Assorted New Year’s Musings

December 28, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 48 Comments 

I’ve been away, thanks to a combination of work and family duties that I can’t believe I even bring up in light of Dave’s recent post. People often used to malign sabermetrically-oriented writers like Dave as automatons; robots more interested in numbers than the grand arc of a baseball season, or more interested in nitpicking a hit-and-run than in the compelling story of a single game. I’d like to think that Dave’s had a major hand in discrediting that old saw. I’d rather read Dave’s writing here or at Fangraphs than just about anything, and it’s not because his posts are laden with math and statistics. On the other hand, Dave has maintained a blogging pace that puts most professional bloggers to shame, and he’s done it while whipping cancer. I needed a break because “work is hard.” In sum, I think it’s time to bring back the “Dave is a robot” meme.

1: The big story this off-season has been the Rangers and Angels leveraging new TV deals to make a splash on the free-agent (or posting) market. The Rangers replaced CJ Wilson with Yu Darvish while the Angels cashed in their TV revenue for the top free agent hitter and pitcher. Beyond the sheer oddity of a team in the AL West outbidding everyone for three of the year’s most sought-after targets, I’m stunned at how well-timed both the Rangers and the Angels spending sprees are. The Angels new TV contract allowed them to spend more money now, and the addition of a second wild card meant that such spending had a greater chance of being rewarded with a playoff berth. The Rangers built a formidable farm system, then very quickly augmented that homegrown core when their TV contract made such expenditures possible. The M’s renegotiated their contract with FOX Sports (now ROOT Sports) in 2007, and spent the proceeds on the likes of Jeff Weaver, Miguel Batista, and trading for Jose Vidro/Horacio Ramirez. They can renegotiate their current deal in 2015 (or wait until it expires in 2017), but it’s not clear where they’re going to be vis a vis the Angels and Rangers at that time. This isn’t about needing a franchise player or a middle-of-the-order-bat to build around – the M’s need to determine what they currently *have* in order to spend any new money wisely. Is Kyle Seager a starting IF for a contender? Is Caspar Wells a first-division corner outfielder? Is Justin Smoak good?

2: Dave’s absolutely right that a single player doesn’t win a division, and that the M’s should avoid a panic-addled contract offer solely to keep up with the suddenly flush Joneses in their division. Throwing money at a free-agent now may not bring a playoff run, may not bring in fans, and may be a burden down the road. The M’s don’t need to respond, however much it may feel like they need to. Unfortunately, that’s the problem. The fact that the Rangers and Angels seem to have made important acquisitions is almost irrelevant; the problem predates the offseason.

You’ve all seen the ZiPS projections, and Dave’s recap of the ugliness therein. So, uh, how about the CAIRO projections? Any better? Yes and no. ZiPS had three average hitters in the M’s organization in Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp and Vinnie Catricala. CAIRO has Ackley right at average (2 WAR, with a much uglier slash line of .250/.337/.379), Catricala a step back at 1.6 WAR (.233/.301/.360) and Mike Carp as simultaneously the best hitter and least valuable player in this troika (.252/.319/.419). The position adjustment hurts Carp, and the system doesn’t see much in Ackley’s minor league track record to justify a rosier projection. Ichiro looks better in CAIRO, but Kyle Seager looks worse. Smoak/Gutierrez look virtually identical (horrific) in both.

On the face of it, the offense looks even worse than ZiPS – but are the M’s a clear 100 loss team? Well, no. The pitching side of the ledger is better, as CAIRO thinks a bit more of guys like Jason Vargas, Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan. Add it all up, and the M’s come in with a 77 win projection (thanks to a stingy runs allowed of 668, comparable to last year’s 675), and beat out the rebuilding Oakland A’s.

