Over the twitter wire this afternoon, news has come that the Mariners are one of three finalists for the services of Justin Duchscherer, the other two being the Orioles and the Nationals. One can only imagine how agonizing the decision must be. Dan Connolly, who is breaking the story, adds that he has more than one major league offer on the table.
You probably remember Duchscherer from the Oakland A’s. He shut us out for seven innings last year, and has been an all-star twice in his career. He’s also been injured off and on, with hip, bicep, shoulder, and back injuries along with a bout with depression a couple years back. Over the past two seasons combined, he’s pitched fewer than 40.0 innings.
Assuming he’s healthy and his command is in order, he could be added to the Robertson/French/Pauley mix we have going for the final spot in the rotation and/or swingman. Duke is one of those weird pitchers that doesn’t have great stuff, but possesses a deep enough arsenal to keep hitters off-balance, and has managed to run a lower than average BABIP throughout his career, a .235 mark aiding his 2008 campaign. We can’t really expect him to do that again, but for an overall fit in the organization in the short-term, we could do worse than this.
Welcome to the last few weeks before spring training, everyone.
Edit: And now they’re out of it. Resume whatever activity you were occupied with before.
An interesting rumor has popped up this morning, as Joe Stiglich of the Contra Costa Times is reporting that the A’s are trying to swap Kevin Kouzmanoff for Chone Figgins. Ken Rosenthal has since confirmed the report, and he’s the most reliable guy in the business on this front. So, there’s almost certainly something to this.
If the M’s have a chance to unload Figgins’ contract, they have to do it. I wrote about why they should trade Figgins back in August. Circumstances have changed since they signed him last winter, and at this point, he’s unlikely to still be a positive asset by the time the Mariners are ready to challenge for the AL West title again. Unless the A’s are asking the M’s to pick up significant amounts of money, the answer to any deal where the M’s get to dump the rest of his contract should be yes.
Beyond just dumping Figgins, though, Kouzmanoff actually would be a decently valuable piece to get back in return. By UZR, he’s an above average defender at third, rating out at +6.1 runs per 150 games over his career. He’s not Adrian Beltre, but he can play a pretty solid third base. Offensively, he’s actually kind of similar to Jose Lopez (commence cringing… now) in that he doesn’t walk much, has slightly above average power, and has played his entire career in home parks that have been disastrous for him. Kouzmanoff’s overall numbers don’t look great, but his home/road splits are pretty telling: .242/.288/.386 at home, .273/.315/.461 on the road. While he won’t get much of a boost while playing in Safeco, we at least don’t have to adjust his numbers down, as we do with most right-handed bats. We already know about how well he’ll hit in ridiculous pitcher’s parks, since he’s done it his whole career.
It’s not the kind of package the M’s should be signing up for long term, but as a one year stop gap while they figure out what they have in Ackley, Pineda, and Smoak, he can keep the position from being a black hole. Odds are he won’t be worth his arbitration raise next winter (he’s making $4.75 million in 2011), but the team would be able to non-tender him and walk away at that point.
Kouzmanoff for Figgins? Yes, please.
Update: Buster Olney adds on Twitter that this could be a three team deal involving the Blue Jays. Just speculating, but I’d guess that Kouzmanoff would end up in Toronto (which would allow them to keep Jose Bautista in the outfield), with the M’s getting something from the Blue Jays in return. The Jays do have pitching depth, so perhaps the Mariners could end up with another arm for the back-end of the rotation. This would leave a hole at third base, but they could sign a guy like Willy Aybar to share time with Matt Mangini as a low-cost option that would allow them to give another young kid a look. We’ll have to see what plays out.
The Mariners held a press briefing with a bunch of different updates today. The highlights:
The Mariners get three extra home games this year, as the road series in Florida is being moved to Seattle due to the Marlins home stadium being used for a U2 concert. The games will be played under NL rules, and the Mariners will be the “road” team, so no DH, and the M’s will hit first. Should be a fun change-up for three days. How lousy are the Marlins, though, that they would skip a home interleague series because they’d rather rent out the park for a music event?
Erik Bedard will throw bullpen sessions before spring training starts. They’re optimistic about his timeframe.
David Aardsma may be ready by the second week of the season.
Shawn Kelley may be ready by June 1st.
Dustin Ackley has gained eight or nine pounds, as Pedro Grifol is convinced that he’ll be a major league second baseman.
Oh, and while it wasn’t on the agenda, Adam Kennedy was arrested for suspicion of a DUI last night. The M’s won’t comment, but you can’t imagine they’re all that happy with him.
We tend to use a lot of numbers around here, and a bunch of them are not numbers you generally see during television broadcasts, so I know that this place can be a little intimidating to new readers. We’ve never done a great job at giving people a place to start from the beginning, and I know there’s a learning curve to reading the site.
Well, over at FanGraphs, we’re trying to fix that problem. Yesterday, we introduced The FanGraphs Library, which is a pretty extensive resource of explanations for every metric you’ll see talked about here, as well as a lot of the concepts that we believe in. It includes some pretty nifty tools, including charts that show the spread of performance in each metric (what’s good, what’s bad, what’s normal), and link out to explanations of how the metrics were derived if you’re into reading those kinds of pieces.
