Wednesday, November 30, 2005

People, DON'T PANIC!

News today that Giles has re-signed with the Padres sent lots of armchair M's GMs scrambling. Certainly Brian Giles would be a good fit at that contract with the M's. I've believed all along, though, that no matter how much dough they threw at him, he'd never become a Mariner. He's had them in his no-trade clauses, and has repeated several times that he didn't want to join Seattle.

Earlier this week, too, Esteban Loaiza crossed over to the dark side and joined our AL West archrivals, the A's. That followed the trades of Thome and Delgado, two targets the M's reportedly were looking to trade for.

The free agents and trading targets get snatched up, and the anxiety level increases for M's fans everywhere. One of my heroes once said: "Be Not Afraid!" The pickin's aren't quite day-after-Thanksgiving slim. Yet.

As I convinced myself over at Dr. Detecto's laboratory, the M's would be best served to upgrade their rotation. In this year's FA market, it'd be easier to upgrade the runs prevented total than the runs scored -- and by that I'm talking about through pitching. Both Burnett and Millwood are still available for the taking. It's not time to panic until both of these guys are off the board, and neither of them come to the M's. I'm quite confident that Bavasi's positive relationship with Boras will keep us in the running for Millwood (and the other pitchers in his portfolio, who, while not really quite in Millwood's echelon would still be upgrades over our current rotation) until the end. Although Burnett would be my first pitching target, I'm confident he'll reel in a monster salary that would be too risky for me to be comfortable with. My stretched-to-the-limit-in-a-HUGELY-over-inflated-market maximum would be 5/$70 million for Burnett. I wouldn't like it, but if that's what it takes, that's as high as I'd go.

What if we were able to land both of them? We've got some chips to trade to pull in a regular left fielder. Jacque Jones will be too expensive, and isn't a good fit. Jeromy Burnitz is my first choice, but if we are somehow able to miraculously land both Millwood and Burnett, there wouldn't be room for the $3-4 million I'd throw at him for a year or two. I'm sure Bavasi could find a match in the trade market.

Seriously though, folks -- DON'T PANIC! There's lots of time left on the clock, and lots of options yet. It's not like January 2004, when most of the free agents had already signed, and Kazu decided to go back to Japan, leaving the M's with an extra $8.5 million to spend in a nearly-empty candy store. I trust Bavasi, who knows his job is under serious scrutiny, and even, to a certain extent, Howard Lincoln, who's a shrewd businessman, and knows he needs to improve the RIS* bottom line...

Edited 10:33 a.m. 12/1/05 to add:
According to Corey Brock, the M's are interested in reacquainting with Ron Villone. Now, if that happens, it may be time to panic. The M's have shown that they're not going to let Thornton go. I know that George just absolutely dominates lefties (okay, sample size here...), but he handles righties better than his 2.06 WHIP in 17 innings shows. Now, I'm sure he's probably fine with any role, as long as he's in the majors. But, folks, I'm telling you. He's got closers' stuff. He's much more valuable to the M's as a relief ace (i.e. setup guy/closer) than merely as a LOOGY.

So, if RV comes back, I'm a little bit nervous that they'll bump George back down to Tacoma (because he's still got options) instead of carrying 4 lefties in the 'pen. If they bring back RV to replace Nelson or Shiggy (or Mateo, if he's traded), then George is probably safe in Seattle (as a LOOGY). RV is probably the pitching equivalent of Mark Maclemore or Stan Javier, and I'd definitely rather have him back than Thornton, Nelson or Shiggy. But, if it means that George is sent to Tacoma, or (less so) continues to be relegated to the LOOGY role, then I'm either completely ticked or, at least, not so thrilled.

*Rumps In Seats

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Watashi wa Hensugiru!!!

Now, I have no earthly idea what the exact translation of that means, nor do I even know how to spell it correctly. Maybe Deanna or someone else can help edit -- THANKS DEANNA! Indeed, it's spelled with an "r" at the end. I do know that it loosely means something along the lines of "I am crazy!" or "My Name is Really Silly!" At least that's what the Japanese exchange students I hung out with in college told me, and always giggled thoroughly whenever I said it -- especially when I'd walk up to their friends (who didn't know me yet) out of the blue. I'm certainly no expert in Japanese culture and, though I've studied linguistics a bit, Japanese language, but I have spent a lot of time with Japanese exchange students. So, I'm not completely naive, either.

The M's continue to show goodwill towards players in the NPB, and have signed Kenji Jo(h)jima to a 3-year contract. According to Art Thiel, in Out of Left Field, the majority Japanese owner (who since has transferred his personal shares of the team to the company he owns, Nintendo) never gets involved with the day-to-day operations of the team. The only time he wants to be involved in decision-making is with Japanese players. One can assume that he personally wanted the M's to add the 7-time NPB Gold Glove winner, 6-time NPB All Star to their fold. So, really, this move might be less of a Bavasi move than a Yamauchi move.

