What Now?

Dave · January 8, 2012 at 11:09 am · Filed Under Mariners 

With the signing of Hisashi Iwakuma now official, the team’s off-season shopping list has gotten shorter. So, I figured it was probably time to take a look at the roster as it currently stands, and what the options are going forward from here. First, here’s what the Mariners could put together on Opening Day based on what’s already in the organization.


Position Player PA/IP WAR Salary
Starters        
C John Jaso 300 1.0 $0.5
1B Justin Smoak 600 2.0 $0.5
2B Dustin Ackley 600 3.0 $1.5
SS Brendan Ryan 500 2.0 $1.8
3B Kyle Seager 600 1.5 $0.5
LF Casper Wells 400 1.0 $0.5
CF Franklin Gutierrez 500 2.5 $5.8
RF Ichiro Suzuki 600 2.5 $18.0
DH Mike Carp 500 1.0 $0.5
Bench        
C Miguel Olivo 300 1.0 $3.8
IF Chone Figgins 300 - $9.5
IF Munenori Kawasaki 200 - $0.8
OF Trayvon Robinson 200 - $0.5
Rotation        
SP1 Felix Hernandez 220 5.0 $19.2
SP2 Michael Pineda 200 3.0 $0.5
SP3 Jason Vargas 180 2.0 $4.5
SP4 Hisashi Iwakuma 150 1.0 $2.0
SP5 Blake Beavan 150 0.5 $0.5
Bullpen        
CL Brandon League 60 1.0 $4.5
RHP Tom Wilhelmsen 60 0.5 $0.5
LHP George Sherrill 40 0.5 $1.1
RHP Shawn Kelley 60 0.5 $0.8
LHP Sean Henn 50 - $0.5
RHP Chance Ruffin 60 - $0.5
LHP Charlie Furbush 70 - $0.5
Totals     31.5 $79.2

(Quick note – the PA and IP totals don’t add up to the totals that a team accumulates over a full season, as no one plays the whole year with just 25 guys. Assume that the other ~800 PA and 150 IP will be filled by replacement level performances, and thus, won’t change the projections by any reasonable amount.)

Since a replacement level team will win about 43 games, a roster projected to produce about +31.5 WAR is around a 75 win club. This roster isn’t that of a contender, but it’s also a bit better than is usually given credit for. It’s not good, but it’s not awful, and with a few more upgrades (given that they have about $15M left in the budget, they’re clearly not done spending), the M’s could project as a .500-ish team for 2012, especially if you make some more aggressive projections on some of the high-variance guys on the roster.

From that group, I’d say there are three roster spots that could reasonably offer the hope of meaningful upgrades – the infield spot being filled by Chone Figgins, the outfield spot currently held by Trayvon Robinson, and the fifth starter spot possessed by Blake Beavan. The names projected for the back end of the bullpen might not be the guys who end up in those roles, but you’re not going to see significant value additions based on swapping out a different left-handed middle reliever, no matter which member of The Pile (TM: Lookout Landing) ends up with the job.

So, let’s focus on the three remaining roster upgrades, and look at the different options the team has for rounding out the roster.

There’s no real doubt that the Mariners priority is to get someone to take Robinson’s roster spot, and he is only penciled in now because that guy hasn’t been acquired yet. I could have written “empty” in that spot and it would have been just as accurate. The only question is what type of player this spot will go to and what position on the field he’ll play, as that variable will cause other player’s roles to shift.

Obviously, this would be the roster spot that Prince Fielder would fill if Jack Z decided to use the rest of his budget to bring him to Seattle. In that scenario, Fielder would displace Carp at DH (or Smoak at first base, who would then move to DH, so either way the result is the same), and he’d move into a job share with Casper Wells in left field. While replacing a replacement level player in Robinson with a roughly +5 win player in Fielder is a big upgrade, the overall effect would be a bit smaller, as you also have to reduce the amount of playing time that Carp/Wells would get, since they’d be sharing a job rather than being penciled in as regulars.

Also, if the Mariners went with that alignment, they’d probably need to keep Figgins and ask him to take up the outfield again, as the team can’t really afford to have a roster with just three legitimate outfielders (Carp is one in name only), especially given Gutierrez’s potentially lingering health issues. Signing a 1B/DH means that they would need Figgins to serve as a part-time outfielder, or at least be available to play the OF, so dumping him becomes less feasible.

To sign Fielder, the Mariners would obviously need to backload the deal somewhat to make him fit into the budget, and he’d be the last addition they could really afford to make. So, while they’d likely get something like a +4 win upgrade from having Fielder take Robinson’s roster spot, that move would also mean that the team was probably going into 2012 with a Seager/Figgins tandem at third base and a Beavan/Furbush battle for the #5 starter spot, with the loser shifting into the long reliever role out of the bullpen.

While this may be the preferred option for many, we’ve talked about how this isn’t the only way the M’s can upgrade that roster spot. As noted in my suggestion that they pursue Will Venable, they could simply add another outfielder to the mix, and could really benefit from having a left-handed hitter who could also cover center field from time to time. Bringing in a guy like Venable (about +2 win player) to replace Robinson and pick up some of the missing OF at-bats that would currently need to go to Figgins would allow them to keep Carp at DH – his best position – and give them the ability to play the match-ups with three outfielders covering two spots. Nearly all of the playing time that Venable would get is currently slotted to go to replacement level guys, so the team would get the full value of his +2 wins.

Considering that his salary would be only around $2 million for 2012, going that direction would leave the M’s with about $13 million to spend on the other two roster spots. And, with the outfield depth issue addressed, versatility wouldn’t be as large of a need, so you wouldn’t need to keep Figgins around for his ability to cover multiple positions. With that remaining money, they could sign one of the better free agent starters left on the market (say, for instance, Paul Maholm, who will probably end up signing for something in the $5-$6 million range) and then target a mid-level right-handed third baseman who could split time with Seager and potentially spend some time at 1B/DH as well, if the need arose.

While my favorite target for that role ended up with the Pirates, there are other options out there who could fit the bill – for instance, Mark Reynolds. He’s a bit of a disaster defensively at third base and his contact problems limit him to being just a decent hitter even with his top-notch power, but his problems with the glove would be limited in a job share with Seager, and he’d give them depth and a right-handed power bat who could get some playing time at 1B/DH as well. Reynolds is due to make $7.5 million in 2012 and then has a $500,000 buyout of his 2013 option, so the M’s would be on the hook for about $8 million if they picked him up from the Orioles. Assuming any deal for him would include Figgins going the other way (with the Mariners paying most of his remaining salary), the total net cost would probably be in the $6-$7 million range, just about what they’d have left after signing a pitcher like Maholm.

The total value of adding Venable over Robinson (+2 wins), Reynolds over Figgins (+1 win), and Maholm over Beavan (+1.5 wins) is actually slightly higher than just adding Fielder over Robinson and calling it a day. By spreading the money around and making three upgrades instead of one, the team could find themselves projecting just as well for 2012 as they would by signing Fielder, and they’d be in a better long term position by retaining financial flexibility and getting a better understanding of what they can expect from some of the kids already on the roster. Having three starters at the back end under contract for just one year would also give them the ability to let Danny Hultzen and James Paxton develop on their own timetable, but would give the organization solid potential trade bait during the summer if either was showing that they were ready for the big league rotation. In putting a solid team on the field in 2012 and keeping the options open for the future, this is my preferred plan of action.

However, it’s not the only alternative. If Fielder signs elsewhere, the Mariners will still have roughly $15 million to spend, and they could pursue other free agent hitters who would fit as LF/DH options. Guys like Carlos Pena or Luke Scott could become targets, and the team could choose to spend some of their remaining money on a guy who could offer some left-handed power at a lower price. Signing either should still leave enough money to pursue another free agent pitcher, so you’re probably looking at a +3 win upgrade between those two additions, and you’d get to keep whatever prospect you had to surrender to get a guy like Venable. The team wouldn’t be quite as good as in either of the other two scenarios, but it might be an easier alternative to pull off, since it’s just two free agent signings instead of a couple of trades.

My guess is that the remainder of the team’s off-season will resemble one of these three options:

A. Sign Fielder, call it a day, go forward with current roster and him.

B. Acquire an outfielder, third baseman, and a starting pitcher, spending just a bit on each.

C. Sign a non-Fielder DH and a starting pitcher.

In any of these scenarios, the team probably projects as something like a +78 to +80 win team, so there’s not a huge difference in expected performance no matter which path the team chooses. Obviously, the sign-Fielder path is the splashiest, but to me, it doesn’t result in a roster that’s clearly better than pursuing upgrades through other avenues, and obviously a Venable/Reynolds/Maholm trio would come without the massive risks of signing Fielder to a long term deal.

There are certainly options on the table for the Mariners. Reasonable people can differ on the merits of pursuing one strategy or another, but don’t let anyone tell you that the team “has to sign Prince Fielder” or that their moves to this point will be a failure if they don’t get “a big bat” to go with them. The team has done a really nice job of adding solid role players to fill gaping holes in the roster, and with a few more smart moves, the team could be in a pretty solid position going forward. If Fielder’s price ends up being reasonable, these low-cost additions have given them the flexibility to fit him into the budget, but there’s still plenty of ways to spend $15 million and make this team a respectable one for the 2012 season.

Comments

146 Responses to “What Now?”

  1. IwearMsHats on January 8th, 2012 11:25 am

    I was wondering why nobody was bringing up Carlos Pena. If the M’s can’t get Fielder at their price I would love for them to pursue Pena, who is probably more athletic than Fielder and a better baserunner. Yeah he strikes out a lot, but he would also be under half the cost annually. I would really love it if the M’s somehow worked that Cliff Lee magic and acquired Cole Hamels.

  2. Gibbo on January 8th, 2012 11:36 am

    Good to see this updated Dave….. I think seeing these guys listed out reminds us of some of the many holes we still have and a Prince acquisition is obviously not enough but it is a roster with potential. I think the projections for a few guys may be a bit light and could easily surprise us… Wells, Gutierrez and Smoak are they key guys there.

    Do you think that Mike Carp really stays if we get Fielder? I could see us dealing Vargas to the Padres for a lefty OF’er (hello Will) as the salaries would be around the same. Obviously we would need another SP added, which they have said they are still looking at. But to do that deal they would have to either send Carp to AAA or trade him away. Even trading Figgins and most of his cash, then look at Carlos Guillen, who is a guy that might be a nice low cost pick up too and keep us within budget.

  3. Cole on January 8th, 2012 11:40 am

    IwearMsHats – Pena wouldn’t provide much of an upgrade as Carp would have to move to LF, which would hurt Wells and Robinson’s production. If we were to upgrade it would have to be a major upgrade to offset the effect on other players.

  4. Dave on January 8th, 2012 11:41 am

    Wedge spent most of the winter meetings talking up Carp as his regular left fielder, and I think the team is prepared for Carp to get most of his playing time out there if they sign a 1B/DH. It’s not my favorite idea, but it works if the goal is strictly to maximize potential offense.

    Can’t imagine Padres would have much interest in trading Venable for Vargas. He’ll cost twice as much in in arbitration, and it’s two years of team control for Vargas versus four for Venable. Plus, then the Mariners would just need to replace Vargas in the rotation, so it’s creating one hole to fill another. Be better off moving a piece like Erasmo Ramirez, who would fit in better with the Padres long term plans.

  5. maqman on January 8th, 2012 11:44 am

    It’s a rational plan Dave, I’d settle for it. But with option C why sign a DH if you still have Carp? Pena is an option I kinda like. Someone suggested he be platooned with Gomes in a L/R partnership.

  6. Gibbo on January 8th, 2012 11:46 am

    Yeah Pena would be a nice option but needs to be platooned As he can’t hit lefties. I guess He would DH against RH’ers moving Carp to LF but I would still love to see a better LF’er added.

  7. asuray on January 8th, 2012 11:51 am

    Wait… so for the same cost we can fill three holes with low long-term risk pieces or we can fill one hole with a higher long-term risk piece and expect no discernible difference in team performance for the upcoming season? Doesn’t seem like too difficult of a choice.

  8. hoser on January 8th, 2012 11:53 am

    Thank you very much. I appreciate having the options laid out for me as I have been too unenergetic to work them out for myself. I do listen to sports radio in the car for the entertainment value, so knowing the possibilities helps keep me from inhaling the fumes. Best wishes for your continued health and appreciation for the fabulous thoughtful fan effort.

  9. Eclipsial on January 8th, 2012 11:59 am

    …….not at the same cost, this is why people like Dave Cameron run blogs and not the Mariners. You can’t judge a players value on war alone, in the bottom of the 9th when your down by 1 and fielder hits a home run to tie the game does his WAR go up by 1? Your trying to say that replacing quality with quantity is the way to go, makes no sense.. And since when did we know what the mariners budget was this season? Last year we were told by the front office, this year they haven’t said a word, probably not going to be the same, so saying that his contract obviously needs to be backloaded is pure speculation. You should edit this blog and replace obviously with might need to be or could be, it’s not obvious because you are not in charge of payroll Dave.

