Should The Team Do The Unthinkable?

Dave · May 15, 2009 at 9:58 am · Filed Under Mariners 

On Monday, my latest piece for the Wall Street Journal went up, and it dealt with whether four organizations should consider trading the guys who have been the face of their franchise. David Ortiz, Scott Kazmir, and Travis Hafner were all great players in the recent past, but all of them have pretty significant problems right now – Ortiz has gotten old very quickly, while Kazmir and Hafner have seen their abilities reduced by injuries. All three of them come with significant contracts, and their trade value has plummeted in the past twelve months. They’re bordering on becoming liabilities who wouldn’t be claimed on waivers, given the financial obligations and their performances.

Those weren’t the only three I mentioned in the article, though. Ichiro was also included, though he’s in a different situation from the other three. Unlike Ortiz, Kazmir, and Hafner, Ichiro isn’t broken. He isn’t a guy who is underperforming his contract. Over the last three years, Ichiro’s on field value has been worth $18.2 million, $23.6 million, and $18.8 million. Since 2002, he’s been worth $118.2 million and been paid $69.5 million. Ichiro has been one of the best return on investments the M’s have ever made.

On average, he’s been a +5 win player for the M’s since arriving in the states, which makes him one of the top 10 or 15 players in the game. Consistent +5 win players are really hard to find, and Ichiro’s been a steady, excellent player since he got here. We’ve constantly defended Ichiro against the ignorance of those who claim that he’s overrated, because those people were massively wrong. Ichiro is a really, really good baseball player.

However, if there was ever going to be a time to trade Ichiro, this summer might be it.

As much as we love the guy and what he’s given to the team, there are signs of decline. In his first five seasons in the U.S., Ichiro posted an Isolated Slugging percentage of .100 or higher four times. He hasn’t done it since, going four straight seasons with essentially no power. He’s drawn three unintentional walks so far this year, putting him on pace to draw ~16 for the season. He usually draws between 25 and 35. He’s been caught stealing three times in eight attempts so far this year after being thrown out four times in 47 attempts last year.

During his first four years in the majors, he posted a wOBA of .360, making him a significantly above average hitter. During the last 3 seasons and the start of this year, he’s posted a wOBA of .348, making him a good but not great hitter. 12 points of wOBA adds up to around six runs over the course of a full season, so that offensive dropoff is equal to a loss of about half a win per year.

The 35 year old Ichiro isn’t quite as good as the 28 year old Ichiro. That shouldn’t be a big surprise, honestly. He’s still very good, one of the best right fielders in the game, but we haven’t seen the MVP caliber Ichiro since 2004, and it’s probably not a very good bet that we’ll ever see him perform at that level again.

So, the Mariners new management faces a summer of transition, where they continue to try to remake the roster to eliminate the errors of the past regime. During this transition, they’ll have to evaluate how each player fits on the roster going forward. That process needs to include the understanding that Ichiro is probably more like a +3.5 to +4 win player going forward than the +5 win player he’s been historically. For this team, right now, should they hang onto a 35-year-old +4 win outfielder?

I think there’s an argument to be made that perhaps they should not. The organization is absolutely swimming in outfielders. Besides Gutierrez and Balentien (who are under team control through 2012 and 2014 respectively), Michael Saunders is a 22-year-old left-handed bat with average or better tools across the board. You could go into 2010 with those three as your starting outfield and feel fairly comfortable in their abilities. The team is likely to draft Dustin Ackley, a polished left-handed hitter who should transition to CF or LF as a professional, with the #2 pick in about three weeks. The team also can count Gregory Halman, Ezequiel Carrera, Tyson Gillies, and Denny Almonte among the better prospects currently in the organization.

Assuming the team drafts Ackley, the M’s will have a remarkable surplus of upper level outfield talent. Not all of the prospects will pan out, but when you have this kind of sheer quantity of talent on hand, it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll get two or three decent players. Maybe it won’t be Ackley-Gutierrez-Saunders, but instead it turns out to be Carrera-Gillies-Halman. Or Balentien-Ackley-Saunders. The best way to get a couple of good major leaguers is to get a bunch of good minor leaguers, and that’s what the M’s have done in the outfield.

So, where does that leave Ichiro? If the ownership mandates that he’s untouchable, then you probably go into 2010 with Gutierrez in CF, Saunders and Balentien platooning in LF, and Ackley waiting for one of those spots to open up for 2011. Given that depth, you’re probably trading away guys like Halman for infield or pitching help. But, the question should be asked, is the team better off trading away Ichiro for those pieces and going younger in the outfield?

Maybe.

$17 million is a pretty significant chunk of the M’s budget. While Ichiro is worth $17 million a season, there’s a decent argument to be made that he’d have more on field value to a team that isn’t swimming in young outfielders and in the midst of a transition rebuild. Working on the assumption that the M’s are going to be sellers this summer, it’s at least worth considering whether the organization should consider moving Ichiro. He’s an All-Star player and one of the best in the game, but for where this organization is, the club might be better off trading him for help at SS/2B/SP, where the cupboard is basically empty.

I’m not advocating giving him away, and there’s obviously significant off the field considerations given the team’s ownership situation. But, for the first time since he’s been a Mariner, there’s actually an argument to be made that the team could survive without Ichiro.

Comments

116 Responses to “Should The Team Do The Unthinkable?”

  1. Tek Jansen on May 15th, 2009 10:13 am

    Ichiro is my favorite Mariner of all-time. (Unit comes in second, which means I am a huge fan of the the number 51). Yet if the M’s can get better by trading him, I would relent. I want the M’s to win more than I want to see Ichiro get 3,000 hits with the M’s.

    Also, who might desire him in the summer of 2009?

  2. downwarddog on May 15th, 2009 10:13 am

    I love Ichiro, but would be happy to see him go if it yielded some help up the middle in the infield. While Ichiro may be worth his salary, I wonder who would be interested and also able to pick up such a substantial contract?

  3. decatur7 on May 15th, 2009 10:14 am

    Excellent post Dave. I love Ichiro, and I think he’d be a good value if we keep him through 2012, but this is the only convincing trade Ichiro argument I’ve ever read. My only question is: what level of quality should the Mariners expect in the prospects that Ichiro would return? I’m not asking for names, of course, but is there a prospect rating system (like, say, John Sickels’ A through C letter grades at Minor League Ball) that you feel comfortable with? Or say, expected Win Values, like you did with the post evaluating the Putz-Gutierrez, etc. trade?

  4. dingla on May 15th, 2009 10:16 am

    thanks for the write up Dave.

    it will be interesting to see how long he plays.

  5. dchappelle on May 15th, 2009 10:20 am

    Blasphemy! Off with your head.

    Maybe if you could get something like we gave away for Bedard.

    Still, this has less than 0 percent chance of happening.

  6. Carson on May 15th, 2009 10:20 am

    It would be a tough pill to swallow, for sure. My wallpaper, IM icons, avatars on forums – all of it is drenched in Ichiro.

    But, I still think if some team wants what he offers badly enough and wants to give us a nice haul that makes us better overall, I think you have to consider it.

  7. TheEmrys on May 15th, 2009 10:21 am

    The would be a sacrifice I’d be prepared to make if the return was appropriate.

  8. Tek Jansen on May 15th, 2009 10:23 am

    Maybe if you could get something like we gave away for Bedard.

    No one will ever again receive the package that Baltimore received, unless St. Louis trades Pujols, or Bavasi becomes a GM for another team.

  9. greymstreet on May 15th, 2009 10:25 am

    I remember you foreshadowed this post last week but mentioned you would also discuss trading Felix. Is that still coming up or did you table it?

  10. Jeff Nye on May 15th, 2009 10:26 am

    Still, this has less than 0 percent chance of happening.

    I’m not sure this is true. Yes, there’d have to be a conversation with Mr. Yamauchi, but we also don’t know if maybe Ichiro wouldn’t rather move to a team better prepared to contend, at this point in his career.

    In any case, while I am more attached to Ichiro than any other player (I’m one of those mutants that doesn’t really get attached to players, and I actually traded him to the Twins in my MLB2K9 franchise), I’d love to see him moved if the team could get a quality return for him.

