Combatting Emotion With Facts, Part 1

December 13, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 22 Comments 

(Today, I’m going to start rolling out a series of posts that just deliver short pieces of factual information. My goal is to provide a little perspective to the hysteria that is sweeping through the fan base. Feel free to share these facts with any and all irrational overreactors you may encounter.)

Fact Number One:

The San Francisco Giants hit 103 home runs last year, ranking 30th out of 30 Major League teams. The San Francisco Giants won the World Series.

Angels Getting Close to Signing Josh Hamilton

December 13, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 126 Comments 

The Angels should just rename themselves the Anaheim Mystery Team. It seems like every winter, they sign a guy who they weren’t rumored to have any interest in prior to the deal being basically done. This winter, it looks like they might be playing that role with Josh Hamilton. Multiple reports suggest that the two are in deep negotiations and that a deal is pretty close to being done. Pretty close isn’t done, of course, but when rumblings get this loud from this many different sources, it usually ends up happening.

The dominoes here should be interesting. The Angels OF is already full, so Hamilton would displace either Peter Bourjos or Mark Trumbo, meaning that they could then put either on the trade block. The Mets are in desperate need of outfielders, and have been linked to Bourjos in previous rumors in the past. A Bourjos-for-R.A. Dickey trade could make sense for both teams, and adding both Hamilton and Dickey would vault the Angels right back into contender status in the AL, and probably move them ahead of Texas in the AL West pecking order.

And, of course, that would take two potential upgrades off the table for the Mariners. I fully expect that if the Angels sign Hamilton, there’s going to be a city wide freakout from despondent Mariner fans who are convinced that the team will never spend and never win. Do not be one of those fans.

Hamilton has played on an AL West rival for basically his entire career. Having him move from Texas to Anaheim makes the Mariners competition different, but not harder. Adding Dickey would improve the Angels, certainly, but it’s not like they’d get him for free, and would further deplete a team that is already low on young talent for the future. It would make the Angels better in the short term, and probably a bit worse in the long term. Anyone who tells you that they can just keep spending money with no end in sight clearly hasn’t been paying attention, as they jettisoned both Dan Haren and Ervin Santana and replaced them with Joe Blanton in order to keep their payroll under control.

If the Angels want to commit their future to the mid-30s years of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, more power to them. They’ll contend for a while, then the whole thing will fall apart. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to take the Phillies path, given what they have in place, but keep in mind what the Phillies look like right now. Loading up on older, expensive players eventually catches up with you.

Or, heck, look at last year, when the Angels were the off-season’s big winners and then still missed the playoffs. People love to overreact to off-season acquisitions, and forget that there’s more to roster building than splashy free agent moves. I’d have happily taken Josh Hamilton at a good price. I’d still like Nick Swisher, and I’d try to beat them to R.A. Dickey if the Mets are interested in Paxton and Franklin. I’m not suggesting the Mariners should just sit back and do nothing. I am suggesting, however, that those who continue to yell from the rooftops that off-season spending determines future on field outcomes don’t know what they’re talking about.

Don’t be one of the mouth-breathers that overreacts to every free agent acquisition by the Angels or Rangers. Let them yell and scream about how the world is ending. They weren’t right about this last year, and they’re not right about it now.

Should M’s Make a Play for R.A. Dickey?

December 11, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 68 Comments 

Tonight, the Reds, Indians, and Diamondbacks completed a three-way trade that may very well have some real implications for the Mariners. The Reds sent shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to Arizona, the D’Backs shipped Trevor Bauer to Cleveland, and the Indians sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati. There was some other stuff involved too, but for the Mariners purposes, those are the names that matter. And they mostly matter because Arizona finally landed the young shortstop they’ve been trying to acquire all winter.

Which means that they’re probably going to stop trying to trade Justin Upton, who was a primary target of the Texas Rangers. And that means that the Rangers are now more likely to re-sign Josh Hamilton, who is apparently a target of the Mariners. Welcome to Six Degrees of Shin-Soo Choo.

