Mariners Analysis

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why budget matters

One of the many infuriating comments made by some fans over the years is about money and the Mariners. When the team would sign someone like Silva or Batista for too many years and too many dollars, the common response was so what. The thinking goes the Mariners make plenty of money and frankly, who cares if they overspend because money has never been the problem for them. (this was their argument, not mine)

Essentially the thinking is- Oakland is a small market team and money matters, but not for a big spender like the Mariners.

Of course this was stupid thinking then, just as it today. And we have no better evidence of this then Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu.

Both expected to make upwards of $60 million each during the offseason. Instead, they made less than half combined. With the change in market pricing and general belt tightening due to the economy plus a change in defensive value, both saw their market fall to seemingly bargain pricing.

Most fans would have liked to see one of them in a Mariners uniform. But guess what?

With no room in the budget, the new GM had no real chance to add a player like an Abreu. Why?

Because the Mariners made stupid moves in the past that prevented them from carving room out of the budget. The Mariners, like most teams in the majors, set a budget for their GM. This means when they run out of money for the year, they are done wheeling and dealing. If they want to add a player, they need to subtract something to make room for it. The myth that the Mariners have some huge slush fund that can be used at any time to add a player like Abreu is simply untrue. The Mariners goal is to make as much money as possible while still fielding a decent team so they can pay off their debt from Safeco overruns. Until that debt is paid, the team has shown no interest in even breaking even.

Every year since Safeco has been open, the team has made a profit. Again, every year the Mariners play baseball, they take in more money then they invest on the field. Could the Mariners have kept their payroll at $117 million and given Jack the flexibility to add Abreu or even a Manny if he wanted? Sure. But they won't.

Why did they spend more last year? What is because the team was making a huge push towards the playoffs and was willing to lose money to do it? No, as we've covered before the Mariners received a one time payment of roughly $20 million from the sale of the Nationals. They didn't get an additional payment this year, and guess what... the payroll is down 20%. What a shocker.

So the next time some casual fan says "So what.. they overpaid but the Mariners aren't a small market team like Oakland so money doesn't really matter" just punch them in mouth.

They deserve a lesson in economic reality.