Looking Bad In Retrospect

Jeff Sullivan · February 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The Red Sox signed Chris Capuano today, for a year and $2.25 million. If he hits all his incentives, he’ll make $5 million, and not a penny more, at least not from the Red Sox. In theory, Capuano will compete with Felix Doubront for a rotation slot out of camp, but the reality is that Capuano will probably at least begin the year in the bullpen. Recently, the Mariners were reported to have expressed interest in Capuano, as they’re still looking for a starting pitcher, especially with Hisashi Iwakuma hurt.

Many months ago, the Mariners signed Willie Bloomquist for two years and $5.8 million. He’s a utility guy, like he’s always been, in spirit if not in practice, and he’s got a nice and neat line as a replacement-level player. More recently, Emilio Bonifacio was dropped, and then he was snagged by a minor-league contract. Bonifacio is at least as good as Bloomquist, and most of a decade younger.

The first line of thought: the Mariners guaranteed more money to Bloomquist than the Red Sox guaranteed to Capuano. Bloomquist is a less-useful player than Capuano is. The Mariners also made a far bigger commitment to Bloomquist than the Cubs had to make to Bonifacio. Would you rather have Bonifacio and Capuano, or Bloomquist and pending? By the first line of thought, the Mariners look pretty stupid in retrospect.

The second line of thought: the Mariners might not have known how easily Bonifacio would be available. And perhaps Capuano wasn’t available to the Mariners at the same price as he was to the Red Sox. The Red Sox, you’ll recall, just won the World Series! And Capuano grew up and went to high school in Massachusetts so maybe he’s got his loyalties, even after spending the last couple years on the better coast. It might not be as simple as saying the Mariners could’ve had Capuano for a few extra dollars. By the second line of thought, the Mariners still don’t look great, but they look less stupid in retrospect.

The third line of thought: how many of you actually remembered that the Mariners signed Willie Bloomquist? I think I’m probably taken by surprise every two or three weeks. Which means every two or three weeks, there’s one extra sigh in my life, as I eyeball the upcoming roster. Then as soon as I remember about Bloomquist, I forget about him, making him the exact 2014 equivalent of 2013 Robert Andino. My experience with Andino was like an uninteresting sequel to 50 First Dates, and I remember him more now that he’s gone than I did when he was still a member of the team. I feel like Bloomquist’s going to be an unanticipated email from work — annoying to have to deal with, but sufficiently infrequent that you never include it as a scheduled part of your day. When one shows up, it’s just an extra burden, as if there wasn’t already enough.

So by the third line of thought, the Mariners have Willie Bloomquist, and don’t you forget it, until you do, which is inevitable, because it’s probably already happened five or six times.

Going back real quick, the Mariners were in on Capuano, and for whatever reason or reasons they came up short. Which means they’re probably still interested in finding a lower-tier starting pitcher, which is a pretty good idea given the unreliability of pitchers in general and the unreliability of these pitchers in particular. The free-agent market doesn’t have a whole lot left to offer. There’s the one big fish, and guys like Joe Saunders and Jon Garland. Capuano was the one somewhat interesting bargain, and the Mariners might prefer to look to the trade market.

And that’s how we circle back to Nick Franklin, who’s allegedly going to compete with Brad Miller for the starting shortstop job. I’m sure McClendon isn’t lying when he says Miller isn’t being promised anything. I’m sure the plan is to give Franklin a real look. But Miller’s the better shortstop and the organization knows it, and though there’s no obligation to trade Franklin immediately given that he won’t have a role, he’s still the best bet to be flipped for a decent player at a spot of greater need. Maybe that’s actually an outfielder, but Franklin could snag the Mariners a starter if they looked hard enough, and there are two- and three-way trade possibilities. Just because it’s almost March doesn’t mean teams will stop thinking about tweaks, and Franklin is no less expendable than he was the day the team signed Robinson Cano. He still doesn’t have a job, and if the Mariners don’t want to try him in the outfield, he’s still of greater use to somebody else. There’s not a lot left for him to do in Triple-A.

It’s uncommon for there to be trade rumors during spring training involving anything more than fringe roster guys. But then, it was an uncommon offseason, and the Mariners are in an uncommon situation with Franklin and the rest of the depth chart. I do think the Mariners still want a starting pitcher. I do think the Mariners could still use a starting pitcher. And I do think the Mariners have the available resources to get a starting pitcher. Maybe they wait to see how guys like Baker, Ramirez, Paxton, and Walker are throwing, but there are most certainly roster decisions left to make. The Mariners don’t have to win right away in 2014, but they’d sure like to.

