Let The Sell Off Begin

Dave · May 27, 2009 at 8:24 am · Filed Under Mariners 

When the Mariners decided to recall Guillermo Quiroz from Double-A to backup Rob Johnson, passing over Jamie Burke, it signaled that a decision on the direction of the 2009 season has been made. Quoting Baker:

In what he termed “a difficult call to make” Wakamatsu had a phone conversation with Burke earlier today and told him the team is looking to go in a younger direction for now.

When the manager is telling the veteran players in the organization that playing time decisions are being based on age, rather than expected performance, it signals that the team has shifted the priority from winning this year to winning in the future. Given where they stand in the division (seven games out of first place, ~7% chance of making the playoffs), it’s the right call. It’s time to pull the plug on the 2009 season, and make moves that reflect the reality that the franchise is putting 2010 ahead of 2009.

The team should move Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn as soon as possible. As we’ve talked about previously, these two are volatile assets, and the reward of moderately improving the return in trade as we get closer to the deadline is outweighed by the extra risk of collapse that both carry with them. Once Adrian Beltre shows a sustained hot stretch that pulls his numbers up, you probably have to move him too – his struggles so far have made him unlikely to be a Type A free agent at years end, which reduces the value in letting him leave via free agency.

Ship Miguel Batista to a contender looking for bullpen help (the Yankees?) and Endy Chavez to a team that needs a legitimate center fielder (the Braves?). And yes, put Russ Branyan on the market – for as well as he’s playing, he’s not a great bet to sustain this level of offense (.382 batting average on balls in play), and the team has several guys in Tacoma who could use an extended second half shot at the major leagues.

Also, Mike Sweeney should get a stint on the disabled list to allow the team to give Chris Shelton a look in the majors.

The shift from “we’re hoping to contend” to “we’re playing for next year” brings the necessity for some significant roster turnover. The team that takes the field in Oakland today won’t be together for much longer. Calling up Guillermo Quiroz seems fairly innocuous, but the process that led to that decision being made will also lead to the beginning of the shift away from playoff aspirations.

Let the sell off begin.


81 Responses to “Let The Sell Off Begin”

  1. The Ancient Mariner on May 27th, 2009 12:15 pm

    fairweatherfan, since you checked back in this year, I’m betting you’ll check back in next year, too.

  2. dw on May 27th, 2009 12:17 pm

    If it really is rosterbation season, well….

    Trading Ichiro will be extremely difficult unless it’s to a team who is willing to take on his salary — $12M/year + $5M/year deferred with interest through 2012. And no team, not even the Yankees, will deal for him without the M’s paying part of that salary.

    So, the idea that this will “give the team $17M/year to sign free agents with” is hokum. The reality is probably half that — $8.5M/year — and even then it probably wouldn’t go back into salaries (since even at the $75M/year or so they’re at now the M’s are still overspending).

    Beltre, even with his poor hitting, has a lot of value if he can move to a park with a short left field power alley and CF. Here’s his hit chart; you can see that Safeco’s “Bermuda triangle” in left has been death to his hitting, and that he’s tended to go opposite field here more than in other parks. I would think that St. Louis may not be bad if Glaus is seriously hurt.

    The rest… Felix is extremely valuable, so he’s worth trading if you’re getting Zimmerman, Strasburg, the lease on Nationals Stadium, and a guaranteed government bailout of the roster, but no less. Washburn will be dealt for spare parts. We might get a type-A prospect for Bedard, but his injury issues are bad.

    On the whole, I wouldn’t expect a “fire sale” to really net all that much. Fire sales rarely do provide teams with lots of valuable pieces unless it’s like Florida in ’97 where they were trading lots of valuable players for lots of prospects. Most of the time they give you a servicable player and some roster fluff.

