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

Saturday, December 27, 2003



As I have discussed before, the Mariners' player development strategy supposedly is to focus primarily on drafting and developing pitching talent. The theory is that if you have young pitching, you can trade it for whatever you need.

The kicker, of course, is effectively trading the young pitching for what you need. Because the Mariners have been unwilling to trade young pitching, they have not been able to add signficant young position talent to the roster. Instead, the Mariners rely on free agent signings of veteran players in their 30's.

The free agents the Mariners add are generally well-defined league average players with little upside potential. Even after Cirillo, the Mariners don't seem to fully appreciate how fast a player in his 30's can slide, so most of the free agent signings made by the Mariners have greater downside potential than upside. The Mariners also often include escalating payout terms that almost guarantee the player will be grossly overpaid in the out years. And, as has been blogged endlessly, the Mariners also generally overpay for league-average players in their early to mid 30's. Meanwhile the Mariners stack up pitchers at San Antonio and Tacoma who are ready to move up to the majors, but for whom there isn't roster space.

By irrationally classifying some pitching prospects as untouchable, the Mariners also needlessly throw away value. The injury rate for all pitching prospects is so high, that almost any team should be ready to deal a top pitching prospect for an exceptional position prospect. The Mariners, in particular, should embrace that philosophy. By emphasizing pitchers in the draft, the Mariners assure that the organization will perenially be short of premier position player prospects. Then, given the Mariners' propensity for blowing out young arms, through hard experience the Mariners ought to clearly understand that no pitching prospect should ever be considered untouchable. Ryan Anderson is a good example of this precept. Four years ago, the Mariners could have dealt Anderson for almost any prospect in baseball they wanted. But he was "untouchable". Now he is worthless.

This brings me around to mensch and Mench. "Mensch" is a Yiddish word describing a "person having admirable characteristics, such as fortitude and firmness of purpose, The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. I suggest that the Mariners need a mensch, someone with the fortitude and firmness of purpose to actually implement the organizational strategy of trading young pitching for need position prospects.

Kevin Mench is one of the many Texas Rangers young position players and prospects. The Rangers are willing to deal Kevin Mench, and they need pitching. He is 25 years old, and has two years of service time, so is just entering his arbitration years. Under team control last year, he made $325,000. Below are his offensive and defensive stats:
           Offensive Stats

==== ========= ===== ===== ===== =====
2002 vs. Left 0.269 0.316 0.509 0.825
2003 vs. Left 0.346 0.370 0.481 0.851

2002 vs. Right 0.256 0.331 0.422 0.753
2003 vs. Right 0.301 0.388 0.452 0.840

Defensive Stats
Year Position Games* Rate
====== ========= ====== ====
2002 Right Fld 50.1 102
2003 Right Fld 0.3 100
Career - 50.4 102

2002 Left Fld 46.9 96
2003 Left Fld 30.2 90
Career - 50.4 94


Here are some minor league highlights for Mench:
  • 1999: Led Appalachian League in homers (16), ranked 2nd in extra base hits (39) and slugging (.638), placed 3rd in batting (.362), hits (94), doubles (22), and rbi (60), and scored 5th most runs (63) at Pulaski.

  • 2000: Was selected as Florida State League Most Valuable Player and Rangers Tom Grieve minor league player of the year at Charlotte...Led FSL in runs (118), hits (164), total bases (302), extra base hits (75), rbi (121), and slugging (.615) and had 3rd highest average (.334)...Was selected as Baseball America's full season class A player of the year

  • 2001: Ranked 4th in the Texas League in extra base hits (62), tied for 4th in homers (26), and ranked 5th in slugging (.509)...Led Tulsa in at bats (475), runs (78), hits (126), doubles (34), homers, and rbi (83)...Ranked 1st among Rangers minor leaguers in homers and was 3rd in rbi

What do we see in this information?
  • Mench appears to hit left handers and right handers almost equally well.