Comments

37 Responses to “Looking Bad In Retrospect”

  1. jld on February 20th, 2014 3:38 pm

    Can we just put every active player who was a Mariner in 2008 or earlier on a jet (except Felix) and fly it into the ocean so our management can’t resign them?

  2. Nate on February 20th, 2014 3:57 pm

    By the first line of thought, the Mariners look pretty stupid in retrospect.

    I nearly stopped reading after this text. Not because I don’t like your writing, but because there wasn’t much more to say. Cap signed for little more than peanuts, and with Iwakuma currently out we needed a player like this.

    It’s still no fun to be a hopeful fan of this team right now. {sigh}

  3. Westside guy on February 20th, 2014 3:58 pm

    Crap – we signed Willie F. Bloomquist?

  4. jkcmason on February 20th, 2014 4:30 pm

    This doesn’t concern me. The difference between WB and Bonifacio or Casilla isn’t noteworthy.

    The Mariners appear to have signed Bloomquist for his connection to the area and fans. He is still a versatile player that can open up a bench spot. I would almost rather Triunfel handle the role than any of the three mentioned, so that we can give a younger kid a shot. Either way we are talking about around half a win in this role.

    Capuano would provide depth that could shift to the bullpen if needed, but the Mariners have Ramirez, Walker, Paxton and even Maurer for rotation depth at the moment.

    Santana suitors appear to be fewer and farther between than anticipated, and the Mariners also have infield depth that could be dealt for improvements.

    How about we let the whole offseason play out before we determine whether the Mariners look stupid.

  5. MrZDevotee on February 20th, 2014 4:46 pm

    It’s “Mr. Glass Half Full” ZDevotee to the rescue… Having heard straight from McLendon’s mouth that Bloomquist was a signing at the asking of McLendon, this tells me that McLendon doesn’t have the smoke-up-the-ass attitude about our young guys that we’ve all been sold the past 3 years… McLendon said “having a guy like that, who can play everything but pitcher and catcher is important on a team like we have.” So the positive spin is– McLendon thought so little of the current roster that he thought we NEEDED to sign Willie F. Bloomquist as insurance to, well, just about EVERYTHING…

    “I need a replacement level player I know can give me average production, for when the young guys suck in whatever various order, like they invariably will.”

    He’s basically a space filler. Did we overpay for him? Probably… But the pitching thing isn’t fair, since nobody knew how awful the pitching market, dollarswise, was gonna shape up this offseason.

    It’s the Mike Trout thing all over again– of course, with hindsight, we were stupid not to draft him, but it’s not like everybody knew what was gonna happen later in time. I would have laughed if you told me “We’ll have Willie Bloomquist signed for $5 million and Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales, and starters like Jimenez and Santana will be unsigned when pitchers and catchers report…”

    I’m gonna make the assumption that Z and company presumed we’d have much bigger things lined up this offseason, and locking up a super-sub, every position player was a nice little bonus on the bench, especially if we WERE planning to trade Franklin, or Miller, or Ackley, etc.

    I just can’t get worked up over it. It’s also like the debates about Ichiro’s last season, whether he should even be playing… It’s totally looking at the wrong things on this team. A backup infielder/outfielder for $2+ million a season is not gonna keep the Mariners from playing winning baseball. Bottomline. And if you wanna see it as a symptom of what’s wrong with the organization, it’s STILL not Top 5 in my list.

  6. African Mariner on February 20th, 2014 4:47 pm

    Is there any sign that Franklin is been tried in the outfield?

    He would be better defensively than Morrison or Hart and I recall that he projects better offensively in a few projection models. He is also younger and more athletic. Why not think out of the box for a bit? If no other outfielder is available why not give him a chance.

  7. MrZDevotee on February 20th, 2014 4:53 pm

    African, I think there’s no chance currently as McLendon has said, flat out, that there is no starting SS at the moment and it’s wide open between Franklin and Miller. So I doubt they’re pushing him in any other direction at the same time.

    It’s a decent idea, but probably won’t happen. Not unless he falls on his face playing SS the first few weeks of Spring ball.

  8. bookbook on February 20th, 2014 5:11 pm

    Mr. Z, reread the article… Looking “stupid in retrospect” is very much the same as saying they didn’t reasonably know so didn’t (necessarily) look stupid at the time…

    I didn’t like the Willie signing at the time, myself, because he can be expected to hit like a replacement player AND is kind of crappy defensively at every position he “plays,” but reasonable people disagree.