    But it’d have to be a good offer, and I’m not sure that Ichiro’s awesomeness is well-enough appreciated around baseball that we’d get a good enough offer.

    If I were Zduriencik, though, I would definitely be taking calls about the availability of everybody on the team. Yes, even Felix, although obviously the offer would have to be amazing.

  11. jvalentine on May 15th, 2009 10:27 am

    This is honestly the first time I have heard anyone bring up the possibility of trading Ichiro! and after digesting the piece I thought “What an awesomely great idea!”

    If this team is truly building to compete in 2010 and beyond (I know that 2009 isn’t over and would love them to win now) then the pieces they could add by trading someone away any combo of Ichiro, Beltre, Bedard & Wash (If the latter two actually stay healthy and pitch to their full potential) to teams that can fill our needs are endless.

    In addition to the trade possibilities, I am also confident that this front office will make the right move towards the type of players that the team needs. (Infielders, SP, above average LH bat with some pop that is not on the decline of his career would be a nice bonus!)

    Go Jak! Hopefully we can find a win somewhere in Safeco tonight amongst the so called “Boston Faithful” Ha!

  12. Diehard on May 15th, 2009 10:28 am

    I’m cool with trading Ichiro, he’s only going to decline further. If he keeps losing his speed as he approaches 40, he won’t be very good in the future. If we want to get some good prospects this summer, he’s the guy to trade.

  13. beef on May 15th, 2009 10:29 am

    USS Mariner has jumped the shark!

    But alas, this is the first season where the thoughts of him being traded have not made me wish bodily harm on those who suggest it. My 16-game package on the RF foul line might lose some of its pizazz though. :)

  14. Mike Snow on May 15th, 2009 10:30 am

    In the abstract, okay, but in the real world I have a very hard time imagining that the package needed to make it worthwhile would materialize.

  15. Juicer on May 15th, 2009 10:31 am

    This is close to the unthinkable but if there is one team that can lose top tier Talent and not totally lose their following it is the M’s. A-Rod, Griffey, Unit, Tino.

    What are your thoughts on Gordon Beckham S.S from the Sox? Their OF is a joke with Dye getting older and having Scott Podsednick, in CF is just sad. They have not a hint of a leadoff hitter and we know Williams the GM likes to make a splash.

  16. lailaihei on May 15th, 2009 10:33 am

    They would probably have to bring in an equally popular Japanese player from overseas to keep up the Japanese attendance.

  17. Jeff Nye on May 15th, 2009 10:33 am

    I’m also not convinced that Ichiro is going to follow a standard decline phase, despite the fact that Dave’s right that there are some cracks starting to show.

    A team that trades for him with the idea that he’ll only be a star for a year or two more, and gives up talent commensurate with that assumption, might end up getting a steal.

  18. AssumedName on May 15th, 2009 10:35 am

    Can’t we just move him to the bullpen? DaveN could even call him “Shiggy.”

  19. eponymous coward on May 15th, 2009 10:36 am

    I think the question becomes “can you get a 4-ish WAR player onto your roster (in a position other than OF) for that $17 million a year and Ichiro’s talent in trade?”. The money’s fairly irrelevant if you look out on the free agent/trade market and all you see are various Carlos Silvas and Richie Sexsons to waste it on- unless Mariner management is of a mindset that they REALLY need to chop payroll, turn into Marlins West, and pocket the difference. If not, what this really becomes is “Where can we reconfigure talent and salary? We’ve tried a cheap young middle infield and this didn’t work; let’s try some cheap young outfielders.”

    This also becomes interesting in the context of Beltre likely walking after 2009- the M’s would be looking at having to replace two 4-ish WAR players in the everyday lineup. This is a non-trivial problem, because there’s nothing in the Mariner minor league system that suggests it’ll be producing two new players capable of 8 WAR come Opening Day 2010- and even ditching our current middle infield for guys who would give you +4 WAR together only gets you halfway to where we are TODAY (a collection of talent that’s slightly below .500).

    As a side note:

    Maybe it won’t be Ackley-Guterriez-Saunders, but instead it turns out to be Carrera-Gillies-Halman. Or Balentien-Ackley-Saunders.

    You (and the organization) seem to have come up a bit on your assessment of Balentien- he’s not trade bait/superfluous at this point, but potentially a piece of the puzzle.

  20. Mike Snow on May 15th, 2009 10:37 am

    They would probably have to bring in an equally popular Japanese player from overseas to keep up the Japanese attendance.

    I would rather the team not make decisions that create a perpetual dependency on phenomena that are so difficult to predict and rely upon.

  21. wescottr on May 15th, 2009 10:37 am

    If we can get some middle infield and a quality young SP back I’m ok with dealing Ich. RF is typically a power spot and as awesome as Ichiro is he doesn’t give us much of that.

    Long-time USSMariner favorite Ben Nelson just chose to become a FA rather then go back to the Brewers AAA. Do we have a spot for him?

  22. smb on May 15th, 2009 10:40 am

    Anyone else waiting for DMZ to chime in?

    W/R/T the decline phase, I’m not convinced Ichiro won’t start pitching at some point and extend his career beyond what he could do in the OF and at the plate.

  23. Jeff Nye on May 15th, 2009 10:40 am

    You (and the organization) seem to have come up a bit on your assessment of Balentien- he’s not trade bait/superfluous at this point, but potentially a piece of the puzzle.

    Don’t worry, I’m still on the “Balentien is trade bait” bandwagon even if Dave isn’t.

    He’s definitely looked better this year, but I don’t see him as a long-term solution.

  24. Juicer on May 15th, 2009 10:41 am

    Or maybe a trade with the Rays? They have Zobrist and Bartlett on the MLB club and Kapler in RF. We saw how great he was during their last homestand. I love Tim Beckham their # 1 pick. They will be buyers at the deadline.

  25. lailaihei on May 15th, 2009 10:41 am

    I would rather the team not make decisions that create a perpetual dependency on phenomena that are so difficult to predict and rely upon.

    How about just using our resources in a smart way? We have been the best at getting Japanese players at good prices in the majors, what’s to say we won’t get another great one?
    The Mariners will have a lot of money off the books this year and a lot of cash means a good opportunity to purchase a player from a Japanese team.

  26. decatur7 on May 15th, 2009 10:45 am

    @lailaihei

    What’s the word about Japanese players who may be posted after this season? Anyone worth considering? Or are posting decisions unpredictable and only worth looking at once the season is over?

  27. Utah911 on May 15th, 2009 10:46 am

    An Ichiro trade idea indicated here makes great sense in terms of a rebuilding ball team with minor league talent, but it will never happen. The M’s will never rid of their number 1 money maker. If you look at the business side of Ichiro, he may cost 17 million a year, but if he brings in $25+ million in revenue (low estimate) then there’s no point in trading him. Winning a World Series is always the vision of Major League teams, but staying out of the red is the real practicality.

  28. jmb13 on May 15th, 2009 10:46 am

    If we could throw Yuni in with Ichiro and get a decent, MLB ready shortstop back in return with some prospects. Then I’m down.

    The major downside though is we’d have an extremely boring team, the only exception being Felix when he’s on.

    Soup for me?

  29. msb on May 15th, 2009 10:46 am

    I’m not sure that Ichiro’s awesomeness is well-enough appreciated around baseball that we’d get a good enough offer.

    That is my worry.

  30. joser on May 15th, 2009 10:46 am

    I love Ichiro, and would not be happy to see him go, but in the cold-hearted calculus of crafting a winning baseball team I could accept losing him in the interests of making the team better. But the return they got for trading him would have to tangible. Fortunately, this is Zduriencik we’re talking about, so this wouldn’t be a patented Bavasi “evaporating value” trade.

    Ichiro contract is not cheap. But he has off-field value in terms of what he can bring in the gate. So the acquiring team would have to be both one with fairly deep pockets and an intrinsic ability to attract Japanese fans. That argues for the California teams or New York.

    The Yankees like aging superstars, but even with Damon on his last legs and Matsui past them, they have some depth there with Melky and Swisher and even Gardner plus Nandy on the DL. And I just can’t see (or stomach) Ichiro fitting into pin stripes. The Mets have something of a surplus of outfielders (even setting aside DH-in-the-NL Sheffield) but other than Beltran they’re not great (and Church has been bad). So that’s a possibility.

