No, I’m Not Dead

Dave · January 2, 2013 at 11:07 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I just took a nice long vacation with my wife. We flew to the Bay Area, where my mom was born and where I still have a giant extended family — my mom is the seventh of 13 children. We went for a big Christmas get together, and then Amy and I drove up the California coast, spent a night in Grants Pass, and then finished the road trip to Seattle before spending a few days with my immediate family. I wasn’t totally unhooked from the world during the trip, but I did make a point to spend as little time thinking about baseball as possible. It was great.

While I was gone, the Mariners signed Raul Ibanez. You already know this, of course, and Marc’s already laid out his opinion on the signing and showed just how much evidence there is that Raul Ibanez’s presence can teach young players how to hit. You probably can guess where I stand on a signing like this, so I’ll keep it brief.

I don’t have anything against Raul Ibanez. Everyone says he’s a great guy, and I believe them. I don’t think “clubhouse chemistry” is worthless, nor do I pretend that we know everything there is to know about player development. I’m sure some of the guys on the roster could benefit from being harder workers, and logic suggests that putting a hard worker next to them might just motivate them to work harder.

But here’s the thing – you can hope and wish that Raul Ibanez rubs off on the rest of the guys all you want, but the reality is that absolutely no one can predict “chemistry” with any degree of accuracy. That’s why the term is so silly, since chemistry is a science of predictable and repeatable results from combining known entities. What baseball writers call chemistry is actually voodoo; throw a bunch of stuff in a pot, stir, and hope it turns out to be a magic formula.

Ken Griffey Jr is an amazing bonding agent for the clubhouse, and everyone loves him, which is why they won. Until he gets mad, turns everyone against the manager, and the roster gives up on the guy in charge because Junior got his feelings hurt. Whoops. You can go through nearly any kind of “chemistry” experiment you want in baseball, and you’ll find that some (reportedly) worked, some (reportedly) didn’t, and there’s no identifiable pattern to be repeated. And if you can’t predict the outcome of a thing with any reasonable degree of certainty, then it’s just not really worth spending your resources on.

You don’t go to the grocery store and buy a mystery box, hoping that they all come together when you throw them in a skillet. That is, essentially, what spending roster spots on team chemistry is. Raul Ibanez’s influence on the rest of the roster is a complete unknown, and anyone who tells you differently is kidding themselves. This has nothing to do with Raul. It has everything to do with the unpredictable nature of interpersonal relationships between people who have never spent any time together.

If the Mariners had a good team, and didn’t need any more talent, hey, fine, blow a roster spot on a chemistry guy. But the Mariners don’t have a good team, and they do need more talent, and it’s a near certainty that Raul Ibanez is going to take the roster spot of a younger, better player who could actually help the Mariners on the field. The most vulnerable guy is probably Casper Wells. Not Mike Carp, who was already a goner. Before signing Ibanez, you could probably squeeze Wells and Jason Bay onto the same roster. Now, there’s no way to make it work. The Mariners are going to have to pick one of the two in spring training, and you can bet that if Bay shows anything in Peoria, they’re going to pick the veteran.

It’s going to take an injury or Bay completely falling on his face for Wells to make this team now. And, since he’s out of options, not making the team means he’s out of the organization. If the M’s acquire another outfielder, Wells might not even make it to spring training. And maybe you look at Wells and think “ehh, what’s the big deal, he’s not that great”. It’s true, he’s nothing special. But his older twin, Cody Ross, just signed a three year, $26 million contract as a free agent. Seriously, Wells and Ross are the exact same player, only Wells is younger and capable of playing center field if need be. He has value, even with his streakiness and his strikeouts. Lefty mashers who can run and play defense aren’t just laying around waiting to be claimed on waivers. Flushing him down the drain in favor of having a glorified coach on the bench is a cost this team can’t afford right now.

I don’t like the Raul Ibanez signing because of what it means for Wells. Nothing against Ibanez, but his presence on the roster is probably going to cost this team a useful depth piece who actually has a role on a winning big league team. Raul Ibanez does not have a role on a winning big league team. Not as a player. Not in 2013.


41 Responses to “No, I’m Not Dead”

  1. PackBob on January 2nd, 2013 11:51 pm

    Wedge seems to be a big chemistry and team leader guy. Maybe Jack as well, but Wedge talks readily about intangibles and leadership of veterans on the team. If Wedge believes he needs an Ibanez type on the team, he probably does to manage the team as he thinks it should be managed.

    But I’d much rather see Wells on the team than Ibanez. Talent trumps chemistry.