    I also think Capuano was potentially worth more to the M’s than the Red Sox.

  9. eponymous coward on February 20th, 2014 6:18 pm

    Capuano would provide depth that could shift to the bullpen if needed, but the Mariners have Ramirez, Walker, Paxton and even Maurer for rotation depth at the moment.

    Go look at the Fangrqaphs projections for that group of pitchers before you start thinking we have adequate depth.

    Basically, it’s Felix, Iwakuma (injured right now), and everyone else is a 4th or 5th starter. Unless you decide the projections are full of beans, that’s not a rotation that wins a division.

    African, I think there’s no chance currently as McLendon has said, flat out, that there is no starting SS at the moment and it’s wide open between Franklin and Miller. So I doubt they’re pushing him in any other direction at the same time.

    I’m actually thinking that the way this could turn out is Franklin is hot during ST, Miller is cold (or just not particularly hot), and Franklin beats out Miller, and Miller goes to AAA to work on his spelling or something. Because Mariners, and “spring training has to mean something”.

    I mean, really this is the organization that almost had Kyle Seager on the bench for Chone Friggin’ Figgins a couple of years ago, after Seager’s rookie year, and it would have stayed that way were it not for injuries. Ugh. I have no confidence that they learn much from mistakes, one of those mistakes they don’t learn from being “spring training means something, let’s base roster decisions on that”. Most of the time, no, it doesn’t, and this team goes over the Grand Canyon like Wile E. Coyote when they’re in Arizona, because they make bad roster decisions based on a handful of Small Sample Size against uneven competition.

    Now, if sometime they DON’T do this…. maybe then I’ll think differently. But I hate the sound of this. Miller isn’t a problem at SS, so don’t fix it. Hint: the M’s have huge problems in the OF, and a problem with rotation depth… fix them.

  10. African Mariner on February 20th, 2014 6:24 pm

    Thanks MrZ,

    One can only but hope.

  11. dantheman on February 20th, 2014 7:25 pm

    “Go look at the Fangrqaphs projections for that group of pitchers before you start thinking we have adequate depth. Basically, it’s Felix, Iwakuma (injured right now), and everyone else is a 4th or 5th starter. Unless you decide the projections are full of beans, that’s not a rotation that wins a division.”

    Thank you, someone is paying attention. This pitching staff, as it presently exists, is frightening. In the AL, only Houston, Minnesota and Toronto (all of whom play in above average parks for hitters) allowed more runs per game last year than Seattle (and the difference with Toronto was a whopping .02 runs per game). The number 3 starter will be Scott Baker? Seriously?

  12. Don Money on February 20th, 2014 7:50 pm

    You have to have a veteran like Willie as your utility guy, young players like Carlos T need to be playing every day in AAA.

  13. Don Money on February 20th, 2014 7:54 pm

    Where I do see an easier transition for young players is in thei starting rotation I would love to see Walker, Paxton and Ramirez back up our Big 2!

  14. bookbook on February 20th, 2014 8:44 pm

    +You have to have a veteran like Willie as your utility guy, young players like Carlos T need to be playing every day in AAA.+

    Carlos will never be good enough to start for a decent team. If he can’t come up in the next year or two and be a utility guy at least as valuable as Willie, it’s time for him to start selling knives door to door.

    The best way to improve the team’s runs allowed at this point isn’t to add a #3 pitcher. It’s to add a legitimate centerfielder. (One could do both, I suppose.) Felix/Kuma/Baker/Walker/Paxton isn’t the ideal rotation to have, but it’s probably better than the Ackley/Saunders/Hart outfield we’re planning on.

  15. Dennisss on February 20th, 2014 9:00 pm

    The Bloomquist signing looks bad in retrospect, but it looked bad at the time it happened too. Subsequent events haven’t changed our conclusions, just confirmed them.

  16. gerrythek on February 20th, 2014 10:14 pm

    I was excited when we signed Cano but, as time has passed, I just don’t care about this team or this season. I don’t want an ownership who is committed to fielding a good team. I don’t want an ownership who thinks we can make the playoffs. After so many seasons of dismal failure, I want an ownership who is committed to winning a championship. Nothing less. I don’t mind if they try and fail but at this point I don’t see them trying to. I know it’s difficult. I know it’s costly. I also know we have supported failure long enough.

  17. eponymous coward on February 20th, 2014 10:18 pm

    Carlos will never be good enough to start for a decent team. If he can’t come up in the next year or two and be a utility guy at least as valuable as Willie, it’s time for him to start selling knives door to door.