    Oakland doesn’t have the pockets, and the Japanese tourists would just get mugged trying to get there, so skip them. SF might go for it — the gate upside from Japanese tourists works strongly there — and you never know what Sabean might get into his head.

    LA may love celebrity but the Dodgers’ outfield is only big enough for one superstar, and even when he’s sitting out 50 games they have Ethier and Kemp to go with Pierre.

    That leaves — gasp — the hated Angels. They have Mathews signed through ’11 and Hunter through ’12, but Vlad’s contract is up at the end of this year (granted he’s more of a DH at this point anyway) and Abreu is on a one-year deal as well. And they very well could be looking for some way to separate themselves from the Rangers in July. I know the rule is not to trade within your division but… be afraid, be very afraid.

  31. eponymous coward on May 15th, 2009 10:49 am

    Don’t worry, I’m still on the “Balentien is trade bait” bandwagon even if Dave isn’t.

    He’s definitely looked better this year, but I don’t see him as a long-term solution.

    In a sense, I agree with you. The team is chock full of players with Wlad’s skill set, and they play in a miserable ball park for that skill set to shine (see: Beltre, Adrian). If I was a GM looking for value in trade from Seattle, I’d definitely focus on their younger RHB who project to being decent hitters, but might get screwed by their current ballpark. (I really think Safeco needs to be fixed to not have such a ridiculous platoon advantage, and just turned into a pitcher’s park that kind of hoses everyone, but that’s a rant with long hairy whiskers.)

  32. jmb13 on May 15th, 2009 10:51 am

    If I was a GM looking for value in trade from Seattle, I’d definitely focus on their younger RHB who project to being decent hitters, but might get screwed by their current ballpark.

    (see: Jones, Adam?)

  33. DHRjericho on May 15th, 2009 10:56 am

    Brad Nelson is a free agent.

  34. slescotts on May 15th, 2009 10:59 am

    I really like Ichiro but think it’s time to consider the thing that was once unthinkable and seldom allowed to be uttered without a hefty amount of nuance or conditions. As long as we don’t sell the ‘farm house’ and the farm to go after another Erik ‘Boondoggle’ Bedard, I see it as a good thing for the organization and for Ichiro. He deserves a ring and he could bring us significant value. Unfortunately, if we do it, we’ll basically be blowing up any chances for this season and entering the ‘wilderness’ again. When we come out of it, I bet we’re better. However, it’s looking more and more likely that we miss the playoffs this year and 2010. I hope I’m wrong.

  35. Sports on a Schtick on May 15th, 2009 11:00 am

    Off the top of my head the teams that make the most sense are San Francisco and Tampa Bay. Keep in mind Ichiro also has a limited no-trade clause and can block 10 teams.

  36. Chris_From_Bothell on May 15th, 2009 11:02 am

    This is an extremely convincing argument based on the best analytical tools we have, and on a good read of what the Ms have coming up in their system. However, I’m also in the “less than 0% chance of happening” category.

    a) Despite having stats guys on staff, and despite what we’ve seen from Z, they are not going to make the kind of objective assessment you’ve made here. At least, not as the only way to look at it. They’re going to look at the intangibles too – Ichiro’s popularity with the fanbase here and in Japan, and his status as a real or perceived revenue-driver. An organization that markets the Ms as “family-friendly place to eat and hang out” first, and “great baseball” second, is always going to give in to squishy sentimental decisions despite the kind of thinking presented here.

    b) We have no data either way to argue Ichiro’s standing with Mr. Yamaiuchi, but the sort of owner who worked to keep Joh, is going to work double-time to keep Ichiro. As you alluded to when saying “there’s obviously significant off the field considerations given the team’s ownership situation.”

    c) Ichiro’s bought into this organization. He bought into the direction when he signed his contract. He would need significant convincing to be traded (unless his contract is not an absolute no-trade clause; apologies, but I don’t know where to look that up).

    d) I know about the mods’ allergy to rosterbation, but you can’t have a discussion like this without naming specific names. Or at the very least, naming a specific package of skillsets and WAR expected back. If you’re looking to get equal or better back in WAR that Ichiro provides now, who is out there on major league / AAA rosters that projects to have that? Which specific SS, 2B, SP prospects would you target?

    e) Followup on d) – what is the risk of acquiring Mr. Right Now instead of Mr. Right? This isn’t something where you’re dumping salary and/or dumping dead-end guy, to get back anything you can at all. This isn’t Washburn for a couple prospects, or Silva for a can of soup. This might be the right time to sell Ichiro, but what’s the point if you’re only getting back the best of a mediocre market?

    f) Something you’d have to deal with eventually, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer now: for the next couple years, who the hell bats leadoff? Gute, I could see, maybe. Chavez, if he could be first-week-of-season Chavez all the time. But really, apart from emergency fill-ins for Ichiro illness, we don’t have a credible leadoff hitter in the org. Unless that comes back in a trade… which then constrains what and who you’re shopping for…?

    Apologies for epic comment, but again, while I see how it makes sense on paper, I just don’t see it happening.

  37. San Diego Mariner Fan on May 15th, 2009 11:02 am

    Yes, agreed, trade ichiro this summer… he isn’t good at 35 for a rebuilding team. We have a surplus of outfield talent with more on the way (Ackerly). Ackerly has really seperated from the pack for the #2 pick in the draft. Earlier on it was a wide open at #2 but Ackerly has seperated. Its just a bonus that the best talent a #2 happens to be lefthanded and has the perfect approach at the plate that the mariner’s are deperately in need of… Hell, if he can’t throw in the outfield due to TJ surgery I would still draft him at 1st base.

    Also a good chance that there will be some stud SP talent that slips to us with the Ibanez pick in the draft.

    I don’t think we will consider trading ichiro till we have more clarity in the summer… since several hole will be filled with out more pressing trade chips… But the off season will be very interesting.

    Also, beside his salary, it seems to me that he would have to go to a big market team…

    What big market teams have cheap available talent at 3rd, 2nd, SS and SP… Redsox seem too have plenty of SP talent.

  38. eponymous coward on May 15th, 2009 11:03 am

    (see: Jones, Adam?)

    That’s still not a banning offense like He Who Shall Not Be Named Who Plays For The Giants, right? But yeah, same idea, though Jones is clearly the better player.

  39. Graham on May 15th, 2009 11:04 am

    His name is Dustin Ackley

  40. TomTuttle on May 15th, 2009 11:04 am

    I’ve always believed that you could get A LOT back for Ichiro if you shopped him around and it could help this franchise A LOT in the long term and the short term.

    Let’s put it this way now that Z is here, if Z got all that he got back for a closer on the downside of his career (Putz), then think about what he could get back for Ichiro from a team that’s DESPERATE to win now.

    I’d be willing to bet it would all but negate the Bedard trade from a year ago.

    The only flaws to that plan are:
    ————————————————-
    1. He’s a Japanese star playing for Japanese ownership

    2. He’s a star in Seattle, and to some he’s second to a Greek god.

    3. He’s still (even at 35) one of the best players in baseball.

    So you can probably forget about trading him right now or ever. . .

  41. themedia on May 15th, 2009 11:05 am

    [deleted, ridiculous rosterbation]

  42. joser on May 15th, 2009 11:05 am

    after digesting the piece I thought “What an awesomely great idea!”

    It’s not awesomely great. “Awesomely great” is the team hanging onto Ichiro because they’re headed to the postseason. This is like renting out a room in your house to avoid getting foreclosed. It’s not what you’d like to do, but it’s a better idea than most of the others, and you’re in tough circumstances so you need to do something. But it’s not the only thing you can do, and something else might prove to be better. It’s a more than a little sad, but it might be necessary. By no means is it “awesomely great.”

    I’m not sure that Ichiro’s awesomeness is well-enough appreciated around baseball that we’d get a good enough offer.

    True, but there’s no gun at Zduriencik’s head forcing him to trade for less than he’s worth either (quite the opposite, actually) and we don’t have to fear a Bavasi rube-in-Vegas cardshark undressing.

