The Mariners Off-Season Should Not Be Over

Dave · January 30, 2012 at 12:43 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

After talking with Jack Zduriencik at the media luncheon last week, Greg Johns reported that the team “may still add a little chip” but noted that “the club is close to being set” as they head towards spring training. More and more, it’s beginning to sound like the Mariners off-season shopping is essentially over with, and the roster the team has now is essentially the one the team will go into the season with. And, to be honest, this annoys the crap out of me.

Right now, the Mariners project as about a 75 win team – maybe a bit higher if you have big expectations for what Ackley, Montero, and Smoak can do next year, maybe a bit lower if you think they’re all going to take some time before they turn into high quality players (or you don’t think they ever will). But, a reasonable accounting for the talent on the team at the moment should put them somewhere in the range of 75 wins. For example, the boys at RLYW used the 2012 Marcel projections and a simulation engine to come up with a current set of projected standings on Saturday, and the M’s came out as a 76 win team, last in the AL West. Because there are two teams that are significantly better, and one team that is arguably better, the Mariners only won the AL West 3.2% of the time and captured the wild card 0.7% of the time. The only AL teams with worse playoff odds were the Orioles and Twins. (Note – we’re ignoring the possibility of a second wild card here, as it’s unlikely to be in play for 2012, but its existence would only reinforce the point I’m about to make.)

But, look at the line just above the Mariners projection in those standings. Marcel thinks the A’s are currently an 82 win team, and the difference in those six extra wins translates into an extra 11.7% chance to capture the division and 2.4% chance of winning the wild card. All told, the also-ran A’s – the eighth best team in the AL based on the simulations – made the playoffs 18% of the time. Whether or not you think the A’s are actually that good (I’ll take the under, personally) is besides the point here, as we’re really more interested in the rise of playoff expectations as a team adds wins to their roster.

Given an expected last place finish, many people suggest that an organization should just concede the season, take their lumps, play the kids, and figure out what they have in terms of young talent going forward. You hear comments all the time like “what’s the difference between winning 75 or 78 games if you come in last in both scenarios?” I’d venture to say that the common perception among fans and many analysts alike is that adding wins to a non-contender is essentially worthless, and teams shouldn’t bother to pursue significant roster upgrades until they’re expected to contend for a playoff spot.

That argument is essentially hogwash, and the available evidence does not support a punt-seasons-on-purpose plan of franchise building in most cases. There are scenarios where a team is so far away from contending that the value of a marginal win is quite small (the 2012 Astros are in such a situation, for instance), but ~75 win teams are not in that position. While wins 85 to 92 have the largest impact on on a potential playoff berth, there’s still quite a bit of value in improving a roster that is only a few players away from being a .500 club.

The reality of a 162 game season is that every year, one or two teams are the benefactors of significant good fortune, and they destroy their pre-season estimate by 15+ wins. Whether it’s a bunch of guys having career years at the same time, the entire pitching staff staying healthy, winning a bunch of one-run games due to timely hitting or pitching, or just a group of young kids making a larger than expected impact on the big league team, the surprising upstart is an annual tradition at this point. Last year, the Diamondbacks improved by 29 games and won their division going away, despite generally being considered an also-ran before the season started. In 2010, the Reds won their division after finishing in the bottom 10 in the league in winning percentage the year before, and the Padres went from one of the worst teams in baseball to missing out on a playoff spot on the final day of the season. The Rockies went from 74 to 92 wins in in 2009. The 2008 Rays won 31 more games than the season prior and ended up in the World Series. Both the Cubs and Diamondbacks went worst-to-first in 2007. In 1990, the Twins won 74 games and finished dead last in a seven team division, but in 1991, they won the World Series – and that was back when only two teams made the playoffs each year.

The current reality is that a 75 win team is a few good breaks away from playing meaningful baseball in September, and even if it doesn’t result in a playoff spot, that kind of unexpected contention can have a significant positive effect on a franchise. The top four teams in attendance gains last year were the Indians (+449,000), Rangers (+442,000), Giants (+350,000), and Pirates (+327,000). You’ll notice that along with the two teams that played in the World Series the year prior, the two teams that got fans back to the ballparks were the teams who hung around in contention for most of the season during a year where their fans had minimal expectations of success.

Fans want hope. Winning provides hope while losing breeds resentment. The singular focus on wins as they relate only to a team’s ability to win a championship is a misunderstanding of the value of a marginal win to a franchise. Back in 2007, Vince Gennaro published a piece at The Hardball Times dealing with win curves and the marginal revenue benefits associated with adding wins for each franchise. Based on the team’s market size, he estimated that adding five wins to push the team from 78 to 83 wins would produce an additional $6 million in revenue for the franchise. That’s just a fraction of the $16 million that would be added by gaining wins 86-91, but there is a real tangible benefit to improving from mediocre to decent.

Why should we care if the Mariners make more money? Well, any basic understanding of economics will tell you that additional revenues support capital expenditures, and teams with higher revenues can support higher payrolls. This isn’t about making the team more profitable – a better team in 2012 gives the team more money to play with next winter, and the winter after that, and the winter after that. Wins produce present value that creates compounding future value.

And so, if the Mariners are really content to sit on their hands and avoid improving this team any further, they’re missing an opportunity to not just make the team less bad, but to really improve their odds of winning both in 2012 and in the future. I’m all for building the nucleus of a roster through the farm, and I’ve spent the entire off-season explaining why I didn’t support a massive contract for Prince Fielder, but my point all along has been that the team could take the money they would have given Fielder and improved the roster in a more efficient way.

Taking the money they would have given Fielder and just putting it in a savings account isn’t helpful. It’s less actively harmful to the organization than signing up for another awful contract, so I’ll take this off-season over one that involved the M’s giving Fielder $200+ million, but at no point have I been advocating for the time to just put their money away and avoid improving the roster when they have the financial capability to do so.

I’m not one of the guys who believes that increasing payroll is the panacea that will allow the Mariners to be competitive again, nor do I believe that Mariners ownership is cheap or is simply defrauding us of a quality product for their own financial gain. I think any reasonably objective look at the team’s expenditures over the last 15 years requires a rejection of that kind of thinking. However, there’s no getting around the fact that the team (as currently constructed) represents a significant downward adjustment in payroll from where the budget stood a year ago, and that’s a bad thing.

This roster has holes in it that could have easily been improved upon with a more aggressive off-season plan. If the organization really decided that their best course of action this winter was to simply wait around to find out exactly how much Prince Fielder would cost, then not invest the money that they would have allocated to him in order to fund alternative upgrades, they screwed up. That’s just a bad plan, and unfortunately, I don’t think the Mariners are all that much closer to being competitive in the AL West than they were in November. They moved some pieces around and brought in some depth to help stave off disaster scenarios where the team might lose another 100 games, but in terms of just pushing the organizational talent level forward this winter, I can’t call this off-season anything other than a failure.

Asking for patience is fine. We’re not expecting a miracle, nor are we demanding that the team just start spending recklessly in order to appease an angry mob. But, there’s no reason the Mariners should cut payroll in 2012, and right now, that looks to be exactly what they’ve decided to do. This team could use more good players, and there have been good players changing teams this winter at prices that were reasonable and easily within the scope of what the team has spent on talent in prior seasons. They didn’t have to sign Prince Fielder to improve the team, but they should have done more than this.

Right now, the Mariners have something like a 1-in-25 shot of making the playoffs. Signing a guy like Edwin Jackson could have pushed those odds to something more like 1-in-10, and put the Mariners in a better position to capitalize if they do catch lightning in a bottle next year. That the team has apparently made a conscious decision to ignore that kind of potential upgrade is frustrating.

I know some will argue that the team is simply leaving themselves more money for next winter, when guys like David Wright and Josh Hamilton could be available to add the roster, and that by going young, the organization will have a better idea of just who they can and can’t count on going forward. But, I don’t see that bringing in another good player or two on reasonable contracts would have interfered with the team’s ability to pursue a premium talent next off-season, nor would those players have significantly interfered with the development of the core of the next good Mariners team. They had room to both go young and still get better this winter.

That they chose to only do one of the two is just simply disappointing.

