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In God we trust. Everybody else needs data. - Rick Peterson

Saturday, December 06, 2003

 
SOMETHING COOKING WITH KENDALL?

I've blogged about a Kendall trade a bit over the last couple of week - scroll down or click on the Archive links for more details. Now it appears such a deal might be under discussion: Cubs, Mariners show interest in Kendall.

The article suggests the Mariners might be packaging Freddy into the deal. If the Mariners can get Kendall for Cirillo and Freddy, while keeping Davis as the primary catcher after Wilson's contract expires in 2004, we should be applauding. I might even consider that the cab I saw really wasn't empty.

I've also previously blogged at length about how I don't think Freddy has any trade value. In fact, I (and quite a few others in the Mariners blogosphere) believe that Freddy is a likely non-tender on Dec 20 if not traded before then. So if adding Freddy is the difference in getting this or any other deal done, I would not hesitate the least to include Freddy in the package.

Any deal to move Kendall, however, would be a salary dump for Pittsburgh. So I really don't see any logic for Pittsburgh to accept Freddy in a deal.

Obviously, if Davis stays with Seattle as part of this deal, there would be a roster logjam at catcher for 2004. As I've mentioned below, given Kendall's salary, it's important to keep him healthy. Consequently, switching him to a position other than catcher is important to keep this deal from being a drag on the payroll. Maybe the solution is to switch his position in 2004 instead of 2005.

Stay tuned. This could be interesting.

 
INCESTUOUS AMPLIFICATION

The Seattle Times: Mariners: M's hire Fontaine as scouting VP

I will post something on this a bit later. These changes by the Mariners provide a good framework to discuss statheads, scouting/development, binary thinking, the impacts of penguin doo-doo on antarctic wildlife, and why the Latona Tavern is not a good place to have a Board of Directors meeting for a local chapter of a professional association.

See ya' later.


Friday, December 05, 2003

 
BORAS BRINKSMANSHIP

  1. ESPN.com - MLB - Pudge shakes off Marlins' pitch, could depart. Marlins offer 2 years, $15 million. Boras/Rodriguez asking 5 years and more than $10 million per year.

  2. ESPN.com - MLB - Phillies offer Millwood three-year deal with option. Phillies offer 3 years at $9 million to $10 million per year. Boras/Millwood reportedly asking $13 million per year for 5 to 7 years.
Another story says that Boras has told the Phillies another team has made an offer for Millwood similar to their offer to the Phillies. (He and A-Rod snookered the Rangers with that line; can't blame him for trying again.)

Boras is trying to resurrect 1999. It will be interesting to see how his clients fare this offseason. I suspect that some of them are going to regret not taking some of these early deals.

Some of Boras' clients have already defected this year. He's playing a high stakes game here; if he misplays his hand with Pudge, Millwood and a few others this year, he may have more defections.

 
VLAD LOOKING FOR A TEAM WITH A FEW GOOD FRIARS

Well, some Dominicans anyway, according to Jayson Stark. That would seem to leave the Mariners out.

If Vlad wants to join up with Dominicans, shouldn't he be talking to the Padres?

 
A QUICK HIT - TEJADA AND VLAD

Things get a bit clearer now. Reports are that Vlad is insisting on five years or more, whereas Tejada appears willing to take three years. If these are true, then I can fully support focusing more intently on Tejada. Retaining payroll flexibility is very valuable.

I think there is a good possibility that Vlad will need to come down on his expectations unless the Orioles return to their old habits. Unfortunately, there is no information that the Mariners are preselling themselves as a backup for Vlad if he can't get what he wants elsewhere. I would try to work with Vlad so that if he can't get the years and dollars he wants elsewhere, he will make the Mariners his first choice. Maybe this is going on behind the scenes, but Armstrong's comments yesterday suggest otherwise.

And if the Mariners don't get Vlad, I would love to see him in San Francisco batting behind Bonds. That would be fun to watch!!