  • He is 25 years old, and hitters normally peak at about ages 28 to 30. Mench shows the year to year improvement we expect from players in their mid-20's. An OPS of 0.900 appears quite attainable.

  • The high OBP rates indicate good control of the stike zone.

  • He's a corner outfielder with defensive capabilities similar to Ibañez.

  • He will probably provide everything that Ibañez will provide, at a fraction of Ibañez's salary, and with greater upside potential.
So what's the knock on Mench?
  1. He has a history of wrist injuries, with wrist surgery in the 2000 off season, a wrist injury recurrence near the end of the 2002 season, and a broken wrist that put him on the 60-day DL during the 2003 season.

  2. There have been some attitude issues. During his 2002 rookie season, he came of as cocky and self-absorbed. That perception may have been just a Jerry Narron issue; I didn't find any mention of a recurrence in 2003.
So what should a mensch give up for a Mench? Certainly not a front-line pitcher or prospect!! Outfield talent is the easiest talent to find and does not justify premium pricing. (I will resist the temptation to insert yet another gratuitous Ibañez or McCracken comment here. Readers should feel free to insert their own gratuitous comment.) A quick perusal of the free agent market for this and other years will show how readily available such talent is. Trading pitching to stockpile outfielders is generally not a good idea. In addition, Mench's injury history diminishes his value.

I would have no hesitation in making Ryan Franklin the foundation of a trade for Mench, though. I think I would also consider a Meche - Mench trade. Meche, of course, is a higher potential prospect than Mench, but with an equally gruesome injury history (and recurrence potential) of his own.

Given the available pitching talent in the Mariners organization, there are many other possibilities that could be done. And there are certainly other young outfielders in baseball who also might work in. The Mariners just need a mensch to make it happen.

Added note;
I didn't do enough background on Mench's current wrist injury. Apparently, the Rangers have concern about whether he will be ready for spring training and can recapture his job. If a medical evaluation were to show an excellent prognosis for a full recovery, I would still make the deal as described above (i.e., Franklin or Meche). If there is lingering concern, I would downgrade my offer accordingly.

Friday, December 26, 2003



In the last couple of years, the Orioles finally freed themselves of the slew of bad free agent signings they made in the mid- and late-1990's. Now, Angelos seems to be taking them down the same path again.

I think that giving a three-year, $22.5 million contract to Javy Lopez is almost Bavasiesque. Below is a chart showing Batting Average, On-Base Average, Slugging Percentage, and OPS for Lopez career since he became a full time catcher in 1994.

Javy Lopez stats. 5.5 kb.

As the chart shows, from 1999 - 2002, Lopez' offensive stats eroded tremendously. For the last several years he has been close to a Dan Wilson equivalent offensively.

Then, in 2003, at age 32, he puts together the season of his career. Since that also happens to be his walk year, it raises all kinds of questions as to why he hadn't shown anything like that in years when he wasn't playing for a contract.

I think this is a stupid contract, particularly when a Pudge Rodriquez is also available. If I were planning my team, I would not plan on getting anything more than an 0.800 OPS from Lopez for the length of the contract, and I would pay him accordingly. And "accordingly" is not 3 years and $22.5 million.

To get .900 level OPS offensive contribution at the catcher spot, Pudge Rodriguez is a far better investment, even if Pudge costs more money. With Pudge, you have much better assurance that you will get what you are paying for. If you are determined to overpay for a free agent, you should try to be sure it is a player that has a high probability of continuing to produce at a high level. Lopez does not fit that profile.

This is pretty much the same type of signings that sunk the Orioles years ago. Angelos now has quite a few years of experience running the Orioles. but it appears to be the same year of experience, repeated endlessly. Our Mr. Bavasi is shaping up similarly.



There is a direct link this time of year between stupid Mariners roster moves and the creation of new Mariners blogs. At the USS Mariner pizza feed I offered the suggestion that Bavasi is a blogspot.com plant in the Mariners office. By riling the Mariners fans, Blogger figures they can corner the business of hosting blogs.