Comments

91 Responses to “The Mariners Off-Season Should Not Be Over”

  1. Westside guy on January 30th, 2012 12:55 pm

    Amen, brother.

    If I “disagree” with anything here, it’s that I think the idea of “giving the fans hope” should have even greater prominence. In my opinion, many fans would believe the team is progressing simply if the win total tics up by 8-10 this year over last.

    Looking at the absurdly low attendance at FanFest, it seems obvious the team has lost a *lot* of fans. The Mariners can’t just wait for next year to win those people back, because at that point many of them may simply not come back.

  2. eponymous coward on January 30th, 2012 1:01 pm

    Yeah, this.

    This is totally going to ruin your reputation of being a star-struck worshipper of Zduriencik, though.

    Also: the simple thing about this is it’s all about the Gaussian distribution. 4-5 wins doesn’t SEEM like much, but like a lot of things in baseball, when you get lucky and get that rightward tail… you have to put yourself in the best position to get it.

  3. eponymous coward on January 30th, 2012 1:07 pm

    However…

    But, there’s no reason the Mariners should cut payroll in 2012, and right now, that looks to be exactly what they’ve decided to do.

    If the Times is right, they lost a significant amount of money in 2011, and ate considerably into their retained earnings from past years. It’s possible that ownership isn’t willing to sign up to do that in 2012, and that’s where the drop in payroll came from.

  4. eternal on January 30th, 2012 1:10 pm

    Agreed. This would be disappointing.

    It doesn’t seem to make a lot of business sense either. If they really are going to opt out of their TV deal in hopes of signing a much more lucrative one, then you would want to do as much as you could now to pump up the fan base and TV ratings.

  5. Swungonandbelted on January 30th, 2012 1:12 pm

    The M’s are going to have to at some point look at building their fanbase as well as the team. I don’t believe for a second that there is a legion of fans that are sitting on their porches with fists full of cash, just waiting to run to the ballpark as soon as the team starts winning. It’s going to take multiple seasons for the fans who have left to come back. If the M’s are going to try to angle towards getting a better TV contract in a few years, a half empty stadium and low TV ratings are going to seriously undercut their negotiating position….

  6. PackBob on January 30th, 2012 1:12 pm

    On the other hand, the Mariners have tried to bring in some established talent while going young that hasn’t worked out very well. The signing of Figgens was lauded by most everyone at the time. Adding someone like Jackson could add a few wins, but maybe not. On paper it should, but an injury puts the paper through the shredder.

    Anyway, Jackson, and a few others, are still out there, and Jack may consider these to be little chips to still add. It would also help the team’s morale, I would think, to be closer to 85 than 75 wins in 2012, and to get out of the cellar.

  7. moyerLIVES on January 30th, 2012 1:15 pm

    “This is totally going to ruin your reputation of being a star-struck worshipper of Zduriencik, though.”

    How is this article an indictment of Jack Z? As far as I understand, cutting payroll is a decision that is made by ownership, not the GM.

    If Jack was told he was getting less money to work with for this year then I have to think he did pretty well this offseason, given the (hypothetical) constraints.

  8. bookbook on January 30th, 2012 1:24 pm

    Perhaps foolishly, I’m feeling patient. For some reason I can imagine the right spring training trade opening up around League or Olivo, based on another team’s injury or something of that nature.

  9. davepaisley on January 30th, 2012 1:36 pm

    I’m with bookbook on this one – why jump now, when a lot of things happen in spring training that could break a logjam (how many 1B/DH types do we need, anyway…)

    There has to be some wait and see game that Z’s playing.

    Then again, I thought Chris Carter knew what he was doing with the X-Files last three seasons…

  10. wsm on January 30th, 2012 1:40 pm

    Last offseason was pretty disappointing too.

    The good news is that Jack didn’t have any money to waste on someone like Olivo this year.

  11. Pete on January 30th, 2012 1:40 pm

    Just wanted to toss this into the fray:

    At FanFest, Jack said they do have money left to spend. He said he’s pursuing a player; that it wouldn’t be an earth-shattering move, but he considered it to be “a significant piece“. Those are the words he used. Said he’d been talking to an agent that morning, etc.

    So anyway, there’s that.

  12. Dave on January 30th, 2012 1:43 pm

    The Mariners essentially have to finalize their opening day roster by ~March 21st, about two weeks before everyone else, due to opening the season in Japan. They have approximately 19 days from when the Cactus League begins to the time when they have to tell a group of guys to pack their bags for a long flight across the ocean.

    In reality, they just aren’t going to have much time to make a move of any real significance during spring training. If anything, subtraction (Olivo, Figgins, and Vargas the most likely to be available) is probably more likely than addition.

  13. Pete on January 30th, 2012 1:50 pm

    Totally get that, and definitely agree with the post. Just throwing out there that he could well be pursuing Edwin Jackson for all we know.

    Whatever, who knows.

  14. bumkus on January 30th, 2012 2:12 pm

    I think that the Mariners have played their offseason almost perfectly. A player like Edwin Jackson just doesn’t add that much value to the team when you consider the cost and length of contract. We have three monster SP prospects just around the corner in Hultzen, Paxton and Walker, and the last thing we should be doing is ossifying roster spots with mediocre talent. The Jaso and Iwakuma deals are great – short term, low cost with plenty of potential to get more production than anticipated, easy to flip for something else if one of the kids is better than we thought.

    A core of Ackley, Smoak and Montero is the right kind of foundation to build on. There is value in putting them out there to get their reps and establish themselves. We have a group of interesting secondary bats in Wells, Carp, Seager and Robinson that have better potential than most of what is left on the free-agent market right now – why waste money on someone who would take playing time from them? Catricala and Franklin are getting close, and they might be ready to step in this summer if one of our secondary bats can’t handle it.

    Despite all of the doom and gloom around here, there are still positive things to look at. If we get 2009 Gutierrez, that is a huge improvement. Ichiro having a more typical season would help considerably. Noesi, Snow, Wilhelmsen and Beavan have shown decent ability with potential to be a lot better. Avoiding 17 game losing streaks should be well within the realm of possibility.

    If it is my ship, I keep an ear out for low cost, short term upgrades and take spring training and the first couple months of the season to see where things are at and go from there.

  15. Thievery on January 30th, 2012 2:13 pm

    This is the post I’ve been waiting for. Have the Mariners just significantly reduced their payroll without telling anyone outside of the organization of such? And if so, what are they trying to sell us?

  16. bilbo27 on January 30th, 2012 2:14 pm

    I’m surprised they don’t appear to be pursuing Jackson. Given that nobody seems to want him too bad, he seems like he might come at a significant discount vs. his actual value and he might even be open to a nice one year deal to pitch in a place like Safeco to boost his perceived value for next year.

    Even if the M’s overpaid a bit for him to get him in a one or two year deal, it would likely be a great pickup both in terms of boosting wins now and being a nice trade piece to pick up another good prospect or two.

  17. rth1986 on January 30th, 2012 2:33 pm

    I agree with Bumkus. There just aren’t many players out there that make sense. I’d love for the Mariners to swing a deal for a right handed 3B like Prado or Reynolds, but we don’t know the asking price. In retrospect, Ryan Doumit would have made a perfect addition for a team looking to slowly break in and test Montero at catcher, but the Montero deal just developed too late. Also, Willingham makes a lot more sense with Montero as well, but I an glad we didn’t pay what he got.

    Edwin Jackson would be nice, but is there really room right now? Personally, I’d rather see what Iwakuma and the plethora of young arms can do (Noesi, Paxton, Hultzen, Ramirez, Beavan, Furbush, Snow, etc.). The Mariners need to have some flexibility to break in some of those guys in the rotation this year.

    I’d like for the Mariners to flip Olivo, but it sounds like Wedge views him as an essential veteran for Montero and the young kids. He’s probably more of a trade deadline piece – along with League.

    As much as I’d love for this team to suddenly be a contender, I think there just isn’t and wasn’t a whole lot out there that made sense. If the opportunity arises, I’m sure a move will be made, but I’m pretty comfortable where we’re at right now. It will be a fun team to watch as long as all of our promising players don’t fall on their faces.

