Thursday, December 23, 2010

Greatest Games Ever is running a promotion where fans vote for the top 20 greatest games ever.  Fan bases are not created equal, however, evidenced by the fact that the game that is blowing all others away is that memorable Oct. 26th, 2002 barn burner between the Giants and Angels.  It currently has better than 300% of the votes that Roy Halladay's playoff no-hitter has, to say nothing of the other 30 games that were actually way more memorable.  But I digress...

Point is, of course, to go in and vote for your favorite game.  If "the double" is it, click away.  Right now, it's getting killed.

Here's the link

Go Mariners.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mariners Offseason: Looking ahead at 2012

So as we're watching Jack Zduriencik lift the lid on trashcans all over the league, I thought it might be a good time to look ahead to 2012, when the M's will actually have a few bucks to spend.

This is all subject to change, of course, given trades and whatever other odd accounting moves the club pulls off to free up money going into next year's offseason.  There will no doubt be other, smaller contracts that come off the books after we tender contracts to folks coming up on 2011, but but as of now, this is the money coming off books in 2012:

(courtesy of Cot's Contracts fantastic site)...

  • Betancourt, $1m (#$@!)
  • Silva, $5.5m (#$%@!)
  • Jack Wilson, $5m (yay!)
  • Milton Bradley $13.3m (yay yay!)

Some wildcards are the arbitration eligible
  • Aardsma, Arb 3 (my bet is he's gone soon)
  • League, Arb 4 (my bet is he's gone mid-season)
  • Olson, Arb 2 (who knows)
  • Vargas, Arb 2 (likely to stay)
  • Ryan, Brendan, Arb 2 (likely to stay)
There are some other arbitration eligible guys, but they won't get significant or even semi-significant contracts like the kids above might. But it's very likely that the club won't be competing for anything other than first in the buffet line next year, so again - if Aardsma and League are still around mid-season, you can bet there will be playoff contenders willing to acquire decent bullpen arms, so it's not likely we'll be paying them millions headed into 2012.

The "knowns": who we have under contract for 2012:
  • Felix's contract goes from $10.7m to $19.2m
  • Ichiro $18m
  • Figgins $9.5m
  • Guti: $5.8m
  • Ackley: $1.5m
  • Olivo $3.5m*

*I'm not 100% on Olivo's contract being an even 3.5 over two years.  There is an option for a third year (cough, cough...) so the $7m deal may include option and buyout money.  But let's just assume $3.5m.

As things stand right now, they have roughly $57.5 million committed for 2012 and they have all of 6 roster spots covered.  Yes, they have a bunch of other kids they'll surely offer contracts to as they're under club control, but at this date, there's nothing technically on the books other than the above.

By 2012, let's say they increase payroll 10% over 2010, they'll have roughly $45 million to spend.  After seeing the mess of contracts the past several weeks, that's really not a whole lot - but regardless, let's take a peek at what's out there.

Free Agents in 2012 (as of this particular snapshot in time):

C: There's just shite for free agents. So we're stuck with Olivo and Moore. 

1b: Nick Swisher ($10.25m club option, $1m buyout), Prince Fielder and some guy named Albert Pujols.  Forget about Pujols, but Swisher is someone that could actually be interesting.  Adrian Gonzalez is a FA too, but I'm assuming he's going to sign an extension with Boston.  Fielder has been linked to the M's (well, Jack) for a while, but he really should be viewed as a DH, and I'm sure Fielder wants to play 1b still.  Plus, we have that Smoak kid.

2b: Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks, Brandon Phillips, Robinson Cano ($14m option with a $2m buyout).  Yankees will keep Cano, Uggla will likely sign an extension with Atlanta, Weeks will probably have his leg amputated, and Phillips will probably get in a street fight with an elderly woman and lose.  Hopefully Ackley pans out and we can just ignore 2b for a decade.

SS: Bartlett, Furcal, JJ Hardy, Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes.  I'm betting the club sticks with Ryan at SS, but Jose Reyes would be an interesting option for the M's, although he would command a hefty salary, and last I checked, we already have a leadoff hitter.  Wait, two.

3b:  Jose Bautista, Aramis Ramirez.  A couple interesting names, but Bautista is more of an outfielder anyway as he's a butcher with the glove at 3b.  ARam isn't likely to come to the place where right handed bats go to die when he's 34 and probably looking for his last multiple year contract.  Besides, we have that Figgy guy. 

