Horse First, Then Cart

Dave · December 8, 2011 at 10:13 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I’m a bit sleep deprived after a long week in Dallas, but I wanted to make one quick point before heading to bed. I know that the Angels decision to spend big on Pujols and Wilson has caused a lot of people to turn their attention back to the size of the Mariners payroll, and calls are getting louder for the team to spend more money in order to compete in the AL West. I’m not against the team spending more money, but I do believe that we need to understand the actual causation that drives the correlation between a team’s payroll and their record.

It’s easy enough to look at a chart that includes total payroll and total wins and see that there’s a relationship. Teams that spend more generally win more – not always, but usually. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why this is.

However, that’s a correlation. That the two things are related does not mean that increasing payroll will increase your win total to the degree that the correlation would suggest – that conclusion requires causation, and you have to dig deeper to see the actual effects of increasing payroll on team wins.

In reality, there’s causation that goes both ways. Increasing your payroll does increase your expected winning percentage, but raising your expected winning percentage also raises your payroll. In order to win, you need good players, and good players demand more and more money as they get older. A team that has managed to successfully draft and develop a nice young crop of home-grown stars is going to win first, then see their payroll rise as a result of the success of those players. In that situation, the increase in team salary occurs as a result of the acquisition of talent, rather than the increase in salary causing the acquisition of talent.

This is why you have to be very careful concluding that the Mariners failures of late are because of the team’s decreasing payroll relative to the rest of the league. In reality, the poor decision making of the front office over the last decade has actually had more to do with the payroll going down than ownership getting “cheap”. Because the team drafted poorly and traded away most of the young talent they did manage to develop, the franchise simply hasn’t had many players worth locking up to long term deals that escalate the payroll organically.

Here’s the list of meaningful contract extensions handed out by the Mariners over the last 10 years:

Ichiro Suzuki – 5 years, $90 million
Felix Hernandez – 5 years, $78 million
Kenji Johjima – 3 years, $24 million
Bret Boone – 3 years, $24 million
Franklin Gutierrez – 4 years, $20 million
Mike Cameron – 3 years, $15 million

That’s it – that’s the list. In over a decade, the M’s have only given out a half dozen contract extensions to players they wanted to retain due to their quality performances. What young talent did make it to the big leagues generally failed to develop into players that the team wanted to keep around, and thus, the team has entered into very few payroll-raising contract extensions to keep talent on hand.

Put simply, the Mariners lack of talent has had a significant impact on their payroll – there simply haven’t been good enough players to pay to keep around to keep the team’s overall budget going up organically. And so, without good players to retain, the team was forced to hunt for talent in the free agent market, and we all know how well that has worked out for the organization.

Having a $150 million payroll simply shouldn’t be anyone’s goal. The goal is to accumulate so much talent that you need to raise your payroll to that kind of level in order to keep it all. Not every piece of the roster has to be homegrown, and there’s certainly a spot for acquiring veterans from other organizations through free agency or trade, but history shows that teams who increase their payrolls by trying to buy wins in those markets generally don’t succeed. The winners are the franchises who develop talent through the farm and then invest in long term contracts in order to keep those players around.

The correlation between wins and payroll is real, but don’t make the mistake of believing that the relationship between the two means that raising payroll will lead to substantially more wins. For sustained success, the winning comes first, and then the rising payroll follows.

Comments

91 Responses to “Horse First, Then Cart”

  1. NRFully on December 8th, 2011 10:49 pm

    So, what are you saying? Don’t sign Prince because he’s an expensive free agent? I feel like we’re on at most a 3 year period to be serious winners. Or else we lose Felix, to someone who wants to pay a lot for him, like the Yankees. I feel we need to get Price, we are in a great opportunity to be one of the only teams to afford him. He’s not a player that this opportunity comes along very often at all either.

  2. Slats on December 8th, 2011 10:52 pm

    Jack Z is building a winner the right way by stocking the farm.

    Taijuan Walker, Francisco Martinez, Nick Franklin, James Paxton, Danny Hultzen

    Jack Z knows talent. I believe in him turning us into a winner.

  3. CCW on December 8th, 2011 11:03 pm

    There may be a grain or two of wisdom in this post, but Dave seems to be trying to avoid the simple fact that, all else being equal, more money does actually equal more wins. It CAUSES more wins. All the rest is… I don’t know what it is. Kind of beside the point, it seems to me.

    Put very simply: if the M’s payroll was $120mm instead of $95mm, and they could just flat out sign Prince Fielder, they’d be a better team. I’m not saying that would be the best use of $25mm/year, but the M’s are clearly a better team with Prince than without him.

    It isn’t that complicated. There doesn’t always have to be an argument.

  4. stevemotivateir on December 8th, 2011 11:04 pm

    ^Not trying to sound rude, but read it again. Dave gave his reasons for not signing Prince (for a ridiculous price) a long time ago. The message now is simple…. don’t panic. There’s a right way and a wrong way to build a wining team and retain the players you develop. Making moves out of desperation wont likely help the team long-term. Signing Prince alone wont likely be enough to seriously compete in the AL West next year and with his price-tag, there wont likely have the dough for the other missing pieces.

  5. stevemotivateir on December 8th, 2011 11:15 pm

    Put very simply: if the M’s payroll was $120mm instead of $95mm, and they could just flat out sign Prince Fielder, they’d be a better team. I’m not saying that would be the best use of $25mm/year, but the M’s are clearly a better team with Prince than without him.

    This has been laid-out a million times now. Nobody is arguing the team wouldn’t be better with Prince. Nobody is arguing against a higher payroll. What people are saying, including myself, is that the team can be even better with that money spent on other players who don’t cost as much (because payroll isn’t 120, or so we assume). If payroll was much larger and you could afford to fill all the holes with top-tier talent, the tone of the discussions here would be very different.

  6. Nate on December 8th, 2011 11:18 pm

    I think it’s still a legitimate question to ask if the M’s can compete long term with a payroll this size. Baseball is no longer easily divided between rich teams and smart teams. The man on the street was already skeptical of the current front office’s ability to outsmart Texas while under-spending them. Now we’ve got to outsmart not just Texas’s smarts and money, but Anaheim’s money, too (and they’ve got some decent young pieces, too). That’s a pretty tall order; Oakland hasn’t been able to do it in some time. (Moneyball is going on 10 now.)

    Write us a narrative where the M’s reach long-term competitiveness with their current payroll and strategy. Because it’s hard to envision it right now.

  7. CCW on December 8th, 2011 11:22 pm

    For those who don’t even bother with Geoff Baker anymore, FYI, this post of Dave’s appears to be a sort of rebuttal to Geoff’s latest post. I would point out that Geoff’s post, which also tried to create an argument where none exists, was way worse. He somehow turned his desire that the M’s spend more money into an argument against “sabermetrics” or “statistics”. Come on…

    You know, it’s actually a pretty good point that the Mariners should raise payroll. Ownership made a stupid hire in Bavasi, watched him do stupid things for 5 years, and then hired a good GM and gave him way less money to work with. All while they continue to rake in money from the publicly funded stadium. It’s ownership’s fault we’re in this hole. We, the fans, should actually be pissed off about that. I know am. And if Geoff had just made that point, it would have been great. But he had to make it some sort of a rebuttal, some sort of an anti-USSM or anti-stats thing. It was totally unnecessary and made him look stupid. I’m sure Dave would love nothing more than for the M’s to increase payroll. Analysis is more fun when there’s actually money to play with.

    Anyway… just thought it fair to speak to both sides. Arguing is fun, I admit. But creating an argument out of a situation where everyone should agree ruins a good chance unite.

  8. Valenica on December 8th, 2011 11:30 pm

    While I agree that it’s the general paradigm to build first, add later, I disagree the timing is as strict as you think it is.

    Example: LAA’s team consists mostly of 27-29 year olds, which is why adding 31 year old FAs make sense. Our team consists of mostly 22-24 year olds, meaning we’re at least 3 years away from adding any high quality FAs, if we follow the paradigm.

    Does this really make sense to follow it so strictly?

    It’s wrong to think there’s only one way to build a team. Otherwise Jack Z wouldn’t be up all night discussing how much to offer Fielder, he would just bow out.

    Here’s a logic game: how is it that Pujols on the Angels helps them, but Fielder on the M’s hurts us? It doesn’t make sense.

    What people are saying, including myself, is that the team can be even better with that money spent on other players who don’t cost as much

    Are you also going to argue the Angels would have been better off spending Pujols and Wilson’s money on “other players who don’t cost as much?”

  9. Edgar4Hall on December 8th, 2011 11:34 pm

    First off, Fantastic piee Dave. The extension numbers are astounding, just eye opening. It points to the lack of savvy we have portrayed when it comes to the developement of Players.

    CCW, I think you hit it on the point that Dave DOES want the payroll to rise, and those that don’t believe that need to read his article again. Dave is simply arguing(and extremely well) that we need to develope a certain core and that we cant buy a core of players. Even with all of their spending, teams like the Phillies, Angels and Red Sox all built from within first then payed big amounts to put pieces, sometimes very BIG pieces, to finish the puzzle. Do you think the Phillies would have got Lee and Halladay if they didn’t already have Hamel, Howard, Utley and Rollins? No way. They built first, developed talent and then when it was time to strike for a few major pieces, they did.

