The Day That They Signed Nelson Cruz

Jeff Sullivan · December 1, 2014 at 7:12 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I don’t mean to exaggerate, but it’s kind of like being sick. If you’re like me, you’re a bit of a worrier, and you have a tendency to worry about symptoms. You worry less upon receiving a diagnosis, even if it turns out something is wrong. It’s just better to know how to focus your worry — it’s the mystery that’s terrifying. When you don’t know what’s going on, anything could be going on, and there’s no defending yourself against that. When you have an answer, you develop a plan. You’re able to think more clearly, and you see the upside in whatever is happening. Mystery is important when it comes to the good things, but when something’s bad, there’s comfort in certainty.

Many have been afraid of the Nelson Cruz contract for more than a year. Almost exactly this Nelson Cruz contract, as a matter of fact. More recently, there was also reason to be afraid of the other rumors, rumors involving names like Taijuan Walker and James Paxton and Justin Upton who’s almost a free agent. It was clear the Mariners were going to do something about their right-handed deficiency, and we just weren’t sure what that something would be. Could involve money. Could involve youth. Could involve money and youth. Last night I almost sat here and wrote about this, but I couldn’t find a thesis. Doesn’t matter now, we have the answer. It involves money. The Mariners are giving a lot of it to the Cruz family.

It also involves youth, in that the Mariners are losing a draft pick, which isn’t worth nothing. But it’s a lot easier to stomach losing something you didn’t yet feel like you had, and that draft pick didn’t have a name. It didn’t have a position and a height and a weight and a projectable body. It didn’t have a girlfriend and family members watching along in the living room waiting for a familiar name to be announced. The Mariners are trading a prospect for Cruz, but it’s a prospect they never started to mold, so the focus is on the four years and the $57 million. That overwhelms the value of the prospect anyway. Justifiably, the story is the commitment.

It’s too big. The Mariners are overpaying for Cruz. The team that loves him most — the team that just saw him lead the league in dingers — didn’t want to go past three years. So the Mariners are doing it, and they’re getting their guy, the guy they almost had a year ago before ownership reportedly nixed the deal because of a policy it must no longer have. To explain the $57-million expense, no one’s talking about what Cruz will be worth in the back half; the hope is what happens this year or next year will make it okay. The hope is Cruz will be a big help immediately, and then the future will sort itself out, and you can work around a Nelson Cruz overpay if you’re able to see it coming.

Cruz’s average salary is $14.25 million. I don’t know how it breaks down year to year, but toward the end, that’ll represent at least 10% or so of the Mariners’ payroll. Cruz probably isn’t going to be very good when he’s 37 or something. This is an example of how that can matter:

Dead money gets in the way of things. It renders your payroll a lower effective payroll. It would be silly to suggest the Mariners will be somehow immune to feeling Cruz’s decline, because they can spend only so much, and Cruz will be guaranteed a big chunk of the money, but the future’s a mystery, right? What we care about most is what we understand most, and that’s the single season ahead. In 2015, the Mariners project to be quite good. Cruz projects to be the best he will be from now on. He’s right-handed. He fills a position of absolute, inarguable need. I don’t think the Mariners acted out of desperation; I think they just saw a shining example of something, and they decided to click on Buy It Now instead of participate in an auction. They’ve been left out before, waiting until there was nothing good available. There’s some value in knowing you’ve plugged a hole on the first of December.

The Mariners were blessed with Edgar Martinez. Between 1995 – 2004, the Mariners had the best DH slot in the American League, and they were the best by a lot. Then, of course, Edgar retired, and while there was nothing wrong with his retirement, one could say he didn’t do much to help the team to identify a worthy replacement. Between 2005 – 2014, the Mariners had the worst DH slot in the American League, and they were the worst by a lot. You know the stat wRC+? It’s a measure of offense, where 100 is league-average. Over the past decade, the second-worst team DH slot has had a wRC+ of 100. The Mariners came in at 84.

Now here’s the part you really won’t believe. Red Sox DHs — David Ortiz — have led the way, with 32 WAR. Then you’ve got the Indians, at 15.6. The Blue Jays, at 10.4. The Yankees, at 9.0. Keep going down. The Orioles, at 1.0. The Astros, at 0.2. The Mariners, at -11.7. Read that again. The Mariners, at -11.7. Over the past ten years, since Edgar called it a career, Mariner designated hitters have been worth a combined dozen wins below replacement level. This might be the most incredible thing I’ve seen all year. I can’t tell. I objectively recognize it as incredible, but it doesn’t pack the same punch to me since it’s not really a surprise. We’ve all lived it. We just didn’t look at it so cumulatively.