  18. nwade on January 30th, 2012 2:34 pm

    bumkus – The thing is, adding another pitcher now does *not* block Paxton, Hultzen, or Walker. All three of those could continue to develop at AAA this year without really hurting their career or prospects. And any pitcher you add is both the chance at extra wins *and* a possible trade-piece. I’m not mad at Z for the offseason, and we’ll never know if he pursued any intriguing personnel options like the ones that Dave (or others) put forth. But certainly the _perception_ at this point is that Fielder was either a serious pursuit for the M’s and they didn’t have much of a fallback position if they lost, _or_ the whole thing was a smoke-screen and they’re cutting way back on payroll. Neither one feels like a good position.

  19. Boy9988 on January 30th, 2012 2:35 pm

    I can’t disagree more. I think that adding any veteran player to the offense is going to be counter productive to the kids already there. I agree with Wedge when he says that there could be something there with Wells and Carp. Now I know that you have already written them both off as platoon players, and their minor league numbers may suggest as much, but I’m more inclined to trust the guy being paid to do the on field analysis. Any new outfielder that would have cost 10x more than the kids to maybe give at most 1.5x better stats is just not worth it. Its not like guys just the same wont be available next winter after we know if Wells and Carp make it. Ichiro cant be replaced, I would keep Guti and the infield is set unless you want to send Seager back to AAA where he already killed. I also think that there is no harm in waiting for Paxton and Hultzen and seeing what Iwakuma can offer. Other than spending money for the sake of spending money there is no clear upgrade to be made. Don’t spend money cause there is room in the budget. Don’t sign a play like Jackson for 3-4 yrs cause he can upgrade the rotation this year. That was the argument in reverse for PF. He would have helped later, not now. You still weren’t for it cause it didn’t help now. Stop being so nearsighted. Look a little farther down the line. That what Z is doing.

  20. Celadus on January 30th, 2012 2:38 pm

    None of Ackley, Smoak, or Montero has actually demonstrated that they are significantly above average major league players yet. I fully expect Ackley to be at least an occasional all star, I don’t think the hype about Montero is just smoke and flash. Smoak was brought up too soon by the Rangers and has had physical injuries and, no doubt, emotional fallout from the death of his father.

    All that being said, I don’t think we can yet say with a great deal of confidence that those three are a core to build around. Even that 75 win prediction could crumble rapidly if two out of the three don’t have a 110+ or so year.

    The questions with the rest of the line-up needn’t be repeated here.

    That makes it even more important to pick up a bona fide player or two that doesn’t have a bottomless pit for a downside.

  21. dogkahuna on January 30th, 2012 2:41 pm

    I’m with Bumkus also. If anything, I’d flip Vargas, Olivo or Figgins for more prospects. I’d leave Jackson for someone else and let the kids play this year, including Saunders. I’m pretty excited actually.

  22. Dave on January 30th, 2012 2:44 pm

    So, Team Irrational just showed up in force.

    Seriously, the idea of a “blocked” prospect is absurd, especially on a roster with this talent level. The rotation currently includes three guys on one year contracts, one of those being a 37-year-old who will be in camp on a non-roster contract. You really think that the team wouldn’t just move one of those guys to the bullpen if Hultzen was destroying Triple-A? You actually think they’re going to delay calling up a guy like Paxton because, hey, we’re good, we have Blake Beavan instead?

    Same deal goes for the offense. Have you looked at the depth chart? Right now, there’s roughly 300 plate appearances going to Chone Figgins. Replacing him with a better hitter isn’t going to take away any playing time from any young kid you want to see in the line-up.

    And, really, if you’re hoping to see Michael Saunders or Trayvon Robinson on the field this year, you want a 100 loss team. I don’t.

  23. Mr. Egaas on January 30th, 2012 2:49 pm

    I’m honestly surprised this didn’t find it’s way in the column, but I found it interesting/upsetting.

    These figures are from Cott’s baseball contracts.

    2009: $98M
    2010: $91M
    2011: $94M
    2012: $72M (what currently is on the roster).

    Very upsetting.

  24. Celadus on January 30th, 2012 2:50 pm

    I’d call it Team Pollyanna, actually.

  25. sexymarinersfan on January 30th, 2012 2:54 pm

    I’m so glad your not in charge Dave, and that Jack is.

  26. Dave on January 30th, 2012 2:58 pm

    The $72 million figure is only accounting for 12 players. You have to add in $1 million for Millwood, another $1-$2 million or so for incentives that Iwakuma is expected to reach, and then $500,000 for each of the other 12 roster spots. So, in reality, it’s more like $80 million.

    But, yeah, it’s still a big drop from last year.

  27. Valenica on January 30th, 2012 2:59 pm

    Okay, you’re obviously fudging the numbers to make your argument here.

    First of all, you compare the M’s (75 wins projected) vs the A’s (82 wins projected), and state the A’s have an 11.2% chance of playoffs. Adding 7 wins of talent gives us an 8% increase in playoff odds.

    Jackson, for all intents and purposes is a 3 WAR player. If Beavan is our 5th best starter, and 1 WAR, Jackson likely only adds 2 wins, but lets say he adds 3 due injuries/whatever. Even in that scenario, we’d project to win 78 talent wise, which doesn’t give us anything near the A’s 82 wins with 12% odds like you suggest it does. Where are these 4 wins coming from? You just spend $12M x 4 on Jackson (his asking price with multiple 3 year offers on the table).

    So we’d have $48M tied up in a pitcher which could end up as another Carlos Silva, for what, a 4% increase in playoff odds according to MARCEL? Is the risk of Jackson busting worth the 4% increase in playoff odds? I’m pretty sure it’s a no.

  28. amnizu on January 30th, 2012 3:00 pm

    Dave, I agree with your sentiment but I’m really disappointed in the truth behind it. As we’ve seen a 75 projected win team can easily have some bad luck as well. Injuries and player regression can also amount to a net -10 wins. You’re argument seems to be based in the idea that “Hey we might get lucky this year and win” where we have as much chance of being worse than 75 wins due to bad luck.

    I for one do not want to root a team that plays the lottery every year. That really is where this team has been for 4 or 5 seasons. If that means they spend less this season to spend more in 2 or 3 seasons when kids have developed then fine.

    The idea that Edwin Jackson is the key to changing our season from a spin of roulette to a hand of three card poker, to me is spending good money to make bad, they’re both are bad bets. If the M’s wanna boost attendance use then money saved on salaries for fan giveaways or promotions. Until the kids are developed and the team is one or two key players from a 90 win team and no longer playing a game that favors the house.

  29. ThundaPC on January 30th, 2012 3:05 pm

    Based on the information that’s available, this is how I’m interpreting the offseason:

    - Going with young players

    The direction of this organization has been established for quite some time. The front office is telling fans to be patient now while it’s happening but they pulled the trigger on this in the middle of the 2011 season. The Mariners were willing to call up as many young players as possible and went as far as to use the rest of the season for pure development purposes.

    Given the sheer amount of roster turnover last season I figured that the team could use another development year (2012) with focus on establishing the young core they’re going to build around for the future going forward. Mariners offseason actions seem to match this sentiment. This was always Plan A. Prince Fielder was a luxury the organization looked into. If they knew they weren’t going to spend the money, they probably wouldn’t have been in on him as much as it seemed like they have been (which is to say, it probably still wasn’t as much as with serious bidders like the Nationals, Dodgers(?), and Detroit).

    Of course, this brings me to…

    - Dropping Payroll

    If the current roster is pretty much set, then that means the team is dropping payroll. That’s….ballsy to say the least.

    Something I do recall in regards to this is what happened last year. Chuck Armstrong claimed that he and Jack presented their case to the ownership committee for NOT dropping payroll for 2011, citing that it would do more long-term harm than good. Given that the team didn’t have much payroll room that year due to financial commitments to Silva and Bradley that probably would’ve meant trading Felix as a salary dump for example (Earned $11 Million in 2011).

    Now that I think about it, that bit of info probably should’ve served as a bigger warning sign than it ended up being. The first chance they have to work with more resources and the organization opts to save money instead.

    I think for 2012, this is okay. The team may be projected to win 75 games but given the volatile nature of the team, it’s not a comfortable figure to bank on. The fanbase already had a “Prince Fielder or bust” mentality. Mariners did not land Prince Fielder. Short of actually making the playoffs, attendance is still likely to slide.