  10. IwearMsHats on January 8th, 2012 12:01 pm

    Phillies interested in kerry wood https://twitter.com/#!/jcrasnick/status/156096246027792385

    why not dangle Brandon League + others for Hamels? Pipe dream?

  11. greentunic on January 8th, 2012 12:02 pm

    “Since a replacement level team is about +43 WAR, a team projected to produce about +31.5 WAR is around a 75 win club.”

    I assume you mean that a replacement level team is worth about 43 WINS, instead of +43 WAR right? A replacement level team would be +/- 0 WAR by definition if I’m not mistaken?

  12. stevemotivateir on January 8th, 2012 12:04 pm

    @Eclipsial
    You really don’t get what the whole purpose of this blog is, do you?! Here’s a hint… read what it says right below “U.S.S. Mariner” at the top of the page.

  13. Eclipsial on January 8th, 2012 12:08 pm

    If you honestly think that the mariners only have 15m left in the budget for this year then please stop posting anything about fielder coming to the mariners, hes not going to take a backloaded contract where he only gets 13m in the first year, if the mariners get fielder, the payroll will increase, it’s that simple.

  14. Shrike on January 8th, 2012 12:10 pm

    @ IwearMsHats, who asked: “why not dangle Brandon League + others for Hamels? Pipe dream?”

    In what universe would the Phillies trade Hamels for League – remember, they already have a top-notch closer – and unspecified assets – presumably M’s prospects?

    The Phillies are in win-now mode and this trade scenario makes no sense for them.

  15. Eclipsial on January 8th, 2012 12:10 pm

    @steve

    I’ve been reading this blog for a long time and usually agree with most of the articles posted, but when you compare the value of venable Reynolds and malholm compared to that of prince fielder, it irks me. You can’t replace one players value with 3.

  16. IwearMsHats on January 8th, 2012 12:11 pm

    Hey Eclips, why do you bother reading this blog? You obviously have no understanding of what you are talking about, so what’s the point? You just baiting?

  17. Liam on January 8th, 2012 12:12 pm

    You can’t judge a players value on war alone, in the bottom of the 9th when your down by 1 and fielder hits a home run to tie the game does his WAR go up by 1?

    I suppose if Prince had won the game, that would have been +2 WAR?

  18. Eclipsial on January 8th, 2012 12:18 pm

    I knew I was going to be ripped for posting but Jesus, if you honestly think that those 3 players will win you more games than fielder Seager Robinson or fielder Seager figgins or fielder figgins Robinson then your smoking some good stuff.

  19. stevemotivateir on January 8th, 2012 12:19 pm

    @Eclipsial

    I know what you’re feeling. Anyone would prefer to have Fielder at bat with the bases loaded, than Wells -or even Carp. But I the point is total value. You can replace one players value with 3. You just don’t see the results the same way. The wins wont necessarily show with big clutch hits, but they will show.

  20. stevemotivateir on January 8th, 2012 12:26 pm

    By the way, I don’t think anyone here would want to see Figgins or Robinson in the starting line-up.

  21. Valenica on January 8th, 2012 12:27 pm

    Nice post Dave. Pretty much described what I’ve been feeling/thinking for awhile. Fielder is option 1, because it helps 2013+, marketing (I know the attendance theory, but think of it like a movie: you need great marketing to get people to come watch the movie, then you need great reviews to get more people to come watch the movie), whatever – but we could build a team just as good if we really needed to with options 2/3 with just stop gaps.

    I’m a big believer in giving young guys playing time though, which is why I’d prefer Fielder over B/C. Yeah, Seager might suck but I want him to give it his all. Same with Carp, Wells, Smoak, Beavan, Furbush, and even Gutierrez/Ichiro/Jaso. It sucks losing games testing these guys out but the sooner we find out which guys will stick and which guys won’t, the sooner we can start building. The more Matt Joyces and Ben Zorbists we find, the more likely we’ll contend in the long run.

  22. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 12:30 pm

    Some quick thoughts:

    * The Mariners are not going to get anything of value for Brandon League–Thanks to Kenny Williams. The Phillies are interested in Kerry Wood because the market for closers has now crashed and the mid-level relievers are going to have to settle for what roles and dollars they can get.

    * It appears to me that Boras/Fielder are in a holding pattern waiting for a “better offer” to come along. If the rumors are correct (big if), then the Mariners may have the best offer on the table, and Fielder simply wants to play for a team closer to home and/or contention.

    * I think the Mariners really do want to maximize young player appearances this year; And if they’re not going to contend, it’s probably the wisest route to take. For this reason alone, I don’t see them upgrading at multiple positions with veteran players.
    I could see another veteran arm added, as neither Hultzen or Paxton has shown enough to warrant forcing the issue out of spring training, but I think Mike Carp, Kyle Seager, Alex Liddi and Casper Wells will be given every opportunity to sink or swim in spite of platoon issues or positional depth.

    * If I had to predict, I think Prince will finally sign next week for a contract well below what Boras was originally looking for, but it will be somewhere that Prince was willing to make “concessions” to play (ala Vladimir Guerrero in 2004).
    The Mariners will sign someone in the Carlos Pena or Luke Scott mold, and then wrap up the season with Paul Maholm or Rich Harden.

  23. Dave on January 8th, 2012 12:33 pm

    not at the same cost, this is why people like Dave Cameron run blogs and not the Mariners.

    Yes, clearly, anyone who isn’t a Major League GM is ignorant and knows nothing. All of those times we begged Bill Bavasi to not destroy the franchise were just more proof of our ignorance. We should have never questioned the wisdom of a guy who is actually in charge.

    in the bottom of the 9th when your down by 1 and fielder hits a home run to tie the game does his WAR go up by 1?

    Nope, just like he doesn’t fail to get credit for hitting a home run if the team is down 10-0. But if you actually understood how WAR worked, you’d know this.

    And since when did we know what the mariners budget was this season?

    By reading things like this, which shows us exactly what the team spent on their roster last year. The organization has said payroll will be very similar to what it was last year. That you don’t know that doesn’t really matter.

    a replacement level team would be +/- 0 WAR by definition if I’m not mistaken?

    Yeah, my bad. 43 wins, not 43 WAR.

    If you honestly think that the mariners only have 15m left in the budget for this year then please stop posting anything about fielder coming to the mariners, hes not going to take a backloaded contract where he only gets 13m in the first year, if the mariners get fielder, the payroll will increase, it’s that simple.

    Go look at Albert Pujols’ contract, then come back and admit you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

    You can’t replace one players value with 3.

    The 2001 Seattle Mariners replaced Alex Rodriguez (coming off a +9.6 WAR season) with Bret Boone, Ichiro Suzuki, and Jeff Nelson, then won 25 more games the following season. So, uhh, yes, you can.

  24. IwearMsHats on January 8th, 2012 12:34 pm

    I don’t think Rich Harden will ever be a Mariner…

  25. mike on January 8th, 2012 12:36 pm

    The Mariners already have Mark Reynolds. He’s Italian.

  26. Dave on January 8th, 2012 12:39 pm

    Mark Reynolds, Major Leagues, 2011: 116 wRC+
    Alex Liddi, Triple-A, 2011: 98 wRC+

    Liddi might turn into Reynolds, but he’s done nothing to show that he’s anywhere close to Major League ready.

  27. shortbus on January 8th, 2012 12:44 pm

    Wow, Trayvon struck out nearly 40% of the time last season. Can’t count on much from him next year. He should probably go back to Tacoma and work on his plate discipline.

  28. Eclipsial on January 8th, 2012 12:51 pm

    …..your going to bring up Brett Boone ichiro and Jeff Nelson as replacements to arod? If we would have received the value that we thought we were going to get when we signed those players then we wouldn’t have won 25 more games, I guess that season had nothing to do with a handful of players out performing there usual years? Give me a break….

  29. Eclipsial on January 8th, 2012 12:53 pm

    If fielder gets a backloaded contract from the mariners I will personally come on here and issue you a full apology Dave, you have my word, hopefully he will and you will get your apology.

  30. Dave on January 8th, 2012 12:53 pm

    It’s hard to take you seriously considering that you can’t spell. Considering your inability to understand basic logic, I think I’ll just let you wallow in your ignorance.

  31. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 12:55 pm

    Eclipsial, it didn’t matter that they won 25-more games, the fact is, they were MORE then able to replace one elite players production with several good players production.
    If you agree that:

    4+4=8
    and
    2+2+2+2=8

    Then there really isn’t anything to argue here.

  32. bubba_gump on January 8th, 2012 12:59 pm

    “The team has done a really nice job of adding solid role players to fill gaping holes in the roster”.

    I know this will get me in all sorts of hot water, but damn it, I’m sick of “solid role players”. I want a few role players and a few superstars. I want a few players that can change the game with one swing of the bat. With one pitch. I’m tired of watching AAAA ball. Weather it’s Prince or the M’s trade for something else. I want to get excited when I see Superstar X coming to the plate to mash one out. I’m done with a line drive to the gap or an infield single.

    Good job with collecting role players, now get a few players that can change the outcome of the game!

  33. Valenica on January 8th, 2012 1:02 pm

    It’s more like

    5 + 1-3 + 1-3 + 1-3 = 8-14 WAR

    or

    2.5 + 2.5 + 2.5 + 2.5 = 10 WAR

    Where rookies are 1-3 WAR, stop gap veterans are 2.5 WAR. When your not in contention range, it’s better to go with option one than option two, because you can carry those 1-3 guys through the next 5-6 years while the stop gaps are gone in 1-2 years. Plus judging by the price and quality of stop-gaps we’ve been getting (Cust, Olivo) they’re not exactly 2.5 WAR.

  34. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 1:09 pm

    I think we all agree bubba,

    At a certain point a team does need to invest more in “star” quality players if they want to be competitive. You can’t just throw a $40M payroll out there and hope to hit the ace on the river every year (Oakland, Pittsburgh.)

    The difference is, to what extent are you willing to sacrifice payroll flexibility and future contention for immediate gratification? Prince Fielder would most-likely add ~5 wins to this team, but is it worth 25% of this teams payroll to move this team from a third place 80 win team to a third place 85 win team?

    Certainly ~5 win players are a limited resource, and good teams do what they can to acquire elite players, but there are plenty of the same people begging for Prince who are decrying the last elite hitter the Mariners locked up in a big contract.

    Ultimately I think it boils down to *when* will the Mariners acquire an elite bat, not *if* they will. Because whether or not it’s Prince this year, or someone else next, this team isn’t as cheap as some people like to portray them as.

  35. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 1:12 pm

    Valencia,

    I agree, but I felt the explanation should be as “fundamental” and emphatic as possible.

  36. bubba_gump on January 8th, 2012 1:22 pm

    Well said, Adam.
    It’s just frustrating. We are all huge fans of the M’s and I just want results. I’ve paid my taxes for the stadium. I’ve supported the team through attending games or paying for cable. I’ve done my part as a fan the best I can. Dave’s analysis based on the information he has is correct. But it’s time for the M’s to stop being so cheap and start pumping money into this thing. Either start increasing payroll and bring in talent that will give the M’s a better chance to win, or sell team.

    Whether…I can’t believe I used weather….

  37. johnfree63 on January 8th, 2012 1:27 pm

    I keep on seeing on blogs that the M’s need to wait for the Elite Bat because Prince isn’t worth it or Votto is going to be available in two years, it makes sense to wait. I just wondered if everyone else has noticed that a lot more MLB teams are locking up their players to extensions. Players like Prince are not hitting the market anymore.

  38. ty5oke on January 8th, 2012 1:35 pm

    Signing Prince Fielder is not for the +5 this year, but for the +5 2 or 3 years from now when he can possibly be the difference between a playoff or non-playoff team.

  39. Valenica on January 8th, 2012 1:35 pm

    Well, look at how the Yankees operate. I know, they spend like crazy, but look at how they’re spending. A Grantland article made a really good point – they only target the elite FAs, and leave the 2-4 WAR guys alone. They sign stop gaps too (Martin, Colon, Garcia, etc) but they understand better than anyone, you sign stars and develop role players. Some of those role players become stars in their own right, like Cano and Gardner, which helps you keep contending.

    I just think a stars and rookies paradigm is much better than the undervalued veteran paradigm a lot of people follow here. There’s more variance, but in the long-run, that variance should pay off. Guys will step up, not because it’ll help them get a paycheck, but because they want to be a Mariner. It’s about creating a culture like in NYY/BOS, where being a member of the team is something special, and that feeling makes these rookies work harder. It’s a FO model the Seahawks are using, that’s copied from NE and GB – stars and rookies, but make the place so special the rookies will work their butts off for you, and in turn some of them will become stars themselves.