It’s amazing how bad the Mariners have been there. At what’s supposed to be the very easiest spot to put a hitter, the Mariners have posted the same collective positional wRC+ as Ben Revere. That’s why it’s okay to feel some sense of relief. Cruz should at least hit, and hit at a not-embarrassing level, and while we’ve said that about various Mariner DH candidates before, this one feels better. Partly explains why, in the poll below, three times as many people have positive opinions as negative. Some of that’s also just bias, but we’ve lived a nightmare within a nightmare. Cruz might one day decline into a nightmare, but he should at least allow us to rest easy in 2015. And then after that, who knows? Maybe we’ll be dead.

Watch this. You’ve seen it before. It’s stupid.

That’s a stupid home run. Nelson Cruz hit it at Safeco Field against maybe the best pitcher in the American League. It’s also practically an impossible home run. Only a handful of players in baseball could do that, feels like. According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, that home run was never more than 41 feet off the ground. Which means it was the lowest home run of the season that actually flew over a fence.

Cruz also hits the other kind of impressive home run:

He’s a pure power hitter. The alarming thing is that he’s very similar to what Michael Morse was supposed to be, and that’s a valid observation. This has gone tits up before, and Morse wasn’t signed for four whole years. But Cruz has actually been quite healthy lately, missing time in the last three years only for that pesky suspension, and it seems like Cruz won’t see much of the outfield. Cruz is also kind of what Corey Hart was supposed to be, which is another valid observation, but Hart was coming off a whole year lost. This past season, he couldn’t find his legs, so he didn’t have his swing. Nelson Cruz, to my knowledge, has his legs. Probably the kind of thing that gets noted on a physical.

Nelson Cruz is going to have what one might refer to as visceral at-bats. When he hits a pitch, he’ll really hit it, and you’ll know it immediately. Some of his home runs, you’re going to feel coming; others are going to come completely out of nowhere. You’re going to look forward to his spot in the lineup, even though he’s going to make his share of easy outs. In the short term, there should be enough productivity to make it all worthwhile. In the short term, the Mariners are trying to make the 2015 playoffs, and if they pull that off, what might be possible with the additional revenue in the seasons ahead? The ultimate message is that the team just signed last year’s league leader in home runs. That’s as matter-of-fact as it gets. The Mariners got what they wanted, and we’ll worry about the future when the future knows how 2015 went.

Here’s what could conceivably happen. Over a stretch of 255 plate appearances last June through last August, Cruz hit .203/.267/.388. It’s obvious when he’s not hitting, and when he’s not hitting, he’s pointless. Before that stretch, though, his OPS was in almost the four digits. Afterward, it was north of four digits. If Cruz falls apart, we can’t say it came without warning, because he was just bad for a couple months. But the story of Cruz’s whole career is that he makes up for his outs with his homers. There are a lot more outs than homers, but homers are a lot more positive than outs are negative. As he declines, the ratio will get worse. Cruz is the kind of guy who can pick his overall numbers up overnight. His decline will just look like slightly longer slumps.

Richie Sexson might be a data point here. His wRC+ after signing with the Mariners:

  • 144
  • 117
  • 84
  • 92

Then his career was over. Sexson provided one great year, and one fine year, and then he was dreadful. The last two years, he was a complete waste of money. But now bring that into the current circumstances. Would that be an acceptable trajectory, given where the Mariners presently stand? I think a lot of people would argue it would. People are pretty tired of finding something else to do in October.

Here’s one other way you can think about this. As long as we’re rationalizing, let’s rationalize. There’s no such thing in baseball as an obviously brilliant move, or an obviously terrible move. At least, there’s almost no such thing. Moves, mostly, have about a 50% chance of going well and a 50% chance of not going well. Some moves might be more like 60/40, and others might be more like 40/60. Let’s say that Cruz and the Mariners is more like 40/60. Let’s say it’s probably more bad than good.