    A bigger worry might be that Zduriencik gets a really good offer and has it nixed by ownership and/or Ichiro.

    I’m also not convinced that Ichiro is going to follow a standard decline phase, despite the fact that Dave’s right that there are some cracks starting to show.

    A team that trades for him with the idea that he’ll only be a star for a year or two more, and gives up talent commensurate with that assumption, might end up getting a steal.

    Yeah, given how prepared he is for everything, I’ve wondered if he has a plan for when he starts to slow down (and the CS numbers might be the first symptom). It’s quite possible he could re-invent himself as a hitter, though it would require he give up on the “200 hits every season” thing. Perhaps his swing-happy approach so far this year (even by his standards) is his last-gasp attempt to get on pace for that milestone, with the handicap of those missed games hobbling him. At some point he may decide 200 hits is out of reach, and he’s not as quick as he was, and it’s time to reboot as Ichiro 2.0

  43. Soonerman22 on May 15th, 2009 11:07 am

    I will give Ichiro to anyone for an Elvis Andrus type SS.

    That guy amazed me!!!

  44. joser on May 15th, 2009 11:09 am

    Oh, no. What’s the trade equivalent to rosterbation? It’s even worse, because it amounts to multi-team rosterbation. It’s promiscuous rosterbation. It’s ménage à rosterbation. It’s rosterbation a la circle jerk.

    Don’t worry, I’m still on the “Balentien is trade bait” bandwagon even if Dave isn’t.

    He’s actually even more trade bait now, because his value has visibly improved (though that could be temporary — sell high!) The fact remains his swing is better-suited for another home park, so a trade with an appropriate team could bring real value (and with all those guys in Tacoma knocking on the door, no real downside).

  45. jmb13 on May 15th, 2009 11:11 am

    Twins get: Ichiro! Clement, and Yuni (as a just-for-helping-us-out bonus)

    Brewers get: Beltre and Alexi Casilla

    Aren’t the Twins pretty set at catcher (Mauer), and the Brew Crew pretty set at 3rd (Hall)?

    Besides that, I like your thinking though…

  46. srp on May 15th, 2009 11:13 am

    I agree with the logic of this suggestion, as much as it pains me to say it. There do seem to be small indications of decline.

    Let’s suppose the FO reads this post and completely agrees. What I don’t fully understand is how they would combine the on-field and off-field parts of the equation in order to make a smart decision.

    On-field, it might be fair to assume, as Dave suggested, that Ichiro is 3.5-4 WAR going forward, and it is not too difficult to assign a dollar value to that. They can also look into trade options, likely WARs of replacements, and calculate potential costs of different options.

    However, how do they assign a value to the intangibles that Ichiro brings, whether it be atracting Japanese fans, merchandise, selling Ichi-rolls, or simply the sheer number of children that idolize Ichiro as the face of the team (my son included)?

    Even if they agree that Ichiro will slowly decline and his on-field performance may not be valued as high as his contract in later years, might they not decide that the intangibles still make it a worthwhile deal, especially if you factor in the draw of potential future milestones (3000 hits, etc.)?

    I guess I’m just realizing how tough it is to be a GM in baseball.

  47. themedia on May 15th, 2009 11:16 am

    The Twins are not at all set at catcher, as Mauer is essentially a DH in waiting. The Brewers are set at third thanks to a guy named Mat Gamel. AWESOME lefty power hitter, a bit of a liability in the infield, though. Hall is simply a bridge to Gamel (in the same way that he used to be a bridge to Ryan Braun).

    The Brewers have showed interest in Beltre recently, and they might be willing to sell high on Gamel; it doesn’t seem too likely, though. As the guys already pointed out sometime ago, Clement and Yuni have some value with organizations like the Twins.

    Just thinking out loud here.

  48. eponymous coward on May 15th, 2009 11:19 am

    deal with Twins

    Yes, as we’ve all seen by how the Twins resigned Johan Santana, Carlos Silva and Torii Hunter, they are very high on acquiring high-paid players in their 30′s on multi-year deals. You’ve really identified the philosophy the Twins have used as their blueprint for success under Carl Pohlad: trade young inexpensive talent for veterans and take on a lot of salary, in order have a shot at the playoffs.

    Just thinking out loud here.

    Perhaps you could think silently for a bit longer? Really, outside of the Marlins, I don’t think there’s any organization LESS likely to deal for Ichiro than the Twins.

  49. TranquilPsychosis on May 15th, 2009 11:23 am

    SF might go for it — the gate upside from Japanese tourists works strongly there — and you never know what Sabean might get into his head.

    If this happens, who wears #51, Ichiro! or RJ?

  50. Breadbaker on May 15th, 2009 11:23 am

    Ichiro has always presented a challenge, and as his power has dissipated it’s more of a challenge. When we were getting extra power from 2B (Boone) and CF (Cameron), Ichiro was a perfect fit. When we get essentially no power from any of the non-traditional power positions (SS, 2B, CF and to an extent C, because we never have had a power-hitting C), having a RF with no power is a luxury.

  51. jmb13 on May 15th, 2009 11:24 am

    If Ortiz continues to suck it would be interesting to see if Boston would take a look at Ichiro. Not that they are the same type of player, but no Ortiz could give them some versatility in making a lineup.

  52. Xteve X on May 15th, 2009 11:26 am

    I think it’s a slam dunk to trade him now while he still has some value.

    Regardless of how you think Ichiro will age, this team isn’t going to be a World Series contender in the next 2-3 years. If the return is right, and there’s a team that’s willing to part with a middle infielder or top-tier middle infield prospect then the Ms should jump all over that.

    Ichiro may currently be the Ms most marketable player but I don’t believe that he’s irreplaceable. The future milestone aren’t even a factor for me … seeing him get to 3000 hits is only one game.

    I realize that ownership likely views things differently.

  53. themedia on May 15th, 2009 11:26 am

    Point well taken—I guess that trade works under the assumption that the Twins might change their philosophy a bit if they see their window with players like Morneau beginning to close. They are moving into a new park, too…

    I think it’s also worth considering that the Twins spent $80M to re-sign Morneau last year, too. Furthermore, they would be getting a C prospect and a young SS (albeit a bad one) in exchange for a SS they aren’t too high on and (gulp) Denard Span. Maybe—JUST MAYBE.

    Like I said before, a guy can dream.

  54. Graham on May 15th, 2009 11:35 am

    Power is secondary to producing/saving runs.

    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that there’s only one way of doing things.

  55. eponymous coward on May 15th, 2009 11:36 am

    …if they see their window with players like Morneau beginning to close.

    I think it’s worth considering that the Twins spent $80M to re-sign Morneau last year, too.

    So, the Twins need to trade for a 35 year old OF because the window for their 28 year old 1B might be closing- who will STILL be younger at the end of his contract than Ichiro is today?

    I still think you should think this through some more. It takes two teams to make a trade. Ichiro is not a particularly compelling player to acquire in trade for a number of teams, because his circumstances and skill sets do not suit a number of team philosophies. The Twins are probably one of those teams.

  56. themedia on May 15th, 2009 11:41 am

    a 35 year old OF

    His name is Ichiro! Blanketing him under the “35 year old OF” title makes him seem a lot worse than he is. We’re not talking about Griffey-style decline here. Even Dave’s post acknowledges that the decline is noticeable enough to warrant consideration of a trade, but slight enough that he’ll probably still draw interest from a lot of teams. Also, I’m not entirely disagreeing with you. I would love it if the M’s could swing this, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

  57. ChrisK on May 15th, 2009 11:47 am

    Given that most casual (ie, revenue-generating) fans think Griffey is an awesome signing even if he hits .100, I think most would hate an Ichiro deal since their kids will be so sad (no more bobbleheads and cute commercials!). This fan base has proven that they prefer sentimentality over baseball rationale when it comes to their favorite players, and ownership knows it.

  58. Jeff Nye on May 15th, 2009 11:57 am

    That’s still not a banning offense like He Who Shall Not Be Named Who Plays For The Giants, right? But yeah, same idea, though Jones is clearly the better player.

    It’s not a bannable offense, no; but if we had an equivalent to LL’s “dead meme list” that would definitely be on it.

