Josh Hamilton and Not Wanting to Play in Seattle

Dave · February 1, 2013 at 10:32 am · Filed Under Mariners 

A common refrain over the last few months is that it is clear that no good hitters want to play in Seattle. The Mariners went after Josh Hamilton, but he signed with the Angels. They traded for Justin Upton, and he used his no-trade clause to block the deal. That’s enough for people to decide that the team simply can’t get a big time hitter to come here when they have a say in the matter.

Here’s the problem – that entire argument rests on the idea that the Mariners outbid the Angels for Hamilton’s services. From what has been publicly reported, that’s just not true.

The Angels guaranteed Hamilton $125 million over five years. According to Ryan Divish, the Mariners guaranteed Hamilton $100 million over four years, with two vesting options that could have eventually pushed it as high as $150 million over six years.

The Mariners spin is that, including the vesting options, their offer was stronger than the Angels offer. But, in reality, the Angels offer was almost certainly the better one for Hamilton from a strictly financial decision. According to Divish, the options for years five and six vested at around 400 to 450 plate appearances, so the Mariners were simply hedging against the risk of Hamilton suffering a debilitating injury that might prematurely end his career, or at least end his time as a full-time player.

Let’s just say that Hamilton believes he has a 20% chance of sustaining a major problematic injury — a torn ACL, major hip surgery, a debilitating concussion, whatever — at some point in the next four years. In those cases, he would clearly be better off with the Angels offer, since he’d have an extra guaranteed year at $25 million.

Now, let’s deal with the other 80%, where Hamilton stays healthy and is reasonably productive over the next few seasons, so that he plays enough to have both options vest and earns the full $150 million that the Mariners reportedly put on the table. In that scenario, he’s better off with the Mariners offer, but how much better off?

The fact that both options vested means that he’s remained fairly healthy and productive in his mid-30s. Let’s assume that he’s still an above average player, because he’s average or worse, the Mariners would be incentivized to make sure that a $25 million option for his age 37 season didn’t end up getting triggered. What do we think an above average player, even a 37-year-old, would going to get in free agency in five years?

Right now, we know that the market price of a win is around $5 to $6 million apiece, and is steadily going up as new television money flows into Major League Baseball. Factoring in even 5% inflation — and it very well may be higher than that, depending on how long this TV contract bubble persists — over the next few years would push the average price of win to close to $7 million apiece by the time Hamilton’s deal expires with the Angels. If we’re assuming Hamilton’s an above average player, that puts him in the +2 to +3 win range, meaning that he’d be looking at a salary in the range of $14 to $21 million per year, and probably for more than one year.

Need an example? Look at Torii Hunter. He’s been a consistently above average player through his mid-30s, and at age 36, just had a very nice season for the Angels. He landed a two year, $26 million deal for his age 37/38 seasons with the Tigers. Do some annual 5% inflation adjustments on that contract, and you get something closer to 2/33 in another five years. In other words, if Hamilton plays well enough to get the 2018 option to vest, he’d probably have played well enough to land a larger contract in free agency than the option was worth to begin with.

In reality, just for the Mariners offer to be considered equal to the Angels, we have to take as a given that the 2017 option would have vested, and then both sides were offering 5/125. The only thing that pushes the Mariners offer ahead is the value of the 2018 option, and the only way that option vests is if Hamilton has played well enough during his first five years that 1/25 isn’t a huge discount over what his market value would be as a free agent.

Essentially, Hamilton would have been risking $25 million in guaranteed money for the right to have an extra year at a slightly higher AAV — by this back-of-the-envelope calculation, maybe something like an extra $8.5 million in 2018 — on a shorter deal than he likely could have gotten as a free agent.

And, realistically, even if had a Lance Berkman style health crisis towards his mid-30s, did you see what Lance Berkman just signed for this winter? Coming off a season where he got 97 plate appearances, headed into his age 37, as a strictly DH-only player, the Rangers gave Berkman $11 million in guaranteed money. If Hamilton plays well for the first four years (a requirement to get the 2017 option to vest and equalize the two offers), a significant injury in year five still wouldn’t eliminate his chance of earning a pretty decent paycheck in 2018. The Mariners getting a vesting option for that sixth season simply can’t be viewed as an additional $25 million benefit for Hamilton, because if he played well enough for even the first option to vest, he would have established a pretty high base for his 2018 salary anyway.

On the other hand, in the 20% case where Hamilton was so broken that neither option vested, he’s probably dealing with the kind of debilitating injury that limits you to a very low base salary, such as the one Travis Hafner is about to sign with the Yankees for $2 million and some incentives. Even inflating that, you’re never going to see these older broken down guys getting large contracts, so Hamilton would have been risking $20 million or so for the right to maybe get a marginal gain in salary in 2018.

There’s just no real reason to think that 4/100 with a couple of vesting options should have been preferable to 5/125 for a player like Hamilton. Vesting options are simply not equal to guaranteed years, and if that was the Mariners offer, it’s disingenuous to claim that Hamilton “took less money” to play in Anaheim.

We know that Upton vetoed a trade to Seattle, and because of comments made by his agent’s brother, we can be pretty sure that he just really wasn’t interested in playing here. Maybe that was because he hates Seattle, hates Safeco, and hates traveling, or maybe it’s because he knew there was a chance vetoing the trade would cause him to end up in Atlanta — the specifics of why he vetoed the deal, we don’t know. But that’s really the only case where we can say that the Mariners were the high bidder for a player and didn’t get him. And, sorry, but one player making one decision doesn’t make a trend.

If you want to believe that no one wants to play for the Mariners, you’ll need more evidence that this off-season to prove it.


72 Responses to “Josh Hamilton and Not Wanting to Play in Seattle”

  1. Jay R. on February 1st, 2013 10:39 am

    So can we go back to complaining that Seattle ownership won’t pay what it takes to bring top free agents here? =)

  2. amnizu on February 1st, 2013 10:40 am

    Thank you Dave for the Econ 101. I was getting pretty sick of the “no one wants to play here” garbage.

  3. jimabbottsrightarm on February 1st, 2013 10:40 am

    Would you factor in state income tax?

  4. maqman on February 1st, 2013 10:43 am

    Adrian Beltre ain’t buying what you are selling.