Bloggers's schemes are succeeding beyond their wildest expectations. Please give a Mariners blogosphere slap upside the head of Bavasi to Seattle Mariners Rants and Such.



CBS.SportsLine.com - Expos sign ex-Oriole Batista to one-year deal

Now we don't have to worry anymore about the Gillivasi dropping a Batista signing on us.



Some bloggers have been touting Russ Branyan as a nice pickup, probably available for near the minimum salary.

Below are Branyan's basic offensive splits, for his career and for the last three years:
Year     Split     OBP     SLG     OPS

====== ======= ===== ===== =====
2001 Total 0.316 0.486 0.802
2002 Total 0.320 0.458 0.778
2003 Total 0.322 0.438 0.760
Career Total 0.318 0.472 0.790

2001 vs. LHP 0.451 0.775 1.226
2002 vs. LHP 0.258 0.583 0.841
2003 vs. LHP 0.306 0.477 0.783
Career vs. LHP 0.321 0.570 0.891

2001 vs. RHP 0.294 0.444 0.738
2002 vs. RHP 0.330 0.434 0.764
2003 vs. RHP 0.327 0.424 0.751
Career vs. RHP 0.318 0.455 0.773
Branyan may be an OK pickup, but for no more than minimum salary. The splits against LHP at first look OK, but they are really greatly influenced by his 2001 season. Every year since 2001, his split vs LHP had decreased, which is not a good sign.

I'm afraid, however, that the Mariners will be seduced here, though. Note that Branyan's RHP splits are far superior to Ibañez's LHP splits. Consider also that the Mariners regard Ibañez a potent offensive threat from both sides of the plate. (Remember, that is why it was so critical to sign him early, forfeit a draft pick, and shower him with tons more money than any other team was willing to pay.) Thus, the Gillivasi might look at this information and conclude that Branyan is one of the power bats that will substitute for the Mariners not being able to sign Tejada or Vlad.

Meanwhile, over at USS Mariner, David is saying that he expects that 85 wins will take the AL West year. I'm pretty much inclined to agree. And even with the Division as weak as it is, I do not see the Mariners as the team to beat in the West. The Mariners will "contend", however, the budgets will be met, Bavasi will get a bonus, and the year of reckoning will be postponed another year.



I think it's pretty obvious that a team should try to accumulate players that play to the characteristics of the team's home field. For example, Safeco Field rewards strong defensive outfielders and left-handed pull hitters. Accordingly, the Mariners should try to stockpile those types of players. (Hence, I thought the Mariners should have been strong contenders for J.D. Drew.)

Coors Field, of course, is death to fly ball pitchers, particularly fly ball pitchers who give up home runs. According to the Denver Post, the Rockies are considering the following free agents pitchers (with the following HR/9 ratios for 2002-2003):
  • Jeff Fassero - 1.4

  • Rick Helling - 1.51

  • Pedro Astacio - 1.7
There are lots of reasons to give thanks this Christmas. Right now I'm thankful I don't blog the Rockies.

Thursday, December 25, 2003



Chris Stynes signed with Pittsburgh, filling their 3rd base position. I believe that should remove any possibility of the Mariners trading Cirillo for Jason Kendall.

While I did originally suggest a Cirillo/Kendall trade, after further consideration I realized the Mariners were better off simply releasing Cirillo and eating his contract rather than taking on the Kendall obligations.



Here is a link to an Angels fan website providing a history of Bavasi transactions while Angels GM. There doesn't appear to be a single player he added via trade or signed as a free agent that played a role in the Angels' World Series victory.

It appears that one thing the Mariners could do to improve the teams fortunes is to simply not allow Bavasi to make any trades or sign any free agents.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003



When the Mariners signed Greg Colbrunn last year they forfeited a first round draft pick, the 19th overall, to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since the Mariners now traded Colbrunn for Quinton McCracken, the Mariners effectively traded that draft pick for McCracken

The Diamondbacks used that draft pick to select Conor Jackson, out of the University of California. Playing 1B for Yakima in the Northwest League last year (his first year of proball), in 257 ABs Jackson hit .319, with a .410 OBP and .533 SLG. More than half his hits were extra base hits, portending signficant future power potential. To temper things a bit, he was 21 last season, so he should be expected to do well in the Northwest League. Here a link to Jackson's career stats.

