thoughts on the Mariners, MLB draft, and more homelinksdraftabout me

Aardsma's Trade Value

David Aardsma
image from
It makes sense to trade David Aardsma. It has all off-season. His salary will go up, the Mariners don't have at one of money, and don't need a closer until they score a few more runs. Furthermore, David's value isn't likely to go any higher. It makes all the sense in the world.

However, if this report has any truth to it, David Aardsma may be around on opening day. Reports are that the M's are seeking an "impact" bat in return.

On some level, it makes a ton of sense to look for a bat with Aardsma. He is the Mariners most convenient trade chip right now, and their offense is still their biggest weakness. This isn't rocket science.

What exactly is an "impact" bat though?

Dramatic Transaction Reenactments - Episode 1: Putz Traded

I am both excited and scared to roll out the video below. This is the first of at least two episodes in a series I'm going to call Dramatic Transaction Reenactments. It is a departure from my usual analysis, to say the least, and we'll see where it goes.

This first video is how I imagine the J.J. Putz trade went down behind closed doors. We learn how confident Mets GM (at the time) Omar Minaya is about his ballclub's talent, and see some early glimpses of what life will be like under the leadership of Z and new manager Don Wakamatsu.

There might be some embellishments too. It is a Dramatic Transaction Reenactment after all:

This video didn't come out of thin air into my mind, and if you want some of the back story, click "continue reading."

Greinke Traded To Brewers

Zack Greinke
There have been whispers all off season about Zack Greinke potentially getting traded. None of those circled around the Brewers, but nonetheless that's where he is going in a six-player swap. Milwaukee receives Greinke, old friend Yuniesky Betancourt, and the cash to buy out Betancourt's contract option next year.

Both Greinke and Betancourt are pretty well-known commodities, so I'll skip straight to the players that the Royals receieved. Judging from early reactions to the trade, there are mixed opinions on who Kansas City got. Here is the quartet in question:

Matsui's No Trade Clause

Hideki Matsui signed with the A's, which has been known for a few days, but became official this morning. I wasn't going to write about it, but then I saw the terms. Matsui's contract includes a limited no trade clause. He cannot be traded to six teams: the Orioles, Blue Jays, Indians, Royals, Twins, and Mariners.

I am taking a guess that Matsui wants to play for a contender, and that might have something to do with the first four teams on the list. Who knows, maybe Matsui is also like Ichiro, and would have to punch himself in the face* if he said he enjoyed playing in Cleveland.

*Scroll down for quote, it's right above the "For the Record" heading

However, the list of teams can't be all about wins and losses. The Twins are contenders in the AL Central every year right now. Also, even though the Mariners are not in a position to contend in 2011, there could be more to their inclusion on Matsui's list too.

M's, Feller, and More From Cyberspace

Several things have been going on in the baseball world that I've wanted to write about, but me and my urge to spread holiday cheer to people I see face-to-face on a regular basis have kept me away from the blogosphere.

Luckily, several great writers have already said lots of what I'd like to talk about. So, instead of stealing their ideas, I'll link to them:

Happy Trails, Rob Johnson

Rob Johnson
Jack Cust was officially signed today, but the real news is about whose 40-man roster spot he took: Rob Johnson's. Rob was designated for assignment today to make room for Cust, in what is a bit of a surprising move.

I will admit, the fan in me immediately heaved a sigh of relief. Rob Johnson, to date, hasn't shown anything that warrants a spot in the major leagues. He is a catcher that isn't that good at catching the ball, and he does it with no power and plate discipline only in name.*

*I would agree that Rob took plenty of pitches, but many of them he should have swung at. It's not like Rob Johnson is a guy that pitchers are pitching around. I don't have any real analysis for this point, but Johnson took a bunch of good pitches to hit, which in my book is not plate discipline.

However, after taking a step back to analyze the situation, this is a precarious move, especially right now. Until Miguel Olivo officially signs, the Mariners have only 1 catcher on the 40-man roster, and the roster is full. It's a good rule of thumb to have three backstops, so that's alarming.

Brendan Ryan Acquired

Brendan Ryan
Finally, a move to feel really good about! Today, the Mariners acquired INF Brendan Ryan from the Cardinals for RHP Maikel Cleto.

I wrote about Cleto when he was added to the 40-man roster, and I've never been a big believer in him. I was concerned that the Mariners were too in love with him, but clearly, they were not. As much as I like Ryan, no team would trade a guy that they think will turn into an impact starting pitcher for him.

Cust And Olivo

Jack Cust
The Mariners made a couple moves during the recently completed winter meetings. Well, actually only one is official so far, but they both will be in a manner of time.

To start with, Jack Cust is officially under contract for one year, to serve as the primary designated hitter. Zduriencik talked about the power he brings to the table, which is probably his calling card. Eric Wedge talked about the professional at-bats he will bring, as his high walk and strike out rates attest to. Both outcomes require a hitter to see quite a few pitches.

I am not a big fan of the signing though. At first glance, Cust seems to be a good fit for Safeco, and a clear upgrade to the lineup. However, as Dave Cameron pointed out on USS Mariner, his power isn't to right field. Last year, most of Cust's home runs went to left-center, which just so happens to be the deepest part of Safeco Field.

