Shawn Kelley Traded to Yankees for OF Abe Almonte

February 13, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 29 Comments 

The M’s sent right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley to New York in exchange for switch-hitting outfielder Abraham Almonte. The M’s DFA’d Kelley recently to add Kelly Shoppach, so the clock was ticking to get a deal done; if they hadn’t traded him by the end of the week, the M’s would have lost Kelley on waivers.

Abe Almonte will turn 24 this season and is a speedy OF who can switch hit. He was never a top prospect with the Yanks, in part because it’s taken him several years to rise to AA (he played in the Eastern League in 2012), because he missed nearly all of 2012 with a labrum problem, and in part because he has very little power. He doesn’t show much in the way of platoon splits, and posted a very good walk rate last year with Trenton. He’s seen by some as a very good defensive CF, especially given that he was originally signed as a 2B, but injuries and good-but-not-great production have kept him far away from top prospect lists. He’s been eligible in the Rule 5 draft for two years (I think) and hasn’t been picked, so this isn’t a steal or anything, but when you’re trying to trade a player you just DFA’d, you set your sights a bit lower.

Many (including me) had hoped the M’s may have tried to package Mike Carp and Kelley to get a slightly – *slightly* – better return, but it wasn’t to be. Still, I sincerely hope Abe Almonte’s healthy, that he’s able to build on a sneaky good year with Trenton (30 steals to 5 CS!), and that he becomes an effective lead-off man for Tacoma.

Felix’s Deal Done – Still 7 years, $175 million

February 12, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 19 Comments 

Dave mentioned that the deal was imminent in his post below, but just to confirm: the M’s and Felix have agreed on a seven year extension.* Buster Olney reports that there are ‘minor concessions‘ included that may protect the M’s in the event that Felix’s right elbow gives out – again, this would be similar to the language in CC Sabathia’s contract with the Yankees. The M’s will hold a press conference with Felix tomorrow at 2pm in Seattle.

In other, much less royal, news, the M’s announced their list of spring training non-roster invitees, though that list figures to grow once Jon Garland and Kameron Loe sign and suit up. The former apparently agreed to a minor league deal this weekend, and today we learned that Kameron Loe was in the M’s clubhouse in Peoria. Garland, the ex-White Sox and Dodgers righty, was a workhorse flyballer who outpitched his FIP (but not excessively so) until his shoulder gave out in 2011. Kameron Loe‘s a towering sinkerballer who failed as a starter for Texas but was occasionally solid out of the pen in Milwaukee.

[Edit- even more minor news]
The M’s have also officially DFA’d Mike Carp, who yields his 40-man spot to Joe Saunders. Again, it’s not a huge shock, as Dave called it in December, but it’s grimly funny that many projection systems have Carp out-hitting most of the line-up. I’ve got PECOTA open, and Carp posts a better offensive line than Ackley, Seager, Saunders and Ibanez. CAIRO was even more bullish about Carp. Of course, offense is only one part of the puzzle, and the M’s didn’t really have a spot for him to play. He and Shawn Kelley could fetch a prospect or two, but the clock is now ticking to get a deal done. Neither would make it through waivers.

* – Just to clarify, this is a seven year contract that replaces his existing one; instead of making $20 million in 2013, Felix will make $25 million. This means it’s not as back-loaded as some reports speculated last week.

A Hypothetical Alternative Off-Season

February 12, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 34 Comments 

I know pitchers and catchers report today. Starting tomorrow, we’ll talk about the future of the roster the team actually put together. For today, one final off-season what-could-have-been.

In December, the Mariners put their cards on the table, going after Josh Hamilton with an aggressive pursuit that resulted in a reported offer of $100 million guaranteed over four years, with two vesting options that could have pushed the total value of the deal to $150 million. They wanted to improve the offense, and focused primarily on doing that by adding one slugging corner outfielder. Because of that offer, we can be reasonably sure that the Mariners had the money in the budget to spend $25 million per year on offensive upgrades, and were willing to commit that money through 2016, with the chance of also spending that money in 2017 and 2018 as well.

That offer wasn’t good enough to land Hamilton, and we know what the organization went after for Plan B. But, now that the last of the interesting free agent outfielders has signed, I think it’s worth thinking about what might have been had the team pursued a different strategy with the same money.