3: So, about those rebuilding A’s… The A’s response to the Angels/Rangers arms race has been to sell off some of their assets, making a young team even younger. Gone are Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahill, in return for an army of prospects including Jarrod Parker, AJ Cole, Tommy Milone, Derek Norris, Josh Reddick and Colin Cowgill. I don’t think these were strictly reactionary moves, but the A’s apparently believed that they didn’t have the flexibility to add offense given what they’d committed to Cahill, Brett Anderson, and Kurt Suzuki (not to mention what they’d have to pay Gonzalez/Bailey in arbitration). Without such an influx, they couldn’t keep up with the Rangers and Angels. No, they didn’t have much committed to those players, but these are the A’s, and so they turned them in for another group of talented, pre-arb players. I get it; this may be the best the A’s can do until their situation improves (new stadium, better TV deal, new ownership, move to San Jose), but it’s got to be frustrating for everyone involved. The team developed some good young pitching, and now the best they can do is swap them out for prospects and hope – hope that Jarrod Parker’s Tommy John surgery went well, that Cowgill can be a major league starter and not a fourth OF, that Tommy Milone’s fringy stuff plays in the AL West, etc.

As bad as that sounds, the A’s at least have enough valuable assets that they can make moves like this. They see their window from 2012-2014 closing, and they’re able to acquire some pieces for 2015 instead. That sounds like kicking the can down the road, but if they’re actually able to relocate the can from Oakland to San Jose, they could conceivably add payroll and potentially negotiate a new TV deal of their own (everyone’s doing it). They’re in a better position than many teams, though I’m sure some A’s fans are growing sick of hearing that. The A’s system had been a little thin, with the stumbles of Chris Carter and Michael Taylor, but with Michael Choice, Grant Green, Sonny Gray and now Parker, Cole, and Norris, there’s a bit more for A’s fans to dream on. Still, pushing their window out means increasing risk. The A’s are now hoping that a pitching prospect (danger) develops as expected following his Tommy John surgery (DANGER!). Their prized SS prospect is now a sort-of-prized OF prospect and their top overall prospect has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. I understand it, and I think I might’ve done the same in David Forst/Billy Beane’s shoes, but attempting to compete in 2015 or so means battling four teams, not three (yes, I know one of them is the Astros, but still) and it means potentially facing three teams with lucrative TV contracts, not two. That there’s no alternative doesn’t make it any easier.
Read more


December 27, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 22 Comments 

(Click this link, then come back).

Hello and welcome to the first in what I guess now qualifies as a series of JEFF FRANCIS WATCHes. Our first JEFF FRANCIS WATCH is today, because PRINCE FIELDER isn’t the only free agent alive. We are writing this because Sullivan is keeping everyone abreast of the PRINCE FIELDER landscape, but no one is keeping an eye on JEFF FRANCIS’ backyard.

Has JEFF FRANCIS signed a contract?

Has JEFF FRANCIS signed a contract with the Seattle Mariners?

Is JEFF FRANCIS close to signing a contract?
I completely and honestly have no idea.

What does your gut tell you?
I think the Mariners are going to sign JEFF FRANCIS, because he’s left-handed, from British Columbia, and they watched CHARLIE FURBUSH try to get right-handers out last year.

What is the latest?
There is no latest. JEFF FRANCIS doesn’t have a windbag for an agent, so he’s not really in the news much.

Are the Mariners still in the thick of things?
It’s JEFF FRANCIS – it’s more of a wispy field of grass than any kind of thicket.

Haha, “thick of things.”
Jeff Francis is pretty skinny, actually.

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 30 Comments 

For Christmas this year, USSM would like to present you with gifts of not doing things. We would like to offer you no Felix Hernandez trade rumors, a day free of speculation about Prince Fielder, and a lack of doom and gloom about the team’s future. We hope you enjoy freedom from these annoyances.

More seriously, though, enjoy your holiday with friends and family. I’m thrilled to be spending this Christmas at home with my wife, just having gotten out of the hospital on Thursday. Early in the week, it was possible that I’d have to spend this Christmas in the hospital, tied to an IV, but thankfully my immune system recovered on Thursday and I’m able to enjoy this Christmas with loved ones.

In fact, as long as the leukemia doesn’t return, I should be done with hospitalizations entirely. I have one more bone marrow biopsy on January 10th, but if that comes back clean, we’ll go into maintenance mode and reduce my check-up schedule from twice a week to once a month. While there’s still a chance that the leukemia could return (and force unwanted scenarios like a bone marrow transplant), we’re hoping and believing that the four rounds of chemotherapy were effective in beating this thing back, and I plan on living long enough to see this team win again.