What are the chances Cruz goes as projected? Like, exactly as he’s projected to go? There’s a good chance Cruz out-plays his projections, in which case, he’s basically worth the commitment. And there’s a good chance Cruz badly under-performs, in which case, he’s not worth the money, but we could write it off as an unforeseen and sudden decline. If Cruz falls apart overnight, we couldn’t say the Mariners should’ve seen that coming. It would be kind of like Chone Figgins, except that Figgins looked smarter at the outset. But, if Cruz goes badly enough, people will blame Cruz more than the front office. It’ll just be bad luck. The Mariners aren’t investing in a probable disaster, they’re just investing in a possible disaster, and the odds favor Cruz being, at worst, overpaid. Especially in four years, but the Mariners are giving four years to one Nelson Cruz, not a whole team of them.

2,000 words to say, it’s better than trading Taijuan Walker. The Mariners are a good team, and Nelson Cruz makes them a better team, and they paid more than anyone else would pay, but the need was also greater than anyone else’s, and the Mariners look to be right there among the contenders. So the Mariners, on paper, dealt damage to their own future to try to improve the present, and if it works out, benefits from the present will help to erase the future damage. Nelson Cruz wasn’t the only move the Mariners could’ve made. Other, more creative routes might’ve been possible that would require less of a commitment. For that reason, signing Nelson Cruz isn’t a brilliant move. But an acceptable move? I think we can accept it. Sometimes a man wants a double cheeseburger. Sometimes a double cheeseburger is the best god-damned thing you’ve ever eaten.

Comments

36 Responses to “The Day That They Signed Nelson Cruz”

  1. Shoeless Jose on December 1st, 2014 7:34 pm

    Now that it has finally happened, let’s all take a moment to remember Dave Cameron’s prescient 2008 “Full Nelson Plan

  2. _Hutch_ on December 1st, 2014 7:38 pm

    I thought the idea of a no-PED users team policy was debunked recently. At the very least it was a media narrative that took on a life of its own. I think the reality is even scarier – the team had Cruz at those terms and had either spent all their money for the off-season or (even worse) couldn’t recognize how good of a deal that was for an admittedly flawed player on a team that badly needed RH power.

  3. Jeff Sullivan on December 1st, 2014 8:12 pm

    Very well might’ve been. Just didn’t cross my radar.

  4. Edward Baker on December 1st, 2014 8:16 pm

    Let´s not fetishize kid number nineteen in the draft. Draft picks are nice, but reasonably reliable cleanup hitters are nicer, and the Mariners haven´t had one in a very long time. So to those of you who have been hyperventiling over the draft pick, please, pretty please, find something else to hyperventilate over.

  5. blackhook on December 1st, 2014 8:17 pm

    Yes in a literal sense we overpaid …but who cares, it’s play money anyway; i.e., extra money that will flow to the team via the new TV deal. And it is fantastic that we didn’t give up any young talent to sign one of the best power hitters in baseball. Here’s hoping that Mr. Cruz can stick to legal enhancement the next four years.

    My main concern is whether Cruz can perform close to the level of his salary drive year (last season) …if he does, we can continue to reverse years of unfortunate free agent signings.

    Time to celebrate this audacious move & get ready to celebrate the M’s playoff run next year, hallelujah!

  6. californiamariner on December 1st, 2014 8:34 pm

    I’ve read several posts today about Nelson Cruz and this one does a great job of summing up my feelings. Jeff put it very well.

    I think we all know deep down that this is too much money for Cruz, but I’ve had a philosophical question about the Mariners for a while now. Should we be more accepting when they overpay for hitters? It doesn’t seem like any free agent hitter wants to come to Seattle. Maybe the only way the Mariners can get good free agent hitters is by spending a little extra on them. If they have money to spend, is it really that big of a problem?

    Now, I know the problem with overspending is that it limits what additional moves can be made. I get that. I don’t want to argue that the Mariners should overspend on hitters in free agency. I just think at some point we have to realize that these guys aren’t coming to Seattle at discount rates.

    While I’m not overly excited at this move, I’ll be damn sure rooting hard for Nelson to succeed. And it will be entertaining (at least while it is fresh and he doesn’t suck) to have Cano-Cruz-Seager to watch every time that lineup rolls around. Go M’s!

  7. Longgeorge1 on December 1st, 2014 8:41 pm

    A year from now fans will be calling this the greatest or worst signing of the year. With the keenness of hind sight they will be right.