OF:  Grady Sizemore - $8.5MM club option with a $500K buyout; Nick Swisher (again) - $10.25MM club option with a $1MM buyout.  This has me intrigued.  Sizemore is a local product (we even went to the same high school, though he's about 140 years younger), he'll be just 29, and his value is going to depend dramatically on what happens this year as he's coming off microfracture surgery.  I actually did a piece on him over at RotoHardball if you're so inclined.  Ignore whether he's a LF or CF, just the fact that he once was a feared hitter with a 30/30 season under his belt by age 26.  But 8.5 mil is a bargain price on a guy of his talent, so he'd have to come out and really stink for the club to walk away.

Swisher also becomes pretty interesting as he can hold his own defensively at 1b and in the OF, he was a 4.1 WAR player in 2010 and 3.3 in 2009, so the dude can still swing a mean bat.

Depending on the development of Saunders, either of these guys could be the big splash for the M's in 2012.

DH-types - Cust, Bryanyan, David Ortiz.  Yeah, it's not pretty.  Watch them re-up with Cust, which is probably fine.

Starting Pitching:  Let's be realistic - the Mariners have one starter and a bunch of replacement-level arms.  Vargas is nice, but he could easily regress into...well, Jason Vargas.  He's nothing more than a decent 5th starter on a good team, but he's unfortunately our 2nd starter on a very bad team.  Pineda is a good talent, but still a question mark.  At an absolute minimum, the M's should be in the market for 2 starters in 2012.

Scott Kazmir - $13.5MM club option with a $2.5MM buyout
Adam Wainwright  - $10MM vesting option for '12, $12MM for '13
Roy Oswalt  - $16MM mutual option with a $2MM buyout
Edwin Jackson
Mark Buehrle
Chris Carpenter  - $15MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Ryan Dempster  - $14MM player option
Gil Meche

Yes, I put Meche in as a joke.  There are others too, but they generally suck.

So Kazmir is going to be an interesting decision for the Angels.  If he rebounds at all, they might just pick up that option, but chances are they buy him out and try to negotiate something cheaper.  Kazmir used to have a big arm, but there are red flags all over the place.

The Cardinals have a problem - because they're needing to resign the worlds greatest first baseman, who might just command $30m per season, and their two aces are free agents at almost the same time.  I say almost because of the vesting option for Wainwright which I believe vests if he does not finish the year on the DL and/or finishes top 5 in Cy Young Voting - which at this date, seems likely.  Carpenter is suddenly almost in a protected employment class with his age, and I would bet that he's bought out and brought back on the cheap with some deferred money to get a Pujols deal under their payroll.

This leaves Roy O, Jackson, Buehrle, and Dempster.  Oswalt could actually get let loose since the Phils have committed so much payroll to their rotation, but a World Series run could generate all sorts of good feelings to do the old buy out, 3 year deal on the cheap kind of thing.  Dempster is interesting.  It seems like it would be dumb to not pick up that option if you're Dempster, but if he has another workhorse-like season, you could see where he could find himself a 3-year guaranteed deal at about $12m per, given the spending we've seen this offseason.  I don't think he makes a lot of sense for the M's, but he'd be someone I could get behind in Mariner blue.

This leaves a couple of White Sox.  Edwin Jackson?  He'll be 28, he was actually very, very good in 2010, he's a pitcher who should thrive at Safeco.  Ignore the 4.47 ERA last year.  His xFIP was 3.85, his strikeouts were up to near 8K/9, his home runs were down, and overall the ERA was damaged by a low strand rate and high batting average on balls in play.  He's young, durable, and well, somewhat attainable.  He fits.  Buehrle?  Not so much. Probably in Chicago for life.

So after all that, what do we have?  Sizemore, Swisher, Edwin Jackson.  That could eat up a very good portion of the $45 mil the M's might have to spend, but it would be a good start, although my bet is Sizemore won't be a FA.  In sum, I'm not real thrilled with what will be out there in free agency, so we might do better (certainly in the rotation) via trade, possibly picking up an albatross contract along the way to get a plus arm.  But at a minimum, next year should be WAY more exciting than this offseason.

I'm sure I've missed something, so feel free to yell at me in comments.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yay Brendan Ryan

I like this move quite a bit because of the flexibility it gives the squad and now we boast arguably two of the best defensive shortstops in baseball.

