Pick a Plan

Dave · December 5, 2013 at 11:45 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I noted tonight on Twitter that if the Mariners have $240 million (or $225 million, whatever the offer ends up being) for Robinson Cano, that there are better ways to spend it than throwing it all at one player on the wrong side of 30. That brought about a natural question: what else could the Mariners actually do, since “you have to overpay” to get someone to sign in Seattle? To be honest, a bunch of the guys I would have liked to see the Mariners pursue have already been acquired by other teams (at more than reasonable prices, I will note), so I can’t suggest the team retroactively go trade crap for Dexter Fowler or sign Dan Haren or Scott Kazmir to a low-risk, short-term contract. But even with many of the better bargains already off the board, I still think there are viable plans that could help the team just as much as the rumored go-for-broke plan without doing the same kind of long term damage to the franchise.

For instance, let’s just say that the Mariners current plan involves something like signing Robinson Cano (9/$225M), trading Taijuan Walker, Dustin Ackley, and some live arms for David Price (2/$30M), flipping Nick Franklin for Billy Butler (2/$20M), and then spending the rest of their budget on a veteran reliever (1/$5M?), some kind of Raul Ibanez-esque outfield depth piece (1/$2M), and a backup catcher (1/$2M). Assuming they backload Cano’s contract a little bit, that’s about $50 million in salary additions, and would give the team the starter, “two bats”, and bullpen help they’ve said is the goal, plus fill out the bench.

Replacing Franklin with Cano (+3 WAR), Walker with Price (+2 WAR), Montero with Butler (+2 WAR), and accounting for the depth pieces, you’re looking at probably a +8 WAR upgrade, or something in that range. For $50 million in salary (plus a crazy long commitment to Cano) and a bunch of good young talent going elsewhere, that’s not a lot of bang for the buck, and I don’t think it’s enough to make this team a contender. Which is why I’d rather see them pursue a more balanced approach that added pieces to the players already in place rather than paying a premium to land splashy big name guys. And I don’t think it’s really all that hard to do, even with what’s left on the market now.

For instance, let’s just say the team did this instead.

Traded Dustin Ackley to the Dodgers for Matt Kemp and $30 million, bringing total commitment to Kemp to 6/$100M.
Signed Matt Garza for 5 years, $70M.
Signed Mike Napoli for 4 years, $52M.
Traded Tom Wilhelmsen to Cleveland for Drew Stubbs, who is projected to get $4M in arbitration.

Kemp, Garza, and Napoli all project as roughly +3 WAR players, while Stubbs is forecast for +1 WAR in a half season’s worth of playing time.

In this instance, Kemp replaces Ackley (+2 WAR upgrade), Garza bumps Paxton or Ramirez to #6 starter (+2 WAR upgrade), Napoli replaces Montero (+2 WAR upgrade), and Stubbs joins Saunders and Almonte in a CF/RF rotation, replacing Xavier Avery or Carlos Peguero or whatever other scrub you have penciled in for OF time right now (+1 WAR upgrade). And then you still have a few million left to sign a catcher and a bullpen piece if you want.

That magnitude of the upgrade for those kinds of moves would be very similar to the Cano/Price/Butler plan, and would achieve many of the same goals. You’d get your “two bats”. You’d get a veteran starter to slot in between Felix/Iwakuma and the kids. You’d get some outfield depth. You’d get to have a bunch of press conferences to impress everyone with how aggressive you were in adding big name players.

And you’d still have Taijuan Walker. You wouldn’t be on the hook for a monster contract that pays nearly $30 million per year when a player is approaching 40. You’d have at least a reasonable rotation of Major League outfielders.

This isn’t even an ideal plan. I’d rather take a shot on Corey Hart for one year than try to lure Mike Napoli away with a four year deal, but I figure providing an alternative plan has to involve “go for it” type moves, not convince people of the wisdom of multiple good values instead. I think, in reality, you could get a decent approximation of what Garza would give you for a lot less by signing a buy-low pitcher like Chris Capuano or Roberto Hernandez instead, but no one seems interested in those kinds of pick-ups right now.

So, instead, here’s a separate path for spending a bunch of money that gets you to a pretty similar place, only doesn’t cost you your best young arm and a $225M contract in the process.

With a different approach from the start of the winter, the M’s could have done even better. But even after having sat out and watched a lot of the good buys sign elsewhere, there’s still other options for the Mariners. They don’t have to sign Robinson Cano or spend no money, and they don’t have to trade for David Price or not land a rotation upgrade. They can outbid everyone else for Garza and Napoli just as they can outbid everyone for Cano and Price. There are other options here.