    We can and we SHOULD be a major market team with a big payroll to match. But to get there, we need to buld within and strengthen from without, not vice versa.

  10. diderot on December 8th, 2011 11:44 pm

    Having a $150 million payroll simply shouldn’t be anyone’s goal. The goal is to accumulate so much talent that you need to raise your payroll to that kind of level in order to keep it all. Not every piece of the roster has to be homegrown, and there’s certainly a spot for acquiring veterans from other organizations through free agency or trade, but history shows that teams who increase their payrolls by trying to buy wins in those markets generally don’t succeed. The winners are the franchises who develop talent through the farm and then invest in long term contracts in order to keep those players around.

    Dave may have been sleep-deprived when he wrote this, but it’s one profound and beautiful paragraph.

    I don’t pretend to speak for Dave or anyone else, but I think the point of this piece is that it’s not about spending more money, it’s about acquiring more talent. If spending money does that, great. But to think that spending alone will get your there ignores the reality that is the Chicago Cubs.

  11. Edgar4Hall on December 8th, 2011 11:48 pm

    Also, curse you CCW. Because of you, I went and read the Baker post. I don’t know wether to be so angry I cant see or to laugh. Also the posts by his lackies are pretty great. I hope its ok to post one casue this one was on the first page of comments and its too funny not to show:

    Geoff Baker just hit a grand salami!
    Maybe we should consider signing him as our power hitter.

    hahahahhahahahahhahahahahahhahahahha

  12. CCW on December 8th, 2011 11:50 pm

    What Nate said. Why do we assume that payroll is static? Why do we spend so many words based on that assumption. Why is the argument that we need to develop a core of players (we all AGREE with that) even related to the other argument that the M’s should raise payroll. Is your argument that we should build the core and THEN raise payroll? Why? So we can have a shitty team in the meantime?

  13. stevemotivateir on December 8th, 2011 11:52 pm

    Are you also going to argue the Angels would have been better off spending Pujols and Wilson’s money on “other players who don’t cost as much?”

    No. That should be obvious. The Angels have a very different team than the Mariners. They didn’t have as many holes and they had the money we don’t. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t have filled their holes cheaper, but I can understand their moves. But I’m not concerned with what moves are in their best interest, I’m concerned with the Mariners. You should read what I wrote more closely. I never said the Prince would hurt the Mariners. I don’t think anyone is saying that.

  14. KaminaAyato on December 9th, 2011 12:00 am

    The problem CCW, is that people like Baker, Brock, Salk, etc. have a bigger voice to the public than Dave does.

    And so the stupidity continues to flow to the masses while we try to wave our hands in the back of the room saying why the statements are wrong.

    No offense, but when I wondered if it was time to wage a sabermetric war against the MSM at Lookout Landing I think it’s already started, and we’d better get our pencils, spreadsheets and whatever implements we have ready to bludgeon them with statistics and terminology. Financial calculator anyone?

    Oh and Valenica, the plan doesn’t have to be followed strictly. I mean if we got Fielder for 6/105 for instance (never going to happen, but go with it), it would be considered a steal and it would leave the M’s with some free room to make other moves.

    I think one of the bigger beefs we have against the Fielder talk is the reasoning behind it. There’s talk of butts in seats/being exciting, or building the majority of the organization around Fielder, and now with Pujols being signed by the Angels – the need to keep up with the Jones’. It’s stated without thought of the actual facts behind those reasons.

    The other one – the timing of it, comes from looking at the org as a whole and seeing that (yes, I’m beating a dead horse) Z has short-term tried to field the best team from trades/FA without signing too many long-term deals to allow him long-term to restock the minors and have those players fill the gaps.

    In my opinion, we were not ready to compete for the division heading into the off-season. There were just too many holes to fill in.

    But that’s my opinion. If for some reason Z sees that he has pieces right now that will fill in to positions that we don’t see as fans, maybe it’s time to get Fielder. It’s hard to believe though that in just 3 years he’d have acquired all the talent he’d need to compete – especially given that he had little of value when he came in to get talent (I mean, for one he created trade value by trading for Cliff Lee, and two compare them to the Rangers who was able to use Teixeira and Volquez to get their talent while we used JJ Putz and a rental Cliff Lee… slight difference there).

    Does it suck that we have to face years of mediocrity? Sure. But if you want something that is sustainable (like I think we all know we want), we are going to have to endure quite a bit of pain first. It’s the price we pay for having an org devoid of talent (which is why I compare the rebuilds of the Mariners and the Seahawks as being similar – though such a rebuild in MLB will more than likely take longer than one in the NFL).

    And if it means those that complain with the reasons you hear on talk radio go away – I might be tempted to say all the better. Because who will be left will be those that understand the process.

  15. Valenica on December 9th, 2011 12:02 am

    No. That should be obvious. The Angels have a very different team than the Mariners. They didn’t have as many holes and they had the money we don’t. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t have filled their holes cheaper, but I can understand their moves. But I’m not concerned with what moves are in their best interest, I’m concerned with the Mariners.

    Our holes aren’t very different – rookie 1B, old OFers who are bad, bad SP4-5s. “They had money we don’t” … are you implying our team is so poor we can never afford top tier FAs?

    Who cares about how cheap something is, care about how good the product is. How can anyone argue the Angels made a great move filling their rookie 1B hole with a star, and their bad SP5 with an SP1-2, yet at the same time argue filling our rookie 1B hole with a star, and filling our bad SP5 with an SP1-2 isn’t a good move?

  16. KaminaAyato on December 9th, 2011 12:11 am

    And by the way the plan appears to be to get competitive is to stockpile the minors with tons of young talent, find out which ones pan out and when we have a solid core with just say 3-5 pieces away from completion, trade or buy that key FA and fill in the remainder as needed.

    Having cheap talent is necessary if you aren’t the Pinstripes or the Pink Hats or I guess now the Halos. And we need to figure out which of our pieces will fit that final puzzle before we do a major signing.

    The reason why increasing payroll while stocking talent doesn’t make sense – at least to me anyways, is that unless you’re signing players to 1-2 year deals, you are locking money away. And say magically those prospects develop faster than expected, where is the money going to come from to get that player if we’ve spent the money on other players? We’d have to expand payroll yes, but by how much? And what if we have multiple players out there that we want to get? How much more do we have to go up (see Angels)?

    We want a good product, we just also want to have something that can be sustainable instead of a 1-2 shot deal.

  17. Valenica on December 9th, 2011 12:19 am

    I think one of the bigger beefs we have against the Fielder talk is the reasoning behind it. There’s talk of butts in seats/being exciting, or building the majority of the organization around Fielder, and now with Pujols being signed by the Angels – the need to keep up with the Jones’. It’s stated without thought of the actual facts behind those reasons.

    Ignore the stupid talks about butts in seats, bringing excitement, the need to keep up. The question about Fielder is simple: can we build a contender with him? Are you seriously going to say no, you can’t build a contender around a 27 year old, top 5 wRC+ bat, while saying you can building around a 25 year old Felix, Carp, 26 year old Wells, 28 year old Gutierrez, 24 year old Smoak, 23 year old Ackley, 22 year old Pineda, Paxton, Hultzen?

    Does it suck that we have to face years of mediocrity? Sure. But if you want something that is sustainable (like I think we all know we want), we are going to have to endure quite a bit of pain first.

    I disagree. Fielder does not hurt us becoming sustainable. Sustainable means building the farm, developing prospects. Fielder doesn’t cost prospects. Fielder doesn’t compromise the farm. He just costs money. Did Figgins hurt our “sustianability?” No, he’s just wasting $9M a year for 2 more years, sunk cost. If you’re afraid Fielder pulls another Figgins, how can you ever buy another FA again? Sunk cost is a risk with every FA. But high rewards require risks…and if you’re not willing to take the risks, the team will never contend.

  18. CCW on December 9th, 2011 12:23 am

    The Angels’ payroll last year – without Pujols or Wilson – was $138,000,000. Do ya think maybe that contributed to the fact that they had fewer holes to fill?

    And, even ignoring that, if the M’s signed Pujols and CJ Wilson, and picked up Iannetta (as the Angels did) they would immediately be a contender. Maybe not the favorite, but a contender. If the M’s were to actually increase their payroll to equal Anaheim’s 2012 payroll, they’d be the favorite in the AL West. They could have signed Pujols, Reyes, CJ Wilson for that price… and more.

    Money matters. A lot. One of the last dumb organizations got smart when Theo Epstein went to Chicago. You can’t outsmart folks anymore. Ironically, I don’t think the Angels are the brightest organization… but they know how spend $$$.

  19. KaminaAyato on December 9th, 2011 12:31 am

    Are you seriously going to say no, you can’t build a contender around a 27 year old, top 5 wRC+ bat, while saying you can building around a 25 year old Felix, Carp, 26 year old Wells, 28 year old Gutierrez, 24 year old Smoak, 23 year old Ackley, 22 year old Pineda, Paxton, Hultzen?

