In God we trust. Everybody else needs data. - Rick Peterson

Saturday, November 29, 2003


Boston beats the Mariners for the wild card, but loses in playoffs. Both Mariners and Red Sox vow to improve club for next season to get to next level.
  • Boston makes a big push and adds Schilling.
  • Seattle makes a big push and adds Ibañez.

Here in Seattle, as in Narnia, it's always winter but never Christmas. And somewhere in the wings I can hear "Uncle Andrew" Lincoln talking to himself: "…a dem fine GM, he is. Yes, a dem fine GM." (with apologies to C. S. Lewis for borrowing from his Chronicles of Narnia)


Here is some Feedback at Mariner Musings suggesting that Ibañez is slated to take over for Olerud at first base after next season.

Yeegadds! I hope that's not true. That would add first base to the list of sucky positions. Of course, that means this report is correct.

Here I am, running out of spoons already, and it's not even Christmas!


In the interest of balance, Rick at marinerbullpen gives a different bloggers take on the Ibañez signing.

For myself, I don't disagree about Ibañez's "fit" with the team and at Safeco. All of those items suggest to me that he can be a good role player. My primary objections are that:
  • the Mariners paid too much (by half);
  • they did the deal too early (sacrificing draft picks);
  • the back end loading of the contract virtually assures that in year 3 Ibañez will be dragging down the payroll; and
  • the contract shows that Mariners operating goal is still "competitive", not "championship".
I hope I am wrong, but the indicators weigh heavily against this deal helping advance the Mariners to the top echelon of the American League.

The overspending on Ibanez is the equivalent of one strong bat off the bench. Ibañez could be a nice part of a platoon, but as an everyday player he is at best a middle of the road acquisition.

That also poses something that worries me. I see the Mariners moving toward a roster that is largely staffed with adequate (i.e., close to position average) players, with a few positions that are above average to outstanding players, and a comparable number of positions that are below average. Overall, that leaves the team slightly above league average. – a team that is good for 85 to 90 wins per season, occassionally getting to the low 90s when things are good, and sinking to 0.500 when things go bad. In otherwise, a team that is competitive, but not championship.

One difficulty that occurs with a team in such a situation is that is often hard to make roster changes. There are no roster spots that are obvious holes, and as you survey the roster you see a lot of people who are making contributions. Some of the players occasionally have above average years, and you think that maybe you can get that from them again. Plus, they are all good guys, well-liked by teammates, and popular with fans. So you try to plug along with what you have, and you remain mired in mediocrity.

Peter over at Mariner Musings questions the Mariners commitment to doing what it takes to assemble a championship team. It is a point well worth considering. The past record of the Mariners is that they will not do what it takes to get to the top. This offseaon we had an outfield position that was perfect for a standout signing. Ibañez means that we are going to fill that spot with exactly one of those adequate players I just described.

And that is the biggest problem with the Ibañez contract – it is a blown opportunity to make a difference. It is the Mariners embracing the adequate even while outstanding is attainable.

Friday, November 28, 2003


ESPN.com - MLB - Schilling and Red Sox agree to 2-year contract

With luck, this will cause Steinbrenner to go into a rage and do some dumb things that will hamstring the Yankees for several years.

Matt over at Just Another Mariners Blog was kind enough to post a reference to my Cirillo posting yesterday. Thanks, Matt.

Just a bit of clarification in response to a couple of Matt's comments.

If I sounded as I favor a trade for Kendall, that is certainly not the case. As I mentioned, I think payroll flexibility is critical, which leaves me generally cold on a Kendall deal. Nevertheless, there is enough potential in a Kendall deal for me to not dismiss it out of hand. This is completely different from a Griffey trade, which has also been mentioned as a possible way to move Cirillo's contract. (I've even mentioned it in the past in other forums as a way to move Cirillo's contract.) There is simply no reasonable way to make a Griffey deal into a positive.

Matt said he preferred just cutting Cirillo. I'm not quite at that point because I don't know what the alternatives are. There aren't any free agents that strike me as a signficant upgrade over Cirillo. Assuming he is not clogging the 40-man roster, cutting him now does not make sense if that results in Bloomquist being the every day third baseman. Also, at this point, we don’t know how Leone and Dobbs will fare at the big league level; if they both prove to be Bloomquist equivalents, Cirillo would be the best third base option.

