Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Wake up the Blogosphere 

Another Bob Finnigan article is out to stir up the blogosphere.

This one says that Carlos Delgado is "likely" their "top" target, and that Corey Koskie is a target.

The biggest revelation in this article is that with Carl Pavano's pricetag looking too big, the M's are very interested in Jaret Wright and Jon Lieber. The past relationship Hargrove had with Wright is touted as a big reason.
Hargrove is thought to be a key part of Seattle's efforts to land Wright, a right-hander who was 15-8 with a 3.28 earned-run average for Atlanta last season. He came back from years of arm injuries that ruined his chances of becoming the Indians' ace.
I like the idea of adding Wright or Lieber, over the presumably more expensive Pavano.

The fact that the article doesn't even mention blogosphere favorites Adrian Beltre, Carlos Beltran, J.D. Drew, or Matt Clement, is sure to stir up some fires.

Frankly, anything from Finnigan has to be taken with a large grain of salt. So I'm not gonna get too worked up yet.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Dan Wilson Mulling M's Offer 

According to the Everett Herald, the M's have made an offer to catcher Dan Wilson. This should come as no surprise to anyone.

What is interesting to me, is that Dan Wilson hasn't immediately accepted it. This tells me that either
a) Dan Wilson thinks he can get a starting gig somewhere else
b) The money is so little, that he thinks its worth pulling up roots to go elsewhere
c) He's hoping to land another offer in hopes the M's will improve theirs.

Rumors I've found around the Internet link Dan Wilson to the Orioles and White Sox. The White Sox are looking to fill the void left by trading Miguel Olivo to the Mariners, and the Orioles are looking for a backup to Javy Lopez.

The good news, is that Dan is obviously being offered far less than the $3.5 million he has made the past two years. And one might say it is good that the offer is low enough that Dan is not rushing to sign. This says to me that the team is paying Dan Wilson what he is likely to be worth as a backup catcher instead of as a pillar of the M's community. And that's a nice change of pace for the M's.

UPDATE 11/23:
Bob Finnigan's latest says that nothing is going on in negotiations and hints that this is means Seattle's offer is unsatisfactory. He includes the Twins (who have Joe Mauer) as another potential destination.

If we don't land Wilson, he says the current backup, Wiki Gonzalez, is probably unsatisfactory, but some in the organization see him as a sleeper. Instead, the M's are likely to pursue Mike Redmond of Florida, Gregg Zaun of Toronto or reunite Mike Hargrove with Sandy Alomar of the White Sox.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Free Agent Projections 

From the 2005 Bill James Handbook comes the following projections for free agents that M's may have interest in:

Delgado .281 35 .955
Drew .291 26 .926
M. Ordonez .302 24 .902
Sexson .272 39 .894
Beltran .285 31 .891
Glaus .254 39 .884
Garciaparra .313 20 .880
Beltre .287 34 .866
Koskie .270 20 .823
Renteria .294 11 .765
Cabrera .271 12 .729

Delgado, Drew, and Glaus isn't looking like such a bad Plan B now, is it?

Hot Corner 

The PI brings out the news that Corey Koskie is expecting an offer from the Mariners soon. Groans are sure to emit from the Seattle area as fans and bloggers envision a 4 year, $20 million contract going to a 31-year-old third baseman who only played 118 games last year.

But how much will Koskie really cost, and would he be worth it?

Koskie was pursued by the Washington Canadians before they settled on Vinny Castilla in a 2-year, $6 million contract. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "The Twins are expected to increase their $7 million, two-year offer to free agent Corey Koskie to $7.5 million, and that might be enough for the third baseman to re-sign with Minnesota, depending on whether he receives a $5 million-a-season, multi-year deal elsewhere."

So, according to this rumor, unless he gets $5 million per, he'll probably stay with the Twins.

Would the M's offer Corey Koskie, coming off an injury-filled season and a big drop in batting average, a 5-million per year contract. It doesn't seem likely, given that the $3-4 million range that they offered Raul Ibanez and Scott Spiezio.