    A lot of the moves that Z made that don’t make much baseball sense, like Morrow for League, came from this philosophy, I think. Some players were detrimental to creating this culture, so Z shipped them off at all cost. In business, the #1 thing a CEO does after taking over a failing company is change the culture. I think that’s what Z’s been doing the last 3 years, and it’s starting to show. Give the rookies PT because they deserve it, don’t sign average guys to give average performance. People talk about how the GM needs to balance “win now” and “win later” but I think the idea is they’re one in the same.

    NYY hasn’t just been making the playoffs for nearly 15 straight years just with money, they built towards it. They made mistakes, and they learnt from them. The idea is “win forever” – which seems ridiculous, but NYY is doing it. BOS has been doing it. They built a culture where players wanted to become Red Sox/Yankees, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I think signing Fielder isn’t just about giving more rookies PT, or attendance. It’s about sending a message to the players, that this is becoming a place where the best players will want to come. Don’t waste the opportunity you have to become a part of this team – work your butt off and join us.

  40. Skiba on January 8th, 2012 1:36 pm

    Dave, My issue with this analysis is that it somewhat ignores the value that Prince would (assumably) bring beyond next season. The analysis is accurate for the season 2012, but I think most everyone has agreed that 2012 is not the expected season for contention. In 2013/14 when our young rotation is offering closer to 18-20 WAR and Prince is offering 4.5-6 at first base the team could be competing with the Angels and Rangers.

  41. Eclipsial on January 8th, 2012 1:45 pm

    You will eat this article.

  42. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 1:45 pm

    “I keep on seeing on blogs that the M’s need to wait for the Elite Bat because Prince isn’t worth it or Votto is going to be available in two years, it makes sense to wait. I just wondered if everyone else has noticed that a lot more MLB teams are locking up their players to extensions. Players like Prince are not hitting the market anymore.”"

    I wouldn’t hold off on Prince because of Joey Votto, if Prince is reluctant to come here with his warts, then I doubt the M’s will be much more attractive to a better player with what will probably be a bigger market in Votto.

    That said, there are other fish in the sea, and if Scott Boras and Fielder are dead-set on $25M per year and 6+ years, I’d start looking into alternative free-agents and trades.

    Honestly I think the reason the M’s wouldn’t sign Fielder is because they want to make their impact purchases when they 5-10 wins away from the playoffs, not 5-10 wins away from finishing with a .500 winning percentage.

    If Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley are indeed ~3 win players, and Michael Pineda, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton can continue/translate their success to the majors, then the Mariners are probably a bit more keen to drop $150-200M on some talent before Felix is a free-agent.

  43. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 1:47 pm

    “You will eat this article.”

    This article where Dave eloquently lays out several potential paths for the Mariners to take?

    Yeah, I see him choking it down now…

  44. Valenica on January 8th, 2012 1:54 pm

    But Adam, have you looked at the FA lists for the next 2 years? Outside of Votto and Ellsbury (both in 2 years) there really isn’t anyone of Fielder’s caliber. Maybe David Wright, Alex Gordon, and Ryan Zimmerman, but half of them are extension candidates.

    We’ll have $70M-80M freed up before 2014, you can’t tell me you expect to spend $70M-80M on FAs in 2 years and get every fix possible?

    The timing doesn’t matter much – Fielder is a young guy. We have money. We need to send a message to the young guys as much as we need to send a message to the fans. If we were 3-4 years away, sure, I could see us not signing him. But 1-2 years away? He’ll be 28 years old – do it. Just don’t overpay, because everyone knows no team wants him at the price we’re at.

  45. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 1:56 pm

    Good points Valencia,

    However, very few teams have Scrooge McDuck bank vaults of money like the Yankees and Red Sox have at their disposal.

    So Daisuke Matsuzaka and A.J. Burnett blow up in your face? No biggie for the Yankees and BoSox who can simply sign absorb the blow and sign another free-agent.

    As we’ve seen it’s quite a different story for mid-market teams like the Mariners when someone like Chone Figgins or Richie Sexson turn into pumpkins, there just isn’t as much wiggle room when you maintain a 90-120M payroll as you have when you can easily maintain a 200M+ payroll.

    I’m not saying that the Mariners shouldn’t ever invest in elite players, but they certainly have to be more careful about it then the Yankees or Red Sox.

  46. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 2:01 pm

    Free agency is not the only way to obtain star-quality players, if you aren’t the Yankees or Red Sox it might be the worst.

    Trades are always a good alternative, and the M’s could have quite a few quality prospects to throw around by this time next year.

    If you’re close to contending, there will always be teams farther away who are looking to move someone elite for someone cheap with more team control left on the clock.

  47. Adam S on January 8th, 2012 2:04 pm

    Dave, two questions.

    The projections of Smoak, Carp, Wells, and Ackley for 7 WAR is probably a realistic median projections of what they might do, especially given Smoak’s unimpressive major league track record. However these guys all seem to have some potential. What’s the chance this group produces 11-12 WAR? Say 3 of Ackley is an all-star, Smoak is good, Wells and Carp are league average.

    Second, you always seem to be well connected though I realize Jack Z has done a better job of keeping things in house. My impression is the market for Fielder getting a 7/150 much less 10/250 deal that Boras wants has completely disappeared, especially after the Rizzo deal. I.e., none of the teams on the “interested list” seem rich enough and/or dumb enough to pay $20M for 2 wins 6 years down the road. Are the Mariners basically waiting to see far the market drops and if Fielder can be had for 4/90 or a 2-year deal and tries free agency later?

    Also, that’s just a bizarre starting lineup. Setting aside Ichiro who is 60% of the lineup payroll, for 8 players you’re spending $11.5M for 14 WAR. That seems like something the Marlins (or old) or Royals would do.

  48. Steve Nelson on January 8th, 2012 2:07 pm

    Love eclipsial’s logic here. No need to think – just work off of the truism that fits what you want to believe.

    All that’s needed to counter argue is that it’s obvious that teams that devote that amount of payroll to one player are headed for disaster. Everyone knows that. I’m surprised eclipsial hasn’t taken that into account.

  49. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 2:11 pm

    Valencia,

    The key is “Just don’t overpay”, I don’t think there has been any indication that the M’s wont sign Fielder for any reason but this.

    Clearly he’s a talented and relatively young player, but also just as clearly, he is a player with very real risk attached to him.

    If the Mariners can sign Fielder to something like 5 years at 20-22M per, I’m thrilled. If Scott Boras is serious about a “Pujolsian” contract, then the Mariners should quite rightly run in the other direction.

    Frugality is not a virtue in it’s own right in baseball, and telling the Mariners not to bid on Prince Fielder because he’d be expensive is ridiculous.
    But just as ridiculous is overspending to “send a message”, it’s something that foolish GMs do all the time, and it’s something that can cripple a team for years and years.

  50. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 2:15 pm

    I’m waiting for Eclipsial’s “You’re all drinking Dave’s kool-aid of groupthink…” argument.

  51. Westside guy on January 8th, 2012 2:16 pm

    If you agree that:

    4+4=8
    and
    2+2+2+2=8

    Then there really isn’t anything to argue here.

    That’s crazy talk! I suppose next you’re going to say that 3+2+1+2=8, or 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1=8.

    On a more serious note… I find it distressing that Wedge talked up Carp as our starting left fielder when we’ve got Wells on the roster. It reinforces my thought that Olivo is likely to get the lion’s share of playing time behind the plate, despite the fact that Jaso’s better (the bar is low, I realize – we’re not exactly talking about Johnny Bench). Wedge likes “gamers”.

  52. Jordan on January 8th, 2012 2:28 pm

    If Fielder is signed they need to keep Figgins for outfield depth, Carp becomes the left fielder and they lose value from his defense.
    ………………………………………….

    Does a plan exist in which Fielder is signed and other impact moves are made?

    Let’s say the Mariners can get Fielder and there’s still time left for other moves. Now, do they change and increase payroll?

    What about the scenario in which Figgins is released or swapped at a loss, Carp is traded (his value may never be higher), Smoak is the DH or sent to AAA for half a season to build trade value (I realize that is dumb and he should be in the majors)? …the same scenario that includes signing a Maholm-type AND a Moyer-type, then trading Vargas? …then dumping them both in a Fister/Bedard repeat when Hultzen and Paxton are ‘ready’? What about the scenario in which the Mariners are the surprise team to land Cespedes (and he becomes a star) or trade Pineda for an Upton-type?

    Do any of these scenarios exist in which the Mariners get a superstar (doesn’t have to be Fielder) and continue upgrading this offseason?

  53. eponymous coward on January 8th, 2012 2:34 pm

    Where rookies are 1-3 WAR, stop gap veterans are 2.5 WAR.

    No, they’re not. Someone with a ~2.5 WAR skill level often comes up with their 3-4 WAR “career year” and their 1 WAR “bad year”. There’s plenty of variance in veterans.

    A Grantland article made a really good point – they only target the elite FAs, and leave the 2-4 WAR guys alone.

    Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu all say “hi”. They’re all 2-4 WAR players, with occasional spikes into 5 WAR territory (and valleys below it).

  54. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 2:35 pm

    Interesting thought Jordan,

    However, I honestly don’t think the M’s would expand the payroll too much this year.

    I could see them bumping it a few million for Fielder’s sake, but I think the issue here is letting the kids play and establishing a “talent core” then a real dollars and cents issue.

    I really think that if this team is going to put its payroll in the ~115M area again, it will be when they have a solid established group of talented youth to build around, and can round out the payroll with some elite players.

    My guess is when Ichiro’s contract comes off the books, and the Mariners have established MLB pitching depth. So, starting next year, I can see things like a Pineda trade being much more likely.

  55. Drayer on January 8th, 2012 2:39 pm

    I like Maholm at 5-6M, and Venable at 2M, But what about Wilson Betemit for 3B at about 3.5-4M? He can cover a few infield positions and has some pop off his bat. Taking him instead of Reynolds could then leave 3-4.5M left to spend on better bullpen arms.

  56. shortbus on January 8th, 2012 2:39 pm

    Westside guy: your feelings on Carp and Olivo mirror my own. Wedge seemed to fall in love with Olivo last season, batting him in the middle of the order for no apparent reason. Jaso doesn’t hit a lot of homers and he likes to walk. He’s like Cust with some defensive value. And we all saw how much Wedge hated Cust.

  57. eponymous coward on January 8th, 2012 2:41 pm

    Oh, and…

    I think signing Fielder isn’t just about giving more rookies PT, or attendance. It’s about sending a message to the players, that this is becoming a place where the best players will want to come. Don’t waste the opportunity you have to become a part of this team – work your butt off and join us.

    How’d that work out in 2005 when we cashed in for Sexson and Beltre?

    Using FA signings to “send messages” to your ballplayers is silly- there’s just no evidence that MLB GMs know enough about what turns players into “winners” beyond the basics of “surround players with talent that you correctly evaluate, and win as many ballgames as you can”. If all this psychological mumbo-jumbo of “heart” and “winning” worked, Bill Bavasi would still be a GM here. Worry about improving the team’s talent base and winning games.

  58. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 2:45 pm

    I think the fixation with Olivo and Carp boils down to what Jeff Sullivan would call “Dingers”.

    I like Eric Wedge, but he does get caught up in “roles” and what certain players should look like. So because Olivo hit home-runs, he was the closest thing the Mariners had to what Wedge thought of as a “middle of the order” bat.

    Hopefully this is largely rectified by the Mariners actually having something resembling a middle-order bat next year.

  59. Valenica on January 8th, 2012 2:51 pm

    Free agency is not the only way to obtain star-quality players, if you aren’t the Yankees or Red Sox it might be the worst.
    Trades are always a good alternative, and the M’s could have quite a few quality prospects to throw around by this time next year.

    Wrong. Trades are the worst way to obtain star-quality players, because you have to pay a top prospect to acquire them. FA is actually the second best way, with development obviously being first.

  60. mebpenguin on January 8th, 2012 2:51 pm

    I think there’s a misunderstanding. The fundamental disagreement between people like myself who don’t think it’s a good idea to sign Fielder and those who desperately want Prince isn’t whether it’s a good idea to sign an elite player to a big contract, it’s about whether or not Prince is a truly elite player.

    If you do believe that Prince is a truly elite talent than it makes tons of sense to sign him to a long term contract, thereby concentrating value in a single position and putting a great player in place for your next playoff run in two to three years. As several people have mentioned it’s not about next year but about getting 5+ WAR from first base in two or three years.

    That only works, however, if you think that Prince Fielder is likely to give you 5+ WAR for the next several years. I’m not convinced he is, and I don’t believe that Dave is either. Look at the aging curve predicted for Fielder in this article:
    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/how-will-prince-fielder-age/

    This article shows that’s there’s a massive risk that Fielder will only be a 3 or 4 win player in a couple of years, and decline quickly from there. Furthermore, I think it can be argued quite fairly that Fielder is not a true talent 5+ win player. He loses massive value because of poor defense and baserunning. This will only get worse in the future. so his only true value is his bat. The past four years his bat has been worth 25, 55, 35 and 50 runs, which is a lot of variance. If he has a down year hitting he could easily drop to a 2 or 3 win player.