Cancer has a nice way of making you appreciate the things you have, but hopefully that perspective can be gained even without a nasty medical diagnosis. For each of us, let’s enjoy what we have, and look forward to many more years of rooting on the Mariners together.

Rangers Win Darvish Posting

December 19, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 87 Comments 

You’ve probably heard by now, but the Rangers won the bidding for Yu Darvish, putting up $51.7 million to just barely edge out what Boston paid for the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka back in 2006. They now have a month to negotiate with Darvish on a contract, and given their interest level and his desire to pitch in the US, it’s extremely likely that a deal will get done. While it’s not a guarantee, Darvish will likely join the Rangers next year.

I know this is going to ignite even more of the “we have to respond!” panic that came up when the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. I know the natural sentiment is to see what Texas and Anaheim are doing and feel like the Mariners are doomed unless they play the same game. I just ask that instead of panicking, you look at baseball history and realize that one player just doesn’t make that big of a difference.

The Mariners aren’t screwed any more so now than they were when they traded Ken Griffey Jr in 2000 or watched Alex Rodriguez leave for Texas in 2001. History is absolutely littered with teams who made big off-season splashes, were anointed champions during the winter, and then got hit in the face with the reality that baseball is a team sport full of unexpected variation. Last winter, the Red Sox were the team that landed two superstars and added them to an already stacked roster, and yet, they failed to make the playoffs. The Phillies added Cliff Lee to build an all-time great rotation and got bounced in the first round of the playoffs. The White Sox spent $119 million on players last winter, and after a complete disaster, they’re now in rebuilding mode and selling off talent left and right.

The Angels and Rangers are quality opponents, and the Mariners are going to have to improve their roster to keep up with those two teams. That reality doesn’t call for panic, though – it requires a steady, non-emotional hand that sees the bigger picture and realizes that the Mariners need to simply concentrate on adding to the talent level in the organization. We can have a reasonable conversation about the most effective ways to do that, but there’s no reason to freak out and think that the moves that Texas and Anaheim have made this winter means that the Mariners future is bleak unless they overreact and (sign Fielder, raise the payroll, trade Felix, insert other emotional reactions here).

The AL West is full of good organizations. Those good organizations are going to continue to compete for talent and push each other for the division title. This is true today, and it was true a month ago. As long as the Mariners keep their eyes on the prize, they’ll be fine. Don’t freak out.

M’s Sign George Sherrill

December 17, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 25 Comments 

As first reported by Jason Churchill this afternoon, the Mariners have come to terms with George Sherrill on a one year deal, apparently worth just over $1 million with some incentives that could push the total a bit higher.

The M’s have talked about adding a veteran to the bullpen all winter, and the team was also a bit low on left-handers, so Sherrill checks two boxes on the off-season wish list. Now, make no mistake, he’s strictly a lefty specialist at this point in his career, but he’s really good in that role. Last year, he faced 82 left-handed batters, walking one and striking out 32. His FIP against LHBs was 0.81, the best in baseball among pitchers with 20+ IP against LHBs.

You don’t ever want him facing a right-hander in any kind of important situation, though. He faced 68 RHBs, walking 11 and striking out just six, running a 6.03 FIP against opposite handed batters. His heavy slider usage and arm slot make him a weapon against left-handed bats, but a batting practice machine against right-handed ones. If used correctly, he could be a real nice piece in the bullpen, but the M’s didn’t just acquire a guy who can take over in the closer role or anything.

My guess is that this move will push Charlie Furbush back to Triple-A to start 2012, as I’ve heard pretty good things about minor league invitee Sean Henn, and they probably won’t want to stunt Furbush’s development by using him as a second lefty in the ‘pen. For not that much more than the league minimum, adding a nice situational lefty is a pretty solid move. Sherrill won’t exactly change the team’s fortunes by himself, but there’s not much to dislike about this move.