I know some people got fired up by the idea of the Mariners signing Josh Hamilton. And, who knows, they still might. But if Hamilton does decide to go back to Texas, and Arizona does decide to keep Upton, and just for the sake of argument, let’s say Nick Swisher doesn’t want to come to Seattle… what then? Besides the media freakout from people who don’t understand that a team can win without a 35 home run guy in right field, I mean? That would happen, but what else could the team do to improve if Hamilton, Swisher, and Upton were off the board?

How about go the other way entirely and acquire the one impact guy who we know for a fact is definitively available in trade? R.A. Dickey.

If you haven’t been following along, the reigning NL Cy Young winner has one year left on his contract, and he has been negotiating with the Mets on a new deal for a few months now. Most reports suggest that he’s asking for a two year extension at $13 million per year, which would begin in 2014, making the total commitment from the Mets $31 million over three years. The Mets apparently countered with a 2/16 extension, which would have paid him $21 million over those same three years, or about the same amount that Marco Scutaro just signed for. You can see why he hasn’t re-signed yet.

Apparently, the Mets recently increased their offer to 2/20, which equals out to 3/25 overall — Jeremy Guthrie money, so, yeah, still a steal for the Mets — and now they’re only $6 million apart, so it seems like something should get done. But, at the same time, the Mets have actively shopped Dickey around the league, and as Jon Heyman wrote today, they continue to make him available for the right offer even as they draw closer to a middle ground on an extension.

In fact, in that piece, Heyman notes that “at least a couple teams have offered one elite prospect for Dickey, but the Mets are looking for multiple players back in a package.”

The Mets want multiple young players in exchange for Dickey. Dickey is willing to sign a more-than-reasonable contract extension with the Mets, and you can probably infer that he’d be willing to sign a reasonable extension with a team that trades for him as well, especially if he had some comfort level with the organization and the area. You can probably see where I’m going with this.

All winter long, people have been trying to figure out what they can get for some kind of package involving Nick Franklin and James Paxton. First it was Justin Upton, then Alex Gordon, then Wil Myers… pretty much every interesting young outfielder in Major League Baseball has been traded for Nick Franklin and James Paxton on some Mariner blog at some point this off-season. Obviously, the Mariners couldn’t make any of those moves in real life, so Paxton and Franklin remain, even though they are somewhat superfluous to the organization given the other assets already in place here. It doesn’t mean the Mariners have to trade them, but you can bet that they probably would if given the chance to acquire an impact player.

And, while he’s not a power hitting right fielder, Dickey qualifies as an impact player. Over the last three years, Dickey has allowed 3.28 runs per nine innings. For comparison, Felix has allowed 3.31 runs per nine innings over the same time period. You have to account for the different leagues, different parks, and different number of innings, of course, but even after you do all that, Dickey still grades out as a top notch starting pitcher. By a runs allowed based WAR — knuckleballers are an exception to FIP, so you should use RA9-wins for Dickey instead of FIP-wins — Dickey has been worth +15 WAR over the last three years; Felix is at +18, or about one additional win per year.

Other guys around +15 RA9-wins from 2010-2012: Matt Cain, Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, Tim Hudson, and Ian Kennedy. CC Sabathia is at +17. Cole Hamels and David Price join Felix in the +18 crowd. Put simply, Dickey has been similarly valuable to the best pitchers in baseball over the last three years. He simply was not a one year wonder. He’s been excellent for the past 600 innings, and is probably the best player on the market right now, even including Hamilton.

As we’ve noted many times before, the Mariners could use another starting pitcher. Blake Beavan is basically a replacement level scrub, and none of the team’s pitching prospects look like they’re ready to contribute in the big leagues. Replacing Beavan with R.A. Dickey would likely constitute a larger upgrade than bringing in any right fielder, even Hamilton, Swisher, or Upton.

And, if Dickey is willing to sign an extension for something along the lines of what he’s asking for the Mets, then he’s not really a Cliff Lee style one year rental. Instead, Dickey should be viewed as a guy under team control for the next three years at something in the $30 to $35 million range.