And you have to think that the Mariners are at least going to talk to Beltre and Glaus before they just up and sign Koskie. To me, this sounds like the agent is trying to use the Mariners to pressure the Twins into upping their bid, and that Koskie would like to return as a Twin.

In the meantime, the best free agent match for the Mariners, Adrian Beltre, sits untalked to in the corner of the great free agent dance. Why are the M's stand-offish? My guess is that they don't want a repeat of the Miguel Tejada dance of 2004, where they worked to establish a contract amount that they wanted with Tejada, had him at 4-year, $36 million, and then to counter a 5-year, $50M offer from the Tigers, upped it to 5-year, $50 million. But at the last minute the Orioles come in and blow their offer out of the water with a 6-year, $72 million commitment.

The psychology of the move the Orioles put on Tejada and the M's was impressive. Here the Tigers and M's were battling over whether he was a $9 million or $10 million a year player, and under duress adding 5th years. Tejada has to figure this is his market, and The M's had to have had Tejada pencilled into their 2004 lineup at $9 million. So, add a year, and bump the offer by 20% and Tejada is grateful to be on your team, and you have an MVP candidate at the shortstop position. Well done, Orioles.

2005 sees the Dodgers with an owner in Frank McCourt that is unlikely to spend huge money on Beltre, but who really wants to keep him. Let the Dodgers set the market with their initial offer, which most expect to be below market value. Wait for the other competitors to make themselves known and refine the parameters of the contract discussion. Keep talking to other 3B and shortstop free agents while talking up Justin Leone or Jose Lopez at third, while letting Boras know that you are interested in Beltre. Then burst in late with an extra year and/or up the offer by 20%. Beltre feels the extra love, the other teams feel blown out of the water, and your starting 3B in 2005 is Adrian Beltre.

Mo/Bavasi Reunion? 

The New York Daily News is reporting that Mo Vaughn is considering coming out of retirement. Could a Mo Vaughn / Bill Bavasi reunion be far behind?

If he doesn't have to play the field, and could either DH with Bucky, or be simply a huge bat off the bench, it might be fun to have Mo Vaughn in a Mariner uniform. Vaughn couldn't possibly need much more money, and maybe he feels a little guilty that Bavasi's one huge deal with the Angels was his bust of a signing.

For under $1 million, this could be a nice low-risk, high-upside signing. Or it could be Bavasi's Folly Part Deux. Besides, with Olerud gone and Edgar retired, we need someone to clog the basepaths for us, don't we?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Early Signings 

Both Dave at USS Mariner and Trent at Leone for Third have entries today that talk about what effect the high dollar signings of mediocre free agents have on the future price of the premiere free agents.
Omar Vizquel: 3 years, $12 million
Cory Lidle: 2 years, $6 million
Cristian Guzman: 4 years, $17 million
Vinny Castilla: 2 years, $6 million
Troy Percival: 2 years, $12 million
These numbers have to scare anyone about what Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, or even Edgar Renteria might be worth. But as those bloggers point out, even though it strenghtens the arguments agents have to value a player highly, teams can't spend what they don't have. And now there are even fewer teams out there with cash to bid on the top free agents.

As you know, I'm a big fantasy baseball geek, so I equate this to the action of bidding $1 on a player you absolutely don't want, just to suck money out of some other team that might bid on a player that you actually DO want. In fantasy, there is a salary cap, and while there isn't a cap in the real world, most teams have budget constraints that they must work under.

So this is good news, then? Not so fast. Look at the owners you've suckered before you begin cheering. None of the buyers are actually teams that we fear taking one of our players. Okay, maybe the Phillies would have spent money on a Matt Clement, but otherwise, we have not sapped resources from some of our main competitors (Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Angels, Dodgers). So far, these are the perennial also-rans of baseball, and of free agency. Limited resources that they are burning up on mediocre talent.

