Mariners Analysis

Monday, December 31, 2007

Spring Training about to appear on horizon

Today is the last day of 2007, and the pace of finalizing rosters is about to accelerate. The Winter meetings are long over, most of the big trades and signings have been made and clubs selectively choose among the remaining players as they finalize their roster.

For all the talk about the Mariners being big players in the offseason, the signing of Silva is all we have to date. No mega-trades, no big name signings that get casual fans excited. Bavasi has money and players (Jones) burning a hole in his pocket and we know he is going to do something. We just don't know what it is yet.

The biggest story of the offseason in my mind is the possible trade of Santana. It is very rare when the best pitcher is made available, but equally rare when the two richest and highest profile teams in Boston and NY both have their rotations largely set. If either one of the these two teams had a legitimate need to bolster their rotation a deal would have likely been done already and the Mariners and other non-Santana approved teams could proceed in their offseason rebuilding.

Instead, it seems like teams and agents have been waiting to see the market for Santana unfold before they give the green light on all the rest of the deals out there, which is certainly affecting the Mariners plans.

Right now it would seem the Mariners are locked in stalemate with Baltimore. Bavasi is smart enough to realize removing Jones AND Morrow creates as many problems as it solves, while at the same time Baltimore understands there are worse things in the world than having a really good pitcher on your roster come opening day. The only way it makes sense for the Orioles is to get TWO quality players in return, otherwise why make the deal?

My prediction?

Bedard (and Santana) stays and Bavasi spends a large chunk of change on a player who isn't worth it just to make a splash and try to save his job. While Bavasi is fine with dealing Jones (which is crazy) he didn't really plan for replacing him. Perhaps if had offered arbitration to Guillen and he actually accepted (like they claimed they thought he would) it might be easier for Bavasi to send Jones for pitching. But who will he replace him with? Jenkins is off the market, and there are no obvious replacements in the minors. (Wlad is no where near ready)

This is all part of the maddening world of trying to understand this team. The team has a lousy defense, doesn't walk, doesn't hit for power and gave up a ton of runs due to a management team that refused to cut bait with either Weaver or Ramirez, yet the biggest story is what starting pitcher are we going to trade for.

The good news is Spring training will be here very quickly. The "plan" that Bavasi has been working on will finally be revealed and we can actually start talking about the team, and not just try and predict the future on events we have no control.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Revealing commentary

It's always fun when your team makes a trade or signs a free agent- it gets everyone talking and helps pass the time until spring training.

It also reveals a little bit about the fans and what they believe to be true about the team. Two things jumped out at me-

Myth #1- Many fans think the Mariners have a good defense.

The fact is the Mariners have one of the worst defenses in all of baseball. They have two very good defenders in Ichiro and Beltre. The rest of the team is either average or downright terrible (Sexson and Ibanez).

There is a group of fans who actually think Sexson is a good defender! They somehow think because he is tall he magically covers up every ball hit or thrown towards him. This is based on either theories (tall people must be better at catching) or bad analysis (when they watch they hallucinate). While there is no magic number we can assign to defense just yet, there is a tremendous amount of work being done in this area and they all agree- Sexson sucks.

Scouts that can accurately judge talent thinks Sexson is a terrible defender. Every known defensive metric thinks Sexson is terrible. Yet there is a group of Mariner fans who actually think he is a plus defender!

Myth #2- Many fans think money doesn't matter for the Mariners

The flawed logic here says so what if we overpaid for Silva. The team rakes in money over Texas and Oakland so forget about the dollars and do whatever it takes to make the team better. If Silva is better than the ghost of Weaver then Bavasi is doing his job.


This line of thinking is so stupid it's hard to even know where to begin, but I'll try.

The Mariners choose to create a budget that begins and ends with each season. This means money does not carry over from season to season. In other words, if Bavasi wanted to slash the team payroll to $50 million next season and save $60 million for the following year he couldn't do it. There is nothing in baseball that prevents it, it's just the Mariners foolish rule that prevents them from being as competitive as they should otherwise be.

To say it another way, most people are familiar with a savings account. You try to sock away money for the future or when you might otherwise might need it. But the team for all practical purposes discards the concept of a savings account. Every dime saved during a year goes to paying off Safeco field and in to the owners pockets.

This puts even more of an emphasis on what limited dollars are available each year. The higher the percentage of money that is tied up in contracts each year the less freedom you have to spend. It's common sense of course. So when Silva is in year 3 of a contract and is being paid $11 million and he is actually pitching like a $3 million pitcher it matters. That extra $8 million being paid to Silva is money that isn't going to your bullpen, scouting dept, free agent outfielder or wherever they want to spend.

I can't say it enough times. When your team operates on a fixed budget (as the Mariners do) money matters. The fact the team has plenty of money and can't figure out the best way to spend it is the real problem. Pretending the money doesn't matter is a convenient excuse when justifying these signings.