Yes, Dickey’s a 38-year-old, but he’s also a knuckleballer, and knucklers just don’t age like normal pitchers. They’re often just as effective in their late 30s and early 40s as they were earlier in their careers, and it’s not uncommon for a knuckleballer’s best years to come after traditional pitchers have long since retired. If we grade Dickey out as a +15 win pitcher over the last three years, then I’d expect he’ll be a +10 to +12 win pitcher over the next three years. You have to adjust the number of innings downwards, but it’s unlikely that Dickey’s knuckler is just going to stop getting big league hitters out any time soon.

So, if we see Dickey as a +4 win player in 2013, and then maybe a +3ish win pitcher in the following two seasons, he’d be a pretty huge steal at $30 to $35 million over those three years. And all of the sudden, giving up Paxton and Franklin for a 38-year-old pitcher doesn’t look so crazy.

In fact, because of his $5 million salary in 2013, the choice isn’t really between Dickey or a right fielder. The Mariners could easily afford to have both. Even if they sign Hamilton or Swisher, they’re likely to have enough payroll space left to squeeze Dickey into the budget if they so desired, and the combination of both Dickey and an impact right fielder could add something in the range of +7 to +10 WAR to the Mariners roster next year. If you’re super bullish on Dickey repeating his 2012 season, maybe even +12.

It would be a go-for-it kind of move, and probably wouldn’t go over all that well in Seattle, especially if it wasn’t paired with the signing of a “big bat”. But, Dickey would represent a pretty monstrous upgrade for the Mariners, and he is available, potentially at a price in talent that the team can afford. If the pieces the Mariners have to trade won’t land them a big offensive upgrade, perhaps those pieces can land them a big pitching upgrade. It’s at least worth kicking the tires on. And if the Mets told Jack tomorrow that they’d ship Dickey to Seattle for Paxton and Franklin, and that Dickey would sign the same extension with the Mariners that he wants from the Mets, I’d suggest pulling the trigger.

Wins are wins, no matter what form they come in. R.A. Dickey would make the Mariners a lot better in a hurry. If he can be had for something like Paxton and Franklin, then I hope Jack is at least exploring the option.

The Roster As It Stands

December 9, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 89 Comments 

The Mariners are very clearly focused on adding an outfielder who can hit, and Josh Hamilton looks like their preferred option. They’ve also talked about upgrading the back end of the rotation and adding a third catcher. They just signed Jason Bay, and so far, they haven’t gotten rid of anyone besides Trayvon Robinson. So, let’s take a look at what the current roster looks like, and what pieces might fit together based on who is acquired.

Position Player Salary   Position Player Salary
C John Jaso $1,300,000   SP Felix Hernandez $20,700,000
1B Justin Smoak $550,000   SP Hisashi Iwakuma $6,500,000
2B Dustin Ackley $1,500,000   SP Jason Vargas $6,500,000
SS Brendan Ryan $3,000,000   SP Erasmo Ramirez $500,000
3B Kyle Seager $550,000   SP Blake Beavan $500,000
LF Michael Saunders $550,000        
CF Franklin Gutierrez $7,500,000   CL Tom Wilhelmsen $500,000
RF       RH Carter Capps $500,000
DH Jesus Montero $500,000   LH Charlie Furbush $500,000
        RH Stephen Pryor $500,000
C       LH Lucas Luetge $500,000
IF Robert Andino $1,000,000   LH Oliver Perez $1,500,000
OF Jason Bay $1,000,000   RH Josh Kinney $700,000
OF Casper Wells $500,000        
        Cut Chone Figgins $8,000,000
        Declined Miguel Olivo $750,000
Total   $66,100,000        
Optionless Player     Optionable Player  
1B Mike Carp     OF Eric Thames  
IF Carlos Triunfel     RH Hector Noesi  
        RH Shawn Kelley  

There are two currently open roster spots, though since Bay and Wells are mostly redundant, odds are decent that the team only carries one of those two, so it’s probably more like three open roster spots on offense. And maybe a fourth if the organization decides to replace Blake Beavan with a better pitcher, which they should, because he’s bad.