Don’t ever let yourself belief that there’s only one path, one plan; that’s how you end up making mistakes. There are always options. In this case, they don’t even take that much creativity. If the Mariners want to overspend on free agents, there are other free agents to overspend on. If they want to make a trade for an expensive player, David Price isn’t the only expensive player on the market. Don’t punt the future just because you think it’s the only way forward.


26 Responses to “Pick a Plan”

  1. diderot on December 5th, 2013 11:53 pm

    You’re assuming, of course, that this is a zero sum game.

    Which source told you that if Cano signs, there is no money left?

  2. Slats on December 6th, 2013 12:00 am

    Fuck the Yankees!

  3. killeverything on December 6th, 2013 12:01 am

    I just don’t trust this FO to pull off a more statistical or more intelligent use of the rumored Cano money.

    It’s great in theory, but remember it’s Jack Z not Billy Beane or Andrew Friedman were dealing with here.

  4. SethGrandpa on December 6th, 2013 12:03 am

    I’m all on board with targeting Kemp over Cano, Corey Hart, and various smaller moves. I really wish I had any faith that the organization would do this and not just trade Walker++ for Price.

  5. rjjunior on December 6th, 2013 12:10 am

    I’m not getting your argument against Cano, besides the cost of the contract years from now.

    Your bigger beef, which holds more water, is the Walker for Price trade.

    They could essentially do everyting you said, except have a healthy Cano instead of a risky Kemp. And flip Ackley for another interesting piece.

  6. johndango on December 6th, 2013 12:11 am

    Is a plan that involves Cano AND Kemp just rosterbation?

  7. spokaneman on December 6th, 2013 12:17 am

    I certainly agree on the trade front, no one knows what happen in that Fister fisting the Nats gave Detriot, but if the Ms coulda jumped in on Fowler and didn’t that sucks.

    But to play a little devils advocate, the big signing in your original plan was McCann for 6/90, I feel comfortable that was never happening with the Yanks offering 5/85. Kazmir and Haren woulda been great options, but they got contracts from Oakland and LAD. Are they picking the Ms over either of those for equal money? Not rhetorical, just an honest question. To make a parallel, it feels like when the Seahawks picked up 2 amazing D-ends (avril and bennett) on next to nothing contracts because they were already legit super bowl contenders.

    I feel like someone has to go first and sign, its kind of a game of chicken with the Ms at this point. Is Matt Garza going to go first? I wouldn’t if I were him, unless I got grossly overpaid which doesn’t seem likely at this point with that market kind of shrinking. You could make a trade first to start adding talent. But it has to start somewhere. I don’t think anyone is going to argue that Cano isn’t going to become a huge sunk cost at some point, but does signing him allow you to then go to Garza/Jimenez/Santana and say “hey, here’s 4/50 or 4/60” whatever is fair market value that a good team would pay, first one to take it gets it. Does grossly overpaying Cano as a starting point allow Seattle to not have to overpaid on other players? I also assume Cano is going to be just the beginning here, or else this is all moot and hugely dumb, etc.

  8. Hutch on December 6th, 2013 12:39 am

    Agreed on how sad it is that so many ships have sailed – Bourjos, Hanigan, Folwer, Haren, even Aoki today all seem like they should have been gettable. (Overlooking the fact that we’ll never know what the players/GMs wanted.)

    But Just about all those players mentioned come with much bigger question marks as far as health, age and effectiveness. Kemp may not be able to run by Spring Training and could be going the way of Grady Sizemore. Five years of a good not great Garza is terrifying. Cano has been consistent and healthy (even if his days at 2B should come to an end sooner rather than later). If you’re going to spend big money why take on that much risk? Cano can move to 1B/DH and the bat is still be an asset.

  9. LongDistance on December 6th, 2013 1:26 am

    Willie Bloomquist says Jack Z has things “up his sleeves” which will make the Mariners a better club. If he’s referring to Cano, even Willie would understand that wouldn’t be enough.

    For a Cano signing to have any sense, they will have had to decide that the only way to drag themselves from being an above average AAA club back into the majors is to spend like there’s no tomorrow.

    I’m deeply suspicious, anymore. And I apologize for the cynicism. But I honestly believe there’s an intrenched belief in ownership that what baseball revenue is all about, is the ability to sell bobbleheads.

    To even be talking about spending this kind of money on Cano is weird. Cano being in Seattle would be weird. And with every coming year, weirder.

    I’m just going to go on and say it. This would be the Mother of All Fiascos. It will create such a utter, absolute organizational disaster in about three years – that this club will be sold.

    That will be Jack Z’s legacy.

  10. RaoulDuke37 on December 6th, 2013 1:33 am

    Makes a lot of sense. Too bad neither of us run the team.