So, I would have a nice chat with Cirillo and his agent. I would explain to them that it appears that Cirillo will still be on the roster when the Mariners start training camp. During camp, the Mariners intend to take a close look at Leone, Dobbs, and any other third base talent that might be available. At any point that the Mariners find a third base option that they prefer, they will give Cirillo an outright release. Simultaneously, Cirillo will have a chance to work with Molitor and see if he can get his stroke back.

Cirillo will likely complain that if he is released in training camp, it will be too late for him to catch on somewhere else. I would then respond that if he wants to have time to catch on somewhere else, he needs to rework his deal to give something back to the Mariners in exchange for them releasing him early.

And, all of the above presumes that he is not clogging the 40-man roster. If he is clogging the 40-man roster, then cut him now.

Thursday, November 27, 2003


Wired News: Baseball Throws Web a Curve

Major league baseball continues to be a leader in how not to promote your business. It seems to me that if you want to promote interest in the game, you should be encouraging people to enjoy your product.

Beyond that, I think this is a blatant attempt to control news. What happens on a baseball field is just as much news at what happens on a road or at a city council meeting. To say that someone can't pass on information about what is transpiring in a game is brazen.


First off, Happy Thanksgiving to all! We brined our turkey this year for the first time, and that is definitely the way to cook the bird!

With Randa no longer a possibility for the Mariners, we have at least that much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. So, I'm going to turn my attention to Cirillo. Mike Thompson over at the Seattle P-I Mariners blog lays out some options. For the moment, I want to focus a bit on what appear to me to be the alternatives for dealing with Cirillo.

First, understand (if it is not clear already) that Cirillo is untradable for anything of value. The true value marker for a player under contract is to consider what that player might receive if he were an unrestricted free agent. Teams looking to deal at this time of year will generally look at what they would pay the player they are receiving, and compare that with what they are likely to pay for similar talent on the free agent market. If the player they would be receiving will receive more than market value, the sending team will need to add something attractive to the deal (usually money or prospects) to offset the salary difference. The major exceptions to this concept are the Mariners, who seem to believe that teams should pay twice market value for mediocre players and roster filler, and the Yankees, who don't consider payroll in their decision making.

My best guess is that the most Cirillo would get on the open market is a one-year deal for $500,000. Even that may be optimistic - he might get only major league minimum $300,000 or a minor league contract with an invitation to training camp to make the big team. Cirillo's remaining salary commitments are
  • 2004: $6.725M
  • 2005: $7.025M
  • 2006: Team option $7.625M or $1.25M buyout.
So, moving Cirillo will probably cost the Mariners about $14 million (the total $15 million due Cirillo with the buyout, less 2 years paid by the new team at $500,000 per year). Any contribution less than that by the Mariners means that either:
  • the other team is giving up a bad contract of their own to offset the hit they are taking for paying Cirillo above market; or
  • the Mariners will need to include some other players in the deal who are worth more than their salaries.
And, NO, adding Freddy Garcia to the package does not make Cirillo tradeable, since Freddy himself is untradeable.

Sending Cirillo to the minor leagues is not an option. He is well beyond his option years, so he cannot be sent to the minors without his consent. If the Mariners tried to do so, he can (and likely would) refuse the assignment, which would make him a free agent. The Mariners would still be obligated to pay him his salary, less any amount he might receive from a new contract. So the Mariners still end up paying the $14 million.

To me, the primary consideration right now with Cirillo is the consequences of having him on the 25-man and 40-man rosters. By having him on those rosters, the Mariners are leaving someone off those rosters. (The 40-man roster is particularly important as the Rule V draft approaches.) If the person who would take Cirillo's place on the 40-man roster is someone who you really don't want to lose from the organization, the Mariners should cut Cirillo loose now to protect that player. Even if you don't decide to cut Cirillo on that basis, you still look to see what third base talent is likely to be available after the Dec 20 non-tendering. If you think there will be better talent available at reasonable cost, you make plans to replace Cirillo with that talent. If those situations don't lead you to release Cirillo, then you are in a situation where he is the best option available and you hope for the best. Finally, no matter what the situation, you give Leone and Dobbs every opportunity to fill third base in spring training. If you wind up with Bloomquist as your only option, you start looking for spoons again.