Also, Cust's power has clearly diminished the past three seasons. His ISO has gone from .245 to .177 to .166, and at 31 years old, there is no good reason to think the trend is going to reverse. In fact, given that Cust is getting older, and also moving to less hitter-friendly park that happens to be biggest where he tends to hit his home runs, his power could plummet this season. Combine that with the inevitable regression his .387 BABIP will take, and we are talking about a DH that hits .240 with great patience, an absurd strikeout rate, and marginal power. Personally, I would take my chances on a rebound from Milton Bradley.

With all that said, Cust was only signed to a one-year deal for a few million dollars, and the M's DHs as a collective whole were a black hole in 2010. Plus, if Cust is seen as the "gritty veteran" type that will show the youngsters the ropes, then he is worth the investment. I still wouldn't consider him the primary DH, but even with as luke warm as I am on the move, it is hard to really scorn signing him.

The one that is easy to get upset about is the still unofficial acquisition of Miguel Olivo. He has reportedly signed for two years and seven million dollars (total).

To start with, I see the logic in bringing in a catcher to at least split time with Adam Moore. He wasn't ready last year, and it wouldn't be ideal to count on him to carry the load in 2011.

There are so many reasons that Miguel Olivo is not the right guy for the job, in Seattle at least.

Gonzalez Traded, Werth Signs

Why even bother with the winter meetings? The two biggest deals of the off-season (to date) just happened a day before the meetings begin. Instead of splitting them up, or picking just one, reactions to both follow:

The Gonzalez trade is huge. Adrian is one of the premier players in the entire game right now. Fenway Park actually plays a little big for left-handed sluggers, but it will feel small to Gonzalez compared to Petco Park. Plus, Adrian hits to all fields, so he will befriend the green monster.

This trade probably also signals that Adrian Beltre will be playing elsewhere next year. The assumption is that Gonzalez will take over at first for Boston, with Kevin Youkilis shifting back over to third. Sadly, I would bet that Beltre will join the Angels. That would/will be painful to see.

From San Diego's perspective, I am not sure I would have done the deal. I'm not in love with the prospects they got in return.

The Heartwarming Erik Bedard

Erik Bedard
Earlier this week, the Mariners signed Erik Bedard to a non-guaranteed contract. Or, just as accurately, Erik Bedard signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Mariners. On paper, it does not look like a big deal, particularly from a financial standpoint.

However, it is a big deal.

Mild Surprises At Non-Tender Deadline

Yesterday was the deadline for teams to tender arbitration-eligible players. In more natural terms, that means yesterday was the last chance for teams to decide they would bring back players without contracts, and without enough service time to walk away in free agency.

Even that last statement doesn't make a whole lot of sense, because non-tendered players become free agents. Some people say baseball's roster rules are excessively complex. I say they are just complex enough to be amusing.

The Mariners did not make any huge moves, but each is worth a few thoughts.

Posting Prospects

Over the weekend, Ken Rosenthal wrote an interesting blog post about an idea from Scott Boras. The man is known primarily as an agent, but he is also a big thinker. The idea Rosenthal posted is about allowing teams to post prospects.

Boras's idea is rather simple. Every team protects whoever they want on their 40-man roster. Whoever isn't protected is then available via a blind posting process, just as Japanese teams use to sell off their best players before they jump to the US via free agency.

Presumably, the Boras plan would wipe out the Rule 5 draft, and add a significant new avenue for teams to acquire talent.

For instance, what if the Mariners wanted to make a serious run at Jayson Werth in free agency? They don't have the money to realistically do that. However, they could post Dustin Ackley, and acquire the cash needed to pursue Werth that way. Some team gets a prospect they didn't have access to through traditional means, and the Mariners get access to a major free agent they would not have had any other way.

Boras presents a novel idea. While I like the idea of making baseball work a little more like a free market, I worry about unintended consequences.

Winter Updates

There are lots of Mariners playing baseball right now. Some just wrapped up their season in Arizona, while others are playing in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Australia. For a complete list of M's spanning the globe right now, click here. I could give a few thoughts on each player, but the list is quite long. Instead, I will pick out players from the crowd to highlight.

Still Time To Hype Dustin Ackley

Geoff Baker wrote a blog this morning, cautioning Mariners fans to temper their excitement over Dustin Ackley's Arizona Fall League MVP honors. As he points out, AFL MVP winners have historically not done much in the majors, with the notable exception of Tommy Hanson.

So, is Ackley more like Hanson, or the rest of the winners?

Time To Hype Dustin Ackley

Dustin Ackley
Dustin Ackley (photo from
Playing off my "Time To Hype Nick Franklin" post, it is time to get really serious about Dustin Ackley. I have said before that I want to see him start at second base opening day, and his Arizona Fall League numbers certainly did nothing to dissuade me:

.424 AVG, .581 OBP, .758 SLG, 1.338 OPS, and 28 runs scored - all AFL-leading totals.

Granted, the AFL is only about a month long. It takes some luck to have such gaudy numbers. However, it takes some talent too.