 
A FINAL QUICK NOTE ON KENDALL

Jeff Angus from Management by Baseball (see the hyperlink in the sidebar) pointed out to me that if Kendall were with the Mariners, (and doing a position switch) he would also be useful spotting Olerud against left handed pitching.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

 
YANKEES ENSURE 2003 PENNANT BY SIGNING EVERY PLAYER IN BASEBALL

Ok - it's time to resurrect this classic article from The Onion: Yankees Ensure 2003 Pennant By Signing Every Player In Baseball

 
AN EMPTY CAB PULLED UP IN FRONT OF SAFECO FIELD, AND BILL BAVASI, HOWARD LINCOLN, AND CHUCK ARMSTRONG GOT OUT

Numbing! Totally mind-numbing!

Yesterday I posted about how we would be insulting the intelligence of the Mariners brain trust if we were to assume that the transactions we see are the product of a overall review of the current roster and of various options for improving the team. I thought I was using a bit of hyperbole to make my point more dramatically, but never did I expect to have it confirmed exactly as I presented it - and within a day, no less.

After making that entry yesterday, today's P-I has a story that quotes Chuck Armstrong on the Mariners' outfield situation. Here is the quote:
Armstrong said the club hasn't ruled out making a run at Expos slugger Vladimir Guerrero, one of the gems of free agency after hitting .330 with 26 homers and 79 RBIs for the Expos this year. "There is some interest," Armstrong said. "But it's very down on the agenda. We have to formulate an idea what we want to do with Mike Cameron and Randy Winn in the outfield."
Read that sentence highlighted in red carefully. Got it?

It is December 4. We are three days before the deadline for offering arbitration to free agents. The team has made one major roster move for the outfield. And they haven't formulated an idea of what they want to do in the outfield!

That means they signed Ibañez without having decided what they want to do with Cameron and Winn. That means they have not worked out their responses to different scenarios - If Cameron wants $6 million and three years, what do we do? If we non-tender Winn, what do we do? If we sign Ibañez, who do we let go? That means they have been talking trades without knowing what they want the outfield to look like.

Isn't it a bit late in the offseason to start to formulate ideas about what to do with Winn and Cameron? Wouldn't you think that those plans would be completed by December 4? I am stunned - all of this time I have been thinking that Derek Zumsteg has been exaggerating when he has been saying the Mariners don't have a plan.

But Derek is right, and he's not exaggerating. They really don't!! Scary, isn't it?

 
MANAGEMENT BY BASEBALL

Gabe over at The Safest Blog on the Web recently pointed out the Management by Baseball blog. It's a great site, and I've added it to the sidebar.

BTW - even though the e-mail address provided in the "Contact Me" link has a Marinersmvp.com domain name, Jeff assures me that he is not connected with the Mariners. It's a free e-mail address available through MLB (I didn't know they offered that!), and when you sign up you have to indicate a favorite team.

Jeff, manifesting his inordinate intelligence and good sense, selected the Mariners, so his addy got linked to the Mariners.

 
MY MORNING RANT AND MORE THOUGHTS ON JASON KENDALL

I'm copying much of a post that I added to a thread this morning at the Seattle P-I Mariners blog.

I've done a bit of roster playing around, and after the Ibañez signing, I can't fit in all of the pieces I would like to add (particularly Vlad and first rate shortstop) to see the Mariners truly field a better team in 2004.

On Nov 27, I discussed swapping Cirillo (and his burdensome contract) for Jason Kendall (and his burdensome contract). Kendall's contract is ugly in the out years, but that is the tradeoff that would be made to get another big bat in the lineup now and get out from Cirillo's contract. Plus, I think Kendall has a reasonably good chance of staying productive over the remaining length of the contract (unlike Griffey).

The deal that would look most possible to me is Cirillo and Ben Davis for Kendall, pretty much straight up. Kendall replaces Davis at catcher for the Mariners - hopefully Kendall would be a catcher for 2004 only, and would thereafter switch to first base or third base. In Pittsburgh, Davis takes Kendall's catcher spot, and Cirillo takes over at third for the next two years. The big benefit to Pittsburgh is the payroll savings in 2006 and 2007. Shipping Kendall in this deal would free up $24 million of payroll in those years, which is just about when they will need that money to handle arbitration for their current crop of young players. The Mariners make a signficant overall improvement in the team, without signficantly increasing payroll in 2004 and 2005.

