Dave’s 2013 Off-Season Plan

Dave · October 9, 2012 at 7:00 am · Filed Under Mariners 

It’s that time again – every winter, I throw out some ideas for the team to pursue during the off-season, attaching names to the concepts I’m in favor of in order to illustrate the type of plan I’d like to see the team pursue. Last winter, that plan called for avoidance of the top of the free agent market, as the prices at the high end just didn’t make sense given the expected return on investment. This year, though, I think there’s actually going to be some interesting values to be found in free agency, and the plan is almost entirely based on signing free agents. It’s a reaction more to the available types of players rather than a change in philosophy, as free agency can be a useful way to acquire Major League players as long as you target the right ones. This year, I see a few guys who I think qualify as the right ones, so while others lament the lack of star power on the market, I’d suggest this is an opportunity for the team to be aggressive in spending in order to get a strong potential return.

With that said, on to the moves.

Sign OF/1B Nick Swisher to a seven year, $100 million contract.

Sign OF Melky Cabrera to a one year, $6 million (plus incentives) contract .

Sign SP Carlos Villanueva to a one year, $4 million contract.

Sign DH Travis Hafner to a one year, $3 million contract.

Re-sign SP Hisashi Iwakuma to a two year, $10 million contract.

Re-sign SP Jason Vargas to a two year, $12 million contract.

Trade 1B Mike Carp and OF Trayvon Robinson for IF Sean Rodriguez and C Chris Gimenez.

I’ll explain the thinking behind these decisions in a second, but first, a couple of tables – the top one is the projected opening day roster given this group, with the second being the line-ups that you could run out there based on this roster. Oh, and the roster has the salary breakdown information, so you can see where all the money is going. To the tables!

Position Player Salary   Position Player Salary
C John Jaso $1,000,000   SP Felix Hernandez $20,700,000
1B Justin Smoak $550,000   SP Hisashi Iwakuma $5,000,000
2B Dustin Ackley $1,500,000   SP Jason Vargas $6,000,000
SS Brendan Ryan $3,000,000   SP Erasmo Ramirez $500,000
3B Kyle Seager $500,000   SP Carlos Villanueva $4,000,000
LF Melky Cabrera $6,000,000        
CF Michael Saunders $1,000,000   CL Tom Wilhelmsen $500,000
RF Nick Swisher $15,000,000   RH Carter Capps $500,000
DH Travis Hafner $3,000,000   LH Charlie Furbush $500,000
        RH Stephen Pryor $500,000
C Chris Gimenez $500,000   LH Lucas Luetge $500,000
IF Sean Rodriguez $1,000,000   RH Shawn Kelley $1,000,000
OF Franklin Gutierrez $7,500,000   RH Blake Beavan $500,000
OF Casper Wells $500,000        
        Cut Chone Figgins $8,000,000
        Declined Miguel Olivo $750,000
Total   $90,000,000        

Vs RHB Player Bats Position   Vs LHB Player Bats Position
1 John Jaso L C   1 Franklin Gutierrez R CF
2 Melky Cabrera S LF   2 Melky Cabrera S LF
3 Nick Swisher S RF   3 Nick Swisher S 1B
4 Travis Hafner L DH   4 Justin Smoak S DH
5 Kyle Seager L 3B   5 Kyle Seager L 3B
6 Justin Smoak S 1B   6 Michael Saunders L RF
7 Michael Saunders L CF   7 Dustin Ackley L 2B
8 Dustin Ackley L 2B   8 Chris Gimenez R C
9 Brendan Ryan R SS   9 Brendan Ryan R SS
Bench Chris Gimenez R C   Bench John Jaso L C
Bench Sean Rodriguez R IF   Bench Sean Rodriguez R IF
Bench Franklin Gutierrez R OF   Bench Casper Wells R OF
Bench Casper Wells R IF   Bench Travis Hafner L DH

Okay, now that we’ve just dumped a bunch of information on you, how about some explanations.

The Overview

The Mariners are honestly in a bit of an awkward situation. They’ve committed to building a core group through the farm system that can sustain a winner for years to come. They have some pieces in place that could — or should — be part of that core, but as a whole, they’re not quite ready to win. The organization’s future is still brighter than its present. Unfortunately, with only two years left on Felix Hernandez‘s contract and attendance that continues to trend the wrong way, the Mariners can’t keep asking fans to just wait around and watch the kids develop. The kids need help, and in some cases, the kids might need replacing. There’s enough talent on hand to win 75-80 games again next year, but they need to add about 10 wins of talent this winter to put themselves in a position to make an unexpected run at the playoffs next year. And they need to do it without throwing away the pieces that a future contender could be built around.

That’s not easy. Any team can borrow from the future to increase their odds in the present, either by trading prospects for veterans or signing players to inflated free agent contracts that harm the team’s ability to compete going forward. That kind of win-now roster construction is generally counterproductive unless a team is sure they’ve got a real shot at the playoffs and the riches that come along with a postseason appearance. The Mariners aren’t there yet. But they also can’t afford to sit on their hands and run another sub-.500 team out there while asking the fans to wait for the kids to develop. The natives are restless, attendance is down again, and Felix Hernandez‘s contract is about to come back into the spotlight. It’s time for the Mariners to put a competitive team on the field again, making this a winter where they can’t just sit back and hope things fall into place. They need to be aggressive, make smart moves, and improve the overall talent base of the organization, both for 2013 and beyond.

The Specifics

The Mariners are weak at the corner positions. This isn’t news, so it shouldn’t be any huge surprise that I’ve targeted players who fill those holes. But, I didn’t just pick Swisher, Cabrera, and Hafner out of a hat. There are reasons why I think these three specifically are the right upgrades for this roster.

Let’s start with Swisher, since that’s obviously the big move of the bunch. While 7/100 might sound aggressive for a guy is more good player than superstar, we have to remember to keep up with the changing economics of the game. I wrote about his free agent valuation on FanGraphs a few months ago, noting that he’s a better player than Andre Ethier, who just got 5/85 from the Dodgers to forego free agency this winter. While $100 million still carries a “star player” reputation, the reality is that a deal for 7/100 is only an AAV of $14 million, about 40% less than what the big ticket guys were signing for last winter. $200 million is the new $100 million, and $100 million is the new $50 million. Prices for players are going up, and so Swisher’s going to cost more than a similar player would have cost a few years ago, especially because you’re trying to buy him away from New York.

Any time you’re trying to poach a player from the Yankees, you’re unlikely to get any kind of huge bargain. If you want him to leave New York to come back to the west coast and hit in Safeco Field, you’re going to have to make it worth his while. By going longer on years than NYY may be comfortable with and giving him a bit more up front, the Mariners may be able to put an offer out there that the Yankees won’t want to match as they try to get under the luxury tax. I’d be more comfortable with 5/75 too, and maybe he’d re-sign with the Yankees for that, but I don’t think he’s coming to Seattle for 5/75. At 7/100, though, the Mariners would have a real chance to get him.

And they should want to get him. Right now, Swisher’s a perfect fit for what this team needs in a player. As a switch-hitter with power and patience, he’d give the team one of the most consistent, dependable bats in baseball, and one that gives the team the flexibility they need to keep evaluating the players already on the roster. Specifically, his ability to shift between the outfield and first base buys the team an insurance policy on Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero without forcing the team to make a potentially premature decision on either one. If either one steps up as an obvious candidate for the starting first base job in spring training, then Swisher plays right field full-time. If both continue to struggle, Swisher can step into that role, and the team’s new-found outfield depth can cover his vacated spot in right field.

And, yes, I said outfield depth. Something the Mariners haven’t had nearly enough of the last few years. They’ve bet on guys who weren’t reliable enough to be bet on and didn’t have viable alternatives in place for when things when wrong. That can’t happen again, which is why I’m also advocating that the Mariners be the team to give Melky Cabrera a chance at redemption. I know, a decent chunk of you are just going to see Melky as a steroids cheat who was terrible before he started juicing and will go right back to being now that he’s been caught. But, I don’t think there’s any evidence that the truth is that simple, or that Melky will be a worthless player going forward.

Even if we throw out his 2012 season as tainted and assume that none of his production this year was legitimate improvement at the age of 27, his career wRC+ before this year was 93, and he flashed the exact same high contact/gap power skillset that made him so productive for the Giants this year and the Royals last year. A guy who can be roughly a league average hitter in his early-20s will usually turn into an above average hitter in his late-20s, and a clean Cabrera can still be a productive offensive player. No, you don’t expect him to do anything like what he did for San Francisco this year, but he hit .305/.339/.470 for Kansas City last year and passed every drug test he took while doing it. Offensively, his skillset is pretty similar to Kyle Seager‘s, only he’s also a switch-hitter and a pretty decent baserunner who can handle both OF corners.

Melky’s suspension is going to dramatically depress his market value, though, and he’s almost certainly not going to be able to land a multi-year deal this winter. Every suitor is going to be offering a one year deal with incentives, so the Mariners will just have to make the case that their low-pressure media market is the perfect place for him to rehabilitate his image, and failing that, just outbid everyone else on the incentive package. It might take an extra $5+ million in incentives tied to playing time, but given that Melky could easily be a +2 to +3 win player at a significant position of need, the Mariners should be happy to write the extra checks if they come due. Paying those incentives would mean that Cabrera was productive and healthy, and that the contract was a positive investment for the franchise.

Of course, slotting Cabrera in one corner and Swisher in the other means that I’m only leaving one outfield spot open for Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez. I’m okay with that. Both are talented enough to deserve starting jobs, but only one of them is durable enough to be given one. While it’d be great if Gutierrez got 500 plate appearances next year, the organization simply can’t plan for it, and that’s why Gutierrez begins the year as a part-time player. However, it’s a job with a path to more playing time, because of the attributes of the guy I’m bringing in to DH.

Travis Hafner is basically the DH version of Gutierrez. He had knee surgery in May and then got shut down at the end of the year due to a herniated disc in his back. He’s averaged just 300 plate appearances per year for the last five years. He’s basically a guarantee to miss time next year, and any team signing him is basically signing up for a half season of baseball. But, that half season will probably be fairly productive. When Hafner was on the field this year, he hit .228/.346/.438, posting a 118 wRC+ even while his BABIP was just .233. Old slow DH’s are prone to posting lower than average BABIPs, but Hafner’s been old and slow for a long time, and he’s never showed any propensity for low BABIPs before – in fact, he was at .332 in each of the two previous seasons. With his power and patience, even a modest BABIP regression makes him a terrific hitter, so Hafner’s got a good chance of being quite useful when he’s healthy enough to play.

And when he’s not, that simply opens up a spot for Gutierrez. Essentially, this roster has Gutierrez and Hafner in a platoon, so when Hafner is not able to play, Guti can slide into an OF spot, Swisher can move to first base, and Smoak can shift to DH. By adding a frail left-handed hitter to share a job with the frail right-handed batter already on the roster, the Mariners maximize their chances of getting production from one position without the downside of having to scramble when the inevitable injury strikes one or the other. And, if both are healthy and productive, then the team has some depth to cover for a regression from Michael Saunders or a lack of production from Melky Cabrera.

And, of course, the depth doesn’t end with Gutierrez. In fact, being aggressive enough to sign Swisher, Cabrera, and Hafner gives the team another insurance policy that you don’t even see on the roster – Jesus Montero. In the ideal scenario where Smoak keeps hitting like September Smoak and Hafner is healthy enough to start the season on the roster, Montero can head to Tacoma and begin the permanent conversion to 1B/DH. The team can let him get comfortable at first base away from the limelight of the Major Leagues, and at the same time, they can get an extra year of team control by having him spend a month or so in Triple-A. Hafner gives the team a short-term bridge to allow Montero to hang up his catcher’s glove and learn to play first base, but also gives them some additional future value by not needing to count on him as their DH to begin the year.

If Smoak flops and Montero has shown that he’s ready to play a Major League first base, then he can simply take over the position, keeping Swisher in right field. If Hafner gets hurt, Montero can replace him as the DH. If neither of those things happen, well, awesome, and also, Montero gets a few months in the minors to work on hitting right-handers and improving his approach at the plate. He’s not yet at a level where a few months in Triple-A would stunt his development, especially as he transitions out of being a catcher. Having Hafner around not only improves the offense in 2013, but potentially buys you a better Jesus Montero in the second half of the season and an additional year of control over Montero in the future.

We haven’t even yet touched on Casper Wells, who would be able to maintain the fourth OF/pinch-hitter against LHB role even in case of an injury, and wouldn’t need to be pressed into regular work if/when Gutierrez hits the DL next year. We also haven’t talked about Sean Rodriguez, who would replace Munenori Kawasaki on the roster and take over as the reserve 2B/SS/3B, providing a right-handed bat who can hit lefties and play all three positions. Rodriguez gives the team a decent enough fallback if Dustin Ackley struggles early, as well as a more potent force who can play shortstop on days when Brendan Ryan isn’t available. The Rays have the IF depth to part with him, and as an arbitration eligible guy, the team should be able to pry him away by shipping off Carp and Robinson, neither of whom have a role on this club going forward.

In that hypothetical trade, I’m also asking the Rays if we can have Chris Gimenez back, because with Olivo gone and Montero back in Tacoma, John Jaso needs a platoon partner. But he needs a specific kind of platoon partner, because acquiring a right-handed catcher who is too capable might mean that Eric Wedge again finds an excuse to bury Jaso, which is counterproductive for the organization. Jack Z needs to give his manager a back-up catcher who he won’t be tempted to use against right-handed pitching, and who can be easily discarded if Mike Zunino proves ready for the big leagues at some point during the summer. Gimenez fits the bill nicely. He’s good enough to serve as a part-time catcher against left-handed pitchers but not too good to get in Jaso’s way, and if Zunino forces his way onto the roster, Gimenez can either be DFA’d or turned into a super utility guy who can pinch-run for the catcher if need be.

The only position on the roster that lacks real depth is third base, where Sean Rodriguez probably wouldn’t be an adequate full-time replacemenet if Kyle Seager gets hurt, and there isn’t really anyone on the farm who would be able to fit the bill either. But, given that this is an organization that has been wasting plate appearances on the likes of Chone Figgins, Miguel Olivo, Carlos Peguero, Trayvon Robinson, and Munenori Kawasaki, having just one position where you might have to throw some at-bats away sounds like heaven. Having five capable outfielders for three spots, four guys who could split time at 1B/DH, and having Zunino behind Jaso at catcher provides the team with all kinds of interesting avenues to success.

If the kids don’t develop, that’s okay. If the kids do develop, there’s room for them to push their way onto the roster. This kind of plan gives the team the ability to play the young players who are producing without being forced to rely on them if they aren’t. While most of the focus on the offense’s struggles have been on the lack of elite performance at the top end, the offense can also take a big step forward by simply raising the floor on the low end. This offense tries to do both at the same time.

On the pitching side of things, the plan is a lot simpler. Offer both Jason Vargas and Hisashi Iwakuma two year deals at $5-$6 million per year, which was essentially the going rate for these types of pitchers last year. Even with the fences coming in, Safeco is likely to be somewhat pitcher friendly, and both have stated that they want to come back, so I wouldn’t expect either of these negotiations to be all that complicated. These guys aren’t going to strike it rich as free agents, and sticking around in Seattle is probably in both of their best interests.

So, with only one opening on the pitching side of things and most of the money spent on a position players, we go hunting for a #5 starter who could potentially benefit from a move to the west coast and deserves a chance to see what he can do as a starter over a full season, with the flexibility to move back to the bullpen if the experiment fails or if he’s simply displaced by one of the younger pitching prospects pushing his way into the rotation. There’s one guy on the market who fits that description to a tee – Carlos Villanueva.

In some ways, he’s basically a right-handed Jason Vargas. He throws an 88 MPH four-seam fastball up in the zone, which leads to a bit of a home run problem, and he relies on an excellent change-up to get opposing hitters out. On another hand, he’s more of a swing-and-miss guy than Vargas is, and essentially just needs to cut down on his home runs allowed to turn into a pretty good starting pitcher, so that makes him more of an Hisashi Iwakuma clone. Whether you want to think of him as Vargas-with-more-strikeouts or Iwakuma-with-fewer-groundballs, he’s just a hybrid of the two skillsets and would fit in nicely as the team’s fifth starter.

He’s not any kind of ace, but as a low-cost back-end starter, he’s a significant upgrade over the likes of Blake Beavan, who can move to the long role in the bullpen and hang around in case anyone gets hurt. And, as mentioned, Villanueva has significant experience as a reliever, so if he doesn’t hack it as a starter, the team would have another bullpen guy who can miss bats and pitch multiple innings. More depth. I hope you’re sensing a trend.

Overall, my projection suggests that this team would cost about $90 million to put together, and incentives for Melky and a few of the pitchers would probably push the budget up to $95 million or so, as they’d have to account for some of those extras kicking in. It’s definitely an increase in salary over what the team spent this year, but it’s not an absurd increase that revenues won’t be able to support, and it comes with with strong potential for a return on investment. This is a roster that probably projects out as an 80-85 win club, but is one with enough upside to make a playoff run in 2013.

And this is the kind of off-season that lets the team go to Felix with a contract extension in hand and get him to sign up for another four or five years. This is the kind of off-season that puts the team in a position to get their fans back. This is the kind of off-season that makes 2013 interesting without harming 2014 and beyond.

