What if Prince doesn’t sign with the good guys?

There are obviously two different paths the Mariners are planning for at the moment.  If they sign Prince Fielder the most likely path is that they don’t have much more money and might be looking to free up some space by dealing Brandon League and/or Jason Vargas.  They wouldn’t have a lot of wiggle room, but they would have added a major bat to the lineup.

What do the Mariners do with their rumored $15mil worth of budget if they don’t sign Prince Fielder?  There isn’t a great deal of talent left out on the free agent market that could help this team.  The common thought process is to maximize wins by adding veteran players to fill holes with one year contracts.  While this is an effective way to put together a better team for the current year, I don’t think that this is the best way for the Mariners to build value within their franchise.  Since the Mariners appear to be playing for 2013 and beyond at this point in time, every move that they make should be with that in mind.  The budget left and positions available on the field for 2012 should be used for positioning yourself to win in 2013.

Step 1- Don’t block rookies with 1 year veteran contracts, trade for players with talent, years of control, and/or something to prove.  I have no problem with the Hisashi Iwakuma signing.  I know that this was a one year contract, but the difference with Iwakuma is that we don’t know what to expect.  If he is a solid pitcher we do have control of him and a reasonable expectation that he would want to return to the Mariners after 2012.  This one year contract allows us to evaluate his skill and decide whether he is worthy of an extension. 

I do not want to acquire a player on a one year deal when we know exactly what we are getting even if that player projects to get us a couple more wins.  Examples of this are players like Johnny Damon, Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Carlos Guillen, Ryan Ludwick, Kevin Millwood and Jeff Francis.  These players may be solid improvements on the current Mariners roster, but none of them will make us better in 2013.  We will not be able to flip them at the trade deadline for anything worthwhile, and they will take at bats and innings from a potential young players that could have the ability to show something and be a part of the club after this year. 

I would prefer the Mariners trade for a player that would come reasonably cheap, is still young, has shown talent in the minor leagues, and has yet to put it together at the major league level.  Someone like Brandon Wood, Fernando Martinez or Kyle Blanks could fill a backup role, but if given the opportunity could do the same thing that Mike Carp did last season.  Give some young players a chance to surprise us.

Step 2- Change your opinion on the value of money.  In most any case a dollar today is worth more than a dollar next year, but not for the Mariners.  If we are able to save money for the 2013 buget by spending more this season, we should take advantage of that opportunity.  The easiest way to do this is in a bad contract swap.  Currently the Mariners have one bad contract with the $17mil owed to Chone Figgins over the next two years.  The Mariners should look to trade Figgins for a player that has the same length of a bad contract, could benefit from Safeco Field, and is due for a rebound.  The obvious choice is to trade for an overpaid starting pitcher.  The two players that come to mind for me without a lot of research are A.J. Burnett and Johan Santana.  A.J. Burnett is due $16.5mil for the next 2 seasons, and Johan Santana is due $24mil this season, $25.5mil next season with a $5.5mil buyout in 2014.  Example trades:

 Mariners send Chone Figgins and Jason Vargas + $7mil in 2012 to the Yankees for A.J. Burnett and $10mil in 2013

Mariners send Chone Figgins and Jason Vargas to the Mets for Johan Santana and $15.5mil in 2013

Obviously, these are just examples of the idea and not concrete numbers to base expectations.  In the first example the Mariners would be eating into $9.5mil of this year’s budget, but next season could have a reasonably priced number 3 pitcher at $6.5mil.  The second example is riskier since Santana is coming back from shoulder surgery, but eating into $10.5 mil of this year’s budget could net us a potential ace next season for $10mil.  Both Burnett and Santana are poised for rebound seasons and could use the Mariners defense with Safeco field’s expanses to increase their value.  The Mets are currently believed to be in financial trouble and would likely welcome the salary relief this season and the Yankees have been rumored to be looking to add to their rotation without raising their payroll drastically.

Step 3- Acquire players that have more than one year of control and are poised for a breakout season.  I know that I have mentioned this in previous posts, but trading for a player like Kendrys Morales makes a lot of sense to me.  When healthy he is a legitimate number 4 hitter, and his value is as low as it is ever going to get.  The worst that could happen with an acquisition like Morales is that he doesn’t return to his former self, in which case he is not guaranteed a contract for next season.  There is however a very solid chance that he could return to the player he was 2 years ago and be an inexpensive cleanup hitter.  

