Spending The Rest

January 20, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 108 Comments 

Felix’s extension is awesome on its own, but it also comes with a side benefit – because part of his 2010 payout is accounted for as a signing bonus, Hernandez will only take up a little more than $7 million of the payroll next year, or about $3 million less than the $10 million figure that we’d speculated on as his potential arbitration award. So, in the wake of the great news that Felix is sticking around is more good news – the team has a little more financial flexibility than previously assumed.

Now, again, I want to remind everyone about that last word – assumed. No one really has any firm grasp on what the team’s budget is. The M’s won’t say publicly, so we’ll all figure out what it is once they announce they’re done spending for the winter. Pretty much everyone who covers the team is assuming that it will be something similar to last year, but we don’t really know. We’re guessing. We could be wrong. But it’s the best guess we’ve got.

If you want to see the numbers, check out this spreadsheet from Cot’s Contracts, this post from Jeff Sullivan, or this post from Geoff Baker. They all do a good job of summing everything up, though I doubt any of them get it exactly right. Baker says that the payouts on Silva’s deal on Cot’s are flipped, with the M’s sending less this year than next year – I’d trust him on that. But he’s got Ackley’s salary at $1.5M per season, when it’s actually $1.5M over the five years, so he’s about $1M too high on Ackley for 2010. These are mostly small details, though – everyone comes out with the same general conclusion. The M’s have about $7 to $10 million left in the budget, assuming payroll is kept similar to 2009.

How the M’s spend that money is still up in the air. There are two obvious places on the roster that could use some help, then a few potential bargains in free agency that could offer upgrades to the team if they can work out the logistics. Here are the options, briefly:

Right-Handed Hitting Outfielder/Utility Guy

This is Bill Hall’s vacated roster spot. With Langerhans/Bradley/Griffey forming some kind of LF/DH job share, the team needs another right-handed bat that can play the outfield to balance everything out. It may be useful if that guy could also play the infield, as Jack Hannahan is currently projected as the only backup IF on the roster, but that may be a perk and not a necessity. Options for this guy have been discussed a lot, with names ranging from Xavier Nady to Fernando Tatis and most recently Eric Byrnes. Nady would be the priciest, and last reports had him asking for a ridiculous $6M contract – he’ll have to realize that the market has crashed and he’s coming off surgery before anyone signs him.

Starting Pitcher

If the M’s were still in pseudo rebuilding mode, than giving the last rotation spot to the winner of the Vargas/Fister/French/Petit/Olson contest would not be a bad idea. But given how aggressive they’ve been in upgrading the rest of the team for a run at contention in 2010, the team should do better in the rotation. There are any number of potential options at starter, ranging from the high risk/high reward guys (Ben Sheets, Chien-Ming Wang, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, Erik Bedard) to the less interesting innings-sponge types (Jarrod Washburn, Jon Garland, random old strike-throwers). The costs vary widely, even within the groups themselves.

Bullpen/Second Base/Reserve Infielder

This is the group of spots that could be improved upon, but have competent people in place at the moment. The team could choose to upgrade on the various LH relief options if a guy like Will Ohman is willing to sign for cheap, but they may prefer to give the kids a chance, or just not have a LH reliever again. The M’s are known to like Orlando Hudson, but they have Jose Lopez, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for his services in trade. If they could find a team who wanted Lopez, though, they could allocate some of the remaining money to bringing in his replacement. Likewise, Hannahan could be a useful utility player around the infield, but if the M’s could get someone like Adam Kennedy to play the same role at a discount, they may explore that option.

So those are the options. The M’s have a pool of money with which to acquire two, maybe three players, who will likely fit into one of the above categories.

Without knowing what each player’s price and willingness to come to Seattle is, it’s impossible to pick a “best plan”. In some scenarios, it makes sense to spend more on the outfielder and less on the pitcher. In others, maybe you spend all of it on the pitcher and go cheap in the outfield. Or perhaps you trade Lopez for the pitcher, then use the money to sign Hudson and a decent outfielder. Lots of options.

Odds are good that the M’s will fill these last couple of spots with quality players. If they spend it wisely, the Mariners will head into 2010 looking like a ~90 win team or so. That’s pretty amazing.

Not Sure If You’ve Heard

January 20, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 64 Comments 

But Felix signed a five year deal. He’s going to be in Seattle for five more years. He’s sticking around. He’s not going to Boston. Or New York. Or anywhere else.

I thought that was worth mentioning again.

If you’re keeping score at home

January 19, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 59 Comments 

National news organizations, specifically Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, have nearly run the table this off-season. The M’s aren’t talking to the local press (the one exception being USSM Endorsed Larry Stone).

