Making Rumors Pass The Smell Test

Dave · December 3, 2009 at 10:48 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Geoff Baker has a new post up today, which reinforces what we’ve already heard – the M’s are going after a pitcher, and specifically Rich Harden – but also resuscitates some speculation that had died down involving the M’s going after Jason Bay.

Geoff’s a good reporter, and I’m sure he trusts the source who gave him the information. However, I’d like to suggest that for every rumor, there should be a minimum logic test that gets applied before we give it any credibility. This rumor fails that test.

First, there’s the financial logistics. Everything we’ve heard, including in this same report, has a starting pitcher at the top of the M’s shopping list, with various reports linking them to John Lackey and Rich Harden. Those guys aren’t going to sign cheap. Baker even states outright that “pitching is a priority for the M’s” and that nothing will happen at other positions until they get that role wrapped up. Lackey would command somewhere in the $15 to $20 million per year range, while Harden will require somewhere in the $8 to $12 million range. By our calculations, the team has approximately $25 million to spend this winter.

Jason Bay has already turned down a 4 year, $60 million deal from the Red Sox. Suffice it to say that he wants at least $15 million a year in annual salary. If the Mariners are serious about signing either Lackey or Harden, they do not have the room in the budget to also sign Jason Bay and still fill out the rest of the roster. They just don’t have the available cash to make two big ticket signings this winter.

So, even if we believed that the M’s liked what Bay offers, there’s a real problem. And I don’t believe that the M’s are particularly interested in what Bay brings to the table.

Let’s look at what we know about the front office. They place as much value on defense as any team in baseball. This isn’t to say that they won’t put a mediocre defender on the field (Branyan is no gold glover), but they will discount a player’s value heavily if he doesn’t offer value in the field. Bay is a bad defensive player, and at 31 years old, he’s not getting better.

They also have put a premium on acquiring hitters who are left handed, due to the nature of Safeco Field. Since taking over, they’ve brought in guys like Branyan, Griffey, Hannahan, Carp, and Langerhans, all left-handed. They gave away Wladimir Balentien, a right-handed outfielder with power. They’re known to be considering trading Jose Lopez, and they’re letting Adrian Beltre walk away. There is a clear pattern of preferring left-handed bats to right-handed bats.

They value building through the draft, which is how Zduriencik made a name for himself in Milwaukee. Bay, a Type A free agent who was offered arbitration, would cost them the #17 pick in the draft next summer.

They also value young, cost-controlled players. They made moves for Gutierrez and Aardsma because they offered unproven upside at a low cost, and wouldn’t be expensive even with a breakout performance. They have a young, cost-controlled left fielder in Michael Saunders, who they spoke glowingly of when they brought him to the majors last summer. Saunders, by the way, is left-handed and a good defender, making him the kind of player that we know management values.

The argument against Saunders is essentially that he struggled badly in the first 100 plate appearances of his career. However, we know that these guys get the power of sample size. They didn’t care about Russ Branyan’s platoon split, because they believed he had never really gotten a fair shot at proving what he could do. They didn’t care that Bill Hall wasn’t hitting in Milwaukee, because they believed there was some talent not shining through that they may have a chance to bring out. They didn’t care about Gutierrez’s offensive struggles in Cleveland, because he’d been a part-time player, and they felt he could make adjustments if he was in the line-up regularly.

We know that the organization values young, low cost, left-handed, good defenders with upside even if they don’t have a proven track record. That describes Saunders to a tee. But yet, we’re supposed to believe that the M’s are going to spend a huge chunk of their budget on an aging right-handed bad defender who would require a long term contract and end any chance Saunders had of a career in Seattle?

It doesn’t pass the logic test. It goes against everything the organization has spent the last year building.

I just don’t buy it. The M’s aren’t going to spend $15 million a year on a right-handed DH who would block their best prospect from playing regularly. This time of year, almost every source has an agenda, and there are certainly people in Jason Bay’s camp who would benefit from a widespread belief that the Mariners were bidding up Bay’s value. Bay can tell anyone he wants that he’s optimistic about signing here, but it’s a statement made in self-interest, and one that I dismiss as lacking credibility.

For a rumor to be considered legitimate, it has to pass some minimum standards of logic. This one does not. Don’t believe it.

Comments

71 Responses to “Making Rumors Pass The Smell Test”

  1. mw3 on December 3rd, 2009 10:55 am

    Thanks for talking me down from the bridge I was about to leap off.