    The problem is that while we know about Felix, and probably Ackley and Pineda, we don’t know enough about the rest. We just don’t have enough to figure it out just yet. The thing is, we don’t use one player as the foundation, we use our young talent as say the foundation of say the St. Louis Arch, the key player being the piece they place in the middle, and the final acquisitions say the elevator that gets you to the top of the structure. (Ok, that’s not a great analogy, but you get the point – I hope).

    I disagree. Fielder does not hurt us becoming sustainable. Sustainable means building the farm, developing prospects. Fielder doesn’t cost prospects. Fielder doesn’t compromise the farm. He just costs money. Did Figgins hurt our “sustianability?” No, he’s just wasting $9M a year for 2 more years, sunk cost. If you’re afraid Fielder pulls another Figgins, how can you ever buy another FA again? Sunk cost is a risk with every FA. But high rewards require risks…and if you’re not willing to take the risks, the team will never contend.

    Of course there is risk involved, it’s just that the risk-reward shifts heavily more towards the risk side the more money/more years you give in the contract. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t offer a contract that is the slightest bit more risky than reward, but we don’t also want to give a contract that is say 80% risk and 20% reward.

  20. CCW on December 9th, 2011 12:32 am

    Ah man… I just went over to Lookout Landing and what happened? Jeff said it all for me, and more eloquently too, of course. Go over to LL for a moment. Jeff writes about payroll.

  21. Valenica on December 9th, 2011 12:36 am

    And by the way the plan appears to be to get competitive is to stockpile the minors with tons of young talent, find out which ones pan out and when we have a solid core with just say 3-5 pieces away from completion, trade or buy that key FA and fill in the remainder as needed.

    Fielder doesn’t hurt the plan to stockpile the minors. He has nothing to do with this plan. He makes it harder to buy that “key FA that fills a need” but it’s a non-realistic argument. TEX signed Beltre despite having Michael Young at 3B. PHI signed Lee despite having Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt. BOS traded for A-Gon despite having Youkilis at 1B. When the time comes, key FA that fits that perfect need may not materialize. In the end, the only thing that matters is adding talent, regardless of needs. And in the AL, if you have 2 of one thing, just DH it.

    The reason why increasing payroll while stocking talent doesn’t make sense – at least to me anyways, is that unless you’re signing players to 1-2 year deals, you are locking money away.

    What’s the solution then? Don’t sign any FAs while stock piling talent? But wait, isn’t the goal to be stockpiling talent always?

    Yes you are locking money away. That’s what signing Free Agents mean. Which teams besides TB makes the playoffs without one key FA signing? If you don’t take risk, you won’t get reward – this is the key maxim in life.

    And say magically those prospects develop faster than expected, where is the money going to come from to get that player if we’ve spent the money on other players? We’d have to expand payroll yes, but by how much? And what if we have multiple players out there that we want to get? How much more do we have to go up (see Angels)?

    What money? Prospects make pennies. 6th year arb can get expensive but just trade one if you’re that crunched for cash. Anyways no one’s saying spend all your payroll and ignore expected arbitration raises, but if all our prospects become stars and arbitration becomes ridiculously expensive, that’s a good thing, and we should raise payroll for it. If they’re that good we should see another 116-win season.

  22. Klatz on December 9th, 2011 12:40 am

    I guess to me the questions that come to mind first don’t really revolve around signing Fielder. Instead I am wondering about the causes behind the relative lack of talent on the present and past rosters. It’s obvious to see the talents that were foolishly traded away: Adam Jones, Adsrubal Cabrera, Shin-soo Choo, for little return. Or the talent that was plan dropped like Ortiz.

    There seems to be two less obvious problems with the management of the Ms. A failure to have free agent talent flourish here, i.e. Cirillo and Figgins stand out. To a lesser extent Sexson, Silva, and Beltre (although he wasn’t bad, he wasn’t great either). A lot of that was bad scouting and decisions. But what about the park it seems to mess up hitters greatly.

    The second and bigger issue seems to be the failure of homegrown talent to realize their potential. Saunders, Clement, Anderson, Triunfel, Tillman, Aumont, Moore, and Tuiasosopo come to mind. Ouch that’s a long list. Bad scouting? How much is bad development?

    So what the heck is wrong with the professional scouts and player development? Was the legacy of Bavasi AND Gillick worse than thought? Is Jack Z. turning things around?

  23. Valenica on December 9th, 2011 12:57 am

    The problem is that while we know about Felix, and probably Ackley and Pineda, we don’t know enough about the rest. We just don’t have enough to figure it out just yet. The thing is, we don’t use one player as the foundation, we use our young talent as say the foundation of say the St. Louis Arch, the key player being the piece they place in the middle, and the final acquisitions say the elevator that gets you to the top of the structure. (Ok, that’s not a great analogy, but you get the point – I hope).

    You assume cores are bigger then they are. TB’s was only 2 pitchers, 4 hitters. BOS is 5 hitters, 2 pitchers (3 FA). PHI was 3 hitters, 3 pitchers (2 FA). Ours so far is 1 hitter, 2 pitchers. We’re 3-4 pieces away – but if we spend the $20M this year and $20M next year (Ichiro’s) on two core pieces, out of Hultzen, Paxton, Smoak, Carp, Wells, Gutierrez, Seager, we just need 1-2 to work out.

    What’s the point in waiting? To figure out which “key” player to acquire? I’m saying that doesn’t matter – you can’t be inflexible to what type of player you acquire. BOS doesn’t pick up A-Gon, and TEX doesn’t pick up Beltre if they’re inflexible that this “key” doesn’t fit a need. If the piece on the market is a top 5 bat, 27 years old, you pull out all the stops (accepting the highest amount of risk) to acquire it. Who cares if he’s a 1B? We play in the AL, we’ll figure it out later.

    Just because it doesn’t fit your structured, rigid, “idea” of roster construction as the elevator piece doesn’t mean it’s not a good move.

  24. KaminaAyato on December 9th, 2011 1:20 am

    The Angels’ payroll last year – without Pujols or Wilson – was $138,000,000. Do ya think maybe that contributed to the fact that they had fewer holes to fill?

    SP Dan Haren – 2010 trade from D-backs – 4/$44.75 (2009-12)
    SP Jered Weaver – 2004, 1st round – 1/7.365 (Arb)
    SP Ervin Santana – 2000, Intl Amateur FA – 4/30 (2009-12)
    SP Joel Piniero – 2010, FA – 2/16 (2010-11)
    SP Tyler Chatwood – 2008, 2nd round – 1/0.414 (Min)
    CL Jordan Walden – 2006, 12th round – 1/0.414 (Min)

    C Jeff Mathis – 2001, 1st round – 1/$1.75mil (Arb)
    1B Mark Trumbo – 2004, 18th round – 1/0.414 (Min)
    2B Howie Kendrick – 2002, 10th round – 1/3.3 (Arb)
    3B Alberto Callaspo – 2010, trade from Royals – 1/2 (Arb)
    SS Erick Aybar – 2002, Int’l Amateur FA – 1/3 (Arb)
    LF Vernon Wells – 2011, traded from Blue Jays – 7/126 (2008-14) with $8.6mil offset this year and $3.6 in each of next 3.
    CF Peter Bourjos – 2005, 10th round – 1/0.414 (Min)
    RF Torii Hunter – 2008, FA – 5/90 (2008-12)
    DH Bobby Abreu – 2009, FA – 2/19 (2010-11)

    Throw in Gary Matthews Jr. at $11.4 for 2011 if you like.

    So what does the story of the Angels appear to be? Well, it appears that they tried to keep their run with the signings of Hunter and Abreu, that didn’t work out, so they let their homegrown talent come up. They were really close to the majors already, so they were called up. In 2010, they saw that their talent was indeed close to major-league ready, so they got Haren and Wells via trade.

    Finally they sign the key pieces in Pujols and Wilson, with Iannetta filling in a complementary piece.

    Where was their money being spent?

    - Abreu – ~12.7%
    - Hunter – ~13.1%
    - Haren – ~9%
    - Kazmir – ~8.7%
    - Abreu – ~6.35%

    That’s half your payroll right there.

  25. gregod on December 9th, 2011 2:05 am

    Gentlefans, we are rebuilding. Revel in that fact. Few years ago we would kill for a strong farm team and front office with the comittment to long term growth. The rest is gonna come. You can feel it.

  26. The_Waco_Kid on December 9th, 2011 2:07 am

    I hate to be bleak, but given the amount of holes our team has, and how formidable Texas and Anaheim look, chances are we won’t contend until 2013 or later. Or, at least, Prince Fielder is not enough to make us contend. We are not one player away. Some teams are ready to contend now. Fielder makes more sense for them. If we sign Fielder to a 6 year deal, it could be 2 years where we aren’t contending yet and 2 years at the end where he pulls a Richie Sexson, so only 2 years where he’s worth it.

    Let’s figure our team out, and when we’re one bat away, let’s spend whatever to get him. I think part of the problem with the Bavasi years was he had an old roster dumped on him and he refused to rebuild. He kept trying to add one or two more pieces, bailing water out of a sinking ship rather than building a new one. Later we got Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins and still needed another bat, but the FO stopped short. Contention was plausible only because we were in a weak division. Now there are 2 powerhouses and a fifth team on the way.