    Triunfel is basically organizational filler at this point. Princess Willie kind of is too, but is marginally more useful.

    The best way to improve the team’s runs allowed at this point isn’t to add a #3 pitcher. It’s to add a legitimate centerfielder. (One could do both, I suppose.) Felix/Kuma/Baker/Walker/Paxton isn’t the ideal rotation to have, but it’s probably better than the Ackley/Saunders/Hart outfield we’re planning on.

    The problem is that given Kuma’s injury history, it could be a Felix/Baker/Walker/Paxton/Ramirez or Maurer rotation for a good chunk of the season (or some combination of that). Blech.

    That being said, some combination of Ackley/Saunders/Hart/Morrison/Almonte as an OF is a pretty big trainwreck waiting to happen. So I don’t really disagree. A good CF would help things out. At best I think we might luck out and have Dustin Ackley turn into the new Randy Winn, which would be OK… if a bit of a comedown.

    So of course the big story is seeing who’s going to be at SS after Brad Miller has a good year as a rookie? Why? Because Mariners.

  18. greenwood ave on February 21st, 2014 12:05 am

    :::the Mariners appear to have signed Bloomquist for his connection to the area and fans.:::

    I can only hope not, as this is a mentality that will only continue the irrelevance. I look forward to signing a 37 year old Jon Lester and a crippled Grady Sizemore one day too…

  19. SonOfZavaras on February 21st, 2014 12:49 am

    I still care about this team, and this season. I’m hoping Brad Miller turns into a top-5 shortstop in baseball with the bat, and improves the leather enough to not make us cringe.

    This team is due for some lightning from an unexpected source- like Danny Farquhar-times-ten kind of lightning. Like Stefen Romero or Xavier Avery just realizing that “Hey! There’s a major league outfielder job here! MINE! MINE! ALL MINE!”….and clobbering the league out of nowhere.

    Yeah, I know. A lot of sites with input we should respect paint that as a magenta unicorn with wings- you’re not going to see it, it won’t happen. But a guy can dream. February and March are licenses to dream.

    But I’m not going anywhere. This *is* my team. It took nearly four decades for my faith in the Seahawks to be rewarded. So I can be patient here a bit longer.

  20. LongDistance on February 21st, 2014 2:34 am

    When I was in college, we had a sofa that had an empty beer bottle for one of its legs. Willie’s an empty beer bottle.

    Or else a spare tire with very little tread. You hope you never have to go any real distances on it.

  21. kurt3892 on February 21st, 2014 2:36 am

    Does anyone know if Paxton and Walker will have innings limits this year? If so, the rotation becomes even more paper thin.

  22. eponymous coward on February 21st, 2014 7:20 am

    I still care about this team, and this season. I’m hoping Brad Miller turns into a top-5 shortstop in baseball with the bat, and improves the leather enough to not make us cringe.

    Um…

    http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=12775&position=SS

    He’s basically average as a SS. Why would ~league average defense be cringeworthy?

  23. Hutch on February 21st, 2014 7:27 am

    Quibble all you want with the relative differences between bench pieces; the real tragedy of this off-season was not snagging a piece like Peter Borjous or Adam Eaton. This outfield was vile on both sides of the ball last year and the club’s solution (barring something big happening in the next week or so) was to throw a bunch of first basemen with cyborg knees out there.

  24. kennyb on February 21st, 2014 8:33 am

    >>>Dennisss on February 20th, 2014 9:00 pm

    The Bloomquist signing looks bad in retrospect, but it looked bad at the time it happened too. Subsequent events haven’t changed our conclusions, just confirmed them.<<<

    Exactly!
    I wish I was able to forget that the Ms signed Bloomquist, but I just can't get it out of my mind. Not so much that they signed him, but that they gave him so much money. I can't be the only one that thought this was a waste of resources.

  25. TheMightyMariner on February 21st, 2014 8:53 am

    I’m not sure many of these guys would want to sign with the M’s for the same money. I’ve been a Mariners fan since the late 80′s and this is one of the saddest periods for the franchise. Even with the Cano signing, this team is far from being competitive.

    Having said that, maybe our young guys turn into the studs they’re supposed to be and we make the playoffs…or not.

