on contracts. Sure, the cost of bringing in Griffey is easy to argue as compared to the Cliff Floyd ($750K) range but when has this organization ever spent money carefully? How much credence do we put in the statement that this year the budget is really serious? I’m not nearly as worried about the cost to sign Griffey for his swan song year as I would be in giving up a roster spot to someone that sells tickets but loses games. But then, who said this organization has ever been about winning games??

    This GM is a joy to watch and Dave’s comments are amazingly insightful about the business of baseball and all its intangibles on the field.

  5. tmac9311 on February 6th, 2009 8:17 pm

    i see no problem in giving Junior a million dollar contract. As stated above, I’d expect he easily makes that up in tickets and merchandise. Now we would probably be better off giving Junior’s time to Chavez/Clement, but the casual fan will enjoy the 70 win Mariners with Griffey in the lineup a lot more than the 75 win Mariners with Chavez/Clement. I’m a big Junior fan and i would enjoy seeing Griffey bat .220 in a Mariner uniform a lot more than watch Chavez, and I’d expect that from a big majority of Mariner fans that aren’t as smart as the fans on here.

  6. coasty141 on February 6th, 2009 8:17 pm

    So at this point, Washburn isn’t worth getting rid of. You’d have to give up 5-6mil to pawn him off on someone and he’s worth 4mil or so as a 1 win pitcher. Right?

    And yeah with Griffey, what do you do if he’s batting 200 at the start of June? Tell him to fake an injury and bow out gracefully?

  7. khardy on February 6th, 2009 8:18 pm

    Dave are you trying to be sardonic with your stick him on the DL comment? I mean he does actually have to be injured… not to say that won’t happen.

  8. patnmic on February 6th, 2009 8:26 pm

    Griffey has injuries right now that he could go on the DL for if was on a team. You don’t have to make anything up.

    Personally I’m for the swan song because this year isn’t going to be that compelling without a big time bat joining the team (I don’t mean Griffey). They’ll still win more then last year but most of the teams in baseball will win more then last years Ms.

  9. gwangung on February 6th, 2009 8:32 pm

    Guys, guys, guys….pay attention to what Dave’s writing!

    if the team is going to have to settle for a lower tier LH DH

    It’s always the price/performance ratio that’s important. At too high a price, even Babe Ruth wouldn’t be worth it…at a low enough price, Griffey’s is going to be worth it—if there’s no one better out there. And I can certainly see that case happening.

    This isn’t the Bavasi management, with ridiculous money for mediocre players, or even the Gillick era, who often overpaid for talent. From most accounts Zduriencik is a little more prudent. I’m sure he’ll overpay for players in some future deal(s), but I doubt it’ll be as exorbitant as past deals.

  10. khardy on February 6th, 2009 8:34 pm

    None of this researched and I’m just guestimating…

    But if Griffey brought in an average of 5000 extra fans a game over the 81 homes games, if there is a $30 average ticket cost (complete guess there) thats over $12 million dollars in ticket sales alone.

    It’s not a bad deal to sign Griffey for 3 million plus. It’s business. Even if he is injured by June, they’ll still have made plenty of money.

    It’s going to happen…

  11. khardy on February 6th, 2009 8:39 pm

    price/performance is relevant with Cliff Floyd. It’s not with Griffey.

    Most players earn their money through this equation:

    player performance = team wins = butts in seats = profit

    This is Griffey’s equation:

    Griffey = butt’s in seats = profit

    Not that I’m trying to be over simplistic or anything…

  12. Joe C on February 6th, 2009 8:42 pm

    Bavasi would have signed him to an Ibanez-type deal the week after the World Series.

  13. msb on February 6th, 2009 8:43 pm

    At this point, if the M’s get Griffey for 1 million, he’ll make that up in ticket sales to the latte-drinking fans.

    based on the comments at the Times and PI sites, it is not the ‘latte-drinkers’ who want him back.

  14. mark s on February 6th, 2009 8:48 pm

    So Griffey comes back at 1 million. He plays LF and DH’s against RHPers and only home games. Not a smart or good move but it would make a nice story. As part time player Griffey might even avoid the long walk off the field after finally hurting himself one last time.