    Let’s let other teams make stupid signings (who really thinks Pujols will be good in 10 years, or even in 6?) and then when they are hamstrung by contracts that went too long and teams that got too old, we will have a young, cheap, formidable team.

    Yeah, it sucks to wait, and it sucks to say “we’ll be good later, just wait.” But I’d rather be patient and contend in 2, 3, even 4 years than be impatient and take huge risks and not contend at all. Fielder would be nice, but he’s not a silver bullet and he’s not priceless.

  27. gregod on December 9th, 2011 2:19 am

    In Z I trust.

  28. Greeff on December 9th, 2011 3:57 am

    Thanks for this Dave.

    I’m biased but i still think that if every player does some progression to the mean we have a good team which should be able suprise a lot of people.
    Just keep “the plan” in place, keep building toward 2013/2014.

  29. Brantid on December 9th, 2011 4:07 am

    Awesome article. Honestly, maybe my favorite that I’ve seen you write.

  30. terry on December 9th, 2011 4:35 am

    The problem with the Ms is that theyve never had a GM who understood how vital chemistry is, how essential a power bat in the middle is, how crucial scoring big in the free agent market is, and how important it is to not overvalue homegrown players….

  31. Dave on December 9th, 2011 5:13 am

    This isn’t in response to anything Baker wrote. I haven’t read whatever Baker wrote about this, and I have no plans to. This is in response to people who simply believe that baseball has been boiled down to who spends more. People who believe in comments like this:

    You can’t outsmart folks anymore. Ironically, I don’t think the Angels are the brightest organization… but they know how spend $$$.

    Congratulations, you’re completely wrong. And this mindset will cause you to run a baseball team in the worst possible way. People who actually believe this should just go become Yankees fans and leave the rest of us alone.

  32. Mariners35 on December 9th, 2011 5:26 am

    The winners are the franchises who develop talent through the farm and then invest in long term contracts in order to keep those players around.

    Would an accurate way to back this up to be, count the # of playoff teams from 2011, and then on each of those teams, count the # of homegrown players with long-term (3+ year) contracts?

    This would take a little bit to do, using Fangraphs / Cots, so I didn’t want to waste time digging that out if people would just handwave away. E.g. “pfft, that’s not what we mean by ‘winner’”.

  33. groundzero55 on December 9th, 2011 6:26 am

    The problem with the Ms is that theyve never had a GM who understood how vital chemistry is, how essential a power bat in the middle is, how crucial scoring big in the free agent market is, and how important it is to not overvalue homegrown players….

    We scored big in the free agent market with Beltre, and while he wasn’t terrible, he wasn’t the big bat we hoped we were getting. We also scored fairly big in the market when we got Figgins.
    Chemistry is overrated. Chemistry doesn’t get you wins…usually, winning gets you chemistry. And our GM doesn’t overvalue anything as shown by him basically sending the entire existing farm team packing when he came into office. He hasn’t hoarded anything.

  34. The Ancient Mariner on December 9th, 2011 7:08 am

    Two thoughts. One, Valenica, why does it go in this order? Because good young players build winning teams, which build fan support, which raises revenues, which support a bigger payroll. You want the M’s to spend more money? Boost ticket sales and TV/radio ratings. That’s where a bigger payroll comes from. Yes, the team owners could afford to spend like the Yankees, but they aren’t going to agree to lose $100 million/year just so we can have a winning team, and it isn’t a reasonable expectation.

    Two, Dave, I think what a lot of us are worried about is that Z will be unable to build the M’s into contenders in the next couple years due to payroll restrictions, the ownership group will get impatient, and they’ll fire him for failing to win when the failure is not his fault, but due to financial handicaps beyond his control.

  35. Mariners35 on December 9th, 2011 7:32 am

    On a quick count through Cots baseball contracts, the playoff teams from 2011 seemed to average about 5 players or so that were homegrown (drafted by them, developed with that team, never played for any other team) that were then extended 3 years or more.

    Said playoff teams tended to have another 6 – 8 homegrown folks that had been there a few years, but on a succession of 1 year contracts. And for most of them, about half of their > 2.5 WAR players came in trade or free agency.

    So while I very much agree on this part…

    The goal is to accumulate so much talent that you need to raise your payroll to that kind of level in order to keep it all. Not every piece of the roster has to be homegrown, and there’s certainly a spot for acquiring veterans from other organizations through free agency or trade,

    …I quibble on this one…

    but history shows that teams who increase their payrolls by trying to buy wins in those markets generally don’t succeed. The winners are the franchises who develop talent through the farm and then invest in long term contracts in order to keep those players around.

    …because at least this past season shows that the “spots” filled through trade, FA and getting lucky with players who are pre-arb and/or currently going year-to-year, comprise a higher % of the roster than what that last quoted sentence suggests.

    To be clear, I’m also agreeing that Pujols or Fielder by themselves don’t make a playoff team, that getting Fielder isn’t the required response to the Angels getting Pujols, and the Angels getting Pujols, while a bit disheartening, isn’t cause to give up on the M’s for the next few years.

  36. rsrobinson on December 9th, 2011 7:42 am

    The Mariners have $39 million committed for 2013, $22 million for 2014, and nothing for 2015 and beyond (this is per Jason Churchill). They are actually in a pretty good position to sign Prince Fielder and still have room in the future to pay their young players as they mature. It will mean expanding the payroll now rather than later, but in the brave new world of the AL West they are going to have to expand it to compete.

    It doesn’t matter if the M’s are ready to compete in 2012 or not because they won’t be signing Fielder to a one year deal and he’d be an important piece once they were ready. And Jack Z wouldn’t just sign Fielder, call it a day, and start getting measured for a World Series ring. He’ll still be scouting, drafting, signing international players, making trades, and doing all the things to improve the level of talent in the organization that he’s doing now. He can afford to do both as long he’s given some payroll flexibility, and I believe he will be.

    The M’s ownership and front office aren’t stupid. They know they have to start winning soon or watch the fanbase continue to shrink, and they know that means committing more to payroll than they are now.

    I’m not going to hold out hope for what might happen to the Angels five or six years from now, nor am I going to worry about six years from now if they sign Fielder to a long term deal. That’s an eternity in baseball and many things can and will happen between now and then. At the very least, inflation and increased revenues will most likely make the Pujols or Fielder contracts, once they do start to decline, less burdensome than they would be today.

    I’m not saying that Fielder should be signed at any cost and don’t know if he’s even interested in signing with Seattle, but if the M’s are going to be competitive they are going to need to develop young, cheap talent, pay them enough to keep them around as they mature, AND make the occasional big ticket FA signing. If they do this intelligently and build a winning organization the fans will come back to Safeco and the increased revenue stream will help cover the inevitable payroll increases.

  37. CCW on December 9th, 2011 8:02 am

    I said: You can’t outsmart folks anymore. Ironically, I don’t think the Angels are the brightest organization… but they know how spend $$$.

    Dave said: Congratulations, you’re completely wrong. And this mindset will cause you to run a baseball team in the worst possible way. People who actually believe this should just go become Yankees fans and leave the rest of us alone.

    Jeff at LL said: Here’s what I think is the biggest lesson to take from the day’s activity: the Angels are a huge spender, and as more and more time passes, one expects the correlation between payroll and success to get stronger and stronger. As other things balance out or get eliminated, it will end up being more about money than it was before. It will never be all about money. People aren’t perfect prediction machines, and they’ll never develop perfect prediction machines. But this is the way that we’re headed, in theory, and presumably in reality.

    As usual, I got under Dave’s skin by pointing out he’s overstating his case, and he came back with his typical “you’re wrong and you’re stupid” type response, and Jeff… Jeff nailed it.

    It *is* going to be more and more about the money as time goes on. And if you’re honest with yourself, you really should it admit that it already is, to a large degree. No one is suggesting that the M’s spend money just for the sake of spending money, or that they overspend for Prince Fielder. We are just pointing out that payroll matters… a lot. Why would you even argue with that?

  38. MrZDevotee on December 9th, 2011 8:05 am

    Moot point being made by lots of people here.

    It’s quickly becoming apparent that Fielder is going to become a Cardinal, most likely, no matter how much money we throw at him.

    They have the money, the need, and a contending team.

    Based on some recent, very well made arguments, we don’t have any of those 3 things.

  39. Mariners35 on December 9th, 2011 8:19 am

    Here’s one approach. It isn’t the only way. It isn’t intended as tit-for-tat with the Angels. I’m not rabid about getting Fielder. It just reflects the M’s current needs without gutting the farm or blocking vital positions.

    Get Fielder for 6/175, Beltran for LF for 2/25, trade League and Carp to the Braves for Prado for 3b, and have faith that a 4th OF and 4th/5th starter will emerge in spring training from the respective OF and SP piles.

    In light of all the monopoly money flying about, putting 42 mil extra on this year’s roster (esp. when Ichiro’s contract is gone after this year) isn’t a deal-breaker. 130mm payroll is competitive with the Rangers and Angels. And the Ms are hardly prevented from locking up Smoak, Ackley, Felix, or name-your-fave-SP-that-works-out 2 or 3 years down the line.