    2015 should see a rebirth from the Yankees, Red Sox and/or the Rangers The M’s might have to improve measurably just to stay even with last year’s record. We probably won’t have a decimated Texas team to boost our record with. This is basically just money. We still have all of our young prospects and a DH who is a better hitter than Madison Bumgarner who had a better OPS than last years combined Mariner DHs.

  8. smb on December 1st, 2014 8:43 pm

    I’m…nonplussed. I guess I’m glad they tried to do something, and that that something didn’t involve Walker or Paxton. I can call that a win, I guess. It’s either gonna look great or horrible after this year, and I doubt it switches trajectories in a positive way if it ends up the latter.

  9. 3cardmonty on December 1st, 2014 8:48 pm

    >I thought the idea of a no-PED users team policy was debunked recently.

    I’m not sure how this idea ever gained any traction when the team had just signed Morse a year before they went after Cruz.

    As for this signing, at best it prevents Zduriencik from doing something even stupider. Which isn’t nothing.

  10. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2014 10:09 pm

    2015 should see a rebirth from the Yankees, Red Sox and/or the Rangers The M’s might have to improve measurably just to stay even with last year’s record. We probably won’t have a decimated Texas team to boost our record with.

    You realize they were 9-10 against Texas last year, right?

    The M’s combined record against the four worst teams in the AL (Boston, Texas, Houston and Minnesota) was 26-25. The 2014′s Mariner win-loss record wasn’t built on beating bottom-feeders. I wouldn’t worry too much about other teams; rather, on making the 2015 Mariners the best team out there.

  11. ck on December 1st, 2014 10:47 pm

    Good addition. Did not cost any MLB players, and it addressed serious need. Although certainly a potential overpay, but it is not my money, and the M’s will probably win more games in 2015, than they did in 2014. Good move. In true M’s style, they could have done it (Cruz) last year, and made the playoffs, rather than be eliminated on the final day of the season.

  12. Eastside Crank on December 1st, 2014 10:51 pm

    This could work out well for the Mariners. The effects of anabolic steroids can last for a few years after the person stops taking them. If the Mariners have done their homework and confirmed what Cruz abused, they may have signed a player who will not go into a rapid decline.

  13. WalterNeff on December 2nd, 2014 12:20 am

    Draft pick? Who gives a shit – it’s not the NFL or NBA. Is there anyone outside of this blog who could name our number one pick from last year? $57 mil? – not our money. Love the signing.

  14. leftfield limey on December 2nd, 2014 12:57 am

    Some damage to the future but likely not as much as a trade of Walker or Paxton. We will never know. Given that we are not paying much more than we paid Sexton this could go wrong but hard to dislike what looks like an overpay but nevertheless a necessary and not wholly unreasonable roll of the dice. Always liked Dave’s “Double Nelson” plan. Shame it did not happen in 2008 and no doubt little comfort to Dave now but those offseason plan posts were the highlight of the year. Much missed.

  15. matthew on December 2nd, 2014 3:41 am

    Shoeless Jose, now THAT is an impressive memory — or a just a regular google search, I’m not sure. Well done.

    Since the money means nothing to me, I look at this as a trade with the Orioles. Cruz for our draft pick.

    One thing I can say is that we have never been burned by trading young players to the Orioles for players on their decline.

    http://www.ussmariner.com/2008/02/04/jones-spent-super-bowl-sunday-being-poked-and-prodded/

    a1 #neverforget

  16. Milendriel on December 2nd, 2014 4:58 am

    “Cruz is also kind of what Corey Hart was supposed to be, which is another valid observation, but Hart was coming off a whole year lost. This past season, he couldn’t find his legs, so he didn’t have his swing. Nelson Cruz, to my knowledge, has his legs. Probably the kind of thing that gets noted on a physical.”

    Or a police report…

  17. Milendriel on December 2nd, 2014 5:09 am

    On a more serious note, I’ve somewhat gotten over my despite for the signing, but I’m concerned by the number of undisciplined right-handed hitters Safeco has eaten alive. If, because of that, he only manages, say, 20 home runs, it’s going to be hard for him to be worth more than a win.

  18. ivan on December 2nd, 2014 6:29 am

    “peep6543″ at LL summed it up in one of the classic comments of the year. He speaks for me.