  5. Carson on February 1st, 2013 10:45 am

    Excellent points and I do agree mostly. However, if there’s any sort of non-monetary tie-breaker involved, there’s good reason Hamilton would chose to maximize his productive years on a roster closer to contention.

    Was the stadium and current roster the decisive points? No, probably not. But those things must have entered he and his agent’s minds as they made their decision.

  6. Dave on February 1st, 2013 10:51 am

    Free agents care about three things, usually in this order.

    1. Length of contract at fair salary; longer = better.
    2. Team’s chances of winning in short term.
    3. Geography.

    2 and 3 are often tiebreakers when the money is close, as it should be. They’re not zero-factors, and for the Mariners, they generally work against them. So, yes, if the Mariners want to sign a free agent, they probably need to be the high bidder. But they could have easily outbid the Indians for Nick Swisher – they just chose not to. They could have outbid the Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy – they just chose not to. They could have outbid the Cubs for Scott Baker – they just chose not to.

  7. Typical Idiot Fan on February 1st, 2013 10:53 am

    Lance Berkman had to have his palms greased to give up his retirement, and even then he was only ever going to sign with a team in his home state. He’s not a great example. Hunter is a better one.

    Then again, in a few years, who knows. The running rate for a broken veteran might be $10 million.

  8. stevemotivateir on February 1st, 2013 11:08 am

    And now it appears Hafner will sign for 2 million (plus incentives) with the Yankees. Suddenly, the Ibanez signing just got more insulting.

    Seriously, the could-of-had list makes nearly everything we’ve seen this offseason, nothing short of disappointing.

  9. Kyle in Illinois on February 1st, 2013 11:20 am

    Thanks for this well-reasoned article, Dave. It’s helpful to keep things in perspective.

    Now are we going to get a follow-up to Jim Caple’s latest piece about WAR? I’m curious to know how you would counter his points.

  10. _Hutch_ on February 1st, 2013 11:36 am

    Agreed on all points. If I’ve got one question for Z though, it’s “What the hell happened with Swisher?” It seems like either the FO just didn’t like him for reasons I don’t get (afraid he’ll age bad despite the remarkably consistency in recent years, afraid he’s not a good match for the park, etc.) or he flat out told them early in the process that he wasn’t interested in coming to Seattle. If the last is true it is what it is; if the first is true I’m pretty disappointed in the Front Office.

  11. MrZDevotee on February 1st, 2013 11:37 am

    Any thoughts on a “chicken or egg” dilemma here? Are free agents hearing the rumors that other free agents don’t want to play in Seattle (whether true or not), so everyone EXPECTS us to overpay for their services now?

    I’m sure agents don’t mind the idea being out there.

    “Well we both know it’s not an easy thing to get guys like Michael Bourn to make Seattle their home, Jack… Let’s make that a better offer?” – says Slick Boras

  12. GhostofMarinersPast on February 1st, 2013 11:46 am

    How have we not swung a trade yet for Chris Capuano? We could ship Wells and/or Carp to LA, clear up the logjam a little, and shore up the rotation. I would sooooo much rather watch Cap pitch every 5th day than schlubby blah blah joe Saunders! Lets go get Cap, Jack!

  13. goalieump413 on February 1st, 2013 11:46 am

    What concerns me is that if this trend continues, the young, talented players currently on the 40 man roster will depart for all the same reasons current star players refuse to sign in Seattle. All the scouting and player development in the world amount to squat if these guys peak while playing for other clubs after team control has expired.

  14. Dave on February 1st, 2013 11:56 am

    By “current star players”, you mean Upton. Because there are no other examples.

  15. zackr on February 1st, 2013 11:57 am

    @ jim -

    I’m sure players and agents consider tax implications of various states. If he were to take the Seattle deal, he could change is residency to WAST, where there is no state income tax. I doubt he has changed his residency to CA where he’d pay around $12.5 mil in state taxes. The CA rate typically remains one of the highest in the nation.

    Texas has no income tax as well, and a hitters park. Those are tough benefits to beat when it comes to acquiring star-level hitting.

  16. nickwest1976 on February 1st, 2013 12:09 pm

    I agree on Hafner completely with the comment that he was a great deal especially when you now compare him to Ibanez.

    It’s funny, Dave’s off-season plan called for both Swisher and Hafner and I think they both signed for well below what Dave thought it would take. Makes it even more disappointing that the M’s didn’t get either one of those guys signed. Especially Swisher.

  17. diderot on February 1st, 2013 12:49 pm

    “Makes it even more disappointing that the M’s didn’t get either one of those guys signed. Especially Swisher.”

    Swisher signed two weeks before the Upton veto came. I’m guessing the M’s thought they had a right fielder coming in Upton.

  18. nwade on February 1st, 2013 1:02 pm

    diderot – If that’s the case, we have the stupidest Front Office in the history of baseball (which I don’t believe). If you’re out of work and you start interviewing at two places, do you just STOP pursuing one of the jobs just because the other interview process is moving faster? No! You try to get both to the point where you have two job-offers and you get to make a choice. Because you never know when one might fall through. It only makes sense that you’d do the same with ML contracts – pursue all players until you’re just to the point of signing your name on the line. Then if you have to call it off because you can sign a better deal, you do it; but you wait ’til the last second, you don’t give up early!

  19. Celadus on February 1st, 2013 1:12 pm

    On not signing Swisher:

    I’m guessing that the Mariners did not think he was worth giving up the 1st round money allotment. If they hadn’t been compelled to give up the money allotment, just the 1st round draft choice, they might have increased their offer.

    Inferentially, they felt Hamilton was worth losing the money allotment.

  20. mrb on February 1st, 2013 1:21 pm

    There is a lot of twisting in this argument to get to the conclusion that probably the Angels had a better offer.

    What it DIDN’T do is address the perception that hitters don’t want to play in Seattle.

  21. miscreant on February 1st, 2013 1:24 pm

    “If you want to believe that no one wants to play for the Mariners, you’ll need more evidence that this off-season to prove it.”

    To be fair, you haven’t really proved that players do not want to play for Seattle.