The Indians signed Michael Bourn yesterday to a four year, $48 million contract. This comes in addition to the $56 million they gave Nick Swisher over the next four years. That’s $104 million guaranteed, but both deals contain a vesting option for a fifth year, and if the options vest, they could push the total commitment over five years to $130 million. In other words, the Indians signed Bourn and Swisher for almost the exact same contract the Mariners offered Hamilton, only without the extra sixth year vesting option.

We don’t know for certain that Bourn and Swisher would have chosen Seattle over Cleveland had the money been equal, but of course most of the negative things people say about playing in Seattle — losing team, cold weather, not a city athletes want to live in — are also true of Cleveland. I think it’s safe to assume that neither Bourn nor Swisher went into the market looking to play for the Indians, but settled on Cleveland’s offer because it was the best — and maybe only, depending on what you think of the Mets conditional bid for Bourn — deal on the table when they signed. Even if you assume that the Mariners would have had to outbid the Indians in order to secure their services, the differences likely would have been minor.

So for fun, let’s just say that the Mariners had signed Bourn for 4/52 and Swisher for 4/60 — both players get $1 million more in AAV than what they took from Cleveland — with both getting that fifth year vesting option. At $112 million guaranteed, it’s slightly higher than what they offered Hamilton, but then again, they didn’t get Hamilton, so perhaps this is more in line with what an offer that is likely to be accepted would have cost. Since they offered Hamilton 4/100 with two vesting options, I think it’s fair to say that they could have figured out how to make 4/112 with one vesting option work.

Let’s just say for fun that the Mariners had pursued that plan instead. Spending $28 million per year — though the contracts likely would have been slightly backloaded, as is the norm — on those two would have precluded them from making several of the other moves they did make, but it wouldn’t have been too difficult to fit them in even at the current payroll level. Don’t take on Morse’s $6.75 million salary, instead keeping Jaso at $1.8 million. You can still swap Vargas for Morales and sign Joe Saunders as his replacement, since that series of moves only added a few million to the payroll, which can be offset by not signing Raul Ibanez. To pinch pennies, they could have skipped out on the $500,000 they guaranteed Jason Bay for a chance to come to spring training, and if they needed a few million in flexibility, they could have asked Felix to reduce his 2013 salary as part of the long term extension they’re going to announce any minute.

What would that roster have looked like?

Catchers: John Jaso, Jesus Montero, Kelly Shoppach
Infielders: Kendrys Morales, Dustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan, Kyle Seager, Robert Andino, Reserve 3B
Outfielders: Michael Bourn, Michael Saunders, Nick Swisher, Franklin Gutierrez

Starting Pitching: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, Erasmo Ramirez, Grab Bag
Bullpen: Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush, Carter Capps, Oliver Perez, Stephen Pryor, Josh Kinney, Lucas Luetge

Against RHPs:

1. Bourn, CF
2. Ackley, 2B
3. Swisher, RF
4. Morales, 1B
5. Seager, 3B
6. Montero, C
7. Jaso, DH
8. Saunders, LF
9. Ryan, SS

Against LHPs:

1. Bourn, CF
2. Gutierrez, RF
3. Swisher, 1B
4. Montero, DH
5. Seager, 3B
6. Shoppach, C
7. Saunders, LF
8. Ackley, 2B
9. Ryan, SS

In this scenario, John Jaso never even has to catch a game, since his defense is apparently so deplorable to Eric Wedge that he couldn’t stand the sight of Jaso crouching behind the plate ever again. You simply keep him as a cheap platoon DH and emergency catcher, so that Montero can DH against RHPs and allow Morales to take days off against left-handers. It’s essentially the same catching alignment as the team is going forward with now, so that gets rid of one talking point that’s not worth discussing. Guti ends up as an expensive fourth outfielder, but if he’s healthy and playing well, they could always work him in against right-handers as they rotate off-days for Saunders, Bourn, Swisher, Morales, and Jaso. Due to the positional flexibility, Gutierrez could actually replace any of them in the line-up on any given day. There would be enough playing time to go around for everyone except Casper Wells — who gets squeezed out and would have had to be traded for a better #5 starter than the team currently has — and Justin Smoak, who can hang out in Triple-A while establishing that September was or was not a fluke.