  3. GarForever on May 27th, 2009 12:21 pm

    Not to be negative, but how many championships has Billy Beane won? I know he does a great job in trades, but he isn’t the greatest GM ever…

    Billy Beane may not be the greatest GM ever (though I’m not certain how one would measure that and adjust for factors such as payroll, etc.), but he has been very successful at building a system that develops talent and remains consistently competitive from one year to the next. The A’s may be struggling this year, but part of his plan in acquiring some of the pieces he did was in the expectation that the team would probably not be competitive, would only be so as a result of the overall weakness of the division, and if it failed to be so he would have veterans he could deal to contenders for more prospects. Beane would be the first to tell you that he would have loved to hold on to guys like Giambi or Tejada, but given the payroll strictures in Oakland, holding on to such players would mean having one or two exceptional talents surrounded by a collection of stiffs that would win 70-80 games, year in, year out.

    The frustration for Beane, as it is for many baseball front office types, is that the postseason is, as one other commenter remarked, a crap shoot (indeed, I believe Beane says as much in Moneyball, though I believe the phrase was there accompanied by a colorful adjective not suitable for this venue 😉 A team that is very good over 162 games can fall victim to bad luck, slumps, a manager’s inability to handle his pitching staff, etc., over a postseason that will at most last for 19 games (or, in the case of the 2001 Mariners, 10).

  4. eponymous coward on May 27th, 2009 12:22 pm

    Not to be negative, but how many championships has Billy Beane won? I know he does a great job in trades, but he isn’t the greatest GM ever…

    Exactly two less than John Schuerholz has during a 26 year career as a MLB GM for two different organizations, and exactly the same number as Mark Shapiro, Terry Ryan and Bill Bavasi as GMs- zero.

    Clearly the differences between Bavasi, Ryan, Shapiro and Beane are meaningless, given that none of them have won championships during their tenures as GMs.

    Seriously, if your standard is “must win championship every couple of years you are a GM or you suck”, there aren’t a lot of MLB GMs who don’t suck- basically Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman (though not recently) are about it, and maybe Pat Gillick. I prefer to evaluate on method and single-season records, not playoff results, especially considering the fact that MLB’s three-round playoff system involves 8 teams in series that are quite often coin flips.

  5. nuin on May 27th, 2009 12:24 pm

    And Adam Jones is “killing” pitchers nowadays. How I wanted that trade never happened.

  6. Dobbs on May 27th, 2009 12:28 pm

    I’m pretty sure this is what some Orioles fans said last year:

    “It is confounding to me when I hear people mention trading Bedard. He has been the only consistently good player we have had for many years.”

    Can we just accept the fact that every player is available in the right trade, no matter how good they’ve been?

  7. HeyItsTodd on May 27th, 2009 12:29 pm

    If they are indeed acknowledging that this is a long-term project, how will it affect the upcoming draft? Are they more likely to pick a high-school talent? I would think so, but the risk may be too high. Did Big Z have a consistent philosophy when at Milwaukee?

  8. awestby51 on May 27th, 2009 12:34 pm

    I would certainly rather have a decade like that than go the Marlins route, even though the fish won two WS. I’m sure M’s ownership would prefer it too

    I encourage the Marlins firesale method because I think for the Mariners, it would lead to the Braves result you want. The Marlins had great crops of young talent but then had to ditch them for financial reasons. The Mariners can afford to hang on them, and we could have a decade of success.

    The whole “the World Series is the only thing that counts, anything else is failure” is a Yankees attitude — and look how well that has served them in this decade.

    Their mentality isn’t the issue, the means by which they’ve tried to achieve their goal is. I don’t want the Mariners to over value over the hill all-stars, I want them to sell off every asset they have because I have enough faith in Z to get back prospects that fit his system and who will eventually win us a championship.

    We will not win a championship with Ichiro. It will NOT happen.
    Oh, so that’s the reason? He has some magic rock in his locker (nicknamed Buck Marinez, perhaps) that causes the team to fail? Amazing how that managed to reach across the Pacific and do exert its influence even before he got here.