If we set the pitching spot aside for now, that leaves the team with three roster spots, and in need of a starting right fielder, a guy who can catch, and a corner infielder who can push or replace Justin Smoak, depending on the size of the leash that the team wants to give him for 2013. And, realistically, an outfield that depends on the simultaneous health of Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Bay, and maybe Josh Hamilton is ridiculously thin, so you could argue that the team is likely to need five guys capable of playing outfield on the opening day roster.

And that’s why you see the Mariners checking in on such a wide variety of players, ranging from Josh Hamilton down to Dee Gordon. For as much as everyone talks about the team just needing to upgrade the offense, the reality is that the Mariners can’t just squeeze a couple more 1B/DH types onto this team. They need an outfielder, and they need a catcher, and they need a corner infielder.

One possible solution to this roster crunch is to add a guy who can cover several of these spots by himself. For instance, one of the advantages of adding Nick Swisher is that you can slot him in as your right fielder while also ensuring that the team has a guy who can easily take over first base if Justin Smoak flops again. Jack has also talked about finding a catcher who can do other things besides catch, but in reality, there just aren’t very many guys like that.

Ryan Doumit, Chris Gimenez, Yan Gomes, and Jordan Pacheco pretty much comprise the entire list of catchers who could also represent some kind of depth at either the infield or outfield, and Doumit/Gomes/Pacheco are probably out after Jack talked about wanting to add a “defensive catcher” to complement Jaso and Montero. Don’t get too excited about that option.

So, if we assume that the third catcher is pretty much going to be just a catcher, that leaves them with two spots for starting RF and reserve 3B/1B. And that’s why I wouldn’t be totally shocked if they ended up acquiring a guy that they haven’t yet been linked to – Mike Olt.

Olt is reportedly being dangled to the Mets as bait to get R.A. Dickey to Texas, and he’s been rumored to be part of the three or four team trade that involves the Rangers, Diamondbacks, and either the Rays, Mariners, or Royals, depending on the incarnation of the moment. When word broke at the meetings that the Mariners were part of those discussions, the report suggested that the Mariners would acquire Derek Holland, but it was left unexplained why the Mariners would help the Rangers land Justin Upton in a deal where they didn’t add any hitters themselves.

My guess — and it’s just a guess — is that the Mariners are involved in those multi-team discussions because Olt is the Rangers best piece of trade bait but there isn’t an obvious fit for where he should land. The Mets already have David Wright at third base, and after the Lucas Duda experiment, they probably aren’t too excited about another IF-to-OF conversion project. The Rays already have Evan Longoria, and they value defense more than any other team in baseball. The Diamondbacks just signed Eric Chavez to be their third baseman for 2013, a sign that they’re willing to go with a stopgap until prospect Matt Davidson is ready for the big leagues in a year or two.

Just like the Mariners prospects aren’t a great fit for a trade with the Royals, Olt’s not a great fit for the teams that Texas is apparently trying to strike a deal with. But he would be a pretty interesting fit for the Mariners.

We’ve talked about how the team is absurdly thin at third base behind Kyle Seager, so talks of moving him to second base are essentially a non-starter because it’d be creating a bigger hole than it would fill. Right now, if Seager got himself hurt, Robert Andino would be the team’s starting third baseman; Andino has a career wRC+ of 67. If Seager got himself hurt on a day when Andino was already subbing in for the brittle Brendan Ryan, the team’s third baseman would be… a random fan who brought his glove to the park, apparently. It’s safe to say that the Mariners need a guy who can play a little third base.