Exactly how much of Ackley's AFL performance was luck? It's impossible to tell. However, is it so much that he can't push Jose Lopez out of the starting lineup? How can't Ackley be the favorite to start at second base on opening day at this point?

Roster Fills Back Up

The Mariners added a whopping 10 players to their 40-man roster today, all from within the farm system. The roster now has 39 players on it. Today was the last day to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, hence the big surge today. Without further ado, the names:
Many of them are not surprising. Pineda and Lueke are prospects, but definitely had to be added simply because they are candidates for the opening day roster. I won't be shocked to see Robles come up during the year at some point too.

Felix Hernandez Awarded AL Cy Young

Felix Hernandez
...And the best moment of the 2010 season just happened! Not that there is much competition from other moments, but still, a Cy Young Award would be high on any season's list.

I think we all knew that King Felix arrived last year, but a Cy Young award really brings that point home. He is still young, but not a work in progress. King Felix is among the best pitchers in the game, period. At just 24 years old, he has earned the highest individual honor a pitcher can be given.

A Cy Young is always a big deal, but there are a couple things that I think make this particular one special. Both revolve around Felix's wins total.

The first big thing is what national writers have picked up on. Felix Hernandez won despite his 13-12 record. In fact, it wasn't even close, and the margin surprises me. A .500 pitcher on a 101-loss team was just voted the best pitcher in the league. That's pretty amazing. Joe Posnanski wrote a blog arguing that the win has been going out of style for 30 years, but I'm not sure I agree. One of my first blog posts ever blasted the 2005 AL Cy Young voting. I was (and still am) convinced that Bartolo Colon won simply because he won 20 games.

Trio Of Trades

As I continue to hold off from writing, trades keep piling up! Here are all three from the offseason thus far, one from today, one from the weekend, and one from last week:

Really, the only reason that this trade is somewhat interesting is because it involves an AL West team. With that being said, I like all three players involved in the trade, but at the end of the day, this isn't the kind of deal that changes a franchise's fortune or identity. This is about swapping hopefully useful pieces for hopefully useful pieces.

Lookout Landing did an entertaining piece on how DeJesus is such an Oakland ballplayer, and frankly, they are dead on about that. However, I'm a bit higher on the players KC got back than they are.

Double Header Returns

My favorite piece of off-season news so far is courtesy the Oakland Athletics. They are going old school for a couple games this season, and offering a traditional double-header. It will be against the Angels in July.

Double-headers used to be a big part of baseball, but they have died thanks to several factors. Probably the biggest is that teams can (and do) make bigger profits by selling tickets for every individual game on the schedule, because people flock to the ballpark in record numbers these days. However, the proliferation and convenience of air travel for teams has something to do with it too.

This is another example of something in sports that fans would love to see come back, but the business side of a sport just won't give up a loss of profit. Double headers are a part of baseball's rich tradition, and it is awesome to think that you can get two games for the price of one. I have gone to a few traditional double-headers in at Tacoma (they happen from time to time when rainouts occur), and they are awesome. I bet any fan poll would show very strong support for more of them.

Even in today's money-driven game though, I think double-headers could find a place in baseball again. They would be a really cool solution to baseball's problems with the length of the season.

Fly, Fly Away

Dave Niehaus
image from
Seriously, Dave Niehaus's heart attack hit me like bad news about a family member. A friend called me tonight, and I mentioned that - and as I thought about it more, I'm okay with it feeling like that. Dave Niehaus entered my world 162 times a year for about 3 hours for my whole childhood. That's a pretty steady force, like a close friend or family member.

Dave Niehaus definitely influenced me as a child, like my close friends and family. I write a blog about Mariners baseball. The voice that entered my world 162 times a year as a child has something to do with who I am today. And that voice is gone. There's a big hole there now, and I know it will close up some with time, but I know it won't close all the way.

As morbid as this might sound, from time to time I had wondered what it would be like when Dave Niehaus passed away. Would he die in the booth? Would he retire? Would it be fast? Would it be long?

Bill James 2011 Projections

The first 2011 projections are out, courtesy of Bill James. Player pages at FanGraphs have them available for individual players!

So, does Bill James see the 2011 M's offense rebounding at all? Let's look at the wOBA projections:

Mariners Off-Season Gameplan

I like coming up with my own hypothetical off-season gameplan for the Mariners. As I sat down to think through this off-season, and mapped out what I would do, I ran into a slight problem. What I want is pretty much exactly what Dave Cameron already laid out over at USS Mariner. He hits all the areas that I would hit, and proposes signing players that I was looking at too. So, instead of producing a post from the department of redundancy department, I've elected to link to his, along with the couple following notes:

Free Agents of Interest

Free agency begins in a few days. The Mariners don't project to have much to spend, and they aren't the most attractive destination for a free agent at this point, either. Still, there are holes, and guys on the open market that could fill those holes. Here are some guys I would be targeting, in order of my preference at different positions:

Roster Purge Begins

I like to stick with Major League Baseball's etiquette and not talk about anything but the postseason while the postseason is happening, so it's time to talk about the Mariners again!