  2. Westside guy on January 2nd, 2013 11:53 pm

    The baseball concept of “chemistry” has always seemed to be one giant, roiling pot of confirmation bias. Guys see (and remember) the evidence supporting what they want to see, and tune out all the instances that run counter to what they want to believe.

  3. Milendriel on January 3rd, 2013 12:00 am

    I don’t think chemistry as writers refer to it is even as complicated as voodoo; it’s morale. It’s up when the team wins, it’s down when they lose, and we see articles about how everyone gets along or doesn’t. I’m not sure why that’s supposed to affect winning, but I guess it sounds nice.

  4. Kazinski on January 3rd, 2013 12:32 am

    Isn’t it more Jason Bay that is blocking Wells from PT than Ibanez? I surely hope no matter how enamored Wedge is with Ibanez’s veteran leadership, but I don’t think he will be getting many PA against LH pitching. To be sure at one time he could hold his own against LH’ers but he hasn’t had an OPS about .700 against LH pitching since 2010.

    Bay sucked mightily last season but had barely 200 PA. In 2011 though he mashed lefties, with a .918 OPS.

    Somehow I think Jack is going to keep Wells around while he has any potential of being an everyday player, because otherwise it looks like Jack was completely taken to the cleaners on the Fister trade. Wells has provided 4.1 WAR in 656PA over 3 seasons, which is right around a 1 season playing full time. That should be discounted because half those PA were against LH pitching but still he should project to at least 2.5 WAR playing everyday. If Wells is a 2.5 WAR player and Furbush is 1.0 WAR out of the bullpen then that pretty much matches the 3.5 WAR that Fister can be penciled in for if he stays healthy.

  5. Mekias on January 3rd, 2013 1:01 am

    I don’t mind having Ibanez but, as mentioned in the article, Ibanez + Bay is bad news. I still hope they’ll realize that Wells is more valuable than Bay. It’ll probably come down to Spring Training, despite a ton of recent data for each guy.

    There’s still a long way to go until Spring Training though. Who knows what might happen and I strongly believe that Jack is still working on a big trade. We’ve got money and I can’t see us going into next year without making more moves.

  6. The_Waco_Kid on January 3rd, 2013 1:50 am

    I don’t see where Jack’s going with this. Giving both Bay and Ibanez roster spots is kind of like giving Griffey and Sweeney both roster spots, except with less chance of helping ticket sales. And don’t we need room for a third catcher?

  7. maqman on January 3rd, 2013 4:38 am

    Scientific chemistry is a physical field, human chemistry is an art. It exists in all sentient species, which includes baseball players and fans. This is an area where I don’t think Wedgie is given enough credit. He may struggle a bit at times in filling in a lineup card but his players understand him and I believe respect him. As for Bay and Ibanez they may not pan out, if so it won’t badly damage the team. The Giants have won two world series with some players not many people respected, such as Zito, and a busted two time Cy Young Award winner. There is no one true way.

  8. ChrisFB on January 3rd, 2013 6:18 am

    “And don’t we need room for a third catcher?”

    Nah, Ibanez can be the emergency catcher again, as he was the last go-round with the M’s.

  9. Nate on January 3rd, 2013 7:03 am

    Thank you Dave, I hate the signing. It really feels like “Well we couldn’t get any of the real hitters, so we better bring in someone people remember fondly (mostly)”. I’m thoroughly disappointed (so far) in this offseason, and I don’t see much left available for improvement. Sad.

  10. vertigoman on January 3rd, 2013 9:03 am

    Competition is more important than chemistry. Hopefully that’s what this is about. However, I don’t have a whole lot of faith in Wedge carrying through with that in a non vet biased mannner

  11. Don Money on January 3rd, 2013 9:15 am

    My prediction is it is Bay or Raul on the opening day roster, not both. Bay will need a big spring to make it, Raul has the inside track.

  12. Paul B on January 3rd, 2013 9:31 am

    The Mariners could lead the league in intangible runs!

  13. Dave on January 3rd, 2013 9:37 am

    They just gave Raul Ibanez $3 million guaranteed. He’s on the team. He’s not fighting for a job.

  14. IwearMsHats on January 3rd, 2013 9:54 am

    This is signing has turned me from Mariner optimist to Mariner pessimist. I am not excited for this season at all, and it’s poured over to twitter where I cannot contain my snark whenever @Mariners tweets.

  15. bookbook on January 3rd, 2013 9:59 am

    At what point do we start to suspect that as GM, Jack makes an excellent scouting director.

  16. Typical Idiot Fan on January 3rd, 2013 10:22 am

    Scientific chemistry is a physical field, human chemistry is an art.