Yeah, maybe 7/100 is a little high for Nick Swisher. Maybe signing Melky Cabrera coming off a steroids suspension isn’t going to sell any tickets. Maybe Travis Hafner is going to spend more time on the disabled list than on the field. If you’re looking for guaranteed sure things, you’re in the wrong place. Really, you’re following the wrong sport.

There are no guarantees in baseball, especially in free agency. The best you can do is improve your odds and make sure you have contingency plans in place when things don’t go as you hoped. This roster is full of contingency plans, but also makes sure that trying to win in the present doesn’t interfere with the team’s attempt to build a core for the future. You can do both. It’s not easy, but there are pieces available that can improve the organization without requiring that they sacrifice the future to get them.

And then, in 2014, if Zunino, Montero, Franklin, Hultzen, Paxton, and Walker all have the kinds of years you’re hoping they have, you can re-make the roster with whatever players still make sense. Swisher’s the only guy you’re committing to long term, and his positional flexibility means that he’s not blocking anyone going forward. This is still a roster that is building for the future, but it’s one that could win in 2013 if enough things break right.


185 Responses to “Dave’s 2013 Off-Season Plan”

  1. cjones on October 9th, 2012 7:56 am

    Great plan, Dave. I wonder if there are other, better alternatives to Villanueva.
    And, it’s sad that the roster has to be constructed to discourage bad lineup decisions that we know the manager would make if allowed to.

  2. ManifestDestiny on October 9th, 2012 8:12 am

    Awwww, this is surprisingly sane and moderate. I’ve got nothing to endlessly ridicule :( The only quibble I *do* have is that I think Smoak’s September is a mirage and that he’s not an MLB first baseman, but that’s just my view/cynicism.

    Seriously though, good job. These things always get my own mind working on the topic, which helps get through the early days of the offseason. Thanks for annually putting yourself out there with these.

  3. gerrythek on October 9th, 2012 8:14 am

    Clearly you’ve given this a lot of thought – very good piece. My only quibble would be with Hafner. I don’t see the need to acquire a full-time DH and a hobbled one at that. I don’t think you’re going to keep Montero down very long and the projected club has enough depth to rotate players through the DH slot until Montero comes back. I would skip Hafner and reduce expected payroll by 3mil.

  4. wetzelcoatl on October 9th, 2012 8:14 am

    I’m still not convinced that a 1 year deal will get it done with Cabrera. Would anyone really be surprised if some team through a 3 year offer at him with a low annual value and a ton of incentives?

  5. Dave on October 9th, 2012 8:23 am

    I wonder if there are other, better alternatives to Villanueva.

    Sure, but they’ll cost a lot more, and then you’ll be in a bind if you want to promote one of Hultzen/Paxton/Walker/Maurer at some point. By going cheap and versatile in the #5 spot, you leave the potential open for one of the kids to claim a job without relying on them to do so.

    The only quibble I *do* have is that I think Smoak’s September is a mirage and that he’s not an MLB first baseman, but that’s just my view/cynicism.

    Me too. You could just as easily re-write the line-up with Smoak on the bench and Gutierrez starting in the OF, though. Or Smoak in Triple-A and Montero at first. Essentially, there’s one job for those three players, so you pick whichever one you like the best and let him play, with the other two serving as depth.

    I don’t think you’re going to keep Montero down very long and the projected club has enough depth to rotate players through the DH slot until Montero comes back.

    Really? What interesting players are you rotating through DH without Hafner?

    Hafner is a really good hitter when he’s healthy. Montero isn’t anywhere close to him offensively right now.

    I’m still not convinced that a 1 year deal will get it done with Cabrera. Would anyone really be surprised if some team through a 3 year offer at him with a low annual value and a ton of incentives?

    Why would Cabrera sign a three year deal with low AAV? All that does is make sure he can’t cash in again if he shows he can hit while being clean. At most, I could see some kind of player option for year two, but he’s going to want the right to hit the market again next winter if he has a big year.

  6. BillyJive on October 9th, 2012 8:23 am

    Dave…I like your plan a lot! But I doubt the organization would let Montero play in Tacoma at this point, especially with the fences being moved in. But it’s a good plan…and…Nick Swisher??!! Hell Yeah!

  7. Alec on October 9th, 2012 8:28 am

    “And this is the kind of off-season that lets the team go to Felix with a contract extension in hand and get him to sign up for another four or five years.”

    And here is the real key to a successful offseason.

  8. BillH on October 9th, 2012 8:37 am

    What about something like a sign-and-trade for Ellsbury? I’d rather have him (even with the injury risk) than an aging Swisher.

  9. wsm on October 9th, 2012 8:44 am

    This sounds about right.

    Do you think the Mariners will cough up the #12 overall pick to sign Swisher though? The Yankees will almost certainly make him a qualifying offer.

    And if they’re willing to go that high on Swisher, to what extent will they be in on Hamilton? 6 years/$120 million doesn’t seem so far out of line there.

    I like the idea of Melky, but it may be one more move than the Mariners will be willing to go. They’ll likely stick with Guti in CF and go with what they have after adding a RF. Or maybe Melky is the new RF and they pass on Swisher and Hamilton.

    They also usually carry 2 backup infielders, so look for someone who can at least handle 3B to sit alongside Rodriguez. Actually, if Chone Figgins was terrible for someone else the last few years, he’d be a good fit as a reclamation versatile pinch runner type.

  10. Adam S on October 9th, 2012 8:44 am

    Great writeup as always. One quick thought.

    The 7/100 for Swisher jumps out at me, and I think most people, especially its length for a guy who isn’t exactly young or a super star. But when I spin the deal as 5/90 (for a 4-win player who’s “worth” ~$20-24M/year as a free agent) and team options for $10M for his age 37 season and $0 for his age 38 season, the deal seems OK. And 7/100 is essentially the same money with more of it deferred.

  11. wsm on October 9th, 2012 8:47 am

    Yeah, Montero isn’t going to Tacoma unless he really stinks it up in the big leagues next year.

    I expect to see a multi-year deal with Brendan Ryan this offseason too. Maybe 2 years/$8 million or 3/$12. Enough to keep him around, but not enough that you can’t bench him when/if Franklin is ready to take over.

  12. Alec on October 9th, 2012 8:49 am

    @wsm Our pick is protected, being top-15. Also, what are you basing your claims on? Why do you say they wouldn’t sign Melky?

  13. Alec on October 9th, 2012 8:50 am

    @wsm Are you speculating based on anything at all? It seems like you are just making things up. And what possible reason would they give Ryan $4mm a year when in arbitration he’ll be lucky to get $2mm?

  14. wsm on October 9th, 2012 8:51 am

    Only the top 10 picks are protected under the new CBA. That’s the top 10, not the 10 worst records, too. The comp pick for Appel counts as one of the 10.

  15. Mariners35 on October 9th, 2012 8:53 am

    The money sounds right for Swisher but the length of contract spooks me, locking him up for age 32 through age 38. You better hope that projections and aging curves are right about him, and that he’s no worse than 2.5 – 3 WAR for at least the first half of the contract.

    We’re sick to death of Chone and he only finished up year three. Imagine Nick tanking here for the first year or two, and imagine the howling about having to see 5 more years of him.

    Obviously you don’t construct a roster without taking some risks, and you don’t shy away from long-term commitments simply because the higher profile free agents have been busts here. But still… 7 years to someone not named Felix… eek.

    I also get the general direction of going into free agency to find stopgaps – Chris Gimenez is a nice idea as a bridge to Zunino – as well as some good timing for both players and team for one-year, rebuild-value sorts of pickups like Cabrera. But I do wonder if the pitching depth and some other pieces of the farm are being protected a bit much. No trades to be had for an Upton, or a LoMo, or someone in that range?

    And it just wouldn’t be a Dave offseason plan without at least one “make this move to keep a player down in the minors and buy an extra year of control”. :) Having Montero start the year in Tacoma and expecting him to dominate that level before coming back isn’t the worst idea. Or at least having him learn how to run there.

    Although, if Montero can be ticketed to AAA with a .260 average, 15 HR and a wRC+ of 88, what’s that say about how horrifying Ackley’s season was (.226 avg, 12 HR, wRC+ of 76) or Smoak’s (.217, 19HR, wRC+ 85)? I think in your plan I’d go further than considering Swisher an insurance policy; rather, I’d assume that Swish starts the year at first base, and both Smoak and Montero are in Tacoma, and you only change that if Smoak not just picks up where he left off but looks amazing in spring training AND in Tacoma.

    We’ve seen how this team has tried to get guys going too soon; I’d hate to see September plus a decent spring fool the team into getting Smoak back too quickly. The default should be that Swisher is a first baseman until further notice. Gets Wells some more consistent time in right anyway; he can do the 4th OF schtick easily when someone comes up from Tacoma.

  16. wsm on October 9th, 2012 8:53 am


    Barmes, Clint

    Arbitration salaries go up, not down.

    They might not sign Melky because adding three offensive free agents is unheard of in Seattle. Or they might. No claims made.

  17. Alec on October 9th, 2012 8:55 am

    Could you link to that? I haven’t heard that before and can’t seem to find it mentioned anywhere, I’d like to see if there is anything else I missed.

  18. Alec on October 9th, 2012 8:56 am

    Brendan Ryan made $1.75mm last year. He’s not getting anywhere near $4mm/year in arbitration, and an additional year would drive AAV down, not up.

  19. Alec on October 9th, 2012 8:57 am

    @wsm nevermind, I found it. It wasn’t written up in the first few writeups I found, but BA mentioned it. Good to know

  20. Mariners35 on October 9th, 2012 9:05 am

    Ok, I spotted one other worry in the philosophy behind this plan…

    This kind of plan gives the team the ability to play the young players who are producing without being forced to rely on them if they aren’t.

    …but remember, Wedge. He’s not necessarily going to try to give them enough chance to produce where and when they should. He will likely play and run vets long past their sell-by date first.

    Wedge has been pining for veteran leadership in the lineup almost since he got here. Any veteran you give him, even a carefully calculated “ok but not too good” journeyman like Gimenez, is going to get overused. This year was better as far as shorter leashes on vets went. But still.

    Or put another way, just because the roster is constructed with a philosophy, doesn’t mean Wedge will use it “correctly”. You could just as easily see Wedge run a slumping Swisher, Hafner and/or Cabrera out there and run them into the ground, instead of use them as intended.

    I suppose I’m waiting for the offseason “it’s time to fire Wedge” post to accompany this plan. ;)

  21. thurston24 on October 9th, 2012 9:09 am

    My first reaction to this plan was not all positive. I like the Cabrerra signing as well as retaining Iwakuma but isn’t 7 years a really long contract for Swisher? That would keep him until his age 38 season. I know it’s probably not possible with him but I’d rather go four to five years instead. Also, I’m surprised Hafner would cost that much with all of the injuries. Instead of Hafner, I hope they kick the tires on Hamilton but he may cost crazy money and not be worth it.

  22. wsm on October 9th, 2012 9:11 am

    Ryan will get approximately $3 million in arbitration. He’ll then be a 31 year old free agent in a stronger market than the one that gave 32 year old Clint Barmes 2 years and $10.5 million and 38 year old Jamey Carroll 2 years and $6.5 million.

    Ryan is better and younger than those two and teams will be lining up at 3 years and $15 million for him. 2/$8 million or 3/$12 million is a good deal for a seattle club that just recently got out of a 2 year/$10 million deal for Jack Wilson.

  23. uoduckfan33 on October 9th, 2012 9:40 am


    Do you have any interest in Zach Duke? I expect he’d be cheap…


  24. stevemotivateir on October 9th, 2012 9:43 am

    The Swisher deal would be the biggest surprise for me. I see him as a great fit for the exact reasons Dave stated. Some of us discussed that a bit in another thread. I would have viewed five years as being too many, but I would have anticipated 5/100 for a starting point, as we’d be trying to pry him away from the Yankees (which Dave clearly noted). Maybe I overestimated his value? At 7/100, roughly 14 a year, it’s more reasonable, and not as difficult of a contract to move if that day ever came. I was hopeful (though not anticipating) a 2-3 deal in the 35-55 range might somehow be possible. But the more I think about it, I just don’t see that happening. The one question I would have about that for Dave, is whether the contract should be (or would be better) front-loaded?

    I think Cabrera would also be a great fit. Funny thing is, I’d be content with any of the Giants outfielders! Pagan and Pence would certainly be on my list.

    Never would have thought of Hafner, or how signing him could benefit Montero’s eventual switch. It makes sense. Maybe too much sense?! With a fairly low salary, it’s a low-risk, high reward kind of signing. Maybe without being needed every single game, he could turn-in a fairly healthy season?

    All of this is very interesting. I’m a little surprised there wasn’t more suggested trades, but I enjoyed this post very much! And the price-tag for all of this is very reasonable. Maybe the Swisher deal is a bit of a risk, but as a whole, this really isn’t a gamble.

    I assume we’ll see ‘Part 2′ after a few moves are made. Thanks for the post, Dave. I had been looking forward to this for a couple of months!

  25. Mike Snow on October 9th, 2012 9:44 am

    What about something like a sign-and-trade for Ellsbury?

    We already have a good defensive outfielder who’s a major injury risk in Gutierrez. And it would be mistake to imagine that Ellsbury is really a power hitter based on a career year in Fenway Park. I think Swisher and Cabrera do a better job of filling needs the roster doesn’t already meet, although personally I have little enthusiasm for picking up Cabrera.

    As an aside, “sign-and-trade” is not really the right term here, that’s an NBA concept. “Trade-and-extend” would be closer.

  26. stevemotivateir on October 9th, 2012 10:00 am

    One question for Dave…

    Do you think giving Furbush a shot at the rotation would make a good alternative to signing a free-agent, or a better move than pushing forward with Beavan as a starter? It’s hard for me to accept him as being nothing more than a relief-guy. He’s been a great lefty specialist, but his splits don’t appear to be that bad, so it really seems it would be worth the while to see if he can cut it as a starter.


    The “Time To Fire Wedge Plan” will probably come when the holes are filled and Wedge continues to make the same dumb in-game decisions he’s been making since he got here. So it’s very possible that post will be coming early next season ;)

  27. Westside guy on October 9th, 2012 10:20 am

    Overall I like the plan. I’m not convinced the outfield won’t be a bottle-neck if we sign two guys – although I don’t actually expect the team to actually do that. And if they only sign one… Swisher would be who I’d go for.

    I really like the idea of signing Swisher, but that may be a pipe dream.

    My biggest problem, though, is I don’t believe Wedge would manage this sort of roster in a way that would it to produce at anywhere near the level it should. I’ll freely admit it’s possible some of his most egregious playing-time decisions were actually driven by the front office (e.g. Olivo playing every day after coming off the DL, right after Wedge said “we’re going to work him back slow”; Chone Figgins playing, EVER) – but I just have no faith he has any grasp at all regarding that sort of thing.

  28. terryoftacoma on October 9th, 2012 10:26 am

    With both Z and Wedge’s contracts up this coming season, I think the Mariner’s will be active. I like Dave’s thinking in how we can go forward from here. However, I’m not convinced the club with spend a lot on the free ageant market. Although, they should. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll touch Melky and I don’t see them sending Montero to Tacoma. So like always, I’ll wait and see how things develop.

  29. bfgboy on October 9th, 2012 10:28 am

    How real are those numbers for Vargas and Iwakuma? I have read both here and other sites, that Vargas’ stat line makes him look more like an $8 mil – $9 mil player in arbitration; if he has a shot at those numbers, would he really sign for 30% less? Additionally, Iwakuma seems like he would be primed for a very nice deal in a light free agent pitcher class. If Greinke gets $20 mil, isn’t Iwakuma going to get about half of that?

    While I think $11 mil committed to those two would be a great catch, I can easily see the two of them getting closer to $16 – $18 mil. If that was the case, how real is the expectation that this organization is willing to approach $100 mil payroll?

    Regardless, I would love to see the majority of those moves occur.

  30. bfgboy on October 9th, 2012 10:36 am

    For reference:
    Jeremy Guthrie in 2011: 9-17/4.33/130k
    Jason Vargas in 2012: 14-11/3.85/141k

    Guthrie asked for $10,250,000 at arbitration, and settled for $8,750,000.

    I know the arbitrators take into account other things, but from what I can gather, advanced metrics are typically outside of their expertise.

  31. stevemotivateir on October 9th, 2012 10:45 am

    ^Vargas would get more in arbitration for next season, but he’d be a FA in 2014. Given his current road splits, the amount of HR’s he’s given up, and the fact that Safeco will be a little less kind to his stats in 2013, signing a two year deal at that price would probably be a good idea.

    With Iwakuma, it’s a little more simple. He didn’t pitch a full season and it was his first in this league. He had issues staying healthy in Japan and this year didn’t present him enough time to show the rest of baseball that he can endure a full season. He’s likely still viewed as a risk, so it’s hard to imagine teams throwing big money at him. At least that’s my take on it.

  32. hoser on October 9th, 2012 10:49 am

    Nice work, Dave, thoughtful and thought-provoking. Thank You!

  33. Dave on October 9th, 2012 10:51 am

    But I doubt the organization would let Montero play in Tacoma at this point.