When looking in free agency don’t be afraid to overpay a little for a bounce-back player that will allow you to add a team option for 2013.  Two players that come to mind for a scenario like this are Rich Harden and Joel Zumaya.  Yes, both of these players are prone to injury, but when healthy both have proven that they can be very effective.  Last season Zumaya found a way to drop his walks / 9 IP down 2 points to a very respectable 2.58 while maintaining a K rate of almost 8.  Harden had a K rate of almost 10 and has the flexibility of being a reliever or help in the rotation if necessary.  Both players are likely to sign contracts for $1-2mil.  Why not sign them for $1mil more than expected and add a team friendly option for 2013 for $3-4mil.  If either of these players have a healthy season they immediately become a trade asset that you could flip for a decent amount at the trade deadline.

Step 4-Trade away veteran players with only one year of control.  At this point in time we are not going to be able to trade Ichiro Suzuki because he is more valuable to the Seattle Mariners than any other franchise.  We just signed George Sherrill and Hisashi Iwakuma to one year deals so they aren’t likely to be dealt at this point.  This leaves only Brandon League to be dealt.  I do realize that closer market at the moment is not very strong with Ryan Madson signing at below market value on a one year contract with the Reds, but the Angels are still looking for relief help and don’t have very much money to spend.  Francisco Cordero is still available, but he is 37 years old and has had a steeply declining K rate for the last 4 years.  Many people believe that the Mariners should wait until the deadline to deal League, but why would a player be more valuable when there are only a couple months left on his contract.  Trade League now and free up the closer position for another player with something to prove.

This roster might not be the best you could put together for 2012, but it should position you well for 2013.  Since a replacement level team estimates to win around 43 games, my estimate for a team like below would be around 80 wins.

Player Position hand Salary 2011 WAR 2012 WAR
Ichiro Suzuki RF left

18000000

0.2

1

Franklin Gutierrez CF right

5813000

1.1

3

Dustin Ackley 2B left

1500000

2.3

3

Kendrys Morales DH switch

3000000

0

2

Justin Smoak 1B switch

450000

0.5

2

Casper Wells LF right

450000

1.5

2

Miguel Olivo C Right

3500000

0.9

1

Kyle Seager 3B left

450000

0.5

1

Brendan Ryan SS Right

1500000

2.6

2

           
Bench          
John Jaso C left

450000

0.5

1

Mike Carp LF/1B left

450000

0.5

2

Brandon Wood SS/3B right

600000

0.1

0.5

Fernando Martinez OF left

450000

0

0

           
Starting Rotation          
Felix Hernandez SP Right

19200000

5.5

5

AJ Burnett SP Right

16500000

1.5

2.5

Hisashi Iwakuma SP Right

1500000

0

2

Michael Pineda SP Right

450000

3.4

3.5

Blake Beaven SP Right

450000

0.7

1

           
Bullpen          
Tom Wilhelsen RP Right

450000

0.3

0.5

Shawn Kelley RP Right

450000

0.2

0.4

Steve Delabar RP Right

450000

-0.1

0.1

Joel Zumaya RP right

2500000

0

0.5

Stephen Pryor RP Right

450000

0

1

Rich Harden RP Right

2500000

0.4

1

George Sherrill RP Left

1100000

0.5

0.5

           
Money with Figgins    

7000000

   
           
     

$89,613,000

23.1

38.5

This entry was posted in AJ Burnett, Brandon League, Brandon Wood, Chone Figgins, Deals, Fernando Martinez, Free Agent, Jason Vargas, Joel Zumaya, Johan Santana, Kendrys Morales, Kyle Blanks, Mariners, Mike Carp, Prince Fielder, Rich Harden and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to What if Prince doesn’t sign with the good guys?