Lookout Landing has a great writeup about the swap, so I won't rehash it here.  But consider that Ryan is probably your Mariner shortstop for the next three seasons if he can avoid being a complete failure at the dish.  So get to liking him.

At a minimum, he brings some personality to this squad.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Baseball Bloggers Alliance Day!

Since the winter meetings have ended and the sizzling-hot news of Jose Flores, Miguel Olivo, and Jack Cust begins to sink in, let's take a moment to highlight Baseball Bloggers Alliance Day.

Maybe you didn't know there was an organized group of baseball bloggers.  Perhaps you didn't know they've formed an alliance (scary!).  Maybe you didn't even know they were so totally rad and organized that they have a "day"?  Well, think again weary Mariner fans.

Practically speaking, the BBA gives hacks like me and Paul an opportunity to interact with other folks around the interwebs that have the same passion for praying to God their team does something good the next year.  The BBA has been around for just a couple of years, but in that time better than 230 blogs have signed up to join.  There are team-specific chapters, general chapters, and others dedicated to history, fantasy baseball, and just all around love-of-the-game fun. 

The BBA gives voice to us peons who don't write for the big monsters and don't get to vote in all of the MVP, Cy Young, etc. awards.  The BBA therefore does give voice to bloggers by organizing their own set of votes for the best performers of the year, and in fact, the BBA typically mirrors the findings of the baseball writers of America, but also has a long list of their own awards, voted on by the bloggers, many of which are far more relevant than what the real world gives us anyway.

So go check them out, the BBA, good for you, good for baseball.  Like beer. And dirt. And grass. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Miguel Olivo is Jose Lopez

Career stats:

Player A:  .246/.283/.427  BB% 4.1%
Player B:  .266/.297/.400  BB% 3.7%

No, it's not fair to really compare the two since one is a catcher and one is a second baseman, but these two players are free swingers, they hardly ever walk, hardly ever get on base without the benefit of a well struck ball, which turns out to be roughly once every 4 trips to the plate, and it's typically a single.

Player A is Miguel Olivo, our new catcher.  Player B is Jose Lopez, who we were all thrilled to get rid of.

Well, it turns out, he's baaaaa-ack!

$7 mil is a lot to give a guy who is going to struggle to be league average, but I guess what's done is done.  There's not much of anything at all in free agency next year at C, so maybe Jack Z wants to just check the position off his list and move on.

Silver lining?  Rob Johnson is probably finished in Seattle, barring injury.  And Adam Moore has just been put on notice to get his shit together.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The More You Know: Jack Cust

So Twitter is ablaze with Jack Cust to the Mariners, so let's assume this is true.

Things to know about Jack Cust:

Jack Cust kills right handed pitchers.  Even in a "down" 2010, .285/.410/.470.

Jack Cust strikes out a ton, but he also will probably lead the team in OBP, so it hardly matters.

Jack Cust is listed as OF/DH in most references, but if he's in the outfield, you know whoever is pitching is muttering to themselves dirty words.  He's not a defender.

Jack Cust, surprisingly, is just 31.  Turns 32 next month.  So he's four years younger than Branyan, and doesn't bring the bad-back-history.

Jack Cust hasn't hit well at Safeco, but he's only had 97 career AB's there, so let's not get too antsy.

Jack Cust, as a lefty, would seem to be a good fit for the Safe if looking to him to yank balls over the right field wall, but checking Hit Tracker, it would seem to suggest that he's a spray-home-run hitter and I'm not sure he's going to be able to go the other way too much in Seattle.  I'll have to do more research on that one though. Updated: Looking at MLB's hit chart, in his career at Oakland, Cust appears to have hit about 40% of his home runs the other way.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing talent-wise, but it's probably a bad thing Safeco-wise.

Interestingly, this doesn't necessarily preclude the M's from bringing Branyan back, which would make for an interesting all-or-nothing 3-4 in the lineup, but given the M's needs and lack of flexibility, I doubt that it will happen.  I do hope it ends this Cantu ridiculousness though.

Haven't seen the money (update: early report says one year deal, in the $2.5 mil range.  If Cust can manage to be a 2.0 WAR player, then this is a bargain), but all in all, a fine pickup if it's a one year deal.  He'll probably go .245/22/80 or so if he hits cleanup and gets 500 AB's and he provides an extra OF in a real pinch.