    Why? He was pretty terrible last year. He got worse as the season went on, not better. Especially with the likely transition to a new defensive position, the team has a bunch of reasons to let him start 2013 in Triple-A. It’s not like he had a good rookie year and has earned the right to stay in the Majors.

    What about something like a sign-and-trade for Ellsbury? I’d rather have him (even with the injury risk) than an aging Swisher.

    Ellsbury is a Scott Boras client. He won’t sign an extension a year away from free agency. You’re going to have to give up talent for a one year rental, hope Ellsbury is healthy and productive, and then bid against others next winter to try and keep him. No thanks.

    Do you think the Mariners will cough up the #12 overall pick to sign Swisher though? The Yankees will almost certainly make him a qualifying offer.

    Any player who is a significant addition will either cost a draft pick or prospects in trade. They’re better off punting the #12 pick than they are punting a prospect who is already in Double-A or Triple-A.

    I expect to see a multi-year deal with Brendan Ryan this offseason too. Maybe 2 years/$8 million or 3/$12. Enough to keep him around, but not enough that you can’t bench him when/if Franklin is ready to take over.

    There’s no reason to give Ryan a multi-year deal. His numbers won’t get him a big raise in arbitration and his durability problems will keep him limited to one year deals even if he gets to free agency. He’s exactly the kind of player you go year to year with.

    The money sounds right for Swisher but the length of contract spooks me, locking him up for age 32 through age 38.

    If the money is right, then you should want as many years as possible. Seriously, 7/100 is better for the Mariners than 5/100. It’s two years at the end for free. Even if he’s useless, they don’t cost anything, and if he’s not useless, neat. Evaluate deals by the total value produced during the life of the contract, not just whether the player is likely to be productive at the end of it or not.

    He’s not necessarily going to try to give them enough chance to produce where and when they should. He will likely play and run vets long past their sell-by date first.

    I don’t think there’s a ton of evidence that Wedge has a veteran fetish. He’s not very good at identifying good players and bad players, but he’s played a lot of young players during his time in both Cleveland and Seattle. And, for those saying he won’t use a flexible roster, go look at how he handled Casey Blake when he was with the Indians. He’s willing to platoon and he’s willing to move guys around. Jack just needs to give him a roster where it’s obvious who the bench guys are so that he’s not tempted to underplay guys like Jaso again.

    Do you think giving Furbush a shot at the rotation would make a good alternative to signing a free-agent, or a better move than pushing forward with Beavan as a starter?

    I’d be fine with them trying Furbush out as a starter, but he had some arm problems late in the year that make it unlikely, I think.

    How real are those numbers for Vargas and Iwakuma? I have read both here and other sites, that Vargas’ stat line makes him look more like an $8 mil – $9 mil player in arbitration; if he has a shot at those numbers, would he really sign for 30% less?

    The Mariners don’t have to offer him arbitration. These back-end HR prone starters don’t get paid much in free agency, so letting him test the market could very well drive his price down, not up. The D’Backs did exactly this with Joe Saunders last year, non-tendering him and then re-signing him for $6 million after he realized that pitch-to-contact lefties aren’t very sought after free agents. The Mariners should be clear with Vargas – sign a two year deal with a small raise or test the market. Teams know about his home/road splits. They’re not going to be pounding on his door.

    And no, pitchers like Iwakuma don’t get $10 million per year. Seriously, go look at what other pitchers have been signing for in free agency lately. Teams pay for frontline guys, but they don’t pay for back-end guys.

  34. wsm on October 9th, 2012 11:14 am

    Got any comps for players in Montero’s situation? Someone who came up extremely young, spent a full year underachieving in the bigs, was replaced in the offseason, and then demoted to AAA?

    I can’t think of anyone. It seems especially unlikely for an organization who’s mantra is “stay the course”.

    Did Montero really fall that far short of expectations in 2012?

  35. Westside guy on October 9th, 2012 11:30 am

    ^I think you’re missing the “convert him to a first baseman” part – that’d be a more likely reason to have him spend time in Tacoma.

    He really is a terrible catcher.

  36. TheMightyMariner on October 9th, 2012 11:30 am

    Very cool read. I like a lot of the game plan here. I just think the contract you’re looking to give Nick Swish is a bit too long and too rich; it might be the only way we get him but it’s a bit over the top. I like the other moves and where I do have concerns, they’re alleviated by the length of the contracts. :)

  37. 9inningknowitall on October 9th, 2012 11:43 am

    This actually sounds like a good plan to me. I’m not 100% on board with the Swisher signing but I’m also not against it. I do like the idea of seeing whether Smoak is for real or if Montero is the better option. Both could be solid every day players or really bad ones.

  38. maqman on October 9th, 2012 11:45 am

    Thanks Dave, always look forward to your ideas. I don’t see Swisher wanting to come to Seattle. He’s a star-timer, with a centerfold wife and he’ll take what the Yankees offer unless an LA team tempts him. Not that it wouldn’t be nice to have him on board. I think there will be some serious interest in Iwakuma and he might cost more than some expect. I think Trader Jack will spend more time at the swap meet than the free agent bazaar. Probably stopping by the Twins and Royals booth. No Upton mention surprised me.

  39. stevemotivateir on October 9th, 2012 12:00 pm

    ^There’s been plenty of talk about a high asking-price for Upton, so a plan without him in it, doesn’t surprise me.

    There’s nothing that suggests Swisher would say no to Seattle, especially if it means a bigger pay-day. New York isn’t going to retain him cheaply, or he would have signed an extension by now.

    About the trading…. I’d bet there will be a call or two with the Royals.

  40. ty5oke on October 9th, 2012 12:01 pm


    I’m curious why you would go Swisher at 7/100 over Hamilton at 5/125?

  41. GarForever on October 9th, 2012 12:09 pm

    As always, Dave, really great stuff, and I like the plan a lot.

    So, as you’ve been keen to remind us in the past, the specific names here are as much about the types of players and contracts you think the M’s should be looking at. Assuming that maqman is right and Swisher doesn’t think there’s enough limelight in Seattle, do you have any comparable substitutions in mind? Likewise with Cabrera and Hafner? Thanks!

  42. GarForever on October 9th, 2012 12:13 pm

    I’m curious why you would go Swisher at 7/100 over Hamilton at 5/125?

    I can’t and won’t speak for Dave, but I wouldn’t touch that contract for Hamilton with a 10-foot pole. Even before his pretty ugly second half in 2012, he hasn’t exactly been durable, and frankly I’m worried as a human being for Josh Hamilton and his family if/when he leaves a really socially and politically conservative place like Dallas. Seattle, the Bay Area, New York…these are places probably best avoided by him, in my opinion. And 25MM per is a lot for a guy with a history of not staying on the field, off-field issues aside.

  43. goat on October 9th, 2012 12:20 pm

    Very creative plan.

    I was thinking Gimenez would be a good pickup as well, but mainly for the flexibility to play other positions if there are more than two catchers on the roster. I still think Montero has some value as a potentially decent hitting catcher. Certainly moreso than as a below league average hitting firstbaseman. I do think it would be better if they weren’t rotating the DH position between three catchers, even if two of them are supposedly decent hitters. I wouldn’t mind Jaso or Montero seeing some time at DH, but I think the team would be better off if less than half the DH at bats go to catchers.

    Having said that, Hafner still doesn’t sound all that appealing. He seems like Jack Cust 2.0. Plus they have plenty of marginal bats with limited positions: Smoak, Carp, Montero. I did think it might be a good idea to maybe package Carp in some sort of a deal to get back an overpriced veteran 1B/DH type from a full on rebuilding club, but the best I could come up with was Justin Morneau, and that doesn’t seem that great. Maybe they could find a way to trade for someone like Gaby Sanchez? Perhaps Hafner is the best option, but it seems like it would become very awkward to have a part time player with no position, especially with so many outfielders, and especially if there is a chance of having three catchers at any point next year.

    I don’t think they will go after three bats (or even 2.5). Even though Wells hasn’t been used much so far and hasn’t done much when he has been used, I still like the idea of Guti, Saunders, and Wells sharing two positions rather than basically one.

    Mostly would agree about the pitching end of things.

  44. stevemotivateir on October 9th, 2012 12:21 pm


    I don’t think I’d worry much about the social/political stuff, but for me, the issue is simple… Better value, less risk. Totally agree that 25M a year is a lot for his health issues. Probably worth noting Swisher’s ability to play first as well. He offers more in the way of Mariner-needs than Hamilton.

  45. amnizu on October 9th, 2012 12:25 pm

    Dave just curious what you think the rest of the AL West is going to be doing? With Oakland’s performance this year it is no longer a weak division.

    In my opinion bolting on 10 wins is not going to be enough to get the Ms where they need to be. Looking at 2012 AL West standings and assuming the Angles underperformed I see three good teams and one bad one (the Ms) that finished 18 to 20 games or so out of any real contention for either the AL West or a wild card spot.

    In fairness, Texas could lose Hamilton and get worse. Oakland could regress and the Angels could lay another egg but objectively speaking the Ms play the majority of their games against AL West opponents. They need to be able to win those games, especially down the stretch. In my opinion if the Ms really want a shot at this, they need to be thinking more like 15 to 20 wins. To do that at market rate they’ll need to be more like 100 or 110M in salary.

    Are there any other players that you would target or how would you change your plan to achieve 15 to 20 additional wins?

  46. The_Waco_Kid on October 9th, 2012 12:31 pm

    I gotta say I’m skeptical about 7 years for Swisher. At his age, I wouldn’t bet on him being productive for more than 4 seasons. That makes it more like 25M/year. If it’s much higher than 80M, I’d probably let someone else have him. Interesting idea though.

    Also, if Swisher’s a bust, we’ll be hamstrung til we get new ownership, as current ownership will never spend to make up for the hole in the roster, as we’ve seen with Figgins and many others. It’s not insane, but I’d call it a big risk.

  47. terryoftacoma on October 9th, 2012 12:43 pm


    The American League West will be 5 teams next year. Don’t forget Houston.

  48. Westside guy on October 9th, 2012 12:53 pm

    Here’s an odd question that may seem off-topic but does potentially affect all this.

    If the team cuts Figgins loose, and he somehow manages to do well enough to accrue 600 at-bats with a different team (or teams) in 2013 – does his option for 2014 kick in? Or would that only be the case if he gets 600 ABs with the Mariners (which we all know will never happen)?

    The reason I’m asking is I’m wondering if the reason the team is hanging onto Figgins for so long has been a financial one. If that’s the case, they might (God forbid) intend to hold him until midway through 2013 so the option can’t be reached.

  49. dchappelle on October 9th, 2012 12:59 pm

    Dave, it is awesome that you take the time to do these. It truly doesn’t get said enough. Great job.

  50. ndevale on October 9th, 2012 1:02 pm

    I support the Nick Swisher plan whole-heartedly. The first base flexibility and outfield depth are critically essential.
    I do however believe that the Mariners need to maximize their chances at winning the AL West in 2013. So while I dont oppose the idea of a Melky Cabrera, I would prefer trying to trade Montero for Justin Upton (with the necessary additions). Or Nick Franklin, with certainly more necessary additions.
    I like signing a DH, and Hafner is fine. What about Big Papi though?
    Outfielders are plentiful this year, and could be had at something of a relative bargain. Michael Bourn, instead of Upton? If you dont want to trade.
    I get that there is a budget. But signing or trading for two big ticket position players, instead of one, is a worthwhile gamble, at this point in the franchise, and at this point in the economics of MLB.
    And Get Felix Extended, Carajo.

  51. _Hutch_ on October 9th, 2012 1:04 pm

    Love the Melky idea and I don’t mind the M’s being aggressive if it means getting him on a one-year deal. The 1B/OF flexibility makes the Swisher idea sound nice, but I don’t foresee the M’s being able to keep up with the market for Swish. Given how much of a wild card Hamilton is, I see a lot of teams bidding with each other on Swisher as a safe, more consistent alternative and the second-best bat on the market. I’d rather they stayed on the SF outfielder bandwagon and looked at Pagan or Pence. Both are solid, under the radar guys that could provide value on a ~4 year contract – a couple years younger than Swisher and probably 2/3 the price and commitment. I know it would be nice to not go into 2013 banking on Smoak/Montero/Carp at first, but there’s some youth and upside there and it would go against the team’s “let the kids develop” mantra to bring in a vet after suffering through two years of the kids’ growing pains. Dave’s right that it’s not smart to bank on Smoak’s September, but I feel like the organization will use it as cover to try to justify “The Plan.”

    I’m not opposed to Villanueva but I’d bet they try to dumpster dive again (ala Millwood) for cheaper. Also, if they resign both Vargas and Iwakuma (big if on Vargas with the fence move), I’d bet they stay in house for a fifth starter and hope that Paxton or Hultzen can move quickly next year. Also very much on board with giving Furbush another chance to start.

    Gotta say I’m puzzled on the Sean Rodriguez idea. Seems like selling low on Carp (even with the injury-shortened 2012) and I’d like to see one of the kids (Franklin, Romero, Miller) be given a shot at the utility infielder role.

    If the FO wants to make a splash this year, I’d rather they do it on the trade market by getting Justin Upton or Ike Davis centered around any pitcher in the organization not surnamed Hernandez or Walker.

  52. msfanmike on October 9th, 2012 1:18 pm

    I appreciate the article and the explanations behind the logic. I also noticed there is a typo within the Matrix (LHB and RHB should be referenced as Pitchers, instead).

    I like the idea of Swisher and Cabrera. However, I can’t see this organization signing ANYBODY for more than 4 years, other than Felix Hernandez. I don’t think Management is going to commit to a 7 year deal for Swisher – as an attempt to sway him away from a bigger market – with a GM and Coach entering the final year of their respective deals. I also believe they will pass on Cabrera for any number of other reasons (real or imagined).

    I don’t see why the team would only leave itself with one backup infielder. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, but stranger things have happened.

    The proposed pitching rotation looks like a solid plan for starting next season.

    There have been some articles written ‘already’ in regard to the team making reference to the FA market being “thin,” so that is either a built in excuse to not pursue any, or they are laying low and will be willing to strike when nobody expects it. I suspect the former.

    I do believe the team will do everything it can to get one, good OF’er. Whether by trade or FA signing, I do not know. Hunter Pence might also be available on the cheap for a short-term deal and hopefully augment whatever other player they are specifically targeting and willing to commit to – longer term. Melky Cabrera probably doesn’t fit but he would likely be an above average PED free contributor on offense. I keep reminding myself that SF does not want Cabrera back even if they manage to get deeper than 5 games into this years playoffs. Apparenlty, he wasn’t a very good teammate and his departure was very awkward for more than one reason. On a one-year deal (during times of struggle – and there always are), how reliable would he be?

  53. Thirteen on October 9th, 2012 1:32 pm

    Dave: great plan. I like it a lot. However, I have one alternative suggestion.

    I don’t think that the Mariners have room for all three of Cerberus in their rotation, and Franklin is obvious trade bait with Miller staying on SS and Franklin moving off. Instead of signing Swisher, could the Mariners offer one of Cerberus plus Franklin to the Cardinals for Allen Craig? (If the one is Walker, maybe Romero instead of Franklin?) I feel like St. Louis is loaded at the corner infield with Adams, Carpenter and Freese, but they lack middle infielders and only really have one good pitching prospect. Craig offers the same upside as Swisher now, but with less payroll commitment, and he’ll improve with age rather than decline. Then the Mariners could use their extra payroll space to aggressively pursue one of the better starting pitchers, like Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson or even Greinke.

    There’s increased injury risk, but it’s the better upgrade, and the Mariners just don’t have room for all of these starting pitchers and middle infielders. Your thoughts?

  54. nwade on October 9th, 2012 1:32 pm

    Dave – I always love your off-season plans; but one thing we have to keep in mind is that all of these deals don’t happen on the same day. Do you think your plan can be accomplished under the threat that you acquire 1 or 2 of these players without getting the whole lot of them to make this “ideal” (under the circumstances) roster? I’m no GM, but if I were I’d definitely shape my off-season plans around the ability to incrementally upgrade one or two guys at a time and not leave my roster stranded in a bad spot if I was unable to close the remaining deals. How bad is it if you only buy 1 or 2 of them, and then can’t acquire the others? Does this strategic angle encourage you to pursue one of these guys absolutely before the others? And if you fail to acquire the first one (say, Swisher), does that sink the plan for the rest of them?

  55. Mariners35 on October 9th, 2012 1:33 pm

    amnizu – The American League West will be 5 teams next year. Don’t forget Houston.

    It’s a wash. Everyone will have equal opportunity to beat up on Houston, and very slightly less to beat up on each other. Rising tide lifts all boats, and all that. I doubt the M’s would be able to beat up on Houston more effectively than the A’s, Rangers and Angels, so for all practical purpose they’ll be in the same relative distances from each other than if the Astros weren’t here. And if the M’s can’t do well against the Astros, at least as each team is set up right now… well, the M’s probably have much bigger problems then.

    I think it’s functionally equivalent to talk about the AL West as if it were still a 4-team division, at least for a couple more years.

  56. Westside guy on October 9th, 2012 1:39 pm

    Regarding Hamilton instead of Swisher – Swisher offers positional flexibility that Hamilton does not. Swisher is a good defender, while Hamilton is absolutely horrible. Hamilton also has an unorthodox (to be kind) plate approach that seems more likely to result in his performance falling off a cliff as he ages.