And, as we saw last year, Wedge is willing to use Seager as a second baseman on days when Dustin Ackley gets the day off, so a right-handed corner infielder could essentially serve as a back-up for Ackley as well. While the Mariners might not have a gaping hole at third base, they do have infield at-bats to give out, and they’re in need of another first base option behind Justin Smoak. If the team lands a pure outfielder rather than a 1B/OF type, Olt could provide the infield depth the team is looking for, while also giving Jack the kind of cost-controlled young hitter he’s willing to move a young arm for.

And that’s why I could see the Mariners getting involved in a three or four team trade with the Rangers. They make some sense as a third wheel in a Rangers-Mets trade that ships R.A. Dickey to Texas, as they could offer up a package of young player who could potentially have more value to the Mets than Olt would — Nick Franklin would probably interest them (or Tampa Bay, if the deal was for Shields instead of Dickey) as a second baseman, and they’ve been collecting upside arms like James Paxton for the last year — and might have enough extra guys on the roster to sweeten the deal for Texas if need be. As you can see above, Mike Carp and Shawn Kelley are likely on the outside looking in, and I don’t think Jack would hesitate to let the Rangers have Carp as an Olt replacement if they wanted a corner bench bat back in the deal, or give them Kelley if they wanted another relief arm for the bullpen.

All winter long, we’ve been hearing that the organization was looking to make a prospect-for-prospect swap, turning one of their young arms (and/or Nick Franklin) into a guy who can step in and fill a hole on the big league roster right away. Most of the focus has been on Wil Myers, but Olt might actually be an even better fit.

Texas has more reasons to trade him, and his positional flexibility makes him a better fit on the 2013 roster if the Mariners are also planning on signing a full-time outfielder. Where acquiring Hamilton would force Myers to beat out Saunders/Gutierrez for a job, Olt would be unaffected by the signing of another OF, as his playing time could come at 3B/1B/DH, and he’d give the team depth behind Smoak, Seager, Ackley, and Montero while only taking up one roster spot.

In-division trades aren’t that common, but we’ve already seen the Rangers ship Justin Smoak to Seattle, so they’re clearly not afraid to deal promising young hitters when they feel like the Mariners are enabling them to get the kind of ace starter they’re looking for. The Mariners don’t have that kind of starter available right now, but they might have the pieces to help Texas land a guy like Dickey or Shields.

If they can expand the deal to also bring Derek Holland to Seattle, well, awesome, because he’s a good fit here too. But I’d be willing to bet that the Mariners insertion into the talks with Texas weren’t primarily about bringing Holland to Seattle, but instead, would be Jack trying to land Mike Olt as another young offensive building block for the future.

Whether it happens or not, who knows. But given the state of the roster and the kinds of players we know that the Mariners are shopping for in free agency, Olt looks like a pretty good fit. If Texas ends up trading him, I wouldn’t be too shocked if he ultimately made his way to Seattle.

Mariners Talking With Hamilton, Deal Apparently Not Close

December 6, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 96 Comments 

After the late night rumor mill got lit on fire with reports that the Mariners were “very close” to signing Josh Hamilton, this morning brought buckets of water, as Chuck Armstrong told Ryan Divish that the two sides hadn’t discussed terms or numbers. Of course, that means that they are talking, and they could have essentially agreed that they’d have significant mutual interest once Texas was out of the picture. Clearly, the Mariners declarations from a few weeks ago that they wouldn’t be involved weren’t true, and given that there aren’t a lot of obvious other destinations for Hamilton, it makes sense for him to engage Seattle if they are willing to make a significant offer.

It sounds like this whole thing hinges on what Texas decides to do with regards to Zack Greinke and Justin Upton, so all these moves will probably happen in fairly close proximity to each other. It’s the domino effect, essentially. Once Greinke picks a team, everything else can start to happen. Whether that goes down today, tomorrow, or next week, it sounds like these teams got to a point where they have a general feeling of where everyone fits, and now they just have to wait for the lynchpin to get pulled.

I’m sure people will be disappointed that the organization didn’t do anything here, but give it a week or so – this stuff will break free pretty soon. And it’s certainly possible that Hamilton ends up in Seattle. It seems clear that the Mariners are looking to land either Hamilton or Swisher, and given the teams left in the OF market, they’ll probably get one of the two.

