The Foundation

Dave · October 6, 2009 at 11:38 am · Filed Under Mariners 

As the M’s come up with their off-season plan of action, there’s one significant evaluation that has to take place, and be accurate, or the plan will not succeed. That most necessary step is an evaluation of what the team already has on hand and how competitive they could be with the currently assembled roster, so that they know what they’re building from. As mentioned below, you can’t just assume that the team is starting from an 85 win benchmark and is attempting to build off of that, as there are numerous variables from 2009 that won’t carry over into 2010 – most notably, players on the team that won’t be returning, both good and bad.

In order to know both the kinds of moves to make and the magnitude of the work necessary, the M’s have to know how much talent they already have. We did this a few months ago, but let’s revisit the issue now that we have a bit more information about the roster as assembled.


That’s essentially what the M’s have in house right now. Total WAR from that group? +27.25, which would make them team something like a 75-87 club. The offense would be painful to watch yet again, and the pitching would take a step back. Some expected regression from Gutierrez and Ichiro costs the team a couple of wins as well.

So, that’s where the M’s stand right now. They need to add somewhere between 15 and 20 wins to the roster this winter – that’s a pretty significant challenge. The group above would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million, give or take $5 million on either side due to uncertainty surrounding the salaries of the arbitration eligible guys (Felix, Gutierrez, Aardsma, Lowe).

That gives the M’s about $25 million to spend this winter. So, the team is looking at having to pay about $1.7 million per win. Wins cost between $4 and $5 million apiece in free agency, so obviously, just trying to buy players isn’t going to work. The M’s are going to have continue to get some a lot of bang for their buck if they’re going to get into the 90+ win arena for 2010.

That’s why the decisions about whether to try to bring back players like Jack Wilson and Adrian Beltre are a bit trickier than just looking at value produced divided by the cost of contract. In terms of market value, Beltre’s on field production is worth something like $10-$15 million for next year. Due to his poor season, he’ll almost certainly sign for less than that. However, if the M’s give Beltre, say, $8 million, they’ve bought an additional two wins, but at a price of $4 million apiece.

Realistically, the team can’t afford to spend 33% of its budget at a $4 million per win asset, when their target for the entire budget has to be $1.7 million per win. If you add those extra two wins and subtract $8 million from the budget, now the team would have to buy 13-18 wins with just $17 million. The rest of their moves would have to bring in wins at almost $1 million apiece, which is really, really hard to do.

So, the M’s have some tough decisions to make. Even if Adrian Beltre wants to return, they probably can’t afford to bring him back even at a discount unless they were willing to move the Hannahan/Hall platoon over to shortstop and say goodbye to Jack Wilson. There’s basically no way the team can have both Beltre and Wilson back next year. It’s an either/or proposition.

In lieu of more reliable veterans, the M’s are going to have to take some risks and have them pay off. Whether it’s going with a Hannahan/Hall platoon at third, trading Lopez for value and giving Tui a shot at second, or forgoing the big bat at 1B/DH and giving Carp a shot at regular playing time, they’re going to have to take a risk at one everyday position (maybe more) and hope someone develops faster than they might have expected. They just don’t have the cash to upgrade every single spot that’s currently held by a below average player.

15 to 20 wins for $25 million. That’s the bottom line of what this off-season needs to produce, and that likely means turning to the trade market, where a GM with a good eye for undervalued talent can get wins cheaper than through free agency. The M’s need to hit another home run in trade and get another high quality, low cost player on the team. If they don’t, it’s going to be tough to win next year.


69 Responses to “The Foundation”

  1. Dave on October 6th, 2009 8:39 pm

    I accounted for Felix getting a lot of money. Don’t worry. I kind of know what I’m doing.

  2. justme on October 6th, 2009 9:04 pm

    I’m not as statistically inclined as most, but I don’t understand how Tuiasosopo’s WAR value has increased from 0.5 to 1.0 in the span of 22 AB’s.

  3. Dave on October 6th, 2009 9:11 pm

    His projected playing time doubled.

  4. kenshabby on October 6th, 2009 9:15 pm

    Adding Prince Fielder alone could account for about one-third of those 15-20 wins, and at a not-unreasonable price tag for 2010. From a non-analytical view I believe Fielder would be a great fit for the M’s. I’d like to see the team keep Beltre and use Hall and Hannahan at SS, and try to work Tui at 2B.

  5. Slurve on October 6th, 2009 9:26 pm

    SP-Erik Bedard! Then again it’s a question if he’s healthy or not… He’d probably throw maybe 160 innings max at this point. But he might be around 2-3 WAR. Bedard for a 1 year 1-3 million dollar contract, 2 wins for 2 million but it’s stil risky… Morrow/Snell REALLY need to step up to what fans think they’ll be, but 1-2 wins is what is realistic for those 2 at this point.

    So much wins to accumulate but not enough money. Trade perhaps? Aardsma/Lowe in a Putz trade redux? I can only wish… I’ll stop now before I start rosterbating.

  6. DMac2 on October 6th, 2009 9:28 pm

    Great analysis and insight into the challenges facing the M’s this winter.

    Seems like the focus of the comments has been around how to stretch our available $80 M payroll to create a playoff contender next year. Seems unlikely, magic from the great Z not withstanding.