    FanGraphs has Hamilton at 4.4 WAR in 2012, while Swisher is at 4.0 – not a significant difference, and certainly not worth paying millions more a year to acquire.

    I don’t think the political or religious stuff matters, because baseball players live in their own little insulated rich-people’s world.

  57. GarForever on October 9th, 2012 2:08 pm

    Hey Steve — That’s a secondary consideration for me as well. I just think he would find it easier to keep his off-field demons at bay in a place where the broader culture offers fewer of his particular pitfalls. My main point is yours, though: too much money for a guy who provides more risk and not as much value.

  58. orin44 on October 9th, 2012 2:34 pm

    I’ve never been a fan of Nick Swisher’s and even though we’re bringing the fences in, im still not. He had a couple good years in Oakland and then was garbage until he went to a hitter’s ballpark in a stacked lineup. He cannot anchor a lineup, he’s not that kind of hitter! I don’t care what numbers you show me, I would bet a year’s salary he would never come close to his NY numbers.

    Instead of Swisher, I would rather spend money on BJ Upton who looks like a late bloomer. I know he also was hitting in a much better lineup and in a dome for half of his games, but his upside is much higher! He also plays great defense, has speed along with a developing power bat. He does strike out a lot, but he’s shown a lot of promise this past year.

    The other free agent I would target would be Texas catcher / 1st basmen / DH in Mike Napoli who had a down year. The guy still has a ton of power, can catch a little and would provide protection in the lineup for our young hitters.

    Also, for those of us sick of seeing Brendan Ryan swing a bat, how about going out and signing someone like Stephen Drew or Marco Scutaro? They both can hit and would be a great addition while short stops Nick Franklin and Brad Miller develop. This also brings up another point. If Franklin and Miller are MLB starting caliber players, doesn’t moving Ackley to the outfield make sense?

    If we were to add anyone else, I like the idea of Delmon Young who has power from the right hand side, but doesn’t help you defensively. I also still like Angel Pagan, but he isn’t going to help you offense immensely.

    I do like the idea of trading for Sean Rodriguez. I also think Seattle will have to part with young pitchers in order to upgrade their hitters. I see only Danny Hultzen and Tajuan Walker as being untouchable. James Paxton, Brandon Mauer, Andrew Caraway, etc all need to be offered with others to upgrade this roster.

  59. Dave on October 9th, 2012 2:37 pm

    That post is comedy gold. Pure comedy gold.

  60. Westside guy on October 9th, 2012 2:41 pm

    So, let me get this straight – you’re ignoring eight good seasons Nick Swisher had, and judging him based on one middling season? Because he was with Oakland four years, spent one year with the White Sox, then signed with New York.

    Also, while an OPS of .743 is not star quality it is also certainly not “garbage”.

    And all that is still ignoring defense.

  61. nwade on October 9th, 2012 2:45 pm

    orin44 – Ask for a Pony for your Birthday; its more realistic.

  62. Thirteen on October 9th, 2012 2:49 pm

    That just has to be a troll. It gets progressively more absurd! From “I don’t like Swisher” to “move Ackley to the outfield” to “sign Delmon Young”… you’ve gotta be joking, right?

  63. Alec on October 9th, 2012 2:53 pm

    [Edited to reflect that I confused Delmon and Dmitri Young] Is that Carson or Jeff trolling Dave? So many questions.

  64. shortbus on October 9th, 2012 2:59 pm

    Given the team’s unwillingness to spend much the last few seasons, even on value players — what are the odds the team will actually take on a big contract like the one you’re suggesting for Swisher? I don’t have any reason to criticize this plan — it has fallbacks for its fallbacks –but I’m so frustrated that year after year you post really some terrific ideas that the team not only doesn’t pull off (it’s not like you work for the M’s or anything) but that they have no analogous set of moves to point to that suggest they’re even considering adding economical players to help the team. Year after year they’ve let other teams sign decent FA players for small, short contracts while rolling out rosters incapable of playing .500 ball.

    I frankly hope the rumors of a sale come true. Then we can be like the Marlins of 2013 and buy every shiny free agent in the land. Or better yet, the A’s of 2013 after adding smartly and economically but flying mostly under the radar.

  65. terryoftacoma on October 9th, 2012 3:05 pm

    I’m sorry I did laugh at that post. How about we keep Olivo and Figgins, too.

  66. rrwrayiii on October 9th, 2012 3:10 pm

    Hmmm, not sold at all. Even if the explanations have some reasoning to them. A $100 contract for Swisher isn’t something I’d want to touch. Yeah he’s a good player, but the amount of money and years gives me a bad feeling. Giving Travis Hafner a $3million contract? I’d rather have Carp or Casper Wells play. Hafner will miss most of the season with injuries anyways. The way this team here is put together, they wont be contending for the playoffs. Why sign Hafner? What does he do that is so necessary that others cant? Sure he USED to be good, but this resembles Bill Bavasi’s idea. Beavan to the bullpen for Carlos Villanueva? What did Beavan do besides prove he can pitch in the majors as a starter? Appreciate the thought and reasoning behind all this work though.

  67. bookbook on October 9th, 2012 3:11 pm

    I like the plan. One question on the pitching front: how much better an option is Villanueva than the previously proposed “start Furbush again” plan? What level of confidence should we have that Cerberus plus Maurer plus Furbush leads to two Reliable starters by 2014?

  68. jordan on October 9th, 2012 3:13 pm

    I’ve never been more on board with an off-season plan. This plan allows for the Mariners to be in position for a playoff push should a couple of the young guys take big steps forward, but if they don’t, it doesn’t cripple the organization. Swisher is a perfect example of someone who is probably undervalued by the market right now do to his sabermetrics.

  69. Carson on October 9th, 2012 3:20 pm

    I like this plan a lot. When I looked at the tables, I wasn’t sure I’d think that way. After reading the logic, though, I’m on board.

    I’m mostly curious to see how the M’s pursue guys that will cost them draft picks, a la Swisher. If the draft were deeper this coming year, or they had a higher pick, maybe you go that route. But I do think this is a good situation for them to spend on a guy instead.


    “Is that Carson or Jeff trolling Dave? So many questions.”

    Cistulli? Because if you mean me, I’m sorta lost.

  70. 9inningknowitall on October 9th, 2012 3:48 pm

    The best part of this plan really is the cutting of Figgins, the thanks but no thanks to Olivo and the dumping of Carp. Carp is the most overrated player in the M’s system. I’d experiment with Smoak and Montero long before I ever gave Carp another chance. The bottom line though is by simply getting rid of Figgins and Olivo the M’s get better.

  71. justinh on October 9th, 2012 3:52 pm

    I agree that going for Swisher is ridiculous. He has never been good, swings at everything, and is probably on steroids anyway. And a 7 yr deal for a backup is ludicrous.

    I love the idea of getting BJ Upton. He had an OPS of over .950 at Safeco Field a couple years. He also plays great defense at Safeco Field and his base running at Safeco is pretty remarkable.

    If we could get BJ Upton and then trade Walker, Franklin, and Zunino for JJ Reddick, our outfield would be set as they are both young.

    I like your idea to sign Hafner, but I don’t think he would be a good DH. We could use him as a defensive replacement at 1B and maybe put him in the OF on occasion.

    And signing Iwakuma is worthless. Safeco isn’t good for him and with the fences coming in a fly ball pitcher is going to be horrible. The M’s would be better off trading for Strasburg or maybe getting a young guy like Trevor Bauer.

    Lastly, to solidify the catcher position I would like to see us go get Buster Posey or possibly even Joe Mauer. Mauer was put on waivers and we could get him because the Twins don’t want to pay his big contract.

    Also, Johnny Damon is available and he has a good lifetime average at Safeco and has stolen a lot of bases at Safeco as well.

    It’s time we did things the right and not just go after 4th OF types in Swisher. Wake up Cameron!!!

  72. terryoftacoma on October 9th, 2012 4:04 pm

    Five days after the end of the World Series we will have our answer on Olivo(for most of us there is no doubt) and also know on whether Hafner is available. I don’t think Cleveland will pick up his option of 13 Mil but stranger things have happened.

  73. stevemotivateir on October 9th, 2012 4:06 pm

    Nobody’s gonna bite on that one.

    How exactly is Carp the most overrated player in the M’s system? How often did you see him in the line-up once returning from injuries? Who’s expecting him to hold a starting position next year?

    Peguero or Robinson would get my vote for most overrated player in the system.

  74. mattlock on October 9th, 2012 4:09 pm

    @justinh: That was some awesome satire. I loved the “[Damon] has stolen a lot of bases in Safeco as well.” Definitely got a loud “bahaha” out of me :D

  75. rth1986 on October 9th, 2012 4:19 pm

    Awesome! I always love reading Dave’s write ups. I strongly agree with the idea of building outfield depth while allowing some flexibility for unknowns like Montero and Smoak. Villanueva is a really interesting idea as well. Personally, I’d be fine with Beavan in the fifth spot, but Villanueva is an interesting gamble.

    That being said, I have a few concerns about some of the suggestions here. First, there’s no way I’d go seven years for Swisher. I’m fine with annual salary, but not the length. Swisher fits in PERFECTLY with what the Mariners need now, but 6 or 7 years from now…? I wouldn’t want us to have a $15m/year commitment at that point. I’d push 4/$70m or 5/$85m but wouldn’t go much further than that. 7/$100 would just be too great of a risk for a complementary piece like Swisher.

    Personally, I’d much rather explore trade options like Justin Upton, Dexter Fowler, Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury or Josh Willingham. If I’m Jack Z, I’d be right in the heart of a discussion for any one of those players (most of whom are extremely strong candidates to be moved). We certainly have the pieces to get one of those guys.

    On a smaller note, the Carp/Robinson trade just sounds terrible. If Rodriguez and Gimenez were free agents, they’d likely get minor league contract offers with a spring training invitation. Robinson and Carp are never going to be great players, but they sure have a lot more upside than either Rodriguez or Gimenez going forward. I wouldn’t trade them for the sake of trading them. I’d imagine Robinson gets yet another stint in AAA to refine his swing and approach. Since Carp is out of options and hardly got a look this September, I’d imagine he’ll be traded. However, I’d hope that he wouldn’t be traded for nothing. He’s a good candidate to turn into another Mike Morse. Hopefully, he’ll be part of a larger package for a valued long-term piece.

    On a side note, I’m still secretly hoping that the Mariners trade for Ryan Hanigan and the Reds sign Olivo to share duties with Mesoraco. I’ve wanted Hanigan in Seattle for a long time. He’s easily of the more underrated catchers in the game – great contact skills and discipline at the plate and fantastic all-around behind the plate. He’d be a great platoon partner for Jaso while Zunino is getting ready.

    Thanks for the article, Dave!

  76. orin44 on October 9th, 2012 4:36 pm

    So wait….you’re all saying Swisher is the answer??? That’s funny….he’s a chump we would be wasting money on. The free agent market sucks and we’re not going to be better by signing Swisher who will not hit outside of that Yankee lineup. So besides BJ Upton, I wouldn’t want to see any of those guys really, but there’s not a whole lot out there. So…please let’s see what your comical thoughts are, because Swisher is pretty funny…..pure gold if you ask me.

  77. orin44 on October 9th, 2012 4:39 pm

    Also, Hafner??? Come on Dave….respect level is going down. At least Delmon Young can still hit home runs and play a position.

  78. orin44 on October 9th, 2012 4:44 pm

    There is no way Josh Hamilton would come to Seattle…that’s a pipe dream!

  79. stevemotivateir on October 9th, 2012 4:49 pm

    ^Funny you mention pipes. Your comments suggest more use of those, than they do using stats and facts.

    How was that for a comical thought? :)

  80. B.W.Marx on October 9th, 2012 4:53 pm

    To Orin,

    I’m glad you’re not my GM.

    Swisher’s 2012 splits:

    Home .283 .370 .464 .834
    Away .261 .359 .482 .841

    Upton’s 2012 splits:

    Home .258 .316 .498 .814
    Away .234 .280 .408 .687

    Numbers are a bitch, ain’t they?

  81. rsrobinson on October 9th, 2012 5:10 pm


    I live in Arlington just about a 20 minute drive from the Rangers’ ballpark. I can assure you that there is no shortage of bars, strip clubs, drugs or other temptations around here that could lead an addict like Hamilton astray. I don’t see why Seattle would be considered a more risky place for him to live in that regard.

  82. stevemotivateir on October 9th, 2012 5:14 pm

    ^Yeah, but they’re conservative bars, strip clubs, and temptations. Kidding of course. I’m sure he was referring to the general feel of the state, though. You’ll find that stuff in every major city. I understand your point, just having a little fun ;)

  83. Westside guy on October 9th, 2012 5:30 pm

    Justin had me going for about two paragraphs, but I was cracking up at the end.

    However he neglected to point out that Damon’s weak arm wouldn’t be an issue since left field will be so much smaller next year. :-D

  84. Dave on October 9th, 2012 5:45 pm

    I’m honestly bewildered at some of the opinions on Travis Hafner. If you think he’s somehow declined in performance, you’re just not paying attention.

    2009: 115 wRC+
    2010: 126 wRC+
    2011: 125 wRC+
    2012: 118 wRC+

    Last year, he posted his lowest K% in three years, his highest walk rate in five years, and his highest isolated slugging in six years. There were seven players in baseball who posted a walk rate over 12%, a strikeout rate below 18%, and an isolated slugging over .200. Those seven were:

    Joey Votto, 176 wRC+
    Ben Zobrist, 135 wRC+
    Prince Fielder, 152 wRC+
    Edwin Encarnacion, 153 wRC+
    Jose Bautista, 139 wRC+
    David Ortiz, 167 wRC+
    Travis Hafner, 118 wRC+

    Hafner showed elite offensive skills last year. He was basically some better ball-in-play outcomes away from hitting like one of the 10 or 15 best best bats in baseball. And people are seriously wondering what he can do that Carp can’t?

    The answer is hit. Travis Hafner is a legitimately good hitter. He’s not an everyday guy anymore, but there’s no reason to think that Hafner will do anything besides mash when he’s in the line-up next year.

  85. Dave on October 9th, 2012 5:55 pm

    And really, if you think Sean Rodriguez is a minor league invite, again, you’re not paying attention. He’s racked up +5.3 WAR in just under 1,400 career plate appearances, and even his career 84 wRC+ is decent for a guy who can play shortstop. Toss in that he’s only 28 and can really hit lefties and he’s a perfect utility infielder. He’s not a huge upside guy, as his strikeout rate will probably keep him from ever developing into more than a good part-time piece, but you could say the same about Carp.

    Neither Carp nor Robinson have any future in Seattle. Both are out of options. You trade them for whatever you can get, and given their limited skills, that’s an arb eligible utility infielder and a back-up catcher.

  86. Brad on October 9th, 2012 6:06 pm

    The budget seems right and I love the idea of Melky coming in for a year in an effort to re-create his own value. I love Swisher in Safeco as much as anybody but those years are intimidating…..Some people don’t like his attitude but I think it would play great here. Seems like nobody has been having fun since the Ichiro tickle….times……sigh……

    With the fences coming in I would still like J-Z to explore moving Vargas. He should still have value to teams with fair/pitcher friendly parks…..Atl/SD/KC. The pitching depth of this org can absorb the hit, Beaven/select rookie in the rotation, O Perez back in the pen.

    This can work. Do it.

  87. vertigoman on October 9th, 2012 6:38 pm

    I always look forward to this. It’s become the standard for the off season debate. Sadly, it’s always comes a few weeks too soon.

    The direction is sound and I like the middle ground approach to the budget and roster construction. Allow the foundation to grow by complimenting it with players that fit the club and offer flexibility.
    Like you implied, the names could change if similar goals are met.
    I could see Napoli and Pagan working in place of Swisher and Cabrera respectively. Maybe a little cheaper so the club could spend a little more on a SP (there are a few good middle rotation guys) But that would be more fall back.

    From GmZ’s comments today it doesn’t sound like the budget will be going up substantially if at all but we’ll see.

  88. sexymarinersfan on October 9th, 2012 6:44 pm

    Nelson Cruz is a guy that was brought up too early and then floundered around as a AAAA type for some time before he caught on.

    My Texas buddies here in Dallas don’t like Hamilton because they said he chokes in big pressure situations and always fades in the 2nd half. They’re not really too keen on retaining him or trading for Justin Upton. Neither am I.

    When I asked them why not Upton theirs response was, “why would you want an over paid under producing OF and have to give up big time prospects to get him?!” Makes sense. I don’t think either player is what Seattle has in mind.

    Texas isn’t too concerned about losing Hamilton. They’re talking about moving Kinsler to the OF with Murphy, Cruz, and Gentry, while Profar and Andrus handle up the middle. As far as Mike Napoli leaving Texas, HA!! Good luck. The dude loves it here. I’d bet any wager that he’d ever come to Seattle this offseason. The fans and his teammates adore his leadership and toughness.

    Acquring Sean Rodriguez is a good idea, but I like Jeff Keppinger through FA better.

    I LOVE the Hafner idea. His OBP was pretty good considering what his overall BA was.

    I’m not quite sold on the Swisher idea. I wouldn’t be opposed, but we have some in house candidates in possibly Romero and Wells that might be able to hold down a LF field job sometime in the near future. I have to think on this more.