I don't mind Silva as a pitcher. I mind Silva as a pitcher when he is overpaid relative to his worth and that overpayment is hurting the team addressing other areas.

Money matters.

It's not that hard to understand, but I notice plenty of Mariner fans don't understand this simple concept.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The wait is over?

I've been waiting to see the plan. Wanting to know who the Mariners really wanted all along this winter.

The cynic says the Mariners pick the highest profile player and then tries to get him. When it fails (last place teams rarely get the best talent), they go down the list. In other words, they reach for the moon and then are forced to react to other teams moves as the pool of desirable talent shrinks. The evidence of this type of move is Soriano for Ramirez last winter.

Now we hear the M's are close to signing Carlos Silva for four years.

How does this not reinforce the worst stereotype of the Mariners front office? There is no possible plan that starts off with "Sign Carlos Silva to four year deal" as option #1.

This is the big move we were waiting for?

The offseason is going to suck, suck, suck.

More to come as we wait to see if this move is real or not.

Monday, December 10, 2007

M's need to make decisions

Bavasi has offers on the table and is said to be waiting. He is now at the point in the offseason he needs to start executing his plan.

We saw over the weekend the news Bradley is signing with the Rangers. While Bavasi might have had no interest he is one less player out there. When enough available players are gone (a tipping point?), your plan is hosed and you might panic (and maybe trade Soriano for a bag of dirt).

If, for example Jenkins signs tomorrow with a team do you get worried if Jones is included in a Bedard deal? How long can Bavasi wait on other teams?

The team needs to set deadlines and needs to stick to them. With all the laughter that went on with Hank and the Santana deadline, the fact remains the Yankees realized they needed to control the negotiations. Boston can afford to wait for Santana- they have a good team regardless of what the Twins do. Bavasi doesn't have that luxury. This team isn't that good and they have a number of deals that must be done.

I would call the team I was most interested in making a deal first and giving them my BEST proposal. And let them know how long it will be there. If it doesn't work out you go to plan B.

I know this is all common sense, and I'm sure the team is doing something similar. But every day another player signs is that much less flexibility the team has to shape the 2008 season.

Friday, December 07, 2007

M's lack of a plan still apparent

The good news is the week ends and Bavasi hasn't made a terrible trade or signing yet (although the 4th year to Kuroda might qualify).

Is anyone else bothered we haven't seen even the hint of a non-traditional trade or signing spring up? We have them linked to a Japanese pitcher, which should surprise no one. We are linked to the Santana sweepstakes and are certainly players for Bedard.


Beyond that we really haven't heard much. Now it could be there are serious talks going on, but it's also possible the team isn't executing a plan simply because there isn't one.

Who are the hidden pitching gems Bavasi and staff have targeted? Surely the large team of scouts and consultants the team has hired have identified possible trade partners during the fall. Right? I mean they would have to have taken the time to build a plan with more detail then "let's get some pitching and beef up the bullpen."

We all know Dave and others at USS Mariner have identified the Rays as a good trading partner. They have a surplus of pitching and might be a team to target.

Who is the equivalent for the Mariners? I don't have a problem with them not going after the Rays, but I do have a problem if they don't have SOMEONE to target.

Other teams have been making deals. We know the Giants are desperate for hitting, so much so they are dangling Lincecum if rumors are to be believed.

Think about it. How often does a cheap, talented pitcher like Lincecum come along in baseball? He's everything the Mariners need- talented, under club control, from the area and hugely marketable. If I was Bavasi I would be doing everything possible to find out the price. Would a combination of Clement and Wlad interest the Giants? How about Jones for Lincecum straight up? I'm not sure I make that deal, but I at least make the call right?

If the Mariners are really serious about upgrading the rotation, they have known all along it will involve trading prospects. The free agent market was weak and everyone knew it. If you have to trade someone, surely Jones is the most valuable. Does Bavasi have a plan to replace Jones, or is he waiting for the market to make the decisions for him?

I would have handled the Guillen situation differently. I would be talking to Jenkins. I would be executing a plan.

If the Mariners have one, I don't think we know what it is.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Still no bad news

It seems like the fan community for Seattle is all in agreement that whatever the teams does, it will likely be bad. So we all wait for news, any news, while at the same time being resigned to the idea the outcome will likely be bad.

The truth is Bavasi and company have little capital when it comes to good baseball decisions. The Ramirez trade last year was the last straw for many, and we didn't get many good baseball decisions since. From the departure of Hargrove, the McLaren extension, the "streak," the Jones playing time debacle... the team could use some good press.

Would landing Bedard change that? The reaction seems mixed. Obviously we don't know the price, and that will swing the opinion for sure, but most realize an older team like Seattle needs to be careful trading away youth.