The only glimmer of hope I see for being able to salvage anything from Cirillo would be if there were a team that were willing to swap two years of a nonproductive Cirillo for a longer remaining commitment on some useful player of their own - in other words, a team would accept Cirillo and give themselves greater payroll flexibility commencing in 2006. The Mariners would accept reduced payroll flexibility beyond 2005 in exchange for shedding Cirillo and receiving a useful player in return.

Before I discuss a couple of possibilities, let me say that I generally don't like anything that reduces payroll flexibility. Virtually every long term contract has been a bust, even if it is a player such as A-Rod who has performed at the expected level. I think payroll flexibility is essential to roster management. One of Gillick's strengths was his refusal to go long-term on contracts. He often overpaid, but he did not create the long-term albatross contracts that have strapped many organizations. The one exception was accepting the Cirillo contract, and that trade had Lou Pinella's fingerprints all over it.

With that being said, where might such a trade even be possible? Two possibilities immediately come to mind:
  • Griffey, Jr.

    Griffey's remaining salary commitments are:

    - 2004: $12.5M
    - 2005: $12.5M
    - 2006: $12.5M
    - 2007: $12.5M
    - 2008: $12.5M
    - 2009: Team option with $4.0M buyout

    I am sure that Cincinatti would entertain any trade offer that got them out from this salary commitment, and they also need a third baseman after fleecing the Yankees in the Aaron Boone deal. (And a compliment to the Mariners for not upping their offer for Boone after the Yankees jumped got into the fray and decided to overpay to get Boone. While the offer the Mariners apparently had on the table was an overpayment, they did not buckle under pressure to get a deal done and make a ridiculous overpayment.) Griffey also has substantial deferred salary commitments, and, to keep it simple, I am going to assume those would stay with Cincinatti. I'm also going to ignore all of the emotion associated with Griffey, and just try to focus on baseball related issues.

    Griffey will be 35 when the 2004 season starts, so this contract runs until he is 39 (40 with the option year). His health issues are well documented, and there is every reason to believe that he will continue to be injury prone. Next, couple the ordinary decline in skills that occurs past age 30 with additional skills erosion due to lost playing time. I think that with injuries and diminished skills, Griffey is likely to be as much a drain on team finances as Cirillo, but would extend the agony through 2008/2009.

    To make a Griffey option even remotely palatable, I think Cincinatti would need to accept all of Cirillo's contract, continue to pay at least half of Grifffey's contract, and retain the deferred money obligations. Even then, I think the Mariners would need to accept some prospects back in the deal.

    In other words, I don't see this deal happening at all. And that probably means the Mariners are working on that deal right now and expect to wrap it up at the Winter Meetings.

  • Jason Kendall

    As compared with Griffey, I think Kendall may have some merit, so I will spend a bit more time discussion this one. Kendall's remaining salary commitments are:

    - 2004: $8.0M
    - 2005: $10.0M
    - 2006: $11.0M
    - 2007: $13.0M

    Pittsburgh needs a third baseman after trading Ramirez. Except for his 1999 injury season, Kendall has appeared in a minimum of 130 games each season, and since returning from his ankle injury has never appeared in fewer than 150 games. Kendall will turn 30 during the 2004 season, so he is approaching the breakdown age for catchers. Because of these potential physical breakdowns, the Mariners might consider moving Kendall to first base after Olerud's contract expires next year, or possibly making him the DH after Edgar retires. Kendall will be 34 when his contract expires, which is still close to peak production years for many players (with the catcher caveat previously noted).

    Kendall would be a nice upgrade offensively; this, of course, would also create a current roster logjam at catcher until Wilson's contract expires next year. Wilson is pretty much untradeable; as a ten and five man, he has trade veto power, and he is an overpaid, underperforming player. To solve the logjam, it might be necessary to include Davis in the deal; perhaps the Mariners could get a prospect back in the deal if Davis is included. Since Davis is from the Pittsburgh area, there may be some attraction to Pittsburgh in picking him up. In this scenario, you would accept that Dan Wilson will be a gloriously overpaid backup catcher for one year, and you move to seriously address the catcher situation after the 2004 season.