    Overall your plan gets an A- Dave. I love the creativity and when the logic is explained everything makes a lot of sense. I’d love to hear what you think about guys like Keppinger, Ross, and Ludwick, as to whether or not they would be good fits.

    Thank you for the work you put into this article. I really enjoyed the read, even if some didn’t.

  89. _Hutch_ on October 9th, 2012 7:58 pm

    Not that utility infielders aren’t expendable if a prospect starts blowing up, but I’m curious what the point of obtaining a Keppinger or Sean Rodriguez would be unless we’re planning to start them over Ryan or Ackley. This organization has a dearth of hitting prospects close to the majors, but the ones we do have are all middle infielders. The organization obviously doesn’t promote quickly, but I’d like to see Franklin be given the opportunity to take Mune’s spot next year. Or hell, see if Romero or Miller can play their way on in the spring. If they all fall flat pick up some AAAA driftwood to be a stopgap. Certainly better places to spend the money.

  90. SonOfZavaras on October 9th, 2012 8:02 pm

    Overall, Dave, an excellent plan.

    If there’s one ballplayer who everybody who watches baseball should know what you’re getting if you get him, it’s either Raul Ibanez or Nick Swisher.

    He’s an excellent piece for a team like this, 7/100 wouldn’t actually bother me.

    Plan B for me would be the Giants’ Angel Pagan- not the same power potential or defensive versatility, but I’ll take a switch-hitting centerfielder who runs okay, plays defense decently and who’s likely a better hitter than anything I currently have.

    I’m completely willing to roll the dice on Cabrera. It’s not like this guy was a Yunel Escobar-level cancer in the clubhouse who no one likes, or a guy who’s just a chronic lousy human being who’s been given chance after chance that he flubbed.

    I had thought of Sean Rodriguez myself, he had kind of occupied the spot in my heart for a versatile defensive player (the spot in my heart that I’d named The Ben Zobrist Section).

    IMHO, he’s precisely the kind of player that can really make THIS kind of youngish lineup better. He won’t embarrass you at three positions, he’s probably seen all the ups and downs of a life in the major leagues.

    I was thinking more of Gerald Laird as far as a righty-hitting catcher went…but I like your Gimenez re-acquisition idea much better. Gimenez has been here before and is a player that you can kick to the curb quite easily if/when Zunino arrives, and he offers more versatility (IIRC, he could play LF- although not exactly at Gold Glove level) than what many catchers do.

  91. Dave on October 9th, 2012 8:03 pm

    You want to take a legitimate prospect like Franklin and pigeonhole him into a role where he gets 250 plate appearances as a rookie? Really? That’s not any kind of way to develop talent.

    Romero can’t play shortstop. Miller has a couple of months in Double-A. These guys are not options for that position.

  92. wilchiro on October 9th, 2012 8:06 pm

    Like the plan, would love to have Swisher but not for seven years. He’s close to hitting the downhill slope. I’m not convinced that he’d need $100 million to play here either, he’s gone on air saying Seattle is his favorite city to play in.

  93. eponymous coward on October 9th, 2012 8:07 pm

    From GmZ’s comments today

    Which were made where?

    Not that utility infielders aren’t expendable if a prospect starts blowing up, but I’m curious what the point of obtaining a Keppinger or Sean Rodriguez would be unless we’re planning to start them over Ryan or Ackley

    How about “depth so we don’t have to burn a prospect ala Jose Lopez if Ryan’s injured”?

  94. GarForever on October 9th, 2012 8:11 pm

    Sheesh: I reiterate. My qualms about Hamilton in Seattle are first and foremost about overpaying a guy who I don’t think is worth the years and money someone is going to pay him this off-season, entirely for on-field reasons. Having been to Dallas, I am aware that it has most if not all of the same hedonistic — conveniences? — of any other major American city :)

    But yes, Steve is right: I think the overall culture of a place might matter, and just to be clear, I’ll take Seattle’s over Dallas’ any day. All I know is that when I lived in Seattle, trouble could find me whether I was looking for it or not, in a way it didn’t in say Salt Lake City (natch) or for that matter, even Chicago.

    But again, I hope for Hamilton’s sake all of this is academic and I’m wrong to be wary on his behalf. But I still don’t want him here — again — for reasons that have to do with on-field productivity over the life of a contract in the range of 5/125. If, on the other hand, he wants to settle for a one-year, incentive-laden deal with a club option for 2014, then sure ;)

  95. ripperlv on October 9th, 2012 8:23 pm

    A logical plan. However, I’ll need to buy extra-strength Tums to watch the rotation on the road. Also have a hard time with Swisher at 7 years but I see your argument.
    I really like the idea of some veterans around, not only for the experience and leadership, but it let’s the up and comers known who they have to beat in order to get the job. Saunders, Smoak, Ackley never really earned the job. I guess you can say Seager beat out Chone. I like your plan sans the noted concerns.

  96. orin44 on October 9th, 2012 8:29 pm

    First off, numbers do not translate when you take a hitter of Swisher’s caliber out of the Yankee’s lineup. Why would you give someone who is 31 that many years and that much money? Swisher has never been a middle of the order bat who carries a lineup and for that kind of money is what you would be expecting. Secondly, while giving Hafner a short term contract is fine, do we really need another player who spends most of the year on the DL?

    I’m pretty sure Josh Hamilton doesn’t even have Seattle on his radar. The only player who I would seriously entertain is BJ Upton. I don’t think you break the bank in trying to sign him, but he would be great addition. He does strike out a lot (169), but so does Swisher (141). He hit 4 more home runs, stole 29 more bases and provides great defense. Yes, Swisher walks more, hit for higher average, and his OBP and OPS were much higher, however, Upton is 3 years younger and looked much better this season. I would rather take someone who doesn’t play in a stacked lineup in a hitter’s ballpark. Upton has more upside being younger and more athletic. However, I wouldn’t give anyone in this free agent market a huge contract.

    I honestly would rather make small moves, make smart trades and wait for a better crop of free agents rather than commit that kind of money to a player a lot would consider average in Swisher. Why lock up another Figgins, who was a great hitter in a stacked lineup, but couldn’t hit when you took him out of that potent Angel’s lineup.

    Numbers don’t say everything and if you think they do, then ask yourself why Billy Beane hasn’t won a championship with the A’s?

  97. GarForever on October 9th, 2012 8:32 pm

    Is this Larry Reynolds…?

  98. Dave on October 9th, 2012 8:38 pm

    Orin, you just don’t know very much about baseball. You should talk less and read more.

  99. bavasisabum on October 9th, 2012 8:40 pm

    Might as well start out with the parts I like. Iwakuma deal sounds about right. Cabrera deal would be great but I don’t think Safeco will be his choice to reestablish himself. Vargas contract seems fine with the intention of trading him before it expires.

    Parts I oppose; Swisher for 7 years is insane. He is a fine player, under appreciated for some time but this is about future performance. His bat speed is mediocre as is. I would be nervous about a 3/4 year deal ending well 7 is crazy.

    Villanueva is the new Capuano/Cris Young. Save the 4 mil till one of the young arms are ready (off topic I trade Hultzen over Paxton all things equal)

    Hafner may be a better one year solution but I have a hard time seeing Montero ever being even an average defensive firstbaseman. Adam Dunn defense tops. If Smoak is not the answer they need to look at someone like Laroche or a trade.

  100. justinh on October 9th, 2012 8:55 pm


    Swisher is not another Figgins. Players with Swisher’s skillset have aged well. Just look at what Lance Berkman was able to do last year at the age Swisher will be when his contract would be up.

    Is 7/100 a lot of money for Swisher? Of course, but the fact the Mariners are going to have to bid higher than the Yankees. Furthermore, in 3 or 4 years the Swisher deal will probably look like a bargain. We have been in a horrible economy the last 3 years and with the new MLB Postseason deal coupled by many local tv contracts being reworked, salaries are going to jump substantially again. You also must factor in Swisher is worth more to the Mariners since we need a big bat veteran presence.

    I don’t always agree with you Dave, but this is by far the best offseason plan I’ve seen from you. Over half the players you wrote about I too mentioned as great potential targets. I’ve heard quite a few people mention Grienke, Lohse, or Sanchez but the fact is Grienke is going to command over 100 million, and Lohse and Sanchez will obtain 4/48. Villanueva would be the guy I go after unless Grienke says he’ll take 5/75 to play in Seattle. He was very effective as a starter this year.

    Great work!!!

  101. orin44 on October 9th, 2012 9:01 pm

    Dave, you don’t know me, as I don’t know you. You aren’t very professional, as you’re showing. I don’t number crunch, I watch a lot of baseball, I still play a lot of baseball. You sound too petty to pay attention to anymore. Good luck with this blog, but if the M’s sign Swisher for 7 years and $100 million I’ll vomit. Go M’s and ignore Dave! No way Swisher hits outside that Yankee lineup with that kind of protection he has enjoyed for years. Do you understand that? Do you understand he won’t get those kind of pitches if he’s inserted into the M’s lineup? They’ll pitch around him….he won’t see the same kind of pitches. He will not put up the same numbers in Seattle. Do you really believe he will? If you do, you don’t know very much. Get over yourself. To think I actually used to like this blog. Also…do you really think anyone outside of Josh Hamilton deserves $100 million and multiple years? This free agent market is terrible…..the last thing I want the M’s doing is giving a player who is 31 a contract for that many years….Swisher has 3 years tops as a starter. So, have fun belittling people on your blog!

  102. Typical Idiot Fan on October 9th, 2012 9:13 pm

    You aren’t very professional, as you’re showing.

    Why is it that people who don’t act professional themselves expect others to treat them professionally?

  103. justinh on October 9th, 2012 9:21 pm


    BTW BJ Upton is going to receive a contract for $75 million because teams like the Nats, Braves, and Rangers are all going to be looking for a CF. And the Nats are desperate!

    If BJ Upton doesn’t hit, he would still be of value to those teams because of his defense. The Mariners already have an uber talented defensive CF and also have a very good CF with a similar skillset to Upton in Saunders. Signing Upton would be a waste of resources.

    There is ZERO reason to give BJ Upton a huge deal and bid against three of the teams with the highest payroll. Saunders is BJ Upton with a little less defensive prowess. In fact Saunders walked more and struck out less and I would argue he is better than Upton offensively. Jason Churchill sent me this text a couple days ago: “using Trackman, Michael Saunders would have hit .311/.375/.494 with 16HR at Safeco this year if the dimensions were adjusted last winter.”

    Some of that maybe small sample size, but it shows the Mariners have ZERO REASONS TO PAY BJ UPTON $75 MILLION OR MORE.

    Lastly, Dave with Saunders being a near shoe-in qualifying for Super Two, do you think the M’s should give him an extension this offseason? I would personally give it a shot.

  104. Dave on October 9th, 2012 9:26 pm

    By the way, in case anyone else reading this isn’t acutely aware of the fact that Orin’s ramblings are hilariously wrong, you can look up the Yankees batting orders throughout the year here:


    Notice the names of the guys who have hit behind Swisher this year. Raul Ibanez. Eric Chavez. Russell Martin. Andruw Jones. Dear God, how will Swisher ever survive without that kind of protection?

    And, of course, the entire protection theory is bunk anyway. Orin, if you ever decide to put aside your incorrect notions about baseball and learn something, feel free to come back and say “hey, maybe people have already looked into these things I believe, and maybe there’s a reason these thoughts have been discarded”, then we’ll gladly show you a better way to think about baseball. If you just want to come in to an environment where everyone is about 25 years ahead of you and act like you’re the expert, you’re better off somewhere else.

  105. justinh on October 9th, 2012 9:46 pm


    You need to back up your personal beliefs with something other than, “I still play a lot of baseball.” I played college baseball and also played at a pretty high level. But that doesn’t mean everyone should agree with me on everything.

    In fact, I have had disagreements with Dave over the years on lineup protection. While I do not believe lineup protection is something you can prove statistically or plays as big of a role as you and others tend to believe, I think it exists mentally for both the hitter and pitcher.

    I understand where you are coming from and know I have had my disagreements with Dave, but I also don’t take things personally and throw out relevant points. All baseball nerds are highly competitive and we all think we know more about the game than everyone else. There is no reason to take Dave’s sometimes snarky remarks personally. We all do it! Take some time and back up your argument with facts and you will find we will not be dismissive and people may actually agree with you. It is very similar to politics. If I were to debate others who I’m voting for President and said, “I’m not voting for Obama because he is black.” Many people would probably just not listen anymore. But if I said, “The real unemployment rate is over 11% and the stimulus was a failure”, people would be more engaged and while they may not agree with me they would listen or debate me because I brought facts to the table.

  106. MoreMariners on October 9th, 2012 10:12 pm

    For any of you who was reading above and wondering where the Jack Z interview from today was, here it is.


  107. CarolinaTarheel10 on October 9th, 2012 10:44 pm

    Justin, I have played a lot of baseball and I have to agree with you on lineup protection. As a hitter, more than anything it is something that gets in your head and can affect you mentally because you feel you may not be seeing many pitches with weak protection or conversely you may get a cookie because of good protection. I cannot personally say how pitchers are affected as I’ve never pitched at a high level, but I know it affects pitchers mentally.

    Lineup protection, like hitting at Safeco this year, can mentally wreak havoc on you as a hitter. It is hard to explain to people how mentally challenging baseball can be, and when you play at the highest level guys are always trying to get a mental edge. You can simply be taking batting practice at Safeco Field and decide to change your approach because the ball doesn’t carry. Another example why it is great to have veterans who’ve been there and can tell you their own experience. This type of mental challenge can really hurt young guys and it played a big part in the struggles of Smoakie and others.

    The new dimensions of Safeco will really help, especially our younger guys. It is common to want to change your approach after not succeeding at Safeco and it can cause you to create bad habits that have a lasting affect. I’m not trying to create excuses as we all must take responsibility for how we produce, even in everyday life.

    If the front office does indeed go out and make some big moves like Dave mentioned, it will be exciting and with the fences not being a major obstacle I think we could have a very good season. There is a lot of talent on this team and we have a lot of hungry guys who are very competitive and ready to win. Adding a few veterans like the ones mentioned above is just what this team needs to become a contender.

    I’ve been reading this blog since 2010 but this is my first time commenting. I was really excited by Dave’s post and I am always intrigued by the “Protection Argument”. Thanks Dave and everyone and I look forward to reading your opinions and analysis this offseason!

  108. Thirteen on October 9th, 2012 10:56 pm


    one of the few recurring complaints about this plan that I’ve seen is that it doesn’t take full advantage of the Mariners’ loaded farm system, dealing with everything via free agency instead of by trade. What’s your response to that?

  109. Sports on a Shtick on October 9th, 2012 11:30 pm

    The best possible off-season move the M’s could make:

    Source tells me M’s working pretty hard on an extension for King Felix. May have something done right before or right after World Series.

    Churchill goes on to say a potential deal would lock up Felix through 2018!

  110. Adam S on October 10th, 2012 12:09 am

    Setting aside the small impact, if any, of lineup protection, what exactly does one mean when they say “Player X won’t hit without a big hitter behind him”? That they’ll simply walk him every time? If Swisher has an OBP of 480, I’ll take it :)

  111. Jeremy on October 10th, 2012 12:17 am

    Every year, this is my favorite post (on any site) of the year. I look forward to it so much and this year didn’t disappoint. I love how you took such pains to give the roster flexibility and options.

    Any chance Ackley gets sent down?

    Are there any trades you’d make? Is it too much to ask for a two-part “Dave’s Offseason Plan” like last year–one derived from signing free agents and another derived from trades?

  112. Breadbaker on October 10th, 2012 12:32 am

    I always take Dave’s plan in the spirit it is offered, which is to say as illustrative and not set in stone. Even if Dave were made the Mariners’ general manager and given a budget that could support these acquisitions, they still wouldn’t all happen. I think it’s a good foundation for thinking, even if I wouldn’t be wanting Nick Swisher’s late 30s years myself.

    A thing to remember about money is that the Mariners have the greatest ability in this division to increase their revenue. Texas and the Angels are pretty much at the top of where they’re going to be; if Texas performance drops, their attendance will drop, the Angels (I can’t say “LA” because I want to say “Anaheim”) are somewhat less likely to drop significantly, but they still can’t go much higher. Oakland, of course, has no real fan base and a crappy stadium. If the M’s win 20 games in April, ticket sales are going to skyrocket. If the M’s win another 20 in May, it will be hard to find tickets in June and July and August. So the Mariners, unique in the division (Houston being of course some years away from being a major league team again), can benefit from making the right moves financially in a way their opponents cannot. So making the right investment in players can repay itself immediately and for a long time.

  113. MrZDevotee on October 10th, 2012 2:42 am

    Orin Said:
    “Dave… You aren’t very professional, as you’re showing.”

    Ah, but as someone I have more reason to respect once said…

    “We mainly criticize in others that which we dislike about ourselves.” -Chuang Tzu (1000′s of years ago)

  114. MrZDevotee on October 10th, 2012 2:53 am

    I like this plan, overall… Nothing is locked in stone, and no one is blocking the development in the minors– and we get BETTER at the same time.