  22. philosofool on February 1st, 2013 1:25 pm

    The basic reasoning here is sound, but I think Dave’s comment at 10:51am downplays the significance of park effects in player decisions. After all, this blog has often claimed that being a pitcher’s park allows the team to get good deals from pitchers trying to rebuild a career or simply from guys who like pitching in Safeco. It seems to me disingenuous to suppose that pitchers weigh the park in decision but hitters don’t. If I were Travis Hafner, I would see this season as a chance to maybe reestablish some value for the 2014 off-season, and I wouldn’t try to do that in Safeco field.

    This is an important corollary of Dave’s point #1, that player’s care about their contracts: For players with a hope of signing a contract in the next few years, playing in a park that favors one’s skills increases their value as free agents. Teams do overpay a little for park effect mirages; we see it at the trade deadline and in free agency. It’s not a huge effect and player’s should reason about it too much, but they should take it into consideration. I think they do.

    Now, let’s be clear that park factors are a bigger economic influence for some than for others. For a player like Upton the park effect thing has to be bigger than for a player like Hamilton. Hamilton knows this is his last big contract and that there’s a good chance his next one, if he doesn’t retire in five years, will be small. He will be old and probably injured, so park factors aren’t going to be a big deal to him. Upton, on the other hand, knows that his next three years could land him a $160m contract or an $60m one, depending on how those three years go. Upton knows that story of the last hitter to debut at 19, put MVP numbers in his early twenties, and then play his prime in Seattle.

    Also, I have to admit, I’m not sure why there isn’t a #4: players care about being individually successful and recognized by the media for their personal achievements. People in general like to be praised, approved of, and even glorified. It’s hard to imagine ballplayers as an exception to that rule.

  23. eman on February 1st, 2013 1:38 pm

    This all seems true, but I believe that the hesitance to play in Seattle definitely played a role in him not signing. While the M’s offer was not necessarily better than the Angels as you have pointed out, I do believe that there was a period where the M’s had given Hamilton an offer and it was the highest offer on the table, and there had been no indication so far that the Angels were even interested. The Angels joined the fray very late and then offered the highest bid.

    Had Hamilton not been hesitant to play in Seattle, there might not have been a chance for the Angels to swoop in, as he would have accepted the M’s contract, given that it was the highest contract he had been offered with no real indication that anyone else was interested in bidding higher.

    Of course, I might have the timings mixed up a little bit, but while there isn’t any evidence that Hamilton rejected a higher offer from the M’s because he didn’t want to play in Seattle, there is some indication that a hesitancy to join the M’s resulted in him signing elsewhere.

  24. _Hutch_ on February 1st, 2013 1:39 pm

    I know Z and the front office are good at getting value from the draft (at least by expert consensus, if not by on-the-field statistical proof, yet), but it seems asinine to me that you’d pass on bringing in a perennial 3-4 WAR player who fills a hole you need on a reasonable contract because of the loss of a draft pick that has maybe a 20 percent chance of becoming a 3-4 WAR player years down the line. I’m familiar with the “we’re not one or two players away/don’t mortgage the future/etc.” argument, but I think Swisher was too good of a fit to pass on in hopes that you strike the jackpot in the future.

  25. goalieump413 on February 1st, 2013 1:57 pm

    @ Dave… Exactly. Funny thing is, when the Kingdome still existed, I bet an Upton, Swisher, or Hamilton would consider it!

  26. kinickers77 on February 1st, 2013 1:59 pm

    Dave, I’m a regular reader, fan of your work, but I’m not totally on board with you on this one.

    You spend most of the post talking about money and then sneak in a little disclaimer in the notes section that it’s not all about money. I’m glad you got those other factors in there (chances of winning, geography) but I think other factors, intangibles like these, are a bigger deal than you’ve made them out to be.

    People are complicated beings and a ton of different factors come into play when we make career decisions – money, love of the job, location, amenities, co-workers, bosses, faith, family, friends, proud of who you work for, the chance to move up, other opportunities, weather… The list could go on and on.

    The fact is we aren’t privy to all the reasons a baseball player makes the career decisions he does, and when the media asks him, all we typically get is a rehearsed answer like, “I just love the organization here and what I think I can bring to help this team win… Blah blah blah.” The only thing typically made public is the contract, so we assume that’s the primary reason. Hamilton’s offer from the Angels may have been better than the Ms but not by a lot. Who knows, maybe Hamilton’s wife wanted to live by the beach and that was the deciding factor for them. From what I heard in his interviews, Hamilton said they prayed about it and felt God led them to Anaheim. Sounds to me that there’s a lot more involved than just Anaheim giving them the best offer.

    My point is that you say you want “evidence” that players don’t want to come to Seattle and I’m saying that any “evidence” we, the public, ever get (contract details, a PR announcement, hearsays from “sources”) are always only a piece of the story. The fact is, we just don’t know why a FA decides what he decides and every one of them is different.

    What I do know from my experience (and I meet a lot of people not from the NW) is that when I tell them I’m from Seattle, the most common response is that they love visiting it, but could never live there, too much rain. Perception is a significant factor and FAs probably perceive Seattle to be rainy, far away from the part of the country that gets the most baseball buzz, and they know the team sucks (at least right now). But we don’t typically get the inside track on what they think about stuff like this. The amount disclosed about Upton’s feelings and desires in this instance was the exception, not the norm. Common sense tells me Seattle has the odds stacked against them but with every FA, there’s no real way to truly know.

  27. frazfan on February 1st, 2013 2:13 pm

    The real question in the Ibanez / Hafner debate is whether one believes in “character.” I’m not saying Hafner doesn’t have any, but Ibanez has this intangible in spades. He was brought in for the youngsters, though I think it was a very questionable move.
    Another questionable move is of course Morse. And this rests on an unknown rather than an intangible: Will Morse be able to show the youngsters how to hit over a fence on a regular basis, thus demonstrating to other MLB sluggers Seattle is not just the marine-air park which gives balls (and fans)that sinking feeling, but a new, improved, smack-’em-over-the-left-field-fence sort of park.
    I love the pitching and up-the-middle infield prospects Jack and his team have chosen, and quantification in baseball can still come down to the best guess, but the club is investing an awful lot in unknowns and intangibles. It does not bode well.

  28. make_dave_proud on February 1st, 2013 2:52 pm

    What Dave’s suggesting here really boils down to one thing: the Mariners are being cheap.