Now, if the Yankees sign Pedro for 4 yr/$60 million, and the Red Sox counter by signing Carl Pavano to 6 year/ $60 million, then we can start to get really excited. Then, some serious competitors for the big free agents will have a little less ammo in his arsenal for bagging the free agents we want.

For the most part, these early signings will have no impact on your 2005 Seattle Mariners, except that it removes from Bill Bavasi the temptation to sign one of the above mediocrities or aging stars. And that is the best news of all.

Monday, November 15, 2004

M's Free Agent Rumors 

Rumors have the Mariners pursuing Carlos Delgado, Corey Koskie and Carl Pavano.

The Toronto Sun provides a gambler-friendly look at where Carlos Delgado might be going. It lists the Mariners as the favorite at 5-2 odds, closely followed by Baltimore at 3-1, the Yankees at 5-1, Angels at 7-1 and Blue Jays at 10-1. They have this entertaining quote:
The M's won all of 63 games -- four shy of the Jays' total -- in 2004, so why would Delgado have any interest in moving there? Well, the Jays aren't chasing Carl Pavano, Corey Koskie and Delgado. The Mariners are.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press throws out that the M's may offer Corey Koskie $15 million for 3 years.

Vizquel Goes for Three 

Amazingly, Omar Vizquel became the first free agent signing of 2005, landing a huge 3-year, $12M+ contract from the San Francisco Giants. What? For the second straight year, Giants GM Brian Sabean gives up his first round draft pick to sign a mediocre player (last year was the immortal Michael Tucker).

And a 3-year contract for a 37-year-old shortstop seems like a very bad idea. Even Vizquel was surprised by it. "I thought I was going to be a Chicago White Sox until late Friday night," Vizquel said, adding that the Giants only added the third year to their proposal on Saturday. "I'm surprised and very happy that the Giants offered me a three-year deal at my age," he said in a Cleveland Plain Dealer article on the trade.

It was just a year ago that the M's backed out of trading Carlos Guillen for Vizquel, citing health issues. Vizquel showed those concerns to be ridculous by playing 148 games at a .291/.353/.388 clip and his usual excellent defense. Vizquel would have been a nice 1-year fix for the M's last year (assuming you agree that Guillen and Seattle needed time apart).

Of course, if Vizquel had joined the karmically-challenged M's of 2004, he would certainly have hit .210/.278/.293 for 3 months before being stricken with leprosy.

In other shortstop news, the Red Sox are not sure about re-signing Orlando Cabrera, so they are sniffing around... Barry Larkin? The White Sox, having lost out on Vizquel, may set their sights on the similarly-priced Christian Guzman.

And finally, this reminder on high-priced free agent pitchers. Look no further than the Colorado Rockies investment of nearly $100 million into Darryl Kile, Mike Hampton, and Denny Neagle. Money not so well spent.


A.J. Zapp will never play with the Seattle Mariners. Last week, after an excellent 29 HR, 101 RBI campaign for AAA Tacoma, Zapp signed a minor league contract with the Cincinatti Reds.

Once Bucky went down with an injury, it would have been nice to see what Zapp could do in the big leagues, but he was never given a chance. And so, Zapp leaves Seattle to go play with the Reds where he will be blocked at 1B by Sean Casey.

Friday, November 12, 2004

M's Offseason Plans 

A few bloggers have given their opinions on what they would do in the offseason, and they are entertaining reads. I was going to do a full-blown analysis in the same vein, but I have decided NOT to take this approach, as investing hope in some sort of dream plan that won't happen inevitably leads to pessimism, and I'm not going there. But, I will scattershot my thoughts about the plans out there. I think the key is flexibility, because no matter how many blogs want Adrian Beltre, it is quite possible some team will give him the 10-year package that Scott Boras wants, and we should be prepared to move on.

Dave at U.S.S. Mariner centers his offseason on signing Adrian Beltre, Matt Clement and J.D. Drew, and then pulling off a trade to land Austin Kearns. With every team seemingly having an Austin Kearns trade rumor, it would appear he is truly on the market, and if so, the M's should pursue aggressively, as he could be a superstar at a bargain price.