    (My only caveat might be weighing the benefits of overpaying for Swisher on a shorter contract to entice him– say, 3 years for $70 million… Which seems even crazier, but if you figure $23 million might buy you a better player four years from now, then, is that better than tying in for $100 million for the last 4 lesser years of 7 year deal? Also taking into account the idea that we’ll have MORE money to spend with the new TV deal in 2015)

    Side Note:
    With the changing dimensions of Safeco, we may have more offense than we think next year. For stat-heads, next year (or the next couple) will be an excellent source of data for how much a difficult ballpark gets in the heads of the home players– seeing what degree of improvement they show, against the old park adjustments, versus new park adjustments. The actual stats would show the boost, or drop, accordingly, versus what one might expect in a neutral world.

    Should be interesting to see. And then we can wonder to what degree the youth of our players affected the results, before and after, as well. As in:

    Old scenario: “You’ve done great on the REI climbing wall, kid (minor league parks)– NOW keep it up (pointing to Mt. Everest!)”

    New scneario: “You’ve done great on the REI climbing wall, kid (minor league parks)– NOW keep it up (pointing to Mt. Rainier)”

  115. Steve Nelson on October 10th, 2012 8:11 am

    @Breadbaker on October 10th, 2012 12:32 am

    even if I wouldn’t be wanting Nick Swisher’s late 30s years myself.

    I think it’s clear that everyone expects that at the end of a contract such as proposed, Swisher wouldn’t be providing value commensurate with what he is receiving in that year. But as has been pointed out, you need to look at the value provided over the length of the contract and the amount paid over the life of the contract. It’s actually in the team’s interest to get the value on the field out of the front end of the contract while deferring payment for that value to the end of the contract.

    If the deal were structured so that payment tracked with expected value, the contract would be front-end loaded and much more onerous in the early years. Or, to get the player to sign the shorter contract, you might actually need to pay even more money. A longer term contract that is not an overpay actually works out better for the team. The killer contracts are the ones that are overpays from the start.

  116. Jordan on October 10th, 2012 8:32 am

    I like this plan and understand the reasoning/rationale behind most of the moves. As one concern was mentioned, since most of these moves piggy back and rely on the others and exactly fit the team needs (which is what any team commitment should accomplish) I will patiently wait for the contingency plan or parts 2 and 3 after the Mariners don’t make smart investments a la hindset of say Figgins, Chone coming off a career year.

    Anyway, I have no problem with the players mentioned, but I do wonder what some of their comps are when we need to go back to large item day. Additionally, I wonder when your trader Jack post is coming.

    Or… what about when the Rays don’t make that trade, because we all know they would never throw away someone like Jaso for a former PR miracle. I just don’t think it’s as simple as saying here take 2 of our AAAA not too distant DFA bats and you give us two reasonably useful players back.

    Which leads me to why not sign Keppinger instead? If that is your floor on the bench and depth for when Ackley hits like Peguero isn’t he just as beneficial as a guy added on the ceiling side? Plus, if the Mariners can run out guys like noodle arm, Wiffle bat and indiscriminate escapades, doesn’t it make sense that Keppinger could look just as lost out there?

  117. Dave on October 10th, 2012 8:36 am

    Keppinger can’t play short. Your utility infielder has to be able to play shortstop.

  118. Dave on October 10th, 2012 8:45 am

    one of the few recurring complaints about this plan that I’ve seen is that it doesn’t take full advantage of the Mariners’ loaded farm system, dealing with everything via free agency instead of by trade. What’s your response to that?

    Whether you’re trading a prospect or signing up for a long term contract, either way you’re exchanging future value for present value. They’re just different ways to skin the same cat. Personally, I think the Mariners need talent more than they need to keep the budget constant, and I don’t see any kind of roster crunch that requires the team to make decisions on their prospects yet.

    The organization will be lucky if two of their pitching prospects pan out, and they should probably only count on getting one good starting pitcher out of the Hultzen/Walker/Paxton trio. There’s no logjam there. You need 8-10 starters to build a good future rotation.

    There’s a bit of a logjam at second base, but Franklin needs another year in Triple-A and Ackley needs another year to show whether he’s actually in Franklin’s way. If you ship off Franklin and then Ackley sucks again next year, you might very well be shopping for a new second baseman next winter when you already had a potential answer in house.

    Beyond that, I don’t think there’s a ton of valuable trade chips in the organization. You’re not trading Zunino. Brad Miller and Stefen Romero aren’t going to bring in a big return. The A-ball levels of the system aren’t very good, so you don’t have many lower level guys to move.

    We’re just not at a position where the organization has too much talent. They’re better off adding to the talent level than simply moving pieces around. You work on roster efficiency once you have an established talent base in place. Right now, they’re still in the talent collection business.

  119. BillyJive on October 10th, 2012 8:48 am

    What I meant Dave was that I agree with sending Montero down to Tacoma to learn 1st base/get better, but so far the M’s have really given no indication that they are moving Montero to first base. I’m not so sure this organization knows the difference between a good catcher and a bad one, look at our history of catchers since Dan Wilson left…they kept trotting Olivo out there on a regular basis and even Stevie Wonder could see he was brutal…

  120. stevemotivateir on October 10th, 2012 8:51 am

    @ Jordan

    How is Carp and Robinson less valuable than Rodriguez and Gimenez? Carp has a higher ceiling than either of those guys and has a decent glove for first. There just simply isn’t a spot for him here. That’s a far better deal for the Rays than an unproven relief pitcher with baggage for a decent catcher with two seasons of MLB experience.

    I don’t think Dave, or anyone else here, expects the Mariners to pull-off every single suggested move, and nothing in this plan is so specific, that there’s no room to improvise as things play-out. In fact, improvising is expected. That’s when we’ll likely see ‘Part 2′. Maybe you understood that and just worded things weird?

    Anyway, the point is, don’t take it too seriously. These plans aren’t just about improving the team, they’re also fun!

  121. sexymarinersfan on October 10th, 2012 8:53 am

    Figgins can’t play SS either and that’s not stopping him from being on the roster, given its for different reasons. Couldn’t we potentially let Fiigins and Kawasaki walk and keep Triunfel or add some other potential back up like a Rodriguez and go after Keppinger for the other back up spot? He is a utility man after all that can play 1B/2B/3B. I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to teach him some OF. I’m not sure if he’s already got time out there anyways. Just trying to think outside the box. Keppinger looks good on paper. Plus he’s got a good stick and decent WAR for a part time player that wouldn’t be terribly expensive.

  122. BillyJive on October 10th, 2012 9:19 am

    Can’t wait for the Ms to free Figgins but I’d love to keep Kawasaki. He is, after all, a great dancer.

  123. CCW on October 10th, 2012 9:39 am

    I like the sentiment – the M’s need to find *someplace* to improve, and that’s tough to do with an offense of average hitters. But I don’t like the Swisher signing. It just seems like, with PEDs out of the equation, we’re back to aging curves where ages 32-38 are truly the downsides of a player’s career. Swisher *might* be good, but there’s a strong possibility of that proposed contract quickly turning into an albatross.

    I like the rest of the plan, but if they don’t get Swisher, the M’s do need to find a place to add wins. I think that might be at starting pitcher. We have a tendency to overrate the pitchers and underrate our hitters here in Seattle, and I think we’re in danger of assuming that the starting pitching is better than it is. Finding a true #2 starter, or a strong #3, to slot in behind Felix might be the best value-add available in free agency. Some names: Greinke, Jackson, Dempster, Sanchez.

  124. ireportyoudecide on October 10th, 2012 9:42 am

    Swisher would be a great add, but he doesn’t fit into Wedge’s hacking approach at hitting.

  125. Mekias on October 10th, 2012 9:46 am

    While this offseason plan is fairly realistic, it doesn’t really fill me with hope for the future. Swisher has been a 4 War guy in Yankee stadium but I’d probably expect him to max out at 3-3.4 WAR in Seattle. In 4 years, he could be 2-2.5 WAR. In 6 or 7 years, who knows. I admit it, I’m scared of committing big money, long-term with our recent success rate.

    Melky is a decent low-cost gamble. He’d be hard to root for but if he helps the M’s win, that won’t matter. I’d like Hafner if we didn’t already have other DH options. I think we’re locked in with Montero right now.

    I don’t really agree that Gutierrez is a significant injury risk going forward. His stomach issues were really the only chronic problem he has and that seems to be handled, for the most part. I just don’t think there are any physiological reasons to expect him to keep getting injured.

  126. nwade on October 10th, 2012 10:02 am

    Mekias – Its been 3+ years of data, showing that Guti is fragile. He’s had way too many injuries; not just the chronic digestive issues. We all love him, but he can NOT be relied-upon. You can feel how you want to feel; but the facts are that he gets injured. Often.

    CCW – Aren’t pitchers’ win contributions and performance-level considered to be more volatile, year-to-year, than position-players? Arent’ they considered a bigger injury risk? So why spend big dough on a pitcher that may or may not return value? Our pitching was decent this year, even *with* guys like Beavan and Furbush and Noesi in the rotation. Just the evolution of the rotation this season (i.e. ditching those guys from the rotation and the inclusion of ‘Kuma) means that we’ll do better next year. Also: How many times did the opponent score 5+ runs in a game, versus how many games did we lose by scoring less than 3-4 runs?

    sexymarinersfan – Think about what you’re saking: you’re arguing for taking up more roster spots for bench guys that are less versatile. Obviously you like Keppinger; but it seems like you’re trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. Why not be wiser with our available roster spots (and leave room for the kids to try to force their way onto the field if they do improve over the off-season or in the spring months?

  127. diderot on October 10th, 2012 10:05 am


    Thanks for the link. Listening to Z for 20 minutes allows a LOT of reading between the lines.

    I also note that Baseball America says six of the top 20 prospects in the Southern League this year were Jackson players (would have been 7 according to them if Zunino had been there long enough). Only Capps has made it to majors, and he was the lowest rated of the bunch.

    I think the hardest decision Z will have to make is how many (if any) of the top farmhands to trade if the right impact player is made available.

  128. bfgboy on October 10th, 2012 10:25 am

    If somebody could educate me on this, I’d appreciate it. Is there anything in the CBA in regards to how contract dollars need to be disseminated? It seems that there are rarely any NFL-type contracts in which a player gets $24 mil the first year, and $6 mil the second year for an annual average of $15 mil (or similar numbers).

    What I am leading to is wouldn’t it make sense for the M’s to do that for Swisher given what Cashman said about paring the Yankees’ 2013 budget? Could they do a declining value contract of say 25-20-20-15-10-5-5? It seems as though that could eliminate the Yankees, and free up dollars for when the “prospects” become “contributors.”

  129. Jordan on October 10th, 2012 10:55 am

    bfg, when you put the contract in those terms it looks so much better…

    Dave, I didn’t realize he was an albatross at short or “couldn’t” play there. But, let me ask is Ryan so fragile that we can’t live with Keppinger for a few days or weeks at short? Or asked differently is Ryan’s nearly unprecedented glove so much better than Keppinger’s offensive upgrade? I am trying to answer this question for myself, but I cannot find reliable data for Ryan’s games played trend. I remember him being less fragile than J.Wilson but I would like to quantify that a bit more.

    Steve, I believe you might’ve misread much of what I wrote. I completely understand the intent of the plan and can’t wait for part 2. I realize the exact players or player types won’t get signed and even if they did wouldn’t get utilized correctly by Wedge. What I was trying to say is that it seems like the signings were a lot like dominoes. In years past other plans and potential signings didn’t seem so dependent on the others. Also, the trade proposal is very reasonable from both sides, I was simply offering a different UT suggestion and didn’t realize he can’t hack it at short.

  130. eponymous coward on October 10th, 2012 10:58 am

    Carp has a higher ceiling than either of those guys and has a decent glove for first.

    If Carp had anything like a high ceiling, we wouldn’t be trading him. Holding on to guys that are basically lottery tickets as to whether or not they’ll blow up past age 27 like Raul Ibañez did (which is Carp’s maximal outcome- basically a guy who spent a bunch of time in the majors not hitting and never getting into a full time job), but that’s pretty much the dream scenario, and even then, Rodriguez is a ~2.5 WAR player if you project him to full time play, which is basically… Raul Ibañez.

  131. darren_asu on October 10th, 2012 11:01 am

    Hey Dave, thanks for putting together…very intriguing.

    I’m genuinely puzzled by your lack of enthusiasm for Montero. I too wanted him to tear the cover off of the ball this year and wish he would have shown more…but I’m still pretty hopeful regarding his potential and feel he handled himself pretty well in his first full season.

    On the road this year his OPS was .768 and his wRC+ was 111. I know we can’t just completely throw out his home numbers but reading this site this year it seems like we all agree that Safeco was skewing numbers even more this year than normal.

    Plus, he’s only 22 and this was his first full season.

    I agree he needs to walk more and strike out less…but for a young catcher I’m pretty impressed with his road numbers. I can’t see his LH/RH splits on the road…do they look any better?

    Just curious as to what your expectations of him this year were. I generally think pretty highly of 22 year olds that can hold their own in their first big league season and I think Montero clearly held his own on in 273 road plate appearances this year.


  132. Mekias on October 10th, 2012 11:24 am

    nwade – Guti had 153 games in 2009 and 146 in 2010. He wasn’t particularly injury prone before his stomach issues started manifesting during the 2010 season. The only previous problem I see on his injury history is a 21 day thigh strain in 2007.

    The stomach issues and an oblique strain cost him roughly half of 2011. 2012 brought the torn pectoral and a concussion. Those are the only big things I’m seeing and none of them are related in any way. Nothing on that list jumps out to me as indicating a problem in the future (as long as the stomach issues remain solved).

    If you flip a coin and it lands on heads 5 times in a row, it doesn’t give you any clue as to the future of your coin flipping endeavors. Would we even be considering benching Guti next year if he hadn’t gotten hit in the head by a baseball?

  133. diderot on October 10th, 2012 11:25 am

    I agree entirely with the Montero comment–he actually exceeded my expectations this year, so I’m anxious to see more.

    What I have real doubts about is his ability to transform to first base. If I remember correctly, he said he’s never in his life played a position other than catcher. Given his inherent lack of athleticism, this seems like more than a two month project. I wish I could see him as more than a DH/part time catcher long term, but I just don’t. Putting him in Tacoma ‘until he gets it’ as a first basemen may take eternity.

    Dave raises an interesting point on the talent collection/talent dispersion balance. While we’d all like to be two-deep at every position, how many organizations have that? The real issue is how Z feels on this balance. He sounded very protective of his young guys in the radio interview, so maybe he’s still where Dave is.

    The point I’d like to whole-heartedly endorse is lowering expectations on our young pitchers. If one of the big three becomes a legitimate #2, I’d be happy. One may be mediocre, and one flame out for any number of reasons. That’s why progress from the 5-6 guys behind them in the minors deserves more attention.

  134. stevemotivateir on October 10th, 2012 11:30 am

    “If Carp had anything like a high ceiling, we wouldn’t be trading him.”

    Maybe “ceiling” isn’t the best descriptive word to use, but that word in itself doesn’t mean a whole lot.

    Jack has said Peguero has the highest ceiling of the players in the Mariners farm system. It doesn’t mean he’s any more likely to become a disciplined hitter or that he wont be traded -or even DFA’d at some point.

    Carp has at least shown some ability to hit at the MLB level, though it was a small sample size. The whole point was that the trade scenario is fair. Rodriguez and Gimenez for Carp and Robinson isn’t lopsided by any stretch.

  135. Mike Snow on October 10th, 2012 12:01 pm

    If somebody could educate me on this, I’d appreciate it. Is there anything in the CBA in regards to how contract dollars need to be disseminated? It seems that there are rarely any NFL-type contracts in which a player gets $24 mil the first year, and $6 mil the second year for an annual average of $15 mil (or similar numbers).

    In a nutshell, the salary cap rules along with career spans in the NFL flip the economics. Normally, anybody is considered better off paying money in the future rather than paying the same money now, because of present value. That’s part of Dave’s argument for going long on a Swisher contract.

    However, in the NFL a lot of money is paid now in signing bonuses and stuff, but amortized in salary cap terms over the life of the contract. The player wants to get paid now, both for the normal reasons and because the sport means he’ll likely never have a chance at the big score again. While his incentive is real money, though, the team’s primary incentive is now different, it’s money in terms of salary cap space, because that rather than actual payroll is what controls how much you can buy. Both sides are rationally maximizing present value, but because they are using different units it leads to strange phenomena like frontloaded contracts on one end and salary cap hell on the other.

  136. nwade on October 10th, 2012 12:01 pm

    Mekias –

    I understand probability; but people are not coins. They have varying amounts of durability – especially when they’re the type to charge hard after balls and make dives or slam into walls. Those activities in and of themselves change the odds. Also, I notice you’re not mentioning the times he’s been held out for a game or two here and there for jamming his hand, feeling dizzy, tweaking things, etc. These add up.

    Look, don’t get me wrong – I _*WANT*_ Guti in the outfield every night! I also want him at the plate 4 or 5 times a game! But he absolutely has not shown the ability to play on an everyday basis for the last two years. Its only prudent to plan on him missing time, and then consider it a blessing if he makes the majority of the games. ‘Tis better to be safe than sorry, especially since we can shift Saunders around in the outfield whenever necessary. It doesn’t really cost us much to assume Guti will only play 50% – 70% of the games, and ensure the roster can handle that.