Honestly, though, we all needed a break from the Mariners after such a disastrous season. There were things I almost wrote about, but then reminded myself how uninteresting those things would be in the midst of meaningful and interesting baseball. Now the postseason is over though, meaning every team is relevant again, even the Seattle Mariners.

Also, the Mariners have been very busy in the few days since baseball's moratorium on news has lifted. Here are some quick-hitters on all the moves:

A Fluke Or Something Bigger?

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series the other day. They beat the Rangers in five games for their first championship since moving to San Francisco. Since they moved back in 1959, that's a pretty big deal, even by championship standards.

No doubt, the Giants won a legitimate championship. They had to take out the reigning NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies, and then turned the World Series into a lop-sided affair. However, to a degree, their championship has been painted as fluky, mostly because their offense was cast as a bunch of aging misfits.

By the way, that title for the Giants offense is fair. Andres Torres was their leadoff hitter, and Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell were the "big" acquisitions that proved to be legitimately big. Even Juan Uribe was surprisingly good, and then Edgar Renteria found a fountain of youth in the World Series (though he wasn't as bad in the regular season as he was painted to be).

However, how fluky will this championship be if the Giants keep winning? It's far from out of the question that they keep winning. It's arguably probable.

Lucky or Good?

The story of the 2010 World Series is far from finished yet. However, it is pretty clear that the Giants are getting cast as a crew of rejects and misfits that have somehow come together and beat the odds to be within a few games of a world championship. That's stretching the truth a little bit with the homegrown studs on their pitching staff, but not stretching it much.

I have a friend who is a huge Giants fan, and articles like this one have given me chances to poke fun at his team, particularly the offense. Seriously, who wouldn't poke fun at a quote like this?
[Speed] is precisely what the Giants will need from their bench in 2010 as they field one of the slower lineups in the majors. In fact, one of the biggest drawbacks to the way they were built is their inability to run while, at the same time, they must manufacture runs because they lack power.
 Giants baseball! That's how the 2010 NL Champions get the job done!

In fairness to the article, it is from spring training, well before San Francisco added NLCS MVP Cody Ross. Everybody knew the Giants offense would be a juggernaut once they claimed him on waivers.

I can't help but watch this World Series and wonder what kind of trip the Mariners will take to their first World Series.

Reasons To Love The 2010 World Series

After literally thousands of games in the 2010 baseball season, we are down to the final four, five, six, or seven. The Rangers and Giants are set to open up the World Series in San Francisco on Wednesday. Here are some reasons, in no particular order, to love the latest installment of the Fall Classic:

  • The Rangers have never won the World Series in their 50-year history. The Giants haven't won a World Series since moving to San Francisco back in 1959. One of these teams is guaranteed to end a half-century long drought. This is the definition of a series with fresh teams.
  • Bengie Molina might be guaranteed a World Series ring no matter what. He certainly will get one if the Rangers win, but he actually appeared in four more games for the Giants this year than he did for the Rangers! If San Francisco wins the World Series, it is not out of the question that they could vote that Molina gets a ring, given how many games he played as their starting catcher this year, and that he was fixture behind the plate and in the heart of their order for the previous four seasons before this one.
  • There is only one former Mariner on both teams combined, and that is Cliff Lee, who while lovable and amazing, wasn't around long enough for me to forever remember him in a Mariners uniform. There won't be any awkwardly painful moments like when Scott Podsednik hit a walk-off home run for the White Sox back in 2005, or the vicarious emotions that might have come with a Phillies team that had Mike Sweeney and Raul Ibanez on it. Part of the fan in me wants Sweeney and Ibanez to win rings, but a bigger part of the fan in me wants to be able to relax and enjoy the World Series with emotional attachment to baseball, but not to any individuals. This series is about as clean of a chance as a Mariners fan will get.
  • The weather should be pretty good. San Francisco may be a little chilly and foggy, but Arlington will be more than fine. There won't be any threats of snow delays in the World Series for the first time in too long.
  • The Giants, and their black and orange team colors, will play on Halloween (game four is that night). Personally, I hope they really play it up by wearing their obsessively bright orange tops, even though they will be on the road.
  • National Geographic could do a feature on this series, given the panda garb that Giants fans wear, and the antlers that have become popular in Texas.
The baseball games will probably be good too. The Rangers will likely head into the series as the clear-cut favorites, thanks to how good they looked against the Yankees. However, both the Yankees and Phillies looked dominant in their respective division series, and neither made it back to the World Series. Texas probably will not look as good as they looked against New York. Plus, the Giants have a much stronger pitching staff than the Yankees, especially in the starting rotation.

Well, after such a thorough analysis of the series, all that is left is to sit back and enjoy it. Play ball!

Another One Bites The Dust

The Texas Rangers are going to the World Series for the first time ever. It really is an impressive story. It always is when a team goes where they have never been before, but really, the Rangers might take the cake.

Remember the start of the year, when Ron Washington's job was in serious jeopardy after he admitted to using cocaine last season?

Remember a couple months ago, when the franchise was sold off in a dramatic auction?