Hopefully, the FanGraphs Library will make the learning curve for blogs like this one a little less steep. Steve Slowinski is going to be blogging about saber education over at the Library going forward, so if you have any questions about this kind of stuff, he’ll be more than happy to help you.
“Milton is going to get a achance to come in and compete for a job,” Zduriencik told (Dave Mahler of KJR). “When we acquired him, we felt he had a chance to be a middle-of-the order hitter. Obviously some things fell apart for him last year and he had one thing happen this winter. We’re hoping he comes in and competes for a job.”
Well, that’s interesting, surprising, and kind of confusing. This could all change, of course, depending on how things play in March, but the Mariners don’t appear to be planning on cutting Bradley loose right now.
Let’s start with Robertson, since he’s probably the more likely of the two to make the team out of spring training. I’ve been a fan of his for a while (here’s an article I wrote about him as a buy-low opportunity two years ago), and while he hasn’t exactly made me look like a genius, I still think there’s potential there. He was a pretty good starter for the Tigers from 2004-2006, running ground ball rates near 50% and K/BB ratios of around 2.00. Pitchers who can do both of those thing simultaneously are tough to find, especially from the left side.
He started heading down hill in 2007, as his walks went up and his ground balls went down. 2008 was a total disaster from a results perspective (6.35 ERA), and was the season that cost him his spot in the starting rotation, but his underlying performance was still okay. Rather than bouncing back in 2009, he ended up in the bullpen, had surgery on his elbow, and ended up only throwing 40 innings in what was essentially a lost year. He got shipped to the Marlins last spring, and while he wasn’t good, he was a semi-useful innings sponge.
He also has a pretty similar skillset to Chris Capuano, who we talked about a few weeks ago as a possibility for the M’s. Like Capuano, Robertson’s fatal flaw is giving up home runs to right-handed batters. 141 of the 160 home runs that Robertson has allowed have been to righties. For his career, he’s at 0.60 HR/9 vs LHB, and 1.46 HR/9 vs RHB. As we’ve noted many times, righties don’t hit for a lot of power in Safeco, so the park could mask Robertson’s big flaw. He’s unlikely to be an ace, but the team could do worse than to give him 150 innings at the back of the rotation and let Safeco make him look like a pretty capable #5 starter. If one of the young kids pushes him out of the rotation, he’s got the skillset to be a tough left-handed reliever, though he’s been resistant to the role in the past. He’s starting to run out of options, though, and the team might be able to convince him that he could extend his career in the big leagues by becoming a solid lefty relief option if it comes to that.
Gerut’s a little bit different, in that his decline from being a good player is easily explained – he tore his knee to shreds in 2004 and essentially lost three years out of the prime of his career. ACL surgery cost him most of 2005, then recovering from more knee surgeries cost him 2006 and 2007 as well, but he reappeared on the scene out of nowhere in 2008 to post a +3 win season in just 100 games. He hit .296/.351/.494 while playing half his games in Petco, no easy feat. He hasn’t been able to repeat that success, though, and at 33 years old, he probably won’t ever do that again. That said, he’s a pretty decent defensive outfielder with some pop in his bat from the left side, and if healthy, he could provide a little bit of offense as a part-time player.
The problem with Gerut is fit on the roster. As a left-handed hitting outfielder, he’s not really an option to share time with Michael Saunders, as the team needs a right-handed stick for the role that will likely be vacated by Milton Bradley. Gerut falls into the same kind of problem that Ryan Langerhans has run into, in that he’s useful but that he duplicates some of what Saunders offers, only while lacking the athleticism and potential of the younger version. Unless the team decides Saunders needs more time in Tacoma, there’s probably not a spot on the roster for Gerut right away. But, if he agrees to go to Tacoma and stays healthy, he could be a solid fill-in later in the year if needed.
It’s nice to see the organization making nifty little moves like this. With pickups like Brendan Ryan and Adam Kennedy, the team had given themselves depth and options at the middle infield spots, and now they’ve created competition for the outfield and left-handed pitcher spots as well. Since both new guys are in on minor league contracts, the team is shouldering no risk, and can bring them to Peoria and see what they have. They might not be the kinds of guys that create headlines, but they’re interesting depth guys to have around. The M’s are a little bit better today than they were yesterday.
Obviously, most of the talk today surrounding the M’s is about Milton Bradley’s arrest. This can’t be how the M’s were hoping to kick off the new year, and the fact that it comes two weeks before FanFest has to be annoying to the organization – after all, they’re now faced with standing in front of a bunch of fans before his court date (February 8th), which leaves them in the uncomfortable position of having to say something without actually saying anything.
Beyond that, the Mariners have to figure out what they’re going to do with Milton now. At this point, I think most people expect the team to take some action that removes him from the team, whether that be suspension, a move to the restricted list (the same procedure they pursued last year when he took his leave of absence), or just an outright release. Given all of the questions about how Bradley would fit in with Eric Wedge at the helm, how he’d respond to a reduced role that left him as a part-time player, and his ability to serve as the team’s fourth outfielder given his injury history, this seems like a straw-that-breaks-the-camel’s-back, even if the charges end up being dropped. Pretty much every other organization that has ever employed Milton Bradley has reached a point where they determined his baggage wasn’t worth it anymore, and this is probably that point for the M’s.