    Ha ha. Nope. The interactions between humans are strongly influenced by the chemicals and chemical reactions that go on in our bodies. We are, after all, giant piles of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and a host of other elements, bonded together. Our unique biology requires a cocktail of different chemicals to function on a daily basis. Our emotions, thoughts, and thus interactions with other humans, are also influenced by one reaction or another going on in our brains.

    We are what we are.

    Oh and welcome back Dave. You had a much earned vacation, sir.

  17. make_dave_proud on January 3rd, 2013 10:27 am

    Good thoughts, Dave. I disagree with you on who is on the outside at the moment — I think it’s Bay.

    True, they spent more than the minimum on the guy. True, he was signed before Raul. Nonetheless, when he was signed there was discussion about how the team could cut him loose in spring training if he bombed out. Now, I think it’s an even greater possibility that he could not make the team.

    JZ would have a lot of explaining to do if the Ibanez signing was all about veteran leadership, then letting one of the young guys go in favor of Jason Bay. If someone like Wells was expendable, it would be as trade bait and only if Jason Bay is lighting it up.

  18. Westside guy on January 3rd, 2013 10:30 am

    I’m somewhat worried we’re going to see Saunders (and maybe Wells) given away in a trade for Ethier. Given Guti’s health track record, that’ll likely mean we’ll go from starting 2012 as one of the better defensive outfields to 2013 with a bunch of aging guys who were bad defensively even in their prime.

  19. MrZDevotee on January 3rd, 2013 11:06 am

    I’m kinda with Westy on this, Saunders or Wells might be on the block in a package, there’s just too much baggage on the cart right now… Only I think it’s Guty that gets traded to L.A. in the event that happens, not a young guy.

    I think Guty playing this winter was a “showcase” thing, ’cause we’re not gonna pick up his option most likely, and we’ll want SOMETHING back for him before then. Luckily, he looked great this winter, so there’s no reason to risk another injury if we wait till the trade deadline to move him. Move him now.

    Dodgers would then have a 4th OF that is a Top 5 defender in CF, and if he stays healthy and can get back to near 2009 numbers (big “if”) then he’s a bargain at his 2014 option (I think it’s $7.5 million).

    [As for Raul, I still don’t understand how our dislike for moves by the front office has attached itself to Raul. He’s a veteran 4th/Platoon OF for cheap. And saying he has “no place” on a winning roster? Ask the Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers or Red Sox who they’d rather add if they had to, Ibanez or Wells– and I think the answer would most likely be Ibanez.)

  20. Paul B on January 3rd, 2013 11:50 am

    [As for Raul, I still don’t understand how our dislike for moves by the front office has attached itself to Raul. He’s a veteran 4th/Platoon OF for cheap. And saying he has “no place” on a winning roster?

    He’s 41.

    He has no range in the outfield, and should not play in the outfield.

    He should not hit against lefties (OPS+ last year was 53, 76 the year before last).

    He has hit well in hitter friendly ballparks, and poorly on the road (64 OPS+ last year).

    So, at best, he is an aging platoon DH, who could be expected to hit about as well as Brendan Ryan in Safeco.

    Yippee, just what the Mariners needed.

  21. Dave on January 3rd, 2013 11:55 am

    If you seriously think the Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, or Red Sox would prefer Ibanez to Wells, you’re nuts. Notice how exactly none of those teams signed him? Notice how those teams are signing outfielders who can actually play the outfield?

  22. Seattleken on January 3rd, 2013 11:58 am

    Wow M’s sign another 1B/DH in Mike Jacobs. I would guess he’s there to be Tacoma’s Ibanez providing an example to the kids. But wait what does it say about our GM bringing in a vet to show the young kids the way to play professional baseball. He’s from the close your eyes, swing from the heels don’t walk school of baseball.

    He was a below replacement level player in the majors who made millions because he hit some homers!

    All I ask is for everyone to consider maybe Jack Z. is not a GM who makes moves based on modern metrics, and that hes nothing more than a tools scout.

  23. Notorious DAD on January 3rd, 2013 12:04 pm

    Am I the only one who thinks that the only amount of effort Geoff Baker puts into his articles are to read Dave’s posts, then write the opposite, then call it a day? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here! If that’s all the Times is requiring of their M’s beat writer I could do that.

  24. stevemotivateir on January 3rd, 2013 12:34 pm

    Nice to have you back Dave. Glad you were able to escape for a while and have some nice holidays!

    Quick question(s)… do you think it’s likely we’ll see a move for another (better) outfielder? Wells being out of options obviously makes him appear to be the most likely to be dealt, but some seem worried Saunders could go. Do you think that’s a real possibility?