  40. MrZDevotee on December 9th, 2011 8:25 am

    Another angle on WHY Fielder won’t be a Mariner, and much of these discussions are wasted breath…

    (ie- the “don’t underestimate agent egos” angle):

    You’re Scott Boras… The world’s most amazing sports agent… And you now have to tell prospective new clients “I’m SO GOOD I got one of the best power hitters in the game of baseball stuck in the Pacific Northwest, in the rain, in a non-hitters park, on a rebuilding team, playing amongst a bunch of AAAA wannabes. Wanna sign with me?

    (sound of door closing, behind players leaving)

  41. StorminGorman on December 9th, 2011 8:28 am

    Because the team drafted poorly and traded away most of the young talent they did manage to develop, the franchise simply hasn’t had many players worth locking up to long term deals that escalate the payroll organically.

    That’s the money quote, literally. What kind of payroll thread would we have if we faced extending Jones, Choo, Cabrera, and Morse? And, for that matter, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ricky Romero, or anyone else from Round 1 of the ’05 draft not named Jeff Clement?

    We’re not just rebuilding. We’re recovering.

  42. riversurge24 on December 9th, 2011 8:32 am

    For all the angst against Geoff Baker and Mike Salk.. I believe Larry Stone who most people on here admire is also advocating the Mariners sign Prince Fielder as well.

    I still fail to see all the negativity toward Baker and vice versa toward Dave.. We all want the Mariners to win and just wish we could all get along :)

  43. djw on December 9th, 2011 8:37 am

    This post seems to be making an important methodological point about correlation/causation, noting that a particularly widespread assumption of a unidirectional causal relationship between two variables is incorrect as there is, in fact, a multi-directional causal relationship between the two. I don’t think this (obviously correct) methodological point can or should be taken as an argument about signing or not signing Fielder, or an argument about whether it would help to add a bunch of money to the M’s payroll now, or whatever.

    I continue to be a very big fan of the FO applying a moderate and fairly constant discount rate during the off-season, and leave more substantial adjustments to the discount rate to moves made in the Summer, when you have more useful information about the current season. The recent moves of the Angels only re-enforce this view. Picking a year in which to attempt to compete assumes a degree of knowledge about opportunities in the future. The next year the Mariners will have a chance to compete is the next year a bunch of things break right for them and a few things break wrong for the Rangers, Angels, or both. I have no idea whether that will occur in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2025, or never, and neither do you, and neither does the front office. If they’re not in a position to take advantage of that moment because their strategy was to wait to try to compete until next year, they’ll lose that opportunity. The sensible front office will look for opportunities to acquire players who’ll improve the team, now and in the future, with the future discounted moderately. (The addition of a second wild card, I suspect, only makes this approach all the more sensible.)

  44. MrZDevotee on December 9th, 2011 8:44 am

    Stormin-

    What kind of payroll thread would we have if we faced extending Jones, Choo, Cabrera, and Morse? And, for that matter, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ricky Romero, or anyone else from Round 1 of the ’05 draft not named Jeff Clement?

    GREAT point… Our payroll would probably be in the $120 million range if we had retained most of those players… Which also includes the assumption we’d be closer to a winning team, and have other free agent veterans on the roster as well. Hell, we might even STILL have Cliff Lee if we had retained that core of young talent– which is what we’re attempting to re-do now.

    Excellent way of illustrating Dave’s point.

    Although, the only ironic twist is if we had done those things, we probably wouldn’t have Z as our GM right now– because things would have turned out differently, hopefully.

  45. wes45 on December 9th, 2011 8:59 am

    We are just pointing out that payroll matters… a lot. Why would you even argue with that?

    I don’t think that you’re getting the point. I didn’t read Dave arguing that payroll doesn’t matter. That title of the article is “Horse First, Then Cart” and talks about causation vs. correlation. Causation suggests that spending more will directly result in additional wins. The list of instances which disprove this theory are too numerous to waste my time listing. Correlation suggests that spending is a by-product of having accumulated players worth spending on. The Angels and Rangers both won a lot of games last year. Did they do so by buying all of their players with wins being directly derived from the free agents they signed? Clearly not. They accumulated talent via IFA signings, drafting and trades. Then they spent money to keep those players. That is correlation. To spell out the metaphor for you, talent is the horse and money is the cart. Don’t spend for the sake of spending. Spend if it achieves the end goal of increasing your sustainable talent base. Somebody like Prince Fielder may, in fact, do this. However, we shouldn’t sign him or anybody else strictly to ensure our payroll is keeping up with the other teams in the division.

  46. KaminaAyato on December 9th, 2011 9:02 am

    Would an accurate way to back this up to be, count the # of playoff teams from 2011, and then on each of those teams, count the # of homegrown players with long-term (3+ year) contracts?

    I didn’t check the contracts, but I did show where each of the playoff teams got their players here at LL.

  47. The Ancient Mariner on December 9th, 2011 9:04 am

    CCW, if you think Jeff’s agreeing with you, you’ve misread him. Badly. The gap between “it’s going to get harder to compete without spending a lot of money” and “you can’t outsmart folks anymore” is not great in degree, but immense in importance; as Twain might have said, it’s the difference between “lightning” and “lightning bug.” As such, while you haven’t overshot the truth by all that much, you’ve done so by enough to make you, yes, completely wrong.

  48. Mariners35 on December 9th, 2011 9:27 am

    Kamina, thanks much for the LL link. Great summary. It helped me doublecheck the quick eyeballing I did through Cots contracts earlier. I think my napkin math still holds up – half the really key players (> 2.5 WAR) on a playoff team are not players who were brought up from the farm, developed in-house and then locked up to 3+ year contracts.

    In fact, only about 20% of a given 25-man roster of a 2011 playoff team is that kind of player at all. Everyone else comes over through trade or FA, or they are guys up from the farm but on 1 year contracts year over year.

    Payroll money of winning teams don’t always get saved up to spend on the prizes of your homegrown guys. It’s also spent – often, mostly spent – on free agents, or on trade targets that subsequently work out well.

    There’s no magic bullet. Picking up Pujols doesn’t automatically get the Angels a ring. A team that takes years to develop guys in-house and then spend payroll on extending / locking up those guys, doesn’t automatically get a ring.

    It takes a variety of approaches, to get to the 40 – 45 WAR team that’d have a great shot at the playoffs.

  49. PackBob on December 9th, 2011 9:29 am

    So a question here is whether the Mariners have the talent in their system that would eventually force payroll increase and when that would happen. Pitching seems like a good bet to fit this mold with some good prospects. Hitting, other than Ackley, seems questionable. Smoak could develop but maybe not. Dave has pointed out the problems with the approach Carp showed last year.

    Then money will be coming off the books with Figgens gone and Ichiro either gone or signed at a lower rate, while the cheap players are not yet ready for extensions, if warranted. Without adding any free agents, the payroll should actually get smaller before rising to accomodate extensions.

    Wedge has stated that 2011 was the year to show patience and evaluate but 2012 would be the year to perform. Or maybe you could say that 2012 will be the year to determine if the talent is enough to plan for extensions and to see where the holes really exist.

    On the whole, I don’t see this as prohibiting FA signings and I don’t see the signing of Fielder, even at an inflated salary, as overly damaging to the process. A bunch of Fielders, yes.

    The team needs some offensive punch just to be interesting, even if still losing in the short term. Maybe the kids will break out and provide it, but a proven bat would at least raise some expectations of a more entertaining season than what we’ve had.

  50. amnizu on December 9th, 2011 9:38 am

    That’s the money quote, literally. What kind of payroll thread would we have if we faced extending Jones, Choo, Cabrera, and Morse? And, for that matter, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ricky Romero, or anyone else from Round 1 of the ’05 draft not named Jeff Clement?

    We’re not just rebuilding. We’re recovering.

    Couple that with very poor spending on free agents and an inability to get value back for the mid tier young talent the Mariners controlled and you have the mess we are in now.

    Lets be fair though, the organization as a whole is failing. Its not just the FO ability to identify and sign free agents.

    We have been unable to string together the type of young talent that would allow us to rebuild. If you look at the rebuilding success stories in baseball right now: Rays, Brewers and to some extent Phillies they have all had multiple back to back good drafts leading to a whole crop of young talent making the major leagues within a short period of time. This is not happening for the Mariners. Couple that with a hands tied budget and ownership that is interested in profit instead of wins you end up with 10 seasons of mediocrity. I honestly think things are going to get worse. For the ownership to take the steps need to turn this team around they are going to need to start taking a big hit to the bottom line. Simply put, losing a significant amount money for a period of time may enact change because losing games is not.

    Felix and Ackley are a start provided Ackley does not flash out, but to really tack on the additional 20 wins (at least) that this team will need to compete we’ll either need to add 100 million in payroll and take great risk. Or take a really hard look the minor league and scouting system and figure out why they produced 4 of the most talented players in baseball over a generation (Rodriguez, Griffey, Martinez, Johnson) and over the last 15 they have produced King Felix. That is a drastic fall off and speaks not just to a lack of investment at the major league level, but a lack of investment from top to bottom.