Yes, it would have required a little more flexibility than “full time player” or “part time player”, but this is basically the strategy the Indians are going to deploy this year, so it’s not an absurd construct that MLB teams can’t implement. And, with Bourn and Swisher under contract through 2016, the M’s would have actually set themselves up to have solid role players in place even beyond this season, and still had the flexibility to let Jaso/Montero/Morales/Smoak fight over the 1B/DH jobs going forward. The outfield defense would have been among the best in baseball, the team would have had a comparable offense to the one that will actually take the field this year, and they would enter the future with more pieces in place to make a competitive run as the kids grow.

Bourn and Swisher might not have been the “power” bats that the team coveted, but it’s hard to argue that the team wouldn’t have been better off with both of them rather than simply having one Josh Hamilton. That they were willing to extend something in the range of 4/100 for Hamilton but not for the Bourn/Swisher pair is regrettable, as the Mariners certainly had options available to make substantial upgrades to their team.

But, what’s done is done. The Indians were the beneficiaries of the Swisher and Bourn markets, and they’ll be the ones using positional flexibility and platoons to maximize the value of a roster that still has some holes. The Mariners are betting on dingers and veteran presence instead. Let’s hope it works.

Felix’s Elbow Holding Up Extension

February 10, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 30 Comments 

File this under “maybe nothing, but also maybe ugh”:

As the Seattle Mariners have been in discussions with Felix Hernandez about a record-setting extension, concern has developed over the condition of his pitching elbow, a source says.

The team and its franchise player had talked about a framework of a deal that would pay $175 million over the next seven seasons.

But as of Sunday afternoon, sources say, the Mariners and Hernandez are not close to finishing an extension, because there are issues that the two sides are sorting through.

The elbow issue is perceived by at least one of the parties in the deal as being a possible impediment to the completion of the new contract.

“It’s an issue,” said one source.

Throwing a baseball is unnatural. Pretty much anyone who does it for a living is going to mess up their arm at some point. If you ran thorough testing of every established Major League pitcher, you’d probably find something wrong with most of them. So, don’t freak out too much over this; Buster didn’t suggest that they found any kind of ligament damage, nor was the issue large enough that the Mariners have completely walked away from the table.

Most often, the outcome in situations like this is that the team inserts some language in the contract that gives them some protection from the specific issue they found. So, for instance, the Mariners could give themselves an opt-out of the deal if Felix spends X number of days on the DL due to an elbow injury. Olney references CC Sabathia’s contract with the Yankees, and that’s a good example of how these kinds of things generally get worked out.

For instance, Sabathia’s contract is only guaranteed through 2016, but it includes a vesting option for 2017 that becomes guaranteed if the following criteria is met:

A. Sabathia does not finish the 2016 season on the DL with a left shoulder injury
B. Does not spend more than 45 days on the DL in 2016 with a left shoulder injury
C. Does not make more than six relief appearances in 2016 due to a lefty shoulder injury

If Sabathia’s shoulder doesn’t hurt in 2016, then he gets $25 million guaranteed in 2017. If it does, and it forces any of those clauses to kick in, then he gets a $5 million buyout and becomes a free agent. So, basically, the Yankees protected $20 million in the last year of the deal based on their concern about his shoulder.

So far, there’s no reason to think that whatever they found in Felix’s elbow is going to tank the deal, nor does it mean that he’s a ticking time bomb who the team should be trying to trade as quickly as possible. It just means he’s a pitcher with a lot of innings under his belt, and those innings have caused some physical breakdown in his arm. I’d have been surprised if it didn’t, at this point.

This might end up even being a positive for the Mariners, if they can get some extra protection from an elbow injury, which was always a concern in the first place anyway. Bottom line – don’t freak out. The contract is still more likely to get signed than not. It will just take some extra contract negotiation to make sure that everyone is sufficiently happy with their risks.