Seriously, the Texas Rangers had a manager snorting lines, and an owner in so much debt that the team could not take on payroll due to his financial status. Naturally, this is the season where the Rangers win the first playoff series ever, and go ahead and make it all the way to the World Series. The 2010 Rangers should purchase the "Believe Big" slogan from the Mariners at this point.

Cliff Lee, Truly Intangible

I don't know how other fans feel, but personally I love how amazing Cliff Lee is being in the postseason for the Rangers right now. It feels weird to root for Texas, but I can't help but root for Cliff Lee. He isn't "the one that got away." He was amazing for the Mariners, and the utmost professional, and now the whole world gets to see what we saw for a couple months. They are getting an eyeful, to say the least.

My question right now (and I don't have an answer), is how much has Cliff Lee been worth to the Texas Rangers?

I am not sure a price can be put on Lee's contributions. Certainly, someone could pencil out the WAR numbers, or virtually any metric that they please, and come up with some quantifiable way to say how much he is worth, post-season included.

However, I don't think a price tag can be put on Cliff Lee right now. Seriously, can anyone quantify what he has done for the Texas Rangers in his three playoff starts alone? He won two of the three games in the ALDS, including a complete game effort in the decisive game five. That was the performance that propelled Texas to their first series victory in the playoffs ever.

Then tonight, Cliff Lee goes to Yankee stadium, and delivers one of the greatest starting performances in LCS history. A couple hits, a walk, and 13 Ks against the Yankees? Are you kidding me? This win tonight clinched a return to Arlington, either for the end of the ALCS, or for the World Series.

It really is not that debatable: Cliff Lee, about as alone as you can get in baseball, is pitching the Texas Rangers to heights that the organization has never been before.

Rinse, Lather, Repeat: Wedge The Pick

Eric Wedge
It looks like the Mariners have made Eric Wedge their new manager. He was last seen leading a sinking Indians ship. Actually, he was really last seen when the Indians let the Yankees off the hook in the ALCS a few years back, because nobody sees the Indians until they make the playoffs. They aren't exactly one of the national media darlings in baseball, along with roughly 28 other teams.

But I digress. Eric Wedge is the guy. Many people have great things to say about him, as Shannon Drayer reports. Personally, I think he is a good manager too. He at least did not get in the way of the Indians being a great team. Perhaps even more promising, Wedge took over Cleveland as their core at the time - guys like CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, and others - came of age. The Mariners appear to be on the verge of a similar turnover on their roster, where they will turn the reins over to a young core that needs to come of age.

Counting on Eric Wedge to do what he did in Cleveland, given the young guys the Mariners have right now, is not that bad of a strategy. It makes sense. It isn't hard imaging such a strategy working.

However, Ryan Divish's piece on Eric Wedge paints a darker side to this hire. Wedge has strong selling points, and some selling points that are easy to get behind. However, they also happen to be a bunch of the selling points that Don Wakamatsu had.

Thoughts On Tiny Tim

I finally my first playoff action of the year, and I was welcomed by an incredible outing from Tim Lincecum. Another guy making his first playoff appearance the seemed undeterred, he went the distance, striking out 14 Braves in a 1-0 thriller.

My first thought was that I loved seeing Lincecum go out there for the ninth inning. There was some talk on the broadcast about his pitch count being high, and I'm sure it was, but who cares? In my view, the whole point of limiting innings and pitch counts in the regular season is so that a team does not have to worry about either in the playoffs. Tiny Tim was dealing, and he not only deserved to finish what he started, he was the best choice for San Francisco's chances to win.

Thoughts On Doc

I missed all of the first day of the playoffs at work, which is a shame because it was a great day. In particular, it is amazing that Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter, the first in the postseason since Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956. It also happened to be Halladay's first postseason start, and his second no-hitter of the season.

My first thought was "wow." Doesn't yesterday's start put Roy Halladay in the Hall of Fame? I think his case has been growing, but a perfect game and no-hitter in the same season? A good chance that he will win a second Cy Young this year, and if he does, have Cy Young awards in both leagues?

Where's Lueke?

The Mariners had a bad enough season to send out an e-mail to all fans on whatever list that gets you regular e-mails (I know at some point I signed up for updates, but can't tell you exactly how or why). Though just one e-mail, there were a couple messages, one from Howard Lincoln, and the other from Jack Zduriencik.

Nothing was all that earth-shattering. At first, I thought the coolest thing in the whole e-mail was Jack Zduriencik's signature. Seriously, look at how neat it is, and how cool it looks (it's the signature on the right).

I also find it really amusing that the signature was sent as an image, so it was easy to save to my desktop.

While I found it thoughtful and nice of the Mariners to send out a couple messages, basically to say "our bad, but stick with us," the messages weren't all that stunning. However, one thing I hold true to my analysis is that sometimes what isn't said is just as telling as what is said. In that spirit, I re-read the messages, and the following paragraph jumped off the page:
We've got a flock of top-rated prospects on their way to the big club. These include position players Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Carlos Peguero, Nick Franklin, Kyle Seager, Johermyn Chavez, Greg Halman and Matt Mangini, along with hard-throwing pitchers like Michael Pineda, Blake Beavan, Dan Cortes, Mauricio Robles, Maikel Cleto and Anthony Varvaro. Many of our best prospects are headed for winter ball and the fall instructional league - they're driven to improve and play at the next level.
What is mentioned is nice, but hardly surprising. The Mariners have good prospects. Hooray! It's good to have good prospects when you promise to build from within, as Jack Zduriencik has.