  51. stoyboy on December 9th, 2011 9:39 am

    Payroll wouldn’t go up much in 2012 with the trade of Felix,Guty and a pitching prospect to Miami for Ramirez,Morrison and A. Sanchez. Most holes would be filled for the Mariners but The FO needs to strike while the iron is hot in Miami.

  52. KaminaAyato on December 9th, 2011 10:05 am

    In fact, only about 20% of a given 25-man roster of a 2011 playoff team is that kind of player at all. Everyone else comes over through trade or FA, or they are guys up from the farm but on 1 year contracts year over year.

    Be careful. Any contract that you see as 1-yr/$414k is the league minimum and not year arbitration eligible and thus is the young talent I was speaking of.

    We have been unable to string together the type of young talent that would allow us to rebuild. If you look at the rebuilding success stories in baseball right now: Rays, Brewers and to some extent Phillies they have all had multiple back to back good drafts leading to a whole crop of young talent making the major leagues within a short period of time. This is not happening for the Mariners.

    Those teams also had a decent minor system already, which the Mariners didn’t have when Z took over. Like I said, when your starting 9 + rotation + closer except for Ichiro, Felix and Pineda are all Z’s acquisitions, it means that the minors were bare-bones poor. That also means that Z had to trade/use FA to churn the roster to make a major league team while at the same time rebuilding the minors almost from scratch.

    Those teams you listed? Their homegrown talent was drafted:

    Rays
    2000 (Shields), 2002 (Upton), 2003 (Jaso), 2004 (Niemann, Davis), 2005 (Hellickson), 2006 (Longoria), 2007 (Price)

    Phillies?
    1996 (Rollins), 1998 (Madson), 2000 (Utley), 2001 (Howard), 2002 (Hamels), 2003 (Kendrick)

    Brewers?
    2000 (Hart), 2002 (Fielder), 2004 (Gallardo), 2005 (Braun), 2007 (Lucroy)

  53. Mariners35 on December 9th, 2011 10:09 am

    Any contract that you see as 1-yr/$414k is the league minimum and not year arbitration eligible and thus is the young talent I was speaking of.

    Still not part of the “homegrown, developed into key contributor and then extended”, then.

  54. amnizu on December 9th, 2011 10:20 am

    Those teams also had a decent minor system already, which the Mariners didn’t have when Z took over. Like I said, when your starting 9 + rotation + closer except for Ichiro, Felix and Pineda are all Z’s acquisitions, it means that the minors were bare-bones poor. That also means that Z had to trade/use FA to churn the roster to make a major league team while at the same time rebuilding the minors almost from scratch.

    Those teams you listed? Their homegrown talent was drafted.

    That is the point, the Mariners have failed to build talent within their minor leagues either from draft or trade. On top of that they’ve failed to acquire talent via FA signings. From top to bottom they’ve done a poor job at evaluating, acquiring and developing talent for a really long time. Additionally the factors that have caused this have not changed, ownership and leadership at the highest level. Going back to Pat Gillick this team has done a horrible job of growing talent. If the problem still exists after 3 GMs you have to look beyond the GM as the cause of the problem. IMHO things are going to get worse before they get better.

  55. djw on December 9th, 2011 10:50 am

    Additionally the factors that have caused this have not changed, ownership and leadership at the highest level.

    It seems to me that this means you believe one of the following things is true:

    1. Jack Zduriencik is a poor talent evaluator.
    2. What are presented as Jack Zduriencik’s decisions about personnel are not his own; they are being dictated by his superiors.

    The first is arguable, I suppose, but I think there are better reasons to disagree with it than to agree. The second is an evidence-free conspiracy theory. Perhaps there’s some other belief that could underpin the quoted statement, but I can’t figure out what it would be.

  56. destinationtubes on December 9th, 2011 10:51 am

    Angel’s just agreed to a 20 year deal with Fox worth around 3 billion. And the hits just keep on coming.

  57. KaminaAyato on December 9th, 2011 10:52 am

    That is the point, the Mariners have failed to build talent within their minor leagues either from draft or trade. On top of that they’ve failed to acquire talent via FA signings. From top to bottom they’ve done a poor job at evaluating, acquiring and developing talent for a really long time. Additionally the factors that have caused this have not changed, ownership and leadership at the highest level. Going back to Pat Gillick this team has done a horrible job of growing talent. If the problem still exists after 3 GMs you have to look beyond the GM as the cause of the problem. IMHO things are going to get worse before they get better.

    I’m not sure, but to me it would seem that you think Z has failed as well, which I say we can’t make a decision from.

    In churning the major league roster to field the best available team, it’s an attempt to nurse the face of the org (the major league team) forward until those players he’s acquired in the minors can develop properly. Now, there are some that are thrown into the majors immediately like a Guti or Smoak, but they were theoretically further along in development and did not need anymore time in the minors.

    There just hasn’t been enough time to let the minor league players acquired through Z’s tenure to make a noticeable difference in the majors. Which is why things may be “mediocre” before they get better.

    Also remember that Z’s major trade chips have been a closer in JJ Putz, a synthetic chip in Cliff Lee, and a starter/reliever/starter/? in Brandon Morrow. If you want, you can throw in Fister as well. Not exactly the type of talent that can net you a lot of great prospects like a Teixeira or a Volquez did for the Rangers.

  58. CCW on December 9th, 2011 11:40 am

    CCW, if you think Jeff’s agreeing with you, you’ve misread him. Badly. The gap between “it’s going to get harder to compete without spending a lot of money” and “you can’t outsmart folks anymore” is not great in degree, but immense in importance; as Twain might have said, it’s the difference between “lightning” and “lightning bug.” As such, while you haven’t overshot the truth by all that much, you’ve done so by enough to make you, yes, completely wrong.

    I’m not saying Jeff’s agreeing with me, I’m saying I agree with Jeff. In fact, that’s exactly what I said. Twice already. This is actually the third time. I was guilty of hyperbole, and in what is completely typical fashion for Dave, he focused on that one line, and not the other fifty lines that provide the context for what I was saying. And he told me I should be a Yankee fan which, to me, is kind of like saying: “Go F yourself” (I have lived in Seattle my whole life, big Mariners fan, big Yankee hater).

    Anyway, the point remains. I think Jeff at LL nailed it with his post. The M’s are probably going to have to raise salary to be successful. If you trust the FO, then they will do it when the time is right. If you don’t trust the FO, then maybe they won’t, and the M’s will languish.

    Here’s a question: whey don’t the M’s lock up Ackley and Pineda to long term deals right now, as Tampa Bay did with Longoria and now Moore (and others in between)? Is it philosophy? Money? Are the players not good enough to warrant that?

  59. KaminaAyato on December 9th, 2011 11:52 am

    Here’s a question: whey don’t the M’s lock up Ackley and Pineda to long term deals right now, as Tampa Bay did with Longoria and now Moore (and others in between)? Is it philosophy? Money? Are the players not good enough to warrant that?

    Ackley is signed to a major league deal *cough* Boras*cough*, so chances are he’ll be resigned soon enough.

    Pineda’s arbitration years don’t begin until 2014, so there’s no hurry to sign him for now. Perhaps when he reaches arbitration we will, but that’s several years off.

  60. HighBrie on December 9th, 2011 12:37 pm

    I think CCW’s question about Ackley and Pineda is interesting. You don’t really hear a lot of beating of the drum about “why don’t the Rays just break the damn bank and buy Fielder?” They could obviously use a quality 1B, and are so much closer to winning a title if they did drop the change. But, Friedman and Co. operate in a small market and contend. They do this for the reasons Dave illustrates in this post. Admittedly, they sucked for a long time before the young talent started to coalesce. I would be curious to know how other clubs persevere through years of inadequacy. Cubs and Orioles, Pirates, Astros- is the only way out of a hole on the strength of your pursestrings, or is this a myth born of impatience?

  61. gwangung on December 9th, 2011 12:38 pm

    Still not part of the “homegrown, developed into key contributor and then extended”, then.

    League average contributors may not be key, but they’re still valuable, particularly in comparison to what the Mariners’ have had over the last five to seven years.

    Home grown league average or slightly above average players at minimal prices is still a necessary part of building a winner. THe Mariners’ lack of such would point to a failure of player development and scouting over the past few years.

  62. bookbook on December 9th, 2011 2:03 pm

    Here’s a problem; I’d rather have Pujols at 10/$254 than Fielder at 6/$150. Does anyone think Fielder goes for less than that?

  63. CCW on December 9th, 2011 3:04 pm

    Pujols got 10 years, at $25mm/year. Prince is going to get 10 years, $20mm/year. Neither one seems like a very good deal to me, but I’d still be happy if the M’s signed Prince. It’s just the way I feel.

  64. bookbook on December 9th, 2011 3:08 pm

    CCW, I’m glad you aren’t making the decisions for the Mariners.

  65. stevemotivateir on December 9th, 2011 3:17 pm

    Our holes aren’t very different – rookie 1B, old OFers who are bad, bad SP4-5s. “They had money we don’t” … are you implying our team is so poor we can never afford top tier FAs?

    Who cares about how cheap something is, care about how good the product is. How can anyone argue the Angels made a great move filling their rookie 1B hole with a star, and their bad SP5 with an SP1-2, yet at the same time argue filling our rookie 1B hole with a star, and filling our bad SP5 with an SP1-2 isn’t a good move?