Move Broken by
Felix Hernandez contact Keith Law, ESPN
Franklin Gutierrez extension Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports
Casey Kotchman-Bill Hall trade Chris Crawford, Prospect Insider/Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports
Brandon League-Brandon Morrow trade Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports
Milton Bradley-Carlos Silva trade Larry Stone, Seattle Times
Cliff Lee Blockbuster I’m going with Rosenthal here, though this timeline gets really confusing quickly. Rosenthal & Morosi of Fox Sports had the trade, and then later they have the teams and details.
Chone Figgins deal Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports
Ken Griffey, Jr. re-signs Larry Stone, Seattle Times

Update: You can raise the count to two if you wish to count Geoff Baker reporting Aardsma’s 1y deal.
Update update: As others note, Brock & Salk actually scooped Baker.
Update update update: added Griffey

Felix Signs!

January 19, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 86 Comments 

It’s party time. Francisco Blavia reports that the deal is for 5 years, $78 million.

Happy Felix Half Decade.

Felix Signs?

January 18, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 64 Comments 

Keith Law is reporting that the Mariners and Felix Hernandez have agreed to a “multi-year” deal. Let’s all hope that this turns out to be a long term deal. It could just be a two year deal that buys out both of his remaining arb years. Once we hear that it’s a 3+ year deal, the party is on.

The Obligatory Eric Byrnes Post

January 17, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 32 Comments 

On Friday, the Arizona Diamondbacks designated Eric Byrnes for assignment, essentially announcing that he will be released – and that they will eat the remaining $11 million owed on the last year of his deal – if no one trades for him in the next week. Byrnes was a local hero in the desert when the D’Backs gave him a 3 year, $30 million extension after the 2007 season, but that went about as well as the Carlos Silva deal did here. He stopped hitting, got hurt a lot, and has given Arizona 500 plate appearances with below replacement level production over the first two years of the deal. Given that he turns 34 in a month and that the club has other options in the outfield, this isn’t a very surprising move.

Since it was announced, I’ve had roughly half the city of Seattle ask me if he’d be a good fit for the last spot on the roster. So, by popular demand, here’s the post on Byrnes as a possibility for the M’s.

In a lot of ways, he makes sense. We’ve talked about how the team needs a right-handed hitting left fielder to fill out the roster, a guy who can preferably hit a bit and defend the position adequately while being willing to share time with Ryan Langerhans and Milton Bradley. Given that the team is working on a budget and would like to avoid blocking Michael Saunders off completely, they’d ideally like to find a guy who won’t cost much to acquire – they don’t want to have to get into a scenario where they’re trying to figure out if the new guy is a sunk cost in May if Saunders is tearing the cover off the ball in Tacoma.

On those points – cheap, right-handed, guy with some upside who might hit and can play the field – Brynes fits. In a lot of ways, he’s like Bill Hall, only if his good year had been more recent and his bad years more easily explained by injury. We saw that the M’s were willing to pick up part of a bad contract to give a guy with a track record of success another shot with Hall, and Byrnes would basically be the same thing, just with a higher likelihood of success. They’re actually similar players, except Byrnes makes contact about twice as often. Depending on if his hamstrings ever recover, he’s a better defender and base runner as well.

But that’s the big hang-up. We’ve talked about this with regards to why the organization shied away from Russ Branyan, but the Milton Bradley acquisition gave the team three aging, injury prone players in Bradley, Wilson, and Griffey. You can only have so many guys on the roster that you can’t count on being healthy. With an expected four man bench, one of those belonging to Junior, you have limited options if a couple of people come up lame on the same day. If the M’s were to add Byrnes, they’d have to be comfortable with the fact that there would be days when he, Bradley, and Jr were all day-to-day, forcing you into a situation where your bench consisted of the back-up catcher and you just weren’t going to make any substitutions.

Given the potential reward (Byrnes was a +4 win player the last time he was healthy, and ran off three seasons of +3 wins or more in a four year span from 2004 to 2007) and the expected low cost of acquisition, perhaps that’s a risk worth taking. It shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but it’s certainly a big part of the discussion.

The other part is how they would go about getting him. Based on his public comments about wanting to play for the Giants (he lives in SF), the M’s would probably have to trade for him before Arizona released him. Once the D’backs set him free, the M’s have no leverage. Players released under contract are paid their full salary by their old team, minus whatever salary the new team is paying if they get employed elsewhere. So, the Mariners could offer Byrnes $9 million a year, but it wouldn’t matter, because he’d still get $11 million – he’d just get most of it from Seattle instead of Arizona, but his overall paycheck wouldn’t change. That’s why these guys always sign for the league minimum – there is no financial incentive for the player to receive any more than that from their new employer.

Since the M’s can’t outbid the Giants (or any other interested team), then they’d be left hoping he chose to come here voluntarily. That wouldn’t happen unless both Bay Area teams told him that they had no interest, and then you’re hoping that the other California teams don’t make an offer, that he’s not spooked by Safeco, that he likes rain… there’s just a ton of things working against the Mariners signing him as a free agent.