    I’m not saying its Ichiro’s fault that we didn’t win a championship, just that I don’t think we can retool quick enough to win with Ichiro. Bavasi wasted our Ichiro/World Championship years, and trading him mitigates the loss (my perceived loss, i.e. productive play without winning results) of a few more years of consistent Ichiro.

  9. awestby51 on May 27th, 2009 12:35 pm

    I’ve made a huge mistake.

  10. dingla on May 27th, 2009 12:40 pm

    fairweatherfan, since you checked back in this year, I’m betting you’ll check back in next year, too.


  11. eponymous coward on May 27th, 2009 12:40 pm

    The point is that the relief pitching is one of the areas where the organization as a whole has considerable depth (led in the minors by Fields and Aumont)

    That’s more reasonable, though I don’t think they are anything close to ready. Moving Aardsma is fine, though. Heck, I would be happy to listen to offers for Morrow.

    Felix is extremely valuable, so he’s worth trading if you’re getting Zimmerman, Strasburg, the lease on Nationals Stadium, and a guaranteed government bailout of the roster, but no less.

    That’s a bit of an exaggeration, I think. Go look at the Bartolo Colon trade for the sort of deal I am talking about. Now clearly, the Expos overpaid for Colon… but Felix has one more extra year under team control than Colon did, so he’s more valuable. (There’s also the factor that we could probably lump in some talent from the farm system if we had to, since we are overstocked with LHB corner players.)

    Fire sales rarely do provide teams with lots of valuable pieces unless it’s like Florida in ‘97 where they were trading lots of valuable players for lots of prospects.

    Well, that’s the idea behind trading Felix- net as much talent that is very close to MLB ready as you can on the flip. I would think GMZ would be wanting the Grady Sizemores and Dan Harens coming back, not the B-level prospects you’d normally fetch in deadline deals.

  12. Moonstalker on May 27th, 2009 1:00 pm

    I only read half of the post, so I’m sorry if someone else pointed this out.

    I spoke with someone that works in the CVB with the M’s and they implied that Ichiro! isn’t going anywhere based on the fact that pretty much all of their tourism is from Japan, and pretty much all for Ichiro!. Its a crappy place to be, but without the fans, the money leaves, and without the money… Well, so on and so forth.

  13. Bugeater on May 27th, 2009 1:50 pm

    Too bad Ichiro can’t be moved. The others: Bedard, Washburn, Beltre, even Batista and Chavez, should be moved if we can get something worthwhile in return.

  14. Dixoner on May 27th, 2009 1:59 pm

    How about Jarrod Washburn/Yuniesky Betancourt to the Reds for Homer Bailey/Drew Stubbs/Paul Janish? Reds need a 4th Starter. The M’s need young depth at SP/CF/SS. This deal could be a Washburn for Bailey/Stubbs, but this could be a good way to offload Betancourt and pick up another SS.

  15. dw on May 27th, 2009 2:13 pm

    That’s a bit of an exaggeration, I think. Go look at the Bartolo Colon trade for the sort of deal I am talking about.

    A deal that basically net the Indians one franchise player (Sizemore), one mid-rotation pitcher who had a couple of good years and a great year sandwiched around a lot of crap (Lee), a kid that never was good until his year 26 season — in Cincinnati (Phillips), and Lee Stevens, who was 34.

    It was, essentially, a two-for-one deal, although in the process they also lost the 2004 sandwich pick (where they’d probably end up with Zach Jackson, whom they signed in the offseason).

    But two things, though:
    1. Colon was 28 when he was dealt. He debuted at 24. Felix is 23 right now. Colon was peaking; Felix has yet to peak.

    2. The Colon deal was a bit of a special case, between MLB’s ownership of the Expos and the questionable nature of the deal. It may represent the outer limits of such a deal.