    While you can make a case to try to run a +.500 team to improve revenue, I wonder about the strength of said case? Attendance for Mariner games has declined for four straight years despite one of those years being an 85-win campaign with Ken Griffey Jr. back in the fold. A common theme with those Mariner teams….none of them could make it past the trade deadline as buyers (and thus, are not contending by the time they make it to August). Mariner fans are already seeing Texas and Angels spend to make themselves very powerful teams. Without Prince Fielder, the offseason is a lost cause as far as instilling hope in the fanbase with offseason moves.

    However, this is only to understand why ownership is trying to save money, not to justify it. As I mentioned, I am okay with this for 2012. This cannot be a trend going forward. The team’s future is in big trouble if it becomes a trend. The finishing touches of a rebuilding plan require spending money. It’s an extreme long shot that the team will find everything they need to win with just young cost-controlled players.

    We’re at a point where it won’t take long to see the true motives of ownership. Next year they could conceivably drop payroll to $65 Million with Ichiro and Brandon League coming off the books and after other offseason moves are made……but they had better not drop it if they now what’s good for them.

  30. Valenica on January 30th, 2012 3:08 pm

    Same deal goes for the offense. Have you looked at the depth chart? Right now, there’s roughly 300 plate appearances going to Chone Figgins. Replacing him with a better hitter isn’t going to take away any playing time from any young kid you want to see in the line-up.

    200 PAs from 3B and 100 PAs from OF. The 100 PAs can easily go to Wells (who’ll end up with 450 then) and 3B to Seager(who’s only getting 450 in your depth chart), Figgins or Cat/Liddi or whoever. Paying Mark Reynolds $7/$10M for 2 years just so we can play him 200 PAs at 3B and take 1B/DH PAs away from Smoak/Montero/Carp doesn’t make sense to me. We should be giving those 3 all the PAs we can, and in case one is injured we have Catricala to fall back on.

  31. just a fan on January 30th, 2012 3:13 pm

    So if Jack said he was looking at a significant but not earth-shattering free agent, who could that possibly be? Who fits, and does Edwin Jackson qualify as “earth-shattering”?

  32. rth1986 on January 30th, 2012 3:15 pm

    Millwood’s on a minor league deal, but yeah, the payroll is low.

    Don’t get me wrong, I wish the Mariners added a good fourth outfielder like Angel Pagan or Martin Prado for third, but the market wasn’t likely there. Kevin Kouzmanoff would have been a decent guy to take a flier on, but he signed a minor league contract elsewhere. Yeah, Figgins and Robinson are likely lousy 24th and 25th men, but those likely fall into the minor upgrades that Jack has been talking about.

    Guys like Beavan and Furbush obviously won’t be blocking anyone, but we do only have room for 12 pitchers and we already have so many that need to show what they can do at the major league level.

    Jackson would be nice, but does he want to come to Seattle over a possible contender? Is he worth it in the long run? Maybe. Is he necessary? Probably not.

  33. bookbook on January 30th, 2012 3:18 pm

    I really do want the M’s to invest more in the major league roster. They seemingly missed out on some low level trades to pick up depth and add wins. On the other hand, there haven’t been a lot of FAs that I’d want at their prices this year. Interestingly, Pujols struck me as in many ways the best deal (including the star power, etc.).

    JD Drew would have been a good get, actually. I’m surprised no one has talked him out of retiring yet.

  34. spankystout on January 30th, 2012 3:21 pm

    This offseason has been terrible. All that crazy Fielder talk, and then losing Pineda for a DH?! It was just salt in the wounds. I don’t know what Jack Z is up to, but I’m not a fan of his decisions this Winter. And if ownership has cut payroll, I’m going to go bananas!

  35. MrZDevotee on January 30th, 2012 3:22 pm

    I think we’re paddling into dangerous territory… There’s no reason to believe that Z had no plan other than to cross his fingers and hope Fielder came cheaply…

    And more reason to believe that given our current roster, if the few plan “A”s (no pun intended) didn’t work out, we weren’t going to just get whatever we could instead. Afterall, this season was basically 4-5 plan A guys and lots of C/D guys otherwise.

    There’s a distinct possibility that we’re in Pirates/Royals territory right now, and attracting free agents is not as easy as we’d like it to be. Plus, teams know our desperation for offense, so the same probably goes for trades– people want the “A” guys from us. We want Mark Reynolds, they want Walker… We want Will Venable, they want Paxton… etc. (See: Pineda/Campos… Although I’m okay with that trade)

    I don’t think the idea was ever to go cheap this offseason– but to be diligent and smart in any expenditures.

    I’m still taking Z at his word… “We have a plan and we’re sticking to it.”

  36. Mariners35 on January 30th, 2012 3:37 pm

    As MrZD alludes to, the farm is in a delicate state of growth and transition. It still isn’t deep enough to use as good trading stock without gutting it. And apart from Jackson or Oswalt, most of the rest of what is out there is moreof the same blue light special shopping that has frustrated me for years, and that I am thankful not to see.

    Name me the upgrade to lf or 3b or utility infielder, that brings in a net gain of 2, 2.5 WAR or more… or the player available now that could slot in as close to team leader in OPS. If it’s there, I am not thinking of it at the moment.

    Play the kids!

  37. The Nickster on January 30th, 2012 3:41 pm

    Finally! Someone who knows what the hell they are talking about has said this–I’ve been telling my friends this all winter. “Give it time” they say. “The kids will be good” they say. “Jack has a plan” they say. “Call me in 2014 when they might have a chance to contend” I say. I’m tired of waiting and watching crap baseball and tuning out by August 1st.

    No, they shouldn’t have signed Fielder, not at that price. But they could have gone after some B to B+ level free agents and given us something to look forward to. Good franchises manage to both bring along the prospects while still contending with shrewd personnel moves (I think the Cardinals do this). The Ms have never been able to do this, for whatever reason, and this year they aren’t even trying.

    Punting on first down is not going to help this franchise. It’s just one more year of killing fan enthusiasm. Thanks for posting this, Dave. It needed be said.

  38. bumkus on January 30th, 2012 3:47 pm

    Team Irrational here to defend myself…

    Iwakuma, Millwood would not block a prospect, but an Edwin Jackson would if he comes in on a multiyear contract. He doesn’t get moved to the bullpen. Other than EJax and Oswalt, there isn’t a whole lot out there that represents much of a difference vs what we already have in house. I wouldn’t mind taking a flyer on Rich Harden or Brandon Webb, but that is about it. Put all of the candidates out there in spring training and let them fight for a job.

    On the offensive side, I would be all for picking up Mark Reynolds or Magglio Ordonez if the cost wasn’t too high, but there isn’t much else available. We could use some outfield depth at the very top of the system because Saunders is lost, Robinson isn’t ready, Peguero is Peguero and Guti & Wells are giant question marks. Where would that depth come from and what would it cost? Johnny Damon? Maybe. Rick Ankiel? Ugh.

    It may not be the prettiest, but I can see some hope for a lineup that has Ackley, Smoak, Montero and Carp in the middle of it. As long as we don’t have to suffer through Kennedy hitting #3 and Olivo cleanup ever again. That was painful.

  39. spankystout on January 30th, 2012 3:50 pm

    I just don’t understand “play the kids!” while trading Pineda, instead of Felix. Then Jack Z follows that up, by getting no help for Felix (and others). It makes no sense to me at all.

  40. Liam on January 30th, 2012 3:51 pm

    Looking at the absurdly low attendance at FanFest, it seems obvious the team has lost a *lot* of fans. The Mariners can’t just wait for next year to win those people back, because at that point many of them may simply not come back.

    Fanfest is fanfest, but 2010 was their best year since it started in 1999.

    2003: 15,437
    2004: 15,884
    2005: 14,155
    2006: ?
    2007: ?
    2008: ?
    2009: 8,571
    2010: 17,299
    2011: 12,298
    2012: 9,774

  41. samregens on January 30th, 2012 3:52 pm

    Great article and great point, Dave.

    I also feel that objectively speaking (if we don’t take all the “best shape of their lives” stories at face value, and if we view the “youngsters” rationally) that this team is not so far removed from the 2011 team which was a disaster.