    “The guy hits homers, period.

    Frankly I’m tired of this site getting too witty and picky with what to add and why the moves the M’s make are bad. F+WipEra- this and War/Doopie that. That’s all bull shit. Just sit back and watch him hit more homers.

    It’s not like any of us write the checks for payroll. Who cares how much they spend, the owners can afford it. Give him $100 million what do we care?

    See you in April.”

    If Felix and Robbie and Kyle are happy to see Nelson here, then I’m happy to see him here.

  19. kennyb on December 2nd, 2014 10:13 am

    The overriding sentiment in these comments seems to be – at least this stops them from doing something stupid, like trading Paxton or Walker.
    Guess what, they aren’t done yet.
    Saunders appears to be as good as gone. Cruz was not signed for is stellar defense. They still want a right handed OF.
    Sure, maybe they will sign someone like Melky, but it is still very much in the realm of possibility that they trade a good young pitcher.

  20. PackBob on December 2nd, 2014 10:33 am

    There is not enough attention being paid to the fact that the Mariners didn’t give up any of their young pitchers, position players, or prospects. Sure, they committed money to a player that may not be fully worth the investment, but they also saved talent that would cost money or time to get back. The expense is mitigated by the saving of talent.

    The M’s found out over 10 years that it’s not as easy as it sounds to add even a replacement player. And they also found out what it can cost to ship out their young prospects.

    Any player involves a big *if* for performance. The payoff for Cruz being a positive *if* is huge if the M’s make the playoffs, or even better, win the division. Heck, if he just brings the M’s up to being a respectable offense, that would be really fun.

    There is the potential for this deal to crater, like there is for any deal. There is also the potential for this deal to bring some offensive excitement and a playoff run to Seattle. I like the opportunity to have the latter.

  21. djw on December 2nd, 2014 10:48 am

    2015 should see a rebirth from the Yankees, Red Sox and/or the Rangers

    There are certainly good reasons to think the Rangers and (especially) the Red Sox will improve next year, but the Yankees? They were fairly lucky to get to 84 wins last year, they’ll be older across the board, etc. Their current projected WAR puts them as about a 500 team, a slight improvement on their pythagorean record, with some very generous assumptions about playing time for Rodriguez, Texiera, Beltran, etc. Every single starter is over 30–how often to such teams improve?

  22. djw on December 2nd, 2014 10:57 am

    An implied premise of a number of comments here (blackhook, ck, WalterNeff, ivan) seems to be that one of the following is true:

    In future years, ownership will either a) not set a payroll limit in any meaningful way, such that no potentially valuable acquisition will be ruled out by a lack for available payroll or b) set a payroll limit but not count Cruz’s contract against that limit.

    I’m very curious how they came to believe one of those things is the case. As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the general financial practices of MLB teams generally, or the Mariners’ ownership in particular, that would suggest either of those things.

  23. djw on December 2nd, 2014 10:57 am

    An implied premise of a number of comments here (blackhook, ck, WalterNeff, ivan) seems to be that one of the following is true:

    In future years, ownership will either a) not set a payroll limit in any meaningful way, such that no potentially valuable acquisition will be ruled out by a lack for available payroll or b) set a payroll limit but not count Cruz’s contract against that limit.

    I’m very curious how they came to believe one of those things is the case. As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the general financial practices of MLB teams generally, or the Mariners’ ownership in particular, that would suggest either of those things.

  24. LongDistance on December 2nd, 2014 11:44 am

    Just random shit that’s crossed my mind.

    First, looking across the league, there are teams that seem to maintain a perennial baseline of being good, watchable teams. Maybe not always playoff quality, but not face-palm material. For sure the M’s became watchable last year, but I don’t think anyone would claim they’d become card carrying members of that hallowed company. With Cano and Cruz, the team is buying its way into credibility, although it looks like a temporary toe hold. Is it possible they will continue doing this every year for the next five years?

    A lot of what we’re saying this year, in terms of qualms, we said that last year. Cano, we knew, was a question of a few years. We knew they had to add to him, and quickly, to really go anywhere. Same thing for Cruz. Right?

    If the World Series was a Miss America Pageant, the M’s, instead of investing in dancing and singing lessons, have opted for augmentation mammoplasty (this year, making it fully bilateral).

