Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Winter Potpourri

Well, my offseason plan didn't exactly come into fruition, now did it? Of course, neither did Dave Cameron's plan, whose thoughts are more widely read, if not more respected. Heck, I don't know anyone who predicted that our offseason signings would include Jarrod Washburn, Matt Lawton, and Carl Everett (a lot of people indeed foresaw the Kenji Johjima signing). I had a hunch that Bavasi was going to go after Washburn, but I was plugging my ears in a Veda Sultenfuss manner, hoping it wouldn't come true. I certainly wouldn't mind a few more tweaks, but only if it involves people other than Jeremy Reed. Only way I'm OK with 'em trading Reed is if the last name Lester or Papelbon is headed to Seattle. I'd give this offseason, so far, a C- grade. Sans Johjima, though, it's probably a D- at best. I hope this team surprises us in a good way during 2006. I'm not expecting much.

Sammy Sosa, he of corked bat fame, and Rafael Palmeiro, he of one flunked steroids test (and several passed tests, both before and after the failed one), are both still available for the taking. Both are sliding quickly down that slope that takes shape in the mid-30's. It seems like only yesterday I was sifting through packs of 1987 baseball cards looking for Palmeiro, McGwire, Canseco, Mattingly, Boggs, Clemens, Will Clark and any other card that was worth more than 25 cents. What I ended up with, though, was more of the Larry Parrish, Kent Tekulve, Mookie Wilson and Rance Mulliniks variety. That was about the time I was really getting into baseball, having spent most of my youth as a Seahawks and Sonics fan. It was still a good eight years before that magical '95 season, and even four years before they had their first winning season. Now, those guys are retiring, and heck, even Will Clark, Walt Weiss, Albert Belle, Doc Gooden, Gregg Jeffries, Hal Morris, and Gary DiSarcina are on the HOF ballot for the first time (and Mattingly has been knocking for 6 years now). A few of 'em might receive a vote or two, but I would be very, very surprised to see any of 'em get in. I'd likely only vote for Mattingly, myself.

Other than that, it's pretty quiet around M'sville. Unless you load their freakin' home page and have your speakers on. That bugs me to this day!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

One step foreward, Two steps back...

Wow. A quick post on Sunday night before I hit the hay.

I'm still in shock at the direction that Bill Bavasi has taken the Mariners this winter. The Kenji Johjima signing, I'm convinced, is a great, great move. He wanted to come here, and we obliged. Certainly there's risk involved, but this is the kind of risk I'm willing to take. A great player making a switch, generally works out well. Aaaah. Progress...

Then there's those days that you wish you could go back and just redo until you get it right. Kind of like the movie Groundhog day. I'd like to expand that a bit, though, and just redo this whole week. With the impending addition of Jarrod Washburn, Deanna's fluttering heart aside, I think most M's bloggers, and even most non-blogging M's fans in general, are really scratching heads. Signing a 35-year-old veteran very much in the decline phase of his career? Giving a BOR starter, with declining peripheral stats (looking more and more like Ryan Franklin's), and questionable health a 4-year borderline ace's contract? It seems these moves are huge steps backwards.

I'm really starting to feel pessimistic about 2006 (and beyond). Someone, I'm sure, can find my comment something like this: Washburn + Old-ish LF = not-really-OK offseason; Washburn + Weaver + decent LF = OK offseason; Millwood + Weaver + decent LF = pretty good offseason. It's looking more and more like the not-really-OK offseason is what we're going to see.


I know it's not time to throw in the towel yet -- both Millwood and Weaver are still on the board. And, it's not like the M's are a poor club. They're just acting poor, and making poor decisions. If, as is supposed, the Reed-for-Arroyo rumors are true, well, then they really are not thinking clearly. Reed's bat disappointed me about as much as Beltre's. But both guys are too good to give up on so quickly. And both of them still have upside.

And, if Washburn is indeed on board, both of them will be tremendously more valuable in preventing runs defensively. If you're going to trade Reed, Bill, bring us Papelbon or Lester. That'd at least financially be a wash. You could then throw the extra 2.5-$3 million into the leftover pot and see if Weaver would take $7-8 million next year (and even more in 2007). Even if you had to throw in some cash to get rid of Pineiro (hopefully for a young power bat of some sort, preferrably in the OF), a rotation of Felix/Moyer/Washburn/Weaver/Papelbon (or Lester) would be pretty darn effective. Of course, we'd still have to find an outfielder or two on the cheap.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Corco, We Owe Each Other A Beer.