If this swap were made, about $7.5 million of 2004 salary moves to Pittsburgh, and $8 million comes back, for a net additional outlay of $0.5 million. For that, the Mariners would have made a nice addition to the lineup, and if Kendall can recover some of the power he showed several years ago, it would be a great pickup. In 2006, the last year of Cirillo's contract, Kendall's salary increases another $2 million, but then were Davis still on the roster, he would probably get a $2 million raise, so it's still a wash. The real price comes in 2006 and 2007 when Cirillo's contract would have been off the books, but Kendall is still receiving $11 million and $13 million - that is a potentially payroll strangling commitment for those years.

Kendall also has a no-trade clause, so he would have to approve the deal. Kendall wants to get back to San Diego, where he grew up. When San Diego picked up Hernandez, that pretty much ended the discussions between Pittsburgh and San Diego to move Kendall to San Diego. So, maybe now Kendall would be open to coming to Seattle as a first step to getting closer to home.

If such a swap were a possibility, I would see if Kendall would be willing to restructure the contract as part of waiving the no-trade, particularly I would look at adding some from of a mutual option to the contract after 2005. That way, if San Diego or something else in So Cal opened at that time, Kendall could exercise his option, take it and the Mariners would be free of the salary commitment. Simultaneously, the last two years with the Mariners would vest only if he maintained his productivity, so the Mariners don't get stuck with a worse than Cirillo situation. I'm skeptical that he would be willing to give up the huge guaranteed backend of his current contract, but it's worth at least seeing if he is interested.

BTW - if I had Kendall on my roster, I would handle him carefully. I would figure on giving him about 2/3 of the catching duties in 2004, and give him a good number of at bats as DH to give Edgar lots of rest. After 2004, I would try to move him away from catcher to minimize the chances of physical breakdown, and find a longer term solution at catcher - note that Wilson's salary goes away at that point so there is some payroll flexibility there. Possible position switches for Kendall post-2004 might be moving him to first base to replace Olerud or seeing if he can fill the third base slot. (But note that the free agent class of 2004 will probably be loaded with quality third baseman - Koskie, Glaus, Chavez will all be eligible. Also, if Florida does not commit to a new stadium next year, Lowell becomes a free agent as well.) In the worst case. Kendall could DH, but his salary would be pretty huge to give to someone who does not contribute defensively.

I blog pretty relentlessly about the Mariners overpaying for middle of the road players. Roster number crunching here shows the consequences of that. Let's say you've got 8 spots on the roster that are filled with league average players for their position (think, Ibañez and Hasegawa), but you pay them on average $1 million above market just because they are your returning players and they are good guys. That policy costs you one elite player out of your lineup.

At the Mariners payroll levels, you can produce a team that is good, but not great. And it removes the payroll flexibility to allow the Mariners to make at least a few changes similar to those being made in the AL East to improve their teams.

Howard Lincoln commented last yeat that the Mariner's goal was to be competitive every year, not to win. He says he was misconstrued, but actions speak louder than words. And the Mariner's actions show that they are content to field a team that will consistently win 85-90 games per season, with a premium placed on players who will not embarass the team. A team that wins 85-90 games will usually be in the wild card chase (but will often miss in the end) and may contend for a division title when the division has an offyear. In other words, a team that is competitive.

That's what Lincoln said was the Mariners goal, and that is exactly what we are getting, The Mariners are second only to the Yankees in total revenue, and with one of the higher payrolls in baseball they should not be consistently good, they should be consistently great.

I get angry because I think the fans deserve excellence. If we were in Pittsburgh or Kansas City, consistently fielding a team that wins 85-90 would be excellence. For a team with the resources of the Mariners, consistently winning 85-90 is mediocrity.