    There’s an expanded wildcard, and other teams are making bets. We have money flowing into the game from new TV deals, and the Mariners are going to benefit from that in the very near future. And yet, the team tries to *effectively* low-ball Hamilton. Sure, they called it a better offer, but as Dave points out — it’s pretty easy to see the offer wasn’t better than the one from the Angels.

    The Mariners are following a strategy of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. 2nd-tier players at best, mostly rehab projects, and one-year contracts. It’s risk aversion at the one thing the front office seems least-suited to do well: assess and build major league talent.

  29. MrZDevotee on February 1st, 2013 3:16 pm

    Sorry, Make Dave Proud… You can’t be “cheap” AND put $150 million dollars on the table.

    Cheap and $150 million are far apart from one another. If Hamilton had accepted our 4 years guaranteed, he would have become only the 4th player to sign for $25/million per year or more in the history of MLB.

    That’s not cheap.

    Was it overly aggressive? No. Was it enough? No, obviously. But…

    $150,000,000.00 is sort of the opposite of cheap.

    And the idea (some people toss around) that we would risk the time and energy to fake an offer like that, somehow knowing he wouldn’t take it, as some sort of bread & circus act for the fans… That’s the silliest notion of all.

    We all wanted the best free agents to choose to come play for the Mariners. The fact that the Mariners didn’t offer whatever it would take to make that happen does NOT equal the fact that they were cheap.


  30. _Hutch_ on February 1st, 2013 3:35 pm

    They didn’t lowball Hamilton, they made a fairly reasonable bid for his services that safeguarded themselves from his almost inevitable decline (the start of which we saw in 2012) and then let a drunken sailor GM be the one to blow it out of the water with silly money.

  31. Adam S on February 1st, 2013 3:42 pm

    [Team chance of winning] and [geography] are often tiebreakers when the money is close, as it should be.
    Another factor may be that “close” is very different when you’re talking about star contracts. The guy looking at 2/6M vs 2/7M is giving up a million dollars and given a short window to cash in on his skills that $1M may make a difference in retirement.

    But with Hamilton it’s almost play money. If he signs for 4/95 instead of 4/100, that isn’t going to matter. The extra 3M (after taxes) means he can’t buy a home for each of his first cousins, just his immediately family. Giving up 5M for a significantly better chance to make the playoffs seems like a no-brainer. We see plenty of guys give a “home town” discount; this is a “post season” discount.

  32. PackBob on February 1st, 2013 4:40 pm

    Well, Beltre signed here, at what many thought was an overpay at the time. Overpay and they will come.

    Beltre’s resurgence after leaving Safeco helps fan the Safeco fire. But I would suggest that it was not only Safeco but Beltre’s many injuries while here that contributed to his Safeco batting line. He played hurt, seemingly a lot.

    Dave’s argument is pretty simple and to the point. Hamilton is not a good example that players balk at playing at Safeco or in Seattle. And who knows what was behind Upton’s decision. It may be he didn’t want to play for Sergeant Wedge. And Dave makes the good point that he may have thought there was a good chance of playing with his brother in Atlanta.

    Maybe players don’t want to play in Seattle, but neither Hamilton or Upton are even close to showing that to be the case.

  33. MrZDevotee on February 1st, 2013 4:50 pm

    You left out that it’s also hard to downplay where Beltre’s resurgence(s) actually occured too. If you’re a dead pull RH power hitter, the Green Monster followed by Arlington’s ballpark are pretty much what you would hand pick as your first choices.

    Bang balls off (or over) the Green Monster for a year… Then sign a big contract in Texas.

    Everybody would do that if they could.

    It really doesn’t tell us much about Safeco.

  34. furlong on February 1st, 2013 5:27 pm

    I for one would not lose any sleep over not signing Travis Hafner his career has pretty been on hold for several years. And beside how many DH types does Seattle need anyway. Whats the scoop on Grady Sizemore is he done or not? If he could play he would be a great fit for the team. I still think the worst deal they made was in not signing Barry Bonds when his contract was up with the Giants. He would have got his 3000 hits here and the stands would have been overflowing.

  35. heyoka on February 1st, 2013 6:56 pm

    1. Length of contract
    2. Team’s chances of winning in the short term
    3. Geography
    4. Not wanting to play in Seattle

  36. stevemotivateir on February 1st, 2013 7:40 pm


    Nobody was calling for the M’s to sign Hafner after the trade for Morales or the signing of Ibanez. But he would have made a lot more sense before those moves.

    Sizemore came out and said he wouldn’t even talk with teams until he’s certain he’s recovered from the surgery.

  37. Seattleken on February 1st, 2013 8:20 pm

    It takes two to tango and to my knowledge the Mariners did not make an offer to Hafner or Swisher.

    While you might think Jack tried and failed to get Swisher or Hafner, I do not think he wanted them. The team in the FO is focused on scouting not statistical results. This off season is much clearer when you forget about advanced statistics.

    They are looking at bat speed and hitting charts I believe they think high bat speed (over 104mph) is needed to hit homeruns in Safeco because the ball would go further.

    Hafner was only 102 MPH bat speed under 400ft, in there mind hes a bad bet to do anything next year in Safeco.

    Swisher 102 mph under 400 ft avg homer same thing as Hafner.

    but guys we all like

    Hamilton 106 mph
    Upton 107 mph
    Morales 105 mph

    and guy we think are crap
    Ibanez 104mph
    Bay 105 mph

    With regards to Hamilton Jack was out of his depth as the Angels clearly out played Texas and Seattle, waited until they knew the two offers exceeded them and gave the agent and Hamilton a quick deadline with no chance to see if Seattle or Texas would up their offer.

    My concern is that Jack thought he was getting Hamilton, when its clear his offer was at best market value and that didn’t factor in Safeco and a last place team premium. If Seattle wanted Hamilton I would expect they would have to pay 20% of the Angels offer to get him.