    It was funny maybe the first thirty or so times, now not so much.

  59. eponymous coward on May 15th, 2009 12:01 pm

    His name is Ichiro! Blanketing him under the “35 year old OF” title makes him seem a lot worse than he is.

    You’re missing the point. The Twins traded away Johan Santana, who is still a pretty superior pitcher, because he’s a) getting older and b) pretty expensive. Generally, their philosophy has been to trade older, established players (or decline to resign them during free agency) and concentrate on trading for or developing young talent (and what they seem to be doing now is using the new ballpark to lock in some of their younger players into reasonable, market-rate contracts during their peak years, which is also a fine management strategy). Acquiring Ichiro for young talent, regardless of how awesome he is, is the precise opposite of how the Twins franchise has succeeded under their current management. I don’t see why they are going to do a 180 degree turn on philosophy just because you’re lusting to see Denard Span in a Mariner uniform, and you’ve made no compelling case for why they would do so.

    This doesn’t mean Ichiro wouldn’t have value in trade. It just means the Twins don’t particularly value Ichiro’s type of player and are unlikely to be a good trade partner. The market for him is likely to be teams with high payroll who have relatively sophisticated analysis (thus realizing that Ichiro’s offense AND defense make him a 4-ish win player and still quite valuable to a winning team needing a little more boost).

  60. jephdood on May 15th, 2009 12:10 pm

    Excellent post.

    I would agree that now is the time to get something back for Ichiro. A losing team has no business paying $17M for one player. They’d be much better served spreading that money out to fill the many holes we have.

    I’ve loved what Ichiro has done, but the stock market ‘sell high’ philosophy has to be put into play here.

    I have a feeling Jack Z wants to do it. Question is.. will he be allowed to?

  61. spokane dude on May 15th, 2009 12:16 pm

    I’m curious as to how potential trade partners would view Ichiro: as a RF or a CF. The M’s have always viewed him as valuable enough that they afford to keep him in RF, despite the fact that most see that as a position that demands a power hitter. But I wonder if others would want him as a CF instead.

  62. Suikakujyu on May 15th, 2009 12:17 pm

    Good post.

    I think if the M’s ever trade Ichiro, I will finally find out if I’m an M’s fan or an Ichiro fan. I’m scared to find out!

  63. diderot on May 15th, 2009 12:20 pm

    Despite having stats guys on staff, and despite what we’ve seen from Z, they are not going to make the kind of objective assessment you’ve made here.

    Not trying to split hairs here, just making a point. But of course they’ve made that kind of objective assessment already. I think it’s inconceivable that Z hasn’t had them make a list of all the teams who could be prospective trade partners…then dissected their organizations to figure out who might make sense in a deal. That’s what the stats guys get paid for.

    A bigger worry might be that Zduriencik gets a really good offer and has it nixed by ownership and/or Ichiro.

    Yes, of course this is a concern. But it’s not a given. Remember, the Japanese ownership took a total pass on guys from Matsui to Dice-K (but no, I don’t have any better explanation for the Kenji contract than anyone else). But the implication that somehow the Japanese guys will always look out for each other is troubling on a couple of levels.

    Ichiro’s sentiments are also not really known. He’s 35. He knows he’s declining. Why is it assured that he would want to finish his career with a team that won’t be winning a World Series anytime soon?

  64. SonOfZavaras on May 15th, 2009 12:21 pm

    A great post, Dave. The latest in a string of great posts. I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed your writing more than the last two-three weeks.

    Where is Ichiro’s head in all of this? Call me a sentimentalist, but as a GM, I wouldn’t move forward and pursue trading him unless I was sure I knew some things my star player was thinking.

    And that thinking would essentially boil down to….does he regret signing that deal? Is he satisfied staying on as long as what this rebuild will take? Or does he want the post-season ASAP, by any means necessary? What does Ichiro want?

    I could be wrong about this, but I believe Ichiro would resist standard efforts to trade him. I’ve never gotten one iota of an idea that he wanted to play for someone else other than the Seattle Mariners.

    And honestly, considering the front-office bozos Ichiro’s seen running things up to this year…the Mariners don’t deserve the serious loyalty he’s shown to this organization.

    Not popping off in the press (except once, and I wish he’d said more) for years is only part of it. And I do realize Japanese-born ballplayers do not criticize their employers- it’s very frowned upon…but considering he’s made his living stateside for years and been in a culture that doesn’t look upon it so badly, he could have easily given more tongue-lashings to the ‘Three Stooges’ (Bavasi, Armstrong, Lincoln) than what he has.

    He also could have easily insisted on just a 1-to-2-year extension for more upfront money, rather than a 5-year deal…and made it out as him doing us a favor, giving us time to show we were going to put up a winning team.

    Ichiro hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2001- those are ancient days in baseball terms. Yet he’s never given off any public “my competitive clock is ticking” comments for management to worry about. That I know of, anyway.

    So, what does Ichiro want?

    I don’t even worry about his decline, which is relatively easy for even a sabermetric novice like me to see as happening- because I wouldn’t put it past this guy to re-invent himself as a ball-player once he’s determined that he can’t be the player that he’s been.

    I know he turns 36 this year, but I see him as a player with a real possibility of being able to do effective, good things for this team into his 40′s. (Oxygen-starved thought of the moment: can Ichiro play second base? Maybe a position move could be asked for.)

    Once he gets past the point of being able to get 200 hits every year, how long does he stay at, say, the 170-180 hit plateau? That’s a level that is still very productive.

    If he indicates that he wants to win now and not wait for a re-build that may or may not work, then, okay…now’s the time to trade him.

    If he wants to stay the course with this organization, then I say keep him. Even if you do trade him, it’d be tough to find an organziation that he could mean just as much to. I think he’s more than earned the right to have the critical say in the matter.

    And I just can’t lay any real odds on him declining so much that he wouldn’t be a good player still….two-to-three years from now. He’s too intelligent, knows too much about the game and is too well-conditioned an athlete for me to think he’s about ready to fall off a huge cliff.

  65. diderot on May 15th, 2009 12:33 pm

    considering the front-office bozos Ichiro’s seen running things up to this year…

    They’re the same bozos. The same guys who hired Bavasi hired Z. Also the same guys who signed and re-signed Ichiro.

    Go figure.

  66. gloo on May 15th, 2009 12:42 pm

    Hmm, with Ichiro gone, perhaps Mr. Yama will open up the coffers to go after Yu Darvish.

    I’m a M’s fan first and Ichiro fan 2nd, but a Felix – Darvish combo could be similar to what we expect from a healthy Felix – Bedard combo.

  67. gloo on May 15th, 2009 12:42 pm

    [dupe]

  68. terry on May 15th, 2009 12:42 pm

    Given the deflated free agent market this past off season, Ichiro’s contract might be a serious stumbling block preventing a palatable return in trade.

  69. Anthony on May 15th, 2009 12:43 pm

    The major downside though is we’d have an extremely boring team, the only exception being Felix when he’s on.

    And Death To Flying Things. I can’t wait to get up to Seattle this summer so I can watch him play!

    Besides, I think Boring would be the wrong word. With Morrow, Bautista, and Aardsma on the team, the 7th through 15th innings will never be boring…

  70. Dave on May 15th, 2009 12:43 pm

    This is the best comment thread we’ve had in… years? I don’t know. A long time. Good job, everyone. I was afraid this would turn into mindless rosterbation, but you guys have been great. Big time kudos.

    As for the best fit, to me, the Giants are the obvious one. They’re semi-contenders this year, and Sabean clearly wanted to capitalize on trying to win this year – note the signings of Randy Johnson, Edgar Renteria, Bob Howry, and Jeremy Affeldt. Their offense is putrid, however, and they’re getting practically nothing from Aaron Rowand. They also need to acquire either a third baseman (pushing Sandoval to first) or a 1B who can hit in order to replace Travis Ishikawa.

    Some kind of package that includes Ichiro and either Beltre or Branyan should appeal to the Giants quite a bit.