  2. Mike Snow on December 3rd, 2009 10:57 am

    Well, if ownership has decided to go all-in and significantly increase the budget, they could spend $15 million a year on a right-handed DH, still sign a pitcher or two, and not block anybody. It’s not like we have anybody to fill the DH spot, and Saunders would still be out there in left. Well, that might block a certain franchise icon, but he’s already said he’ll be happy with whatever his role is. The only issue left would be whether Bay is willing to DH, but his defense is bad enough that it should actually increase his value.

  3. ira on December 3rd, 2009 11:01 am

    If Bavasi were still the GM, I think we’d be all over Jason Bay, signing him to a long term contract. I’ve got nothing against offering contacts to older players, and I’d be thrilled if we were able to acquire somebody like Vladimir Guerrero. But who knows? Maybe Jason Bay is so enamored with the area, being a northwesterner,that he’d be willing to play for the minimum salary.

  4. shoeless2332 on December 3rd, 2009 11:02 am

    I think there is also the possibility that someone from the M’s is trying to get the Sox panicked about Bay, therefore forcing them to sign him and take away from there potential budgets for either Harden or Lackey, both of whom the Sox have been linked to.

  5. BobbyAyalaFan4Life on December 3rd, 2009 11:05 am

    THANK YOU! Now can we send this post out as a press release to the national baseball press?

  6. Wood Dog on December 3rd, 2009 11:09 am

    When you lay it out like that, this rumor does seem pretty far fetched. OK, consider it dismissed and we can move on with signing Harden!

  7. Pete on December 3rd, 2009 11:09 am

    There are any number of reasons the M’s would be pushing the Bay topic. Another might be that they are trying to complete a trade for an outfielder — they want to get something done, so might as well put the pressure on.

    Another thought: if the Bay rumor really is true, could they be looking at him for DH?

  8. Rusty on December 3rd, 2009 11:09 am

    In Dave we trust. :)

  9. joser on December 3rd, 2009 11:13 am

    Well, you know, he’s kind of the perfect complement for Griffey — overpriced “local” guy who’ll DH and sit on the bench, just right-handed. Maybe he even tickles, too. And hey, if the team had one more roster spot and an extra $20M to burn, what the hell, right?

    Of course, back here in the real world, they don’t.

    The thing to remember this time of year is that there are people, well-connected people, who have an enormous financial incentive to plant stories that every Tom, Jack, and Dayton are interested in a particular player. It’s not hard for an agent to get a game of telephone going, saying “Certain AL West teams” to some insider, who mentions it to someone else, and before you know it a journalist is hearing “The M’s are making a concerted push…”

    There’s also of course the very real possibility that somebody overheard somebody saying something like “the guy is from B.C., which is close to Seattle” and inferred Bay instead of Harden — B.C. (and Seattle, for that matter) being located approximately near Mars as fas as the east coast sports media is concerned. Couple that with the fact that anything about any Red Sox, Yankee, or Met — former, current, or prospective — gets overinflated (and sometimes just ridiculous) attention, and how early we are in the silly part of the hot stove season, and you have a recipe for how to spin a full-blown rumor out of the void.

    To Baker’s credit, he spends far more words explaining why Bay doesn’t make sense than he devotes to the rumor itself. And he is a journalist, with space to fill, and something to report (however dubious). Had he just passed it along without any effort to debunk it, I’d be annoyed. But I think he handled this well — though I’d certainly like to know a little more about the source than just the passive “we’ve been told” — by whom, Bay’s agent?

  10. eastcoastmariner on December 3rd, 2009 11:15 am

    Phenomenal post Dave. I’m glad you saved me the time and effort it would have taken to tell everyone why Jason Bay is a bad idea!

  11. dingbatman on December 3rd, 2009 11:16 am

    They just don’t have the available cash to make two big ticket signings this winter.

    So where does that leave us with Felix? If we extend him does that pretty much do it for big ticket signings?

  12. Alex on December 3rd, 2009 11:17 am

    Thanks Dave.

    Another thought: The Mariners organization might know that they have absolutely no interest in Bay, for the reasons mentioned, however they have no reason to shoot this down. They even stand to gain a little bit from the perception that they are interested, because if that causes another team to pay more for Bay, then thats less money that one of their competitors has available for someone else that they might want.

    So they really have no reason to shoot down any rumors like this.