    I feel like signing Fielder is a bad idea not because I don’t think it’s a good idea to sign elite talents, but because I don’t believe Prince Fielder is a truly elite talent.

  61. Adam B. on January 8th, 2012 3:06 pm

    “Wrong. Trades are the worst way to obtain star-quality players, because you have to pay a top prospect to acquire them. FA is actually the second best way, with development obviously being first.”

    You understand the attrition rate of “top prospects” right? Remember when Jeff Clement, Phillipe Aumont and Ryan Anderson were “top prospects”?

    Trades are an excellent way to acquire elite players, because you can always develop more “top prospects”. Case in point:

    Phillipe Aumont
    Tyson Gillies
    J.C. Ramirez

    for

    Cliff Lee

    Certainly that’s an outlier trade with it’s one-sidedness, but the idea is the same.

    Established players are always worth more than prospects, and the comparison becomes even more one sided when you compare elite players to elite prospects.

    Do you think the Yankees would trade Jesus Montero for Felix Hernandez straight up? Certainly Felix’s paycheck puts a damper on his value to the Yankees, but the Mariners would be reamed for getting so little in return for such an elite player.

    Risk is a factor when describing value, and the risk that a prospect flames out or doesn’t reach their full potential is a very real consideration when calculating value; To the team trading the established commodity and the team sending the volatile commodity.

  62. Valenica on January 8th, 2012 3:13 pm

    No, they’re not. Someone with a ~2.5 WAR skill level often comes up with their 3-4 WAR “career year” and their 1 WAR “bad year”. There’s plenty of variance in veterans.

    Yes there is variance, obviously. However at that point they’re mostly developed, so the variance comes from BABIP and UZR – luck in other words – over actual improvement.

    Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu all say “hi”. They’re all 2-4 WAR players, with occasional spikes into 5 WAR territory (and valleys below it).

    Try giving me someone in the last 5 years. The Yankees learnt how to spend money. Now they only spend on elite players, which is why they haven’t signed anyone this year or last year.

    How’d that work out in 2005 when we cashed in for Sexson and Beltre?
    Using FA signings to “send messages” to your ballplayers is silly- there’s just no evidence that MLB GMs know enough about what turns players into “winners” beyond the basics of “surround players with talent that you correctly evaluate, and win as many ballgames as you can”. If all this psychological mumbo-jumbo of “heart” and “winning” worked, Bill Bavasi would still be a GM here. Worry about improving the team’s talent base and winning games.

    There’s evidence in business settings – banks signing star MDs, PE firms signing star analysts, firms acquiring star partners. How do you make a name for your firm? In house guys obviously…but to attract in house talent, and develop them properly, you need the right culture that demands excellence, and having a star veteran do that is the easiest way.

    It’s an analogy, but you can’t just limit to the baseball, but have to branch out into business, NFL, NBA, everywhere. TB’s GM is a former Wall St. guy, he understands the culture at elite banks, and he replicated it at TB. TB’s the only team in the MLB that signs guys like Longoria, Moore, Joyce, etc. to ridiculously team friendly contracts because that’s the culture there.

    Any business case study or textbook is going to tell you culture is the #1 most important thing to a firm’s success.

    It’s really not as simple as, “surround players with talent.” A lot of the talent is 2-7 years away from their peak. No one can see how they’ll do. Yes there’s no evidence in baseball culture matters…but how are you going to measure that? How do you measure how PE firms can buy firms, fire management, hire new management, and turn the firm around into profit?

    There are things statistics can’t measure. What causes players to improve 7 years straight? I’d like a statistic that tells me that.

  63. rth1986 on January 8th, 2012 3:22 pm

    Mark Reynolds is an interesting name to be brought up. He’s definitely a guy whose power wouldn’t necessarily be suppressed by SAFECO. He is a power threat anywhere. Not sure his availability or cost, but I would love that one.

    Also, I hope the Mariners are in on Martin Prado. His value is extremely low now and I’m sure the Mariners could work out a reasonable deal with Atlanta. His ability to play 3B, LF and 2B would fit this team well. He’d make a nice platoon partner with Seager. He’s a good rebound candidate.

    I also like the idea of getting Seth Smith from the Rockies and swapping Carp out for a pitcher. Smith is a real outfielder with a similar bat to Carp. If he’s cheap, then it would make some sense.

    Still would rather dangle Beavan than Erasmo Ramirez. They both have a similar profile to guys like Carlos Silva and Fister, but I think Erasmo has a better ability to miss bats and keep the ball on the ground. Beavan’s major league experience might make him slightly more valuable to other clubs anyway.

  64. Valenica on January 8th, 2012 3:25 pm

    I never said trades were a bad way of acquiring talent, I said they were the worst.

    Yes, if an opportunity like the Lee trade, or the Granderson/Jackson swap exists, then you take it. Obviously.

    But remember just last year, we talked about trading Pineda + Smoak + Franklin for Justin Upton.

    Yes, we would have acquired a 5 WAR player. But we would have lost a 3.5 WAR pitcher, and 2 great hitting prospects, who could turn into Upton themselves.

    In comparison, you can just sign Fielder, get that 5 WAR player, while keeping that 3.5 WAR pitcher and the 2 great hitting prospects.

    One of them costs more, but in terms of acquiring talent…the FA way is the better one. Because after you factor out the replacement cost for the pitcher and the 2 hitters, you’ve probably spent more for less.

  65. Westside guy on January 8th, 2012 3:40 pm

    Westside guy: your feelings on Carp and Olivo mirror my own. Wedge seemed to fall in love with Olivo last season, batting him in the middle of the order for no apparent reason. Jaso doesn’t hit a lot of homers and he likes to walk. He’s like Cust with some defensive value. And we all saw how much Wedge hated Cust.

    You’ve reminded me of an area where I need to be more careful, and I keep falling down.

    I railed on Wedge regarding his fixation with Olivo, but it’s not like he had lots of options available to him – there weren’t exactly a lot of .300 hitters on the bench. I tend to make assumptions regarding what he’ll do this year, largely based on what he’s said in the media. I probably should wait and see what he actually does when he has a viable second option at catcher.

  66. LMF on January 8th, 2012 3:49 pm

    O’Neill, Martinez and Knoblauch were all pre-Cashman, I think. Abreu didn’t have a WAR under 5 until after joining the Yankees. Damon fits the description, though. Not that it really matters.

    Side question – have they said Jaso will start, or is starting C up for grabs?

  67. Westside guy on January 8th, 2012 3:52 pm

    I like Maholm at 5-6M, and Venable at 2M, But what about Wilson Betemit for 3B at about 3.5-4M? He can cover a few infield positions and has some pop off his bat.

    That’s an interesting idea. Bad glove, but so is Reynolds. Hits better as a leftie, which is not a bad thing for Safeco.

    It was interesting to notice his crazy home/away BABIP splits last year.

  68. Zorganak on January 8th, 2012 4:07 pm

    “I want a few role players and a few superstars. I want a few players that can change the game with one swing of the bat. With one pitch.”

    Having solid role players is where this team is and has been failing. If you count a “superstar” as someone who puts up 5 WAR then for the past three years we’ve had Felix Hernandez and for the past 10 Ichiro Suzuki. Michael Pineda’s and Dustin Ackley’s stars are very bright and it’s easy to see them hitting +5 WAR in the future. If you aren’t the Yankees or Red Sox you can’t afford to keep that many “superstars” on the team. The teams that win the World Series generally have a few established “superstars”, a few surprising players that put up career years and then the rest of the roster is filled with people who don’t suck.

    Examples?

    The 2011 Cardinals
    Established Superstars – Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter
    Surpise/Bounceback players – Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina
    5 solid role players between 2-3.5 WAR

    The 2010 Giants
    Established Superstars – Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson (2.6 WAR, but I assume for a reliever that counts as a superstar)
    Surprise/Bounceback players – Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff
    6 solid role players between 2-3.5 WAR

    The 2009 Yankees
    Established Superstars – Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, A-Rod, CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera
    Surprise/Bounceback – Robinson Cano (I don’t know what he was thought of as a prospect, but 2009 was his breakout year and he wasn’t a superstar yet so I put him here)
    8 solid role players between 2-3.5 WAR

    It doesn’t really come as a surprise that the Yankees leaned more on the superstars than relying on a few surprises, but the entire roster was full of solid role players as well.

    Now lets look at the last decent Mariners team

    The 2009 Mariners
    Established Superstars – Ichiro Suzuki, Felix Hernandez
    Surprise/Bounceback Players – Franklin Gutierrez, David Aardsma
    4 solid role players between 2-3.5 WAR

    The Cardinals and Giants each had 10 contributing players, the Yankees 14 and the Mariners 8. It takes an entire team to win, not a couple superstars, maybe we need to take a step back and look at our team through the eyes of some other team’s fan. Felix Hernandez and Ichiro Suzuki are top shelf players that it seems some people take for granted. Ichiro may be on his way out, but the only way to replace his iconography isn’t necessarily to sign Fielder. A homegrown superstar is just as good as a bought superstar (and they usually come cheaper).

    What I see in this team is a GM that is building a foundation to keep solid 2-3 win players coming up, some of them will turn into superstars, those players you extend to long term expensive contracts and hope for a few surprise years out of some unsuspecting players.

  69. PackBob on January 8th, 2012 4:12 pm

    It seems to me that adding Fielder brings more risk than just his performance. A Carp move to left field is compensated some by Guti’s defense, but Guti may not regain his form from a couple years ago. Guti replaced by anyone makes Carp’s limitations in left field more of a problem.

    Given that Fielder is a liability defensively and on the bases, he derives all his value from hitting. But he’s not been a consistently high wRC+ hitter, although he’s never been a bad one. His hitting has fluctuated in alternating years, although the last three years have been better it total than the first three. The fluctuation doesn’t appear to be driven by BABIP.

    Fielder could come in and have a 2-3 WAR year, consistent with his fluctuation, which would be viewed by some as a failure compared to the monster hitter that was expected.

    The question marks and holes associated with this team makes the addition of Fielder more risky, to my mind, than if Fielder were added to a solid team. I much prefer Dave’s approach of adding a number of players to address multiple problems.

  70. bookbook on January 8th, 2012 4:17 pm

    I really really like the Prado, Venable, Harden plan. Tons of flexibility and underrated valuable players in there.

    What in the world could be provide that Atlanta needs, however? Giving them pitching prospects is like taking coal to Newcastle.

    By the by, some of the smartest folks I’ve ever met can’t spell.

    Thanks for spelling out the 3 major flavors of options the M’s have at this point. Whether it’s the right thing to do or not, I do feel that circumstances conspire to make the Fielder signing more and more likely. We’ll see….

  71. Dave on January 8th, 2012 4:42 pm

    Good job with collecting role players, now get a few players that can change the outcome of the game!

    Why don’t you just want to win games? Who cares if they win with superstars or a collection of solid players? Do you think Arizona fans last year were annoyed that they won their division with just one player who could change the outcome of the game?

    Players like Prince are not hitting the market anymore.

    This is just BS. Players as good or better than Prince Fielder hit the market every winter.

    A Grantland article made a really good point – they only target the elite FAs, and leave the 2-4 WAR guys alone.

    That article was wrong. Curtis Granderson wasn’t any kind of superstar when the Yankees acquired him. Nick Swisher isn’t a superstar. A.J. Burnett, Rafael Soriano, Russell Martin… Heck, Derek Jeter’s an average player now, and they certainly didn’t shy away from paying him.

    Yes, the Yankees traded for a couple of those guys, but there’s no point separating out free agents from trade acquisitions. It’s all one big market, with teams substituting between them based on what’s available. To say that the Yankees don’t target mid-price, mid-level players is just incorrect.

    NYY is doing it. BOS has been doing it. They built a culture where players wanted to become Red Sox/Yankees, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    This is all just existential BS. The Yankees and Red Sox win because they have huge payrolls and GMs who don’t buy into this sort of crap. They just get good players.

    Dave, My issue with this analysis is that it somewhat ignores the value that Prince would (assumably) bring beyond next season. The analysis is accurate for the season 2012, but I think most everyone has agreed that 2012 is not the expected season for contention. In 2013/14 when our young rotation is offering closer to 18-20 WAR and Prince is offering 4.5-6 at first base the team could be competing with the Angels and Rangers.

    Players decline as they age. Fat ones decline even faster than most. In a couple of years, the best we can hope for from Fielder is more like a +3 to +4 win player. It’s almost certain that the team could do better buying a new free agent in two years than by having Fielder already under contract. Long term contracts almost never provide significant value to the team beyond the first couple of years. You can’t just say “oh, they’ll have Fielder”, because at the price he’s going to cost, you’re probably not going to want Fielder in a few years.