    And thankfully, they’re loaded at the positions we need help at. You won’t get any of the Bumgarner-Alderson-Posey-Villalona prospect group, but their next tier includes Nick Noonan (20-year-old LH hitting second baseman), Conor Gillaspie (21-year-old LH hitting third baseman), and Ehire Adrianza (19-year-old switch hitting shortstop), as well as Scott Barnes (21-year-old LHP).

    If the Giants would put together a package of Jonathan Sanchez and two or three of those guys, the rebuild could be shot into hyperdrive.

  71. joser on May 15th, 2009 12:46 pm

    But the implication that somehow the Japanese guys will always look out for each other is troubling on a couple of levels.

    That’s not what I meant at all (and as someone who is always tempted to look under the rocks of Ichiro underappreciation for hints of dark, troubling things, I’m a bit offended you managed to jump to that kind of implication from what I wrote — is there some unsavory motive to Angelos’ apparent devotion to Brian Roberts?)

    It’s well-documented that the majority owner (in person, if not in a paper corporate sense) has a particular relationship with Ichiro going to when he was still playing in Japan. More significantly (and more my point) it’s also clear that Ichiro has real dollar value to the team in terms of bringing in fans, selling merchandise, and overall marketing the M’s as a brand. (Even with Griffey back, what kind of a message does an in-season trade of Ichiro send to fans considering spending their leisure dollars?) Ichiro is a unique player, and his uniqueness extends to his relationship with his team, which is different from every other player on the roster. We would expect these things to create a tremendous reluctance, on a couple of levels, to trade him regardless of what the cold-hearted on-field calculations suggest.

  72. terry on May 15th, 2009 12:50 pm

    Ichiro has always presented a challenge, and as his power has dissipated it’s more of a challenge.

    I don’t understand this at all.

  73. KaminaAyato on May 15th, 2009 12:53 pm

    @lailaihei

    What’s the word about Japanese players who may be posted after this season? Anyone worth considering? Or are posting decisions unpredictable and only worth looking at once the season is over?

    I can kinda answer that one. If you’re still curious, NPB Tracker has an ongoing list of players eligible here. However, nothing here would impress me that much for 2010.

    The one thing of note is that for the most part, it’s now pitchers who are looking to make the transition, not position players. And even then, you’re looking at pitchers who either have had substantial service time in NPB (i.e. Matsuzaka, Kuroda, etc.) or fringe players (like Tazawa Junichi).

    I think it’ll become a rare case that a position player makes the transition to MLB. There’s pitching potential to be had in Japan though, and depending on how MLB-NPB decide to deal with potential draftees (HS/college/industrial), the M’s could look to develop young talent relatively cheaply as opposed to getting established players.

  74. decatur7 on May 15th, 2009 1:02 pm

    @KaminaAyato

    Why do you think position players from Japan will become less frequent? I’ve noticed that coming from NPB to MLB seems to cut their Isolated Slugging in half or more (Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, Aki Iwamura, Johjima etc.), but they’re still good value league average to All-Star caliber players.

    Also, are NPB players usually posted only when they’re about to become free agents? If so, I assume Yu Darvish isn’t getting posted until his free agency 2014, if at all; he’s expressed no desire to play in America so far. But in any case, the Mariners’ Japanse ownership and Seattle’s Japanese community and following will still be valuable assets for a long time.

  75. joser on May 15th, 2009 1:10 pm

    Regardless of how you think Ichiro will age, this team isn’t going to be a World Series contender in the next 2-3 years.

    I think that’s unduly pessimistic. The postseason is always a crap shoot (as we well know) but this is not a strong division and it only has four teams (two of which may have budgetary concerns over the next few years). The M’s have resources and smart management in place. The only thing that is going to hold them back are the boat anchor contracts Bavasi left them with. But Silva is the only one of those that is significant in size and length; as painful as most of the infield is, it’s not the kind of wound that takes years to recover from. Yeah, there are all sorts of questions about the roster in 2010 and beyond — but we shouldn’t assume all the answers will be bad.

    A lot can change in a year or two, especially if you can make some smart trades. In 2001 Boston was a .500 team and the Marlins were below .500, second to last in their division. Three years later, they both had won World Series. I’m not saying the M’s are two or three years away from rings (so far in their entire history that’s never been true), but I think it’s quite possible for them to revisit the playoffs in that timeframe. Heck, with only four teams, they should be there 25% of the time! And since they’re not going this year, that means they’re sure to be back in one of the next three! Now that’s statistics! ;)

  76. diderot on May 15th, 2009 1:12 pm

    That’s not what I meant at all

    Joser,
    absolutely no offense intended. All I was trying to get at is that there’s no automatic affinity for Japanese owners to any Japanese ballplayer.
    (And I have to admit, I did not get your Angelos reference–is Roberts Greek? Didn’t know.)

    But the thing I can add is that any deep study of Yamauchi shows that he has no deep affection/loyalty to any of his employees. He will put winning first…that’s the kind of guy he is. So I don’t believe it’s a given that he would never agree to an Ichiro deal–especially, as I said before, if Ichiro wants one.

  77. gloo on May 15th, 2009 1:14 pm

    Darvish has publicly stated that he does not want to play in MLB to Japanse media recently. However, I remember reading a Japanese article which stated otherwise, back a couple years ago. NPB players are under considerable pressure to remain in NPB, and that may be the reason he said what he said.

    I would bet a case of the finest Papua New Guinean beer that Darvish will be donning a MLB uniform by 2015.

  78. mapleleafmariner on May 15th, 2009 1:45 pm

    I would very much like to see Ichiro retire as a Mariner and go to HOF. Just like Kirby Puckett did with the Twins. I really hope to see this day…

  79. Mat on May 15th, 2009 1:53 pm

    As far as getting full value for Ichiro, I think that teams still place a very high value on having a good lead-off hitter. Especially if you have a team with a little bit of an old-school bent where they are going to be really happy that most of Ichiro’s OBP comes from hits, and that he can still steal some bases, I think that they would value Ichiro quite highly.

    Last year, 15 teams had a lower OPS at leadoff than the Mariners and 24 teams had a lower OBP at leadoff than the Mariners. I can see the reasons why he might be somewhat underappreciated, but if teams look at him as Ichiro, leadoff hitter, rather than Ichiro, right fielder, I think you could get pretty good value for him in a trade.

  80. JerBear on May 15th, 2009 1:56 pm

    Great post, Dave. Thanks.

    Up to this point I’ve always completely rejected any “Trade Ichiro” viewpoint, because they’re usually always based on the premise that “Ichiro sux!!11!” But this is a nice, clear-cut case that could be made for the move.

    That said, as a fan, I still would not be ready for it. Regardless of the positive impacts it could have, I would have a hard time seeing Ichiro! play anywhere else. He’s been the one consistent reason to watch the Mariners for the last 8 years, and the sentimental side of me never wants him to leave.

    I know that doesn’t necessarily make sense, but neither does following a team this god-awful for so long. I can’t help it.

  81. KaminaAyato on May 15th, 2009 2:00 pm

    Why do you think position players from Japan will become less frequent?

    It’s no secret that the successful players that make the transition are generally top-tier players back in Japan. I think the key factor is that the depth in Japan is just not the same as here in the states. So while both pitchers and position players get some benefit to their numbers due to facing inferior competition at times, I think pitchers who generally are drilled to have good control (i.e. Kuroda, Uehara, not Igawa) translate better than position players who have to get used to MLB pitching. That is also evident by the amount of relievers trying to make the jump over.

    So if Yamauchi and co. wanted to keep the Japanese connection going, it would be more than likely a pitcher. I love having a Japanese presence on the team – and I would miss Ichiro if he was traded (I’d still wear his WBC jersey to games), but at the same time we can’t be too sentimental with our players. If the M’s get a serious offer for Ichiro, I would hope that they would give it a fair shake before making their decision.

  82. Taylor H on May 15th, 2009 2:06 pm

    Hm. I would be okay with trading Ichiro. He seems like he would destroy the NL.

    I wonder if we could get Matt Cain for him…

  83. Taylor H on May 15th, 2009 2:09 pm

    If the Giants would put together a package of Jonathan Sanchez and two or three of those guys, the rebuild could be shot into hyperdrive.

    What’s the scouting report on Sanchez, Dave?