So, if they want him, they have to trade for him. And that means they have to give Arizona a reason to deny Byrnes his freedom. They’re not going to do that without a real asset coming back – probably something like the $1 million plus in cash the M’s agreed to cover in the Hall trade. The M’s won’t get him from Arizona for the league minimum or anything even all that close to it. They’d have to make it worth the D’backs while to deal him to Seattle.

And that brings up the cost question, naturally. How much are you willing to pay for 300 to 400 plate appearances and the chance that Byrnes returns to form? I’d pay $1 million, personally, but not a whole lot more. He’s got some upside, but the injury concern is real and he’s not getting any younger. As a stop-gap role player, he could help the team, but it’s not a big enough role to give a significant portion of the budget to Arizona.

If they can get Byrnes on basically the same deal as they got Hall (picking up $1.35 million of his contract, giving Arizona almost $1 million in salary relief), I’d be in favor of the pickup. He’s a better bet than a guy like Fernando Tatis, or at least the upside is higher. But if the price isn’t right, walk away and let him try to revive his career in San Francisco.

M’s Claim Tommy Everidge

January 15, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 24 Comments 

The Mariners made a waiver claim today, grabbing first baseman Tommy Everidge off waivers from the A’s. Everidge is Tacoma-bound, so don’t get too excited about this unless you’re a Rainiers fan. He’s basically the 2010 version of Chris Shelton – a right-handed first baseman with some offensive ability to provide depth if the M’s have any injures.

It’s interesting that the M’s were willing to use a 40-man roster spot on this type of player this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the M’s try to sneak Everidge back through waivers the next time they need a roster spot. If he gets through, they have their right-handed Triple-A first baseman. If he doesn’t, no big loss.

No Need To Write Anything

January 14, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 18 Comments 

If you’re wondering why the blog hasn’t been updated as much this week, there’s a few reasons, but here’s a big one – the boys over at Lookout Landing are apparently having a contest for who can post most frequently. They’re averaging about 32 posts an hour over there right now, throwing good post on top of good post. And they’re hoarding all the good ideas.

So, just go over there and scroll down. There’s not much left for me to say that they haven’t said in the last few days.

Reading the tea-leaves of Pravda

January 13, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 48 Comments 

When it manages to avoid cliche, sports journalism can be fascinating, both for the lines and the space between them. One of the challenges of that, of course, is knowing when the real story is what it appears on its face, and when it’s something a bit different. Because sometimes the players in the media-industrial complex collaborate in this process more to serve their own needs than for the purpose of informing us, as consumers of the news. Sometimes it helps to ask yourself, not just why is this newsworthy, or even why the reporter thought it was newsworthy, but why somebody wanted it to be newsworthy. This can be difficult in stories where much of the information is based on “sources close to the negotiations” or “clubhouse insiders” who remain anonymous, and you’re left to speculate about identities as well as motives. (Most of the foregoing naturally applies to all journalism, read with a critical eye, not just sports.)

With that in mind, consider the latest from Jim Street, “Branyan ready to move on from Mariners.” On the surface, it’s providing concrete, from-the-horse’s-mouth confirmation of something that started becoming clear a week ago, and a conclusion others have already written about, namely that Branyan will not be back with the team this year. Now, getting it confirmed may be worth running a story on its own, but there’s more to it than that.

For example, why does the otherwise leakproof, never-tip-our-hand regime suddenly have Wakamatsu out there being quoted on the record to “wish him the best” and talk about Branyan in the past tense? After all, we know they’re not done with the roster, and could theoretically still have interest even if Branyan doesn’t make much sense with Kotchman/Bradley/Griffey around. (They didn’t put this kind of effort into downplaying Bay-to-Seattle rumors, when those made about the same amount of sense.) The story touches on some other things we knew:

  • Branyan wanted to come back to Seattle
  • Branyan wanted a multiyear contract
  • The Mariners offered a one-year deal with an option
  • Branyan didn’t take the offer
  • The team had no problem with him going out on the market to see if someone else would give him more security
  • Other teams seem to evaluate the risk similarly, and no such deal has been forthcoming

Just about everybody in baseball assumed that Branyan would ultimately come back when he realized the long-term deal wasn’t out there. He did have those 31 homers and showed he could hit lefthanders, so he definitely has value, the issue is the risk with his back. We learn here that other teams do have some interest in Branyan, but apparently have yet to make him an offer. And why would they, if the expectation is that he would turn around and take the same deal from the Mariners instead? But as it happens, Zduriencik has moved on and Branyan is left in limbo.

The real reason for this story, it would seem, is that Branyan can’t get another team to actually make an offer, even for just a one-year deal, without it being clear that his Mariner ties are severed. So as a parting courtesy, the team cooperates in getting out the message to that effect.

M’s get Brad Nelson

January 13, 2010 · Filed Under Uncategorized · 31 Comments 

And the moves keep coming!

« Previous PageNext Page »