  137. Mekias on October 10th, 2012 12:22 pm

    People aren’t coins but in order to predict a future injury, you need to be able to point to something in his physiology that seems chronic or likely to occur again. The only thing I see is the stomach issues. Guti does play aggressively but how often does he really slam into a wall like he did last month? Most of the time he glides to the warning track, gathers himself and lightly jumps into the wall.

    Day to day contusions and strains happen to everyone. That’s just the result of playing a physical game 3 hours a day, 6-7 days a week.

    Being prudent is perfectly fine. I just don’t think we should plan on benching Guti pre-emptively unless we have 3 better outfielders on the roster. That’s a poor use of a valuable (and expensive) asset. Not sure why we would predict Guti to only play 50-70%. I’m expecting 85-90%.

  138. DarkKnight1680 on October 10th, 2012 12:41 pm

    I must say that, while I do like the plan and of course appreciate the effort, I was hoping to see Ackley start the season at AAA, and for the Ms to make a push to bring in Youkilis to play 3B. He would give the team flexibility as a 3B/1B option, Seager is better than good at 2B, and Ackley can go figure out how to hit again.

    I also think Swisher could be offered 5 years and 75 or 80 million, which would look a little better.

  139. Spideysage on October 10th, 2012 2:00 pm

    If the M’s cannot sign Swisher, what about trying to pull off a trade with Cincinnati for Todd Frazier? He’s 26, has good power, and can play multiple positions (1b, 3b, OF). He seems like the kind of player who would be an insurance policy in the event one of the younger players we are counting on doesn’t pan out (i.e. Smoak at 1b or if Ackley doesn’t get it together, you could move Seager to 2b and play Frazier at 3b). Thoughts?

  140. bavasiisgarbage on October 10th, 2012 2:04 pm

    Nice to meet you, bavasiisabum

  141. bookbook on October 10th, 2012 3:01 pm

    Most NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed, and the risk of life-altering injury is much higher than in baseball. Front loaded contracts are the only concession the owners make to compensate a little bit for the players’ risks.

    Baseball’s different.

  142. bookbook on October 10th, 2012 3:04 pm

    Swisher will most likely have the option to stay closer to the East coast and/or in a better hitters’ park and/or with a better chance at the playoffs than even the new Safeco for 5/75.

  143. shortbus on October 10th, 2012 3:59 pm

    As to the farm system I think the best thing about this plan is its flexibility with respect to player development. If Zunino, Franklin, Hultzen, Paxton et al stay in the minors until September call-ups the M’s would still have a viable team. This year when Smoak and Ackley failed to produce there just weren’t any answers. Had Saunders and Seager not surprised us we’d be looking at a top five draft pick right now.

    It’s one thing for the team to ask us to be patient, but when they’ve put all their eggs in the player development basket roster-wise, the kind of year they just had is a probable outcome.

    So something I’d like to hear about is if there are any trade targets of the Jaso / Reddick / Lowrie / McGehee type — guys who are undervalued by their teams that we might swipe for relatively cheap. Not that these all panned out, but it didn’t take much to pry them loose and they filled holes for the teams that got them. Frankly I wanted the M’s to make each one of those deals last year.

  144. Mariners2620 on October 10th, 2012 5:20 pm

    I would like to think that we have the pieces with in reason, to make a genuine push for Billy Butler. There is no one that I would rather acquire this off season. I just love the kid. He is the perfect fit guy to plug into the heart of our order. Especially with all of the youth on this team. I know you can argue that any team would benefit from having him in clean up spot, but you see what I mean. If there was a player that I would be willing to give up Paxton, Franklin etc. it would be for Butler.

  145. Thirteen on October 10th, 2012 6:25 pm

    A potential red flag on Swisher, raised at another M’s blog:

    Swisher is a pretty classic example of “old player skills”, those being power and walks. Check out the list of hitter’s comps on BBREF: almost all of Swisher’s comps never put up an OPS above .700 after age 32. Jason Bay, Jose Cruz, Wally Post, Pete Incaviglia… most of them were out of baseball entirely by age 34.

    Any thoughts?

  146. spuuky on October 10th, 2012 6:26 pm

    I think this is a pretty good plan. I think Melky would be a great fit for Seattle this season all things considered, and I can never complain about guys who simply get on base like Hafner and Swisher. In fact I was always jealous of those guys since we haven’t had them in a long time.

    I just hope Ackley improves.

  147. bermanator on October 10th, 2012 7:18 pm

    I like the Tampa trade, but I think the Rays would want someone they could option or a lower-level minor league lottery ticket.

    Unless someone in the Tampa organization likes Carp or Robinson, or unless they’re planning on not offering Rodriguez arbitration, I’m not sure what they’re getting out of it on a roster construction level (from a talent acquisition standpoint, it works fine). They’d have to be convinced that they could pass both guys through waivers in March if necessary.

  148. Mzen on October 10th, 2012 8:35 pm

    Carp was born to be a KC Royal. He’s gone.

  149. DarkKnight1680 on October 10th, 2012 10:43 pm

    “Swisher will most likely have the option to stay closer to the East coast and/or in a better hitters’ park and/or with a better chance at the playoffs than even the new Safeco for 5/75.”

    It’s certainly possible, but he might find the market a little softer than he thinks. He’s not getting Werth money, and the major spender in MLB don’t look to be willing to shell for him/at all (Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox all likely out of the bidding at 75 million). I’d rather give him a few extra mil per year to get him off the books at 35 or 36 years old.

  150. Jeremy on October 11th, 2012 12:55 am

    Dave, let’s say we make Swisher an offer and he declines (either for money or to be with another team).

    Who is your back-up plan, in terms of free agent signings?

  151. DarkKnight1680 on October 11th, 2012 11:19 am

    If Swisher is unavailable (and thats a good possibility), The same money could likely get you Youkilis and Pagan or Victorino on much shorter deals. My assumption is that one, but not both, of Ackley and Smoak will make the team out of spring training. If Ackley stays and Smoak goes to AAA, Youkilis plays 1st. If Smoak continues his September in ST, then Seager can play 2B and Youkilis can play 3rd. Pagan can play CF or LF and cover for Saunders and Guti in case of injury.

  152. Westside guy on October 11th, 2012 6:55 pm

    A potential red flag on Swisher, raised at another M’s blog:

    Swisher is a pretty classic example of “old player skills”, those being power and walks. …

    This is incorrect. The classic “old player skillset” is a player with power and walks but who, on defense, plays like a tree wearing a glove (Richie Sexson, Prince Fielder, etc.). Swisher has always been a capable defender, and offers positional flexibility to boot.

    Taken in isolation, all “power and walks” means is the player isn’t considered a glove-first guy.

  153. bsoly on October 11th, 2012 10:15 pm

    According to the Arizona Republic, the Diamondbacks are trying to decide between Kubel and Parra as their left-fielder next year.
    Perhaps Kubel would be an interesting guy to trade for, if the Diamondbacks feel he’s expendable?

  154. SonOfZavaras on October 12th, 2012 5:01 am

    Carp was born to be a KC Royal. He’s gone.

    Makes sense to me. Carp reminds me so much of Raul Ibanez when he was first making his way to the bigs, it’s not even funny. Same size, same lefty sort of sweep swing, same moderate power, and the same basic defensive limitations.

    And it was in Kansas City that Ibanez found himself as a major-leaguer.

    Yeah, I have to concur. Carp is ticketed for Kansas City.

  155. Novler on October 12th, 2012 8:09 am

    Thanks for the great piece, Dave. I look forward to it every year (been reading USSM for years; used to cover games for mlb.com).

    I’m curious: Obviously, you don’t have time to think through all of the possible trade scenarios that JZ may consider. But I think many of us are curious—or just me, who knows—about your backup plan if the Swisher FA route doesn’t happen.

    Would it be wise to swap some of our gems (or future busts) now for youngish players who can hit (Montero 2.0, I suppose, but much better)? Or would you hang on to them in hopes that one or two turn out to be stars in 2014?

    If you see a future post here, awesome. If not, I’ll just keep enjoying USSM posts anyway. Grace n’ Peace.

  156. Jerry on October 12th, 2012 11:19 am

    This is a really interesting plan. I’d love to see something like this happen.

    My only qualm is giving up the draft pick for Swisher. Assuming NY gives him a qualifying offer (a safe assumption) the M’s would have to give up the #12 overall pick.

    That might seem trivial since we are talking about a player who isn’t even in the system. But look at what the club has done with early round picks (rounds 1-5) since Jack et al took over:

    2012: Mike Zunino, Joe DeCarlo, Edwin Diaz, Tyler Pike, Patrick Kivlehan, Chris Taylor
    2011: Danny Hultzen, Brad Miller, Kevin Cron (didn’t sign) Carter Capps, John Hicks, Tyler Marlette
    2010: No first pick, Taijuan Walker, Marcus Littlewood, Ryne Stanek (didn’t sign), James Paxton, Stephen Pryor
    2009: Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin, Steven Baron, Rich Poythress, Kyle Seager, James Jones, Tyler Blandford

    That’s a damn good track record. The one thing the M’s are doing really really well right now is finding talent through the draft. With the #12 pick, the M’s could pick up another cornerstone player. If it was just a second rounder, no big deal. But that is a really high pick.

    The new spending guidelines make this even more of an issue. With the new CBA, teams can’t just overspend on fist round talents that fall to later rounds to make up for lost picks. If we lose that pick, we also lose about half the draft budget. Last year the M’s distributed their cash wisely, signing Zunino for under slot and using that space in the budget to give overslot bonuses to prep talents later in the draft. If the M’s give up the their first rounder, they lose the most of their ability to do that. Thus, it could very likely impact several other early round picks.

    Look at the list above. The M’s draft really well. Signing Swisher for 7/100 is a bit of an overpay, especially since he’d be nearly 40 at the end of the deal. But giving up a potential blue-chip talent and significantly undermining the teams draft budget is a huge price to pay. I know that draft picks are anything but a sure thing, and it’s easier to talk about losing a player who isn’t even in the system right now, but I’m hoping they can mprove the offense without forfeiting that pick. It’s a big deal.

  157. wolfman420 on October 12th, 2012 12:47 pm

    I agree with all of this. Plus it will give me a reason to actually buy the nick swisher cover album.


  158. Badbadger on October 12th, 2012 2:33 pm

    *I’m hoping they can improve the offense without forfeiting that pick. It’s a big deal.*

    We aren’t going to get something worth having for nothing. I think it’s a pretty long shot that a #12 pick is going to wind up more valuable than Nick Swisher.

  159. eponymous coward on October 12th, 2012 3:19 pm

    I’m hoping they can mprove the offense without forfeiting that pick.

    … and a pony?

    Seriously, if we’re never going to sign a good free agent ever again because we’ll lose draft picks and signing budget, we’ve just crippled ourselves by unilaterally taking a weapon out of our arsenal.

    There simply aren’t players in the system, close or far, capable of adding much offense from the traditional power positions. What this means is “settle for ~75 win seasons like the A’s did for a while waiting for things to turn up”.

    That being said, if Zduriencik isn’t going to get much of a budget boost in the offseason, Swisher is a pipe dream.

  160. Jerry on October 12th, 2012 4:33 pm

    “Seriously, if we’re never going to sign a good free agent ever again because we’ll lose draft picks and signing budget, we’ve just crippled ourselves by unilaterally taking a weapon out of our arsenal.”

    Nice straw man argument.

    I didn’t say never sign someone who will cost a pick. I’d just reserve paying that penalty for a player who is an elite guy. Swisher is good, but not an elite player. He’s a ~3 win guy going forward. The contract Dave suggests is a substantial sum of money, especially given his age and the number of years. Giving up the chance to add a premium prospect to the organization, on top of the contract, is too much in my opinion.

    Think about it this way: assume Swisher was under contract with another team with the same money and years. Would you trade Taijuan Walker for him? I wouldn’t. Walker may be a year or two closer to the big leagues than whoever the M’s would get, but that’s the type of talent available in the first 10-15 picks.

    There are many ways to improve the team, and many of them don’t involve punting that pick. Your argument that the M’s MUST forfeit that pick to avoid another 75 win season isn’t necessarily true.

  161. heyoka on October 12th, 2012 6:39 pm

    BBR comps suggest Swisher will be done after age 34 season.
    100 mil for 7 years would be special.

  162. The_Waco_Kid on October 12th, 2012 8:49 pm

    Looking at the standings, I’m wondering how soon we could contend realistically. Anything can happen in baseball, but we’d need to have an amazing season or have 3 teams decline significantly to contend next year.

  163. eponymous coward on October 12th, 2012 9:02 pm

    Would you trade Taijuan Walker for him? I wouldn’t. Walker may be a year or two closer to the big leagues than whoever the M’s would get, but that’s the type of talent available in the first 10-15 picks.

    And Taijuan Walker may blow out an arm or turn into David Aardsma.

    The bottom line is the current 25/40 man roster isn’t going to contend in a division where you have three teams with plenty of young talent. As Dave said:

    Any player who is a significant addition will either cost a draft pick or prospects in trade. They’re better off punting the #12 pick than they are punting a prospect who is already in Double-A or Triple-A.

    If you don’t want to punt the draft pick or the talent, then you’re basically saying “let’s hang out with the current roster (that didn’t contend) until we have enough talent to contend”. That’s fine for the 2016 Mariners, maybe, but it’s not likely to help the 2013 Mariners contend. The A’s just spent 5 years putting together “not-horrible but not-good” rosters, because they weren’t going to spend on free agents or bulk up on salary. If you’d like other examples of how just hoping the prospects turn into a champion doesn’t always work out, look at the Cleveland “hire Chris Antonetti” Indians around 2007, and the Brewers the last few years.

    Anyways, as I hinted at, I think this is academic. I don’t think the M’s will raise the budget to allow a big signing on the scale Dave suggests, if you read the tea leaves from that GMZ interview. I think this offseason is going to be maybe be a Figgins-type signing plus lots of Large Item Pickup Day, plus hoping Smoak/Ackley/Guti pan out, with an off chance of a Cliff Lee-type deal to razzle-dazzle us (but not likely). Likely this will make you happy in March, though it may disappoint us come July.

  164. GLS on October 13th, 2012 3:54 pm

    I’m joining this conversation a little late. I really enjoyed reading Dave’s post and the follow-up comments, even Orin’s.

    All I can really think of to add to the thread is to point out that the Mariners, in their current incarnation, seem to be very good at selecting talent in the draft. With Tom McNamara in charge, that’s an area of organizational strength. One could argue, therefore, that the 12th pick in the draft is worth more to the M’s than it might have been in previous eras when they were less proficient in that area. I’m not saying they shouldn’t go after Swisher. On the contrary, I’m all for it. But there is that element in play that in signing a player like Swisher, they are potentially hamstringing themselves in the one organizational function that they seem to be really good at.

    The only other thing is that I hope Dave gives us some updates to this plan as the offseason develops and teams start making moves and some of the players listed above find homes.

  165. Mariners35 on October 13th, 2012 5:22 pm

    The only other thing is that I hope Dave gives us some updates to this plan as the offseason develops

    Me too. Though, to be selfish about free content, one other thing I’d be interested in, is an all-out, rosterbating, completely speculative, mirror-mirror version of this post from Dave. I.e. I’d be curious to see what the nearly-all-trades version of this would be.

    I know Dave’s stance is that the farm still needs development, that there isn’t enough pitching depth due to general TINSTAAPP and such, etc.

    But pretend Gillick was here, or that the free agent market got poached and inflated due to Marlins-style crazypants spending. I wonder what the impact trade(s) are that could make for a good 2013 and beyond, without selling the entire farm.

    There must be some way to recycle some of the outfield AAAA parts to turn into more AA potential? Perhaps peeling off one prime pitching prospect plus… Montero? Smoak?… and a reliever to turn into say a Justin Upton?

  166. zagfan22 on October 14th, 2012 10:11 pm

    I know it may not be favorable, but would including Ackley in a deal for a 3B (Headley) and moving Seager to 2B be a smart move?

    I like Ackley, but I really worry about his ability to hit major league pitching.

    Should I just be more patient?

  167. stevemotivateir on October 15th, 2012 8:07 am

    ^Sell low on a multi-tool second overall draft pick, with just over a year of MLB experience? Yeah, probably not a smart move.

  168. Jerry on October 15th, 2012 10:03 am

    “If you don’t want to punt the draft pick or the talent, then you’re basically saying ‘let’s hang out with the current roster (that didn’t contend) until we have enough talent to contend’. That’s fine for the 2016 Mariners, maybe, but it’s not likely to help the 2013 Mariners contend.”

    This is where you and I fundamentally disagree.

    I don’t think this is a simple decision between “buy expensive free agents or accept mediocrity.”

    There are lots of ways to improve the team for next year, and many of those options don’t include giving up that pick. You present this as a simple decision between two or three options: give up pick to sign top free agent; trade our best prospects; or be terrible for 3 years. I don’t buy this at all.

    We picked up Cliff Lee without giving up any elite players. And look at what happened in free agency last year. Guys like Ty Willingham, Ryan Ludwick, Ryan Doumit, Carlos Beltran, Aaron Hill, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jason Kubel all were signed in free agency without their teams having to forfeit first round picks, and all were very valuable players. I don’t think this offseason is going to be much different. There are players available who could help the M’s.