Mat Latos Trade Opens Opportunity for Mariners

December 17, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 50 Comments 

Back in June, I wrote a piece suggesting that the Mariners should trade Michael Pineda to Cincinnati for a package of players built around first baseman Yonder Alonso and catcher Yasmani Grandal. Well, today, the Reds made the deal I suggested for perhaps the most similar pitcher in the sport (in terms of results) to Pineda, landing RHP Mat Latos from San Diego in exchange for those two and a couple of good arms in Edinson Volquez (another favorite of mine) and Brad Boxberger. Overall, I’d say this package is slightly better than the one I suggested, as swapping in Volquez and Boxberger in exchange for Todd Frazier and Travis Wood provides a bit more upside for San Diego.

While we can’t know if the Reds would have surrendered this exact same package of talent for Pineda, it seems likely that the M’s could have flipped him for something close this level of value. Pineda’s track record isn’t as long as Latos’, but he comes with an extra year of team control at the league minimum, which helps offset some of the value of the extra experience. Personally, I would have made this deal for the Mariners, as they could have used all four guys San Diego acquired and replaced Pineda with a free agent starter while waiting for the young live arms to get to the show.

However, that ship has now sailed, and there’s no real reason to think that the Mariners were ever as interested in moving Pineda for that kind of package as I am. In all likelihood, they’re going to keep both him and Felix and try to upgrade the roster around those two. And, if that is the plan, then this deal could actually create a new opportunity for the team.

In acquiring Yonder Alonso, the Padres have essentially picked up their first baseman of the present. He’s 25-years-old and already shown that he can hold his own against big league pitching, so the Padres will almost certainly slot him in as their everyday first baseman in 2012. His power-to-all-fields approach is actually a good one for Petco Park, and while he’s probably not going to develop into Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres have seen that LH hitters with opposite field power can perform well in their park. Alonso may not have superstar upside, but he’s a good fit for San Diego, and should be able to hold down their first base job for the foreseeable future.

The opportunity here for the Mariners is that the Padres best prospect is also a left-handed hitting first baseman. In trading Gonzalez to Boston last winter, they acquired Anthony Rizzo, and then watched him break out with an outstanding season for Triple-A Tucson. While the PCL is a hitter’s league and all numbers down there need to be taken with a grain of salt, Rizzo’s ability to post a .331/.404/.652 mark at age 21 against that level of competition is extremely impressive, and his overall line was still 49 percent better than the average PCL hitter, the fourth best mark of any hitter in the league.

Or, to put it in Mariners-related context, Rizzo was essentially as good as Mike Carp was down in Tacoma, only he’s three years younger and has more room for growth. Rizzo’s stint in the Major Leagues didn’t go as well, but his core performance was better than his overall slash line, which was driven down by a .210 BABIP and the fact that Petco is murder on left-handed pull power hitters. Petco’s effect on balls to right field is more extreme than Safeco’s effect on balls to LF, and Rizzo’s power is almost entirely to right field. A move to a more friendly stadium for his skillset could have a strong positive effect on his future results, and Safeco plays nice to guys who can rip the ball out to right field.

The Padres won’t have room for both Alonso and Rizzo, and of the two, Rizzo is the one who doesn’t really work in San Diego’s home park. I have to think that this deal makes him available for the right price, and he’s the type of interesting young left-handed slugger that the Mariners could use for the long term. While Justin Smoak and Mike Carp still offer some potential, Rizzo would give them a third quality young power hitter from the left side who could slide into a job at either 1B/DH, and the team’s willingness to use Carp in left field means that he wouldn’t push either of them off the roster. If Rizzo shows he’s ready for the big leagues, the organization could make room for him, or they could simply go with a short term LF/DH option and give Rizzo the ability to get more development time in Triple-A while they figure out what they have in Smoak and Carp.

The big question is what the cost would be, obviously. It’s hard to say exactly what the Padres would ask for in exchange for their top prospect, but the Mariners certainly have pieces that would be attractive to San Diego. Nick Franklin seems like one potential piece the team could dangle, as the Padres don’t really have a shortstop of the future at the moment, or they could dangle an arm like James Paxton if the Padres preferred to reload their pitching depth after trading Latos.