Many people think of Seattle as a younger team thanks to the removal of the old guard when Boone and company were replaced with Lopez and Yuni. But Ichiro, Sexson, Batista, Ibanez, Kenji etc... aren't exactly kids. This is more of a veteran team then most realize, and trading away the likes of Jones, Morrow and company won't do anything to help the club over the next few years.

Fans see the Yankees suddenly afraid of losing talented kids and wonder why this applies to the highest revenue team in baseball and not the Mariners. Many wonder if Morrow won't be pitching better than Bedard in as little as two years, so why give up Jones at the same time? It's a valid concern, and I suspect the more fans think of the future the less likely the are going to go along with a plan that involves removing all of its most talented minor leaguers.

The one thing everyone agrees is Kuroda is probably the surest bet on signings right now and he's 32 years old. Bedard is not old, but he's going to cost really young cheap kids so he's only adding to the "veteraness" of the club.

Adding to the negative vibe surround the club is the Guillen debacle. The team had many options and chose the single worst outcome- no backup for Jones and no draft pick. If we think getting Bedard is going to cost us Jones, then who is our replacement? This is much like last year where the team is reactionary and is not actually implementing a plan. The reason Bedard is on the table is because the O's are making him available and Santana has no interest in playing here. This isn't part of some grand plan by the team, this is Bavasi dangling our most talented players and trying to see what he can get.

I don't trust our management to make a good decision based on years of watching them make terrible ones. I wait for the news, beer in hand...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More Winter madness

Last winter we all remember the quote Bavasi made about being "surprised" regarding the free agent market. This despite the fact he knew full well each team had a huge check in their hands courtesy of the Nationals sale.

This market is shaping up to be a similar experience:

- Reports say the team offered 4 years at over $40 million to Kuroda. If true, I don't like this at all. While I don't claim to have watched him pitch, the market has made it clear he's a middle rotation pitcher at best in terms of expectations. This smacks of Washburn V2. We are hearing mixed reports, but the M's clearly have interest. If we find out Bavasi does cave and give 4 years we will hate the deal the moment it's signed.

- Guillen signing with the Royals. Bavasi screws up again. What else can be said? The team had the opportunity to obtain a high draft choice as compensation and literally threw it on the street. This team can talk all it wants about money being spent on scouting, player development and rebuilding of its farm system. All of this flies out the window when you literally throw away a pick due to irrational fears. This is one of the worst moves Bavasi has made in his career, and that's really saying something. Terrible, terrible move by the team.

- Santana out. We've talked about it before, but it's one thing for Baker to misread the market for Santana. It's something else if Bavasi does it. Reports from the meetings seem to indicate Bavasi actually thought he had a chance at acquiring the best pitcher in baseball. But once again, our fearless GM shows he's in over his head.

Did Bavasi really think Jones and Morrow + some combination was really going to be compelling? Remember, Jones is the player the team thinks so highly of they managed to get him at-bats roughly once a week this season, since he was blocked by the superstar duo of Ibanez and Vidro. The team completely mismanaged the playing time of Jones, which we've been over before. Perhaps if Jones had played regularly since June and posted some interesting numbers, the team could actually market a "proven" prospect. The advantage teams like Boston and NY have is the ability to showcase players who already have contributed on the big league level. Guys like Lester and Hughes have success to point to. The way the Mariners treated Jones (ride the pine while we try to win) and Morrow (try to throw strikes please) is not adding to their value.

I'm not saying other teams don't value Jones or Morrow. What I am saying is the Mariners hardly did themselves any favor in the way they have treated their top prospects. Jones has value DESPITE the teams playing mentality, and it's come back to hurt them in a way they never imagined.

So far this winter meeting is proving yet again why Bavasi is not a competent GM.

Monday, December 03, 2007

What a shocker- no Santana

Lots of folks are getting coal in their stockings a little early this year with the news Santana won't be putting on a Mariner uniform. People like Geoff Baker of the Times and many others felt this was actually a possibility. They even went so far as to try and spell out what they were willing to give up to acquire him.

But they forgot to include logic and reason in the deal. Sure, Santana was a possibility if he was willing to bypass teams like the Yankees and Red Sox... with their "winning" and "playoffs" and "money" and "competent management" and stuff like that.

It was a pipedream from day one, and we all knew it. I could throw out a Bloomquist-for-Pujols article and we would know it was a huge waste of time. Santana-for-XYZ was not far off. The list of assumptions required to even try and document the scenario required a dozen lawyers... so thankfully the entire idea can be put to rest.

Instead of hoping for a single savior, the team and its fans need to be realistic. The 2008 Mariners need more than a white knight to come in and save the season- they need a real pitching staff, better defense, a balanced offense, a bench that gets used...

So far Bavasi hasn't made any great moves, but he hasn't made any terrible ones either. He has money in his pocket and is working deals as we speak.

His track record says a trainwreck is coming. Let's brace for impact.