  25. Choo on January 3rd, 2013 12:34 pm

    I still think Wells is safe. Jason Bay appears to be a giant clump of pubic hair clogging the drain but he is probably nothing more than a security blanket. I anticipate the M’s plan is to cut Bay loose if Wells and Guti make it through ST healthy and un-traded. The FO just can’t say that out loud, nor is there any evidence that Bay would be a better option than Wells in terms of talent, cost and flexibility.

    As for Ibanez, he actually is a giant clump of pubic hair clogging the drain. He is a platoon DH/PH, nothing more, and the M’s don’t have room or the need for that type of player yet.

  26. greentunic on January 3rd, 2013 12:43 pm

    Typical Idiot Fan

    I assume that was a joke about team chemestry. Otherwise you’re nitpicking on semantics. Even music writing comes from electrical impulses and chemical reactions in the brain.

    He had it right. When he said yeam chemestry is an art, he meant it cannot be handled with exact precision. It appears to be true, as Dave also suggests.

  27. Liam on January 3rd, 2013 12:50 pm

    Casper Wells will be making four stops with the Mariners Caravan this month.

  28. LMF on January 3rd, 2013 12:53 pm

    Dave, I’m curious if the Ibanez guaranteed contract changes your opinion of management’s lack of otherwise notable activity this off-season. Missing out on the best available bats wasn’t the end of the world but, if we missed out on those bats because Zduriencik and Wedge had their eyes on guys like Bay and Ibanez, does that change the equation? Is it possible that Zduriencik is once bitten twice shy because of the Figgins disaster and can’t or won’t pull the trigger on a contract of any significance? Is it accurate to say that Zduriencik’s biggest free agent signing outside of Figgins has been Iwakuma?

  29. roosevelt on January 3rd, 2013 12:54 pm

    To understand Mariner management, you need to know that Raul was brought in for [nostalgia] reasons.

    I truly believe they (M’s) make decisions based on entertainment factors…. not competing…. er,seriously competing.

    Expect Ichiro back for another “victory lap” when his 2 year contract runs out in NYC.

  30. Seattleken on January 3rd, 2013 1:07 pm

    I have to agree, I feel the most important adviser to the front office is the Marketing Department. It clear the money is focused on the off field entertainment product with well done TV ads, new digital boards and bring guys the non diehard fans have heard of without spending much money.

    Winning is not the goal, the ownership is following the Chicago Cubs model of a major league franchise. They make tons of money, fans come out and haven’t won in 100 years.

  31. californiamariner on January 3rd, 2013 1:19 pm

    I always try to be optimistic and I like what the farm system has done with Jack Z under control. However, my patience is really starting to run thin with these signings.

  32. Seattleken on January 3rd, 2013 1:51 pm

    Agreed, they need to stick with the plan with regards to building the farm system. And I beg that they don’t sell it for Ethier as the Mariners are alot more than one hitter away from winning in 2013.

    I just keep hoping to see some moves of buying high talent who did poorly eg. Dee Gordon, or using the freed up Ichiro money on a quality free agent or good player with an over market contract from a team shedding salary. If the Dodgers want something for Ethier I wouldn’t give it as his contract is atleast market value and probably over.

  33. MrZDevotee on January 3rd, 2013 2:12 pm

    Then I’m nuts, Dave. Sorry. So are the Yankees. So is Ruben Amaro. So is Nolan Ryan. All quoted talking about interest in Ibanez as a reserve/pinch hitter.

    You can read Cashman go on and on that they wanted to bring Ibanez back, but it wasn’t a move they could make until they knew how much cash they had left (ie, they want to move Granderson, if possible, and find an everyday outfielder first, and saw Ibanez as merely a bench guy). Ibanez didn’t want to wait again for what was probably his last contract. And he knew the M’s offered more than the Yankees would.

    But he still would have been on their roster, given the right opportunity.

    If you read the past few threads on this topic– I’m not a FAN of the move. Not at all. But the idea he has no place on a winning roster, after being on the Yankees playoff roster, and being arguably their best contributor in the 2012 post season (with some big pinch hits), is not true.

    I wish they didn’t make the move. Definitely. But moves like this are simply not ALL horrible, or ALL good. It’s not “a good baseball move” or “he has no place in the league”. A nuanced negative response once in awhile is interesting, too.

    Or maybe Jack’s a genius, and reads this webpage, and realizes it’s much easier to get things done if he throws the diehards a Sweeney, Bradley, Olivo, Bay, Griffey, Cust, Byrne, or Ibanez to flog? I mean, Ichiro has no business on a big league roster in some Mariner fans’ eyes– and he just signed a 2 year deal with the Yankees.