M’s Reportedly Sign Joe Saunders

February 7, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 58 Comments 

I hesitate to post something so banal after the Felix extension stuff, but we’re going to have to do it sometime. Ken Rosenthal tweets that the M’s have agreed to a one-year deal with free-agent lefty Joe Saunders. If confirmed, that would be somewhat remarkable – I thought there wasn’t any way Saunders would sign with someone for less than two years, and thought three years was a possibility. This move may solidify the back end of the M’s rotation, and it gives them a left-handed starter. While we don’t yet know how much the Safeco reconfiguration will affect home runs, it’s still a decent match of player to park. That said, Saunders has had a long-standing problem with right-handed batters, as Dave talked about over at Fangraphs. He was solid in a pitcher’s park in Anaheim, so here’s hoping Seattle’s marine layer knocks down a few fly balls and allows Saunders to post a 1-2 WAR season in 2013.

In another move, the M’s officially added Kelly Shoppach to the 40-man, and made room by DFA’ing reliever Shawn Kelley. This was a surprise, given that there are players on the 40-man who don’t figure to strike out 9/9IP like Kelley did last year, but ultimately, this isn’t a major surprise. The M’s clearly thought Kelley underperformed his peripherals, as I wrote here (when they demoted him to AAA). Essentially, he’s posted solid ERAs/FIPs, but has had home run problems. Somewhat like Steve Delabar, Kelley’s struggled with long-balls to right-handed hitters – the kind of opponent a fastball/slider reliever like Kelley should annihilate. Instead, RHBs have a career .330 wOBA (and a .480 slg) against him thanks to 16 HRs in 316 batters faced. While HRs are a “true” outcome, HR/FB or HR/Contact is much more variable than something like strikeout rate, so some may see this as an overreaction on the M’s part. But the M’s weren’t going to give him high-leverage innings anymore (not with Carter Capps, Tom Wilhelmsen and even Josh Kinney around), so we’ll see what they can get in trade. I liked Shawn Kelley’s personality and his determination to make it back to the majors after elbow surgery (twice). I think he’ll land with another club and be fairly effective, but he was superfluous on the 2013 M’s.

[EDIT: Joe Saunders 1-year deal is apparently worth $6.5 million, with another $1 million in performance-related bonuses. That’s…that’s pretty cheap, really, and I’m surprised Saunders didn’t get something like 2/$10 somewhere. Maybe the incentives are really easy to attain, but 1/$7.5 is still pretty low. Dave guessed it’d be 1/$8, so he was very, very close, but a base salary of $6.5m is a screaming deal in this market, and way below what I would’ve expected.)

M’s Reportedly Re-Sign Felix for 7/175

February 7, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 62 Comments 

The Mariners have been clear that they want to re-sign Felix Hernandez. Felix has been clear that he wants to re-sign. This was the winter where we all expected a new contract to get done. Well, according to Bob Nightengale, the two sides have agreed to a new deal that totals $175 million over the next seven years. Felix was already under contract for $40 million over the next two seasons at $40 million, so this is really an extension of 5/135, assuming Nightengale has the numbers right and part of the money isn’t a vesting option or something.

There’s no way around it – this is a huge contract, and for any pitcher, a contract this large could easily turn out to be a disaster. 5/135 means that the Mariners are going to start paying Felix $25 million per year starting this season, so he’s either going to take up nearly 30% of the payroll or the payroll is going to have to go way up. Tying up a huge chunk of a team’s total budget in any pitcher has a chance to go south, even one as special as Felix.

That said, this is a gamble the team had to make. There’s not much evidence that teams can attract fans with big splashy free agent signings, but there’s no question that getting rid of franchise players that the fan base is attached to can have an extremely negative effect on a fan base. The Mariners have been hemorrhaging fans for years, and they have a serious credibility problem in the area, as people are tired of losing teams and skeptical of the ownership’s motivations. Trading Felix would have been a knife in the heart of what’s left of the fan base in Seattle, and it would have taken a long time to get those fans back, even if the team started winning again.

The Mariners best hope for relevance is to win with Felix, and the only way to do that is to keep him around for the long term. If they can put a quality roster around the city’s beloved son, they have a chance to get people back to Safeco, get the revenues flowing again, and get the franchise back on track. Had they let Felix go, they very well could have just been the new Cleveland Indians, who haven’t drawn since the mid-90s even when they won because the fan base left after the team went into perpetual rebuilding.