    It remains to be seen who will get offers from their respective teams and thus cost a draft pick. And it also remains to be seen who will be available via trade or nontendered once free agency starts. But there will be talent available that won’t cost picks. Its not a simple either/or decision like you suggest.

  169. eponymous coward on October 15th, 2012 12:01 pm

    You present this as a simple decision between two or three options: give up pick to sign top free agent; trade our best prospects; or be terrible for 3 years.

    Speaking of straw men, that’s actually not what I said. But perhaps I can repeat myself redundantly again. ;)

    The current M’s roster of 2012 is roughly equivalent to the A’s roster of the last few years prior to 2012: horrible offense, decent pitching and good defense, so overall not a winning team, but not a terrible team either- the offense is a big drag on the team, but they win enough games to not be a complete trainwreck.

    The biggest difference between the two boils down to Felix- if you lopped his ~$20 million off the roster, both teams would have nearly identical salaries in 2012. Essentially, what Zduriencik has done is recreate Oakland- no big name bats that would cost anything in free agency, concentrate on pitching and defense you can buy up cheap.

    So, what I am arguing is this: if there are multiple paths to putting together a better 2013 team, saying “no free agents because we don’t want to punt a draft pick, no trading talent from our system because it’s so awesome” leaves you with Large Item Pickup Day from second-tier FAs or whatever roster dregs you get, or hoping you can recreate the Cliff Lee trade (which is not exactly a mortal lock, and also ignores that it didn’t actually improve the 2010 Mariners very much because of other factors: it didn’t put us into contention and Smoak/Beavan aren’t really panning out all that well, so while it was bedazzling the net impact was negligible).

    Could the Mariners improve that way? Sure- this is what happened in 2009, getting guys like Branyan. But you’re precluding options- less options means a narrower path. And, like the A’s, you might be waiting for a while for your shot. Granted, there are worse things than being a 75-81 win team floating around waiting for the right combination of low-budget moves to propel your team into contention, but I don’t think it’s particularly guaranteed to work in 2013.

    Dave’s proposal is, if you boil off the namedropping, “be willing to spend some money to boost payroll and sign reasonable FA contracts if it makes the 2013 team better”. I think it’s a valid approach. I also think M’s ownership is not likely to do this- attendance is still declining, and the team is likely to go cheap and hope for the best, as you’ve indicated is your preferred plan. I think it will likely yield another not-horrible, not-good team.

  170. bookbook on October 15th, 2012 12:59 pm

    Because another year below .500 could be costly to goodwill in Seattle, and because it could cost this regime their jobs, ownership may feel obligated to give Z enough rope to hang himself with. Hopefully Z knows a few slip knots (to butcher the analogy) and can make some salary space into a near contender somehow.

  171. downwarddog on October 15th, 2012 1:42 pm

    Small sample size be damned, somehow I don’t think Nick Swisher is going to be wanted back in New York after his pitiful playoff performance. Either way, seven years of a good, but not great player’s inevitable decline? No thanks. Whoever goes down that road is going to regret it. Hopefully, that team is not the Mariners.

  172. Jerry on October 15th, 2012 4:17 pm

    I’m not saying avoid high priced players. You can get very good players who won’t cost draft picks. Zach Greinke, arguably the best player available this offseason, won’t cost a pick. Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan are both players who were better than Swisher (per WAR) but probably won’t cost a draft pick. I think there will be some good players available via trade too, especially if the ms are willing to acquire guys with substantial contracts (like the Dodgers moves at the deadline).

    Jack is a smart guy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another trade involving young players like the Montero/Pineda deal. Something lie Taijan Walker for Wil Meyers would be bold. I hope they hold on to their best prospects, but if the return is a young cost controlled player with tons of upside who fits an area of need, why not?

    Again, I’m not saying the M’s should take the A’s route. But the one thing the M’s do really well is acquire talent through the draft. We have a lot of good players right now, and I think the club will improve a lot in the next year even without significant moves. The best way to build a consistent contender is to keep adding talent through the draft. Giving up the 12th overall pick isn’t the way to do that.

    And returning to your comp between the M’s and A’s, the biggest difference is that we have money to retain players. The A’s are consistently trading good players for prospects because they can’t afford to keep them. We don’t have that problem. But you have to develop talent in order to retain them.

    Trying to buy our way to contention in free agency might speed things up a bit, but could undermine our ability to contend in the future. Look at the Royals, Pirates, and Orioles. They tried to improve by investing heavily in second-tier free agents, and were terrible for years. Then all three focused on developing talent internally, and all three are nowinteresting. I’m not saying we should avoid free agency. I’m saying we should add talent in such a way to avoid undermining our best method for building a long-term winning team.

  173. eponymous coward on October 15th, 2012 4:50 pm

    And returning to your comp between the M’s and A’s, the biggest difference is that we have money to retain players.

    Not really- otherwise we could have signed Cliff Lee to a deal when we traded for him, right? We could have kept Beltre, right? Do you think the Mariners would have been helped having those players as part of the team?

    The fact is that payroll’s been cut by about a third over the last 4-5 years, and that’s drained talent away that we couldn’t afford to keep (there is no question the M’s would be a better team with Lee and Beltre as opposed to Smoak, Beavan and a large stack of dollar bills they didn’t spend). Were it not for Felix, it would be about the same as Oakland’s. We’re now in the bottom half of MLB in payroll- and if you look, payroll is pretty strongly correlated with attendance- which is sort of Dave’s point:

    The Mariners aren’t there yet. But they also can’t afford to sit on their hands and run another sub-.500 team out there while asking the fans to wait for the kids to develop. The natives are restless, attendance is down again, and Felix Hernandez‘s contract is about to come back into the spotlight. It’s time for the Mariners to put a competitive team on the field again, making this a winter where they can’t just sit back and hope things fall into place.

    But anyways…

    I’m not saying we should avoid free agency. I’m saying we should add talent in such a way to avoid undermining our best method for building a long-term winning team.

    How is this different than:

    There’s enough talent on hand to win 75-80 games again next year, but they need to add about 10 wins of talent this winter to put themselves in a position to make an unexpected run at the playoffs next year. And they need to do it without throwing away the pieces that a future contender could be built around.

    I think it’s going to be difficult to add those 10 wins Dave talks about if you don’t spend money on the FA market. Sure, who wouldn’t love it if Cliff Lee falls in our lap again for busted prospects? Nobody is going to argue that getting those 10 wins through the 2013 equivalent of the JJ Putz deal would be bad. But would getting those 10 wins in 2013 be worth a draft pick in 2013, as opposed to watching a 76-86 team fritter away a year of another HOFer’s career? For me, it is. At some point, it has to be jam today, not jam yesterday and jam tomorrow.

  174. Jerry on October 15th, 2012 8:51 pm

    Ok, you and I are just arguing past each other.

    Listen, I’m not saying that the M’s shouldn’t spend money! They should absolutely get the payroll back up around when it was two years ago, and plan to ramp up payroll past $100 mil by 2014 or 2015 at the latest. The payroll needs to go up. Nobody is arguing that it shouldn’t.

    And nobody is arguing that the team needs to wait a few more years to win. This definitely should be the year that the club at least returns to respectability. But most of that turnaround is going to come from guys already on the roster. And that isn’t an unrealistic expectation. Guys like Montero, Seager, Ackley, Saunders, and Smoak all have some upside. We can’t expect all of them to break out, but a few of them need to. Otherwise, this team isn’t going to win next year, regardless of what we do in free agency. I know that people are impatient, but that doesn’t mean you abandon the process that is already in place.

    You seem to be operating on the assumption that giving up that draft pick (or gutting the farm system through trades) is 100% necessary to add those 10 wins. I’m saying that isn’t the case. I’m not saying don’t spend money. Just don’t do so in a way that costs us a VERY valuable draft pick. There are always options.

    Your argument is based on an assumption that isn’t necessarily true. Jack is a smart guy. I have confidence that he can help this club without going on a drunken sailor spending spree in free agency. Giving up a valuable draft pick just for the opportunity to give a questionable contract to a non-elite player is too much, IMHO.

  175. eponymous coward on October 16th, 2012 8:54 am

    Guys like Montero, Seager, Ackley, Saunders, and Smoak all have some upside.

    Sure. But they all also have downside risk. Smoak’s been in MLB for 1400+ plate appearances- are you really willing to bet the 2013 season that his last 100 or so plate appearances really, truly represent Smoak, especially given his occasional hot streaks before?

    Montero is nothing remotely approaching a lock to be a good player anytime soon- his BB/K rates are pretty bad. Dave’s gone into detail pointing out that his comps aren’t all that good (elite hitters usually have a much better clue about the strike zone by this point in their careers- yeah, it’s early, but elite hitters are good hitters early, that’s part of what makes them elite). Sure, Montero is obviously the black swan about to have his own unique snowflake of a career because he’s wearing a compass rose on his uniform, but we’re still discussing a guy whose best position right now is DH, who isn’t actually hitting RHP any better than Willie Bloomquist hits them.

    It’s also a bit dangerous to assume that players who are on a peak year (Saunders and Seager) can continue to build on that peak, as opposed to be around the level they are at, or even slide back a bit. I think the park changes will help their hitting stats without actually making them better players.

    Ackley is the player who probably has the most upside of all the ones mentioned, I think, but even there it’s not a lock he’ll get a lot better than he is (and he’s not terrible right now).

    I suppose I’m more conservative than you are in assessing the talent base we’re starting with. Is it better than years past? Unquestionably. I think we’ll be doing well if we end up with an additional 2-3 WAR out of that group if players you mentioned next year. OK, that leaves us 7-8 WAR short.

    You seem to be operating on the assumption that giving up that draft pick (or gutting the farm system through trades) is 100% necessary to add those 10 wins.

    I’m saying you shouldn’t preclude options to improve the 2013 team. Adding a reasonably priced free agent that adds wins in 2013-2015 and perhaps losing a player that is likely not to show up before 2016 as an average MLB regular is worth it. Nothing Dave has proposed does violence to the M’s ability to rebuild the organization; plenty of salary comes off the books in 2014, none of the young talent in the system is traded, if the M’s do well in 2013 there’s easily room to continue to grow payroll.

    Yes, Jack is a smart guy. He also signed Chone Figgins and traded for Justin Smoak (who was a first round draft pick at around where the M’s will draft this year- so it’s pretty obvious that in an alternate universe, he could be OUR draft pick in the process of having a very mediocre career, instead of Texas’s). Talent evaluation isn’t infallible, and there are risks in both using the free agent market and in draft picks.

    I have confidence that he can help this club without going on a drunken sailor spending spree in free agency.

    The contracts proposed are reasonable, and spending is spending- if you’re going to pick up salary like the Dodgers did, you’re going to be picking up older players like Adrian Gonzalez.

    And the problem with waiting for a deadline salary dump deal instead of signing in free agency is that you don’t get the wins guys like A-Gon give you in April-July. Do you think the Dodgers would have traded their first round draft pick if they could have gotten A-Gon for opening day instead of August 25? I bet they would have. Also, as Dave’s pointed out, the new national deals coming into play the next few years are going to likely mean less teams need to salary dump, and free agency is likely to become more expensive.

    And again… I think this is academic. I think it is much more likely that payroll will stay at ~2012 levels, if not decline, and we will take a strategy much more to your liking: we’ll dive in on whatever players the $~10 million in payroll flexibility we have for 2013 lets us grab (not much- Iwakuma is probably a lot of that), hope that everyone you mentioned plus Guti pans out (which is not completely unreasonable, if probably disappointing) and Jack will hustle to try and patch the organizational holes however he can, but without spending much in the FA market. And we’ll likely have a pretty decent draft choice in 2013 and 2014, without us really taking a strong leap forward or backward from 2012.

  176. tiger on October 16th, 2012 4:57 pm

    It would be a very bad idea to make Nick Swisher the center piece of any of our off-season activities. I can almost guarantee to my fellow Mariner fans that he would be a larger bust than Jeff Cirillo and Chone Figgins combined. Do not overvalue him. To sign him to the multi-year deal described above would be, relatively speaking the worst signing in Mariner baseball history. That is saying something….

  177. 15thBanker on October 16th, 2012 9:48 pm

    First, I must say that Dave is nothing more than a smart fan who gets off by knocking people in baseball that actually make a living off the game. But I do give Dave props for writing this. He puts this out there before the FA market has even had the smallest chance of being set. I’m sure in a month, 2 months, etc he will edit this as the market takes shape. So it’s not really fair to knock anything Dave says here when he’s just voicing his opinion at a very early stage in the game.

    That said, how funny is it that ANYone can sign up to comment here, and Dave sits and argues with some of these people as if they are anymore qualified to comment on baseball than he is? Pure comedy gold.

  178. stevemotivateir on October 17th, 2012 9:20 am

    ^So, explain why you signed-up to post a comment? Do you not see how you’re a complete hypocrite regarding the statement you made?

    You criticize Dave’s credentials, but you obviously don’t know what they are, or how he’s gotten to the place he’s at now. Here’s a hint… try following the links. If that’s too complicated for you, try a google search. You can always ask someone to help you if needed. Dave didn’t get selected to the BBWAA for not knowing the game. Do you even know what the BBWAA is?

    As far as this post goes, you obviously don’t get it, which isn’t a surprise. If you had simply looked at last years plan, and the follow-up (which is far different than editing), you’d know what to expect this year.

    Everyone involved with the posts on this site are respected for good reason. If they didn’t know what they were talking about, or didn’t have something substantial to offer, nobody would be here reading the articles or posting comments. They fact that they’ve opened the doors for all baseball fans (whom they don’t even know!) to be involved, says a lot.

    Everyone’s free to post their opinions, ask questions, and debate facts. All you have to do is provide evidence to support your claims, and/or explain your reasoning. That’s not too much to ask. If you don’t like the way things operate, go away. Really, it’s that simple.

    Funny you bring-up comedy gold as well. Your grammar’s certainly worth a few laughs.

  179. 15thBanker on October 17th, 2012 4:57 pm

    Originally I signed up only to post corrections on “facts” that were being written. Strangely enough that just led to my posts being deleted and the articles being corrected.

    Don’t worry man, I think any true Mariners fan knows who Dave is. I think it’s impossible to have followed the team over the years and not come across Dave. I still remember the goofy stuff he’d write in Google Groups.

    I think you don’t get my post. I wasn’t criticizing Dave’s post; I defended it. I was pointing out how dumb it is to see him argue it with people on here. Even if he’s right, which in most cases here he is. I mean someone thought Melky would sign elsewhere on a 3 year incentives deal? LOL

    I guess I need to provide some bad grammar to make your statement true. Them Mariners lookin’ awful good to finish in the middle of the division next year and maybe better if some of these guys on the farm do good. Happy now? Or maybe you died of laughter. My phone apologizes for autocorrecting things.

  180. stevemotivateir on October 17th, 2012 6:02 pm

    ^OK, so let’s take another look at your comment.

    “First, I must say that Dave is nothing more than a smart fan who gets off by knocking people in baseball that actually make a living off the game.”

    You start your ‘defense’ of his post with a back-handed compliment. Maybe you didn’t intend that, but that’s the way it sounds.

    “He puts this out there before the FA market has even had the smallest chance of being set. I’m sure in a month, 2 months, etc he will edit this as the market takes shape.”

    How to you think that sounds?

    “That said, how funny is it that ANYone can sign up to comment here, and Dave sits and argues with some of these people as if they are anymore qualified to comment on baseball than he is?”

    That statement makes little sense.

    If you weren’t trying to be sarcastic and insulting, I stand corrected, and apologize. But your comment didn’t sound like any kind of defense or praise. It sounded like criticism laced with sarcasm. Poor choice of wording.

  181. 15thBanker on October 17th, 2012 8:51 pm

    What? Why not just repost everything I said? You cut out two important parts which completely change what I said. This is ridiculous. Also, this is an Internet blog. I’m not running for political office. But I also don’t need you editing what I say to turn my words around on me. Second sentence I wrote: “But I do give Dave props for writing this.” I have posted that again since you appear to be partially blind.

    I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic. And I wasn’t trying to be insulting, although Dave may consider being called a “smart fan” an insult since he thinks so highly of himself. Since he’s so far above myself and every other baseball fan or coaching staff member in Seattle, surely he cares less what I think iof him, anyways.

  182. stevemotivateir on October 18th, 2012 7:11 am

    ^Adding the rest of the paragraph only makes it sound worse and it wasn’t needed for my point to be made. I didn’t manipulate anything you said.

    Way to keep-up the back-handed compliments.

  183. 15thBanker on October 18th, 2012 5:35 pm

    You win the argument! I concede almighty USSM reader! I now exit this thread in shame. Shame!

  184. Jeremy on March 28th, 2013 9:53 pm

    I still can’t believe Swisher signed for so little. And instead of having him play a corner OF spot, we traded away our best hitter for a worse corner OF. I’m embarassed to have be a GMZ supporter.

  185. globalalpha on November 2nd, 2013 9:13 am

    Interesting to look back on this now. A sound plan but unfortunately wouldn’t have put the Mariners any closer to contention than their actual path. Iwakuma was of course lights out and Swisher came in at a serviceable, if disappointing, 2.4 WAR. There is also addition by “non-addition” — not bringing in Morse, Saunders, etc. but that’s also pretty negligible. The rest is pretty much a wash. My takeaway is that building a winning team is pretty hard! I’m looking forward to Dave’s thoughts for 2014.

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