    Shouldn’t they (and we) be taking a longer view, how to create a winning dynasty that will last many years, which would imply different moves next year than reaching for the improbable stars in one season.

  7. Pete Livengood on October 6th, 2009 9:43 pm

    I agree DMac. You can’t squeeze blood out of a tone, or something like that. The real issue is contention to 2011, which puts far more emphasis on Felix (and maybe Guti, too). Not to write off 2010, but 2010 nmay be a year where 82-87 is good enough, you realize if things break your way you might win the division at 90-93, and you bulild from there.

  8. diderot on October 6th, 2009 10:06 pm

    The real issue is contention to 2011

    Yes, yes and yes.

    Trying to chase wins next year is, in my opinion, futile in and of itself. It leads to bad decision making.

    Instead, ask what makes us contenders the year after next. Play to that end. Give young guys the chance to break through–including and especially Moore.

    Don’t spend anything unnecessary this winter–save it for the next winter and then place your bet on Halladay or Derrek Lee or Cliff Lee or Vazquez or Webb or Crawford or Dunn or Mauer or whomever you think can really take us to the next level.

  9. davepaisley on October 6th, 2009 10:28 pm

    Nobody seems to have picked up on the math here. You say the M’s would be a 75-87 win team with the “current” roster – a wide spread centered on 81 wins – a .500 team.

    Then you say they need 15-20 wins improvement. That would be 92 – 107 wins, taking the upper and lower ends of the ranges with the maximum spreads. 92 would have kept the M’s in the playoff hunt until the very end this year, and 107 is pretty close to all-time record, so it seems to me your standards are very high – unreasonably so.

    It seems to me that 92 wins next year would safely get the M’s into the playoff hunt, even if not guaranteeing a playoff berth, which would be the upside of your “as-is” projection with a mere 5 win improvement.

    Call that the optimistic view. Even the mid-point only requires an 11 win improvement to make 92 wins.

    So could you clarify the basis on which you declare they need to improve 15-20 wins?

  10. Dave on October 6th, 2009 10:39 pm

    That’s 75 and 87, dave, not 75 to 87.

    75-87. It’s a record, not a spread.

  11. Chris_From_Bothell on October 6th, 2009 10:45 pm

    jeff nye –

    Cameron isn’t likely to perform enough better than an asset we already have in-house (Saunders) to be worth spending ANY money on.

    You think Saunders projects to be a +4 to +4.5 WAR player? Seriously?

  12. Jeff Nye on October 6th, 2009 11:36 pm

    Yes, because that’s exactly what I said.

  13. Kazinski on October 7th, 2009 12:20 am

    Bringing Mike Cameron in to play LF would be like signing Adrian Beltre to play 1b. Most of his value is his defense in CF, not his offense.

    Having said that, I think Saunders defense in LF would be every bit as good as Cameron’s. I think his offense would be the big question mark.

    Where I disagree with Dave is in thinking you have to build to win in 2010. You shoot for improvement every year, and it’s unlikely that they can pay Felix 18-20m and build a team that fast while Silva and Johjima are still on the payroll. So your only hope is that Saunders, Tui, Ackley, Morrow and Moore mature fast enough to win before Ichiro starts his inevitible decline.

  14. dmojr on October 7th, 2009 7:20 am

    Players like Ichiro dont age the same as a typical player. (as long as he does not sustain a serious leg injury) I’ve read he’s talked about playing well into his 40’s and i believe he will be a +.300 hitter and beating out in field hits for years to come.

  15. georgmi on October 7th, 2009 9:02 am

    Players like Ichiro dont age the same as a typical player.

    What players are out there who are like Ichiro? I think you have to project him the same way you do other players of his age until he proves you wrong.

  16. eponymous coward on October 7th, 2009 11:09 am

    It occurs to me that if that roster had a couple of different names on it:

    LF Choo 3.0
    2B Cabrera 2.5


    LF Jones 2.5
    RP Sherrill 1.0

    We’d be in considerably better shape. Thanks again for all your hard work for the Mariners, Bill.

  17. Adam B. on October 7th, 2009 3:35 pm

    There honestly just isn’t a good way to add to the M’s win total through free-agency.

    Even when picking through the scrap heap of a depressed economy, the M’s are probably still paying something like $2M per WAR at best.

    For instance, Designated hitters should be cheap again this year.
    Most American League teams are set at the position and there are probably a dozen players competing for maybe half a dozen starting gigs. However, even in these conditions a 2.5WAR player like Hideki Matsui is probably not going to sign for less then $5-6M and the risk of deminished returns ramps up for each dollar saved.

    Apply this to the much more demanding positions the Mariners have holes at; Shortstop, Third base, Starting rotation… And that $25M doesn’t get you much unless you win a few free-agent lottery tickets.

    I’d love for Zduriencik to pull off another blockbuster trade, and I hope he can do it, because the alternatives make the M’s an ~85 win team with a ~$100M payroll for yet another year.

  18. horatiosanzserif on October 8th, 2009 10:40 am

    Did I miss an earlier post about Branyan never coming back? Is it possible that he priced himself back into the picture w/ his lower-back issues?

  19. Mike Snow on October 8th, 2009 11:44 am

    No, this is simply an evaluation of where things start with the players who would be Mariners if the team does nothing at all. You’ll notice that even though Dave talks about Beltre and Wilson as an either/or, neither of them is actually included in this list.

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