  15. Ralph_Malph on February 6th, 2009 8:50 pm

    But if Griffey brought in an average of 5000 extra fans a game over the 81 homes games, if there is a $30 average ticket cost (complete guess there) thats over $12 million dollars in ticket sales alone.

    Do you really think Griffey would sell 400,000 extra tickets? That’s a huge number. I’m not buying it.

  16. khardy on February 6th, 2009 8:57 pm

    Do you really think Griffey would sell 400,000 extra tickets? That’s a huge number. I’m not buying it.

    Well… yea that seems like a lot but look at it this way.

    The Mariners had 2.3 million in attendance last year. If the Mariners win 70-80 games this year with Griffey and we have about 2.7 million in attendance how much of that would be from Griffey? 400,000 does seems like a fair estimate.

  17. That Bootleg Guy on February 6th, 2009 9:03 pm

    Has anyone else ever noticed that “5,000” is almost always the default guess for “extra tickets that ‘Superstar Player X’ will sell per game”?

  18. The Ancient Mariner on February 6th, 2009 9:05 pm

    If R. J. Anderson’s piece over at FanGraphs is to be taken seriously, Floyd’s veteran presence is worth a fair bit more than Junior’s, so Junior should come for rather less.

    And to all the folks salivating over all the extra tickets the M’s would sell with Junior on the team: you’re deluding yourselves, imho. We’ve heard these stories before, and I can’t think of any case where they actually played out that way. Yeah, I’m sure it would be an attendance bump early in the season, but I’d be willing to bet that whatever attendance bump the M’s saw from Griffey would be gone well before school let out for the summer. People who don’t want to turn out to see a .450 team in July or August aren’t going to change their mind just because that team is playing a broken-down 40-year-old who they loved 15 years ago — it just isn’t going to happen.

  19. lokiforever on February 6th, 2009 9:15 pm

    Why oh why is Washburn still here? HowChuck just couldn’t save the $14 million or so and let him walk on over to the AL East last year.

  20. Jeff Nye on February 6th, 2009 9:16 pm

    Griffey won’t sell 5000 extra tickets per game. He’d be lucky to bring that much additional interest for Opening Day.

  21. eponymous coward on February 6th, 2009 9:30 pm

    Attendance is a lagging indicator of team quality, folks (the M’s attendance went DOWN from 2004 to 2005, even though the team improved).

    The Mariners will be doing well to sustain attendance at 2.3 million, given a) they were terrible last year, b) they’ve had one good year in the last 5, c) their offseason moves even WITH resigning Griffey are somewhere between a yawn and a “who is that?” for the casual fan, and d) you might have noticed there’s a bit of a recession on, and unemployment in this state is as high as it’s been in decades.

    The reality is that as much as people say “gee, Safeco keeps the team’s attendance up”… the Mariners are in the bottom third of MLB in attendance now (most of the weak sisters like KC and Oakland are in the AL, so they aren’t as low on the AL totem pole). A Ken Griffey Nostalgia Tour isn’t going to change that.

    Anyways, if the M’s DO settle for Griffey, cheap… meh.

  22. G-Man on February 6th, 2009 10:52 pm

    I would enjoy a few Jr AB’s this year, but i think that JZ needs to show that this is a new age in Seattle. Bringing back Jr. would just just be a link to the past, sort of like keeping Edgar and others around too long.

  23. PBS on February 6th, 2009 10:58 pm

    At $750k, assuming an avg ticket price of $20, and 81 games… Junior pays for himself if he draws 463 people a game… Totally possible! I’m all for it even if it’s just as an excuse to break out the 89 Donruss again.

  24. wabbles on February 6th, 2009 11:03 pm

    I just read something over at about the flat free agent market that hinted at “collusion” and I had the same reaction as I did reading some of the comments here. HELLO! Maybe the reason so many 30+ and 35+ free agents ISN’T something temporary like the economy. Maybe all those free agents are without jobs because of just what the authors here have been advocating for YEARS. Maybe, just like the Mariners, other teams finally have caught on to talent evaluation and statistic analysis and all that. Maybe Griffey couldn’t get a fat contract now even if the economy resembled 1999?

