Mariners Trade for Brendan Ryan

December 12, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 13 Comments 

I am sure Dave will give a more detailed writeup, but in the interest of timeliness, the Mariners just traded RHP Maikel Cleto to the Cardinals in exchange for SS Brendan Ryan.

Ryan is a very good defensive shortstop who has been inconsistent offensively since earning the regular SS job with the Cardinals in 2009. He is coming off of a dismal 2010 which saw him put up a .256 wOBA. In 2009 he was a good deal better, posting a .324 mark.  There is pretty good reason to think that neither 2009 or 2010 represent his true talent level.  He had an unsustainably low BABIP in 2010 and an unsustainably high mark in ’09, despite little change in his underlying skills. Still just 29, Ryan has a good chance to become a more durable version of Jack Wilson. Good defensive SS (11.4 UZR/150 at the position over parts of four seasons) who will be comfortably below average offensively but might not be a total black hole at the plate.  Ryan can either step in for Wilson if the team tries to jettison him to clear salary, or serve as a placeholder for Dustin Ackley and then slide over to SS when Wilson inevitably gets hurt.

In return, we say farewell to Maikel Cleto, the piece of the J.J. Putz trade that offered the most upside when the deal went down. Cleto came to the organization as a fireballer who did not have a good idea of how to harness his power arsenal, and two years later, that’s still pretty much all he is. He has struggled with visa issues, command, secondary stuff, and elbow soreness in his two years in the system, and he is a pretty solid bet to end up in the ‘pen.

Looks like a pretty nice low-impact move. Cleto is not a huge loss, and Ryan will not cost much as a 1st-year arbitration eligible player coming off a bad year.

Candid Jack

December 10, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 44 Comments 

It’s no secret that Jack Z is fairly cautious with what he says publicly. He almost always plays things close to the (sweater) vest, and that’s why it was so surprising to hear his aggressive tone in an interview with Mike Salk on Wednesday. If you missed the audio, Salk has a write-up with some quotes and his thoughts, including a link to the full interview.

The obvious takeaway is that Jack was unimpressed with the effort that some of the younger guys on the team put in last year. Given that they just acquired Miguel Olivo to start at catcher, he was even sufficiently annoyed by their performances to take away their jobs. This is probably the most open and honest Jack has been with the media since he was hired, and it wasn’t really positive honesty. He was frustrated, and it showed.

If you missed it, I highly encourage you to check out the link and listen to the audio.

M’s Sign Miguel Olivo

December 9, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 118 Comments 

I spent the last couple of days making it clear that I was not a big fan of this move. Safeco is a terrible park for Olivo, and this move essentially ends Adam Moore’s chances at turning into something in Seattle. Maybe he never would have developed, but this seems like a premature end to his chance to prove himself as a big leaguer, and Olivo is not likely to make a significant impact on the Mariners. At best, you’re hoping for something like a +1 win upgrade in a year where that win probably won’t mean anything.

Even worse, it’s a two year deal, so we’re not only punting Moore’s future, but we’re taking away potentially needed payroll space next winter. The team has a lot of cash coming off the books after 2011, but has now committed a part of that to an aging catcher who has never hit outside of Colorado. He’s simply not very good, and now the team has less money next winter to throw at someone who might be.

Olivo might only make $3.5 million, but the cost of this move is significantly higher. I’m not a fan of this at all.

Mariners Add Jose Flores In Rule 5

December 9, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 13 Comments 

The Mariners used the second pick in the Rule 5 draft on relief pitcher Jose Flores out of Cleveland’s system. He was so highly thought of that John Manuel didn’t even write him up in his Baseball America Rule 5 preview. Ben Badler, also of BA, called it a “strange decision” on twitter a few minutes ago. Apparently, he has a decent fastball but no secondary stuff, and he’s only pitched in A-ball. He did have a nifty 51/7 K/BB ratio last year, but again, it’s A-ball.

We’ll see if the M’s find a spot for him at the end of spring training. I’d bet on no.