    Are you kidding me? First, who said we could never afford a star? Not me, and I don’t think anyone else has. It’s about timing. I simply don’t believe dumping 25 mil a year on Fielder right now is a good idea if payroll is roughly 93-95. There’s still a need for a third baseman and an outfielder. Second, you argued my point with your comment about how good the product is. We have two potential star (or at least, really good) first-basemen. First base isn’t a hole. Would you pay roughly 25 million a year (multi-years)for a DH? You think they should bail on Smoak and/or Carp immediately? I’ve said along… patience! Third, again, I’m not against signing Fielder if the price is right. I’m not anti-Fielder. I don’t think anyone here is. Anyone would love to see his bat in their line-up. I’d love to see him as the DH if he was affordable. Fourth, the starting pitching is a completely different argument. You’re comparing a 254 million dollar contract to a 77 million dollar contract. On top of that, the Mariners aren’t likely looking for a big name like Wilson, with Hultzen, Paxton, and Walker coming up soon.

    I don’t think the Mariners and Angels are/were much alike at all. Especially in the outfield and 3/4th’s of the infield. I don’t think too many people here would agree with you either.

  66. Valenica on December 9th, 2011 3:38 pm

    There’s a reason Jack Z is in on Fielder. And it’s not just because they want to see if they could get him for 6 years, or else we would have been in on Pujols and Wilson with low-balling offers. It’s because Jack Z is serious about getting Fielder.

    If you believe in Jack Z, then you have to believe his analysis, that a potential Fielder acquisition is the right move for the club.

  67. amnizu on December 9th, 2011 3:38 pm

    I’m not sure, but to me it would seem that you think Z has failed as well, which I say we can’t make a decision from.

    That is not really what I said. So I’ll restate. The Mariners have been bad for a long time spanning multiple management changes. Z’s tenure has also been bad. Yes, he is far enough into it to be at least partially to blame. However, ownership and presidential level management has not changed, nor has the philosophy of make money first, win games second. Until this changes, the team will continue to be mediocre at best. Risk returns reward or failure, right now the team is unwilling to do either.

    In churning the major league roster to field the best available team, it’s an attempt to nurse the face of the org (the major league team) forward until those players he’s acquired in the minors can develop properly. Now, there are some that are thrown into the majors immediately like a Guti or Smoak, but they were theoretically further along in development and did not need anymore time in the minors.

    There just hasn’t been enough time to let the minor league players acquired through Z’s tenure to make a noticeable difference in the majors. Which is why things may be “mediocre” before they get better.

    You don’t see that as a problem? Most interviews with Z his answer has been, to paraphrase “we can win now and build for the future”. This clearly has not been the case. The problem in my opinion is mediocrity breeds mediocrity. It leads to mid level draft picks. It leads to mid level expectations. Furthermore, after 3 years of working to build the minor league system I would expect higher quality talent in AA and AAA. The truth is Ackley was the only prospect that had high expectations. Everyone else mid to low level prospect with some upside potential. To me, that is not good enough. The Mariners don’t have a good major league squad and they don’t have a strong cast of prospects in queue to get excited about.

    Also remember that Z’s major trade chips have been a closer in JJ Putz, a synthetic chip in Cliff Lee, and a starter/reliever/starter/? in Brandon Morrow. If you want, you can throw in Fister as well. Not exactly the type of talent that can net you a lot of great prospects like a Teixeira or a Volquez did for the Rangers.

    The Mariners have not been trading their key chip players to get prospects and truly rebuild. If they were truly trying to trade to rebuild, Ichiro and King Felix would have been traded early on. Both of which combined could have drawn as much or more in return than Teixeria and Volquez did. I’m saying we need a San Diego fire sale here but something needs to change.

  68. Mariners35 on December 9th, 2011 3:40 pm

    League average contributors may not be key, but they’re still valuable, particularly in comparison to what the Mariners’ have had over the last five to seven years.

    I agree. Which is why you can’t just say that locking up homegrown talent to long-term contracts is the way to build a winner. It’s part of the way. It’s a component of a balanced team and well-rounded, healthy org. But you need the one-off league-average guys as part of your “floor”, and you need to get good contributions via trade and FA too.

  69. Valenica on December 9th, 2011 3:47 pm

    First base isn’t a hole. Would you pay roughly 25 million a year (multi-years)for a DH? You think they should bail on Smoak and/or Carp immediately?

    1B is filled a by a rookie who didn’t hit. I would pay $20M a year (for 8 years) for a top 5 bat, regardless of his position, yeah. This isn’t bailing on Smoak and/or Carp (although personally I bail on Carp).

    This argument applies to the Angels – 1Bs not a hole! You want to pay $25M for roughly a DH? You think they should bail on Trumbo/Morales immediately? It filled a similar need for the Angels as it would have for us, so you can’t claim it fills an Angels need that we didn’t have.

    I don’t think the Mariners and Angels are/were much alike at all. Especially in the outfield and 3/4th’s of the infield. I don’t think too many people here would agree with you either.

    Tons of money tied up in Hunter/Wells; tons of money tied up in Gutierrez/Ichiro. Decent potential 1B in Trumbo; decent potential 1B in Smoak. 2 Aces, 1 decent starter, and 2 scrubs; Felix/Pineda, Vargas, and scrubs. Terrible Catcher; terrible catcher. Great 2B/SS/3B; great 2B/SS. It’s pretty similar.

  70. xsacred24x on December 9th, 2011 4:09 pm

    To those who don’t want Fielder your probably safe you know why? Our front office doesn’t even keep there star players Felix being the exception he took less $ to play for M’s but he won’t do that again and i don’t blame him.

  71. stevemotivateir on December 9th, 2011 4:21 pm

    1B is filled a by a rookie who didn’t hit. I would pay $20M a year (for 8 years) for a top 5 bat, regardless of his position, yeah. This isn’t bailing on Smoak and/or Carp (although personally I bail on Carp).

    Again, patience! Smoak and Carp deserve more time. Why pay out the a** now for a first baseman when we may already have an answer? The Angels aren’t going to bail on Trumbo and Morales. Maybe they ship one of them, maybe both, maybe they find a role for both? But would you compare those to as equals to Carp and Smoak? I think there would be a lot more interest in Trumbo and Morales as things sit right now.

    I would pay $20M a year (for 8 years) for a top 5 bat, regardless of his position, yeah.

    20 million a year is a number you can kick the tires on. You have to draw a line, and I’m sure that’s exactly what Jack is doing. When you start talking 25 plus for 7-8 plus years, it’s a very different scenario. And that’s what most people are probably expecting.

    Tons of money tied up in Hunter/Wells; tons of money tied up in Gutierrez/Ichiro.

    Wells and Hunter are making considerably more that Guti and Ichiro (combined). Hunter’s contract is up after next season, but Wells is on the hook for another 63 million through 2014.

    Never said I’d pay 25 million for a DH, I was arguing the opposite. Seriously, are you reading what I said?

    2 Aces, 1 decent starter, and 2 scrubs; Felix/Pineda, Vargas, and scrubs. Terrible Catcher; terrible catcher. Great 2B/SS/3B; great 2B/SS. It’s pretty similar.

    First, as I already mentioned, the Mariners have starting pitching coming up. You know that. Everyone knows that. Our holes at the bottom of the rotation need a temporary fix, not a 77 million dollar FA. Second… You think Ryan is a great SS? His defense is fine. His bat is average at best. Aybar is the better of the two. Catcher… yeah, I’ll give you that one. Second base is the one (field) position I’d actually give the Mariners the edge.

    It’s not that similar. And considering we still have no idea who’s going to man third, it’s even less similar.

  72. KaminaAyato on December 9th, 2011 4:22 pm

    Furthermore, after 3 years of working to build the minor league system I would expect higher quality talent in AA and AAA. The truth is Ackley was the only prospect that had high expectations. Everyone else mid to low level prospect with some upside potential. To me, that is not good enough. The Mariners don’t have a good major league squad and they don’t have a strong cast of prospects in queue to get excited about.

    Really? After 3 years you expect to have a high-class minor league system when it was barren beforehand? Did you see when those homegrown players were drafted on the 3 playoff teams that were quoted earlier? How many teams can hit on a winner in the 1st round every single year? 1st and 2nd round? 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds? Really?

    Most interviews with Z his answer has been, to paraphrase “we can win now and build for the future”. This clearly has not been the case.

    You know for a fact the casual fan doesn’t want to hear the word rebuilding, so what is he supposed to say?

    To those who don’t want Fielder your probably safe you know why? Our front office doesn’t even keep there star players Felix being the exception he took less $ to play for M’s but he won’t do that again and i don’t blame him.

    We know where you stand, and if you’re not going to be productive to the conversation and actually bring something to the table, just stop and forget watching the M’s if that’s what you believe.

  73. dogkahuna on December 9th, 2011 4:33 pm

    Anybody else hoping that Zumsteg makes an appearance and slaps a few people around?