    The projections of Smoak, Carp, Wells, and Ackley for 7 WAR is probably a realistic median projections of what they might do, especially given Smoak’s unimpressive major league track record. However these guys all seem to have some potential. What’s the chance this group produces 11-12 WAR?

    +12 WAR would be an average of +3 WAR each. That’s pretty optimistic, and I’d say the odds of that are probably less than 15%. You could argue that I’m maybe a bit low on those guys, but others might argue I’m a bit high on Ichiro, Vargas, or Ryan. Overall, I don’t know that you can make a great case for pushing the WAR up or down more than +5 wins in either direction. If someone thinks this is a 70 win team, okay. If they think it’s an 80 win team, okay. Anything between that, okay. Anything outside of that, I’m probably not buying.

    Are the Mariners basically waiting to see far the market drops and if Fielder can be had for 4/90 or a 2-year deal and tries free agency later?

    That’s not happening. Don’t buy into this “no suitors for Fielder” stuff. There are no suitors for him at 10/200. There will be plenty of suitors for him at 5/100. The question is just how far above that Boras can get the bidding to go.

    Do any of these scenarios exist in which the Mariners get a superstar (doesn’t have to be Fielder) and continue upgrading this offseason?

    Not really. Cespedes doesn’t make any sense for the Mariners, and trading a guy like Vargas away isn’t going to help you upgrade the roster in any substantial way. If the team signs Fielder, they’re almost certainly done with impact moves, and the rest of the winter would be offering an NRI to a guy like Jamie Moyer.

    But what about Wilson Betemit for 3B at about 3.5-4M?

    He’s a lefty who doesn’t hit lefties, just like Seager. Unlike Seager, he can’t play third base, so there’s no real reason to play him there against RHPs, and he’s useless against LHPs, so there’s no platoon advantage to be had. Same deal with DH – why start him over Carp vs RHPs, and why start him ever vs LHPs? Betemit’s not a fit.

    Wrong. Trades are the worst way to obtain star-quality players, because you have to pay a top prospect to acquire them. FA is actually the second best way, with development obviously being first.

    This is the dumbest thing you’ve said here, and that’s actually a pretty high bar.

    To acquire talent, you have to surrender an asset. With free agents, that asset is cash.

    With trades, that asset is some combination of players and cash – the more money you have to take on, the fewer players you have to give up.

    With prospects, that asset is time. You give up present value for the hope of future value, but you get nothing while you wait.

    The free agent and trade markets are basically substitutes – the price of talent in one dictates the price of talent in the other. This winter is a perfect example, as teams decided they didn’t like the starting pitchers available in free agency, so they substituted into trading for pitchers like Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez. The A’s and Padres benefited from the increased trade demand for pitching and were able to charge more to sell their young pitching. When free agents are plentiful, demand for players in trade goes down. If free agents are asking too much money, then teams explore how they can acquire alternatives via trade. These markets are inextricably linked, and you can’t seriously argue that free agency provides a better value than acquiring players via trade.

    To say that trading for an asset is worse than signing one as a free agent is just ridiculous and wrong.

  72. greentunic on January 8th, 2012 5:10 pm

    “If you agree that:
    4+4=8
    and
    2+2+2+2=8
    Then there really isn’t anything to argue here.”

    This isn’t quite true with WAR…
    4+4 is much for valuable than 2+2+2+2 with players because you can still get additional WAR after the two 4+4 players that you would lose with 2+2+2+2.

    4+4+x+y is greater than 2+2+2+2.

    4+4+0+0 does equal 2+2+2+2 though.

  73. eponymous coward on January 8th, 2012 5:27 pm

    It’s really not as simple as, “surround players with talent.” A lot of the talent is 2-7 years away from their peak. No one can see how they’ll do.

    If that’s the case, how is it possible you can evaluate the job Zduriencik is doing outside the win-loss record (which is terrible)?

    Yes, it IS as simple as “talent acquisition and development”. The rest, where we start talking about “winning culture”, when it comes to baseball, is all fundamental attribution error, where we assume that instead of situational reasons (your talent sucks, you got unlucky in the regular season and the playoffs), we invent dispositional reasons (you didn’t have enough heart), because that’s how we work as human beings- it’s easier to believe that the difference between a team that wins a playoff series/pennant race and one that does not is related to guts/grit/desire to be a winner, rather than random chance and the fickle finger of fate, or overall talent levels.

    Sure, you don’t want a team of axe murderers who kill you at the box office by being reprehensible human beings, and I will buy the idea that a team of alcoholics or jerks doesn’t win pennants- oh, wait, the Martin/Mantle Yankees and the 70′s A’s won championships without being very lovable. Never mind.

    Anyway, I want to concentrate on getting the talent level better. Fixating on Fielder as some sort of totem just blinds us to the possibilities that exist outside signing him, and they are out there. Getting trapped in rigid thinking (“we need RBI guys who can produce! veteran pitchers at any cost! draft a catcher!”) is what killed Bavasi. What’s impressed me about Zduriencik is being willing to think outside the box, and to be willing to try and fail (granted, I’d like less fail, but I like the try).

    As for what to do… the 1100 PA’s for Carp/Wells/Robinson strike me as the biggest hole, of where you want to put a better player. (But I admit to being a big Seager fan; of those four players, I would pick him as the best of ‘em, the one most likely to be a quality MLB regular.)

  74. dogkahuna on January 8th, 2012 5:35 pm

    Stupid math question here. Looking at Jaso’s and Olivo’s projections which are 1.0 WAR for 300 PAs each, I wonder why WAR isn’t projected beyond full and half increments. Why not project player A at 1.25 and player B at 0.65? Thanks.

  75. Dave on January 8th, 2012 5:38 pm

    We don’t have good enough tools to support precision projections down to the second decimal. Even the first decimal is kind of spotty.

  76. eponymous coward on January 8th, 2012 5:43 pm

    Yeah, I gathered that “2.0 WAR” really means “It’s probably not going to be above 3 or below 1 if the player stays healthy”.

  77. ivan on January 8th, 2012 5:44 pm

    Is it just me, or does the comment about “building a culture” remind anyone else of “clubhouse chemistry” or “belief system?”

  78. Dave on January 8th, 2012 5:58 pm

    As for what to do… the 1100 PA’s for Carp/Wells/Robinson strike me as the biggest hole, of where you want to put a better player. (But I admit to being a big Seager fan; of those four players, I would pick him as the best of ‘em, the one most likely to be a quality MLB regular.)

    At the very least, though, hopefully you can see that this roster lacks depth at 3B/1B/DH. Those three positions are each being manned by young players with short track records of success, and if any of Seager/Smoak/Carp fall on their face, there are no solid alternatives in house to take their place.

    That’s why I’m advocating for the acquisition of a guy like Reynolds (or previously McGehee). At the very least, you need a guy on the bench who can serve as a non-embarrassing DH when Smoak’s getting a day off or Wedge decides to start Carp in left field. If you pick up a guy like Venable and go with the OF rotation I’ve suggested, you’re still short a guy who can serve as a fill-in for these three young kids.

    If the team signs a bat-first guy like Fielder, Pena, or Scott, then you have some depth at 1B/DH, but still no real alternatives at 3B (if Seager sucks or gets hurt) or the outfield (if any one of Carp/Wells/Gutierrez are bad/hurt, that’s trouble). That’s one of the reasons why Reynolds makes sense for the team – he gives them depth at all three infield positions, and you could spread his playing time around between the spots to where he wouldn’t be preventing any of them from playing regularly. Basically, he’d give you four guys for those three spots, plus a guy who could form a natural platoon with either Seager or Carp.

    If you just address the OF/DH issue, you’re still left hoping and praying that Seager is good, because there’s just not much in the way of useful Major League corner infielders hanging out in the organization. And, unfortunately, Gutierrez’s health problems mean that the team probably needs another legitimate outfielder, so signing a guy like Fielder or Pena doesn’t do much to provide outfield depth.

    The team can do better with multiple position players to fill those roles than they can by signing one guy and moving everyone else around. They really need two guys to provide enough depth behind the young kids they’re counting on, unless we want to end up with another scenario where the team’s utility infielder is playing first base regularly.

  79. stevemotivateir on January 8th, 2012 6:49 pm

    I wonder if Omar Visquel would make a good utility infielder for Seattle. He wouldn’t cost much.

  80. lalo on January 8th, 2012 7:15 pm

    Omar Vizquel is 45, Luis Rodriguez would be a good utility infielder IMO, Kawasaki can play too…

  81. stevemotivateir on January 8th, 2012 7:19 pm

    I know he’s old, but it would be nice to see a veteran in the mix. Kawasaki isn’t a guarantee to make the team, though I’m excited to see how he does in spring.

  82. eastcoastmariner on January 8th, 2012 7:26 pm

    I’m not supporting this as a realistic suggestion, but JackZ did mention Figgins, Liddi, and Catricala as competition for Seager at 3B in an interview a few weeks back. If the best option is to put a corpse of a defender at 3B like Reynolds solely for the purpose of his powerful right-handed bat, the front office might view Catricala as a comparable and preferable option, despite his inexperience above AA.

    I’m not saying I agree with the notion, but there doesn’t seem to be a number of attractive alternatives available, and if Reynolds is the cream of the crop, the front office might just stick with the crop.

  83. bookbook on January 8th, 2012 7:32 pm

    “4+4+x+y is greater than 2+2+2+2.
    4+4+0+0 does equal 2+2+2+2 though.”

    Yeah, but… the M’s have been managing:

    4+4+(-1)+(-1)=6 lately

    Replacement level at zero is a model, not a perfect approximation of reality.

  84. Valenica on January 8th, 2012 7:38 pm

    To say that trading for an asset is worse than signing one as a free agent is just ridiculous and wrong.

    So if Mat Latos was a FA, but Gio Gonzalez was a trade target, which one do you think teams would target first?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if 100% of the GMs would target Latos first, before targetting Gio if they had the money. And that’s exactly what happened with Washington, since they targeted CJ Wilson before targeting Gio. That’s because FAs are better acquisitions than trades.

    Yes the trade and FA markets are linked. But all things being equal, GMs will take the player on the FA market (money) over the player on the trade market (prospects) because even if the money = prospects in value, they still place more value on prospects due to variance. Thus FA > trades.

  85. eastcoastmariner on January 8th, 2012 7:43 pm

    Also, it’s probably not worth further discussion but Wilson Betemit is apparently a switch-hitter. He obviously hits righties much better than lefites, but he has managed a .333 wOBA (106 wRC+) over the past two seasons against left-handers. Small sample size but take from it what you wish

  86. Valenica on January 8th, 2012 7:46 pm

    This is all just existential BS. The Yankees and Red Sox win because they have huge payrolls and GMs who don’t buy into this sort of crap. They just get good players.

    I’m sorry but this is BS. You don’t win for 10-15+ years straight just because you spend $20M more than the Cubs.

    FAs WANT to go to BOS/NYY. It’s not just because of the money – it’s because they literally dream playing for these teams.

    Remember just 10 years ago Boston was a joke. Now they’re a premier franchise, and they don’t spend much more than the other big market teams.

    CEOs of the biggest companies in the world buy into this “crap,” so I hope you have a better argument than that. Unless every single MBA school in America is wrong.

    Talent matters, but so does development. You can be the best talent picker in the world (HR/Scouting’s job), but if you can’t develop any of them into world-class talent (CEO/GMs job), you’ll never be the best.

  87. Valenica on January 8th, 2012 7:58 pm

    If that’s the case, how is it possible you can evaluate the job Zduriencik is doing outside the win-loss record (which is terrible)?

    Are you trying to say results are a bad way of evaluating someone? Wow. Did you go to Evergreen College or something?

    If this process isn’t leading to results, obviously it’s a flawed process. What’s hard to understand about this.

    Yes there are exceptions, rookies, injuries, etc. but in 2 years if all our prospects are busts and we’re still a 70 win team I want Z fired, regardless of how “good” his process looks.

    Yes, it IS as simple as “talent acquisition and development”.

    It is. But all you focus on is talent acquisition, and never the development side.

    How do we develop players? How should we measure how players are developed?

    Because remember, while picking the right talent is a valuable skill, development is arguably more important.

    Example: imagine an HR rep. sifting through Ivy league grads to pick his Banking class. Everyone’s talented. Some are more talented than others, obviously. But what skills are you prioritizing? How accurately do you think a set of statistics (GPA, test scores, school) is going to predict his success?

    Now once he picks his group of talent, you’re hoping he picks the right ones. It’s then the GM/CEO’s job to build a culture, where people help each other out, where it’s encouraged to work not just hard, but to the point of excellence, where people are given the right kind of work, etc.

    Obviously every GM is doing this. But the ones who really do it and get results, and not the ones who just do it in name only, are the great GMs, not good ones.

  88. Liam on January 8th, 2012 8:16 pm

    Are you trying to say results are a bad way of evaluating someone? Wow.

    Yes.

    Paul DePodesta made a chart that explains how this works.