Miguel Olivo – Blech

December 8, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 45 Comments 

Reportedly for two years and $7.5 million. Not a fan of this at all. More analysis coming later, but I would consider this Jack’s worst move since giving Brandon Morrow away.

Apparently, this one might be bunk. Word in Orlando is that could all be smoke. Shannon Drayer says talkings are ongoing but nothing is done.

Cust’s HRs

December 8, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 10 Comments 

While Jack Cust is going to benefit from Safeco to an extent as a left-handed flyball hitter, he may not get the boost that might be expected. Here’s Cut’s HR chart from last year:

That’s not an aberration; Cust has more power to left-center field than anywhere else. His career splits when he makes contact:

Pull: .382 BA, .679 SLG
Center: .468 BA, .841 SLG
Opposite: .358 BA, .787 SLG

He has pull power, so he will be able to take advantage of Safeco at times, but he doesn’t pound the ball down the right field line like, say, Michael Saunders. He’s going to hit some balls to left center that would have been out of other parks and get run down in Seattle. He’s still worth $2.5 million, but when you hear him described as a “left-handed power bat”, perhaps temper your expectations a bit. He’s not going to be a guy who hits 35 bombs into the right field seats.

Also, just because it’s kind of funny, the list of pitchers that Cust hit a home run off last year.

Manny Delcarmen
Trevor Bell
Joel Pineiro
Jered Weaver
Victor Marte
Clay Buchholz
Scott Linebrink
Tony Pena
Jeremy Hellickson
Tony Sipp
Bryan Bullington
Nick Blackburn
David Pauley

There’s a lot of arms who throw 88 on that list. Hopefully, he turns around a few 95 MPH fastballs in April and shows that he’s still got some bat speed left.

Welcome To Seattle Jack Cust

December 8, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 16 Comments 

According to Susan Slusser, the M’s have signed erstwhile Athletics ‘LF’. Cust was non-tendered last week by Oakland.

Shannon Drayer’s reporting Slusser’s report, and now I am pointing to Drayer’s report of Slusser’s report.

Dave went over Cust in his post a few days ago, so the same caveats about his 2010 season (and his .371 wOBA) apply. He’s clearly a guy who can hit, but he’s now seen his ISO and HR/FB drop 3 straight years. If the team follows Dave’s advice and platoons him with Bradley, his ISO might even recover a bit. Still, even without a platoon-based recovery, a 15% walk rate and a Michael-Saundersish ISO isn’t terrible. On this team, it adds up to clear improvement.

Jon Paul Morosi is reporting Cust will make a base salary of $2.5m. Not bad, Mr. Zduriencik. (hat tip-Lookout Landing)

The Jack Cust Rumor

December 8, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 3 Comments 

According to Susan Slusser, the Mariners are nearing an agreement with Jack Cust. John Hickey reports that the deal probably won’t happen here at the winter meetings, however, and suggests that the M’s might leave Orlando with just their Rule 5 picks added to the roster. But, regardless, it sounds like it may indeed happen, so let’s talk about Cust for a bit.

Like Russell Branyan, he is the quintessential three true outcomes type of hitter. A huge proportion of his at-bats will end with a walk, a strikeout, or a home run – for his career, 53 percent of his plate appearances have ended with the defense being irrelevant. While Branyan emphasized the HR and K aspects of those “three true outcomes”, Cust is more of a BB and K guy. He showed some big time power in 2007 and 2008, but has seen that go south a bit the last two years, as he’s attempted to cut down on the copious amounts of whiffs. The power-for-strikeouts trade-off has not been worth it, of course, as home runs are more good than strikeouts are bad.

While Cust’s .371 wOBA last year looks pretty good, and is actually equal to his 2008 season when he hit 33 home runs, it is almost entirely built around a crazy high .387 batting average on balls in play, which would be unsustainable for someone like Ichiro, and for a plodding DH like Cust is almost unfathomable. For reference, his career BABIP before last season was .325. There is simply no way that Cust puts up anything close to that BABIP again, and unless his power comes back, that’s a pretty big problem.