Wednesday, December 03, 2003

 
WHAT'S FREDDY WORTH? JUST SPARE CHANGE, AT MOST

The Phillies acquire Milton from the Twins, picking up Milton for:
  • a two years experience middling reliever who makes a typical major league batter hit like Randy Winn and who allowed 19 of 31 inherited runners to score last year
  • a third year switch-hitting shortstop who looks like Bloomquist from either side of the plate
  • a minor league player who no other team wants in the Rule V draft.
Milton is pretty close to a Freddy equivalent. One year to free agency, and a big contract for a pitcher with potential that hasn't been seen for a couple of years. Milton is due $9 million in 2004 vs. the $8 million or so Freddy will receive out of arbitration. Milton also has a bit more experience and track record, and has shown he is not an immature head case. And, in the current market, that is good for inexpensive roster filler.

Now bear in mind that Philadelphia is one of the few teams that is ready to contend and that has money to spend. They also have a hole in their rotation if Millwood doesn't return (and based on Millwood's second half of 2003, they may still have a gaping hole even if he does return).

For those of you who have maintained that the Mariners should trade Freddy for prospects, here's your report on what a pitcher like Freddy is worth. Actually, Philadelphia is one of the few teams that might have had a reasonable interest in Freddie, and now that they have Milton, Freddy is probably worth even less.

And if I were a Philadelphia blogger, I would be screaming about what possessed my team to drop $9 million for one year of service from a middling starter with a bad knee. Compare Milton at $9 million with Jamie Moyer at $6.5 million.

 
IT WOULD BE NICE TO TAKE THE MARINERS SERIOUSLY, BUT WOULDN'T DOING SO AFFRONT THEIR INTELLIGENCE?

[Giving props: that title is unabashedly adapted from an immortal William F. Buckley quip.]

Good teams have plans that extend several years in the future, and make roster moves and signings accordingly. As suggested in one of my previous entries, the Yankees one-year deal with Boone shows some of their thinking in this regard.

In giving Boone a one-year deal for $5.75 million, the Yankees clearly are putting third base on hold in 2004, while preparing to address third base after the 2004 season (or midway in 2004 if the proper opportunity presents itself). I speculated the Yankees were eyeing Lowell, but with his new Phish contract, he's out of the picture.

But 2004 looks as if it will be a great year for free agent third basemen. Some other third basemen that are potentially free agents after 2004 (with their current contract info) include:
  • Glaus (4-year, $22 million contract)
  • Koskie (4-yr, $10.5 milion contract, including the $4.5 million 2004 option exercised by Minnesota)
  • Chavez (4-yr, $11.75 million contract)
It's a pretty good bet that one of those guys is going to be wearing Yankee pinstripes in 2005, most likely Chavez or Koskie. It would be nice if the Mariners could grab whichever one of those the Yankees don't, but the Mariners are more likely to do something stupid like sign Boone to three years and $15 million.

If the Mariners do this type of planning ahead, it sure would be nice to see some evidence of it. In the offseason, we would see strategic thinking and signings that create flexibility and advance the team. During the first half of the season, we would see the Mariners assessing needs, identifying available options, and laying the groundwork for trades starting in May instead of trying to get everything done in the last two weeks of July.

I suppose many fans presume they are doing this type of analysis already. But if that were true, wouldn't we need to take seriously such decisions as adding as Ibañez, standing pat at the trade deadline (or making low impact deals such as Al Martin and Rey Sanchez) while every team around overtakes them, and picking up castoffs such as Carrera? Wouldn't we be affronting their intellligence if we did assume that those decisions are part of some grand master plan?

The winter meetings are coming up; David over at USS Mariner says the Mariners have a lot of irons in the fire and things could move quickly. It would be great if sometime in the next month I feel compelled to backpedal on this entry; I'm pretty sure that I won't, however.

BTW - these contract numbers also show how overpriced the Yankees deal with Boone is, particularly considering that all of these contract I listed were done before the new CBA. The only reason I can see why the Yankees gave that much to Boone is because there wasn't any place holder they wanted more, and the $5.75 million they gave him is close to what he would have received if they offered him arbitration.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

 
TRYING OUT LATROY

John Bonnes, the Twins Geek, reports that it appears that neither LaTroy Hawkins nor Eddie Guardado are going to return to the Twins: Twins Geek - Rumors and Speculation. It also appears that the Yankees are not looking at them either, so the main suitors (and likely biggest overspenders) for their services are out of the picture. Because Eddie has the "closer" label, he will probably get more money even though Hawkins is probably the better pitcher.