    For what it's worth, Kendall has a no-trade clause.
As I said, I think payroll flexibility is essential in roster management. Nevertheless, I think there are enough potential positives with a Kendall deal that it may be worth at least considering.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


Randa, Anderson and Leskanic back in blue in 2004

That was too close. All of you can have your spoons back now.

Offensive stats
Catalanotto, 20030.2990.3510.4720.823
Ibañez, 20030.2940.3450.4540.799
Catalanotto, career0.2970.3590.4650.824
Ibañez, career0.2780.3340.4640.798

Terms of contract:

Catalanotto: 1 year, $2.5 million

Ibañez: 3 yrs, $13.25 million

Tell me again why the Mariners think Ibañez was worth more than $4 million per year?


According to the New York Post the Mets have offered Castillo 3 years, $14 million, but the Marlins have offered 3 years, 15.5 million. That is, it looks as if Castillo is slated to get Ibañez type money.

Castillo, for his career, is
  • slightly above average offensively among second baseman (without adjusting for Pro Players park being an 2003 extreme pitchers park)
  • offers excellent defense
  • is 28 years old (hence is likely to maintain current production at this level over the life of the contract)

Ibañez, for his career, is
  • below league average production among corner outfielders (and most of his record is from Kaufman Stadium, an extreme hitters park)
  • is considered defensively adequate
  • is 31 years old (hence is likely have his current production over the life of the contract

More evidence that the Mariners grossly overpaid.

For those who want to see the numbers, here they are:

Left fielders 20030.2790.3530.4680.821
Right fielders 20030.2780.3500.464 0.814
Second base 20030.2710.3330.4030.736
Castillo, career 0.2920.3670.355 0.722
Ibañez, career0.2780.3340.4640.798

Tuesday, November 25, 2003


The Twins Geek (John Bonnes) take on the Milwuakee fiasco. I like this quote:

A major team with solid management (after all, they’re owned by the commissioner of baseball) playing in a brand new facility can’t draw fans. Clearly, the market can’t support them. Perhaps contraction is necessary.


This ESPN article, Productive Outs, is going to make for some interesting discussions. As I come across links, discussing this I will add them in.

This should be very informative, because it looks as if it is going to involve some serious discussions based on actual data, not the passing down of "common knowledge".

There is some discussion of this underway at Baseball Primer. The issue of "Productive Outs" has been challenged very heavily in the sabermetric community in the past. I think the comments at Baseball Primer are interesting; many of them appear to me to be pretty closed-minded about looking at this issue.

Some of the responses seem typical of those made when any piece of "received wisdom" is challenged. A bit ironic, because the saberheads have often accused the scouting and developement types of being closed minded about their "received wisdoms".


Aaron Gleeman's entry today is on Introducing GPA. Aaron's formula is GPA = ((OBP*1.7) + SLG) / 4

Basically Aaron is adjusting the weighting of on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Studies, referenced by Aaron, show that on-base percentage contributes more to offensive production than does slugging percentage. Aaron's formula provides addtional weighting to OBP, and, after dividing by 4, yields a number that resembles a batting average.

I took a few minutes to calculate the GPA's for the 2003 Mariners - the results are below. I also threw in Ibañez, Vlad, Stairs (vs RHP), and Cruz, Jr. (vs LHP). I used the splits for Stairs and Cruz, Jr. because they could be used as a platoon and would have probably cost the same amount of money as Ibañez. None of the data are corrected for ballpark.

E. Martinez 145 497 0.294 0.406 0.489 0.895 0.295
Bret Boone 159 622 0.294 0.366 0.535 0.902 0.289
Ichiro Suzuki 159 679 0.312 0.352 0.436 0.788 0.259
Greg Colbrunn 22 58 0.276 0.323 0.483 0.805 0.258
John Olerud 152 539 0.269 0.372 0.39 0.761 0.256
Mike Cameron 147 534 0.253 0.344 0.431 0.774 0.254
Randy Winn 157 600 0.295 0.346 0.425 0.771 0.253
C Guillen 109 388 0.276 0.359 0.394 0.753 0.251
John Mabry 64 104 0.212 0.328 0.356 0.684 0.228
Rey Sanchez 46 170 0.294 0.33 0.335 0.665 0.224
Ben Davis 80 246 0.236 0.284 0.382 0.666 0.216
W. Bloomquist 89 196 0.25 0.317 0.321 0.638 0.215
Mark McLemore 99 309 0.233 0.318 0.314 0.632 0.214
Dan Wilson 96 316 0.241 0.272 0.339 0.611 0.200
Jeff Cirillo 87 258 0.205 0.284 0.271 0.555 0.188
Pat Borders 12 14 0.143 0.2 0.214 0.414 0.139