  25. joser on February 6th, 2009 11:27 pm

    The Mariners had 2.3 million in attendance last year. If the Mariners win 70-80 games this year with Griffey and we have about 2.7 million in attendance how much of that would be from Griffey? 400,000 does seems like a fair estimate.

    Not to pile on, but… you’re a crack-smoking loon. Mariners attendance will be down next year, not up. Even if they have a better record. Even with Griffey. They’re going to be lucky to stay above 2M. Don’t believe me? Let’s review:
    2001 116 wins, 3.50M attendance
    2002: 93 wins, 3.54M (up 1%)
    2003: 93 wins, 3.27M (-8%)
    2004: 63 wins, 2.90M (-10%)
    2005: 69 wins, 2.69M (-9%)
    2006: 78 wins, 2.48M (-8%)
    2007: 88 wins, 2.67M (+8%)
    2008: 61 wins, 2.33M (-13%)

    Remember, as e.c. says, attendance mostly trails performance (though not entirely — by summer, when attendance peaks, people already have a good idea if the team is worth following, so a bad team starts losing the marginal day-of-game crowd right through the end of the season) and it took two years of improvement to get that uptick in attendance in ’07 — which was erased by the suck that was ’08. Now consider the drop-off in attendance from 2004 to 2005, after the awful 2004 season, and remember that the 2008 season was even worse; also recall that the team spent the 2004 offseason making a well-publicized splash by opening the purse strings and signing big name free agents, whereas they’ve spent this offseason making sensible but much smaller “non-name” moves and mostly talking about a smaller budget.

    Just given all that, you’d expect a fall-off of at least another 8-10%, putting them right around 2M. Assuming the local economy was strong like it was back in 2005.

    Oh, wait.

    If the team plays really well and wins more than it should, and the new magic outfield gets a lot of exciting webgems, and they have really good commercials and otherwise market the hell out of the team, and the economy doesn’t get a lot worse by mid-summer… they might, just might, stay above 2M. And that would be a heck of an achievement.

    A Griffey signing won’t have much impact on that. He’ll bring out a bunch of extra fans for the first few home games, sure — but Opening Day is close to a sell-out anyway — and maybe a few more throughout the year. But if it works out to even an extra thousand a game across those 81 home games I’d be surprised. And that’s assuming he plays halfway decent.

    But what if he doesn’t? I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but wouldn’t that just be the perfect capper to this absolutely horrid recent stretch of Seattle sports history? The Seahawks implode, the Sonics leave town, the Huskies can’t win a game, the M’s lose over 100… and now we have Griffey, a pathetic shell of his former self, whiffing at pitches and staggering around the basepaths until he mercifully trips over a base, or just hurts himself playing with his kids or adjusting his jock or whatever, and has to sit out the rest of the season on the DL. I’m not really sure why people hate their childhoods so much they want to risk erasing happy memories of prime Griffey with the sad and potentially embarrassing spectacle of the current version; perhaps they’re gluttons for masochistic self-flagellation, or are just drunk on a cocktail of denial and nostalgia. Yeah, I wish it was the late 90s again too and the government had a surplus and the dot com boom was going strong and almost nobody had heard of bin Laden or Fallujah. But it’s not, and Griffey will be turning a injury-riddled 40, and you can’t go home again.

    Personally, I’d rather have the team moving on and improving, not making one last sad salute to 1995. I’d rather see those ABs go to Clement or even Wlad, someone still young and with a chance of getting better, not worse. I certainly would not trade a single win for the trip down memory lane to where it dead-ends into the overturned trash cans of sentimental alley. But: if we’ve agreed that ’09 is a rebuilding year and there’s zero chance of the team contending, and it’s just a million bucks on a one year deal, then fine, let’s sign Griffey — if only so that all the nostalgiaholics will shut the fuck up.

  26. RaoulDuke37 on February 6th, 2009 11:39 pm

    First off, I just wanted to state that my post is not meant to endorse or reject the idea of signing Griffey.