    Irrational love for “youngsters” is all well and good, but the reality is that major league baseball is no cakewalk and many of them will not pan out as advertised by their supporters.

    Hoping is OK, but depending on the “youngsters” sounds like a recipe for another disaster.
    If this is it for the Mariners, I agree with Dave that this offseason has been disappointing.

  42. Mariners35 on January 30th, 2012 3:55 pm

    spankystout – What help for Felix are you envisioning here?

  43. lombardie360 on January 30th, 2012 4:04 pm

    So please answer these two questions for me (anyone):

    1 (this one is 2 part)- You’ve identified Edwin Jackson. Hes getting AT LEAST 3 years. A) you want to go 4?,5?…b) what if he doesnt want to come here?

    2 other that Jackson, who else? Even if we spent all 180 million (or whatever top Fielder offer we would have made) who do you want to get it. Who was available that makes so much sense? Ordonez? Really? :/

  44. samregens on January 30th, 2012 4:08 pm

    One thing from the owner’s viewpoint is that (while he’s been a wizard on trades), Jack Z’s has disappointed when he’s opened the wallet for sizably priced free agents.

    I may be missing someone, but for the relatively large contracts Jack Z dished out 36 million for Figgins and 10 million for Jack Wilson. Objectively speaking these have been disasters. In swaps of large (and bad) contracts he chose Milton Bradley who garnered -0.1 WAR as a Mariner while Carlos Silva earned 1.8 WAR as a Cub (although this is just a result and not process, looking from the owner’s side actual results are also probably important).

    So while Z has been pretty amazing (in my opinion and probably most people’s) in terms of trades, in FA acquisitions dealing with significant sums, he’s been pretty meh.
    So while we can blame the owners for not opening their wallets, part of the blame has to fall on Jack Z for his bad love of Figgins and Jack Wilson.
    And by the way I hope he’s not hanging on to Figgins and going to play him a lot just to try to “redeem” himself. They need to write the bad deal (Figgins) off because the damage in perception, as far as it goes, has already been done.

  45. dirkvdb on January 30th, 2012 4:15 pm

    I agree with Dave aNd The Nickster. Very disappointing offseason. We are not talking about what is available now, the disappointment is with the overall offseason efforts. They need talent and the young players to develop.pineda trade was a laterl move adding offense, weakening defense/reducing flexibilty. I think the over/under is last season’s record and I am taking the under.

  46. KaminaAyato on January 30th, 2012 4:27 pm

    To me the payroll drop makes sense. I for one would not spend the money unless we were signing 1-year deals that wouldn’t cramp us going into next off-season.

    The problem with signing such deals is that we may want to as an organization, but the player we’re targeting may not want it. If the perception in going to Seattle is (a) great if you’re a pitcher, (b) terrible if you’re a hitter unless perhaps you’re a lefty, and (c) Seattle is Northwest Canada both in location and news-wise, then we’re going to have a harder time attracting people here.

    Also, dropping payroll makes sense if you’re playing the kids. By definition, the kids are cheap and won’t cost the club much money. And if you’re going to play as many kids as we are, then the payroll is going to be substantially lower.

    And in the plan of developing talent, it is a hit and miss proposition. It’s the nature of the game, but it’s a necessary part of it.

    As I pointed out over at LL, Z’s first draft class with the exception of Ackley/Vasquez/Seager are in AA. The 2010 class is sitting in A ball, and the most recent class is sitting in A- or in Rookie Ball. It inherently takes time for the majority of players to go up the org.

    Now, someone can perhaps do the research to see if the attrition rates are lesser compared to other clubs, but the numbers of draftees per class that have left are 12, 6, and 0 respectively. It seems then that Z has kept quite a few players from his 3 draft classes, and it’s going to take a little more time to see some of the fruit develop.

    But the fact that we have players fairly close to the majors such as Paxton, Hultzen, etc. may have been the reason why Z has appeared to be more aggressive in his message of waiting for the kids to come up. Had he said that in the beginning of his tenure, he’d have to deal with the criticisms much earlier. By saying it now, when people are closer, there appears to be something more tangible.

    And finally about the whole trading Pineda deal, it makes sense to me if we make the following assumptions:

    1) When you draft, you draft best available and not on need.
    2) The best available for the M’s have been predominantly P’s.

    If you throw in the assumption that P’s tend to have more volatility than batters, then trading someone like Pineda who had 1 good year (and trading from a position of perceived pitching strength) for a hitter in Montero that fills the offensive gap that we had because we drafted best available makes sense.

    I understand the argument against alienating the fanbase, but they did a lot of that already from the Bavasi era. The fact that they’re not going to deviate from that plan may hurt in the short-term, but I think if it all pans out it’ll make the fanbase just a little smarter for the ones that do go to the games.

  47. 2014 Mariners on January 30th, 2012 4:31 pm

    I’m not sure moving Vargas would amount to much of a change or (chip), but I’d rather start the year with Jackson or Oswalt and gamble on something coming back for Vargas even if its a few years out type of contribution.

  48. JoshJones on January 30th, 2012 4:50 pm

    Twice in the past 2 weeks i’ve seen JackZ say he’s working on a mega deal. I dont think Edwin Jackson is a mega deal. Unless they are working on a deal that involves trading a few of our young arms and then going after jackson.

    As a result, i’m expecting to hear about something completly out of the blue as usual from JackZ.

    Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval, Alex Gordon…..Crazy to consider.

    E. Ramirez, Alex Liddi, Trayvon for Mike Moustakas?

  49. GLS on January 30th, 2012 5:09 pm

    Nice piece of writing Dave.

  50. spankystout on January 30th, 2012 5:18 pm

    Mariners35: I was envisioning a bit more than a 22year old DH, and a 4th-5th SP (see deals for Latos and Gonzalez).

  51. Farmer Cam on January 30th, 2012 5:21 pm

    We are going to trade for Longoria!!

  52. IwearMsHats on January 30th, 2012 5:32 pm

    Josh, that is just horrible trade-bating. So ridiculous.

  53. sexymarinersfan on January 30th, 2012 6:02 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a reliever or role position player like Figgins or Rodriguez are. Boy I sure would love to have a player like Mark McLemore in his prime right now. He was a leader in the clubhouse and on the field.

  54. JoshJones on January 30th, 2012 6:20 pm

    @Iwearmshats

    Longoria was just a crazy example of jackzs “megadeal” idea. The As and Rays are famous for trading away their best players. Nobody is ever truly off limits. But again longoria was just a crazy megadeal example. I think someone like mike moustakas is very feasible.

  55. Dave on January 30th, 2012 6:28 pm

    Jack has never said he’s working on a mega deal. You’ve spent the last few weeks just turning our threads into your personal rosterbation studio. Stop it. Next time you do it, you’ll end up in the moderation queue.

  56. Mariners35 on January 30th, 2012 6:39 pm

    Spankystout: It is debatable as to whether Z could or should have gotten more out of the trade market (e.g. the package the Reds got), and that may ultimately be where he can get judged the most harshly a month from now. But I don’t think much better was to be had in the free agent market than what arrived. (Unless you have the monopoly money for Pujols, Fielder, Darvish, Wilson.) And again, the farm is not deep enough yet to trade for true difference makers.

    If you don’t have specific players in mind when you say you wanted more, well, we could all wish for better players in the abstract. If you do have some in mind I will respect that and take your word that you do, he says, trying to avoid rosterbation. :)

  57. eponymous coward on January 30th, 2012 7:01 pm

    The problem with dropping payroll is there’s no guarantee it will go back up and stay back up. You remember Cleveland, with their smart GM and great draft plan and trades from a few years back- they dropped payroll after 2002 as part of a Glorious Five Year Plan? They dropped 20 million off the payroll from 2009 to 2010… around when Wedge got fired.

    Oh, and we have to once again go back to the early 1990′s to find the Mariners in the bottom half of MLB for payroll.

    There’s just no way to spin the M’s no longer using payroll to add to the talent base, and being dependent on the farm for all the forward progress in 2012 as a positive development. Yes, you want a productive farm system… but go look at Toronto- nice players, no terrible teams, used to draw… and they don’t contend, draw or spend. That could easily be our future.