This year will be more interesting, both to see where Arizona places him and how he does against more serious competition. Keep your eye on him, and if you ever hear Conor Jackson's name in the future, consider that he could have been a Mariner instead of McCracken.



Curlew seems to think that out of the goodness of his heart, Freddy decided to forego a couple million dollars for 2004. I hope I am not the one breaking the news to Curlew that Freddy did not leave anything on the table - it was a simple business decision.

As I and many others have been posting, Freddy is not worth $8 million per year. He knows it, his agent knows it, everyone in baseball knows it. Even the Mariners figured it out. This is a no-brainer, folks! Yes, other teams were waiting to see what the Mariners were going to do with Freddy before making any trade offers. But that does not mean that other teams were ready to pay Freddy his abitration value. To the contrary, the fact that other teams weren't willing to trade for Freddy and pick up the arbitration obligation shows clearly that they didn't think he was worth it.

Having a hard time understanding that?? Then pretend that you are the GM of a team that is interested in Freddy. Let's break it down to two simple propositions: 1) You think Freddy is worth $8 million for 2004. 2) You don't think Freddy is worth $8 million for 2004. Now lets think about how you would rationally proceed under those two cases.
  1. You think Freddy is worth $8 million.

    In this case, why would you hold off trading for him in case he hits the free agent market? If he is worth $8 million and hits the free agent market, then you are going to have to bid to at least that level to sign him, and there is a possibility the bidding will go even higher. Or you might make a competitive bid, and he decides to sign with another team. If you think Freddy is worth $8 million, you would be stupid to not make the trade to bring him under your control.

  2. You don't think Freddy is worth $8 million.

    If you don't think Freddy is worth $8 million, then wouldn't it be stupid for you to trade for him and take on that obligation? Don't you express interest, hoping the Mariners will sweeten the deal somehow, while you're really just hoping he hits the free agent market?
If you assume GMs are acting rationally in response to their perceptions of the market, the actions of other teams clearly indicate that no teams thought Freddy was worth $8 million. Otherwise a team valuing him at that level would have made the trade rather than risk losing him.

So how did it happen that Freddy signed a contract for less than what he could get in arbitration. It's pretty simple.
  • Freddy and his agent sized up the market for starting pitchers and realized that if Freddy were a free agent, there would be spirited bidding, but the market was going to be about $6 million maximum.

  • The Mariners sized up the market and came to the same conclusion.

  • The Mariners told Freddy that if he didn't sign a contract, they were going to non-tender him.

  • When Freddy and his agent knew the Mariners were going to non-tender him, they knew there was no $8 million payday available. Then it was simply a question of maximizing his value.
Folks, from the way this deal happened it is clear that the Mariners were going to non-tender him if he didn't sign, and Freddy knew that if he were non-tendered he wasn't going to make any more money than the Mariners were offering. It's as simple and unemotional as that.

In my previous posts about Freddy, I assumed that whoever signed Freddy would try for a long-term deal, but that Freddy would probably only take a one or two year deal. That's pretty straightforward. His value is down right now, so if a team thinks they can harness his potential, they should try to lock him in at a bargain rate. Conversely, if Freddy believes he is truly better than what he has shown over the last 1-1/2 seasons, he should do a short-term deal and try for a jackpot contract after reestablishing credibility. We see that it played out exactly that way. The Mariners tried to sign Freddy to a longer deal, but he turned them down. Instead he signed a one-year deal, planning to hit next season's free agent marketplace. In addition, by signing with the Mariners, Freddy assures that he gets half his starts in one of the most pitcher friendly parks in baseball; i.e., it maximizes his chances to put up gaudy numbers in his walk year.

