Making Rumors Pass The Smell Test
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.