  11. arbfuldodger on December 6th, 2013 2:23 am

    Ackley for Kemp straight up?? It’s not just Ned there any more Stan Kasten has final say over any deal, No way Stan trades Matt when his value is at his lowest unless he get what he thinks it near equal value and Ackley by himself isn’t nearly enough

  12. martini on December 6th, 2013 3:45 am

    I think the M’s should pass on Cano and spread the funds elsewhere. Major, long-term contracts for players in their thirties do not make sense. This team needs a lot of help.

    I’m not as close of a follower of the team as most of the people here, nor do I visit this website often, but I have been a fan since ’87. I live in Oregon, and used to drive up for about a dozen games or more a year, every year, until a few years ago. I can barely watch them on TV more than three times a week in recent years, as they are terrible. It is not enjoyable.

    This team is a mess. The front office needs to be scrapped. At some point, the M’s also need to draft players who will become impact players at the MLB level. This has been a failure in recent years. Bad scouting over the last decade? I don’t know. Probably. The team has had too many players go from being prospects to suspects.

    I look at a team like the St. Louis Cardinals and wonder why they are so strong and balanced, with young talent and veterans. I wonder how the A’s can put together young players with veteran rabble on the cheap and win a division.

    I don’t think that Jack Z is a good GM, but we’ve had worse. That being said, as mentioned in this great article, there are possibilities for upgrades. I hope the team gets busy sooner, rather than later. Fans in the NW love this team, but they vote their confidence in it by whether they put their bottoms in the seats. I’m hoping to see a team that can compete next year.

  13. Miles on December 6th, 2013 4:02 am

    Dexter Fowler? Oh yeah. Let’s bring in bats that don’t play well out of Coors Field.

    Cano isn’t coming to Seattle unless Mr. Zduriencik shows him a plan. That plan isn’t going anywhere without a legitimate star on offense. Cano is the kind of guy to invest money in. He plays 160 games every year for a reason.

    The M’s have money and don’t need to shop at K-Mart anymore. If the M’s can find a way to bring in 3 of Cano, Kemp, Beltran and Morales Seattle will have a legit lineup. Add an SP and a closer like Mr. Zduriencik talks about and this team is making serious noise.

  14. wsm on December 6th, 2013 4:22 am

    I agree that trading Walker for Price is probably a bad idea. I’d much rather just add Garza and go with the starters we have.

    I see no reason why the club can’t add Garza, Cano, and Kemp. The money is there for that along with some other pieces like Corey Hart and a decent reliever.

    That said, I don’t think the Dodgers are that motivated to move Kemp. It’d take more than Ackley (who I’d rather keep anyway). Nick Franklin has more trade value and if you mix him in with some of the A ball starters coming up LA might listen.

  15. bookbook on December 6th, 2013 6:13 am

    Well, it looks like the Cano deal has fallen through, if twitter is to be believed. I suspect the deals that follow will make us yearn for the relative sanity of the Cano plan.

    (I also believe building a champion around a few top players is easier than building a champion without any, but that’s just me.)

  16. built2crash on December 6th, 2013 6:18 am

    Cano is the last person I want the mariners to get. He is a veteran player but lacks any kind of leadership. I cant watch a season of him dogging it to first base.

  17. MissouriMariner on December 6th, 2013 6:23 am

    This front office is a joke…..they have no clue

  18. GarForever on December 6th, 2013 6:25 am

    I hear you, arbfuldodger, but remember, it’s not just “straight-up”: It’s also, if I’m reading Dave’s suggestion correctly, Ackley and 100MM in salary relief for the Dodgers. Kemp is a great player, but if you are a team that (a) has a surplus of good outfielders and (b) one of them is a terrific hitter but can’t stay healthy playing the field and (c) you owe him nine figures and (d) you are a National League team that incidentally (e) could use middle infield help, then it’s not as bad a deal as you might think. A Matt Kemp who can still rake but can’t play the field regularly has more value to an AL team than an NL team. Not saying the Dodgers would bite, but I don’t think it’s as lopsided as it might appear at first glance.

  19. MrZDevotee on December 6th, 2013 6:28 am

    I think the plan may be obscenely large, because there’s really no reason to do the Cano thing otherwise, especially if Z is on a hot seat.

    And maybe it’s dependent (to other possible additions) that the Cano thing happens. Z was quoted as saying his plan keyed on a big move before the Winter meetings, perhaps because if THAT piece is in place, there are a bunch of OTHER deals to be made at the meetings?

    Is it wishful thinking? Of course, but seems like we wouldn’t have so many offers and aggressive trade offers going on if we weren’t capable of completing more than one.

    Nick Franklin & Ackley for Kemp?

    Walker & (pencil in) for Price

    Sign Cano

    Sign Beltran

    Why not?