  84. joser on May 15th, 2009 2:11 pm

    (And I have to admit, I did not get your Angelos reference–is Roberts Greek? Didn’t know.)

    I don’t think so — that was my point. An owner can develop a preference for a player without it having anything to do with their ethnic background or shared history or whatever (goodness knows Steinbrenner had his obsessions, to give another example). And we do know Yamauchi has met with Ichiro in Japan. I don’t think he’s done that with, say, Felix.

    In any case, when I was talking about ownership I was talking about it in totality — all the guys who look at the P&L statements and worry about people showing up at games, buying overpriced food, and dressing their kids in logo’d merchandise. That’s where Ichiro has preeminent value to the team, and thus to the owners. And that’s why even thinking about trading him represents a huge gut-check for them.

  85. Gump on May 15th, 2009 2:15 pm

    This is the same ownership tho that decided to give Jojihma a fat 3 year contract while batting .200, I would love a move to happen if we get the right pieces but seriously doubt that Z could pull the trigger if he got the right opportunity…

  86. The Ancient Mariner on May 15th, 2009 2:15 pm

    No, the Giants aren’t going to give up Cain for Ichiro — the whole point of such a move would be to put themselves in position to win the NL West, and they need Cain for that. Ichiro/Beltre for Sanchez/Noonan/Gillaspie and another prospect (I know nothing about Adriana) makes a lot of sense to me, and I think it would make a lot of sense on SF’s side, given how they’ve operated in the past. SF would presumably be a congenial place for Ichiro, too (and I’d think for Beltre as well), which is no small thing.

    I’m not sure why so many commenters have mentioned TB, though, as that makes no sense to me at all; Ichiro just doesn’t seem to fit their MO, or their needs. After all, they’re already to the point that it might make sense for them to deal Crawford — why would they want to add another OF, particularly an expensive one?

  87. bookbook on May 15th, 2009 2:24 pm

    I don’t know enough about actual value to assess this – generally, speedsters who don’t walk and have little power don’t score extremely well by sabr measures.

    But I do know that Ichiro’s perceived value in Seattle is substantially higher than his perceived value just about anywhere else.

    Short of an outfielder injury near the trade deadline to a playoff contender, I don’t believe a win-win trade will emerge.

  88. bilbo27 on May 15th, 2009 2:34 pm

    There is also the problem of the fact that Ichiro keeps interest in the team while it’s awful. Lose Ichiro and you lose a good percentage of the little national coverage the team gets as well as most of your casual fan base. It was fine to do so with Unit, Alex, and Griffey because the M’s were winning and continued to do so (and that is the bottom line with any fan base). Lose Ichiro though and the M’s have nobody that the “typical idiot fans” are willing to come out to the ballpark and see on a losing team (with the exception of Felix, but he’s still not quite there and isn’t an every day player). You and I would still go, but most people wouldn’t. Most of my friends who go to games the last few years go solely to see Ichiro play and their following of the team tends to be looking up how Ichiro did any given night.

    One alternative to trading Ichiro that still probably benefits the team just as much as the trade is simply to trade away some of your promising young outfield talent for some promising young infield talent (1 to 1 type swaps with teams that have the reverse problem of the M’s). This effectively accomplishes what the Ichiro trade would have done more or less, but without losing the “face of the franchise” and one of your most valuable players in terms of on the field value as well as off the field value (extra media coverage, Japanese fan base, more fans staying mildly interested in the team during losing years, merchandise sales, etc).

    Just a thought. I’m not one who typically gets too attached to individual players. I’m happy to see them go if it makes the team better, but I’m not convinced yet that there aren’t other alternatives in this case that would be just as good for the M’s. Now if Ichiro’s play did start to drastically drop off, I’d say “SELL SELL SELL” before anyone else notices too much. But Ichiro’s one that seems like he will be one who has a very gradual decline; not the sharp drop offs we see in many other players.

    And of course there is a certain appeal to hanging on to those rare guys who put up great numbers for a decent sized career and do it all for one club. Being able to say you were at the game Ichiro got hit number 1 and hit number 3000 (good shot at it) and a ton in between (i’m a full season ticket holder so that helps :-) . Guys like Edgar and Ichiro don’t typically come along all that often though the M’s got lucky and got two back to back. Despite Edgar’s somewhat sharp drop off in numbers, I was glad the M’s hung on to him for completely non-logical reasons.

    Now of course if someone was willing to offer for Ichiro a type of deal Bavasi gave for Bedard then I’d say take it and who cares about all this other stuff. But i just don’t see that happening.

  89. qwerty on May 15th, 2009 2:36 pm

    This is an extremely convincing argument based on the best analytical tools we have

    I’m not a sabr-head, but even I saw this as a necessary move to build. This team can be good in 2 years…ichiro will be 37.

    I feel vindicated. I suggested this in the summer and got 86′d.

    Think Baltimore would give us back Adam Jones?

  90. Gump on May 15th, 2009 2:42 pm

    Think Baltimore would give us back Adam Jones?

    Man this is getting more painfull being reminded of this awefull move!

  91. wazzuster on May 15th, 2009 2:47 pm

    The Mariners should look to make a move with the Dodgers. Picking up James Loney or Clayton Kershaw plus additional prospects would really help out our ball club. Kershaw will be one of the top pitchers in the league for several years to come. and Jame Loney will add some power to our lineup.

  92. Utis on May 15th, 2009 2:55 pm

    Damm It! No!

    I understand the ratonale and I know that the time when players spend their whole career with one team is long gone. However, at some point old fashioned values like loyalty do matter. It’s not all about wOBA or WAR. My kids don’t know or care bout that (though they do care about the M’s being competitive). The Mariners have traded away or let go three future HOF players. I would not want to see them add a fourth.

    I would rather be a Cubs fan and have gotten to see all the great Cub players for many years than a Florida Marlin’s fan wih two WS and full roster turnover every four years.

    Are you going to post suggesting we trade Felix next? Wouldn’t it make as much sense? We only control him for a few more years and the probability that he will sign here into his free agent years is small. We should be able to do much better than the O’s did with Bedard or the Indians did with Colon.

  93. WrathofLeeElia on May 15th, 2009 2:56 pm

    Should they trade Ichiro? There are only a few teams that could a) absorb the contract, and b) provide value in a trade. Realistically, the market is pretty limited.

    The better question — and I’m sure you’re working on it — is why *not* trade Felix if he won’t sign a long-term deal? There are no limitations; you can look for the best deal, period. I’m with this guy: “The Trade Value Post,” June 28, 2008; see Pitchers with trade value: Felix

  94. TranquilPsychosis on May 15th, 2009 3:00 pm

    Think Baltimore would give us back Adam Jones?

    Think we can raise and re-float the Titanic?

  95. jordan on May 15th, 2009 3:10 pm

    Well, if San fran was interested, how about Emmanuel Burriss?

  96. DAMellen on May 15th, 2009 3:14 pm

    I didn’t realize people were so high on Jonathan Sanchez. So then you expect him to get his control and be a high level starter? How good do you think he’ll be?

  97. pinball1973 on May 15th, 2009 3:19 pm

    An excellent article (and I am in no way surprised by that), but it brings up to me the most interesting point of tension for baseball fans – as opposed to management – and that is that, for a fan like myself, “winning” is not only NOT the only thing, it’s not the most important thing.
    I enjoy the game based on the “story” it tells through its play. Of course, winning games is generally necessary to tell a “good” story, but it also requires having interesting characters and a certain kind of continuity.
    Some characters are, for me, simply far more interesting than the team they are on, over and above their talent – it’s a special kind of greatness that keeps me tied to the game.

    I want comedy and tragedy, heroics and farce. The score at the end finally is secondary…. But the best stories DO have to get, in baseball, to the World Series.

    While I’ll now likely always have soft spot for the Mariners (though some teams, like the St. Louis I loved as a kid and a college student, somehow turn sour for odd, hard-to-identify reasons), but it’s Ichiro I’ll definitely be rooting for, always.

    Ichiro, for me, is like Willie Mays was to Woody Allen in “Manhatten”: something that makes life worth living. A Mariners World Series w/o him would simply be a nice thing to happen.

