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.

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