  1. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Posada, Madson, Fielder | Columbus Sports Radio

  2. docmilo5 says:

    “I would prefer the Mariners trade for a player that would come reasonably cheap, is still young, has shown talent in the minor leagues, and has yet to put it together at the major league level. Someone like Brandon Wood, Fernando Martinez or Kyle Blanks could fill a backup role, but if given the opportunity could do the same thing that Mike Carp did last season. Give some young players a chance to surprise us.”
    Trading for Morales or any of these players is only a sideways move. There is no guarantee that they will produce in Safeco and you have them taking ABs away from Carp in your current lineup. Morales may not ever be better than Carp going forward. Blanks may not be better than Carp, Smoak or Wells. Wood may not be better than Seager, Liddi or Catricala. Why give up organization depth to add question marks? If the M’s don’t sign Fielder, they need to keep what they have one more year and see what settles. Any players the M’s have to trade will probably bring back better value in June or July.

    I also don’t get the idea that the M’s have only so much money to spend. They can spend as much money as they chose. If they spend more money than their imaginary budget they will probably make more money and regain fans. If they spend less than their imaginary budget they will probably lose more fans and lose more money.

    • toddbrickman says:

      Hey Doc,
      Welcome to the site.
      “I also don’t get the idea that the M’s have only so much money to spend. They can spend as much money as they chose. If they spend more money than their imaginary budget they will probably make more money and regain fans. If they spend less than their imaginary budget they will probably lose more fans and lose more money.”

      There are always budgets. Unfortunately, it gets to the chicken or egg dilemna… Does a team spend money hoping the fans will come or does the team need to make money to spend more money. In Seattle it seems like the money means nothing, it is all about winning. Also, there is not always a direct correlation to spending money to winning, hence the 100 loss with 100 million payroll debacle we lived through. For most mid market teams or small market teams is all about how they spend their money.

  3. rbt says:

    Fernando Martinez? The guy the Mets just waived when he still had an option? If anybody was willing to trade for him they would have done that instead of waiving him. Besides, the Astros just picked him up. (Although I’d have to admit that it would be hilarious if the Astros traded him when the Mets couldn’t.)

    • jkcmason says:

      Yup, one and the same. Why not take a chance on a 23 year old outfielder that has shown promise throughout the minors and hasn’t been given any time to season in the majors. He was rightfully picked up by the first team with the ability to do so. The whole point is for the Mariners to find players that 1- are inexpensive and 2- have upside. Don’t you think that he still has something to prove at 23 years old?

  4. jkcmason says:

    Hey DocMilo,
    I appreciate your feedback. I do disagree with your opinion that Morales would be a sideways move. His career averages are better than anyone on the Mariners for the past 2 seasons at the plate. The biggest difference that I see between our mindset is the role of these players. The Mariners bench needs to be able to cover both CF and SS. Carp and Smoak don’t fit there and Wells isn’t the most reliable. Martinez could back up in LF and provide another lefty bat should Guti or Wells need a break. Seager, Liddi and Catricala can’t play SS. Wood would be able to fill in for Ryan should something happen and platoon with Seager if he needs it. Liddi looked to need a little more seasoning in AAA at the end of last year and Catricala has yet to play above AA. The Mariners are likely going to find an older player to fill these roles (Luis Rodriguez, Menunori Kawasaki, and another veteran OFer that can cover CF). These players would be younger depth that could provide upside rather than the veteran option.

  5. Kevin says:

    why isn’t anyone talking about cespedes? adding this powerhitting outfielder would allow us to package one or more of our OF surplus in trade for other parts. while cubans in general have not lived up to their hype, i wonder why the m”s aren’t kicking the tires on him….anyone?

  6. Kevin says:

    nice piece, thanks for the info.

    you are right, jack is VERY quiet. dunno about you, but it’s made me a bit edgy.

  7. firesale says:

    zumaya hasn’t pitched since mid 2010 and only 30 or so innings in 09 and you want to give him 2.5 mil? and after the mariners hosed the yankees with cliff lee, theres only one deal they’d do with the mariners and it isnt for chone figgins. what use would the yankees have for him? a 9 million dollar bench player? nope.

    the angels arent going to “sell low” on morales, esp to a division rival. They are more likely to deal Trumbo and get value in return.