If they just want to wash their hands of the situation and be done with it, they can just release him. It’d be the no-hassle way of dealing with the issue, as no one would really question the organization if that’s the path they decided to pursue. They’d have to eat the $12 million he’s owed for 2011, but it’s a sunk cost anyway, and it’s not like it’s all that hard to find a right-handed hitting outfielder who can get 250 plate appearances and avoid causing drama for everyone around him.
The other options would be a bit trickier, as they’d likely involve the team seeking some sort of reimbursement for the wages they’re expected to pay Bradley this year. Larry Stone has a great piece on the history of teams trying to void contracts with players over off-the-field legal problems. In general, it hasn’t gone very well, as the player’s association has been able to hold teams at bay when they attempt to declare that a player has forfeited his right to be paid. It is possible that there is language in Bradley’s contract that would allow the team to pursue this course in his specific situation, but there’s no way for us to know if that’s the case or not. There’s also another factor to consider for the M’s, and that’s Josh Lueke.
The team took a pretty big PR hit last year with how the Lueke situation was handled after he was acquired from Texas in the Cliff Lee trade, but since then, the team has operated in a way that suggests that they expect Lueke to remain a member of the organization going forward. Lueke’s situation is different in many ways than Bradley’s, especially in that his offense took place while he was not a member of the organization, but he spent time in jail for his offense and the Mariners are still willing to employ him (as of now, anyway). Given their decision to acquire Lueke (and subsequently retain him throughout the off-season), it would then be hard to convince a judge that Bradley simply being arrested for making a threat would constitute behavior that would prevent them from continuing to employ him.
Likewise, it will appear somewhat hypocritical of the Mariners if they cite this incident as a primary cause for his release, but continue to employ Lueke. On one hand, the organization certainly wants to be seen as taking a firm stance against abuse against woman, but making different choices as to Lueke’s and Bradley’s futures with the organization presents some problems. They have opted to note that Lueke deserves a second chance, but
Bradley has no noted history of abuse towards women that I can find Bradley has never been charged with any domestic abuse issues (though there was a 2005 incident where police were called to his home that I missed in my original research) and this charge – while serious – is not as extreme as what Lueke served jail time for. You can point to Bradley’s past problems getting along with coaches, management, teammates, and umpires as examples of why he’s run out of second chances, but all of those problems have been with men. If the organization chooses to release him on the grounds of violating a policy of abuse towards women, it will be hard to simultaneously justify Lueke’s continued employment. If one deserves a second chance, then it will be argued that so does the other.
In short, there is no easy clean fix here, unless the team decides to just take this as an opportunity to enforce a retroactive no-tolerance policy and release them both. I doubt that’s the path they’ll pursue, however. My guess is that we end up seeing Bradley placed on the restricted list, remain a member of the organization, and the team simply choose not to pursue an attempt to recoup his salary. He’d still technically be a member of the organization, but he wouldn’t be part of the team anymore. This is essentially what the Cubs did to Bradley at the end of the 2009 season, when they just sent him home to finish the year.
No matter what they do, however, they’ll be criticized from some angle.
King5 is reporting that Milton Bradley has been arrested in Los Angeles in relation to a felony on making criminal threats. We don’t have much more information beyond that, but to be honest, I’m not sure it matters much what he’s charged with in terms of his future with the M’s. Given his history with Eric Wedge, his struggles the last few years, and the team’s desire to give some young kids a chance, his tenure here wasn’t likely to last very long anyway.
Unless he is completely exonerated, I’d imagine this will be all the excuse the M’s needed to sever ties with him. Let’s not rush to judgment on whether Bradley is guilty or not, but given that he was already on pretty thin ice, this could be enough for the M’s to just throw in the towel on the Milton Bradley experiment.
The Mariners have announced that they have reached agreements with David Aardsma, Brandon League, and Jason Vargas, avoiding arbitration with all three. We’ll get numbers soon, but expect something like $4 million for Aardsma, $2 million for League, and $2 million for Vargas.
We were pretty sure the M’s were out on Jeff Francis once David Aardsma became untradeable, but now it’s official, as Francis landed in Kansas City today for a whopping $2 million base with incentives that could push the total to $4 million. This is exactly the kind of deal I was hoping the Mariners could offer him, but it seems like they’re just out of money, so instead of getting a pretty decent left-handed strike-thrower for the back-end of the rotation, they had to watch him take a job with the Royals instead.
With the M’s failing to come up with marginal amounts of money for the likes of Francis and Capuano, it’s probably safe to assume they’re out on anyone who will get a seven figure deal. They may still add another pitcher or a right-handed bat who could handle some left field if they end up jettisoning Milton Bradley, but the guys they’ll be targeting will probably have to accept non-guaranteed minor league deals. Unless Jack Z has a trick up his sleeve, the M’s are probably done doing anything significant this winter.