I suspect that the salary figures being batted around with Hasegawa may be enough to bring in Hawkins, with change left over. Because of the bigger "closer" salary for Eddie, I am less interested in him.

I'm convinced, however, that sports agents dealing with the Mariners have a connection that supplies them with some kind of magic foo-foo dust that they release in the room during negotiations. The foo-foo dust causes the Mariners management to have uncontollable urges to agree to large contracts with middle of the road veteran ballplayers in their 30's. My hope is that Ibañez and his agent used up the world's entire inventory of the foo-foo dust during their negotiations.

Unfortunately, Ibañez may have brought his stash with him to the party in Puerto Rico, and distributed it to all of the Mariners and Mariners hangers-on who were there.

Wed am update: This is moot; Hawkins signed with the Cubs, 3 yrs and $11 million.

 
THE IBAÑEZ RIPPLE

Jay Payton is now using Ibañez as a comp in negotiations with the Rox, DenverPost.com - ROCKIES / MLB. Colorado doesn't think they can afford that, so it looks as if Payton will be a December 20 non-tender unless he is willing to take less than Ibañez money. (And if this were a Rox blog, I would be writing about O'Dowd as I do about Bavasi at the notion of signing Castilla to replace Payton's bat. That's as funny as considering Ibañez an elite free agent signing!)

And there is discussion of the article over at Clutch Hits. I especially like this excerpt from Denver Lou, comment #17:

"…There are quite a few "second-tier" OF's out there (Everett, Mondesi, Cruz Jr., Sanders, Juan Gonzalez, Jose Guillen, Lofton, Burnitz, Rondell White, Brian Jordan), and there aren't enough dumb GM's to give them all $13 million contracts…"

 
PLEASE WELCOME OUR NEXT CONTESTANT TO "THE PRICE IS WRONG" - SHIGETOSHI HASEGAWA!!

I was going to do something on Shiggy this morning, since he and his agent have countered the Mariners offer. Shiggy's counter offer to the Mariners coincides with news out of NY that the Yankees have pretty much settled on their bullpen for next year, and it doesn't include Shiggy.

The gist of my post was going to be that last year looked like a fluke year for Shiggy, and my hope the Mariners recognize that Shiggy is really not the pitcher he seemed to be last year. Peter over at Mariners Musings beat me to it, and did it far better than I could have. So I suggest you just go there for the information and data.

In meantime, stay tuned to your Seattle Mariners blogosphere to learn the answers to these questions:
  • Did the Yankees realize that Shiggy's 2003 was a fluke and not negotiate seriously with him?
  • Will the Mariners continue to pay twice market value for middle of the road players?
  • Will there be at least five free agent relievers with similar or better career numbers who sign for less than half the money paid to Shiggy?
The answers to these questions will be revealed in our upcoming episodes.

Your Seattle Mariners - reality programming that truly causes you to cover your face with your hands and stare through the spaces between your fingers.

 
STARTING MY DAY WITH A HEALTHY HELPING OF QUESTIONS

  • Do you remember the Safeco Field cost overruns?
  • Do you remember how the Mariners tried to renege on their commitment to pay for overruns?
  • Do you remember that the Mariners finally agreed to live up to their agreement only after they realized the political and public relations mess they were creating?

  • Have you ever wondered why an organization that prides itself on "character and values" didn't believe it was obligated to keep its contractual commitments to Puget Sound citizens and fans?
  • Have you ever wondered why a team that has the second largest total revenues in baseball can't afford to compete at the upper echelons of the game?

  • Isn't it clear that the Mariners are still sticking us for the Safeco Field cost overruns?

Monday, December 01, 2003

 
I TAKE IT ALL BACK - THE MARINERS ARE COMPETING WITH THE YANKEES AFTER ALL!!