Obviously, going this route would mean the Mariners wouldn’t also throw huge money at Prince Fielder, so I expect the pro-Fielder crowd to hate this suggestion and give us the generic reasons why he’s The Savior and The Only Option. For those of you who understand that there’s more than one path to success, however, Rizzo is now an intriguing option who probably wasn’t available 24 hours ago. At the least, the M’s should explore what the asking price would be, and if he can be had for a reasonable price, the team could add the left-handed power hitter they’ve been looking for without having to spend $200 million to get him.

Blogads dropped

December 16, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 23 Comments 

We’ve stopped running Blogads today. We apologize if you saw what Dave termed “the hooker ad” but yeah… the ads you run are part of the site, for better or worse, and if we can’t do them right, we won’t have them.
Read more

Prince Fielder, Free Agent Magnet?

December 13, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 67 Comments 

Earlier today, the always-worth-reading Larry Stone weighed in on the subject of Seattle as an attractive destination for free agents. This comes up almost every winter, as some player the team may be interested in signs elsewhere and the reasons given are generally related to geography, weather, and the team’s overall travel schedule. The M’s are in the corner of the country, so getting non-locals to go to an inconvenient place to fly from is seen as a challenge, and when you combine those logistical issues with a bad team, it makes sense that the Mariners would have a hard time luring free agents to sign on the dotted line.

And, as with every discussion about anything this winter, the topic turned to Prince Fielder. An argument often levied in favor of signing him is that he’ll give the team credibility with other players, and the fact that they’d have Fielder under contract would make this a more desirable destination, allowing the team to sign more and better free agents.

It’s a story that makes sense, but one of the things we like to do around here is look at the evidence of things that seem to make sense and see if they actually play out that way in reality. So, to that end, here are the free agents that have signed with the Brewers since 2006, Fielder’s first full year in the Majors.

2006 – Jeff Suppan, 4 years/$42 million
2007 – Eric Gagne, 1 year/$10 million
2008 – Trevor Hoffman, 1 year/$6 million
2009 – Randy Wolf, 3 years/$30 million
2010 – None

Honestly, I had to stretch the word significant a bit to include Gagne and Hoffman in there, as the team basically paid a premium for the proven closer label and offered each guy the ninth inning role, which almost certainly had more to do with attracting them to Milwaukee than the idea of being able to play with Prince Fielder. We can probably throw Suppan out of the sample as well, since he signed with the team when Fielder had a whopping 62 plate appearances in the big leagues. Also, I don’t know that “attracts the likes of Jeff Suppan” is something you want to argue as a positive anyway.

Essentially, the only free agent signing of any noteworthiness during Fielder’s career in Milwaukee is Randy Wolf, and they didn’t get any kind of bargain on him either. And remember, the Brewers have been mostly decent and occasionally good during Fielder’s time there, so they didn’t have to overcome the come-play-on-a-bad-team-with-me thing. One somewhat overpaid back end starter in five years… that’s not much in the way of evidence that signing Fielder will attract other free agents to join him in Seattle.

But, hey, maybe there’s something about Milwaukee that makes Fielder’s previous situation a bad example? So, let’s look at the other teams in the Mariners situation who have made big investments to try and gain some respectability.

2010 – Nationals sign Jayson Werth for 7 years/$126 million.

Last year, Washington tried this same tactic in buying respect by outbidding everyone for Jayson Werth. The only other notable free agent they landed last winter was Adam LaRoche, who they had to overpay to sign and is now a player they couldn’t give away. This winter, they’ve signed no one of note, and lost out on Mark Buehrle despite a public and aggressive pursuit.

2009 – Cardinals sign Matt Holliday for 7 years/$120 million.

This move was widely seen as an attempt to convince Albert Pujols of their willingness to do what it takes to put a winning team on the field, and was a big investment for a team that knew they were also going to have to pony up big bucks to keep Pujols around. We know how this story ended. They did manage to land Lance Berkman and Jake Westbrook in free agency last year, but Berkman essentially took the highest offer he got from an NL team since he didn’t want to DH, and like Suppan with Fielder, adding Westbrook is not really a feather in Holliday’s cap.