I never saw how a long-term deal was feasible with Freddy. Given his track record, I would not have guaranteed him any more than about $4 million, and then I would have loaded the contract with incentives to get him to about $8 million. I couldn't see Freddy agreeing to that, when he could simply do a one-year deal and, if he pitches well, return to the free agent and get a contract with a larger guarantee.

There is no sentiment involved here. Freddy didn't give the Mariners a cut-rate because they were good guys, because he liked Bavasi, or because the Mariners offered arbitration to Pat Borders. He signed with the Mariners because he wasn't going to get arbitration and he wasn't going to get more than $6.875 million as a free agent. And by signing to play in Safeco he improves his chances of having gaudy stats in his walk year. That's all it is - trying to put anything more to this is just wishful thinking. It is strictly a cold business decision.

So, how do I evaluate Mariners management on this one? I think they did a passable job on this. I think that at $6.875 million Freddy got more than he would have on the free agent market, but it is probably also the minimum he would accept from the Mariners. Since this is Freddy's walk year and he has something to prove, I think there is a good chance Freddy will pitch up to his talent for much of the season. If so, Freddy will be worth the price - in other words, this deal (unlike most other Bavasi deals to date) has a large upside potential. From the way this unfolded, I think it is clear the Mariners were ready to non-tender him if he didn't sign. That was the correct choice.



John Levesque's column in the P-I today, Bavasi riding lucky streak, gives a polish to what most of us in the blogosphere have been saying. Some highlights:
  • At best, swapping Guillen for Omar Vizquel is a talent wash, but with the Mariners paying up to $3.5 million in additional salary next season.

  • At $15 million over two years ($10 million owed Cedeno plus the $5 million to cover Cirillo's contract), Cedeno was either going to be an expensive backup or the new answer to an outfield question no one was asking.

  • Why take on another team's Cirillo, when there are two farmhands who deserve a shot?
And these quotes:
And maybe having Cirillo ride the bench for two more years isn't such a horrendous concept after all, if the Mariners' idea of upgrading that same bench resides in the robust possibilities of former Diamondback/Cardinal/Twin/Devil Ray Quinton McCracken.

Believe it or not, Cirillo's OPS -- on-base percentage plus slugging percentage -- was higher than McCracken's last season.

I realize that's not saying much. Cirillo's OPS was .555, McCracken's was .547 -- dreadful by any yardstick outside T-ball. And though we're talking apples and eggplants, Cirillo is an infielder with a great glove, McCracken is an outfielder whose defense is considered adequate. Is that really advantage McCracken?

… Guillen's RBI total in 109 games last season (52) was nearly identical to his production in 2001 (53) and 2002 (56). Given his steady improvement each year in batting average and on-base percentage, and the fact he'll be eligible for free agency after next season, Guillen is worth keeping simply on the educated guess that 2004 may be his best season as a Mariner.

It's understood that had the Mariners been able to woo Miguel Tejada to Seattle, Guillen would have been excess baggage. But the continuing talk of trading him -- for older shortstops such as Vizquel, or Jose Valentin, or Rich Aurilia -- presupposes the replacement would be a leaps-and-bounds improvement over the departed, when statistics don't bear that out.
Nice job by John. It's good to see the big dailies continuing to raise points and ask questions that need to be asked. I almost get the impression John has been making use of the blogger links on the P-I Mariners weblog.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003



I can't get as worked up about Cirillo as others in the blogosphere. I think Cirillo is behaving pretty rationally, and I suspect that many of us, were we providing Cirillo with objective advice, would have recommended he block the trade to the Mets.

At the time Cirillo was presented with the deal, he had the following options:

1. Accept the trade to New York, where he would be riding the bench;


2. Block the trade, in which case the outcomes might be:
a. Ride the bench in Seattle (very low probability).
b. Have another trade option develop (very low probability)
c. Get released (almost certain to occur).
From Cirillo's standpoint, of course, the best option is to get released so he is free to sign with any team. Timing of his release is an issue, though, because the longer it is until he is released, the harder it will be to catch on with another team. Thus, he should accept the deal unless NY is a place he really does not want to play.