    Good Process, Good Outcome: Deserved Success.
    Good Process, Bad Outcome: Bad Break.
    Bad Process, Good Outcome: Dumb Luck.
    Bad Process, Bad Outcome: Poetic Justice.

  89. bubba_gump on January 8th, 2012 8:20 pm

    “Why don’t you just want to win games? Who cares if they win with superstars or a collection of solid players? Do you think Arizona fans last year were annoyed that they won their division with just one player who could change the outcome of the game?”

    Great point, Dave. No I don’t think Arizona fans care how they won the division. Deep down though, all I want is for this team to win. That being said, I’m tired of the way the M’s are piecing this thing together. They aren’t a small market team. They don’t need to play moneyball. I agree that an elite bat would constrict the payroll in the future, but that is ONLY if the payroll stays where it is. And it doesn’t have to.
    There is no reason why the M’s can not do your scenario A and B!

  90. milehighmariner on January 8th, 2012 8:32 pm

    Why does “scenario A” have to have us just get Fielder and stand pat?

    You argued the other day that the only way it really makes sense for the M’s to get Fielder is if they do a backloaded contract with an opt-out clause. In the first year he would have a salary similar to Pujols’ recent contract at 13 million I believe was the figure you used. If that’s the case, there seems to be an extra 2 million to go get Venable, which, in turn would free them up to do a few other things on the trade front to acquire more pieces that work within the construct of this team.

  91. Dave on January 8th, 2012 8:36 pm

    I’m sorry but this is BS. You don’t win for 10-15+ years straight just because you spend $20M more than the Cubs.

    The Cubs were run by morons. Also, you might want to actually look up payroll figures and rethink your position – the Yankees have spent about $70 million more than the Cubs recently, and if you don’t think that makes a huge difference, you understand baseball about as well as the people who ran the Cubs.

    FAs WANT to go to BOS/NYY. It’s not just because of the money – it’s because they literally dream playing for these teams.

    Prove it. Give us a list of players who took less money to play in BOS or NY. We’ll be waiting.

    In reality, players decide where to play based on some combination of four reasons: money (the most important factor, by far), playing time, how good the team is (grows in importance as a player ages), geography.

    The Yankees check all of the first three boxes for most players, as they offer them huge money for regular jobs on a team that is always a contender. Beyond geographical reasons, there just isn’t much else that plays into where a free agent signs.

    Remember just 10 years ago Boston was a joke. Now they’re a premier franchise, and they don’t spend much more than the other big market teams.

    10 years ago, the Red Sox won 93 games. The last time the Red Sox finished below .500 was 1997, when they went 78-84. Then, that joke of an organization signed Manny Ramirez and traded for Pedro Martinez and won a whole bunch of games.

    So, again, you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

    Talent matters, but so does development. You can be the best talent picker in the world (HR/Scouting’s job), but if you can’t develop any of them into world-class talent (CEO/GMs job), you’ll never be the best.

    So you think the difference between the Yankees and Cubs is not that the Yankees identified that Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia were really good, but that the Cubs just failed to “develop” Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, and Kosuke Fukudome?

    This argument is so dumb that it doesn’t even deserve a response. You don’t develop baseball players who have reached free agency – you identify which ones are good and will help your team, then you try to get them for a reasonable price.

    You know what else they teach in business school? Occam’s razor. You don’t have to invent a myth to explain something that has an obvious explanation.

  92. Jordan on January 8th, 2012 8:57 pm

    @Bubba and mile high

    Here’s Dave’s response to my question earlier:

    Do any of these scenarios exist in which the Mariners get a superstar (doesn’t have to be Fielder) and continue upgrading this offseason?

    Not really. Cespedes doesn’t make any sense for the Mariners, and trading a guy like Vargas away isn’t going to help you upgrade the roster in any substantial way. If the team signs Fielder, they’re almost certainly done with impact moves, and the rest of the winter would be offering an NRI to a guy like Jamie Moyer.

    So basically, the Mariners can attempt to upgrade at multiple positions, or put all their eggs in one really large basket.

  93. eponymous coward on January 8th, 2012 9:09 pm

    At the very least, though, hopefully you can see that this roster lacks depth at 3B/1B/DH. Those three positions are each being manned by young players with short track records of success, and if any of Seager/Smoak/Carp fall on their face, there are no solid alternatives in house to take their place.

    I don’t object to Reynolds (or a guy who is a 1B/LF/3B swing player, to be more general).

    More that I think Seager’s the best player out of that bunch, with the most room for growth (and the player I’d least like to see blocked by a signing/relegated to a bench/utility role).

    But hey, maybe Seager doesn’t hit lefties in 2012. It would be silly to make anyone an untouchable outside of maybe Felix/Ichiro/Ackley/Pineda. Nobody really deserves much of a lock after a 90+ loss season.

    Remember just 10 years ago Boston was a joke. Now they’re a premier franchise, and they don’t spend much more than the other big market teams.

    Boston won 85 games in 2000, 82 in 2001, 93 in 2002. All while playing in a market with regular sellouts and a loyal fan base.

    How on earth is that a “joke”?

    Are you trying to say results are a bad way of evaluating someone? Wow. Did you go to Evergreen College or something?

    As a matter of fact, yes. Where we have “narrative evaluations” instead of number grades, and you have to actually read the what the instructor said about the student instead of figure what a number grade means.

    But hey, if you want to make lazy jokes about slacker Evergreen students taking underwater interdisciplinary basketweaving, knock yourself out, though John Keister did it better than you ever will, and 15 years ago too, on Almost Live.

    Note, however, that no number grade =! no evaluation. Which again is not what I am saying. I’m saying that RIGHT NOW, if all you evaluate Zduriencik on is his win loss record, it stinks, time to can his ass.

    Aren’t you on record as being really really positive on Paxton and some of our other players? Guys who are probably not going to contribute in 2012? Why is that? Is that possibly a measure you can use to be optimistic that Zduriencik has made progress for this franchise over Bavasi?

    But all you focus on is talent acquisition, and never the development side.

    Just because I don’t think Prince Fielder is the Holy Grail of free agent signings that will instantly inspire our team to the 2014 World Championship by his general awesomeness doesn’t mean I’m discounting development. Teams like Baltimore and KC get to draft high every year. And they suck at turning those high draft choices into good MLB players.

    But I don’t think this has to do with “winning culture” at all, in the “let’s put up buzzwords about grit and hustle” sense. It has to do with nurturing skillsets, promoting kids before they are ready, promoting the right kids, having adequate depth in-system, instilling good habits, instruction.

    Obviously every GM is doing this. But the ones who really do it and get results, and not the ones who just do it in name only, are the great GMs, not good ones.

    OK, fine. I’m not going to get into MBA-speak because it’s not anything I can speak to- other than noting that I can find plenty of examples of smart MBA types saying all the right buzzwords taking companies into the toilet. But let’s go into your claim of good GM/great GM.

    There’s no evidence that Zduriencik is a great GM yet. If anything, there’s evidence of the opposite (you will find very, very few great GMs who have many years at the bottom of their leagues- and the ones who do are almost always special cases, like Branch Rickey with the Pirates). There was the problem with Wakamatsu, and to be honest, I’m not an Eric Wedge fan, either (he’s basically in the Mike Hargrove class of “he’s not actively awful but not particularly good; he’ll win with talent but doesn’t have a LaRussa/Duncan record of doing OMGWTH?!?!?! with pitchers, or what Earl Weaver did, and so on”).

    So given that, what makes you think that Fielder is somehow a key signing for the 2014 Mariners, if we’re not even sure we have the right GM yet? Why should the team lock themselves into 7 digit payouts to a player with old-player skills, when historically, this has been a bad bet to make? Doesn’t having ideological and roster flexibility carry some value here if you think you might not have the same GM in 2014?

  94. Dave on January 8th, 2012 9:10 pm

    Yes the trade and FA markets are linked. But all things being equal, GMs will take the player on the FA market (money) over the player on the trade market (prospects) because even if the money = prospects in value, they still place more value on prospects due to variance. Thus FA > trades.

    That’s just… you’re jok…

    Believe what you want. You live in a fantasy world.

  95. ivan on January 8th, 2012 9:18 pm

    Go easy on him Dave. He’s creating a culture.

  96. bubba_gump on January 8th, 2012 9:23 pm

    @Jordan
    Or the M’s could increase payroll by 9-10 million this year, sign Fielder, and scenario B. 19ish million comes off the books next year for Ichiro. Maybe you give Ichiro the Jeter deal and re-up him for 3/40. You have Fielder, scenario B and you give Ichiro a deal the keep him around but not cost too much. This all happens with approximately 10% increase in payroll which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t much.

  97. eponymous coward on January 8th, 2012 9:34 pm

    Or the M’s could increase payroll by 9-10 million this year, sign Fielder, and scenario B. 19ish million comes off the books next year for Ichiro. Maybe you give Ichiro the Jeter deal and re-up him for 3/40. You have Fielder, scenario B and you give Ichiro a deal the keep him around but not cost too much. This all happens with approximately 10% increase in payroll which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t much.

    The problem is if we take Baker’s numbers on Mariner profit/loss and retained earnings seriously, $10 million is half of what’s left of their retained profits- meaning after they lose $20 million, it’s time to go to ownership for a capital call, take out loans, cut salary, whatever.

    If you take Dave’s projections seriously, this team doesn’t come close to contending unless the Rangers/Angels get seriously unlucky and we get lucky- basically, we have to do the MLB equivalent of draw to an inside straight and hope everyone else has poor draws. So it’s hard for me to see even with signing Fielder that attendance will rebound much if we end up in the region of 80-85 wins. It makes baseball less unwatchable and stops the bleeding, but does this turn last year’s 6 millionish dollar loss + 10 million in added salary into a profit? Probably not. We will be doing well to break 2 million again.

    And what happens if we’re unlucky and win 70?

    I just don’t see how the team adds salary in 2012. If anything, I think it more likely they CUT salary than add it (though I would think they’d try and stay close to 2011′s salary if they can).

  98. Dave on January 8th, 2012 10:03 pm

    If that’s the case, there seems to be an extra 2 million to go get Venable, which, in turn would free them up to do a few other things on the trade front to acquire more pieces that work within the construct of this team.

    If they sign Fielder, then Carp fills the left-handed LF role, and there’s not really much playing time left for Venable. Even if they had a few million left in the budget to fit his salary, they wouldn’t have a roster spot for him.

  99. Gibbo on January 8th, 2012 10:39 pm

    Dave I get your comment on Fielder declining but surely if the M’s don’t make some gutsy moves then we will struggle to resign Felix? Do you see that as a potential reason to add to the pro list for signing Felix? I understand none of us know if he would resign or not but the odds must be a lot higher if he sees the team investing in marquee free agents and actually winning. I am not 100% confident that Fielder is the right investment for us, but the cloak is ticking so if they did add him now they can add the final pieces next off season for a good run at contention for the following 3-4 years. Ultimately to win you need guys that have breakouts and comebacks etc as previously mentioned we have guys that could easily fit that profile so we could even contend in 2012.

  100. Gibbo on January 8th, 2012 10:44 pm

    sorry that should of said pro list for signing Fielde

  101. Dave on January 8th, 2012 11:03 pm

    I’m pretty sure Felix doesn’t care whether the team wins with or without Prince Fielder. It’s wins and money that will matter, not the marquee-ness of the free agents the team signs.

  102. gregod on January 8th, 2012 11:55 pm

    I’m goin to school for business mgt. We are studying social responsibility and ethics. Some questions are forming. When Mr. Z. Looked us in the eye and said hold on and we will change the culture here was that an implied or an implicit contract with the fanbase? Do the M’s have an ethical obligation to provide a winning team to the fans? Are there variations to lucrative teams? Can MLB do anything to change our culture of winning? I am personally excited about the debate this offseason and think that it is an echo of the place that Mr. Z has put us in… a team that is better than it thinks.

  103. bookbook on January 9th, 2012 12:23 am

    I have an MBA from UW. From biz school perspective, “ethics” means don’t get caught. “Social responsibility” is more complex. It requires you to weigh the value of the good done vs the cost–the marketing value.

    Seattle’s local government committed malpractice by giving so much value to the M’s and to Paul Allen (when he was the 4th wealthiest man on Earth, no less). That doesn’t actuaaly create any obligation, moral or otherwise, on M’s ownership to outcompete or outspend their fellow billionaires.

  104. gregod on January 9th, 2012 12:52 am

    I wonder how much social responsibility is taken into account in baseball anymore. As a fan, it’s challenging to keep a childlike trust in the product when it is deficient. Keep going back to when Mr. Z. gave the aside in the commercial and promised to do his best(paraphrase). Although find my faith waivering. I know this site is more focused on fact than feeling but my heart tells me our front office is almost as strong as our community is willing to embrace Fourty heroes this spring. Put my trust in the product one more year .