    A lot of the posters tonight I’ve seen comment here regularly for a long time. But I’m surprised at how much everyone seems to be underestimating what the presence of Ken Griffey Jr would mean to the team financially. If there was any move that the team could make that would bring back the interest of the casual (bandwagon?) fan, it would be signing Griffey. I’ve lived in and around Seattle all my life (I’m 28) and he, more than anyone else, represents the love this area has for Baseball. He’s the reason there’s still at team here. He’s the reason we have Safeco Field. I understand the team will lose ticket sales from a down year, and I understand that the team will lose ticket sales from a horrible economy. But if you’re going to bring back the fans, signing him would have to be the biggest (realistic) move the team could make before they play their first game.

    For what it’s worth, I’m torn on the subject. I understand that he probably won’t have a positive impact on the team’s record. But at the same time, as fan of this team for the past 20 years, his return is probably the only “event” that would bring me out to Safeco Field again.

  27. DMZ on February 6th, 2009 11:41 pm

    Well said, Joser.

    The thing is… it won’t shut them up. This kind of thing never works itself out: Bloomquist getting regular playing time and sucking didn’t stop people from saying that he’d be better if only he got regular playing time.

  28. mark s on February 7th, 2009 2:07 am

    DMZ, you are correct.

    Mariner fans will be calling for Griffey’s Return “for just one more year” for the next few years. After that, there will be the calls for Griffey’s Return to the team as a broadcaster, coach, manager, GM or owner. Which will last for another 20 years. Sadly, this will never end.

    Griffey is a legend for many Seattle fans. When can’t a legend come back and recreate all the magic?

  29. Breadbaker on February 7th, 2009 3:28 am

    My question is what does Wakamatsu want? This is his first spring training. Does he think Griffey would be a distraction, or an advantage? He could be either. If Wakamatsu thinks it will take pressure off what I’d call the “real club” to have all the questions in spring training and on every road trip be about Griffey, then I’d be in favor (at the price Dave suggests). If Wakamatsu thinks it would be divisive or disruptive, then I’d be against it. Any manager’s first spring training is important; a first-time manager’s first spring training even more so.

    If it does happen, then for me the most fun would be when Griffey has a week or two that’s hot, Steve Kelley is writing like he’s the only player on the club, and this blog is so hot it’s radioactive. Even more fun would be if Bloomquist were hot for the Royals at the same time (though the chances are pretty slim).

  30. The Ancient Mariner on February 7th, 2009 6:24 am

    OK, RaoulDuke, put it this way: if the team signs Junior, how many tickets will you commit to buy on the day on which the team does so? I’m not talking about “oh, I’ll have to go to a game sometime” — I’m talking about calling up and ordering tickets that day. How many? One full season-ticket package? A 20-game package? And how many other people can you get to commit to purchase a set number of tickets that day? Because if you want to assert a definite financial benefit to the M’s for signing Griffey, the only basis on which you can credibly do so is a number of specific ticket purchases in advance. Anything else is just speculation and wishful thinking.

  31. wabbles on February 7th, 2009 6:59 am

    Anyone who wants to know how painful it is to watch a once beloved star hopelessly beyond, not just his prime but his playing days need only remember Franco Harris. He amassed more than 10,000 yards most of which was done during 14 game seasons. He was third on the career yardage list when he retired behind only O.J. Simpson and Jim Brown. He won four Super Bowls, pairing with Rocky Belier sp? to carry a Bradshaw-less team to the playoffs one year. And as a Seahawk he sucked. It was painful to watch. It was embarassing. I don’t remember how many games he played, just that pathetic jump into blocking wedge on an end run that signaled he was done. It was a waste of money and more importantly a roster spot. We have watched Boone, Olerud, Weaver, Aurillio, Spiezio, Sexson, Vidro and hell even Edgar try to get one more year and end up instead slowly limping off into the sunset. Let’s leave the past in the past and start putting some fear back into our AL West rivals again.

  32. RaoulDuke37 on February 7th, 2009 9:13 am

    You’re right about it being speculation on my part. But Griffey’s effect, or lack of effect, on attendance is speculation either way. I’d love to see a study that shows the effect of a given players presence on a teams attendance. (I tried a Google search, but had no luck).