    One would expect the M’s to get more back than Sizemore and Lee from a Felix deal. Ideally, they’d get back one player who could make an immediate impact and one player a year or two from an MLB debut with high upside, and then a couple of medium-to-high risk but high upside prospects as well. I can’t think of a team that could make that deal, save the Red Sox if they were willing to depart with, say, Youkilis and Bard.

    Trading Felix isn’t out of the question. But I’m not sure how you effectively value him in the market. His current value is high, his potential value is HOF caliber, but he’s also a real risk. There’s a deal out there for him, sure. But it’s going to be a deal where either the trading team loses big or the M’s lose big. And I know which team I don’t want to lose big.

  16. kenshabby on May 27th, 2009 2:44 pm

    Pretty depressing, though sensible, stuff. Too bad 2009 is paying overmuch for management’s sins of seasons past.

    It’s times like this I’m glad I have three favorite teams, two of which should remain legit contenders (Tigers and Mets).

  17. eponymous coward on May 27th, 2009 4:02 pm

    Well, Phillips and Sizemore were probably the Expos’ top two prospects, and I don’t think there’s any question the Indians won that deal if you look at things like WAR value the players have contributed in MLB, or the commentary at the time. Phillips being a late bloomer is kind of like how Carlos Guillen bloomed late- and come to think of it, the Mark Langston/Randy Johnson/Freddy Garcia deals are also how you’d want to structure this, too- a case where you grab prime prospects out of a system. True, Reed was a busted flush… but it was the right idea.

    The other thing is we’ll have a better idea of where the organization lies post-Draft Day. Right now, the depth on the left side of the infield and minor league RH starters is kind of ugly, and the fact that Clement/Morrow/Aumont/Fields are a collective HUGE waste of high draft picks is kind of a problem (basically, four years of high draft picks have netted us an older version of Mike Carp with a bad knee, and three younger versions of David Aarsdma or JJ Putz).

  18. ppl on May 27th, 2009 4:14 pm

    It’s time, June is closing in, and any upgrades this team could make, could at best assure them a 78-84 win season at this point anyways. Sell while Bedard is healthy and Washburn is pitching decent.

    They should be willing to deal off every veteren player who does not absolutely project into long-term plans. Even be willing to deal off some guys who might be, in order to unload some people whose contracts and performances make them difficult to unload.

  19. henryv on May 27th, 2009 4:20 pm

    Trading Ichiro might be a good baseball moving, but it is a freaking disastrous move, financially. Remove Ichiro and you’re talking about a huge loss in fans at the game and other revenue streams.

    And something has to pay for this roster, and unlike the Athletics, we don’t want the Yankee’s luxury tax paying our entire roster, do we?

    (The only reason I COULD see trading Ichiro is if you got something epically awesome in return. But I can’t even think of (within reason) what that would be…)

    And, like I said in yesterday’s thread, if we trade Beltre, who will be going to third?

    And if we trade Beltre and Branyan, who are going to be our corner infielders? Does Carp deserve that shot?

  20. henryv on May 27th, 2009 4:43 pm

    Dumb question about baseball rules:

    Is it possible to move Kenji and Silva to the 60-day DL? This could free up room on the 40-man, if needed.

  21. firova2 on May 27th, 2009 5:01 pm

    Ichiro is on pace for 237 hits despite missing eight games. This is how bad the offense is, however: although it looks like Ichiro will easily get to 200 hits, he is on pace to score only 61 runs for the whole season. 100 is his previous low. He has four home runs so far. The Mariners have driven him in 12 times all season with several more failures in today’s game.

    A decent indication that it’s time to deal and that Ichiro need not be near the top of the priority list.

  22. rcc on May 27th, 2009 6:04 pm

    I wrote a comment here about two weeks ago that the M’s would not see 500 again, and that they were done in 2009. They should run up a flag that says “for sale” send the veterans down the road and stock up on younger players. If they could only get the boat load of young talent shipped to Baltimore in the Bedard trade.