    I understand the team control thing, but it really feels like a dead weight in the those discussions is that Bavasi traded away the farm and we were left with nothing? When with Z, stocking the farm is what we’ve seemed most adept at doing. So if there’s an ever growing group of young prospects it’s not the same cost to lose them as when they were more precious and few. Or is that flawed logic?

    The flip side of keeping cheap guys with team control, is that they have incredible value to OTHER people when you’re trying to fill your roster with competent “now” MLB-level talent.

    I mean, we seem to be operating with fundamental ideas that assume a) Walker is a sure thing, and not worth trading for a Cy Young caliber guy because of his extreme value, and b) he’s the only guy like that, and we won’t come upon any others, so trading him costs too much.

    The combination of what Bavasi did to the minors, and what the Figgins signing did to the big league club have us incredibly shell-shocked. We’re trying to find true love, and put our best face out there, while deep in the throes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    If the owners want to go somewhere just over $100 million, there are a LOT of things we could do this year, and keep adding from within at the same time.

    Until it DOESN’T work out, and he fails to deliver, why can’t we believe Z when he says “I’ve always felt a time would come when we are ready to augment this team, and I believe that time is here.”

    And also, the Cano thing is a perfect storm at the moment. Yankees are gun shy of long term deals. Boston too. Pujols, Werth, Fielder and Hamilton put the fear of God into nearly EVERY team. With Cano you have a guy who may be the best player in the game at the moment not named Trout or Harper, and less likely to fall off a cliff because of his skills and body type in the next 5-6 years. There will probably NEVER be a better time to overspend on a guy than right now, because of the discount (really) in place based on the awful contracts signed the past few seasons.

    Hamilton I would pass on… Fielder. Pujols, too. But Cano is a guy I don’t mind seeing for 8 or 9 years, and believe he can actually stay alive till the end of the contract.

    And we all remember the incredible value Ackley offered with gap power at 2B… Well Cano is like putting All-Star 1B numbers at 2B. .300+ avg, .800+ OPS, and 30 HR’s a season.

    And we are actually in the only time frame where making that deal probably works for out books.

    I like it. And I don’t think it stops our spending.

    But probably wrong. (Seriously.) Just don’t see where it’s awful as much as some of the other possible moves we almost pulled last season.

  20. Adam S on December 6th, 2013 6:57 am

    Not disagreeing with the overall sentiment, but the logic seems to fall apart with “Replacing Franklin with Cano (+3 WAR), Walker with Price (+2 WAR)…”

    You really think Nick Franklin is a 3 WAR player next year? That seems way optimistic. And then you trade him for a 1.5 WAR player making $10M. Likewise Walker at 2.5 WAR?

    If we’re giving up a lot (money, valuable players) for minimal gain, of course it’s going to look bad when you add it up. I don’t see how getting a 6 WAR player for $23M/year would be a bad thing for the next three years; obviously that contract has problems in years 7+ but short term that’s great bang for the buck. It doesn’t force you to make stupid trades.

  21. built2crash on December 6th, 2013 7:44 am

    MrZDevotee, Kemp is injured seems like always, Cano is 31, Beltran is pushing 40 and where is he going to play? His outfield defense isn’t what it used to be and Safeco is big. This is a win now or it blows up approach.

  22. dantheman on December 6th, 2013 9:02 am

    “I look at a team like the St. Louis Cardinals and wonder why they are so strong and balanced, with young talent and veterans.”

    Isn’t it interesting that the Cardinals refused to pay Pujols what the Angels offered? The Cardinals went to the World Series and the Angels….

  23. bubba_gump on December 6th, 2013 11:12 am

    What’s the difference? The team is still not a contender under your alternate plan.

  24. msfanmike on December 6th, 2013 11:39 am

    Maybe he just doesn’t like Cano. Perhaps, he never has liked him …

    “I’ve seen Cano play a lot, and I’m not even sure he’d be a productive Triple-A player. Let’s start with his defense; it’s brutal. He has terrible footwork and simply lacks any kind of instincts around the bag. There’s no way you want him playing up the middle. He might have the raw speed to not be awful in left field, but that’s about as kind as I can be regarding his glove work. Offensively, he’s a fastball hitter. He sits dead red on every pitch and waits for a mistake. Any good breaking ball or off-speed pitch will have him out in front. He’s mostly a gap hitter, lacking the power to drive the ball consistently over the wall. To add insult to injury, he’s also a terrible base runner.

    In his prime, I think he could hit .280/.320/.400 while playing awful defense. Yippee.”

    -David Cameron, February 20, 2005

  25. bookbook on December 6th, 2013 3:12 pm

    What Cameron thought about Cano’s chances of developing in 2005 isn’t terribly relevant.

  26. MrZDevotee on December 7th, 2013 1:55 am

    It was funny though.

    (quiet laugh)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.