I'm not posting if we acquire Valbuena, who sounds to be a darling of Eric Wedge.  Sigh.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Say No to Cantu

M's rumored to be interested in Jorge Cantu.  I threw up a little bit in my mouth just by typing that.

Look, there was a day when Cantu was a nice player, but even in the season where he hit 29 home runs, he was only 2.7 wins above replacement because he's so friggin bad at every position he plays.

I'd like to say that he's a platoon type too - but on his career, he's a 103 wRC+ vs. lefties (weighted runs created based on weighted On Base Average) and 102 wRC+ vs. righties.  Last year, he was miserable versus lefties so you couldn't even play to traditional platoon roles with him.  He can't play defense worth a lick anywhere, so he's a DH with no real plate-side-advantage.  We'd be better off bringing Garko back.

I'll assume this is just weird rumor. 

The battle between Jack Wilson and Jorge Cantu for most unattractive Mariner might be a good battle though.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Matt Diaz and Hideki Matsui

Okay, so the M's are apparently kicking the tires on Matt Diaz and Hideki Matsui.  Let's just take a quick snapshot of what this means.

First of all, scrap heap = yay.

Okay, now that that's out of the way...

Update: Matt Diaz signed with the Pirates.  Matt Diaz would presumably platoon with Michael Saunders in LF, which is a pretty sorry state of affairs for Saunders and his future with the club, but perhaps they're still trying to fix his swing vs. lefties.  On a team that's going to lose more games than they win, why not let Saunders learn on the field, but hey, I'm not paid to make those decisions.

So Matt Diaz (not Dee-Ahz, mind you it's DIE-as, as in "he died as gracefully as one could with pantyhose on") - his splits vs. left handed pitchers in his career (damn near 800 PA's, so it's plenty to go on):  Triple slash of .334/.373/.533.  That ain't bad, in fact, that's pretty nice for a player that will be virtually free.  Not a lot of power, but good gap hitter off lefties, and he's also regarded as a pretty good defensive player.  As a regular with the Braves, he had a few nice seasons, posting WAR of 2.2, 3.0, and 2.6.  He wasn't very good at all last year, and age might be catching up with him, but this is a move that at least makes me raise an eyebrow.

Hideki Matsui, yes Godzilla himself, is about 128 years old and still would have easily been our second best hitter last year.  If the knees hold up and he can play 140 games for you, you can almost assuredly pencil in .270/20/85 as DH.  He made $6 mil last year, and I'd imagine he's looking for something similar, so I'm not sure he's worth twice the money it might take to bring in Russel the Muscle to do virtually the same - but it also has to be said that Branyan is probably less likely to be healthy next year, which should really make him cry just a little since Matsui has a weekly scheduled cup of coffee with father time.

The plus side of all this dumpster diving for Jack Z is we didn't give $126 million to anyone this offseason

Friday, December 3, 2010

What Jose Lopez is Worth

And here I figured we would be getting a bucket of piss.  It looks like this guy even has all of his appendages.

In fairness to Chaz Roe (um, really - how rad is the name Chaz?), he's actually moderately interesting, which is a stunner of all stunners as a return for Jose McFatkins.

Roe isn't a baby, but he's still young at 24, he was a first round pick (well, 'sandwich pick') in 2005 and he's had some success in the minors. He's also struggled too, which would explain why he just got traded for someone who looks about as comfortable at the plate as Pat Buchanan at a Gay Pride rally.

He made 20 starts at AA in 2009 and posted a 3.15 ERA, gave up fewer hits than IP, and had a K/9 rate around 6.  At AAA, his ERA went up to 5.98, gave up piles of home runs, and generally seemed to stink.  But pitching at Colorado Springs can do that - even Ubaldo Jimenez sucked horribly in two seasons at AAA Colorado Springs.  Roe's strand rate was just above 60% and his batting average on balls in play was .367 - neither of which are very realistic. 

His fielding independent pitching ERA (FIP) was 4.36 in at AAA while it was 3.92 at AA.  There wasn't a huge change in his effectiveness as a pitcher, so don't get too worked up about those ERA stats you're seeing in the Times that the Canadian blog dude who won't vote for Edgar Martinez for the HOF is lamenting.

M's will probably let him start in Tacoma and see if anything starts to simmer.  Roe could be helpful down the road and then again he might not be at all.  But a warm body for Lopez is more than I expected.  Good on you, Jack.