  58. Dave on January 30th, 2012 7:09 pm

    Okay, you’re obviously fudging the numbers to make your argument here.

    Comments like this are why you’ve worn out your welcome here. I’ll respond to this comment just so people don’t think you actually have a point, but you’ve been added to the moderation queue. If you decide to just stop commenting as a result, I won’t mind one bit.

    First of all, you compare the M’s (75 wins projected) vs the A’s (82 wins projected), and state the A’s have an 11.2% chance of playoffs. Adding 7 wins of talent gives us an 8% increase in playoff odds.

    If you’d have actually read the post or clicked the link, you’d note that the A’s have an 18% chance of making the playoffs. The difference between that and the M’s odds is 11%. This is why reading is fundamental.

    Even in that scenario, we’d project to win 78 talent wise, which doesn’t give us anything near the A’s 82 wins with 12% odds like you suggest it does.

    I noted that improving the roster, including by making additions like signing Jackson, could push the team’s odds from 4% to 10%. I never said we could have made ourselves an 82 win team, nor did I ever say we’d match the playoff odds that these projections have for the A’s. Again, read.

    So we’d have $48M tied up in a pitcher which could end up as another Carlos Silva, for what, a 4% increase in playoff odds according to MARCEL? Is the risk of Jackson busting worth the 4% increase in playoff odds? I’m pretty sure it’s a no.

    Comparing Jackson to Carlos Silva is just stupid and pointless. Go post somewhere else, where your abrasive stupidity is wanted. This isn’t the place for you.

  59. ck on January 30th, 2012 7:12 pm

    Mariners have lost more ground to their competition this off-season. Already staring up from last place, they saw Texas add Darvish, and the Angels add Pujols. The Pineda / Montero swap was good because the M’s offense is historically inept, but more value must be added to the roster to keep the dwindling fan base interested.

  60. awakeling on January 30th, 2012 7:45 pm

    While a loss in attendance this year is to be expected without any major moves or significant winning streak, I wonder how much having Pujols around regularly in addition to a few Darvish sightings will increase attendance. Probably not a lot, but you know that Safeco will be filled with Japanese and local fans to see Darvish pitch to Ichiro.

  61. MT on January 30th, 2012 7:59 pm

    Some thoughts.

    I understand how we want the M’s to maintain or increase payroll. However, unless there is a team that can justify the payroll, no owner is going to spend the money for it. Or at least, the M’s ownership will not spend such money. The Tigers and the Yankees ownership maybe, but not all owners do not care whether the team is losing money or not. The owners obviously have money, but they do not own the baseball teams to take a loss. If they were so indifferent about losing money, they would not have the money in the first place.

    Anyways, if the team ownership or the BoD of the company don’t think the team will generate more than what it will expend this coming year, then obviously they will not pay for such.

    The counter argument is that if we spend the $10 mil or so per year to sign, for example Jackson, the M’s playoff odds will be raised by, according to Dave, 6% or so, from apprx. 4% to 10%.

    Is it worth it for the team to pay $10 mil to increase their odds of playoff contention by 6% to 10%? Will this raise attendance by enough?

    I do not know, but likely the team has decided that the extra $10 mil and the resultant slight increase in playoff odds and the slight chance at increased attendance are not justified. Or at least Jack Z cannot justify such an expenditure and the resultant increase in attendance or the distant chance of a playoff birth to ownership.

    Once Jack Z has enough of a core in place to tell ownership, “I will wager my job, now is the time for us to spend, the added odds of playoff contention is worth the money, so please increase payroll,” then I think is the time that the team will start spending money to truly contend.

    Until then, Jack Z cannot or will not ask the team to risk taking a $10 mil loss to raise their playoff odds from 4% to 10%.

  62. SonOfZavaras on January 30th, 2012 9:05 pm

    My 1/50th of a dollar on this thread:

    I’m not worried about the FanFest turnout- 9,000+ seems about right for a team that’s suffered as many losses as we have three years running, and when the “high-water” mark was about 12,000.

    If anything, I’m freaking thrilled there were that many.

    Dave-
    your writing never disappoints, but a couple questions hit me when I read the post. For starters…How can the A’s be considered an 82-win team? They’ve all but gutted their rotation, and traded their best reliever. They have high-end kids, to be sure…but they’re asking Brandon McCarthy to take the ball Opening Day for them.

    Nothing against Brandon McCarthy at all…but to me, if he’s the best you plan to roll out for Opening Day, that’s the signal of a long year for that team.

    I also don’t see offensive talent wearing Oakland green and gold that’s SO much superior to ours.

    The other question I suppose I have is: what offensive moves out there could still be made? Or more to the point, what moves SHOULD have been made by now? I know you’ve advocated getting Will Venable and Mark Reynolds this off-season, I even liked the Venable plan before acquiring Montero basically made that un-doable.

    I think it’s not too much of a stretch to say that some of the posters on this thread are right: other teams KNOW how desperately we need offensive upgrades, and they probably haven’t backed off of unreasonable prospect costs as a result. A guy like Reynolds may cost us the likes of Walker, Franklin AND Paxton as a PTBNL.

    (Certainly if I was an opposing GM, I would ask for the moon from Seattle right now and not back down from it- particularly when I don’t HAVE to give Player X up.)

    I would have to agree with the feeling that this off-season feels disappointing and failure-like, and I am hoping Zduriencik has a nice-sized rabbit up his sleeve (for that $12-15 mil we’d presumably have) before Spring Training begins in earnest.

    But I’m not seeing a move to make as of January 30th, or one before that was like “duh, Jack”.

    But most of this disappointed feeling- for me, anyway- stems from the fact that TWO teams decided to make our division their own version of “Rock-’Em-Sock-’Em Robots” and made monster moves that could assure them of being championship timber for the better part of a decade.

    I think I said the word “fuck” about fourteen times in a row when I heard the Angels had signed Pujols. Texas was just plain scary before- now if Darvish lives up to HALF the hype, they’re markedly better.

    Offensive talent is fiendishly hard to acquire at acceptable prices these days. Out of curiosity, Dave- besides Reynolds, who I’m a little “meh” about because of defense and strikeout issues- do you see a move that you’d advocate pulling the trigger on?

  63. henryv on January 30th, 2012 9:32 pm

    Third base and a left fielder that can play center, right? Perhaps a starter.

    3B – Eric Chavez is still out there.
    LF/back up CF – Rick Ankiel?
    SP – Javier Vazquez (apparently now not retiring?)

    The problem I see isn’t that we don’t want to spend money, I’m wondering if there is much left to spend it on that doesn’t involve a long contract (Edwin Jackson) or a huge risk (Cespedes).

    Hell, I don’t know. I’m really nervous about CF and RF. For some reason I get this terrible feeling that it isn’t unreasonable to think that both those players may now be replacement-level players, and that we don’t really have any MLB-ready outfielders.

    But if Ichiro and Guti don’t have good years, it is probably a moot point, as the team will then be out of it pretty fast.

  64. stevemotivateir on January 30th, 2012 10:18 pm

    “Fans want hope. Winning provides hope while losing breeds resentment.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Each win is a step forward. Great post Dave.

  65. nwade on January 30th, 2012 10:24 pm

    Those of you talking about how the M’s shouldn’t spend money this year because it doesn’t improve their playoff chances enough for *this year* are being horrendously short-sighted. I doubt that any of you ever making this pronouncement have ever worked in sales, marketing, brand management, or ever run your own business (successfully).

    You don’t always spend $X because you know it alone will make you *more* than $X back in immediate returns. Sometimes you have to spend money just to maintain your brand identity, or make modest gains in market-share. Because these effects can be cumulative over time and incremental spending is easier and more effective (even if it means taking a loss in some years) than letting your brand completely die out and then trying to re-ignite interest from scratch.

    You think McDonalds or Crest Toothpaste spend millions on advertising because they think people haven’t heard of them? Or that $1M in ads will always equal $1M+ in new sales? How about all those IBM commercials on TV, even though IBM hardly sells direct to consumers?

    Baseball is a business, and that means considering more than just the playoffs and more than just a single year’s win/loss total when it comes to budgeting and expenditures.