  23. SonOfZavaras on May 27th, 2009 6:20 pm

    I said it a couple weeks ago when Dave postulated about an Ichiro trade, and I’ll say it now:

    If the right trade for Ichiro materializes, and Ichiro wants to be traded, do it.

    If he doesn’t want to be traded and wants to ride with this new wave of players coming, don’t trade him.

    But, what Ichiro wants should be the deciding factor.

    Normally, I wouldn’t say that- but this is not a rank-and-file major-leaguer, this is a franchise-face that has very legit HoF credentials.

    When a guy is in the top 1% of hitters who have ever lived, what he wants for himself should be listened to.

    As for the next few weeks, well…rosterbation’s fun and all, but I’ll wait until I’ve formulated some legitimate scenarios before I post them.

    I will say ChiSox GM Kenny Williams should look in our direction for Erik Bedard.

    And if the Mariners aren’t involved in at least three trades before the trading deadline that bring young talent back, I’ll be more than mildly disappointed.

  24. Utis on May 27th, 2009 6:59 pm

    A Contrary View

    It’s not time to punt 2009 yet. Yes, the odds are against it but the teams in the division and the league are sufficiently flawed that anything is possible.

    It is best to adopt Beane’s 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 view of the season. The first thrd is spent finding out what we have : good defense, good pitching, weak hitters. The next third is spent making adjustments. Get some left hand relief pitching. Drop two of Beltre, Lopez, Yuni for better bats. Find another outfielder with some pop. Drop one or both of Sweeney and Wlad. Bring up Clement and Carp. By all means listen to offers for anyone but get back players that can help relatively soon. I don’t want to go to Safeco just to watch prospects that may not pan out. The goal should be a team that can win some games the remainder of the year and in future years. Luckily, it looks like that is Z’s plan.

    Above all, don’t trade Ichiro unless the return is overwhelming. These last few years, he has been one of the few reasons to go watch a Mariner’s game. Baseball isn’t just a team sport. It is also an individual sport and the M’s owe it to the fans to put some players out there worth watching. Only one team can win the WS every year but even the M’s can have a player or two that just make you shake your head in wonder. I want to see a player go 5 for 5 or climb the right field wall to make a catch even if the team doesn’t win.

  25. kenshabby on May 27th, 2009 7:10 pm

    As for Ichiro, I don’t see him being moved this season. I do, however, see him wearing Dodger blue at the start of the 2010 or 2011 season.

  26. mln on May 27th, 2009 8:27 pm

    Well, the 2009 season is being punted about 2 months in. Guess it’s better than 2008. Baby steps.

    How many more days till catchers and pitchers report for 2010 spring training?

  27. henryv on May 27th, 2009 9:07 pm

    How many more days till catchers and pitchers report for 2010 spring training?

    About 250 days.

    However, the goal wasn’t ever really to win in 2009. The goal was to build a winning franchise.

    And at this point in the season, its time to focus on that, not on this season.

  28. LB on May 27th, 2009 10:51 pm

    As for Ichiro, I don’t see him being moved this season. I do, however, see him wearing Dodger blue at the start of the 2010 or 2011 season.

    After 2010, Ichiro will have no-trade protection by 5-and-10 rights. He’ll be wearing another uniform only if he says so. It’s safe to assume he’ll say so only if something sweetens the deal for him.

  29. LB on May 27th, 2009 10:53 pm

    … and unlike the Athletics, we don’t want the Yankee’s luxury tax paying our entire roster, do we?

    There’s a difference between the (so-called) luxury tax and revenue sharing. No other franchise sees a penny of NYY luxury tax money.

  30. PBS on May 28th, 2009 12:09 am

    How ’bout Bedard and prospects for Peavy?

    We get a top of the rotation starter who is under contract for multiple years, with a high ceiling…

    Padres get, uh, Bedard.

  31. The Ancient Mariner on May 28th, 2009 7:43 am

    PBS: as Dave showed over at Fangraphs recently, Peavy’s really not as good as his ballpark and league make him look.

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