  38. gopilots70 on February 2nd, 2013 2:41 am

    I think Lance Berkman summmed it up well…

    ‘Earlier in the postseason, Berkman said he’d probably decide whether he’ll try to keep playing in a month or two, depending on interest from other teams but joked he didn’t want to keep playing “for $500,000 with Seattle.”‘

  39. Bip on February 2nd, 2013 7:04 am

    I think a better way of looking at this is to look at why players would WANT to play here as opposed to why they don’t want to. Taking into account the reasons:

    1. Length of Contract (plus Annual Average Value)
    2. Chance of Winning (short term)
    3. Geography

    To our knowledge Seattle hasn’t proved to lead in ANY of these areas. If I’m Hamilton and have an EQUAL contract I would pick Anaheim without a flinch. Play alongside Pujols, Trout & Co., live in southern California and have a chance to win the World Series this year and for the next few. I don’t need proof. Seattle hasn’t shown one reason WHY players would WANT to play here.

  40. GhostofMarinersPast on February 2nd, 2013 7:15 am

    Wait, what? Bonds? You’re joking, right?! Wow.

  41. henryv on February 2nd, 2013 8:25 am

    Hamilton 106 mph
    Upton 107 mph
    Morales 105 mph

    and guy we think are crap
    Ibanez 104mph
    Bay 105 mph

    How are these numbers normalized?

    For instance, a player could have a bad approach, tend to swing over/under the ball (GB/FB ratio) or even use a lighter weight bat. Conservation of momentum says that the lighter bat you use, you might be able to swing faster, but that won’t mean the ball will go faster or further.

  42. henryv on February 2nd, 2013 8:26 am

    Actually, that leads me to an interesting thought. Perhaps a calculation of instantaneous momentum of a player’s bat at full swing would be interesting.

    Mune’s number would be simply awesome.

  43. thedude1987 on February 2nd, 2013 9:49 am

    As far as i know they should be clocking bat speed in high school. I dont know how important it is to teams but its definitely on their check box list.

  44. henryv on February 2nd, 2013 10:02 am

    Oh, and I forgot to say that Josh Hamilton to the Angels for 5 years and $125 is an absolute no-brainer for Hamilton, and probably worth the extra money to the Angels they’re going to be paying him when he’s injured in the last 2 or so years of that contract. The Angels are in an all-out push to compete with the Dodgers and get into their closing window, as they have more aging stars than a Comedy Central roast.

  45. smb on February 2nd, 2013 10:23 am

    I have a feeling the extra plane travel is more than just a tiebreaker for some guys…look at the mileage. It’s egregious. I wouldn’t want anything to do with it, either.

  46. SonOfZavaras on February 2nd, 2013 1:26 pm

    I have a feeling the extra plane travel is more than just a tiebreaker for some guys…look at the mileage. It’s egregious. I wouldn’t want anything to do with it, either.

    Well, I’ve never understood the whole “we fly so many miles” thing as a deterrent. Granted, there’s more when you’re a Seattle Mariner.

    But I still think any ballplayer who whines about THAT is just entertaining their inner wuss (But I also say that as a guy who takes 10.5-hour flights all the time and doesn’t suffer from jet lag…so, maybe it’s just perspective).

  47. Jopa on February 2nd, 2013 2:05 pm

    I like what philosofool added above, “#4: players care about being individually successful and recognized by the media for their personal achievements.”

    And this isn’t just about the “Safeco effect”. It’s about who’s batting before and after you. It’s about the feeding off the energy that comes with winning that drives someone to the top of their game.

    Seattle can outbid for a player like Hamilton, but he’s still going to know that, “hey, you’re our one guy in the line up that makes top dollar”. “You’re the one guy that has to hit an HR every at bat”.

    The M’s need to stay the route of draft and develop much like Tampa Bay and the A’s. In a couple years and maybe with a new TV deal, they could be above .500 with some real talent and it will be easier to sign top FAs. That would also allow time for results from the new field dimensions to turn up.

  48. Seattleken on February 2nd, 2013 3:21 pm

    The speeds I quoted are the speed of the ball off the bat..

    Source ESPN homerun tracker

  49. make_dave_proud on February 2nd, 2013 4:04 pm


    Sorry, Make Dave Proud… You can’t be “cheap” AND put $150 million dollars on the table.

    Sure you can, it depends on what you’re buying. Certainly, the Mariners were not overly aggressive; they weren’t even partially aggressive. They essentially offered the same thing as the Angels from a financial basis (see Dave’s analysis above), so I’d say they offered market value.

    We all wanted the best free agents to choose to come play for the Mariners. The fact that the Mariners didn’t offer whatever it would take to make that happen does NOT equal the fact that they were cheap.

    Well, as Dave has shown in his analysis, the Mariners are not offering more money to players than other teams. Simple reasoning is that the Mariners are offering the going rate (or less). Label that what you want — I call it cheap.

  50. stevemotivateir on February 2nd, 2013 5:36 pm

    ^You think Hamilton had many offers north of 100 guaranteed, or any closer to the total amount Seattle was willing to pay? I wouldn’t bet on that.

    To suggest that the M’s offer wasn’t aggressive is just ridiculous. Do you know how many players were making 25+last year? Two. Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez.

    Just because LA was willing to overpay even more and take an even great risk, doesn’t mean the M’s are cheap. Not with Hamilton anyway.

  51. make_dave_proud on February 3rd, 2013 12:17 am

    You think Hamilton had many offers north of 100 guaranteed, or any closer to the total amount Seattle was willing to pay? I wouldn’t bet on that.

    Nope. I think the Angels were the only ones offering that. Only other team that was somewhat close on the money, I suspect, was the Rangers.

    Just because LA was willing to overpay even more and take an even great risk, doesn’t mean the M’s are cheap. Not with Hamilton anyway.

    The fact they came *this* close to Hamilton with a pseudo-matching offer means nothing. The aw-shucks-well-at-least-we-made-a-respectable-offer means nothing. They didn’t get their guy, plain and simple.

    And now we get to look forward to Ibanez and Bay and Morse and Morales and the other kick-ins. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I would rather have overpaid for Hamilton than taken this group.

  52. stevemotivateir on February 3rd, 2013 6:55 am

    ^It does mean something. It means they weren’t cheap in their effort to acquire him, which was the whole argument. They fell short, yes, but you can’t say they didn’t legitimately try.

    I’m not thrilled with the Ibanez or Bay signings, or the trades for Morse and Morales. But I’m glad they didn’t shell-out 125 (or more) guaranteed for Hamilton.

  53. make_dave_proud on February 3rd, 2013 9:37 am

    ^Oh I think they (the Ms) made a legitimate attempt, at least in their minds, to sign Hamilton. I just think they’re bringing a beer budget mindset to the store to buy champagne.