  66. MT on January 30th, 2012 11:30 pm

    >nwade

    I understand your argument. However, Dave has posted in the past, if I have not misunderstood his arguments, that spending money for the big name acquisition and the resultant 1 year blip in increased fan attendance does not translate to subsequent years. What matters the most is constant winning, and only that. How many additional fans will attend games because of a mere 4 wins added to a 75 win team? Is that worth $10 mil? I don’t know, but I don’t think the team or Jack Z thinks so.

    Also, I believe your argument assumes that there is a rather high floor, an established product, for the M’s. That they have a well valued brand image and that they must spend to maintain that image. All the companies you have named are well known companies with established brands of a certain quality. I agree that it is important to spend money to maintain that brand image.

    However, right now, the floor that the M’s have is quite low. Their brand image has been tarnished because of the awful work that the prior regime had done. Do you think the M’s not spending $10 mil right now will harm their image in the eyes of the fans any more that it has been harmed over the past 10 years? Is it worth $10 mil? I’m assuming that the team thinks otherwise.

    Before a company starts spending money on advertising, it has to have a good product. The club does not want one time customers, it wants repeats.

    Therefore, before the M’s start splashing money on high cost free agents, they must first build a sufficiently high floor, a good product, not try to build the floor using FA dollars, because there is a limit to that, especially when the team cannot anticipate significant fan attendance with such low expected win totals.

    Fan attendance, it seems, would only greatly increase with contention, not mere baby steps in wins when the team is far from contention.

  67. MrZDevotee on January 30th, 2012 11:32 pm

    nwade-
    Great points, but who exactly are the guys you would have us bring in that would increase brand appreciation and support?

    I mean, in your own examples IBM and McDonalds have grown their own products, and then spend massive money marketing those inside items to the world at large. They certainly don’t go out and spend money to bring in Whoppers and Iphones, and then try to sell those items to their fanbase to keep their image elevated (although comparable items in the market would actaully be more like an AM/PM burger and prepaid Flip Phone).

    I don’t think the argument here is “don’t spend money”… The argument is really “who’s worth it, at this point?” Who are the signings left out there that would make the casual fanbase say “hey, these guys are really TRYING!”

    (And Dave has made some good points about who might be worth it, if we could swing it… Sure).

    The sad truth is that we all know the ONE GUY most fans would have accepted as a sign that the Mariners/owners/GMZ are trying just signed with Detroit. (Thank God!)

    At this point all the pontificating in the world doesn’t change the fact that any statement made from here on out is akin to…

    “Hey everybody… check out our new Lambourghini… er… scratch that, didn’t work out… I mean, hey everybody… check out our used ’97 Saturn!”

    Mark Reynolds? (yawn)
    Edwin Jackson? (maybe, but really…? I mean, is spending more money on pitching something this team really needs, and/or does it send the right message the fans want to hear?)

  68. aprilbaseball on January 31st, 2012 12:09 am

    Good stuff as always, Dave.

  69. The_Waco_Kid on January 31st, 2012 1:46 am

    I can’t remember a satisfying offseason since 2005. When they got Figgins and Lee and I felt great, but thought, “you know, they could contend, but they need another bat.” (or 10, in retrospect) Last year, I thought, “Cust and Olivo…that’s it?” Since Sexson and Beltre, it’s kind of been this way.

    We’ll see if Z does something in the next few weeks. Fans are pretty dumb to be hugely demoralized about not getting Fielder, but I agree with Dave that the M’s should probably be able to do SOMETHING to improve us a little now without blocking the kids too badly or spending tons of money.

  70. eponymous coward on January 31st, 2012 7:12 am

    You know, guys, Dave DID actually write this:

    “Back in 2007, Vince Gennaro published a piece at The Hardball Times dealing with win curves and the marginal revenue benefits associated with adding wins for each franchise. Based on the team’s market size, he estimated that adding five wins to push the team from 78 to 83 wins would produce an additional $6 million in revenue for the franchise. That’s just a fraction of the $16 million that would be added by gaining wins 86-91, but there is a real tangible benefit to improving from mediocre to decent.”

    So would everyone who is trying to go “no, it really doesn’t matter if they win 75 or 81 this year” quit ignoring that? It does matter.

    Also, there’s the problem of talent base- in other words, where the franchise will be 12 months from now. Brandon League’s going to be pretty expensive. Jason Vargas is going to be expensive. Ichiro may well be on his way out the door (and if he’s not, he’s likely not going to be a cheap signing). So might Brendan Ryan. Even if it’s a reasonably productive year on the farm, this won’t mean that there’s no problems that need to be addressed with the 2013 team- the M’s will have to produce some wins from the farm just to keep being a 75 win team. And that doesn’t help with actually IMPROVING the team.

    You know what would help with having more talent available in 2013? Making good FA signings for reasonable value in 2012.

    And one other thing:

    Once Jack Z has enough of a core in place to tell ownership, “I will wager my job, now is the time for us to spend, the added odds of playoff contention is worth the money, so please increase payroll,” then I think is the time that the team will start spending money to truly contend.

    And what happens if 2012 is the year Felix loses half a season for arm trouble, Guti and Ichiro don’t bounce back at all, Smoak’s still a bust, the rest of the rotation struggles, and this is a 67 win team again? What makes you think Zduriencik will GET the chance to ever tell ownership “now is the time to spend” if the Mariners are still a pile of suck on the field, four years after he showed up?

    What Dave said about “The reality of a 162 game season is that every year, one or two teams are the benefactors of significant good fortune, and they destroy their pre-season estimate by 15+ wins” works the other way too. Improving your talent level doesn’t just help with upside- it helps with downside, too.

  71. asuray on January 31st, 2012 7:27 am

    The Indians acquired Russ Canzler for cash from the Rays today. I had him pegged as a nice RH 3B/1B/OF platoon option. Too bad.

  72. nwade on January 31st, 2012 8:32 am

    MT and MzZD – I don’t think you were implying this, but just to clarify: I was _not_ on the “sign Prince” bandwagon. I’m pleased as punch we didn’t sign him.

    And yet you came right back to arguments about a “1 year blip” or additional revenue for this year. I’m making the argument that its not about that at all. Its about building or maintaining the brand over time. And I certainly never said anything about only signing one-year deals with the cash we have on-hand this year!

    I also never stated anything about having to sign Free Agents exclusively, either (and I don’t think Dave did in his article). What about remaining trades that would result in us taking on a higher salary? What about paying generous cash considerations as part of a deal (I know that cash is often considered a harbinger of a bad deal or a cheap player, but I don’t want to artificially limit the tools GMZ has at his disposal and say he can’t use a bunch of cash in trade talks).

    There are many paths that the GM can take beyond just signing a 1 year FA deal for an aging veteran. I don’t think ANY of us are arguing in favor of that singular course of action. But it doesn’t mean we should be satisfied if the team stands pat and fails to make any other moves prior to the beginning of the season.

  73. nwade on January 31st, 2012 9:22 am

    P.S. Minor point: Ray Kroc is listed as the founder of the modern McDonalds company because he bought out the original McDonalds (allegedly for their french fries); he did not grow his own product. Also, IBM has acquired numerous products and staff by buying other companies and patents over the years. I’m just sayin’…

  74. greentunic on January 31st, 2012 10:34 am

    I think this team has the ability to surprise us. I agree that this team is impossible to project (any team really is for that matter). You can get close sometimes, but in reality, we cannot rely too much on projections when the roster is so different from last years (both in terms of season-long personell and in terms of the young having more experience).

    It’s time to get excited. I believe in The Plan, and if this is part of it, then I’m all for it.

    Everyone knows we don’t need Fielder (even Baker’s blog post had only 13.69% of it’s voters wish they had Fielder at his contract), and while we may want the satisfaction of a fully utilized payroll, perhaps this money CAN be saved towards 2013 payroll.

    Now it has been said that cash saved in 2012 doesn’t get added to the budget in 2013 in baseball. That may be true, but we don’t KNOW that. That depends on ownership’s philosophy and their decisions, not the standard operating procedure of running a baseball team.