Considering how many posts we've seen here from someone other than me, I'm not sure if Corco and Citizen K are still around these parts, but I do know they're very much alive (click their names if you don't believe me). I'd like to hear CK's take on Everett's signing, since something tells me this isn't exactly the type of guy CK really wants on the team. I'd be very surprised if he even knows about it, though, with his succombing to the Seahawks' ideology and all -- for good reason, of course. But, then, I digress...

Corco and I had the pleasure of attending the last Rainiers game of the season, sitting smack dab behind home plate. It was Game 4 of the PCL title game, and although we got there in the 5th inning (due to Corco's plane landing in the middle of rush hour traffic -- er, um, I mean landing at Sea-Tac during the time in which I-5 traffic is, well, difficult), we nearly got our 9 innings in.

The Rainiers were down in the series 3-0 and needed the victory to avoid being swept. They were down in the game when PositivePaul's favorite current M's minor leaguer TJ Bohn tied the ball game with a double in the 7th. The Rainiers battled the Nashville Sounds, while the guy behind us kept shouting "Knox -- YER OUT!" to Ryan Knox (who was called out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch in th 5th -- just as Corco and Paul were arriving), and PositivePaul was acting Corco's age by serenading Corey Hart with "I Wear my Sunglasses At Night" and Steve Scarborough with the Simon & Garfunkel classic "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" every time both of them reached the on-deck circle. It really was a good duel, until the 13th.

Andrew Lorraine came in to relieve Sean Green. A-Cab's throwing error might've thrown Lorraine off, though it likely will surprise no one that he walked the next batter (Tony Zuniga). Of course, he could've just as easily been distracted by my yelling "Hey Lorraine -- Ya better get this guy out, 'cause Baek's warming up. Ya don't want Baek to finish it for ya!" Whatever the reason, there were now two on for the hottest hitter in the PCL, Nelson Cruz. Sure enough, Rohn (in a move that still baffles me to this day, but shouldn't be surprising with Rohn's interesting style of making sure he uses 4-5 pitchers in every game) brought in Baek.

I forget how many pitches it took, but (to borrow from Darth Sidious, aka Emporer Palpatine) everything proceeded exactly as I'd forseen. Baek gave up the 3-run HR that eventually cost the Rainiers the game. And the PCL title. And the season. I don't know if that was more fitting, though, than a bloated Bucky's pinch-hit strikeout to really end the game (with Justin Leone on).

As we stood up from our seats, we turned to each other and (I'm not sure who initiated it, but we both were thinking the same thing) said "Baek will be one of the first DFA's of the offseason". Well, we were wrong -- there were others that went first -- but still, to make a long story short, we both got our wish today. Baek has finally been DFA'd, to make room for Carl Everett.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't want to be arrested for providing alcohol to a minor. Since I have neither the cash nor the vacation leave to fly to Germany (where the drinking age is more relaxed) when you finally turn 21, Corco, we will settle this mutual debt :-)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

We got our Lefty Sock, Folks!

From the press release:
"Today, we achieved one of our offseason goals," Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said
"Having him in my lineup gives us some of the left-handed sock and run production we were looking for," Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said.
Well, duh.

I mean, technically, Bavasi DID get us lefty sock. When you break things down statistically, Everett does bat left-handed (being a switch-hitter and all). Add that together with the fact that he most recently played for the White "Socks" -- which, as one member of that team, makes him a "sock."

(above originally posted over at the SportSpot M's forum)

My take on all of this?

Here's a couple of theories I've got floating around. These are based on several conversations I've had with other folks in blogs and forums, as well as pure speculation...

1) Howard Lincoln wanted to show the M's fans that he's OK with signing someone who is (in all fairness here) perceived as being a bad apple.