    In the end, the Ms didn’t want to risk 25MM, in the form of an extra year of guaranteed money, in exchange for five years of (projected) 15-20 WAR. The Mariners made that bet, and lost.

    Being “cheap” extends beyond Hamilton, though. In the case of Bourn and/or Swisher, the common knowledge has been that the Ms don’t want to lose the 12th pick in the draft. I find that reasoning absurd. A first-round draft pick vs. established major league players, both of whom are better than anyone else in the current outfield? The chances of that 12th pick ever being more productive than Swisher or Bourn are insignificant. Again, risk aversion rules the day.

  54. Seattleken on February 3rd, 2013 10:22 am

    Why are you glad they didn’t shell out the money Hamilton would have cost to get him to Seattle 7 years at 25 million a year is what he was asking for in December.

    Its not like the Mariners are going to spend in a way now that makes the team better more fun to watch.

    The money simply wont be spent and the difference will be the ownership lines their pockets and sell you on we tried. This off season gives us laughable players (Ibanez, Bay, Morse) who not only wont make us a .500 team, but will take away chances for a prospect to surprise us plus cost 10.5 million in salary.

    We never would have had Kyle Seager hit 20 homers and show potential if Figgins played replacement level last year. So spending 10.5 million (Ibanez, Morse and Bay) on three extremely low upside veterans that can’t field and will very likely be worse that 2012 is just sad.

    Ownership has cut payroll by 30 million in five years and management just wasted 10.5 on crap.

    Thats 40.5 million difference we could easily have gotten Hamilton and Jackson or Greinke and Swisher and kept Jaso, which is a lot better than Ibanez, Bay and Morse and 30 million in the ownership pockets.

    I agree with Make Dave proud ownership and management are cheap and/or incompetent and had little intention of paying what was needed to get Hamilton. Hamitlon asked for a 7 year deal at 25M per year in Nashville, M’s responded with…

    Mariners Prez Chuck Armstrong: We are NOT close to signing Josh Hamilton

    Jack Z on Hamilton “You have to be realistic about how you’re going to allocate your dollars.”

  55. Seattleken on February 3rd, 2013 10:53 am

    It was not unrealistic to have followed Dave’s off season plan and I love that team compared to what we are facing now.

    Swisher signed for a fraction of what Dave thought the market value would be 7/100

    Melky went for 8 million a year instead of 6. So thats not far off.

    Hafner went for 2M + incentives instead of 3M.

    I’d love Swisher/Melky/Hafner/Jaso/Vargas over Morse/Ibanez/Bay/Shoppach/Morales/ and maybe Joe Saunders.

  56. stevemotivateir on February 3rd, 2013 10:59 am

    You have to draw a line somewhere. Spending now may also influence future spending. Don’t think of it as money that will never be spent. You don’t know that. Hope that it’s allocated toward someone (or more than one) else in the not so distant future.

    We don’t know where the line with Swisher or Bourn was, or if there was even a formal offer. They may very well have low-balled both players over the draft pick, or simply because they assessed their value differently. Personally, watching Swisher sign with Cleveland for an affordable price, was far more frustrating than missing out on Hamilton. Watching Jaso traded for Morse was the icing on that BS cake.

    But the specific argument was over the Hamilton offer being cheap. It wasn’t. You can dance around that all you want, but there’s nothing cheap about an offer that could reach 150. Most teams probably would have assumed that an offer like that would get the job done.

    Just out of curiosity though, what do you two think wouldn’t have been cheap? Keep in mind the offer would have to be more than 5/125. Would you be willing to go 6/150 guaranteed? More? Keep in mind his age, his injury history, and the other needs of the team in the near future, such as re-signing or extending some of the younger guys.

  57. Seattleken on February 3rd, 2013 11:24 am


    My concern is that ownership and management who are normally tight lipped made a big PR thing about their offer. At the time when you factor in chance to win and ballpark the Mariner offer wasn’t close to interesting Hamilton and Jack Z knew that when he made the offer or is incompetent at dealing with agents. Either option sucks as a Mariner fan.

    Hamilton even said that the offer from Seattle wasn’t viewed seriously!

    - the offer just wasn’t viewed as seriously by Hamilton as the Mariners say they thought it should have been. It appears, from his statements, there’s a difference of opinion between what the Mariners viewed as a serious offer and what the player they were targetting did.”

  58. Seattleken on February 3rd, 2013 11:57 am

    I would have rather have had in the following order

    Swisher and Edwin Jackson for 6/150.

    Grienke 6/150M

    Hamilton at 6/150M (but I think 7/175 would be what was needed to beat the Angel offer of 5/125)

    Then the crap they used the money for Ibanez/Bay/Shoppach plus money in the owners pocket. Best hope now is that they get two of Saunders, Lohse and Bourn all three of which I don’t see anything more than replacement level by 2015.

    The poor strategy in the free agent market was the reason why they did the Jaso/Morse deal.

    We could have had

    2B Ackley
    RF Swisher
    1B Morales
    DH Montero
    LF Sanders
    3B Seager
    CF Franklin G
    C Jaso/Shoppach (Platoon)
    SS Ryan

    With Wells, Smoak, Shoppach and Andino on the bench

    Felix, Jackson, Iwak, Ramirez, Hultzen/Blevin

    That looks like a .500 team with a chance to be a contender in 2014.

    instead we have

    a rotation of
    Felix, Iwak, Blevin, Ramirez, Hultzen/Noesi

    2B Ackley
    LF Sanders
    1B Morales
    RF Morse
    C Montero
    DH Ibanez/Bay (Platoon)
    3B Seager
    CF Franklin G
    SS Ryan

    Smoak, Bay, Shoppach, Andino on the bench.

    That’s a 70 win team, with little hope of being more than .500 in 2014 and 2015.

  59. make_dave_proud on February 3rd, 2013 12:06 pm

    @ stevemotivateir:

    But the specific argument was over the Hamilton offer being cheap. It wasn’t.

    I guess it’s just a difference of opinion, then. In spite of the numbers, the Hamilton offer was nothing more than market value with a few strings attached. Why they (JZ and team) thought their offer was beyond that, I’m not sure.