Now, at least, the Mariners have given the city of Seattle a reason to believe that they’re actually trying to win, rather than simply seeking profit maximization. That, in and of itself, won’t get the fans back to the ballpark, but putting a winning team around Felix has much higher revenue potentials than trying to win with whatever young players they could have traded him for.

The Mariners needed to keep Felix. Keeping Felix has turned out to be very expensive. That said, a bet on Felix’s health and future is a better bet than hoping you can convince an exasperated and alienated fan base to come root for players that they associate with organizational greed and an unwillingness to spend.

The point of developing young, cost-controlled players is to free up a majority of the budget to retain your best players. Getting rid of Felix to get more young, cost controlled players wouldn’t have pushed the team closer to winning. They needed Felix and young, cost controlled players. Now they have Felix, and they have him for a long time.

Correction – now we have Felix, and we have him for a long time.

Jesus Montero Linked to BioGenesis

February 6, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 31 Comments 

The New York Daily News reported this morning that inspection of the BioGenesis files turns up some mentions of Jesus Montero. The report doesn’t say in what way Montero was connected, and it’s worth noting that the original reporters on this story – the Miami New Times – declined to name Montero in their report because they didn’t feel they had enough evidence to conclusively tie him to the PED supply records, as they did with the six players that they did name.

But, let’s be realistic – a player’s name being linked to BioGenesis is not a good thing. It’s not a smoking gun, and you shouldn’t automatically brand Montero a steroid user, but it’s not nothing either.

The Mariners put out a generic statement, saying that they were aware of the report and the investigation was in MLB’s hands, which is basically the truth. The Joint Drug Agreement gives the teams no powers to enforce any kinds of penalties on their own, so the Mariners couldn’t do anything about this even if they wanted to. They’ll just have to wait and see what the results of the investigation bring about. Odds are pretty good that Montero will face additional testing under the “reasonable cause” section of the JDA, but until he actually fails a drug test, it’s going to be hard for MLB to suspend him, or any of the other players linked to BioGenesis, based on the rules agreed to in the JDA.

This probably isn’t the last we’ve heard about this story, either. The full list of names linked to BioGenesis hasn’t yet been released, and it’s hard to miss the repetitive connections between clients of the ACES agency — who represent Montero — and those who live and train in the Miami area. The Mariners have other players who are represented by ACES and other players who live and train in the Miami area. I’m not going to be too shocked if Montero is joined by a fellow teammate or two in being linked to BioGenesis in the coming weeks. We don’t know enough to say anything definitively about Montero or anyone else, but this is a story that probably isn’t going to go away any time soon.

An Intra-Divisional Trade; Debates on Wells and WAR Continue

February 5, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 16 Comments 

It’s early February, and the M’s equipment truck has headed south towards Peoria. Pitchers and catchers report in about a week, and there’s plenty to discuss now that football’s finished.

1: Today the Astros and A’s completed a five-player trade, with Oakland receiving SS/DL Jed Lowrie and RP Fernando Rodriguez in exchange for 1B/DH Chris Carter, RHP Brad Peacock and C Max Stassi.

Lowrie gives the A’s a legitimate bat at any infield position, and since he’s a switch-hitter, he provides a great deal of flexibility for Oakland. While he’s been much better from the right side in his career, he credits Astros hitting coach Mike Barnett with a mechanical tweak that helped him post an .820 OPS from the left side in 2012. His career’s been hampered more by injury than platoon splits, however; he’s yet to crack 100 games played in his five year career. Still, regular rest could potentially keep his bat in the line-up, either as a partner with A’s starting SS Hiroyuki Nakajima or at 3B with Josh Donaldson. The pick-up gives the A’s another bat to pair with their pitching depth, and another solid pick-up for a team that won the division despite its SS and 3Bs combining to post a .275 OBP in 2012 (Brendan Ryan’s 2012 OBP was .277).