2) Mike Hargrove wanted him very, very, very badly. He was available, and didn't require a long-term commitment (unlike MarinersMorsels endorsed Lefty OF/DH Sock Jeromy Burnitz -- who reportedly disappeared off the M's radar the moment he demanded a multi-year deal). So, Bill obliged his field general.

3) There are many more moves on the horizon. Without spilling a ton of beans or opening a can of worms, (nor is it, really, that huge of a secret), Jeremy Reed is actually actively being shopped. His name is coming up in conversations, whether it's out of the other teams' mouths, or out of Bavasi's. It's very clear he's available. I've heard some buzzings of other potential moves, that if they go down, would actually likely pleasantly surprise most M's bloggers.

4) The absolute only way I can accept this as a positive is if Everett is a bench bat, replacing "lefty sweet swinger" Dobby the Bench Elf, with a few starts in LF/DH. But, even so, at $3 million, that's an expensive bench bat. And, of course, that's turning a blind eye towards the personality issues.

With a name like PositivePaul, I've been accused of being an optimist. I guess this post can be proof that even when I'm very, very, very frustrated, I can try to shed some positive light on things.

In the end, though, I really haven't seen anyone who is terribly excited about this signing. I've heard overwhelming frustration, and more people who are inclined to turn away from the M's rather than return to them. And I'm not just talking about from the blogs & forums. Absolutely none of my M's-loving coworkers had anything that you could construe as a positive response.

That's probably not quite the reaction you want to get out of your customers.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What to Do, What to Do (Part 3)!?!?!?!??!??

Well, it's taken me this long to throw together my thoughts on what the M's should do to build their 2006 club. Obviously my thoughts have changed quite a bit, mostly because of the actions that have already taken place, but also because of new discussions I've had around the blogs.

Without further adieu, I present my version of the 2006 M's. It includes what I believe is reasonable, as far as who the M's might actually be targeting, and at what cost.

I'll start with the offense:

1) RF Ichiro Suzuki (signed)
2) CF Jeremy Reed (signed)
3) LF Jeremy Burnitz (1 year, $4 million, with 2nd year team option for $4.5 million, $500K buyout. Lefty sock, decent OF that won't kill us, and could even be above average.)
4) 1B Richie Sexson (Signed)
5) 2B Jose Lopez (signed)
6) SS Yuniesky Betancourt (signed)
7) 3B Adrian Beltre (signed)
8) C Kenji Johjima (3-year deal $16.5 million total, 2006 salary: $5.1 million + incentives to bring to max of $5.5 million)
9) DH Raul Ibanez (signed)

10) Rene Rivera (signed)
11) Willie Bloomquist (signed through arbitration years: 2+ year $1.9-3.2 million total; $800 K in 2006; $1.1 million 2007; $1.3 million 2008 team option. His defensive ability in multiple positions and baserunning skills are indeed worth that much to me.)
12) Mike Morse (signed)
13) Shin-Soo Choo (signed)

I expect heavy criticism for "coveting" Burnitz. I don't like him, per se, but I do like him better than Jones. His defense is very solid, and a 90 point righty/lefty split in OPS (favoring righties vs. lefties), is MUCH more tolerable than a 215 point split. Then there's that whole contract length thing. No way Jones takes anything less than 3 years. Burnitz would jump at an option year, even if there's very little chance the M's exercise it. That would make it $4.5 million total for 2006 (since the option would be declined in 2006, in the M's funky accounting stuff it would count towards the 2006 budget and not 2007's ;-). That's a 10% pay cut over what he got from Chicago, and probably max what he gets. Even though he's in decline, he still could hit 30+ homers with 1/2 his games in lefty-hitter-friendly Safeco. That'll be double what we got out of LF in 2005, and, quite frankly, still more than what Jacque Jones (and platoon mate) would give ya -- with only a slight loss in defense.

I also know the bench still doesn't have much in the way of pinch hitting. Since Grover is convinced he needs a 12-man pitching staff, I don't see the M's doing much different here. My wildcard is Choo, who, really, I'm taking a total stab with here. I can see the M's getting a bench guy for Torrealba (who I'm assuming is traded before the season starts, hence listing Rivera on the bench), so Choo's spot is written in the lightest of pencil marks. Personally, I'd prefer Bohn, but he likely needs a full season in AAA before that happens.