    Just out of curiosity though, what do you two think wouldn’t have been cheap? Keep in mind the offer would have to be more than 5/125. Would you be willing to go 6/150 guaranteed? More? Keep in mind his age, his injury history, and the other needs of the team in the near future, such as re-signing or extending some of the younger guys.

    Great question. I’m guessing that 5/125 alone wouldn’t get it done, either. If he was interested in more years, I’d look at that but possibly with a more front-loaded contract. It would depend on what was important to Hamilton. If 5/125 was under consideration, I maybe would have considered something crazy like 4/120 and two vesting options to bring the total to 160 or so. This is assuming that Hamilton is my guy, and I want him.

    There is an assumption that, in making that offer, there is no risk if he declines. I don’t know if that’s entirely true. In Hamilton’s radio interview in December, he said he didn’t think Seattle was a very serious suitor. Meanwhile, JZ is waving his hands and saying “hey, this was a real Cadillac of an offer.” In terms of dealing with top-end talent, the Mariners come out looking like the kid brother trying to play ball with the older boys.

    Left to me, I would have made either the offer that knocks his socks off, or not made it all.

  60. stevemotivateir on February 3rd, 2013 12:52 pm


    I would prefer Swisher and Jackson (McCarthy would have been more interesting, and likely cheaper) as well. I wouldn’t pay 150 for both, though. Shouldn’t be necessary to overpay to loure pitchers here. But 5/75 for Swisher? Absolutely. By the way, it’s ‘Beavan’, not “Blevin”;)

    But the offer to Hamilton wasn’t a bluff. The news of the offer came out after he signed with LA. Was that intentional? Sure. They’re trying to convince the fan base they are making an effort. But no GM is going to make an offer of that caliber if they weren’t really willing to pay that much, and run the risk of it being accepted.


    As noted earlier, the M’s offer would have put him in a tie to be the second highest player in baseball annually. Of course, the Angels offer did just that, but I think it does show that the M’s singled him out as the guy they wanted. They simply drew a line, and that was that.

  61. Hutch on February 3rd, 2013 1:11 pm

    I’m as frustrated as anyone by the FO’s inactivity with top-tier free agents this offseason, but it kind of blows my mind that anyone thinks giving Josh Hamilton six years was the right course of action.

    Passing on reasonably priced good players like Swisher, McCarthy, Melky, Marcum is the real travesty.

  62. Seattleken on February 3rd, 2013 1:11 pm

    I honestly believe Jack and the Mariners have a completely different basis for their decisions then statistics analysis us “geek” fans use. They use charts, bat speed, 60 yard times. “makeup” and scouting reports.

    Its clear we differ:
    Jack and the M’s would rather have Morse in RF and Shoppach at catcher, then Swisher in RF and Jaso at catcher. I believe they think Swisher would be a bust in Safeco while Morse with be just fine as his homerun chart is a better fit for Safeco. So not only do they get players they think will be better but will save money too.

    I do believe they would have honored their off to Hamilton and would have been happy to sign 4+2 with him. The issue is the same… either they did not know they weren’t close to a deal with Hamilton or they did know but made the offer for PR purposes.

  63. stevemotivateir on February 3rd, 2013 1:38 pm

    ^Contract offers usually go back and forth, much like an auction. It’s possible the Angels had a lower offer that the M’s topped, only to have the Angels offer even more after. We simply don’t know. But the M’s offer wasn’t made with PR being the priority. Not with that kind of money.

    Not making an offer, or enough, to Swisher doesn’t mean they see him as a bust. It simply means they didn’t value him the same. And again, if it was me, I would have been quite happy with a 1-2 punch of Swisher and Jaso. It’s worth noting Morse offers more power than Swisher, but oddly enough, he’ll go opposite field often.

  64. make_dave_proud on February 3rd, 2013 1:43 pm

    @Ken: I don’t think JZ and crew would have wasted their time with a PR-based offer. It was a bona fide offer, in their minds.

    In my uninformed opinion, I’m wagering that the two likely scenarios leading up to the M’s offer were:
    1) they knew where the other teams were coming in, and tried to wedge in there with the 4+2 thing, or
    2) they didn’t know where the market was and took a shot.

    I’m giving the team the benefit of the doubt and guessing that it was scenario #1. Scenario #2 is worse, because…well, isn’t that their business?

    As for the basis for their decisions, I’m dumbfounded. Huge offer to Hamilton gets rejected, trade to Upton gets bounced, and the biggest addition to the team is Morales while the pitching and defense take what appears to be a step backwards? I don’t get it.

    @Hutch: Fair enough on Hamilton. I’m with you on Swisher and Cabrera and Marcum and a host of others. It’s like we brought in the worst cars from a used car lot. This off-season showed some serious deficiencies in the FO’s ability to build a competitive team.

    @Steve: yeah, I get it. I just get the feeling what the Mariners believe is a reasonable line in the sand is significantly behind where other teams are drawing those lines.

  65. bfgboy on February 3rd, 2013 1:47 pm

    Additionally, what some folks are failing to take into account is that Arte Moreno would have paid whatever it took to get his man. Once he zeroes in on something he wants, he will go absurd to get it. Maybe you think Albert Pujols’ contract was reasonable, what about CJ Wilson? I have little doubt that he would have gone up to 30 mil/5 years if that was what it took. He is equal bits Dan Snyder and Mark Cuban, and our “ownership group” is no comparison.

    This isn’t about nobody wanting to come to Seattle, nor is it about Jack Z dropping the ball. What it is about…is time to forget about it and move on.

  66. Seattleken on February 3rd, 2013 2:20 pm

    So we fumbled the ball this off season we either punt the off season and hope ownership lets have the 25 million to spend next year (Ichiro/Figgins salary), or overpay for the crap that remains left. Neither option is good in my mind.

    Its time to hope at the end of the year the ownership fires all the baseball management and hires a new president and GM and allows the new team to have a 90-100 million dollar budget to convert this mess into a possible wild card team.

    I have no faith in Jack to evaluate major league talent, make trades or sign free agents, hes an awesome scout but an awful GM. The M’s need a GM who can evaluate major league value to decide which kids will work out, and which players to trade for and/or sign. The GM for 2013-2017 needs to convert the minor league depth into major league wins.