  33. The Ancient Mariner on February 7th, 2009 11:05 am

    And “speculation either way” cancels itself out, leaving no reasonable basis on which to discuss signing Junior save that of what he’d actually contribute on the field.

    Which ain’t much. Here’s hoping for Luke Scott or Nick Swisher.

  34. GriffeyCan on February 7th, 2009 11:52 am

    Interesting rebuttal over at Seattle Hardball.

    “Let’s just set aside the fact that Griffey would probably generate millions in excess revenues. Griffey has posted around a .890 OPS against righties in the last 2 seasons. Floyd has posted around a .805. While both are prone to injuries, Floyd had 284 plate appearances and 0 innings in the field last year, Griffey had 575 PAs and 1013 innings in the field.”

  35. The Ancient Mariner on February 7th, 2009 1:09 pm

    Of course, one might also note that his OPS against RHP dropped 100 points from 2007 to 2008 (and his OPS against LHP dropped almost that much) . . . that he has negative value in the field (so his innings in the OF are not a point in his favor) . . . that he’d be moving to a less-favorable place to hit, which would hurt his OPS even more . . . and of course, the fact that you can’t call your own speculation a “fact,” even to be “set aside,” no matter how sure you are that you’re right.

    I wouldn’t call that rebuttal, such as it was, interesting at all.

  36. GriffeyCan on February 7th, 2009 2:30 pm

    Wasn’t Griffey’s OPS against lefties still higher than Floyd’s in 2008? Not bad considering he had knee issues. I guess his doctor could be lying or completely incompetent, but the surgery should help him hit a little better in 2009 than 2008. I do agree with you that the park factors could be a small source of the difference.

    I think the Seattle Hardball poster’s point about OF innings was not to demonstrate Griffey’s prowess in the field, but rather that he is more durable than Floyd.

    I don’t know anybody who seriously thinks that Griffey would not sell extra tickets next year.

    Overall, I don’t think Griffey is worth the $5 or 6 million that has been discussed… but $2 or 3 million would be a good deal. If getting Clement or Wlad extra ABs is more important than winning, then obviously Griffey should not be signed.

  37. DMZ on February 7th, 2009 2:33 pm

    What if you think getting Clement extra ABs will result in winning?

  38. joser on February 7th, 2009 2:54 pm

    I agree with Ancient Mariner. To expand on the “less-favorable place to hit” I’d point out that for a left-handed hitter, Safeco would appear to be slightly worse place to hit than US Cellular (at least according to The Hardball Times). Certainly last year’s half season with the White Sox should be a better indicator of what we could expect from Griffey than his younger years in Cincinati. His line at US Cellular last year: .257 / .333 / .392 and we’d expect the slugging to drop a little further thanks to Safeco. Hmmm, good thing the M’s wouldn’t be signing him for his bat, right?

    (Just to be clear, that .725 OPS for Griffey last year at US Cellular would’ve put him behind Ichiro’s lousy 2008, not to mention Jose Lopez and Adrian Beltre and of course Ibanez. In fact, it wouldn’t be all that much better than the numbers put up by the much-maligned Sexson or Betancourt in ’08).

  39. GriffeyCan on February 7th, 2009 5:36 pm

    DMZ, if you think Clement will be better, then Griffey should not be signed. I don’t think Clement will post better numbers against righties than Griffey will next year.

    Re: the park factor. The question is about Floyd vs. Griffey, not Griffey 08 v Griffey 09. The proper comparison is Tropicana (TB) vs. Cinci/Chi. It favors Floyd, but park factors are not as influential as they seem on the surface. Only half of games are played there and the stats are skewed by the underlying strengths of the hometown offenses.

    Based on what Griffey’s doctor said, I think Griffey will end up somewhere between 2007 and 2008. Using his .725 OPS number is not particularly useful. His numbers against righties are most important because he should not bat against righties much. I expect Griffey to post a .860-.900 OPS against righties next year.

  40. joser on February 7th, 2009 5:50 pm

    But ultimately the discussion is about signing Griffey for ’09, isn’t it?

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