  98. heyoka on May 15th, 2009 3:28 pm

    I was thinking more for Ichiro’s sake we should trade him. He really seems like someone who should be on a contending team. I’m not convinced he’s in decline. Many HoF-type players have a way of busting out awesome seasons in their late 30s. I don’t foresee Ich being unvaluable until he’s 39/40.

  99. Breadbaker on May 15th, 2009 3:31 pm

    Power is secondary to producing/saving runs.

    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that there’s only one way of doing things.

    I think this was directed at my comment a ways up the thread (sorry for taking so long to respond; work intrudes).

    My point was that it is easier to find power in certain positions in baseball and harder in others. When the M’s had power in positions where power is generally missing (and Ichiro had more power) having a RF without power did not negatively impact the roster construction. It’s a lot easier to find a RF with power than a SS with power.

    Now, when Ichiro was signed to the extension, the understanding was that by now the outfield would include Adam Jones and Wlad and Jeff Clement would be the everyday catcher (or at worst most of a platoon with Kenji), and that Lopez and Betancourt would be in the primes of their careers. Add in Beltre and a cheap fill-in at 1B and DH (which is basically what we have) and you would think you’d have a reasonable lineup and Ichiro would fit in perfectly, adding speed, great defense and a lot of times on base.

    Jones is gone and I don’t have to remind anyone of the offensive difference between him and Gutz. The Balentien/Chavez platoon is fine defensively and not terrible offensively. Clement is in Tacoma. And the middle infielders aren’t exactly producing the way Guillen and Boone did in 2001-03. So we have a team that his too right-handed (obviously not exactly solved by trading Ichiro), has insufficient power and minimal trading chips.

    My point is that Ichiro is more valuable to a team that is looking for speed, defense and OBA to complement power than a team that has a lot of speed and defense and insufficient power, and thus can be traded for the proper parts.

  100. Graham on May 15th, 2009 3:52 pm

    My point was that it is easier to find power in certain positions in baseball and harder in others.

    My point is that you don’t really need power in your team to run out a good offence.

  101. Tom C on May 15th, 2009 4:13 pm

    Dave’s post makes me very sad.

    I love Ichiro. There are very few players in all of MLB who are as reliable as Ichiro in terms of high performance and durability every single year. And who are clean (i.e. not like Manny, A-Rod, etc.). Not to mention the plus alpha (work ethics, quotes, stretching routines, overall awesomeness, etc.).

    Potential trade pieces we might get are something of a crapshoot after all. Many players have looked great on paper and have been less impressive after actually coming to Safeco.

    I do not want the M’s to trade Ichiro! I think we will end up regretting it hugely.

  102. jephdood on May 15th, 2009 4:16 pm

    Take your emotions out of the equation. Then evaluate the opportunity.

  103. joser on May 15th, 2009 5:00 pm

    I don’t foresee Ich being unvaluable until he’s 39/40.

    Unvaluable? That’s unpossible!

  104. eponymous coward on May 15th, 2009 5:01 pm

    My point was that it is easier to find power in certain positions in baseball and harder in others. When the M’s had power in positions where power is generally missing (and Ichiro had more power) having a RF without power did not negatively impact the roster construction. It’s a lot easier to find a RF with power than a SS with power.

    Right, but winning a game 2-1 with good defense and pitching or 8-7 with a couple of three-run jacks is fairly irrelevant if your goal is to win the game.

    Asking “does this player have enough power for his position?” is the wrong question to ask when it comes to roster construction. Worry about the quality of player you have on the field. If you have enough of the right kind of THOSE guys, it’s irrelevant if you don’t have a power hitter playing RF.

  105. Tuomas on May 15th, 2009 5:17 pm

    I don’t have a lot to add, other than pointing out that pinball1973 has an awesome name. I don’t suppose you’re actually Prof. Matthew Stretcher?

  106. Breadbaker on May 15th, 2009 6:55 pm

    Have I been missing something about how this team has been winning a lot of games with pitching and defense without any power? Something’s got to change, doesn’t it?

  107. mark s on May 15th, 2009 7:23 pm

    There is a reason this is unthinkable, because I cried just reading that post. If the M’s were able to get a Bedard trade type package in exchange for Ichiro it would be understandable.

    Can’t we trade off our bad players first?

  108. ppl on May 15th, 2009 7:39 pm

    It obviously lies with Ichiro, he has to want to be traded, and would only go somewhere he wants to go. You gotta figure that he would only leave here if it meant going to a legitimate contender.
    And most likely a legitimate contender to win it all, and the Giants might not fit into that category in his eyes. If he prefers the West-Coast, and the M’s don’t want to deal him to a potential rival, the options are limited. I think the fanbase is split on this, but practically at his age, and with the M’s current difficulties, a majority of fans would accept the idea. As a fan, I figure if the season becomes lost, I want them to do everything possible to build a great team as soon as can be done. If they could get some good pieces for the future from the Giants, I am all for it. Most likely the team would make it known that trading him was a possibility before actually doing that, and if it came out publically that he was willing to go to an Eastern team like the Mets, the specualtions could actually be fun to follow.

  109. The Ancient Mariner on May 15th, 2009 7:40 pm

    Have I been missing something about how this team has been winning a lot of games with pitching and defense without any power? Something’s got to change, doesn’t it?

    Yeah — better pitching. We’ve mostly been winning (when we’ve managed to) with good fielding making our pitching look better than it is.

    As for trading off our bad players first: no, because all you can get back for them is other bad players. (If that.)

  110. aaron c. on May 15th, 2009 8:18 pm

    Have I been missing something about how this team has been winning a lot of games with pitching and defense without any power? Something’s got to change, doesn’t it?

    The thing you’re missing is that there are many different ways to outscore your opponent. Fixating on one way to do so is a mistake.

  111. heyoka on May 15th, 2009 9:09 pm

    I don’t foresee Ich being unvaluable until he’s 39/40.

    Unvaluable? That’s unpossible!

    I knew it wasn’t a word when I typed it. What the hell was I thinking?

    Hey, a counter thought to trading Ichiro. What if we’re contending in 2010? This is, after all, still a relatively high budget team, and some crippling contracts are coming off the books.

  112. Lauren, token chick on May 16th, 2009 12:08 am

    I’m with pinball. I have no shame in saying that Ichiro gives me something as a fan that isn’t a rational calculation, and for that reason alone I want him kept here. But I do also think (and this is a large part of why he’s appealed to me all along) that obviously he’s a different type of player and doesn’t fit into typical patterns. And he’s a *smart* player; as someone said up above, if he realizes his results are diminishing he may well begin to approach hitting in a new way.

    My slightly more rational question is about this:

    He’s drawn three unintentional walks so far this year, putting him on pace to draw ~16 for the season. He usually draws between 25 and 35. He’s been caught stealing three times in eight attempts so far this year after being thrown out four times in 47 attempts last year.

    Isn’t any part of the argument built on Ichiro’s performance in April and the first half of May questionable? Out of his usual 25-35 unintentional walks, how many does he get this early in the season? I guess the caught stealing stat would be less affected by time of year.

  113. Lauren, token chick on May 16th, 2009 12:23 am

    Hmm. According to baseball-reference.com, Ichiro tends to walk as much in the early months, if not more. So much for that argument. May is his worst month for being caught stealing, though!

  114. ivan on May 16th, 2009 10:59 am

    No one will ever again receive the package that Baltimore received, unless St. Louis trades Pujols, or Bavasi becomes a GM for another team.

    Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips for Bartolo Colon is a hell of a package.

  115. Jon on May 16th, 2009 5:29 pm

    I see nothing–zero–that has changed in the last 4-5 years that makes Ichiro more tradeable or, better put, makes a trade more worthy of consideration except one thing: Ichiro is older. That’s it. A surplus of outfield talent? Not even hypothetically more OF talent (assuming they draft this OF or that OF). Throughout the last 4-5 years they were always one or two trades away from stockpiling depth in the OF. Now is no different. The M’s can go ahead and trade Ichiro if they want, but now is no better than before. If it makes sense now, then it has made sense for awhile.

  116. themedia on May 16th, 2009 6:11 pm

    Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips for Bartolo Colon is a hell of a package.

    Then maybe Z should call the Mets.

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