But the risk involved certainly is Bavasi-esque.

Being the first catcher to come over from Japan, there has been some concern about the language barrier that would throw some extra difficulty above and beyond the bigger hurdle of having to a) learn a pitching staff (that will undergo, hopefully, a huge turnover in the starting rotation) and how to get them back to pitching effectively, and b) learn the tendencies of the hitters in MLB, and how to get them out. Those two things require much more discussion, and are much more of a legitimate concern than the perceived language problem. I will say this, though -- we all respect Ichiro for being a heady, intelligent, serious, and focused baseball player. Our new catcher shares these qualities, from what I've heard, with Ichiro. I don't think this will be a huge problem.

Now, back to that perceived language barrier...

So, here's how we fix it. Over at ITP, I proposed that we teach our pitchers a few lines of Japanese:

So there's three words for fast ball; two words for curve ball; one or two words for slider; and one word for change up. Doing my quick math, that's like 6-7 total Japanese words our pitchers would have to learn. I know we're all anglo-centric and such, but that'd be easy enough. Heck, Jojima could practically yell out the Japanese terms to the pitcher (unless either Matsui's in the park, or Valentine comes back to manage in the U.S.) for a few games at least.

Taking this a bit further -- can you imagine Ryan Franklin's accent? Dude would struggle with the Nihongo, I'm sure ;-) I can just see the confused look on Matt Thornton's face when Jojima approaches the mound with a deep glare on his face (only partially hidden from his catcher's mask), yelling quite irately: Aredama! Aredama! It might actually help Matt to get some Japanese lessons. That's a word I'm sure he'll figure out rather quickly...

Still, joking aside, I'm certain his baseball English is good enough to say what he needs to say. And, I'm sure his fingers won't need a translator -- 1 still means "fastball" in Japan, right?
Let's take this a step further. We all know Jamie Moyer's going to be back with the M's in 2006, right? Good. We also all know that part of a catcher's job is to know when to go out to the mound to calm a pitcher down when he's struggling, right? Good. So, here's a potential future mound conversation between Jamie and KJ:

KJ: Dude. Ooh la LA!
JM: Cracks a big smile, and starts chuckling... Arigato(u), Jo(h)jima-san. I'll give 'im my fastball.
KJ: Ui!

Hey -- with all the Spanish-speaking folks around (including the pitching coach), why stop at English and Spanish?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What to Do, What to Do (Part 2b)!?!?!?!??!??

Well, here it is almost exactly 2 months since I posted part 2a of what I expected out of the current M's in 2006 (starting with the offense). I finally got around to finishing my predictions of what the current M's pitchers will do in 2006. You can find it here.

I've included a few notes on what I think the M's need -- but this is based solely on my 2006 forecasts for the pitchers that are available as free agents. I have no clue whatsoever what the trade market might bring, so it'd be tough to speculate what might be available. I will say this, though: Unless we get both Millwood and Burnett (and, as is assumed here, keep Moyer around), the 2006 M's pitching staff will still be quite shaky.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Eli Marrero

Marc W mentioned this first in the USSM Comments, and after thinking about it, this seems like a great choice as an NRI or even a cheap 1 year deal. Marrero said he would be willing to catch some when BAL picked him up last year, although he never appeared behind the plate. If his defense is even serviceable back there, he would make an awesome vs LHP half of a platoon behind the plate, and on other days, he'd be the super duper versatile Lefty Masher a la Greg Colbrunn (plus versatility) who can come in vs some other teams LOOGY and strike fear into the hearts of opposing hitters, while also being able to play the outfield and 1st base. If Marrero is willing to catch, and if his defense is half-OK back there, and I have no reason to believe that it isn't, except for his reluctance the last couple of years to catch, I think Seattle would be a great place for him to get his career as a useful bench player back on track. The team would have better bench use, as they probably wouldn't have to carry a "true" backup catcher, if they had Marrero, which would be really cool, essentially opening another bench spot. I'm a big fan of the Eli Marrero/Robert Fick type catcher who can do more than just catch. Andy Dominique could be another bargain option for an NRI bench bat/offensive minded backup C.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I SOOOO Want this!

As many of you know, my favorite NL team is the Cardinals. And, as you should know, semi-historic Busch Stadium is being demolished soon. The Cardinals have several items up for auction from Busch. Now, there are many, many things I'd love to bid on, but one in particular stands out.

Imagine the stories you could tell, being the proud owner of this item:

Ooh -- new idea for game-used baseball card? Albert Pujols game-peed urinal!

I'm so buying this!

(or not)

Edit: I can't believe this thing sold for $2,173.82. That's a lot of coinage for a place to pee. Even if Albert Pujols peed there...