Ibañez 157 608 0.294 0.345 0.454 0.799 0.260
Vladimir Guerrero 112 394 0.33 0.426 0.586 1.012 0.328
Stairs (vs RHP) 115 273 0.304 0.402 0.582 0.984 0.316
Cruz, Jr (vs LHP) 78 135 0.304 0.405 0.519 0.924 0.302
platoon - - 0.304 0.4035 0.5505 0.954 0.309

Now there is some interesting stuff in here.

Since Kaufmann Stadium is a hitters park, Ibañez's numbers are a bit inflated in comparison to the Mariners. Nevertheless, if Ibañez is substituted for Winn, and if Winn were to get between $4 million and $5 million this year after arbitration, the Ibañez deal is merely nauseating instead of revolting. The Mariners still overpaid, but if Winn is non-tendered, the Mariners may come out slightly ahead this season. Given the differences in ages, though, the balance of Ibañez contract still looks as if it could be a stinker in comparison with Winn.

However, the Stairs/Cruz platoon would have been the best offensive position on the roster - significantly better than even Edgar or Boone. That swings the Ibañez signing the other way and renders it beyond revolting. I am at a loss for adjectives at this point, and even my Roget's doesn't offer anything adequate - can anyone help me out??

Ichiro looks greatly overvalued, and certainly won't be worth what will receive in a contract. In the best of worlds the Mariners would move Ichiro to another team and use the Ichiro money to bring in Vlad. The Mariners, however, are probably pretty committed to keeping Ichiro. Although he is not worth as a player what he will undoubtedly receive, he has additional marketing value that justifies some amount of salary premium beyond his baseball stats.

Ichiro's new salary is probably going to be close to the sum of his and Cameron's salaries last year. So, given those circumstances, a reasonably nice scenario from this point would be if the M's moved Ichiro to center and let Cameron walk. Then they can non-tender Winn and Garcia, and use that money to sign Vlad for right field. Scrape out another $3 million to $4 million for the Stairs/Cruz platoon (or use equivalents), and the offenive potential starts to look real good.

In the past, the M's have said that international signings do not count against the payroll budget. If this is truly the case, let's get Matsui for short. That still leaves a hole at third. Maybe Guillen plays third, or maybe he also gets non-tendered, and you try Leone there. In the interim, start Ibañez working on third base now and continuing into spring training, so you can slot him there if necessary (as a stop gap and as additional bench flexibility).

Finally, there will be a lot of cheap roster filler out there in January that will be an upgrade over what the Mariners had last year. So, the offseason is not lost yet, it's just not off to an auspicious start, and there is not a lot of room for more Ibanez types of gaffes.

Now, if the Yomiuri Giants are serious about taking Kaz, Mariners closer Sasaki heading back to Japan?, maybe we could pick up Lowell as wll. That would be cool!!

Monday, November 24, 2003


So the Mariners are thinking about Randa. Anyone have a spoon to spare??

Of course, it would fit right in with the Ibanez signing, and suggests that the theme of the new Mariners regime - pay above average salaries to players who are average players, on the downside of their careers.

But, you protest, these are all players of solid character, good citizens all, who won't embarass the team or the ownership!! Yeah, right. As the Mariners slide towards 0.500, you don't think Mom and Dad aren't going to find something else to do with the kids?

Now, it looks as if the Marlins are going to have to move Mike Lowell. Now that is an acquisition I could get excited about. Non-tendering Freddy might get us a lot of the way there.


According to the Seattle Times, Notebook: Escobar might be bound for Anaheim, free-agent pitcher Kelvim Escobar has agreed to an $18.75 million, three-year contract with the Anaheim Angels. The Blue Jays had reportedly offered the right-hander a $10 million, two-year contract.
For those of you who have been thinking that Freddy is a valuable commodity that the Mariners can move for some prospects (or throw in with Cirillo), I think this pretty much shoots down that notion. If no teams needing a starting pitcher were willing to go higher than $6.25 million for Escobar, they are not going to fork out $8 million for Freddy, let alone throw in some decent players as well or take on an albatross like Cirillo.
Freddy is looking more and more like a Dec 20 non-tender. He may very well wind up in Yankee pinstripes - at about $3 million a year, with a chance to take Weaver's spot. Of course, if he thinks the Seattle crowds have treated him badly, wait until he hits the Bronx."