  13. joealb1 on December 3rd, 2009 11:18 am

    Dave, you might not be able to write really extensive (and really well written I might add)posts’ about front office blunders anymore but you sure can keep up with great post about other things.

  14. Mike Snow on December 3rd, 2009 11:23 am

    though I’d certainly like to know a little more about the source than just the passive “we’ve been told” — by whom, Bay’s agent?

    Indeed, the routine anonymous sourcing is the most annoying aspect of dealing with rumors like this.

  15. Soonerman22 on December 3rd, 2009 11:36 am

    [off-topic]

  16. arbeck on December 3rd, 2009 11:52 am

    dingbatman,

    A long term Felix signing doesn’t really affect the budget this year at all. They’re unlikely to give him much more in salary this year than he’d earn in arbitration anyway.

  17. DMZ on December 3rd, 2009 11:55 am

    I don’t know about that.

  18. johnfree63 on December 3rd, 2009 12:04 pm

    Its just that its any extra money Felix gets from a long term is what goes against the budget. Say he signs a 4yr 18M a year contract. The M’s are already set to give him about 10M in Arbitration so only 8M would go on to the current budget

  19. Taylor H on December 3rd, 2009 12:04 pm

    In regards to Saunders, I would like to propose a test for evaluating prospects – The Adam Jones Test. Clearly the first 100 ABs, or even the first year of a young, “unproven” player’s career are often not indicative of what they are capable of. I mean, this is fairly redundant, as pretty much everyone on this site knows that, but most of professional baseball doesn’t…

  20. nwivoryhunter on December 3rd, 2009 12:05 pm

    [Triunfel]

  21. joser on December 3rd, 2009 12:06 pm

    Yeah, can you say “signing bonus”? Felix may be a husband and a father but he needs his Ferrari just like all the other veterans.

  22. arbeck on December 3rd, 2009 12:11 pm

    johnfree,

    If they were going to give him some sort of 4/72m contract I’d expect it to look something like:

    12m, 16m, 20m, 24m

  23. Rod O. on December 3rd, 2009 12:30 pm

    I think it’s probably a bluff on 2 issues for the M’s #1 Presure on Detroit to make them think we are fine with giving up on makeing a trade with them and #2 as was also stated above it might get Boston to increase their offer to Bay and have less to spend on the pitching we really want. I think they would only consider following through if they can’t get any of the pitching they want to the point that they think Bay is the best option left to inprove the team. I don’t expect they think it will get to that.

  24. Evan on December 3rd, 2009 12:31 pm

    There you go, Dave. Rather than complain about the team, now you can complain about the coverage of the team.

    You’re back in business.

  25. mymrbig on December 3rd, 2009 12:39 pm

    The upside to this rumor is that it gave Dave something to write about. So maybe someone in the FO is leaking false stories to Geoff to help keep Dave busy.

  26. Leroy Stanton on December 3rd, 2009 12:51 pm

    Great post, well reasoned.

  27. nathaniel dawson on December 3rd, 2009 1:01 pm

    If they were going to give him some sort of 4/72m contract I’d expect it to look something like:

    12m, 16m, 20m, 24m

    Yes. An extension for Felix would likely be backloaded heavily so the team would not lose all the surplus value they have coming from him in the next two years. It would probably not add a whole lot to whatever their payroll is this year.

  28. Adam B. on December 3rd, 2009 1:02 pm

    Thank you Dave for laying out the information in a rational manner once more.

    It’s funny how quickly we can forget all the hyperbole and smoke without fire this time of year produces.

    That said, the Mariners still have not publicly committed to a specific payroll amount, and the fact that the payroll had been at ~$117M in the recent past makes me believe that Zduriencik may have more then $25M with which to operate.

    Also we have to temper our faith in Zduriencik with the fact that past occurances do not portend future events; In other words, just because Jack hasn’t made a “stupid” decision yet, doesn’t mean he’s infallible.

    Personally I hope that the Bay rumors are indeed all bark and no bite, I’d really hate to see this team tied into another local right-handed power hitting Albatross.

  29. diderot on December 3rd, 2009 1:16 pm

    M’s fan’s should be excited about the potential upside of players like Saunders, Carp, Tui, Truinfel and Ackley.

    What the man said.

    One of the sites that lists future MLB impact players (yes, I know there a about 10,000 of them) rates M’s entries as follows among the top 75:

    11 – Ackley
    26 – Gillies
    31 – Saunders
    64 – Triunfel

    Like all lists, this is highly subjective, and admittedly weighted for projected fantasy impact (i.e., no consideration for defense). But for me it does two broad things: pays tribute to Z’s approach, and supports the idea that bringing in aging sluggers to block progress is just plain counterproductive.