For reference, 2009 Cust combined middling power with a reasonable BABIP and posted a much more ordinary .342 wOBA. As a guy who is essentially a DH-only player, that makes him just a bit better than replacement level. Jack Cust isn’t awful, but he’s not particularly good either. If his power returns, he could be a league average player, or maybe a tick better. If his power doesn’t come back, well… he’ll be better than Bradley was last year, I guess.

We’ll have to wait and see what the money looks like. I wouldn’t give Cust more than $3 or $4 million, personally. Hopefully he didn’t get any more than that. As for the rest of the roster, this pushes Bradley into the role of spelling Saunders in left and Cust at DH, mostly against LHPs. If they actually intend to keep him, they now have to keep him happy while also keeping him on the bench most days. Good luck!

An Interesting Rumor

December 7, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 20 Comments 

Per Shannon Drayer on twitter, the M’s have begun to focus on a new option to handle second base this year, and you might remember this one – Luis Valbuena, who the M’s shipped to Cleveland in the Franklin Gutierrez deal. He’s been nothing short of awful since going to Cleveland, posting a .243 (!) wOBA last year that is astonishingly awful for a player who has showed some legitimate promise. He would have been one of the worst hitters on last year’s Mariners team, and that’s saying something.

That said, Valbuena absolutely killed Triple-A in each of the last two years (in admittedly small samples of about 100 PA each), and his minor league track record was strong in Seattle as well. He’s still youngish in that he just turned 25 last week, though time is running out for him to establish himself as a Major League player. In some ways, he’s at the same point of his career that Adam Moore is – if he doesn’t hit in 2011, he’s probably going to get stuck with the AAAA player label and struggle to get another real shot at regular playing time.

Valbuena offers a very different package than we thought the M’s might have targeted. Rather than going for a steady veteran who would hold down second base for a few months, they’d get a guy who could theoretically take the job and run with it, or flame out spectacularly. Perhaps they see the two months before Ackley comes up as a worthwhile opportunity to take a flyer on a guy – if he sucks, you’ve got his replacement on the doorstep, and if he’s good, you now have an interesting player that you didn’t have before. Cleveland thought enough of his defense to give him time at shortstop, so there is a dream scenario where he hits enough to hold a starting job and fields enough to convince the team to let him take over for Jack Wilson, but that’s getting near the land of wish-casting.

If Cleveland isn’t asking for a huge return, it could be an interesting opportunity to buy low on a talented underachiever, and at the league minimum for 2011, he’d fit into the team’s need to deal with budgetary restrictions. That said, giving him the second base job out of spring training, coming off the kind of season he had last year, also increases the team’s chance of being absolutely terrible, and that’s the kind of outcome that could get everyone in the front office fired.

It’s a risk. It might be one worth taking. At the very least, it’s an interesting rumor in a day that has lacked them.

Just Say No To Miguel Olivo

December 7, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 11 Comments 

The rumor of the day surrounding the Mariners is all about Miguel Olivo. Everyone I talk to brings his name up. At this point, it’s gone from weird speculation to “they aren’t really thinking about this, right?”

There are parks where Olivo can be kind of useful, as he showed with his +3.2 WAR season last year. As it is for most hitters, but especially fringey right-handed pull power guys, Coors Field treated Olivo well. He hit .318/.349/.556 at home and a miserable .211/.276/.322 on the road. If you eliminate Coors Field from the list of parks that Olivo has hit in during his career, his line is .239/.276/.415 in over 2,800 plate appearances. That sucks. And that’s in an average park, not Safeco Field. Olivo’s home run chart from 2010:

Where is it hardest to hit the ball out in Safeco? Left and left-center, of course. Where is all of Olivo’s power concentrated? Left and left-center.

Even if you put aside Adam Moore and the money it would take to get Olivo, he’s just absolutely wrong for this park. He’s Jose Lopez with more strikeouts, and we all just celebrated getting rid of Lopez. Olivo can help a Major League team in the right circumstance, but Seattle is not that team and not that circumstance.

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