Wednesday, January 28, 2004

M's Contemplate How to Spend Found Money 

Mariners GM Bill Bavasi had a press conference yesterday about the release of Kazuhiro Sasaki, and how the M's will spend the $9.5M that this frees up. Bavasi said some interesting things, most of which are just what I wanted to hear. I have collected quotes from three stories and will provide the quotes and my interpretation. The articles are from Tribnet's Larry Larue, MLB's Jim Street, and the HeraldNet's Kirby Arnold.

The short take is that the M's will try their best to spend the money before Spring training, will make a short-term contract offer to Ivan Rodriguez, will look for a second lefty for the bullpen, are going to evaluate EVERYONE on the market including Greg Maddux, and would prefer free agent signings to trades.

Here's Bill Bavasi...

We'll spend the cash before Spring Training - "It gives us more financial flexibility, but I don't think it's right to spend just to spend, but it's real likely a lot of it is going to be taken care of. We will use some of this. If we don't, it won't be for lack of trying."

First order of business with the cash - "Right now, I'd probably try to fill the second left-hander in the bullpen, then explore helping the offense. Kaz left a significant hole in our bullpen."

Lets hope Pudge wants quality of life over length of contract - "Pudge is a good name and I'm not saying he isn't a good player, but he has to have the 'right' number in mind. We have an interest in him on a short-term basis."

Positioning M's as unlikely to offer Pudge 3, 4, or 5-year contract - "We have interest in him on a short-term basis. Our opinion, and we could be wrong, is that the most success he's had in his career has been in short-term bursts. When he's been given a contract that is structured such that he has another opportunity in a year or two, he's performed tremendously."

Don't get your hopes up on Pudge, M's fans, but we're trying - "We'll just have to see what kind of deals he's had out there and how late we are. If he's gone down the road a long way with a club or two, we're going to be at a disadvantage."

Unchanged philosophy of avoiding all eggs in one basket - "Our view has really opened, and to say we're focused on one guy might not be accurate right now. We have to continue to maintain a balanced club."

Greg Maddux is a slim possibility if able to trade a starter for quality return simultaneously - "If other offers were made for the starters that we could time it all right, I wouldn't say no. To move one of them to bring on a veteran pitcher and extend the kind of money it's going to take to secure him, we'd have to get some real quality back for one of those young starters."

Carlos Beltran (or any other) trade unlikely when free agents still available - "We would prefer not to give up kids in trades if we can answer the same issues with free agents."

We'll take a fresh look at the free agent market - "When you look at what's out there, you at least try to look at the veteran player that's available and quantify what he can do for you. We have to look at everything that's available, including the premier names that are out there."

What would the M's have done if they wanted to keep Sasaki - "I don't know what our recourse would have been, and I'm proud to say I don't know because I didn't look into it. We weren't going to do that to the guy, anyway. This worked out perfectly for the player and the club."

Kaz will be missed - "One thing we can't overlook is that this guy was a significant contributor and was expected to be a significant contributor. While Kaz might not have a year last year that was at the top of his game, this guy just a few moments ago left a significant hole in our bullpen and we have to be aware of that. We have to fill it."

Timing of Sasaki departure could have been better - "With Kaz leaving and us not finding out about it until three weeks ago, it knocks you out of your gyro a little bit and now we have to adjust to that.

So what can we expect to see...
A 2 year contract offer to Ivan Rodriguez. My guess is big signing bonus, small 2004 number, big 2005 number and a 2006 option that vests with 2005 plate appearances or some other incentive. Say $6M signing bonus, $3M 2004, $10M 2005, $11M/$1M 2006 that is automatic with 500 PAs in 2005. Minimum worth of 2yr/$20M, maximum worth of 3yr/$30M, and by using signing bonus we get a lower number in 2004 so we still have some money to strengthen bullpen and maybe add a bat off the bench.

Lefty setup guy is going to be hard to find. Mark Guthrie and Terry Mulholland do not inspire much confidence. So is there a trade for a lefty setup guy out there - maybe we can acquire a setup guy in a trade for a 27-year-old catcher?

I'm hoping we'll pickup a bat for the bench out of the mix of Ron Coomer, Andres Galarraga, Eric Karros, Travis Lee, Fred McGriff, Raul Mondesi, Troy O'Leary, and Todd Zeile. My preference would be Eric Karros because he mashes lefties (986 OPS last year), should come cheaply, and he gives entertaining interviews (and puts up with nickname of "Fabio") on the Jim Rome show.

I hope we avoid thinking much about Ugueth Urbina, but someone had to say it. Urbina is an excellent closer, and that would put Eddie Guardado back in a setup role, which may tick off Eddie. Or he could be the setup guy as he actually handled lefties better than righties last year (572 vs 707 OPS against). I will admit that this would again give us the most dominant bullpen in baseball, and would hopefully free up Rafael Soriano to head to the rotation, but it seems like spending money on a problem that doesn't exist.

The game is now afoot...

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