2008 – Dodgers sign Manny Ramirez to a 2 year/$45 million contract.

The Dodgers went on a big spending spree that winter, with Ramirez as the center of the plan. They also added Rafael Furcal (3/$30), Casey Blake (3/$18), Randy Wolf (1/$5), and Orlando Hudson (1/$4). In year two of the deal, their big addition was Vicente Padilla ($1/5). There’s not much evidence that any of these guys took less than market value to join Manny, or that these are the kinds of contracts you want to be able to sign.

2006 – Giants sign Barry Zito to a 7 year/$126 million contract.

With Barry Bonds at the end of the line, the Giants shelled out big bucks to land the supposed premier pitcher of the winter. They also landed Dave Roberts ($3/19), Bengie Molina (3/$16), Ray Durham (2/$14), and Rich Aurilia (2/$8). The next winter, they were able to land Aaron Rowand (5/$60). The only one of those deals that wasn’t a total bust was Molina, and he wasn’t exactly fantastic.

2006 – Houston Astros sign Carlos Lee to a 6 year/$100 million contract.

This was the big expenditure by the Astros, who were trying to energize their fan base and get back to the World Series, where they’d been just a year prior. Their other free agent that winter was Woody Williams (2/$12), who was a bust just like Lee. The next year, they were able to land Kaz Matsui (3/$16), and then 2008 saw Doug Brocail (1/$3) as the most significant free agent addition. No real significant free agents joined Lee in Houston, and they were pretty smart to avoid the situation, because the team’s massive overpay on an overrated hitter prevented them from actually putting a good team on the field.

I’m not trying to stack the deck against Fielder here, but I simply can’t find any recent evidence of a team signing a big free agent and then reaping the rewards of having other quality players join the team as a result. If there’s an example I’m missing where a player clearly took less than the best overall offer in order to become teammates with a certain player, I’d love to hear it. We do see players choose where to play based on family preferences, league preferences, odds of being on a contender, potential for playing time, geography-related decisions, and of course the most common “they offered me more money than anyone else” factor, but I don’t see much in the way of evidence that having a name value player actually attracts other free agents.

It’s a nice theory, and I get why people buy into it, but right now I don’t think we can say that it’s one that is supported by the facts. After all, the Mariners problem hasn’t really been that they haven’t been able to get free agents to come here – Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, Miguel Batista, Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn, and Chone Figgins all took the team’s money – but that those free agent signings have generally worked out horribly for the franchise.

Signing Prince Fielder won’t move the team out of the corner of the country, won’t make it rain less, and won’t reduce the amount of time the team spends on airplanes. The only way Fielder will help attract future free agents is if he helps the team win, as we know that contenders attract free agents that losing teams do not. If you believe that Prince Fielder will make this team a winner, then yes, he might help bring other players here. But there’s just no reason to believe that anyone the organization will want to sign is going to join a 75 win team simply because Prince Fielder is on it.

If you want to sign Fielder, do it for baseball reasons. Don’t do it for PR and marketing reasons, because there’s just no evidence that those kinds of ancillary benefits actually follow the player.

M’s Non-Tender Dan Cortes and Chris Gimenez

December 13, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 20 Comments 

Last night, the Mariners opened up two spots on the 40 man roster by declining to tender contracts to either Dan Cortes or Chris Gimenez. This was not a cost-savings maneuver, as neither were arbitration eligible and the team could have simply renewed their contracts at the league minimum for 2012. This was the team deciding that they’d rather have the open 40-man spots and determining that neither was worth a Major League contract for next year.

With Gimenez, that’s par for the course. He’s a replacement level catcher who has bounced between Triple-A and the Majors for most of his career. He’s the definition of freely available talent, and there’s no reason to use any resources to retain him. Cortes, though, is a young live arm, and those don’t really grow on trees. That the organization was willing to cut him loose despite his velocity and youth should tell you just how bad he was last year.

His command was bad, but that’s always been true, even when the Mariners plucked him out of the Royals system in the Yuniesky Betancourt deal. Hard throwers often struggle to find the zone, and some of them are able to succeed in spite of lingering problems throwing strikes, so the walks weren’t the reason Cortes was cut loose.