Somebody is missing from the list though - Josh Lueke.

An Offense For The Ages

Jose Lopez
I will admit, I have been itching to do this post. It has been in the back of my mind for months, and as September unfolded, I knew I had to do it. My curiosity spiked after Joe Posnanski took some time to try to put the 2010 Mariners offense in some sort of historical context, and was appalled at how bad it was. He discovered that no team with a designated hitter has ever scored so few runs, which in itself is pretty darn amazing.

However, I wanted to take Posnanski's research one step further. He looked purely at runs scored. He did not consider the context (though I am sure he is well aware that a run scored now isn't quite the same as a run scored 40 years ago).

In the grand history of baseball, offensive production has fluctuated a surprising amount. For instance, the 1930s had similar offensive numbers to "the steroid era." Presumably, they did not have steroids back then, but reporters really stuck to on-the-field reporting back in those days.

The 1960s were almost as dead as the fabled dead ball era. Things were so bad that the mound was lowered between the 1968 and 1969 seasons, and continued to be so bad that the American League adopted the designated hitter in 1973.

Offensive production has had its ups and downs league-wide, which is part of why I was amazed when Posnanski had to go back to the early 1970s to find a team that straight-up scored fewer times than the 2010 Mariners.

Runs scored were harder to come by back in the early 1970s, for whatever reason. Nobody scored that many runs.

But teams do score runs in 2010.

In fact, even though offenses aren't as prolific as at the height of the steroid era, they still are pretty prolific in the grand scheme of baseball history. In a historically hitter-friendly context, you have to go back to a historically pitcher-friendly context to find another offense that scored as few runs as the 2010 Mariners. As far as I'm concerned, that should count for something.

That's when the light bulb went off in my head. The 2010 Mariners weren't just bad, or even historically bad. There was a chance that this was the worst offense the American League has ever seen.

Finishing In Style

I am whole-heartedly immersed in college football on Saturdays, which is a much healthier thing than pondering the 2010 Mariners. However, I need a break before what promises to be a dramatic primetime slate (Stanford/Oregon and Florida/Alabama going simultaneously, 'nuff said). It is about time I wrote something for the blog too.

What is there to say though? I find myself rooting for failure at this point. It's all this team has got. The only thing it can be good at, especially with Felix finished, is at not being good. And, really, they've taken bad to a whole new level.

The Value In Pitcher Win-Loss Records

I started writing a couple posts yesterday, but they ballooned out of control in a hurry. They were too broad of topics to cover in a blog post. Both had something to do with post-season awards and stats, but there is so much to talk about.

So, let's talk about the stat that matters most right now, a starting pitcher's wins and losses. If Felix Hernandez does not win the Cy Young award, his 12-12 record will likely be the culprit. Watching his starts, it seems so unfair, but is it?

King Felix and the Cy Young

Felix Hernandez
Felix Hernandez is undoubtedly a Cy Young award candidate. With something resembling a Major League offense supporting him, he might be running away with the award. Voting for a starting pitcher with such a pedestrian win-loss record would be unprecedented.

Lots of words are being written about how Felix might have a chance in today's baseball climate, despite so few victories. One factor isn't getting as much publicity as I think it should be though.

Today Says It All

Really, doesn't today's Mariners game say it all?

Ichiro got to 200 hits in the middle of the game. King Felix wasn't his most dominant self, but still relatively dominant: 8 innings, 2 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts, and 1 measly run. Yet, at the end of the day, the Mariners lost 1-0.

Seriously, what if some random person on the street was told to sit down and watch this game? Someone with absolutely no knowledge of what's happened this season. They would see Ichiro, and hear the announcers laud him for his 200th hit, and how amazing of an accomplishment it is. Once that was over, the focus would return to the mound, where they would notice that Felix looked like he was cruising. If the fan was asked at the end of the game to take a guess at what the 2010 Mariners have been like, they would say something to the effect of, "Ichiro and Felix are great, but even they aren't enough to keep the rest of the team from losing."

Isn't that the story of the 2010 season?

September Call-Ups Finally Arrive

The only downside of Tacoma's long playoff run is that the Mariners continued to play with 25 players (okay, 26 counting Guillermo Quiroz) through the majority of September. Prospects are more interesting to watch in lost seasons, so that was a bummer at the MLB level. However, I do think it was much more valuable for those prospects to experience winning together in meaningful roles at AAA. I'm not exactly sure prospects will get "The Big League Experience" watching this "big league offense."

In total, one player from West Tennessee and six players from Tacoma were added:

Remarkable Rainiers

Tacoma Rainiers
It feels good to write about a winning team. Last night, the Rainiers beat the Memphis Redbirds to earn the Pacific Coast League title. It is the team's first outright PCL championship since 1969, though they shared titles twice between now and then (1978 and 2001). Hands down, this is the most accomplished Tacoma team since it has been affiliated with the Mariners.