Finally, I know with Part 1, I pretty firmly inked Torrealba in as the starter, but that was weeks before I knew about KJ as even a possibility (nevermind that I started this list with 10% of the season remaining). I obviously was wrong with Ojeda being his backup, too, but it was, in my opinion, closer to the 50.00000001% part of the "More Likely than Not."

Noticibly absent
: Greg Dobbs (Tacoma), Jamal Strong (leaves via minor league free agency). Bucky Jacobsen is already gone, and will not return. Please pray that he doesn't pull another David Arias on us (though at least we got something -- Dave Hollins -- for Arias).

Now on to the Pitching Staff

Starting Rotation (not in any order)
1) Felix Hernandez (signed)
2) Joel Pineiro (signed)
3) Jamie Moyer (1+ year deal; $3 million base, to reach $5 million with incentives; Team option 2nd year, same $5 million max, $500K buyout)
4) Kevin Millwood (4 years $45 million; 2006 salary: $8 million + $5 million signing bonus*; 2007-2009 salaries: $9, 11, 12 million team option, $1 million buyout)
5) Jeff Weaver (4 years, $32 million; 2006 salary: $5 million + $3 million signing bonus*; 2007-2009 salaries: $7, 8, 9 million team option, $750K buyout)

Bullpen (not in order)
6) Eddie Guardado (signed)
7) George Sherrill (signed)
8) Rafael Soriano (signed)
9) Jeff Harris (signed)
10) JJ Putz (signed)
11) Scott Atchison (signed)
12) Matt Thornton (signed)

AJ Burnett would be my first choice over Millwood. However, I see him getting 5+ years and at least $13 million per. The M's aren't going to spend that much on him. Considering Bavasi's amicable relationship with Boras, I see Boras sending two of his clients the M's way. Millwood, then, becomes the first target for the M's. It's not surprising at all to hear from Morosi, that indeed this is the case. I know the contracts are a little weird, and now to explain the signing bonuses (*). One thing that Lincoln has said is that the M's "close the books" from year to year. Money budgeted, but not spent, from one year does not, according to him, get carried into the next. However, he's also made it very clear that the M's owners do not pull profits out of the team -- that all the profits get poured back into the team. Interesting paradox, this is.

So, I'm throwing in some signing bonuses that could come out of 2006's budget, the leftovers of 2005 (since, if both of these guys sign in 2005, technically that's still 2005's budget, right?), or that secret "stash" of profits that they pull international signing fees and what have you out of. If you exclude the signing bonuses (yet include incentives, as the M's tend to do for public budgeting purposes), the total addition to payroll is $18 million for pitching and $9.1 for offense -- a total of ~$27 million.

Why Jeff Weaver? you ask... Well, I honestly believe Boras wants to give us two of his pitchers. I'm narrowing this down between Washburn and Weaver, and if given that choice, I'd take Weaver -- merely for durability's sake. Of course, if his client over in Japan does end up getting posted, for some unexpected reason, the M's will bid very, very highly for his services. Boras would know this, of course, at least as certainly as he can know it before picking out a nice pitcher from his portfolio. I'm about 90% confident, though, that Dice-K won't be posted this offseason. Maybe next year, when Moyer finally decides to hang 'em up...

As Choo is my 13th bat, and written in pencil, Matt Thornton is my 12th pitcher. He could be replaced several ways. Trade Gil Meche or Julio Mateo to Florida for Ron Villone, and have RV take Thornton's spot (Thornton, then, would be non-tendered/DFA'd).

Noticably Absent: Gil Meche (traded for prospects), Julio Mateo (traded for prospects); Ryan Franklin (Non-Tendered as quickly as you can say "Buh_" as in "Buh-Bye!"). These three moves probably whack close to $5 million off the budget (which would help defray the signing bonuses).

Final thought: I don't believe we'll make any major trades to bring in a starting pitcher or a LF/DH guy. We might pick up a bench bat, but are we really going to sacrifice a lot of our already-weakened farm system to pick up someone who might help for a year or two? I wouldn't. Nor do I think we should create holes (CF, 2B, 3B) by trading to fill another.

There. I'm done. Now it's your turn to slam these thoughts.