  105. thesinator on January 9th, 2012 1:26 am

    Great stuff, as always, Dave. It’d be nice to see Venable in Seattle.

    Question, though:
    Why do you respond to so many of the commenters who criticize-without-thinking. I hate to see you waste your time and energy.

  106. rth1986 on January 9th, 2012 3:48 am

    If the Mariners get Fielder, it’d be nice if the Mariners flipped Carp for a pitcher and acquired a guy like Venable or Seth Smith to take his place. Carp doesn’t have much value as a platoon outfielder who can only play a below-average left field.

  107. stoyboy on January 9th, 2012 7:26 am

    If the Mariners could trade Saunders and Robinson for Venable; sign Betemit(switch hitter,decent defense)and Maholm then Carp to DH they would get decent return for that 15M and fill some big holes.

  108. Dave on January 9th, 2012 8:00 am

    Betemit’s career wRC+ against LHPs is 79. To put that in perspective, Brendan Ryan’s career wRC+ is 79. Betemit offers no value whatsoever against southpaws, and should essentially never play when a lefty is on the mound.

    Also, his defense is downright terrible. He’s not a fit.

  109. terry on January 9th, 2012 8:15 am

    What’s the argument for why Cespedes doesn’t make sense for the Ms?

  110. stoyboy on January 9th, 2012 8:42 am

    Dave: As usual you are right. A .940 career FP is bad. The M’s should try and get Venable and Headley for some package.

  111. eternal on January 9th, 2012 8:47 am

    Man. All this talk about Fielder makes me really want Votto.

    However, I do want Fielder. And even though your argument makes sense, I think I’m just thinking short-term. I want there to be some part of the order that can actually get on base and score runs. I have no doubt that if we traded all our pitching for the best offense and we blew a ton of leads next year because of the opposite problem, I’d then want quality pitching. But in the meantime, there’s an emotional aspect that just wants to see some offense.

    In the end I’ll be happy if we just stay near the playoffs for most of the season but during this offseason, I’d love to see some decent money spent to bring in some offense. The nice thing about our current GM is that I feel that whomever we bring in won’t be an albatross.

  112. SonOfZavaras on January 9th, 2012 10:29 am

    What’s the argument for why Cespedes doesn’t make sense for the Ms?

    I admit I’ve been mulling this over myself. Cespedes to me seems to be the epitome of a high-risk, potentially-high-return deal. But you pony up the 30-40 million in either case, no matter how it turns out.

    He’s an extremely unknown variable as a player. He’s REPUTED to have speed. REPUTED to have power. But he’s also a righty bat, and maybe not the kind of bat that can solve Safeco Field completely.

    The fact he plays outfield (wherein we have a number of young outfielders that we’re hoping turn out to be something), his unknown skill-set and a sky-high asking price are my leading guesses why Dave thinks Cespedes isn’t a fit.

  113. Mariners35 on January 9th, 2012 10:49 am

    The fact he plays outfield (wherein we have a number of young outfielders that we’re hoping turn out to be something), his unknown skill-set and a sky-high asking price are my leading guesses why Dave thinks Cespedes isn’t a fit.

    Is it reasonable (and hopefully not too offensive) to say that the potential downside is that Cespedes turns into an outfielder version of Yuniesky Betancourt?

  114. onetreehugger on January 9th, 2012 10:51 am

    Have any of the stat-gurus done a study on the reliability of WAR as a predictor of future performance? I seem to remember (thought I could be wrong) the WAR of last years team as it was penciled in about this time of year, giving us about 75 wins. Anyone remember the numbers? I’d love to stop paying Psychic Olga for predictions. (Her voice mail message: This is Psychic Olga. I’m out of my body right now, but I know who you are and I know what you want, and I’ll call back tonight.”

    I love having the sabermetics to help analyze things. Otherwise I’d want a team of my favorite players to watch. At the same time, my favorite players, the ones I really look forward to going to see, aren’t always the best ones. I still miss Bucky Jacobson, who went down and down until he couldn’t stick even in an independent league.

  115. Mariners35 on January 9th, 2012 10:58 am

    Oh, and apropos of nothing, Larry Stone wrote an awesome blog post on Hot Stove League detailing exactly how much the M’s have benefited from Japanese ownership (spoilers: not as much as people rant about). I’d almost recommend plugging a link to that on the front page here, and/or including it in the “suggested reading” for USSM. Larry’s point is concise and thorough enough, it’s just that good.

  116. SonOfZavaras on January 9th, 2012 11:14 am

    Also, my 1/50th of a dollar regarding all these Fielder thoughts:

    We’re all tired of losing. We see what the Rangers and Angels are doing, and it just screams “another ten years of wishin’…” to many of us. And an awful lot of the “sign Fielder” camp seem to be saying so because they think Fielder is one huge step into “better than mediocrity”.

    But we are farther away from being a perennial contender than what a Prince Fielder- and I know how good Fielder is- could conceivably bring us. I don’t know how to say it plainer than that.

    Look. In terms of pure offensive production, Prince Fielder makes sense as a Mariner in 2012, 2013, maybe even 2014. But what about 2015? As he pushes and then tows 30 years old? Or worse, what if he declines even before then?

    The historical data on this kind of player with this kind of body-type just warns us- with blazing red lights all over the room- that this player’s productivity will go down…and exactly parallel to when the dollar figures for his being on the team go up.

    Those who want Fielder- and winning- now just aren’t giving these warning bells the attention they deserve. Or all too often think that we can just trade out of the contractual obligation when it becomes thoroughly unpalatable.

    I have been on the “Don’t sign Fielder” camp since Day One of his free agency. It’s really not a match at all. Fielder has no real affinity for our corner of the United States, wants to win now presumably…and what evidence I can see of him being a “veteran presence” (that oh-so-valuable commodity) that could help all our young’uns fulfill their potential I would deem dubious at best.

    And oh yeah, too expensive.

    I want my team to win as much as anyone here. But Fielder is the wrong move- not at first maybe, maybe not even two or three years from now- but eventually.

    I’d like to point out something that was on a recent ProspectInsider article…that it took Jon Daniels like about four or FIVE seasons before he got the Rangers to the rarified AL air that he has them in now. Zduriencik is in Year Three and has already gotten our farm system back to where we can expect it to produce talent for the next several seasons.

    And Daniels had more to work with than what Zduriencik did when he took over the helm.

    I’m also NOT saying: Punt on 2012. But acquiring a Will Venable and other under-valued assets from other orgs in 2012 is far more appealing to me. We may even strike gold with one of the guys we pick up.

    /thoughtsonthematter

  117. KaminaAyato on January 9th, 2012 11:31 am

    SonOfZavaras, amen.

    That has been exactly what I’ve been arguing myself. I want to win in the worst way myself, but if we are to win, I want a perennial contender, not a one-and-done deal. We are put in the interesting position of having someone like Z actually rebuild from below ground zero. While he may not have been able to jump-start the process by trading big players, I think he has done a good job of bringing his people into the organization. The only thing now is to see if those players he has drafted and traded for in the minors work out.

  118. Gibbo on January 9th, 2012 12:22 pm

    @SonOfZavaras… good post

    Clearly GMZ wants him and see’s his bat as a need, so maybe the question should be at what length of contract or terms would you sign Fielder?

    I can see why many desperately want him but like you I don’t want him for 8 or 9 years. But at 6 years and a club option for 7, with a player opt out clause at 4, I personally would be OK with it. I truly believe at 6 years there will still only be a limited amount of Clubs willing to go that long with him. He is not AROD or Albert. His contract will be closer to what Adrian Gonzalez ended up with IMO.

  119. djw on January 9th, 2012 1:10 pm

    When Mr. Z. Looked us in the eye and said hold on and we will change the culture here was that an implied or an implicit contract with the fanbase? Do the M’s have an ethical obligation to provide a winning team to the fans?

    You can’t be serious. First, the “change the culture” line is just boilerplate generic meaningless PR, everyone in the same position would come up with a similar line. Intelligent people just filter stuff like that out.

    Second, I have a really hard time wrapping my mind around an ethical obligation that approximately 50% of the relevant actors must, be definition, fail at. The notion of an ethical obligation to win at a competition suggests a basic failure to understand the concept of “ethics”, “competition”, or perhaps both.

  120. just a fan on January 9th, 2012 2:14 pm

    It still seems silly to ignore Hultzen in the discussion for the 5th starter spot out of spring training. Maybe you’re just being conservative, but reports suggest he’ll be given every chance to earn the job.

    It doesn’t hurt that his competition is Beavan and Furbush, or that the M’s awarded a rotation spot to Michael Pineda out of spring training last year.

  121. SonOfZavaras on January 9th, 2012 2:45 pm

    The Blue Jays have designated Mark Teahen for assignment.

    Last year, he couldn’t hit water if he fell out a boat. Still worth a flyer to us? Lefty swinger at the plate, has outfield and corner infield experience.

  122. Gibbo on January 9th, 2012 2:56 pm

    I think they start Hultzen in AAA, slow down his clock and give him a couple of months seasoning. Yes you could argue he doesnt need it. But just bring up Paxton and Hutlzen during 2012 and this would keep them with the club until at least the end of 2018. Although if Vargas is traded then Hultzen makes the club earlier. A 2013 rotation of Felix, Hultzen, Pineda, Paxton + 1 sounds awesome! Then we will have Walker on the way too.

  123. kinickers77 on January 9th, 2012 3:27 pm

    I love your analysis Dave. You always spell it out so clearly.

    Here’s my issue, though. Everyone around here doesn’t like Fielder because he’s expensive and limits future flexibility. But the guy has been successful his whole career thus far so why is it so bad to count him as a big piece of our future?

    Either way, if we want to contend in a few years, we’ll have to up the budget for better hitters because we don’t have them in our farm. So spend now or spend in a couple years, what’s the difference? 12 vs a dozen to me.

    As far as these options here and now, which one’s worse?: For the next couple of years, holding a bowling ball in your hands or juggling three eggs? Who really knows?

  124. Westside guy on January 9th, 2012 5:24 pm

    Here’s my issue, though. Everyone around here doesn’t like Fielder because he’s expensive and limits future flexibility. But the guy has been successful his whole career thus far so why is it so bad to count him as a big piece of our future?

    Speaking as one of the guys who “doesn’t like Fielder”… that’s an inaccurate statement. I’d love to get Fielder with the right deal. I doubt there’s anyone here who wouldn’t love to get Fielder with the right deal. What those of us who “don’t like” him think is the deal he’s likely to get is too expensive and too long, and will end up causing major misery for the team in the long term.

    Just speaking for myself – if he’d take a 5 year deal at, say $22 million, I’d probably do that in a heartbeat. But a 10 year deal that’s costing 25-30 million a year would be ridiculous (in my opinion).

    For what it’s worth, I think the Angels are going to regret the Pujol’s deal after year five or so.

  125. Madison Mariner on January 9th, 2012 8:39 pm

    “I think they start Hultzen in AAA, slow down his clock and give him a couple of months seasoning. Yes you could argue he doesnt need it. But just bring up Paxton and Hutlzen during 2012 and this would keep them with the club until at least the end of 2018. Although if Vargas is traded then Hultzen makes the club earlier.”

    See, I think the wise move would be to purposely keep Hultzen in AAA until late June/early July–right after a trade of Vargas to a contending team in need of a back of the rotation lefty(hopefully, some team needs that).

    That’s based on both:
    a. Hoping that Vargas puts up a good half season’s worth of starts to maximize the return we’d get(he’d have 1.5 years of team control left at that point, too, for whatever team got him).

    b. Giving Hultzen a half season in AA/AAA to show that he is ready, then give him Vargas’ spot.

    Also, it looks like we won’t be getting Paul Maholm anyway, so the rotation will most likely be Felix/Pineda/Vargas/Iwakuma/Beavan, with Furbush and hopefully Hultzen(or possibly Paxton?) ready to come up/step in when ready

    (And I could really say the final spot could be Beavan/Furbush, but I kind of hope Beavan gets the final rotation spot out of spring training, with Furbush going to the bullpen and being a spot starter/long reliever).

  126. IwearMsHats on January 10th, 2012 8:31 am

    Seeing Mike Morse’s picture plastered on MLBTR made me wonder if it would be worth exploring, if the Nats sign Fielder, maybe they would be willing to trade Morse and if it would be worth exploring for the mariners.

    Can play 1b and OF, also DH.

  127. kinickers77 on January 10th, 2012 9:40 am

    Westside, sorry but I thought that was obvious. Of course everyone would want Fielder if he was cheap enough. I was inherently including the fact that everyone believes he will not be cheap enough and will break down at age 30 like Mo Vaughn did. That’s why no one here “likes Fielder” — because of the issues that come with him.

    All I was trying to say is that in order to contend, we will have to put a bunch of eggs in one or a couple huge baskets at some point for some stronger hitters. So now or a in a couple years, makes no difference to me. Again, I say that because we don’t have strong hitters in our farm and I think everyone knows that. We’ll have to buy/trade for some sooner or later. And with all the traditional big spenders out on Fielder now (NYY, BoSox, Phil, Angels), maybe the best deal on a power hitter we will find in the next few years is now.