  74. stevemotivateir on December 9th, 2011 4:34 pm

    @Valencia-
    The Angels were/are (especially now) closer to dethroning the Rangers. And they had the money to make the moves they felt would put them over the top. I assume you’d agree with that. The Mariners simply aren’t that close. I would love to see them develop more from within and possibly land a bigger name (or two) if payroll is increased.

  75. amnizu on December 9th, 2011 4:46 pm

    Really? After 3 years you expect to have a high-class minor league system when it was barren beforehand? Did you see when those homegrown players were drafted on the 3 playoff teams that were quoted earlier? How many teams can hit on a winner in the 1st round every single year? 1st and 2nd round? 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds? Really?

    From the man who built the Brewer’s and is expected to be great at building from within I would expect a whole lot more excitement about what could be out of our minor league system by now. You can call it unreasonable if you like but thus far, the results aren’t there. Just like the results weren’t there before Z either. I don’t expect every prospect to be a winner, that truly is unreasonable, but after 3 years I would expect at least some buzz about your minor league system and the great crop of high potential kids that are coming.

    You know for a fact the casual fan doesn’t want to hear the word rebuilding, so what is he supposed to say?

    I duno, how about the truth? That might be refreshing. The M’s suck, they have sucked for a while even casual fans know that. How about something like: What we’ve been trying isn’t working. So we are going to go back to what made us good for those 6 years from 1995 to 2001, and I don’t mean bringing Griffey and Arod back…

  76. dogkahuna on December 9th, 2011 5:21 pm

    Yo amnizu. First, there is indeed a bunch of buzz about about the high-potential kids coming up. I doubt many other teams have 3 SP candidates the calibre of Hultzen, Paxton and Walker getting close.

    How can we get you to realize that rebuilding a farm system is not a 3-year enterprise? Think about it. Generally, if you draft a high school kid, they enter the low minor leagues and take 4-5 years to develop. If you draft a college player, they usually start higher, but still need a year or two of seasoning.

    Three years is simply not enough time to judge how Z’s drafts and other moves to strengthen the farm have played out, but I think it’s looking decent already.

    Also, what exactly are the elements that resulted in the success of 1995-2001? Gee, suppose it was allowing the farm system to produce good talent?

  77. xsacred24x on December 9th, 2011 5:31 pm

    We know where you stand, and if you’re not going to be productive to the conversation and actually bring something to the table, just stop and forget watching the M’s if that’s what you believe.

    Sorry i am not a fair weather fan quit asking me to be one i am loyal to my teams. Also if you don’t like what i have to say you can always not respond.

  78. gwangung on December 9th, 2011 5:38 pm

    Furthermore, after 3 years of working to build the minor league system I would expect higher quality talent in AA and AAA.

    That’s kinda ill-informed. You do know the usual cycle of player development, right? Well, probably not, given your statement.

    Four years is a minimum, and Churchill has concluded that very few make it that short to rebuild a farm system.

  79. IwearMsHats on December 9th, 2011 6:01 pm

    I agree with the idea that Jackie Z probably covets Fielder. Fielder is his claim to fame and probably a huge reason why he got this GM job in the first place. I would not doubt that Jack Z is going to do all he can to acquire Fielder’s talents. He’s always stated that he wants an impact bat but the opportunity never arose. I think, it has now, in Fielder.

    Given this, do you think he would be making a mistake in giving Fielder 8/175?

  80. just a fan on December 9th, 2011 6:21 pm

    Anybody that thinks it takes three years to rebuild a system, look through here:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/index.cgi?draft_round=1&year_ID=2008&draft_type=junreg&query_type=year_round

    It’s the 2008 draft. So it’s one year before Zduriencik took over the Mariners. Two players have more than 5 career WAR: Daniel Hudson and Alex Avila (both 5th round picks). Buster Posey would have but he got hurt.

    If you look at 2009, Dustin Ackley is basically tied with a couple other guys as the most productive draftee from that year.

    I wish it was quicker, but it’s not.

  81. gwangung on December 9th, 2011 6:25 pm

    I wish it was quicker, but it’s not.

    Well, that’s just focussing on the ones who made it.

    I mean those are the ones you want; a productive minor league system gets you one regular a year (which in and of itself implies a longer than 3-4 year view), but also consider that for each bona fide major leaguer, you’ll have to also generate 3-4 prospects that won’t make it…and that takes time as well.

  82. dantheman on December 9th, 2011 11:04 pm

    “If the problem still exists after 3 GMs you have to look beyond the GM as the cause of the problem.”

    Truer words were never spoken. Armstrong and Lincoln – how do they survive in the face of the utter disaster they’ve created? Horrible won-loss records, crashing attendance….10 years of poor talent evaluation (drafting Jeff Clement ahead of Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitski; Morrow ahead of Lincecum). Why are they never held responsible for any of the horrible decisions made in this franchise???

  83. Valenica on December 10th, 2011 3:07 am

    Four years is a minimum, and Churchill has concluded that very few make it that short to rebuild a farm system.

    Tampa Bay and Texas contended in 3 years after changing GM, Arizona and Toronto have done a good job building a farm in 2 years (I like our system better than both though despite both being considered deeper than ours).

    I’m not saying 3-years is normal, but teams have become competitive in similar situations, in the same time frame. Texas hit jackpot on Hamilton, Cruz, Wilson and had the Teixiera infusion, while Tampa Bay had a stronger farm to start with than we did, but it’s not set-in-stone take 4 years.

  84. stoyboy on December 10th, 2011 9:24 am

    I love Fielder but he weighs 300 lbs. and will not even stay healthy for half a 7 year contract. Can’t pay 20+ M a year for a DH that won’t be able to leg out any doubles.

  85. xsacred24x on December 10th, 2011 11:06 am

    Truer words were never spoken. Armstrong and Lincoln – how do they survive in the face of the utter disaster they’ve created? Horrible won-loss records, crashing attendance….10 years of poor talent evaluation (drafting Jeff Clement ahead of Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitski; Morrow ahead of Lincecum). Why are they never held responsible for any of the horrible decisions made in this franchise???

    Yea i have no idea why Z gets the blame its due to Lincoln and Armstrong not giving Z adequate funds and the way they let Bavasi have 1 more year when it was clear he had no idea what he was doing. Signing a right handed pull hitter in Beltre then giving $ to Carlos Silva they both had career years and had done nothing really prior to that.

  86. gwangung on December 10th, 2011 11:10 am

    Tampa Bay and Texas contended in 3 years after changing GM, Arizona and Toronto have done a good job building a farm in 2 years (I like our system better than both though despite both being considered deeper than ours).

    Actually. Texas, Arizona and Toronto were the reasons why Churchill thought it took more than three years.

    And, again, think carefully about the player development cycle. If you have players in the pipeline, yeah, you can contend sooner. But that is certainly not the case for the Ms. The cupboard was bare (see how few major leaguers were developed pre Zduriencek). Thus, it will take 3-4 years for the FIRST draft to come near the major leagues. Hm. I don’t think even the best GMs can restock a system with only one draft.

  87. goat on December 10th, 2011 11:13 am

    If the Mariners signed all of Free Agents left on the market, they probably still couldn’t put together a team in the same strata as the Rangers and (now) Angels. And saying next year’s selection of free agents isn’t very good doesn’t mean there won’t be an opportunity to spend money. I’m sure we could trade for Alfonso Soriano if we really wanted to, for example. (similar to the Wells deal. Not saying this is a good idea, but there are always ways of spending money if that’s what it comes down to.)

  88. JoshJones on December 10th, 2011 3:58 pm

    So if the rangers sign Fielder then trade Moreland for a SP they will be even more stacked.

    But i’m sure Dave will post something saying “patience” and how “irresponsible” the Rangers are being.

    Then in 5-10 years when both of them have each won a couple WS titles and the M’s have yet to make the playoffs we will read a post by Dave about how good our farm system is looking.

    Teams that spend money win. Sure they do it a little irresponsibly but who cares.

    Everyone wants to model their team after The Rays. They have never won a WS and have only been to it ONCE.

    Sign Fielder. Trade for another big name player. Then next season sign another big name FA. Our payroll would be around $130M. Still not even enough to crack the top 5.

  89. gwangung on December 10th, 2011 8:55 pm

    Teams that spend money win. Sure they do it a little irresponsibly but who cares.

    Did you read what Dave wrote? That’s not apparent from your message.

  90. MrZDevotee on December 11th, 2011 1:15 am

    Stoyboy

    I love Fielder but he weighs 300 lbs. and will not even stay healthy for half a 7 year contract. Can’t pay 20+ M a year for a DH that won’t be able to leg out any doubles.

    Let me start by saying- I don’t want to sign Fielder either… But with that out of the way…

    Your argument wouldn’t be one I’d choose to defend my position. Since his very first full season (2006) he’s played 157 or more games every year, and has missed just ONE game over the past 3 seasons.

  91. stoyboy on December 11th, 2011 8:35 am

    MrZDevotee: You made my point. I know he will be good the next couple of years but it is when he is in the middle of a 6-7 year contract that the weight will take its toll. Why do you think he hasn’t got a legitimate bid yet? All GMs are worried about the weight for the life of the contract. Highest value in trade now for Felix to Marlins for Ramirez and Morrison. I know no one wants to talk about it but the FO won’t make a bigger splash and you know it.

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