    Business Model I. Seahawk envy? Empty seats speak louder than words? Whatever it is, there has been a major sea change in the FO’s business model philosophy. No, they haven’t gone crazy-money crazy. But something very definite has happened. No way to really know until someone writes a tell-all autobiography some day and even then, would we believe it (i.e., if Howard writes it)?

    Business Model II. Maybe this is the only way to get anywhere if you’ve got a Jack Z as manager?

    IMHO they still need a stinking good outfielder with a (if I’m going to dream, why not dream big) decent, non-fluky/streaky bat.

    Somehow, not really shell-shocked, like this time last year (which included, let’s not forget, the nearly simultaneous and incomprehensible signing of WFB).

    Baseline for me: it’s just good to look forward to seasons without having to parse them to death trying to imagine glimmers of hope.

    One last quack: I wish they’d trade Rodney.

    I told you this was random shit. Catch you guys later … at the next bombshell (or not) move.

    Go M’s.

  25. Shoeless Jose on December 2nd, 2014 12:39 pm

    Matthew: That was totally from memory. The M’s have been linked to Cruz in past off-seasons, and whenever that’s happened I immediately remember that post. (BTW, I answered your comment over there also. Apparently USSM doesn’t close posts to commenting…ever)

  26. eponymous coward on December 2nd, 2014 1:36 pm

    Business Model I. Seahawk envy? Empty seats speak louder than words? Whatever it is, there has been a major sea change in the FO’s business model philosophy. No, they haven’t gone crazy-money crazy. But something very definite has happened. No way to really know until someone writes a tell-all autobiography some day and even then, would we believe it (i.e., if Howard writes it)?

    This is not the first time the M’s have decided to make splashes in the “go for it now” market:

    - 2004 offseason: Adrian Beltre/Richie Sexson
    - 2009 offseason: Chone Figgins/Milton Bradley/Cliff Lee

    Beltre was a pretty good signing, Sexson was good during the first couple of years, Lee did his job and more, and we all know how Bradley and Figgins worked out.

    So it’s not like this is the first time management has been given a green light to spend (remember, Ichiro resigned with a big deal, too). We’re not talking about the Oakland A’s here. What remains to be seen is if guys like Cano and Cruz turn into typical past-prime veterans, if the team will be hamstrung by finances. If it is… this period of watchability could be over pretty fast.

  27. heyoka on December 2nd, 2014 2:00 pm

    avg/obp/slg

    mendoza/mendoza/ichiro avg

  28. ivan on December 2nd, 2014 4:20 pm

    djw says:

    An implied premise of a number of comments here (blackhook, ck, WalterNeff, ivan) seems to be that one of the following is true:
    In future years, ownership will either a) not set a payroll limit in any meaningful way, such that no potentially valuable acquisition will be ruled out by a lack for available payroll or b) set a payroll limit but not count Cruz’s contract against that limit.
    I’m very curious how they came to believe one of those things is the case. As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the general financial practices of MLB teams generally, or the Mariners’ ownership in particular, that would suggest either of those things.

    Don’t put words in my mouth, OK, and I won’t put them in yours, and don’t tell me what I “came to believe.” What they did yesterday has nothing to do with what might or might not happen in the future. Each transaction can stand or fall on its own merits. Dingers, baby!

  29. djw on December 2nd, 2014 7:07 pm

    What they did yesterday has nothing to do with what might or might not happen in the future.

    But the only way you can believe that is if you believe a) or b) to be true. If they have payroll limits, this commitment might very well restrict future options. How could it not?

  30. wallmoon on December 2nd, 2014 8:11 pm

    sure they overpaid and in a couple of years it will look like a bad deal, BUT….they got a guy who can hit as DH, and they didn’t give up any great young pitcher for a one year rental on a good hitting outfielder (although that might still happen). by the time Cruz is toast, perhaps one of the younger hitters in the minors will be ready to be DH. and if it gets us far into the post season, the deal pays off economically in more revenue thru ticket sales in regular season and in post season play.

  31. Eastside Crank on December 2nd, 2014 8:53 pm

    The Mariners need to continue their spendy ways and sign another player. The loss of their first pick also means they have less money to reallocate to other players they draft. In other words, there is a domino effect when you lose your first pick. One way to mitigate that would be to sign another free agent who fills a need.