The way that Tacoma won this title makes it even more exciting. They faced significant adversity, especially late in the season. Darren Brown was their manager until Don Wakamatsu's firing, so they had to adjust to a leadership change in the middle of a pennant race. Then, thanks to Cheney Stadium renovations, they didn't have a home for the whole playoffs. First round home games were played in Safeco Field, which was probably cool for the players, but crowds were very sparse. Then, Tacoma literally hit the road for the championship series. They were the designated "home" team in Memphis for games one and two, as the PCL decided the entire series would be played in Memphis.

The players that Tacoma won with give hope for the future too. The rotation featured Blake Beavan and Mauricio Robles, both prospects quite young for AAA. The four-run rally in the 11th inning last night started with a Dustin Ackley walk, and culminated with a two-run single by Justin Smoak. Josh Lueke nailed down the championship in the bottom of the frame. Tacoma won the title with youngsters leading the charge.

I think the title Tacoma just won is significant for the development of the M's future. All of the young players mentioned in the above paragraph were promoted from AA into the thick of the AAA pennant chase. They adjusted to stiffer competition under urgency to win. What they lacked in experience they made up for with talent. The Major Leagues are a different animal, but the confidence that comes from transitioning to a tougher league in the middle of a championship run is meaningful. What Tacoma's young nucleus just accomplished speaks to a winning mentality, and more than that, good, old-fashioned talent.

Championships always feel great, but Tacoma's feels especially good. To date, it is the greatest accomplishment in the pro careers for most (if not all) the guys on the team. However, for the young core, I doubt it will stand as their greatest achievement.

Projected MLB Standings

How to read the projected standings:
Team name, Projected record (wins gained/lost since last projection), Games back

Rangers91-71 (+2)-Giants90-72 (0)-
Athletics81-81 (-1)10Padres90-72 (0)-
Angels79-83 (+1)12Rockies88-74 (0)2
Mariners63-99 (-2)28Dodgers80-82 (-1)10

Diamondbacks67-95 (-1)23
Twins96-66 (+2)-Reds90-72 (0)-
White Sox87-75 (-1)9Cardinals85-77 (-2)5
Tigers80-82 (-1)16Astros76-86 (+1)14
Indians68-94 (0)28Brewers75-87 (-1)15
Royals67-95 (+1)29Cubs73-89 (+1)17

Pirates55-107 (-1)34
Rays98-64 (+1)-Phillies94-68 (+1)-
Yankees97-65 (-2)1Braves91-71 (-1)3
Red Sox91-71 (+1)7Marlins82-80 (0)12
Blue Jays80-82 (-1)18Mets81-81 (+1)13
Orioles65-97 (+2)33Nationals70-92 (0)24
Wild CardWild Card
Yankees97-65 (-1)-Braves91-71 (-1)-
Red Sox91-71 (+1)6Padres90-72 (0)1
White Sox87-75 (-1)10Rockies88-74 (0)3
ALDS Match-upsNLDS Match-ups
Rangers vs. RaysGiants vs. Phillies
Yankees vs. TwinsBraves vs. Reds

The Twins are surging, to the point that they could end up with the best record in the American League. At the very least, they probably snuffed out any hope of a shocking surge from the White Sox...Meanwhile, in the NL, the west is red hot right now. It is a three-team race, and to add another dimension to the race, their records put them right in the middle of the wild card hunt too. It looks like there will be a nation-wide pennant chase in the final weeks, as seemed likely throughout the year according to the projected standings.

Lueke Reveals M's Off Field Mess

Here are the first words I ever wrote about Josh Lueke, from my Cliff Lee trade post:
In some ways, the most interesting piece is Josh Lueke. He is a 25-year-old righty blowing hitters away out of minor league bullpens. He is a little old for the levels he has played at, so take the eye-popping numbers with a grain of salt. However, one way or another, Lueke and Lowe are probably tied together in the deal. Did the Rangers want Mark Lowe bad enough that they were willing to add Lueke, or did the Mariners want Lueke bad enough that they were willing to give up Lowe? I am not sure, but my educated guess is that the final haggling was done over these two players.
I had no idea what I was saying. Lueke remains a hot topic, with the climax (so far) being this in-depth report penned by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times a few weeks ago. Just a few days ago, pro scouting director Carmen Fusco was fired, and the timing may or may not be linked to Lueke as well.

For details on what I'm referencing with Josh Lueke, check out the Baker report that I linked to in the above paragraph. I have steered clear of it this whole time for many reasons, mostly tied to the sensitive nature of the charges, and the fact that this is a baseball blog.

However, at this point, it is hard to deny that baseball decisions are being made by the Mariners centered around Lueke's rape and sodomy charges. Furthermore, the Mariners reaction is more and more curious, to put it lightly.

Fun Day In AA

The West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx finished out their regular season in style. The team is playoff bound, and celebrated with an entertaining finale.

First of all, Nick Franklin made his AA debut, and it was a good one. He batted second and went two for three with a walk, scoring all three times he was on base. I found it interesting that he was plugged right into the top of the order, but at least today, he seemed more than ready to handle it.