Rule 5 Draft Tomorrow; Don’t Reschedule Meetings to Follow It or Anything

December 5, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 9 Comments 

The Rule 5 draft takes place in Nashville tomorrow, with each team poring over the list of eligible players searching for someone who might add a bit of value. As you probably remember, a team can claim an eligible (college draftee in 2009, HS draftee in 2008, not on 40-man roster) player for only $50,000. They must then keep the player on the active roster for the entire 2013 season.

The Mariners showed that it’s possible to find serviceable players last year when they picked up Lucas Luetge and gave him some of the highest-leverage appearances of the year. Luetge proves that the Rule 5 draft isn’t worthless, and he’s a solid LOOGY to have, but it’s not clear that the M’s can utilize the role this year. As always, the most likely candidates to stick/contribute are bullpen arms, and the M’s just don’t have a lot of holes in the pen. A guy like ex-Mariner prospect Josh Fields seems like a good bet to move to a new organization, but would you sign him if it meant keeping Josh Kinney or Stephen Pryor off the team? Not likely.

The M’s pick up of Jason Bay to a major league deal essentially means they won’t be active in the Rule 5 draft. They made a choice, and decided that signing Bay to a negligible-value deal was a better lottery ticket than selecting a 5-th outfielder from another team’s minor league system. I can’t really fault the M’s for that decision, unless and until they dump someone of value to keep Bay around. But taking Bay in lieu of a 26-year old AA/AAA outfielder who might grow into a decent 4th OF? I’m fine with that.

Of course, the M’s may still be involved in the draft – just as providers of talent, not consumers of it. LHP Brian Moran could probably stick as the last guy in an MLB bullpen. His AAA broadcaster Mike Curto discusses that possibility here. His deception makes up for extremely low velocity, and he posted great K rates in the high minors last year. As a result, many thought he might be added to the M’s 40-man, but Zduriencik instead chose fellow LOOGY Bobby LaFromboise. Along with Charlie Furbush, Luetge and Oliver Perez, the M’s are pretty much set for lefty bullpen arms, but given that Randy Choate just signed a three year MLB deal (!!!), Moran may make a lot of sense for some team out there. The Astros are a possibility, with their GM noting that they may select two players tomorrow. Moran, the third member of the UNC Tar Heels selected in the 2009 draft is currently pitching in Puerto Rico.

Courtesy of Ryan Divish, we now have word that Jack Zduriencik’s essentially conceded that the M’s aren’t making any picks tomorrow.

Mariners Sign Jason Bay

December 5, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 65 Comments 

As expected, the Mariners have apparently agreed to sign Jason Bay. Unexpectedly, there was a minor bidding war for the services of a guy who hit .165 last year, and according to Jon Heyman, they had to give him a one year “seven figure” contract to get him to come to Seattle. I’m going to assume that the deal is as close to $1 million as possible, because every dollar above the league minimum just makes me sadder.

I wrote a bit about Bay yesterday, so I’ll just sum up here – it’s a low enough cost that it probably won’t matter, but I don’t really see any role for Bay on this roster either. He’s not better than Casper Wells at anything, and if he actually makes the team in lieu of Wells, the Mariners will be worse off for it. When people say deals like this have “no downside”, they’re ignoring the fact that the team could irrationally fall in love with Bay’s veteran presence and give him playing time that should go to a younger, better talent. There is downside here – it’s that Bay becomes the new Miguel Olivo, holding the team back from maximizing the talent on hand.

Of course, the more likely scenario is that this is just a repeat of the Carlos Guillen experiment from last spring. They gave him $1 million to be a veteran presence and show he was healthy in Arizona, only he showed up to camp and realized he was bad, old, and didn’t want to play baseball anymore, so he retired instead. There’s probably a decent chance of that happening here with Bay too. Or, if he’s dreadful, they’ll just cut him as they did with Hong-Chih Kuo last spring. A major league deal doesn’t guarantee he’ll make the team.