Sunday, November 23, 2003


Here's some commentary I've posted over at the Seattle P-I blog about the idiotic Ibanez contract.

To continue to beat the Ibanez contract to death, the good men over at USS Mariner have compared Ibanez 2004 to the 2003 crop of free agent left fielders: Left field and Raul Ibanez: A review of peers

As indicated, 3 years at $4.3 million per is an abysmally bad contract for value provided.

Next step for the Mariners - go to arb with Freddy and end up paying him $9 million.

Then they will be out of money, and we'll hear about how they tried to sign free agents to improve the offense, but they just didn't have enough money to sign any top free agents, and the top hitting free agents don't want to come to Safeco, and all that other stuff they dish out and Finnigan laps up.

Mike Thompson's Winn vs Ibanez item at the P-I blog, summarizes it well, though I think he was being generous at $3 million.


There are lots of candidates [that could have been signed instead of Ibanez], and there will be more when teams decide whether or not to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players on Dec 20. Some of the other options that are out there now (or will certainly be nontendered on Dec 20), and that will definitely be cheaper than Ibanez include vander Waal, Cruz Jr, Stairs, Burnitz. All of these guys will probably take a one-year contract at no more than $2MM - less than hald of Ibanez.

The easy, cheap way to do better than this is to do a simple platoon. There are lots of combinations possible, I'll take Matt Stairs vs RHP and Jose Cruz vs LHP (Cruz is a switch hitter but hits much better right handed than left handed, but with more power left handed).

all stats are BA/OBP/SP/OPS for 2003

Matt Stairs (vs RHP): .304/.402/.582/.984
Jose Cruz (vs LHP): .304/.405/.519/.924

Combined: .304/.403/.550/.954

Ibanez: .294 .345 .454 .799

That's a huge difference, and you could pick up Stairs and Cruz for about the same money we paid Ibanez.

On top of that, whichever of those guys is on the bench gives Melvin some great depth bench late in the game. Just imagine what it would have been like last year to hear, "now pinchitting for the Mariners, Jose Cruz" instead of "now pinchitting for the Mariners, John Mabry" or "now pinchitting for the Mariners, Willie Bloomquist"?

Plus, late in the game when you have the lead and want to play defense, Cruz is a great option to have out there - much better than Ibanez.

I really have tried to find some positive in the Ibanez signing, and it just isn't there. It is really bad, and the more you look at it, the more it looks like the "brain trust" can't think creatively and like they are already panicky about getting signings done this year. So they "got something done". In the meantime, Oakland, who is retooling their outfield as well, is amost certainly come back with an outfield that outproduces ours, and will be paying less total than we will be paying to Ichiro alone.


think there is enough there to easily say that the Mariners greatly overpaid. And given the holes that they have and the modest increase in payroll (all the way to $95 million (reportedly) from a mythic $92 million last year), they don't have $2 million to blow unnecessarily (unlike the Yankees).

Re salaries: The best analogy is to see what happened in the 2003 market. Personally, I think 2004 is going to be even tighter than 2003, because there are even fewer teams throwing money around. The Mariners are one of the few teams ready to incrase payroll - that is one of the things that P.O.s me - since they have some green, the market is going to come to them, they don't need to go out setting the market.

Anyway, the good folks at USS Mariner have done a nice comparison of the Ibanez contract to free agent left fielders from the 2003 free agent marketplace. It's here, Left field and Raul Ibanez: A review of peers, and it's not pretty. You may want to not allow women and children to see the screen.

Unless you can somehow make a cogent argument that the 2004 market for free agent left fielders is double the 2003 market, Ibanez looks like a bad signing.

Another factor that has not been mentioned is Ibanez' age - he is 31. It is vastly more likely that a 31-year olds best years are behind him than ahead of him (i.e, Luis Gonzalez and Edgar Martinez are the exception, not the rule).

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