Frankly, if I were Cirillo trying to resuscitate the remants of my career, I wouldn't want to have the NY media continually continually reporting on all of my failures. I would not want to have my name continually presented in the newspaper as an albatross that is weighing down the payroll. Cirillo, by all accounts, is a person who takes failures very personally and puts a lot of pressure on himself. NY looks like a bad fit. Consequently, I think it is relatively easy decision for him to turn down the NY trade.

But let's shift out attention away from Cirillo's particulars, and think more about the Mariners management of the situation.

Under the current circumstances, it seems to me that you simply release him so that he is not on your roster. If he does catch on with another team, whatever amount he does get deducts from the amount the Mariners owe him. So, it is in the Mariners' interests to give him the most flexibility to sign with another team.

Perhaps the Mariners haven't cut Cirillo because they still have him penciled in at third base in case all of their scheming and finagling comes to naught It certainly wouldn't be the first time this offseason that the Gillivasi's logic has been opague to all sentient organisms in this and all alternate universes. Then again, maybe they're simply keeping him on the roster at this point out of spite.

Jeff at this point is really nothing more than a bug crawling on the windshield of the Mariners Mobile. The Mariners Mobile is sputtering a bit, and, the driver is having Magoo-like difficulties piloting the vehicle. While most of the driver's difficulties result from his bad vision, the bug on the windshield makes things a bit harder to see, and distracts the driver from paying attention to the road and his driving. If the driver would simply flip on the windshield wipers and knock the bug off the windshield, the bug's distractions would be gone.

That doesn't mean the driver would suddenly begin piloting the vehicle skillfully, but it would be one less distraction for him to deal with. This offseason I will take my victories anywhere I can.

Monday, December 22, 2003



At the USS Mariner pizza feed either Derek didn't write fast enough, or I didn't express myself clearly enough - most likely the latter.

My initial conspiracy theory was that Bavasi was planted to run down the value of the Mariners, so that Hiroshi Yamauchi (Mariners' majority owner, now retired as chairman of Nintendo of Japan) could relocate the Mariners to Japan. This, in turn, would open the Pacific Northwest market for the relocation of the Expo's.

This works on several levels. It feeds Bud's desire to be known as the Grand Vizar leading baseball to higher heights of glory through international expansion. Since the Pacific Northwest has proven to be lucrative area to have a franchise, the owners would undoubtedly be able to make a nice profit on reselling the Expo's to some northwest billionaire looking to expand his existing athletic holdings.

As Derek gathered ideas from more people, I realized that I had greatly misunderstood Bud's cunning, and the scheme was much deeper and ambitious than I had realized. To really understand what is going on we need to go back to Jeff Loria and the Expo's mess. The whole thing is part of a major realignment of franchise ownership. Loria gets Florida, Werner goes from Florida to Boston, the Mariners establish the MLB beachead in Japan, and the Expos wind up in the Northwest. Pretty neat and simple.

Pat Gillick was selected to take over the Mariners, in a move designed to ensure that no one would figure out that there was actually a secret plan to run the Mariners into the ground to facilitate Yamauchi's relocation of the franchise. What better way to disguise your true motives than by bringing in one of the most respected GMs in the game? When Gillick wouldn't be able to keep the team on top, then MLB would have created a respectable rationale to sell to the public to justify moving the team.

The problem was that too many of Gillick's moves backfired and turned out better on the field than intended. After several years of seeing Gillick botch the plan, they finally told him to clear out and brought in Bavasi, the GM who's too bad to screw up the plan.

So that's the full story, more complete than what I, in my semi-inebriated state, was able to coherently state at the Pizza feed. I am sure that there are details of the conspiracy that I have missed. Readers who have additional information on the conspiracy should feel free to send their information to me, and I'll try to see if we can use it to fill in the missing pieces.



Jason sniffs our another Mariners blog. A Mariners blogosphere welcome to DC M's.

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