  30. Marinerman1979 on December 3rd, 2009 1:21 pm

    I think it is pretty silly that anyone would think that Z is interested in signing a right handed, poor fielding, 31 year old bat. Especially after what he did the past year, that is, acquire players that can field their position well.

    I strongly think the M’s want both Harden and Lackey. So if I were to bet, I would bet that they will be the FA pick-ups and the bats will come via trade.

  31. JH on December 3rd, 2009 1:24 pm

    diderot: I love the optimism, but any list that has Tyson Gillies as the #26 prospect in baseball is a very, very bad list.

  32. JoeMoe on December 3rd, 2009 1:45 pm

    I have read on several sites and heard on shows that the Mariners are looking at an offseason balance to spend upwards of $40 million. Where are the calculations for $25 mil?

  33. joser on December 3rd, 2009 1:48 pm

    In regards to Saunders, I would like to propose a test for evaluating prospects – The Adam Jones Test. Clearly the first 100 ABs, or even the first year of a young, “unproven” player’s career are often not indicative of what they are capable of. I mean, this is fairly redundant, as pretty much everyone on this site knows that, but most of professional baseball doesn’t…

    And yet there were people here even after the trade that insisted Jones had “had his chance” in the majors and hadn’t shown enough talent to lament his loss. Willie Mays famously didn’t get a hit in his first dozen at bats. Pujols wasn’t impressive enough to get taken before the 13th round of the draft. Kids develop. Small sample sizes are exactly that. Given the amount of time and energy the major league coaching staff was devoting to Saunders’ hitting during the season last year, they certainly seemed to think he had potential to be the starting LF in the future.

    In other words, just because Jack hasn’t made a “stupid” decision yet, doesn’t mean he’s infallible.

    And even if he were infallible wrt decisions, he could still have failures: you can pick the best possible player and he can still get injured, etc.

    But despite the sometimes giddy nature of the comments, I wouldn’t worry that people here are convinced Zduriencik is the Baseball Messiah. We’re all just glad he’s not the Baseball Shiva (who now works as a Special Assistant to the GM for the Cincinnati Reds… though one of his avatars might be found in Kansas City, too)

  34. Dave on December 3rd, 2009 2:05 pm

    Also, for those who think that there may be something to the Bay rumors, do me a favor and try to reconcile these two things.

    1. The M’s are looking to replace Jose Lopez, a right-handed power hitting second baseman with below average defense, who is 25-years-old and due $2.4 million in 2010.

    2. The M’s are looking to add Jason Bay, a right-handed power hitting left field with below average defense, who is 31-years-old and due ~$15 million in 2010.

    If the M’s liked what Bay offered, wouldn’t they also like Lopez? Bay’s a better hitter, but their overall value isn’t significantly different, and the cost difference is enormous.

    How could the same organization not want Lopez but want Bay simultaneously?

  35. georgmi on December 3rd, 2009 2:15 pm

    This is a much better smell test than the old one, to wit: “This rumor stinks, it must be true.”

  36. melo_otto15 on December 3rd, 2009 2:16 pm

    Best. Post. Ever.

  37. joser on December 3rd, 2009 2:19 pm

    I have read on several sites and heard on shows that the Mariners are looking at an offseason balance to spend upwards of $40 million. Where are the calculations for $25 mil?

    If you add up all the salaries for the guys they seem to be committed to (including $4.9M worst case for Griffey, the $5M for Wilson, etc), plus reasonable arbitration amounts to the players who are eligible (Felix and Franklin will be rewarded for their monster years), you come in at about $70M give or take. If Johjima is actually off the books, that gives them another $8M (Silva, unfortunately, is still on the books for $12M).

    The M’s opening day payroll in 2009 was ~$99M, down from $117M in 2008. If we assume no further reductions, and there aren’t “secret” payments to Johjima and Betancourt etc, it’s possible the team has close to $40M to work with. But: they need to try to sign Felix (who will be getting north of $5M in arbitration anyway). They have holes at 1B, 3B, and LF which may not all be filled by the farm kids. Beltre could accept arbitration. The team may have a lower payroll limit.

    $40M is probably the best possible case, and I wouldn’t count on it.