So, don’t freak out. It probably isn’t going to turn into anything. Bay’s bad, and that will likely be obvious in spring training. Hopefully, when Casper Wells runs circles around him, it will become obvious that there’s no role for Bay here, and this will all be a false alarm. We can start kvetching about this in April if Wells is dumped on waivers while Bay grabs the fourth outfielder job. Until then, there’s no reason to overreact.

Some Thoughts on Michael Bourn

December 5, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 23 Comments 

By popular demand, I present a few thoughts on Michael Bourn.

If you want to read my overall thoughts on Bourn and his market value, start with this piece on FanGraphs from September. In general, my thoughts on Bourn can be summed up there.

In a more Mariner-specific sense, I’d be interested in bringing him in on a shorter term deal if Swisher wasn’t an option and the trade price for others was deemed to be too high. He’s a quality player, even though I’m a little concerned about how well he’ll age, and with Franklin Gutierrez’s health issues, it’s fair to say that the Mariners could very well need a center fielder next year and beyond, so signing Bourn now could end up addressing an organizational weak spot. I know some are going to note that the team needs a power hitter and that there’s no reason to have Bourn and Gutierrez playing next to each other, but the diminishing returns of having multiple rangey outfielders are mostly overblown, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the team ended up using Guti in left or right after signing Bourn.

Most balls hit to the outfield are only catchable by one guy, so there’s still value in sticking a great defender in a corner spot. We should be beyond the idea of “center fielders” and “corner outfielders” being drastically different. There are really just outfielders, and outfielders can produce value with both their bats and their gloves, regardless of where they play.

So, at something for three years if Bourn’s market collapses? Sure, I’m interested. But he’s not my first choice, and I don’t really want to give him four or more years, given my concerns about high strikeout/low power offensive skillsets.

Some Amount of Words on Nick Swisher

December 4, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 31 Comments 

(Yes, I’m beating this number of words headline thing into the ground. This giant amusement park does not exactly create an environment of creativity.)

Probably the biggest thing that has happened for the Mariners today happened in Boston. Well, it happened in Nashville, but it happened with Boston at least. The Red Sox gave Shane Victorino a three year, $38 million deal to take over as their new right fielder, and have now tossed a combined $77 million at Victorino and Mike Napoli. Let’s all send Ben Cherington a box of chocolates for his off-season shopping list, and wish him luck rebuilding by stocking up on older declining players.

The main Mariner-related fallout from Victorino going to Boston is that Nick Swisher will almost certainly not be going to Boston now. The Red Sox just filled their right field position, and Napoli is likely going to get enough time at first base that it would be tough for them to fit Swisher into that mix and give everyone enough playing time to make it all work. So, you can probably scratch Boston off the list of potential landing spots for Nick Swisher.

And, if you start looking around, it’s not so easy to find teams that are looking all that interested in making a large bid for Swisher. The Yankees are only offering one year contracts. The Tigers already signed Torii Hunter. The Braves signed B.J. Upton, and are looking more for a leadoff hitter in left field than another middle-of-the-order guy. The Rangers might keep Josh Hamilton, and even if they don’t, it sounds like the backup plan might include shifting Ian Kinsler to make room for Jurickson Profar, with a move to the outfield being a logical possibility. The Dodgers outfield is full.

You can go through pretty much any list of teams that were hunting for corner outfielders before the off-season started and cross off a good chunk of them, as they’ve already either made their move or have expressed a desire to look for lower cost alternatives. So, if Swisher is looking for a significant payday, it’s looking like Seattle might be his best chance to get it.

Which, of course, gives the M’s some pretty decent leverage. If they’re not having to outbid the Yankees or another high-revenue club, then the price is not going to be anywhere near the 7/100 pricetag I floated in my off-season plan. It might not even get anywhere near the 5/85 price that Andre Ethier got from the Dodgers over the summer. And so, if things continue to break the way they’re going right now, Swisher could end up being one of the bargains of the winter, signing for a four or five year deal at an AAV not too different from what Hunter and Victorino got. Without another team in the bidding to really push the Mariners, 4/60 or 5/75 may very well be enough to get Swisher signed.