  26. eponymous coward on February 21st, 2014 11:20 am

    I see it like this:

    Good:

    - if you’re going to pay big money, pay big money for the best player on the market.
    - they got a random assortment of DH/1B/LF types like last year that isn’t really inferior to last year’s group, at a much better price.
    - while going to the Princess Willie well is annoying, it’s not a guaranteed disaster, it’s just annoying. As long as he isn’t playing more than 150 or so PAs, no big deal. If he’s playing 300-450+ PAs, uh-oh…

    Not so good:

    - the random assortment of DH/1B/LF types isn’t really any better than last year’s as far as talent goes. One year it’s Jason Bay, one year it’s Brad Wilkerson, the beat goes on…
    - the rotation is still a weak spot.
    - OF is still a weak spot.

    All told, if Kuma is back, it’s a ~.500ish team, mostly because Cano bumps the team up a lot of WAR.

  27. MrZDevotee on February 21st, 2014 12:36 pm

    - the rotation is still a weak spot
    - OF is still a weak spot

    Exactly. Willie Bloomquist doesn’t mean anything to me… I can’t even waste energy worrying about him, when we haven’t signed an OF of significance nor signed a starting pitcher of significance. The only two things we REALLY needed to accomplish this offseason.

    If you’re missing two of the four tires on your car, quibbling about the color of the fuzzy dice is silly to me.

    (Although I will say I’d be willing to overspend on the little air-freshener tree in the imaginary Mariner car… ‘Cause it stinks in there currently. Febreeze doesn’t stand a chance.)

  28. qwerty on February 21st, 2014 2:30 pm

    Thank you. I feel vindicated.
    Capuano and Bonifacio: two players I wanted brought in regardless of current roster.

  29. seattleslew on February 21st, 2014 4:39 pm

    The Mets are in the market for a shortstop. I’m not sure what the M’s would be looking for from New York other than an outfielder. You can bet that it would probably take Franklin and Paxton to land Lagares and a starting pitcher.

  30. eponymous coward on February 21st, 2014 9:56 pm

    Willie Bloomquist doesn’t mean anything to me…

    WFB is the nagging hangnail that crops up every so often in between the broken legs and arthritis that cripples the Mariner roster. It’s annoying, but only becomes a serious problem when Princess Willie is used out of proportion to his very modest skill set. Hopefully a roster full of Cano, Miller and Seager has very little excuse to use him out of scale…

  31. Madison Mariner on February 22nd, 2014 9:08 am

    Well, we were all afraid of the M’s signing Nelson Cruz, but it looks like we owe Dan Duquette and the O’s a solid after they apparently have signed him to a 1-year deal.

    Wonder if the O’s will look back on that deal at this time next year in retrospect and kick themselves?

    Now, I think we need to go after a CF and move Hart to DH, and trade Morrison for a SP. At least that might salvage the offseason, IMO.

  32. Madison Mariner on February 22nd, 2014 9:17 am

    Or, we move Saunders to CF, keep Hart in RF, and sign Morales to be the DH, and still trade Morrison for a SP(to the Pirates for Jeff Locke?)

    Just an idea. ;)

  33. qwerty on February 22nd, 2014 9:45 am

    I’m starting to wonder if Ackley or Franklin may be our likeliest trade bait. I say that believing that Ackley’s strongest appeal on the market is as a 2B.
    Perhaps bring in Torres and trade for a pitcher. Or Sign a pitcher and trade for the OF.

  34. stevemotivateir on February 22nd, 2014 11:50 am

    It’s very possible Capuano simply didn’t want to come here, but you have to wonder what figures the M’s were presenting him. Really looks like he signed for beans (*resisting the obvious pun).

  35. californiamariner on February 22nd, 2014 1:10 pm

    Not a big fan of Cruz, but getting him for 1 year and 8 million isn’t something you’re going to look back and kick yourself about. It isn’t a franchise altering decision or anything.

    Now I just wonder if Morales comes back and more importantly what will happen if he does? There would be quite the logjam at 1B/DH.

  36. Westside guy on February 22nd, 2014 3:49 pm

    Problem is, even at 1 year 8 million – what would he add to this team? You can’t look at moves in isolation… that’s what gets a team into the 2013 Mariners mess where 20% of the roster really only belonged at 1B or DH.

    It is interesting that Boston is kind of building up a bit of a surfeit of those types too (although this only makes three, unless I’m missing someone – so with Cruz they’re now at the place the Mariners already were in). In a cozy ballpark like Fenway perhaps that’s not as big a deal.

  37. Pilate on February 23rd, 2014 8:45 am

    ANATHEMA ALERT!

    The good news at shortstop is that regardless of whether it ends up being Miller or Franklin, their offense will be so much better than that guy we had for most of last year that they’d have to commit four errors a game to not post a better total WAR than he did for us, -0.1.

    Behind every grey cloud, there’s sometimes one that’s not quite so grey.

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