  38. melo_otto15 on December 3rd, 2009 2:30 pm

    (Felix and Franklin will be rewarded for their monster years)

    Gutierrez had an outstanding year. No denial. But is he really due for a monster paycheck, by traditional measures, which are surely incorporated in assessing salaries?

    By sabermetric measures, measures that I buy into and agree with, he’s due for a monster paycheck. But by the masses, and by logic [little service time, and this being his breakout year], he’s not going to be costing the team an insane amount.

    Felix is going to get paid. I’d be surprised to see Gutierrez get a substantial raise.

  39. Dave on December 3rd, 2009 2:42 pm

    Gutierrez will get a few million. Same with Aardsma. Felix will get $9+. The arb guys probably add up to around $15 million.

  40. Gibbo on December 3rd, 2009 2:52 pm

    Just throwing this out there…. let’s say they spend the money on Bay…. personally I don’t think we would. If Bay is serious about coming to Seattle, the only way I see this happening is if he takes less money… again doubtful.

    What would he project as a team DH that at an absolute push could cover LF due to injuries etc.

    Logically Delgado/Johnson or the likes would be just as a good fit at DH with less investment. But still I wonder would he project into a guy that as a DH could then be desirable?

  41. diderot on December 3rd, 2009 2:55 pm

    If we assume no further reductions

    This is where I fear the rose colored glasses could come into play. How do we know ownership didn’t say, ‘attendance has been down the last couple years…so to be prudent we have to do the same thing with they payroll’?

  42. nathaniel dawson on December 3rd, 2009 2:58 pm

    That said, the Mariners still have not publicly committed to a specific payroll amount…

    And they likely never will. The Mariners in the past have never announced their projected payroll budget to the public at large. Occasionally they will say things that hint at what it might be, or a reporter might report a figure based on “reliable sources”. We might get hints along the way, especially near the end of the offseason when we’ve seen what they have done and read about things they may still be considering. We may never know exactly what their projected budget is because of all kinds of different acounting for salary terms and emergency funds and the like. And just because they have a payroll budget in mind for this offseason would not preclude them from going over that amount if they felt strongly about a certain move, or perhaps even not using all money available if they they don’t think there are any wise moves left to make.

    Felix and Franklin will be rewarded for their monster years)

    Gutierrez had an outstanding year. No denial. But is he really due for a monster paycheck, by traditional measures, which are surely incorporated in assessing salaries?

    He didn’t say that Gutierrez would be due for a monster paycheck. He said that Gutierrez would be rewarded for his monster year. He did have a monster year (well, I guess that’s a matter of a person’s definition of the term), and will be getting a raise based partly on that. It will be a very big raise relative to what he was paid before, but it’s not going to be a monster paycheck.

  43. shortbus on December 3rd, 2009 3:25 pm

    As hitters I don’t think Bay and Lopez can be considered comparable. Bay is a much better hitter in terms of both OBP and SLG. One that might not be crippled by playing in Safeco. The cost issue is genuine, but what about Baker’s point that we don’t really know what the M’s budget will be? Of everything we know about this situation that seems to be the most speculative.

    And on the other side of the ball…there is good reason to think this FO will value middle infield defense more highly than corner outfield defense. Especially when Bay may not play every day in the outfield. As a fan I don’t really want to watch crappy defense in left field, so I’m hoping if this rumor has any basis in reality, it will be because the M’s want Bay to play DH for at least a third of his games (and almost never play LF at Safeco).

    I’m just playing devil’s advocate here because Bay is not one of the guys I hoped or expected the M’s would go after.

  44. trbloomer on December 3rd, 2009 3:31 pm

    Just a thought on the Felix ideas being tossed around in this thread.

    Front load the contract, presumably we are betting he’s going to be healthy for the whole contract but relatively its likely he will be healthy and effective for the first year or years. So reverse the payouts 24m – 20m – 16m etc.

    If he gets hurt or suddenly can’t find the plate, the damage to the payroll lessens as time passes. If he stays healthy but for business reasons a lower payroll is desired down the road, the return on trading him is correspondingly higher.

    The M’s are currently a relatively high revenue team but that’s not guaranteed to last. There is a strong chance that Felix will never be more affordable than he might be this winter with the down economy. But he and his agents know that too.

    To buy out his arb years is a gamble for both sides, however it’s a greater gamble for him than the team. If he gets hurt it’s his last payday, but for the team revenue will continue beyond the length of his contract.