    • jkcmason says:

      I love yankee comments. You guys always have a sense of authority and seem to think you know more than other people. Please fill me in with how I would be wrong.
      1- Yes I would like to give Zumaya about a mil more (probably more like $2mil) than any other team would so that he takes a contract with a team option for 2013. If he is healthy you could trade him at the deadline for some decent help. Anyone you are trading with would view it as 1 year and a couple months of help at a good price rather than just a couple months. It would be taking a minimal risk while maximizing the return.
      2- Do you guys want Edwin Jackson this offseason without raising your payroll? The trade I proposed would give you $10mil worth of salary cap space for this offseason. So the question isn’t “would you trade AJ Burnett for a Backup infielder”, it is “would you trade AJ Burnett for 80% of Edwin Jackson’s salary, a no.5 starter and a backup infielder if all you had to do was pay $10mil to us in 2013″.
      3- Are you really certain that Felix Hernandez is the only player in the whole Mariner franchise that can help you win? On top of that, why would we trade Felix for a DH that doesn’t fit our ballpark and young pitching that isn’t even as good as what we have in the minors already with Paxton and Hultzen? Get over the Cliff Lee deal, The Rangers didn’t win with him and he likely would have left for Philly after the season anyway. If anything we saved you from losing your treasured prospects.
      4- Maybe you know more thane me. What should the Angels ask for in return for Morales? I keep hearing that they don’t have a spot for him and they need bullpen help. I was figuring they would jump at the opportunity to acquire League. Wouldn’t they trade the player that would help their team the most?

  8. irishpotato says:

    1 left handed pitcher on the entire roster??????? No starting left handed pitchers?????? Might want to rethink this a bit.

  9. jkcmason says:

    True, Paxton and Hultzen are almost ready to start. Furbush, Luetge, and Henn are ready to take on bullpen roles if we need them. Beaven and Delabar could easily be replaced in this example or you could also try the Santana trade rather than Burnett. The roster is just set up as an example. My main points would be for Burnett/Santana, Harden and Zumaya to be placed into roles to maximize their value so that they could be dealt at the deadline. This would allow us to flip Figgins for something of value and use our budget space to trade for young controllable talent in the system.

    • Bill Bavasi says:

      Why on Earth would the Mets or Yankees trade away players with considerably more upside to the Mariners in exchange for Chone Figgins? why wouldn’t either of the NY teams try to rebuild their value, and not use the Mariners as a middle man to liquidate a future return? and as for Morales, I don’t follow the logic of trading a middle of the order bat, switch hitting controllable, major-league proven player for a reliever, the most fungible asset in Baseball? Morales is perfect for LAA with the balance he provides being a switch hitter, while trading for Brandon League just clouds the closing role that Jordan Walden had been growing into. I can’t say with confidence that any GM would trade away an underachieving

      • Bill Bavasi says:

        …cont’d. lol, an underachieving asset to a division rival when relief help can be had for merely low-minor prospects.

      • jkcmason says:

        Hello Bill,
        As I am pretty sure you know just after this post was put up the Mariners agreed to terms on a pretty significant trade with the Yankees swapping Michael Pineda and Jose Campos for Jesus Montero and Hectore Noesi. This move changes a lot of the logic associted with this post.

        Why would the Mets or Yankees trade away players with considerably more upside in exchange for Figgins? – My thought process was the NY teams would be receiving more than just Figgins. Both teams would be receiving quite a bit of salary relief in these deals. Many sites have stated that the Mets are currently having financial difficulties and the Yankees are reluctant to spend more money and further feel the burden of the salary cap. Since Santana just had shoulder surgery, the Mets might jump at the opportunity to recover some of the money that is obligated to their highest paid player. The Yankees don’t seem high on Burnett in NY. They recently added Pineda and Kuroda to a rotation the definately includes Sabathia and Nova. They also have just resigned Freddy Garcia and have Hughes, Betances and Banuelos waiting in the wings.

        Morales? Not that this is really relevant anymore with the acquisition of Montero, but Morales hasn’t played in a year and a half. He also doesn’t have a set position. With Abreu, Pujols, Trumbo, & Wells all looking for some DH time, he is likely out of a job. Since he doesn’t have a set position, you either make him a part time player, trade him, or have one of the other players become part time. The Angels have been rumored to be looking for strong reliever additions, wihtout spending very much money. Brandon League is not incredibly expensive, a proven setup man and closer, and in a trade for Morales would raise their payroll by only $2mil. I am not saying a one for one deal, but League could be the main attraction wihtin a package for Morales. You are correct though, they are in the same division and that wouldn’t be an easy trade. The Mariners no longer have a spot for Morales though.

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