Trent at Leone for Third is also on the Beltre, Clement and Drew bandwagon. But his trades get a little more unrealistic with us dealing Meche, Choo, Strong, Winn, Nageotte, Mateo, Franklin, Bloomquist and Taylor in three deals that land us Expos 1B Brad Wilkerson, Padres starter Brian Lawrence, Padres OF Xavier Nady, and DBacks utilityman Alex Cintron.

My thoughts on a general M's approach would be:

Big bat 3B - Beltre or Glaus. Easiest position to upgrade, and we should go hard after Beltre, but 10 years is nonsense.

Big bat 1B - Sexson or Delgado. Big hole here, though Ibanez could move from OF if we sign an outfielder instead. The blogosphere loves J.D. Drew, but I'd rather take my chances with 3 years of Delgado or Sexson, then putting the injury-prone Drew into CF. Delgado would be choice #1 as he seems well suited to the ballpark.

Big bat SS - Nomar, Renteria or Cabrera - Lopez can take over 2B next year. Not many are talking about upgrading shortstop, but this is a place for great improvement. And this becomes more important if we can't sign Beltre at 3B.

Keep Lopez & Reed in minors unless they are playing everyday, and out of Spring Training they should not be playing every day if we make impact signings.

Starting pitcher - I'm with the blogosphere on this one - Clement all the way.

Relievers - Adding a top-flight setup man like Antonio Osuna would fortify bullpen and provide Guardado insurance.

Catcher - keep Olivo and buy low on Wilson as a backup. If other team wants Wilson, and he wants the money more than to stay in Seattle, let him go. Right now, the White Sox are rumored to be pursuing Wilson.

Whoa! on them rumors 

The PI quotes Richie Sexson's agent, Casey Close, saying there are no contracts on the table from the Mariners.

Sammy Sosa to Seattle? Bavasi thankfully shoots that one down. "We're not going after Sammy Sosa, and (the Cubs) aren't peddling him around the way people think they are."

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Richie Sexson Rumors Heat Up 

Rumors that the Mariners are going to sign 1B slugger Richie Sexson are beginning to spread through the Hot Stove like wildfire. Peter Gammons started the speculation with this little throwaway line:
Pedro, Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson (Seattle?), Troy Glaus, Carlos Delgado, Magglio Ordonez, J.D. Drew, Armando Benitez and Steve Finley are among the others whose journeys will be fascinating to watch.
The Boston Herald now adds more fuel to the fire and hints that the M's are even being shrewd about the signing.
One whisper heard here was that free agent first baseman Richie Sexson has all but signed a deal with the Seattle Mariners [stats, schedule], but that the formalities will be postponed until much later in the hot stove season. Last year, the Mariners signed Raul Ibanez too early and had to give Kansas City a draft pick when the Royals offered him arbitration.
Baseball Prospectus' Injury Guru, Will Carroll, adds this in his latest Under the Knife segment (subscription).
Some teams like facts, some teams like faith. It's like that in a lot of places, but putting millions on the line in hopes that someone will do something sounds to me like something I'd want facts on. The Mariners seem to be fixated on Richie Sexson. They'll point to Ken Griffey Jr., who was able to come back from more serious shoulder surgery, or Shawn Green who came back from similar surgery to hit well. It's Green that I would compare most closely to Sexson's situation. Green's still not all the way back, a combination of shoulder degeneration and the passing of time. If that's enough for the Mariners, well, that is their pattern.
The torn labrum he is recovering from rightfully scares everyone, but if he is healthy, then this is a guy who has averaged 34 HRs over the last 3 years in Milwaukee and was on a pace for 63 last year when he hurt his shoulder trying to check a swing. Sexson is not a superstar. He is a righthander whose pull-hitting style would be hurt by Safeco field. His defense is good, but nothing to write home about. His plate discipline has been increasing every year, and until last year had not had an injury history. However, he'll be 30 years old next year coming off a significant injury.