    Maybe JZ told them “Next year, we will need to spend 40 million in new aquisitions… we won’t have it? Well, can we cut back a bit this year and then slap down 40? Yeah? Great! Okay, I’m going to make this team better without spending money this year, and then we’ll blow the roof off next year!”

    Please excuse the vernacular. I added it for effect.

  75. eponymous coward on January 31st, 2012 11:19 am

    You can get close sometimes, but in reality, we cannot rely too much on projections when the roster is so different from last years (both in terms of season-long personell and in terms of the young having more experience).

    The Mariners were projected to be bad in 2010 and 2011, using projections similar to what are being used to project 2012.

    So, basically, no- these systems generally work. Yeah, teams get lucky and exceed projections. But as Branch Rickey said, luck is the residue of design. This team isn’t designed as well as it could be with about $15 million more in payroll, and moving the needle in terms of talent just a few games DOES make a big difference in terms of being able to take advantage of luck.

  76. Mariners35 on January 31st, 2012 11:55 am

    This team isn’t designed as well as it could be with about $15 million more in payroll,

    If $15mm buys a 2 or 3 WAR upgrade somewhere at LF, 3b or SP, I tend to agree. (E.g. Jackson in the rotation.) But apart from SP, I don’t know where you find those, this offseason.

    nwade brings up some good points about ability to take on salary fueling other trade possibilities, but it’s hard to speculate realistically about what trades could happen.

    Though there is that rumor this morning that the Jays seriously mulled Lawrie for Pineda. Hm. Does it decimate the farm too much to peel off e.g. Walker and a couple other pieces to make that happen? I still contend that the farm is only just recovering, and is too thin to make substantial trades without some great scouting or a jedi-mind-trick level fleecing going on. So without a strong farm base to trade from (or replenish ML level players being traded), there isn’t the quality of player to spend on in the FA market to really improve much on what the M’s have right now.

  77. smb on January 31st, 2012 12:41 pm

    Aaand this is why I’m so afraid the FO panics after this year (say, if we drop to, or below, 1.5 mil in attendance) and trades Walker or Paxton or both for more “sure thing ML-ready” DH-type bats. Ultimately we’ll finally have put together an offense once we have no more pitching talent close to ready.

    FWIW I’d have done Pineda straight up for Lawrie in a heartbeat.

  78. smb on January 31st, 2012 12:44 pm

    I would stop short of using FanFest attendance to speculate on regular season attendance—FanFest is approximately 2,000x more fun that watching this team play at regular ticket prices.

  79. greentunic on January 31st, 2012 12:52 pm

    The Mariners were projected to be bad in 2010 and 2011, using projections similar to what are being used to project 2012.

    I’m not saying bad teams won’t generally be bad the following year, or that good teams won’t generally be good the following year. What I am saying is that as of now I am not a believer in projected win/loss record at all. I am in the minority, but I feel that’s akin to saying “I think I can throw a baseball 142 feet and 7 inches.”

    THIS team, no matter how you shake it, has hardly any stable components. Felix, Vargas, B Ryan, Olivo, and B League are somewhat stable. We know what we’re likely to get from them. But I believe Montero, Smoak, Ackley, Figgins, Seager, Carp, Wells, Gutierez, Ichiro, Noesi, Iwakuma, and “Mr. 5th Starter” all have large ranges of potential performance quality for 2012.

    And I do agree that any improvement helps this team get competitive regardless of those performances (it’s like the prisoner’s dilema in game theory, [I like pretending to be smart even when I'm not!]). But while I’d love to see that improvement, I ultimately will trust in JZ as long as he continues to improve the Mariners brand from top to bottom as I feel he has been doing for 3 years.

  80. Yannigan on January 31st, 2012 1:28 pm

    I have basically accepted (not quite happy about, but close to it) that the M’s could push the .500 level this year. Now Dave raises my level of pessimism by pointing out that a few more improvements could put us in the realm of “if the chips fall right, we could get lucky”. Instead, that realm remains a bit too distant for 2012.

    The thing I can’t get over, is WHY do the chips never seem to fall our way? Other than a rare exception (Pineda last year), when was the last time the M’s had a young player that actually exceeded expectations? Especially a position player?

    Aren’t we due to get “lucky” on a bunch of players at once? I’m sure that the Marcel projections owe us one such year.

  81. Mariners35 on January 31st, 2012 2:18 pm
  82. greentunic on January 31st, 2012 3:24 pm

    Haha, that was great.

  83. FelixFanChris420 on January 31st, 2012 3:33 pm

    In regards to Jackson, I just read on another baseball site (not sure if I’m allowed to name it, don’t wanna seem like a spammer) that Jackson has a multi year offer or offers and yet is leaning towards a one year deal. 2 questions: 1. Why would he want to take a 1 year deal if he has multi year offers and 2. Signing a one year deal obviously puts him back on the market next year, so it would seem obvious he would want to go to a pitcher friendly park, does this go a long way towards us having a shot at him, or am I reading to much into minor info?

  84. Mariners35 on January 31st, 2012 3:44 pm

    FFC420 – I think I know what site and what rumors you mean. First, it might just be chatter and media posturing. That could be enough to disregard it, full stop.

    Second, I’d see every reason to shy away from a multi-year deal if the total amount weren’t that great, the team was a poor team in a tough division, or both.

    And if the next time Jackson is a free agent, he would be out of his prime years, I’d think that would push him to make sure he’s getting paid right now.

    A one year deal might be a prelude to getting an even bigger multi-year offer next winter. I’m not surprised he’s still circling a bit.

  85. zak24 on January 31st, 2012 9:04 pm

    I’m not annoyed with the M’s going into spring training with the team as it is now. If the theme last year was get your toes wet. This year it’s sink or swim. And I’m sure some of them will sink, and I’m sure others will grow fins and really succeed.. when the foundation is ready you break the bank and reel in Michael Phelps to anchor your club and break all kinds of records.

    I just think that Zduriencik feels like he has a ton of flexibility right now. We’ve got a promising young foundation and he has consistently talked about always having his ears open to other GMs and agents. I trust that he would add a guy who improves our ball club tomorrow morning if the opportunity presented itself.

    The truth is we don’t know what limitations Jack is dealing with. Financial or otherwise. It’s all guesses. Just like the judges ruling that the franchise is worth 150 million more then Forbes listed it as. Who knew? And I have a hunch Ichiro’s friendship with the NintendOwner has Jack’s hands tied to a certain extent.. stuff like that. Jack just strikes me as a good judge of character, and I think he is as plugged in and savvy as any GM in the league.

  86. PBS on February 1st, 2012 10:27 am

    How bout Cespedes?

  87. bookbook on February 1st, 2012 11:54 am

    Hey, good news. We’ve got Guillen!

  88. Glen on February 1st, 2012 12:11 pm

    There’s the little chip Jack was talking about!

  89. FelixFanChris420 on February 1st, 2012 12:48 pm

    Thanks M’s35

    Sweet…Carlos Guillen… /sarcasm

  90. formerstarQB16 on February 2nd, 2012 1:23 pm

    Mariners35 –

    The Gambler’s fallacy is a bit of a fallacy in itself. The Gambler’s fallacy only speaks to predicting short-term results on small sample sizes. Whereas the “Law of Averages” that most of us reference really refers to the “Law of Large Numbers”. The Law of Large Numbers says that as a common event is extrapolated out (coin flip) its mean will become closer and closer to its initial probability. The Gambler’s fallacy really comes in to play when small samples sizes and results prior to the “Gambler” arriving are ignored. For example, if the Gambler witnesses 10 straight heads on a coin toss he may be willing to bet that the there is a higher likelihood of tails in the next few flips. This ignores the possibility that 10 straight tails were tossed prior to the Gambler arriving and that it make take many, many coin tosses before the mean reaches the probability.

    Regardless, overall probability of baseball players panning out has much less to do with probability than talent evaluation and economic resources…. the Mariners have been worse than most at both…. on average.

  91. eponymous coward on February 3rd, 2012 6:57 am

    What I am saying is that as of now I am not a believer in projected win/loss record at all. I am in the minority, but I feel that’s akin to saying “I think I can throw a baseball 142 feet and 7 inches.”

    You realize you’re flying in the face of actual data, right? So why do you think systems that use past performance (minor league and major league) can’t work?

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