  32. LongDistance on December 2nd, 2014 11:29 pm

    eponymous: the dangers are clear on these mid-career monster splashes. My question was whether they were buying their way towards some new baseline status as future powerhouse team.

    There are teams out there, we know, who build in a way that even in late January every year their fans feel they are playoff and maybe WS contenders, right out of the gate in April. We’ve had great teams in the (long distant) past, but even then I never felt that. I really never felt that Howard and Chuck, despite what they said, were really thinking that way (not even in 2001). Or else they did, and they were just really bad execs and the trickle down into the FO was disastrous.

    It has sometimes crossed my mind that what’s up in the FO are human beings. And I think, sometimes, one very long and really excruciatingly bad and embarrassing season (especially for the GM), or one heartbreaking single game can make a difference in long-term mentality. Effecting the Business Model. I’ve seen that elsewhere (Boston 1986, I’m thinking). I’m wondering if I’m seeing it here. Given:

    2013. 2014.

    That’s all. As far as previous spending: I agree. I haven’t forgotten.

    But… they have always had to spend, at some point, for something. Even just to keep them at a treading water level. I didn’t feel they were actually making club-changing, baseline changing moves. Maybe I just got too used to watching them through black-colored glasses. Maybe you’re right, and they’ve had that go-for-it mentality all along.

    Addressing those former splashes … I think of how Richie’s labrum worries, MB’s anger-management issues, and how the acquisition of Lee (and more importantly his exit and what Z believed he was getting, which I didn’t warm to at all)… were the sorts of things that always left me feeling, going into seasons, with questions outweighing answers. But if they were splashes, they were conventional.

    None of it had this feel to it. Everything seems new. Even the long-term debt on older players issue is a way new issue for the M’s.

    My question: are they capable of or willing to be doing this sort of thing for the next five years? Every year?

    Nothing else seems to make any sense. You know?

    Are they aiming to become Boston or the A’s or something? Who the hell knows …

    But I have to admit, having +500 baseball in Seattle is really nice.

  33. eponymous coward on December 3rd, 2014 10:24 am

    . My question was whether they were buying their way towards some new baseline status as future powerhouse team.

    I think they certainly thought so. Remember, Bavasi got to take the budget up pretty high in 2008 after the M’s went 88-74 in 2007. M’s management isn’t the A’s; if it was, Felix would have been dealt for prospects years ago, and it would probably be Seager’s turn now, ala Josh Donaldson.

    My question: are they capable of or willing to be doing this sort of thing for the next five years? Every year?

    Probably not.

    Felix, Seager, Cano and Cruz are going to make 85 million between all of them in 2018. Cano will be in his mid-30′s, Cruz will be in his late 30′s. That’s a lot of cheddar to be giving 4 guys on a 25 man roster.

  34. naviomelo on December 3rd, 2014 2:28 pm

    Here’s what could conceivably happen. Over a stretch of 255 plate appearances last June through last August, Cruz hit .203/.267/.388. It’s obvious when he’s not hitting, and when he’s not hitting, he’s pointless.

    Bad Nelson Cruz hits .203/.267/.388. Your 2014 Mariner DHs just hit .189/.271/.302 over an entire season.

  35. eponymous coward on December 3rd, 2014 7:18 pm

    We also weren’t committed to those DHs past 2014. Cruz, not so much.

  36. MKT on December 5th, 2014 12:41 am

    “There’s no such thing in baseball as an obviously brilliant move, or an obviously terrible move.”

    Trading for Heathcliff Slocumb. An insanely dumb move, and obviously so, from the start. Red Sox fans were in disbelief that they were not only able to get rid of their fork-done closer, but that some team was gullible enough to give them actual players in return.

    And this is without knowing (because nobody knew in advance) that the Mariners were trading away two future all-stars, Varitek and Lowe. That made the trade even worse in retrospect, but even without knowing that those prospects would turn into all-stars, it was an awful trade, giving up prospects for a replacement level player.

    Trading away Carlos Guillen was almost as bad. I didn’t know that Guillen would become an all-star, but it was already clear that he was a pretty good player.

    Although not quite as clearly bad, the Michael Saunders trade feels a lot like the Guillen trade. In both cases it’s not that anyone knew that the Mariners were giving up a future all-star, but it was clear that they were giving up a promising young player for too little return.

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