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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mariners' Off-Season Mid November

There has been a fair amount of news in the last week or two about the Mariners and what may happen this off-season that has caused Mariners' fans to get a little excited. Well, maybe only the super nerd type fans like myself would get excited but the casual fans probably would really be paying attention. So let's start breaking things down.

Chuck Armstrong announced a few days ago that the Mariners will have more money to spend this next season than last season. This announcement lead many people to conclude that the Mariners may have the funding to go after the free agent Josh Hamilton, who is a free agent for the first and probably last time and is rumored to be looking for some insane contract approaching $175 Million. When I heard that the Mariners may have the money to spend on him, I have to admit that I was pretty excited because Hamilton is one of the best players on the planet but I was pretty much ignoring a couple of huge red flags. Then today, Jack Zduriencik announced that the Mariners will, probably not be getting Hamilton. This allowed me to actually listen to the fear I had and analyze why it is probably for the best. 

The first thing is that Josh Hamilton isn't the youngest player, he's in his early 30's and has missed a fair amount of playing time since he came back to baseball. He has never played a full season and probably will not ever do so and he even missed the last month of the season when he won the AL MVP. The Mariners need a player who will be on the field for most of the season and a player who gets hurt a lot probably will have his skill deteriorate faster than someone who can play every day. We saw what happens when injuries take slow down a player, look at how Ken Griffey Jr. wasn't that great when he played for the Reds. In addition to the injuries, Josh Hamilton started hitting like he was in a slow pitch softball league. He was literally swinging at any pitch that was near the plate and completely ignoring the location of the pitch. This worked for the first half of last season but he has a month or two that he hit below the Mendoza line and you can't have that for a guy who would demand $20 Million plus per season. He never really fixed his approach this year and you wonder if he will next season. If not, Josh Hamilton will not be very productive because the league will just exploit his weakness and he will hit about as well as Miguel Olivo did while getting paid a whole bunch more. When you combine that with the likelihood that the contract will be six or seven years, that really isn't worth the risk. Another issue that people mention is Josh's former substance abuse problem and the possibility of a relapse. I actually completely ignore this possibility because I'm pretty sure a team can protect themselves contractually from this happening (also, hopefully this will never happen).

Besides Josh Hamilton, there has been talk that the Mariners have been looking at trading one of the young pitching prospects for Billy Butler of Kansas City. Butler is a below average first baseman who is really suited for DHing. With that said, the guy can flat out rake and is one of the better offensive players in the league with a WRC+ of 140 last year and 121 the year before that. If the Mariners were to acquire him, he would likely be their best hitter and has two years left on his contract. However, I would suggest that the Mariners not go after him because he really does not fit within the team. They already have a similar player in Jesus Montero, who really isn't a good catcher and needs to either play first base or DH and may end up being a better hitter than Butler once he matures a little more. This means that the Mariners would have to either play Butler or Montero at first base and cut Justin Smoak and take a pretty large hit at first base defensively. Additionally, trading one of the best pitching prospects in baseball for two years of a limited player is not probably the best use of resources. Now, if the Mariners could trade a couple of prospects for Eric Hosmer or the Royals' super prospect Wil Myers, then I would be willing to go there. That is realizing that Hosmer didn't meet expectations last year but Kansas City isn't the most hitter friendly environment and the organization is not a great one. 

Continuing on the trade front, there have been some people discussing that the Mariners could try to acquire Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks. This is a pretty long shot as every discussion on the web talks about Arizona looking for a shortstop and other positions that the Mariners don't really have. Additionally, Upton had a disappointing year for him but there is a chance that it was due to injury. I actually think that people tend to ignore that Nick Franklin is a short stop that will be major league ready sometime this season or next season, though there are questions as to whether he will be able to stick at short stop. I'm higher on Franklin than most though as he has had a couple of up and down years and he is a switch hitter who can't do much from the right side of the plate. 

This leads us to the other outfielders that are available on the free agent market. There is Michael Bourn who is a center fielder that is slightly above average offensively and appears to be very good defensively. He hasn't been linked to the Mariners but would be a pretty good upgrade as he is a better hitter than Michael Saunders. The Mariners do have Franklin Gutierrez also, but he has played so little due to freak things occurring that I'm pretty sure someone has a voodoo doll of him with a lot of pins in it. A little research makes it sound like Bourn is looking at a 5 year $80 Million contract so he probably will not end up in Seattle. Melky Cabrerra was a personal target of mine, given his suspension for performance enhancing drugs, I thought the NL batting champion would probably get a one or two year deal in the neighborhood of $6-$10 Million per year. Unfortunately, Toronto decided to snag him today so he is out of the picture. That leaves two other targets I like: Nick Swisher and Angel Pagan. 

Swisher is a 4 WAR per year player who was rumored to be looking for something crazy contract like Jason Werth got a couple of years ago (7 years, $126 Million) which I would not be willing to do. However, a lot of the teams that would actually drive that contract up like the Yankees aren't interested, so he may be attainable at a reasonable price. If he could show up on a four year deal for $10-$12 Million per year, I would hope the Mariners would do that but his contract will probably be closer to the $17 Million per year. Though, the market says that is a good deal, I think that is just too much for the Mariners unless then have an extra $30 Million in payroll. 

That leaves us with Angel Pagan, who has a name that is truly an oxymoron and a playing history that is like riding a boat on the Ocean. Pagan was a non tender candidate for the Mets two years ago, who shipped him to the Giants where he had nearly a five WAR season. He is going to be 32 in July of next year and has not been the model of consistency in his career. I have no clue what he is going to cost but he would be a nice addition if the price weren't too high and the length weren't too long. The other player mentioned a fair amount is B.J. Upton, who played for the Rays and I would not touch him with a ten foot pole. He is very inconsistent, is going to cost way too much, and has rumored to not have his heart fully in the game. The good news is he isn't probably coming to Seattle anyways. 

Ultimately, we really don't know what is going to happen with Seattle as the front office does not leak information at all. The fact that Zduriencik actually stated that they aren't going to get Hamilton today surprised me as the front office never talks about anything until it happens. The reports we heard about Billy Butler likely came from Kansas City. A couple of years ago, GMZ shocked the world when he got Cliff Lee for a song and last year when he traded Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero. Neither of the moves were expected and surprised everyone. With that in mind, I will say that the only guarantee we have is that we will likely see some trade we never expected come to fruition. Let's just hope it works out as well as the Cliff Lee deal did and not the Chone Figgins signing (though that signing appeared to be very good at the time). Baseball is crazy and Seattle just embodies that more than any other organization.

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