    As far as its attractiveness to Felix, a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow thus the total cost of the contract may be lower than back loading the contract. The attractiveness to the team is locking up a premier starter for hopefully less than top dollar and since the biggest portion is in 2010 when the team has only a fringe hope at the World Series it frees up payroll when it’s more likely to be decisive in 2011-12. Anyway it’s just a thought.

  45. Mike Snow on December 3rd, 2009 3:49 pm

    We’ve been over this before, but due to two features (guaranteed contracts, no salary cap), there’s very little incentive to frontload a baseball player’s contract. None at all for the team, basically. And although the time value of money might be a consideration for the player, you also have to factor in an issue that weighs in the other direction. That’s the fact that his expected lifespan far outstrips the period of his maximum earning potential, so in fact to maintain a certain standard of living, making sure that the money will still be there down the road is what matters. Even if the salary wasn’t well beyond what anyone could spend on their economic needs, this makes getting it upfront less critical. That’s one reason why some superstar contracts actually go in the direction of deferred payments, into years well past the actual term of the contract.

  46. DaveValleDrinkNight on December 3rd, 2009 4:10 pm

    There’s no way the M’s would sign Bay.

    The Phils just signed Polonco for 3 years $18m.

    I guess we now know where the market is set for FA 2nd baseman.

  47. joser on December 3rd, 2009 4:18 pm

    He didn’t say that Gutierrez would be due for a monster paycheck. He said that Gutierrez would be rewarded for his monster year

    Exactly. I had him penciled in for double, maybe triple his ’09 salary. Which is a monster increase in money for him. But it would only amount to $1 – $1.5M, which is hardly a monster salary in the world of baseball (or even a big chunk of the M’s payroll).

    And by at least one measure Gutierrez was not only the most valuable player on the M’s not named Felix, he was among the most valuable dozen position players in baseball.

  48. wabbles on December 3rd, 2009 4:29 pm

    Can I link the Mariners with Randy Johnson? No? OK.

  49. Wood Dog on December 3rd, 2009 5:10 pm

    I think one thing should be made clear. Our team would be better with Bay on it. No question. Assuming it doesn’t cripple our payroll. He’d be our best hitter, and we could put him at DH half the time. The only question is if his salary would kill any chance of signing Harden, etc. Now if the FO would increase the payroll for this signing, then it’s all gravy, right?

  50. shortbus on December 3rd, 2009 5:12 pm

    Polanco is apparently now a third baseman. My guess is that the Mariners know pretty well that Beltre wants to go elsewhere to prove he has a productive bat. Either way we’ll know if he accepts arbitration by the 7th. That decision will let the M’s sort out what to do with Lopez and Tui and how much right-handed batting they’ll need.

  51. Gibbo on December 3rd, 2009 5:13 pm

    Does anyone think that maybe the sales of Wii are such and Chuck and co wants to get a ring for Jr that they would pump the budget up a bit?

    OK, I know I am being a little silly now…. one can only dream!

  52. trbloomer on December 3rd, 2009 5:16 pm

    Mike,

    Looked at from his expected lifespan vs. length of contract would argue for front loading being in his favor. His maximal abilities are relatively very soon, as are his maximal risks. Say 24m vs. 10m next year. But in September his Arm falls off, sucks to be the Mariners, but for Felix it’s catastrophic at 10m but relatively catastrophic at 24m. The Guaranteed nature of MLB contracts (and thank god for an effective union) is the biggest argument against for Felix but even there it’s the total payout as opposed to which years have the highest payout that are important to him.

    Now backload that contract 12m vs. 10m next year, again sucks to be the Mariners, again relatively catastrophic for Felix.

    Extend the payouts front loaded, arm falls off in year three, sucktastic for the M’s and Felix not quite as catastrophic for either party.

    Back loaded contract sucktastic for Felix, relatively catastrophic for M’s. Two, Three years of paying for a pitcher even Bavasi wouldn’t sign for 16m – 24m a year.

    The total dollars either way are probably near the same, but the riskiest portion from the teams perspective is now, when their ability to compete is less than it hopefully will be in the near future. The argument is predicated on two things, that our front office is as good as we think and hope, thus the near future is bright and that financial flexibility in coming years will be worth more than in 2010.

    And that from Felix’s perspective 24m next year, 20m in 2011 etc. is better than 10m and then 12m plus a possible 24m in 2012, 28m or whatever in 2013.