So how much might the local boy cost? The Arizona Republic reports that Sexson recently turned down a 3-year offer from the DBacks that would have included $10 million in 2005 but whose 2nd and 3rd year guaranteed salaries would be based on plate appearances or games played.

This type of contract seems reasonable to me, and is the type I would hope that Bavasi and company would pursue.

Sexson can begin negotiating openly with clubs on Thursday, November 11th.

Return of the Little Unit? 

Yup... Ryan Anderson hopes to be back at Spring Training, competing for a job with the Mariners.

While making the Mariners out of Spring is unlikely, to say the least, it is good to see that the Little Unit looks like he may pitch somewhere in the Mariners season this offseason. Its been more than 4 years since he last threw a pitch in an actual game.

Some will say... "we've heard this before," and I don't blame them for not getting their hopes up. But still, it would be neat if this kid could return and contribute to the Mariners sometime in the next year or two.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Nomar to the Yankees? 

The New York Daily News is doing its best job of rumor-inventing, putting out quotes from the ubiquitous "friend of Nomar" Garciaparra, that the former Red Sox shortstop would be willing to move to 2nd base to play with the Yankees.

This would, of course, give the Yankees an infield of The Big Three plus a first baseman who may be anything between Jason Giambi down to former Mariner/Yankee Tino Martinez.

Wouldn't that at a nice bit of fuel to the fire that is the Red Sox - Yankee rivalry?

Meanwhile, several outlets are reporting that Scott Boras is searching for a 10-year, $200 million contract for Carlos Beltran. Keep dreaming, Scott. Its a nice place to start your posturing, though, and then have to "settle" for 7 years and $120 million. Almost makes 7-year/120 sound cheap doesn't it? You gotta love Boras. He is nothing if not consistent. With Boras holding the leash of just about every premiere free agent this offseason (Beltran, Beltre, Drew, Lowe, Millwood, Ordonez, Varitek), it could be a very long time before the market establishes itself.

Personally, I think Beltre should be priority target #1. There are just more options out there if we miss out on Beltran. But a third baseman who can hit has been missing from the Mariners almost as long as a left fielder was (thank you, Raul!).

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Finnigan Baiting 

Bob Finnigan's latest article, "Mariners Caught in the Numbers Crunch," showing the M's having only $13 million to spend on free agents, left a sour taste in many Mariner fans' mouths. If you think Finnigan did the team and/or the fans a disservice with the article, you may enjoy this thread on MLB forums showing two letters (one pleasant and well thought out, and one a little more reactionary) that were sent to Mr. Finnigan and his less-than-polite email responses back.

I think we can all agree on one thing. If the M's only spend $13 million on free agents this offseason, attendance will plummet right along with the M's fortunes.

I, for one, agree wholeheartedly with the opinion that it is in the best interest of the M's ownership to not only spend the budgeted $95M for 2005, but also to spend the surplusses of 2004 (estimated at $10-15 million primarily due to Sasaki departure and Freddy trade). It would go a long way toward repairing the holes in the team and healing the rift between M's ownership and its fan base.

Everyday Eddie to Return 

Less than a day after the Mariners declined a $6 million option, closer Eddie Guardado accepted his option for a $4.5 million contract and will be a Mariner in 2005.

Both moves are completely understandable, as pitchers, even those as good as Guardado, who are injured and relying on rest and rehab to cure them, do not earn $4.5 million on the open market. Its just too risky.

So, for 2005 at least, Guardado will be wearing a Mariner cap, and the threat of injury will loom over Eddie the entire season. If he's healthy, Guardado is one of the best closers in baseball, and a very good deal at $4.5 million. If hurt, then we are left with a gaping hole in our bullpen and our budget.

The good news is that one of the best doctors in the business, Dr. Lewis Yocum, is the one who examined Eddie and determined that the rotator cuff tear in his shoulder should heal with rest and rehabilitation, and that no surgery should be needed.

I, for one, am happy we will have Guardado next year, as I think he will be a stud closer for a Mariner team that will bounce back from a disastrous 2004.

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