  67. make_dave_proud on February 3rd, 2013 2:45 pm

    I have no faith in Jack to evaluate major league talent, make trades or sign free agents, hes an awesome scout but an awful GM.

    I really want JZ to be successful, but he does appear to be overmatched at this job as of late.

  68. amnizu on February 4th, 2013 11:17 am

    >Additionally, what some folks are failing to take into account is that Arte Moreno would have paid whatever it took to get his man.

    Flawed logic, if this was the case then every other GM would know this and would drive up the price on Moreno. Everyone has a bottom valuation that they’re willing to go to and not beyond. In the case of Hamilton the Angel’s was just higher.

    >2) they didn’t know where the market was and took a shot.

    Seems very unlikely, seeing as with vesting options the M’s offer was higher in overall dollar value. The offer Dave lays is extremely close to market rate if you consider 5/125 is market. In this instance it just seems the Angles were the less risk adverse organization.

    In my opinion the M’s FO have a larger problem with risk aversion, not market or player evaluation. Its a stark difference from the successful years of the origination where they were willing to take risks on a skinny singles hitter from Japan that didn’t conform to the MLB standard and a juiced up second basemen who added 30lbs of muscle in the off season by “changing his diet and workout”

  69. MrZDevotee on February 4th, 2013 11:28 am

    I’m not sure who the imaginary GM is out there who would have “got it done” in Z’s place, by what, signing Greinke, Hamilton and the moon?

    That’s an incredible amount of speculation to hang a guy’s career failure on.

    And I just don’t buy the “we’re not any better” cries…

    We need to not look at things in a bubble (a bubble built around unrealistic expectations of who we were gonna sign this offseason). Look at who we are now, versus who our roster held on opening day last year.

    1) We’re better in LF. Morse IS better than Mike Carp. And Peguero. And Trayvon. And Thames. And Figgins… AND Wells (when you isolate Wells stats to his time in LF last season). And definitely an upgrade over the cumulation of that mess. Cumulatively you could even argue Morse out there everyday is better defensively than the overall mix of last season (which ISN’T defending Morse, it’s putting last season’s LF defense in perspective.

    Maybe Casper Wells is better, but what makes anyone think Wells would get the chance to play full time in LF? He wasn’t appreciably valuable there last year– he earned most of his value in CF in 2012.

    2) We’re better at catcher (WAIT!!! Let me put it in context)… Catcher was a huge question mark last year, with ‘reality’ glasses on, and the rusty wrench of Olivo was taking up lots of time in the rotation.

    I think Zunino, Shoppach and Montero combined are more inspiring than Jaso, Montero, Olivo (especially when taking into account the limited role Jaso was allowed— AND when taking into account Montero’s time behind the plate and how it affected his offense… In almost half of his AB’s last year he played catcher, and put up .310/.343/.498/.841… That’s easily the best overall numbers on the team last year, and OBP on par with Jaso’s career numbers.

    3) We’re better at DH/1B. In some combination that will come out of competition heading into the season, this is gonna be better. In the best case scenario, Justin Smoak retains his late season numbers and Morales plays mostly DH, with Montero playing DH sometimes and Morales playing 1B. Worst case scenario, we’ll have Morales at 1B, and some revolving mix of Ibanez/Morse/Bay/Montero at DH, which I’d still argue is better than our mess of Smoak and Montero last year (Montero’s DH numbers were an awful .226/.265/.309/.574… And we all know Smoak’s travails).

    4) We’re better in CF. If Guty simply makes it thru Spring Training in 1 piece (a big “if” granted) we’re better on opening day. We’re better with a healthy Guty in CF and Saunders in RF (or LF). We’re better at the plate with a healthy Guty (who pushes the need to play a Trayvon, Carp, Figgins or Peguero out of place).

    5) We’re better at SS. Andino is a huge upgrade over Kawasaki (as long as we don’t make it a dance contest) and there’s no reason not to believe that Ryan can’t hit over .200 again, while also arguing his defense is good enough that it still doesn’t matter, if the rest of the team does it’s job better.

    6) And there’s a good chance we’re better in RF than last season… Just Saunders in place of Ichiro offers some potentical Ichiro wasn’t offering us last season (sad to say). And it’s an easy assessment when we account for the ugliness in the outfield after Ichiro was traded.

    YES, pitching is a bit of a mess at the moment. But it was LAST year too– we had no idea what we were getting from Millwood and Iwakuma last season, if we’re honest. Or Beavan or Ramirez.

    There’s no reason to think we can’t put together a staff to rival last season’s on the mound, so unless everything goes wrong in that regards I’m not overly concerned (and assume we’ll be adding to this part of the roster in the next few weeks).

    So yeah, we had amazing dreams of building a contender with our monopoly money this offseason. But it’s just not true to say we won’t be better on opening day 2013 than we were on opening day 2012.

    It’s just not.

  70. MrZDevotee on February 4th, 2013 11:47 am

    And I left out 2nd base.

    7) We’re better at 2B… Unless you think 2012 was Dustin Ackley’s true talent level instead of 2011. And even then, we’re still better with Andino as the backup.

    So, that’s EVERY position except 3B, and we’re fine there ’cause Seager is Seager. (Which is pretty funny, because LAST season we thought 3B was the weakest position on the team. So just by perception alone, we’re better at 3B heading into 2013.

    So that’s EVERY position. Better in one regard or another. Except pitching, which again, we didn’t know was good heading into 2012, and a position this staff has shown the ability to rebuild fairly easily (even before we had the best prospects in all of baseball at THAT position).

    Hope springs eternal.

  71. Gormogon on February 4th, 2013 3:39 pm

    Indeed, Hope Springs Eternal. And, hopefully it extends past April 30 this year.

    Thanks for the breakdown MrZDevotee. That was quite optimistic.

    I think we’ll see some trading with the Dodgers for pitching. It will be interesting to see who they want back.

  72. TIFO on February 11th, 2013 3:03 pm

    Buster Olney disagrees with you on this one: “The bottom line is because of the offensive issues for free agents who have gone there, Adrian Beltre probably being the biggest example, they just can’t draw veterans to go there. I have been told this by agents time and again where they tell me, ‘yeah I will engage the M’s but essentially to create leverage for myself. My client’s not really interested in going there. That’s where the Mariners are right now in terms of trying to lure veteran free agent position players to play in their park today.”

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