    As I said it’s only a thought, it leaves out wage inflation which for MLB outruns wage inflation in the economy at large. It leaves out other financial considerations, such as what it does to MLB wage inflation (arbitration in 2011), money is historically cheap right now but probably won’t be in a couple of years, taxes soon are likely to go up not down etc.

  53. Chris_From_Bothell on December 3rd, 2009 5:59 pm

    If they were willing to blow that much on Bay, thereby not leaving much left in 2010 for more than perhaps one FA and/or a Felix signing, why not go whole hog and go after Holliday? For not much more than Bay you get a significantly better hitter and significantly better defender.

  54. tmac9311 on December 3rd, 2009 6:43 pm

    trbloomer it has to do with money depreciation. 24M in 2010 is worth a lot more than 24M in 2016. paying 24M in 2016 is alot closer to paying 10M in 2016 than 24M in 2010. (Not sure if the last part is fact or not, but that is the general argument) it cost more to pay 24M now than 24M then.

  55. mebpenguin on December 3rd, 2009 7:04 pm

    I have to wonder if this Chone Figgins rumor passes the smell test, supposedly we’re the frontrunners.

    On the one hand at the right price, say 9-10 million per year, I’d feel pretty good about it. He’s a classic speedster skillset with good on-base skills, which should age well. I also like that he’s a switch hitter and a great defender at 3B.

    What I wonder is whether that price is realistic, once you get up to 12-15 million per year he becomes far less of a bargain.

  56. coreyjro on December 3rd, 2009 7:11 pm

    It’ll be interesting to put Figgins’ contract next to Polanco’s once they’re both signed. I don’t think that Figgins will sign for less, but maybe he should. Type A free agent that is a good player, but also just had a career year. It’s possible that Figgins has developed into a better player, but I’m not really interested in a speed guy who will be 32 at the beginning of the season and wants a four year deal.

  57. Banton on December 3rd, 2009 7:24 pm

    I have always thought of Baker as more of a “repeater”, rather than a “reporter”. He has a knack for making sure that the tone of his articles speak to the wealth of info that he posesses that the rest of us mere mortals do not. Very big on self-pats….

    As to Bay, he would be the worst pick-up. We have a good example of average/below average fielder with a bad plate approach, and right handed to boot. Name? Lopez. Why pay more for a vintage model? This is the Bavasi model. No longer available with our new Z boss.

    Defense will still remain the priority; but it will have to be left-handed, as Z is remaking the team. It is a much easier task than re-making Safeco.

  58. trbloomer on December 3rd, 2009 7:27 pm

    I was thinking about the depreciation, which is sort of what I meant by how cheap money is right now. Its ridiculously cheep if you have good credit as I’m guessing the M’s do. No it wouldn’t come close to fully adjusting for the difference but it would make a big dent.

    The M’s are in a unique position that won’t recur very often, because the economy is likely to remain awful for awhile and money is cheep but not likely to remain that way. It might and again its only an idea make a lot of sense to borrow now for the future, ie: pay Felix way over the top early.

    What I would say is that the financial arguments against doing this are not the strongest. There could be any number of other reasons which make it a bad idea.

  59. Banton on December 3rd, 2009 7:29 pm

    As to the Morosi whisper posted above, it amazes me that the rest of the baseball writers in this country don’t know/don’t care about Marinerville, but always seem to have an uncanny inside track on what we are doing in the offseason. Sounds like pillow talk from Figgin’s agent to Morosi….

  60. Dave on December 3rd, 2009 7:31 pm

    Figgins, I can buy. Switch-hitter, good defender, can play 3B/2B/LF depending on which young kid develops, taking a player away from the Angels.

    If the M’s are going to spend big on a free agent hitter, he’s going to be the guy they go after. There’s no way the M’s would prefer Bay to Figgins, no matter how much some beat writers want the team to go after “power”.

  61. Banton on December 3rd, 2009 7:47 pm

    I completely buy into going after Figgins. As often as he gets on, he would score runs, and score other players in the 4,5 hole. I would love to see the M’s sign him.

    Power is a relative term. If Figgins hit 35 HR’s, but had a low RBI total, does that make him better than a guy who gets on, and in doing so, scores others. I would suggest that his high OBP would ultimately score more runs than the extra “power” guy with a 28% SO rate and 30 single dingers would.

  62. eponymous coward on December 3rd, 2009 7:55 pm

    I think one thing should be made clear. Our team would be better with Bay on it. No question. Assuming it doesn’t cripple our payroll. He’d be our best hitter, and we could put him at DH half the time. The only question is if his salary would kill any chance of signing Harden, etc. Now if the FO would increase the payroll for this signing, then it’s all gravy, right?