No, that would be the inexplicable fact that he was remarkably hittable in the big leagues. We’re dealing with a small sample since he only threw 191 pitches in the Majors last year, but of those 191 pitches, he only got 11 swinging strikes. Opposing batters swung and missed at Cortes’ stuff at the same rate (5.8%) as they did with Aaron Laffey and Blake Beaven. Even Anthony Vazquez generated more swinging strikes than Cortes did.

He threw hard, but he threw straight and in lousy locations, so opposing hitters simply had the option of watching a pitch soar out of the zone or taking a good solid swing at a hittable fastball. Cortes didn’t fool anyone, or show anything that resembled a Major League quality pitch. Cortes was the walking embodiment of why there’s more to pitching than straight up velocity.

That velocity will allow him to catch on with another team, and who knows, maybe he’ll harness his stuff one day and turn into a decent reliever. But, if you want to stay on the 40 man roster, you need to show some reason for hope, and just throwing hard isn’t enough. It’s pretty telling that the organization chose to keep Steve Delabar around and not Cortes, even though the skillset is similar. In his brief tryout, Delabar showed that he could get hitters to swing through his fastball. That’s a good place to start, and until Cortes starts throwing his fastball by Major League hitters, he won’t be of much use.

Casey McGehee Is Now Very Available

December 12, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 41 Comments 

The Brewers spent their remaining pile of money on Aramis Ramirez today, locking him into a three year, $36ish million deal to take over at third base for the club. While most people will see this move as evidence that the Brewers are out on Prince Fielder, I think there’s another Seattle tie-in here that should be more aggressively pursued. In part one of my offseason plan post, I advocated that the Mariners acquire Casey McGehee from the Brewers. Well, if his poor 2011 season and arbitration eligibility didn’t make him available, the Ramirez signing almost certainly does.

With Ramirez in the fold, McGehee’s only role with the Brewers is as a part-time first baseman, and with left-handed Mat Gamel penciled in at the position, McGehee would likely get the short end of the playing time stick in that job share. Even if he spells Ramirez at third occasionally and shares first base with Gamel, the Brewers probably don’t have more than about 250 plate appearances to offer him next year, and for a team on a budget, spending a couple of million on a reserve corner infielder is probably not a great use of resources.

So, the Brewers should be somewhat motivated to move McGehee, and the Mariners should be interested in acquiring his services. We’ve talked about the team needing a part-time third baseman, preferably a right-handed one, who could give the team a potential job share option with Kyle Seager at third base but could also step into the everyday role if Seager proves to need more time in Triple-A. We’ve also talked about what Safeco does to right-handed hitters, and the need for the right kind of RH bats in this stadium.

Well, McGehee is the right kind of right-handed hitter for Safeco Field. Here are his career splits, broken up by part of the field that he’s hit the ball to:

Left Field: 486 PA, .334/.333/.567
Center Field: 426 PA, .303/.296/.464
Right Field: 363 PA, .337/.328/.527

28.5% of all of McGehee’s balls in play have been hit to right field, and he’s been almost as productive when he goes the other way as when he pulls the ball to left field. In stark contrast to a guy like Willingham, McGehee has shown that he can use the whole field and be productive when he hits the ball to right, which would mitigate some of the effects of Safeco on his performance.

McGehee isn’t going to revolutionize the offense, but he checks a lot of boxes on what the team should be looking for in a third baseman – low cost, right-handed, potential role player with upside for more if need be. Between 3B, 1B, and DH, the Mariners could easily find 400+ plate appearances for McGehee even if he didn’t end up beating out Seager for the 3B job, and could provide some power from the right side that wouldn’t necessarily be neutralized by the team’s home park.

It’s hard to find a better fit for the role the M’s need to fill than McGehee, and with Ramirez’s signing, he just became highly expendable for the Brewers. It shouldn’t cost too terribly much to acquire him, and he’d be a great fit for 2012 team and potentially beyond. This is a move I’d like to see the organization make sooner than later.

Next Page »