The Mariners Got Very Lucky This Winter
Over the winter, the Mariners made a strong play to sign Josh Hamilton. According to Ryan Divish, they offered Hamilton a four year, $100 million guarantee with two options that could vest easily, each tacking another $25 million onto the deal. If both options vested, the total contract would have been worth $150 million over six years. The Angels ended up signing Hamilton for $125 million over five years, all of it guaranteed.
And a month in, that contract looks like an unmitigated disaster. As I note in that piece over on FanGraphs, Josh Hamilton has been a below average hitter for the last five months, spanning a total of 543 plate appearances. Over the last calendar year, he’s been the equal of Jason Kubel at the plate. In that last year, Hamilton has been a less valuable player than Michael Saunders.
There’s an old adage about how the best deals a GM makes are often the ones he doesn’t make. That was certainly true with Bill Bavasi, who got outbid for Barry Zito back when he threw $100 million at the soft-tossing lefty only to see him sign with the Giants. I know there were a lot of people who were upset that the Mariners missed out on Hamilton this winter, but everyone should be thanking their lucky stars that the Angels outbid them right now.
I don’t think Hamilton is going to keep hitting .200 all year, and he will eventually get hot and launch a bunch of home runs, but that contract already looks like a bad investment, and it’s just getting started. For all the talk about how the Mariners need to step up and spend money to prove that they’re trying to win, let’s be thankful that the front office has not followed the Angels lead down the path of overrated and overpaid declining old guys. The M’s roster has a lot of problems, but at least those problems are fixable.
What the Angels are going to do in a few years when they’re paying Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton a combined $60 million per year to be average players is going to be pretty interesting, especially given that they probably have the worst farm system in baseball right now. The Angels were supposed to be mortgaging their future for some present greatness, and then they’d use the revenues from all that winning to offset their future problems. That plan might work if you’re winning, but right now, the Angels are a mess and their 2013 season might result in the same kind of organizational reboot that I think the Mariners are headed for. Only their reboot is going to have to work around a few hundred million in bad contracts, and they have little help coming through the farm system.
So, next time you look at the Mariners roster and wish it was better, just remember, you could be an Angels fan…