On bringing back Griffey
I understand the good feelings. Heck, we partook. And no one’s going to deny the team certainly seemed happier, though we can argue how to divvy up the credit.
But are the few clutch hits really so awesome that people overlook what actually happened last year? In 2010, Griffey will be forty. He’s fought nagging injuries for years, to the point he can’t defend in the field and still worse for AL-job-finding purposes, he can’t hit well enough to be a DH.
He hit .214/.324/.411 last year, and it’s not as if even stricter platooning would help. He only faced lefties 87 times (and had great luck against them, defying a long decline into hopelessness).
We heard a lot about how his lack of power was due to his knee, and pointed out it looked a lot more like standard decline from aging. Here’s his career SLG line on Fangraphs:
There’s no coming back from that.
And here’s the problem, right — last year the M’s had a lot of rope to work with, and roster spots they could burn on positive public relations moves like the Griffey return. They were trying to dig themselves out of a huge hole and made some big high-risk moves (like the Putz trade) that were hard to explain to the fans buying a couple tickets a year and getting their analysis from the broadcast crew. Griffey came cheap, took an incentive-based contract, and offered them a great story to sell.
Next year they’re in an even tougher position. They need to figure out what they’re doing with Felix, and at the same time they’re trying to improve a team with not much money and not much roster space. They can’t afford to spend a couple million on a DH who can’t hit, because it’s going to take money away from improving elsewhere and it’s going to force them to get even more from even less because if their DH isn’t contributing, someone else will need to.
That’s not clear enough. Every American League team can get better than Griffey’s production by picking the right minor league free agent or rehab project and paying them $350,000-$1m (or just using the DH to rest an over-stuffed lineup of outfielders). If the M’s pay that, they’re only treading water. If they pay more, they’re sinking.
This may well end up being a great test of how much exactly the M’s value Griffey’s clubhouse presence. Last year they kept two non-hitter designated hitters for their hugging and pie-throwing abilities, and Dave and I argued a lot about whether it was worth tearing my hair out worrying about every marginal run (Dave arguing for calmness). And it’s possible during the season they didn’t want to tamper with what was working by tossing popular Sweeney in favor of anyone who could hit, and I sympathize, a little.
But this off-season they’re going to need to look at this with an eye towards wins and their budget. The 2010 Mariners need to improve their offense, and they need better hitting from their designated hitters. Griffey doesn’t offer that. And as much as Seattle loves him, well, we love Edgar too, but we wouldn’t bring him back to DH next year.