  34. MrZDevotee on January 3rd, 2013 2:17 pm

    From the rumors (whatever they’re worth), any Ethier deal would supposedly include money from their end (the Dodgers are essentially admitting a year later that they overpaid for a fan favorite).

    And it does give the team 4 years of service for a legit outfielder with offensive power.

  35. MrZDevotee on January 3rd, 2013 2:28 pm

    Also, perhaps, like a good organization would do, the Mariners are addressing their biggest weakness (offense) with the method they used to build one of their organizational strengths (rebuilding their bullpen to top caliber every year)?

    The M’s have always invited LOTS of pitchers to Spring Training, with the idea that some might catch lightning in a bottle.

    And perhaps this season they feel that the bullpen is in good shape, PRIOR to spring training?

    This might explain the influx/overflow of DH/1B types (traditionally your power bats).

    I can’t remember folks being as heavily opposed to that method as most of us are towards the batters they’ve been signing/inviting. Yes, it’s guaranteed money for some, but that may be a chance the team takes, since the quantity of sluggers is much lower (and more sought after) than the quantity of relief pitchers. So the price is higher to build the same sort of competition.

    Raul Ibanez/Jason Bay is/are Kevin Millwood?

    Not saying it’s so, just saying it’s a possibility. A patchwork offense while the kids grow, and hedging bets by inviting LOTS of them and choosing the best, instead of just Cust, or Bradley, or Branyan, or Bay, etc.

    In systems theory this would be good practice. Applying successful principals to weaker areas of the organization.

  36. Choo on January 3rd, 2013 3:12 pm

    I think Mike Jacobs = Kevin Millwood. Both guys are/were liquid org depth. Millwood was brought in to soak up innings at the major league level so the minor league fish ladder could run smoothly and without haste. Millwood wasn’t in anybody’s way and could have been sacrificed without much trouble, if necessary. Likewise, Jacobs will pile up PA’s in Tacoma provided nobody else needs those PA’s. If they do? Sayonara, Mike Jacobs, see you in Japan.

    However, there is no denying that we are stuck with Ibanez in a way that we weren’t stuck with Millwood ($3 mil vs $1 mil) and Ibanez is definitely in the way.

    Bay is probably nothing more than a cheap insurance policy. If you don’t need it, you cancel it.

  37. Eastside Crank on January 3rd, 2013 3:50 pm

    It is good to have the voice of reason back. I always enjoy the posts about roster construction since they highlight all the different areas that need to be considered. Along those lines the Mariners have traded their two best starting pitchers not named Felix and their best young pitcher. In return, they have accumulated players best suited to play DH, one reliever, and an outfielder they appear willing to let go. I am not at all impressed with trader Jack; he has created holes in the starting rotation, continues to go without a competent defensive catcher, and has questions marks at nearly every position. I would feel differently if he had brought in even one position player who can play full time. Needless to say I am not a fan of the Ibanez signing given the rest of the roster.

  38. Choo on January 3rd, 2013 4:38 pm

    In his wake, Bavasi left a barren minor league system and a crap-filled major league roster. The sentiment among our favorite bloggers was that Bavasi had created something close to a 10-year handicap, plus or minus. I agree that this a frustrating period of transition, but Z deserves a lot of credit for re-stocking a system that now ranks as one of the best in baseball and for giving fans the hope that contention is even possible. Perhaps I was pessimistic, but I didn’t think that would have been possible five years ago.

  39. miscreant on January 3rd, 2013 7:16 pm

    I’m sure Raul is a swell fella

    I don’t like the Ibanez signing because he’s an over the hill 40 year old who can no longer hit or field very well.

    But I guess he’s gonna provide exceptional leadership

  40. djw on January 4th, 2013 1:29 am

    Or maybe Jack’s a genius, and reads this webpage, and realizes it’s much easier to get things done if he throws the diehards a Sweeney, Bradley, Olivo, Bay, Griffey, Cust, Byrne, or Ibanez to flog?

    What is this even supposed to mean? How could these “diehards” who dislike signing terrible players somehow prevent a GM from “getting things done” if they weren’t otherwise occupied? It’s would be difficult to overstate how nonsensical this is.

  41. MrZDevotee on January 4th, 2013 12:21 pm

    Yes it’s (sic) would.

    Pretty sure that was a joke DJW. Sheesh. Pretty sure. (Rolls eyes)

    PS- Although, now the Rangers are trying to talk Lance Berkman out of retirement. You can’t make this stuff up. (And I’m NOT).

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