So, while I know that there’s some frustration that the winter meetings are more than halfway over and the Mariners haven’t done anything, things are actually breaking the Mariners way right now. Once Hamilton goes off the board, it may become quite clear that Swisher’s only chance for a big payday is to take what the Mariners will give him, even if his actress-wife might not love the idea of living in Seattle.

Now, of course, none of this is set in stone. It’s entirely possible that the Orioles are just faking everyone out with their “we won’t spend big” this winter claims, and are looking at Swisher to upgrade their own outfield situation. Maybe the Indians are going to sign Swisher to play right field after they trade Shin-Soo Choo. Don’t go printing up your Swisher jerseys for the Mariners just yet.

But it’s more likely that he signs with the Mariners now than it was this morning. The Red Sox exiting the bidding is a pretty big deal, and by waiting out the market, the team might get a pretty good deal on the best outfielder on the market this winter.

Almost No Words on Jason Bay

December 4, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 37 Comments 

Mike Salk reported last night that the M’s were likely to sign Jason Bay. Today, he’s added that the deal is “close”, so expect it to happen. Because Bay was Figgins’d by the Mets, he’s not going to sign for anything more than the Major League minimum, since he’s still going to be paid the same amount regardless of what his new team signs him for. So, money is irrelevant here. He’s just picking his new team based on potential opportunity and place he wants to play. Because he’s a local-ish kid and the Mariners have an apparent need for hitters, it’s no surprise this is one of his primary choices.

And, on some kind of one year flyer, the answer is usually “hey, why not?” If he has some magical resurgence, well, neat, useful player for the league minimum and no real cost. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Well, kinda. There’s just one problem here – I’m not sure what roster spot he’d really be fighting for.

If we assume the M’s are going to acquire some kind of full time right-fielder, the OF next year looks to be Saunders/Gutierrez/New Guy with Wells as the fourth OF. If the Mariners go into 2013 with Bay in a starting role, something went terribly wrong. That leaves Wells’ job as the RH fourth outfielder, and to be honest, it’s hard to see Bay providing anything that Wells doesn’t already do better.

Bay might get his power back; Wells already has power. Bay might not be a defensive disaster in a smaller left field; Wells is a pretty good defender who can also cover center field if need be. What does Jason Bay bring to the table that would be in any way different or better than what Casper Wells brings to the table?

Realistically, the only spot Bay would represent any kind of useful upgrade would be DH versus LHPs on days when Jesus Montero is catching. Last year, there were a number of games where Miguel Olivo filled that spot simply because the team wanted to get as many right-handed bats in the line-up as they could, and he was right-handed and occasionally hit a home run. So, Bay might represent an upgrade in that role.

But, if you’re slotting in Montero as the catcher against lefties and you’re carrying Jason Bay, you’re running into roster crunch issues. You still need a third catcher on the roster because Montero is slated to DH against RHPs, so the bench would be Third Catcher/Bay/Wells/Andino. Not exactly a lot of infield depth there, and given the health concerns with Bay and Guti, there’s going to be days when they would be playing with a skeleton staff and have few to no reserves available.

I’m not opposed to taking a flyer on Bay and seeing what he looks like in spring training. I just have a hard time seeing how he fits here, or how he’ll actually help the Mariners. The Mariners shouldn’t give Eric Wedge a worse RH fourth OF option than Casper Wells and tempt him to downgrade that position, as they’ve jerked Wells around enough the last few years, and Bay isn’t going to be any kind of legitimate upgrade in that role. And they don’t really have another role for him.

Bringing him to camp so that other teams can get a look at him and he can be a good veteran influence on the kids? Sure, why not. Putting him on the 25 man roster and hoping he helps the team in 2013? Ehh, I don’t see it.

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