  128. Gibbo on January 10th, 2012 9:52 am

    I think Boras is just using the Nationals to drive the price and years up. GMZ has probably offered some potential framework around a deal and is waiting out the market. Any NL club would be a little crazy to ho more than 5 years, they can’t DH him so most know the risk. I believe the M’s should go 6 years with an option for 7.

    It’s funny that there is so much debate over this when at the right length/structure we would mostly all want him. So why does everyone believe we will overpay or cripple ourselves to get him? Whereas all the trust in GMZ gone? If GMZ gets him on his terms we should all be happy, if not then he will go with incremental improvements at multiple positions, like in Daves plan.

  129. Gibbo on January 10th, 2012 10:03 am

    I agree on the timing Knickers77. Then at the end of the season it’s the perfect time to get a catcher, look at next years potential free agent class… Yadier Molina, Chris Iannetta, Russell Martin, Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli, A.J. Pierzynski, Olivio, Yorvit Torrealba.

    We will also know where we are at with Wells, Carp, Guti, Seager and Ichiro etc so Jack can round out the roster accordingly.

  130. kinickers77 on January 10th, 2012 10:31 am

    Gibbo, great point. A lot of people freak out on this website that the Ms will make an emotional and irrational decision to overpay for Fielder after all that the Angels and Rangers did. Don’t we trust Jack Z??? He’s a pretty smart guy.

  131. Westside guy on January 10th, 2012 10:54 am

    Westside, sorry but I thought that was obvious. Of course everyone would want Fielder if he was cheap enough.

    All I was trying to say is that in order to contend, we will have to put a bunch of eggs in one or a couple huge baskets at some point for some stronger hitters.

    Turning it around – Why do you seem to believe getting Fielder is the only way to accomplish this goal? It’s obvious the team needs to add offense. Dave has already spelled out a few different options that accomplish exactly this, and others have put forth additional ideas in the discussions – but some people seem to be wearing Fielder blinders.

    People make the assumption Fielder won’t last long because overweight power hitters, on the whole, haven’t had long careers.

    Given that the team is unlikely to do better than “respectability” in 2012, plus the fact that this just hasn’t been a great free agent market (Pujols and Fielder notwithstanding), to me it doesn’t make sense to go for the “big splash” now. I don’t personally think a big splash is truly necessary – but, if that’s what the team wants to do, it makes more sense to pull that sort of move when we have a shot at contending (say, during next year’s off-season which will also happen to offer much more free agent talent).

  132. MrZDevotee on January 10th, 2012 10:56 am

    I think at this point it’s safe to say that Prince Fielder isn’t going to sign with ANYONE. He’s intent to hang up his cleats and never play another game. And why? Because he has a fear of awful puns, and he, like everyone else on earth, is shivering in his size 14 cleats at the thought of the brewing massive media onslaught of articles about to be titled “Fielder’s Choice” if/when he signs a new contract.

    I gotta say, honestly, I can’t begrudge the guy. It’s a sound decision.

  133. kennyb on January 10th, 2012 11:29 am

    >>kinickers77 on January 10th, 2012 10:31 am
    So now or a in a couple years, makes no difference to me.<<

    It makes a huge difference to me.
    Why add the missing piece now? I think everyone here agrees that the team is 2-3 years away at the very least. Why sign the missing piece when by the time we are ready, he won't be?
    It is the reverse of signing an aging player who is now expensive and well past his prime.

  134. gwangung on January 10th, 2012 1:10 pm

    It makes a huge difference to me.
    Why add the missing piece now? I think everyone here agrees that the team is 2-3 years away at the very least. Why sign the missing piece when by the time we are ready, he won’t be?
    It is the reverse of signing an aging player who is now expensive and well past his prime.

    Yeah, I think a lot of that was in Dave’s point. Yes, he’s a high value player….but that value gets squandered a bit if you’re not competitive with him in the lineup–even more so if you’re not competitive during his most productive years.

    A lot of the impulse is the feeling that he’s there, he’s visible and there will be no other opportunity to get a value like him. I just don’t think that’s the case, particularly if you go the trade route (and down the line, you’re likely to have even more pieces if Jack is as good at the minor leagues as we think he is).

  135. Gibbo on January 10th, 2012 1:26 pm

    I don’t worry about getting valuable pieces down the track – you are right they are always available either via trade or FA. None of us really know exactly what the budget is, Jack knows and he should be trusted to use it accordingly. Dave mentioned Jacks quote that budget would be around the same this year, fair enough. But GMZ also plays his cards very close to his chest so I take it all with a grain of salt. If he thinks getting Fielder now and juggling other positions around is the right move why do so many choose to say that this would be crazy? We won’t give him 10 years, but why not 6 or 7 with an OPT out clause at 3 – let him take his opt out clause and by then you have your own talent getting expensive.

  136. BackRub on January 10th, 2012 1:29 pm

    If Cardinals are really shopping for a RH reliever, then offer League (or Kelley) for Matt Carpenter and Tommy Pham. I would really like to see what Carpenter is capable of- hes blocked and would be a great fit for Ms.

  137. gwangung on January 10th, 2012 2:30 pm

    If he thinks getting Fielder now and juggling other positions around is the right move why do so many choose to say that this would be crazy?

    Naw, I wouldn’t think that…you’re right that there’s a price Jack feels comfortable with, and he WON’T be buffaloed into going over that. That might be higher than where some people would put it, but if it makes sense to Jack, he has the track record (even with the Figgins miss) of being able to set it at the right place.

  138. Eclipsial on January 11th, 2012 12:02 pm

    “There are certainly options on the table for the Mariners. Reasonable people can differ on the merits of pursuing one strategy or another, but don’t let anyone tell you that the team “has to sign Prince Fielder” or that their moves to this point will be a failure if they don’t get “a big bat” to go with them. The team has done a really nice job of adding solid role players to fill gaping holes in the roster, and with a few more smart moves, the team could be in a pretty solid position going forward. If Fielder’s price ends up being reasonable, these low-cost additions have given them the flexibility to fit him into the budget, but there’s still plenty of ways to spend $15 million and make this team a respectable one for the 2012 season.”

    Where have I read that before? I know there was another article a year ago that said the exact same thing….maybe it was two years ago? no, i remember now, it has been every single year. Lets just keep doing what we do every year Dave!Hopefully one of these years 4-5 of these role players will outperform just like in 2001 and we will have one good season, then 10 more of “rebuilding”

  139. gwangung on January 11th, 2012 12:24 pm

    Where have I read that before?

    Tampa Bay, early part of this century.

  140. Eclipsial on January 11th, 2012 12:43 pm

    Tampa Bay grew their players, they didn’t just sign role players. They also had a much smaller payroll at the time, what is our excuse?

  141. gwangung on January 11th, 2012 1:07 pm

    Tampa Bay grew their players, they didn’t just sign role players.

    I don’t think you’ve quite grasped why Dave is advising the course he is (something he has explicitly stated on various occasions). Until you do, I don’t think any further discussion with you is fruitful.

  142. kinickers77 on January 11th, 2012 1:53 pm

    Westside, I don’t think getting Fielder is the “only way.” I just think it’s a good way because there are no big-market teams driving his price up right now.

    And I think that Dave would agree that his other options for this year are fine for a .500 team but building a roster full of Venables, Reynolds and the lesser won’t win you anything. It’ll make you just ok. You’ll have to have some real difference makers in there – some +5 WAR guys, one or two or more if you can. A team full of +1s or +2s won’t cut it.

    And kennyb, I guess I just disagree. I think Fielder will still be a +5 WAR player in 2-3 years. I think he might start declining in about 5 years. But obviously I don’t know, and neither do you. We can only guess. I guess he’ll be a little later in decline than Vaughn was because he’s had such a great track record thus far and had a talented dad teaching him how to hit his whole childhood. But again, it’s just my hunch, which is worth nothing. But so is everyone else’s. No way to know.

    For me, it just comes down to getting tired of waiting. The Mariners seem to be scared of signing big powerbats ever since Sexson. They don’t want to pay for a superstar slugger. Or at least one with a good track record. They definitely overpaid for Beltre after one big year but that was just stupid. I’m just afraid 2 years from now people will be preaching the same thing because they still haven’t signed a power bat and their farm hasn’t produced one either.

    And with a deal like Dave mapped out, I don’t think signing Fielder is a bad move.

  143. IwearMsHats on January 11th, 2012 2:08 pm

    Apparently us fans shouldn’t worry about how much a player costs. Money should be spent Willy-nilly giving out contracts in the Carlos Silva mold. The M’s have a money tree I heard.

  144. eponymous coward on January 11th, 2012 2:20 pm

    And I think that Dave would agree that his other options for this year are fine for a .500 team but building a roster full of Venables, Reynolds and the lesser won’t win you anything. It’ll make you just ok. You’ll have to have some real difference makers in there – some +5 WAR guys, one or two or more if you can. A team full of +1s or +2s won’t cut it.

    But Dave went through the math here (emphasis added):

    My guess is that the remainder of the team’s off-season will resemble one of these three options:

    A. Sign Fielder, call it a day, go forward with current roster and him.

    B. Acquire an outfielder, third baseman, and a starting pitcher, spending just a bit on each.

    C. Sign a non-Fielder DH and a starting pitcher.

    In any of these scenarios, the team probably projects as something like a +78 to +80 win team, so there’s not a huge difference in expected performance no matter which path the team chooses.

    Fielder doesn’t turn the 2012 Mariners into a contender. What it does do is put a very good player in place at a position long term, but someone with both an expensive contract but who represents high risk going forward.

    We have a team that spent 2011 losing about a quarter of their retained earnings over the past 20 years as a loss on the field (meaning eventually, if the team keeps losing money, salaries have to get cut, capital calls need to be made, or something has to give).

    There’s a perfectly logical argument for taking a pass on Fielder and spending the money we’d pay him making the team decent WITHOUT committing the 2013-201? teams to a player with a skill set that generally does not age gracefully. Essentially, 2012′s goals are to a) not be bad, and b) sort through the talent Zduriencik’s acquired at various positions (Seager, Smoak, Carp, Robinson, Guti, Wells), and figure out who belongs on the 2013 team and where the M’s need to upgrade (as well as using another year of farm system development).

    They definitely overpaid for Beltre after one big year but that was just stupid.

    This is just wrong. Beltre was a very good player in Seattle. That is masked by how Safeco brutalizes RHB and by how he had a career year in 2004, but his deal was actually one of the few things that Bavasi got right- he signed the right player for reasonable value on the FA market. You can see this now that he’s spent time in Boston and Texas, too. Same player, better environment for hitting.

    That might be higher than where some people would put it, but if it makes sense to Jack, he has the track record (even with the Figgins miss) of being able to set it at the right place.

    Uh, what is his track record on this? Milton Bradley? Jack Cust? Casey Kotchman? Morse for Langerhans?

    Yeah, I know, this is cherrypicking (we could put the Lee trades in, as well as Branyan and Brendan Ryan), but to be honest, GMZ’s had some pretty significant whiffs in player acquisition to go along with solid moves.

  145. Johnny Slick on January 12th, 2012 8:18 am

    In fairness to Z, Milton Bradley was acquired for Carlos Silva, who at the time was on the 60 day DL with a bad case of rosteritis. He had a decent bounce back in 2010 with the Cubs but was in AaA all of last year. Bradley was pretty much exactly what we expected, a volatile high-risk, potential high-reward guy. We just didn’t get the reward is all. That’s the kind of “bad move” I will defend a GM making for a long time.

  146. eponymous coward on January 12th, 2012 11:00 am

    a volatile high-risk, potential high-reward guy

    … that made made a lot of GMs in the league decide “I can’t stand this guy, he doesn’t belong on my team”. This includes Billy Beane, who LOVES the skillset Bradley had, who traded Bradley, with cash, for this guy.

    Yes, being a GM does involve making decisions that won’t work out. But being a successful, excellent GM means more of your decisions work than don’t, and Zduriencik’s record’s kind of mixed- it’s his job to get these things right, and he gets to take the heat if he doesn’t. This isn’t “fire the guy”; this is “let’s not plan his Hall of Fame plaque and the World Championship parade just quite yet”.

    To put this another way: Zduriencik comes out a lot stronger when you evaluate him on trades like the Putz deal, the two Cliff Lee deals, drafts and so on, where he’s dealing in the part where his career strength has been (minor league talent evaluation and scouting), than on the major league side of the fence (free agents, trades with MLB players), where he hasn’t had as much experience (since this is his first GM gig)- think of that side as the Pat Gillick side of the house. The problem is you have to do both really well to be a really good GM and put together good teams. GMZ can’t get the decisions on the guys like Bradley, Figgins and Fielder consistently wrong if the Mariners want to be contenders.

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