    Richie Sexson was our best hitter in 2005, with similar skills to Bay (lots of Ks, good power, not great average or defense at a position where there’s no defensive premium), and got a similar contract to what Bay would get. How’d that end up working out?

  63. nathaniel dawson on December 3rd, 2009 8:36 pm

    The reason that Felix’ contract would be backloaded is that the team is able to keep a lot of the surplus value they have in him intact for the next two years. They’re set to receive a ton of surplus value from him and they would not want to give most of that up. That extra money could provide a lot of talent to put behind Felix that would help them win more games, which generates more revenue, which would help pay for his escalating salary in the later years of the deal. It might be attractive for Felix as well, because backloading can often result in a higher total dollar value for the whole contract. It’s no different than a company taking out a loan which costs them money in the future with the interest payments. They get the money up front to make improvements in their business, which can increase sales, generate more revenue, and will help pay off the loan plus the interest in later years.

  64. joser on December 3rd, 2009 9:44 pm

    Our team would be better with Bay on it. No question.

    In 2010, possibly (if you overlook the other players you’d have to forgo by acquiring him). By the end of his contract? Not a chance.

  65. Dave on December 3rd, 2009 10:13 pm

    The answer to any “better than” phrase is “better than what”. Because until you answer that, everything else is meaningless.

    Better than if they don’t spend the money at all, and the team goes into 2010 with Griffey as the starting DH? Sure.

    Better than if they spent the money on starting pitching, then traded Morrow for an interesting young hitter? No, I think not.

    Better than if they spent the money on Figgins or Beltre? No, I think not.

    You can say that the team will be “better” only if you don’t care about opportunity cost. And if you don’t care about opportunity cost, then we shouldn’t care about your opinion.

  66. Eric M. Van on December 3rd, 2009 11:31 pm

    The flaw in this otherwise airtight argument comes from not applying the point of the entire piece to one of the premise “facts.”

    It doesn’t pass any kind of smell test that the Sox offered Bay $15M and he turned it down. Especially when they clearly would rather sign Holliday.

    How about this for a scenario: because teams do value defense these days, the Sox offer to Bay was surprisingly, even shockingly, low. A wake-up call. Bay is willing to take a hometown discount, and the Mariners feel they can sign him at a cost-effective rate to be their DH and a backup plan in LF should Saunders need some more time in AAA (and I don’t see how he projects to be an above-average hitting MLB LF — a pretty high bar — without some AAA time at age 23. And why not delay his arb clock with half a year more down there?)

    BTW, I think Bay’s hitting skills will age well. Despite the high K rate he is an extremely disciplined hitter, so the high BB rate will continue. He has very large good pitch / cripple pitch splits if you crunch pitch/fx data, and MLB pitchers are not going to stop making mistake pitches any time soon. He already hits like a guy who’s 36 and used to be an awesome hitter, and is now pitchable but still kills mistakes. He’s kind of the pre-worn jeans of hitters, so I don’t think he’ll fade that much further over the life of the contract.

  67. Mike Snow on December 4th, 2009 8:22 am

    Looked at from his expected lifespan vs. length of contract would argue for front loading being in his favor. His maximal abilities are relatively very soon, as are his maximal risks.

    Once he has a guaranteed long-term contract, it no longer matters to Felix what his period of maximum injury risk is within the contract term. So that’s not a reason to frontload.

  68. joser on December 4th, 2009 11:04 am

    He’s kind of the pre-worn jeans of hitters, so I don’t think he’ll fade that much further over the life of the contract.

    Heh. That makes him comfortable, but does it make him the best use of our wardrobe dollar? Especially when there’s that rather large hole in the left pocket. (Man, I so wanted to use “busted fly” here but I couldn’t come up with a phrasing that worked.)

  69. Chris C. on December 4th, 2009 11:57 am

    Best of luck getting a hit through the 5/6 against the M’s if the deal comes to fruition.

    I guess the Angel’s have a shot still, but potentially a nice lil’ pickup.

  70. Jeff Nye on December 4th, 2009 12:18 pm

    Zaun to the Brewers from the looks. Oh well.

    One rumor down!

  71. Replaced by the Moose on December 4th, 2009 1:24 pm

    But! But! He lives in Kirkland! Geoff Baker can see Kirkland from his house! It just makes sense

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