ESPN.com - MLB - Boone, Yankees iron out one-year deal

I was clearly mistaken. The Mariners are competing with the Yankees. I would prefer, however, that they compete on the ball field, not in the rivalry to see who can most agitate their fan blogosphere in the offseason by overpaying for mediocre talent.

Of course, the Yankees only signed Boone for one year. (Hmmm - isn't Mike Lowell one year away from free agency?) And since they're the Yankees, it doesn't make any difference if they overpay for someone like Boone anyway.


 
IBAÑEZ, AD NAUSEUM

Over at marinerbullpen Rick continues to discuss/defend the Ibañez signing. Diversity of opinion is good; I fully believe that readers collect information from multiple viewpoints and decide for themselves.

Rick does make the following statement, though, that I don't think stands up to scrutiny:

[snip] I am not sure why it is not considered smart by the Mariners to pay a third of the price of a Sheffield to get comparable slugging numbers in the area the Mariners are weakest in. [snip]

Let's compare Sheffield's and Ibañez's numbers (and I've thrown Catalanotto in for good measure):

Sheffield vs. Ibañez (and a Catalanotto Bonus)
PlayerBAOBPSLG
Sheffield - career0.2990.4010.527
Ibañez - career0.2780.3340.464
Catalanotto - career0.2970.3590.465
Sheffield - career vs righty0.2950.3980.524
Ibañez - career vs righty0.2850.3430.482
Catalanotto - career vs righty0.3020.3620.479


I added the "vs. righty" numbers because that is what Rick is referring to when he mentions "…the area the Mariners are weakest in."

The points I see here:
  1. Sheffield's and Ibañez's slugging numbers are "comparable" only in the sense that you can compare them to each other. That comparison, though, shows that Ibañez isn't in the same league as Sheffield, overall or versus righties.
  2. A player who is comparable to Ibañez is Frank Catalanotto - the free agent who signed a one-year contract for $2.5 million. To be worth his contract, Ibañez will have to be better over the three years of his contract than he has been to date. And, did I mention that Catalanotto is two years younger than Ibañez?
  3. Signing Ibañez clogs the roster. He fills a spot that could have been filled by a truly great player.
I've presented the righty split because it addresses the point Rick was trying to make. But the Mariners are not planning to use Ibañez as the left-handed bat in a platoon. He is going to be an every day player (presumably in left field), so you need to evaluate the signing based on what he does from both sides of the plate. Of course, then the comparison gets even worse.

There is no question that the Mariners need to strengthen the overall offense, and offense against right-handers is certainly a need. Adding Ibanez does improve the attack from the left side of the plate, but downgrades the attack from the right side of the plate. If Ibañez replaces Winn the net change is close to zero, if he displaces Cameron it's a significant net loss. (And that assessment considers only offensive production, ignoring that both Winn and Cameron are better fielders than Ibañez.) So the Mariners spent $4 million to stand pat, at best. That same $4 million could have bought both members of a platoon that combined would have equaled or exceeded Ibañez's production as a left-handed batter, and would have strengthened the bench at the same time.

At Catalanotto money, Ibañez would be a nice super sub - playing outfield and first base, being an emergency catcher, and, perhaps, adding some third base to his skill set. As a starter (which is what the Mariners are paying him to be) he merely holds his own - contributing at about a league average level (and even that assumes he doesn't undergo the decline that most players undergo after they turn 30).

Rick also contends that the offseason is still young, and that there is time for the Mariners to make other moves. However, if you are going for a true impact player (such as Vlad), you sign that player first, then fill the roster around him. You don't sign your complementary players first, then look for the big gun to go with them. I hope I am wrong, but all of the evidence this off-season indicates that the Mariners overall goal, as I put it previously, is to have a team that is slightly above average overall - good enough to contend in the AL West (which now appears to be sliding behind the AL East as the most competitive division in the AL), but not among the league elite.

Even though the Mariners have the second highest revenues in baseball, the Ibañez contract shows they still operate as a small market team whose goal is to just get to the playoffs. It is simply not the signing you do when you are trying to move from good to excellent.

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