For their part, the Astros strengthened their 1B/DH position. The Astros haven’t had a DH of course, so picking up a slow slugger makes some more sense for them than most other clubs. Their depth chart currently lists Carlos Pena and Brett Wallace as the incumbent DH/1B, both of whom are lefties, and both of whom come with quite a few question marks. Pena posted a sub-.700 OPS last year, and Brett Wallace has bounced between AAA and MLB for three seasons. Houston gets a cost-controlled player who may have had a breakout season in 2012, and who hasn’t shown much in the way of platoon splits in either MLB or MiLB. Brad Peacock gives some much-needed depth to Houston’s rotation, and could allow the club to keep top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart in the minors. To be fair, Peacock was awful last year in the Pacific Coast League, but he had a cup of coffee with Washington in 2011 and could eat some innings in 2013 free from the pressures of a pennant race. Max Stassi’s a great catch-and-throw catcher who’s had his own problems with injuries. Shoulder tendinitis has plagued him since high school, and kept him out for over a year between 2011-12.

The A’s are strengthening a team that made an improbable run last season, and the Astros are smartly stashing prospects and depth for two or three years down the line. From an M’s point of view, the trade highlights two things, neither of which is terribly comforting. First, the M’s can’t simply assume the A’s are a fluke who lucked their way into the postseason. The team used platoons and cast-offs to mitigate some black holes in their line-up, but they’ve taken steps to improve in the offseason, first by picking up Japanese SS Nakajima and now with Lowrie. Their pitching can regress (and it probably will), but their offense could offset the loss a bit. Second, the Astros are lovably terrible right now, but they won’t be for long. This doesn’t appear to be a Royals/Pirates situation. Like the M’s, they’ve quietly restocked the farm (though they’re far behind the M’s in that department), and they’ve made enough minor moves that suggest they won’t be perennial 100-loss threats for long.

2: Dave’s great article on WAR over at Fangraphs is a great read, and it’s helped clarify my own thinking on the topic. Then, a great twitter conversation between Dave Studenmund and Colin Wyers helped me understand where so much of the heat in this (ultimately silly) argument comes from. Dave (er, Cameron) is clearly right that WAR is transparent about its intentions – it’s attempting to measure a player’s value, as comprehensively as possible. It’s answering a question that’s among the most-asked in baseball (“how good is this guy?”), and essentially no other statistic does a really good job of this. We can talk about offensive stats which shed considerable light on how good a hitter is. But we all understand, maybe subconsciously, that this isn’t the complete picture.

But there’s a problem: reducing value to a single number obscures *how* a player produced that value. We’re so focused on offensive statistics for position players that Brendan Ryan being an above-average player often feels wrong. Sure, sure, you know he can pick it, and that there’s tangible value in that, but…he put up SLG and OBP numbers under .300. WAR is counting that, of course, but I think people aren’t used to seeing defense portrayed on the same scale as batting, and many who ARE dispute the value of the defensive inputs to WAR. For what it’s worth, I’m somewhat sympathetic to the argument, as so many baseball discussions growing up revolved around specific skills – Edgar’s eye, Jim Rice’s power, Nolan Ryan’s strikeouts, Jack Morris’ dependability, etc. – and we wound up conflating those skills with value. People didn’t engage in a discussion about Rice’s overall value because they felt that WAR short-changed how terrifying that power was in the offensive environment of the 80s. It’s harder to talk about a transcendent skill when you’re lumping everything together. To be clear, I think the view that skills trump value is incorrect, but I understand it, and I’m guessing it’s part of what underlies this ongoing battle over WAR.

Further, there’s no doubt that some people use WAR without really understanding what they’re using or why one measure differs from another. To those used to focusing solely on unambiguous measures like counting stats (“player Y hit 500 home runs”) or batting average, the fact that there can be such dramatically different interpretations/frameworks looks like evidence of serious flaws. It’s not, and the fact that you can use a different defensive stat or replacement level is great, but I think sometimes people argue that WAR is an argument-ender without being able to explain how and what it’s doing. To some, that may make it look like stat-savvy fans aren’t thinking critically. I tend to think this is overblown a bit, and that WAR was used pretty effectively in the huge Trout vs. Cabrera MVP debate, but I definitely concede that there’s often a lot of heat and not enough light from both sides of the traditional/sabermetric fight.
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Josh Hamilton and Not Wanting to Play in Seattle

February 1, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 72 Comments 

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.

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