However, the real story of the game is Leury Bonilla. He probably will go down in professional baseball history as a career minor-leaguer, so today's game might be the one he tells his grandchildren about. Bonilla played all nine positions. He even hit a home run, and struck out a batter! Here is the box score. It must have been fun trying to guess what position he would play each time the Diamond Jaxx went back out to play the field.

Then, after a thoroughly enjoyable game, West Tennesee held a post-game celebration/news conference/fashion show to unveil an entire new team name for next year. In 2011, the Jaxx will be the Jackson Generals. The name has some history behind it, as this article illuminates.

The Mariners game stunk today. They were down early, and with their putrid offense, that meant the contest was over just barely after it got started. Meanwhile, the good folks over in Jackson, Tennessee got to see the debut of a hot prospect, another guy play all nine positions, a convincing win, and then the unveiling of an entire franchise re-branding.

Seriously, take whatever time you are spending watching the Mariners when Felix isn't on the mound, and devote it to the minor league affiliates. Eight of the nine teams are going to the post-season. There are some exciting youngsters, and at least in Jackson, Tennessee, a guy playing all over the field. The Jaxx game today is one that I definitely think would have been fun to be at, and I wouldn't say the same about this afternoon's effort from the Mariners.

Time To Hype Nick Franklin

Nick Franklin (image from
Actually, it has been time to hype SS Nick Franklin for a long time. He started fast in the Midwest League, and hasn't really let up. However, today really says it all.

It's been a fun day down on the farm for the Mariners. The Rainiers just clinched their second straight division crown (guaranteeing at least one game in Safeco Field). Even lower down, the Clinton Lumberkings clinched a playoff berth, albeit on a day where they lost.

Still, it doesn't really dull Franklin's story.

2010 Mariners Fall Leaguers

Earlier this week, Arizona Fall League rosters were unveiled. The fall league is a place for prospects to get an extra month of games in, and typically teams send younger players that they want to accelerate development on. Lots of the game's top young talent plays in the league, though there often is a range in polish. It's a bit like the MLB Futures game, except with more players, and for a whole month.

The league consists of 6 teams with 35-man rosters. Each team in the fall league is fed by five major league organizations, and each organization sends seven players. The Mariners affiliate is the Peoria Javelinas, and here are quick looks at the seven Mariner farmhands who will spend this autumn in the desert:

Maybe Guti Cares Too Much

Franklin Gutierrez
You'll have to trust me that a post about Franklin Gutierrez's hitting was in my head before I read this post on Lookout Landing. I like to try to space out my posts a little, that's all. Still, since discussion on Guti now looks like a reaction, I thought I should have the courtesy to link to another, higher profile post about the same thing.

Gutierrez got off to a great start, but cooled off and then some. He is significantly worse than last year, and part of the team-wide power outage.

Searching for answers, I found some interesting trends in Guti's batted ball data:

Comparing To The Hated Rival

At the start of the season, based purely on projections, the Mariners were tabbed for 82 wins, and the Padres for 76. Obviously, these teams have gone their separate ways. Arguably, San Diego has been the biggest surprise in baseball this year, while the M's have been arguably the biggest disappointment.

The interleague "rivals" are built quite similarly. They both play in pitcher's ballparks, and have both placed an emphasis on defense, often at the expense of offense. So, how come one of these teams has beat the odds to be great, while the other has beat the odds to be terrible? One of the more popular answers is that the Padres offense isn't that bad, while the Mariners did not care enough about offense in the first place.

Let's put that theory to the test. Below is a table, comparing the weighted on base averages (wOBA, click here for more on the stat, but in short it's the best one-number look at offense), both projected and actual, for both teams. If the Mariners did not care enough about offense, we would expect to see roughly the same projected and actual wOBA numbers. If the Padres are better than advertised, we should see some stronger wOBAs than anticipated:

2010 M's Chess Set

It's an off day after a long (though surprisingly successful) road trip, with a team that's going nowhere, in the middle of the "dog days" of summer. It is hard to get all that excited over any accomplishment the Mariners make on the field until next April.

Recently, to pass time during M's games, I've taken to playing chess on my laptop. A high schooler I tutor challenged me several times over lunch, and I thought it would be good for me to practice some in my down time. It is a pretty fun game anyway.

Somewhere in the middle of the M's horrific stretch in July, I put these two random strands of my life together. If the 2010 Mariners were a chess set, who would be which pieces? If I were to craft the set, it would look something like this:

Prospects Under The Radar

Thankfully, the Mariners have finally had some young guys worth following and getting excited about. Even more exciting, many of those guys are in AAA now, meaning they are just a short drive away in Tacoma, and also that they are very close to the majors.

The other exciting thing is that the Mariners finally have enough promising guys to allow some to get lost in the mix a little. The following are a handful of Mariners prospects that haven't caught many headlines, but are worth some attention:

Covey, Loux Far From Unsigned Norms

Three amateurs picked in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft did not sign by the deadline earlier this week. Since the inception of the earlier deadline a few years back, that is a normal number.

One of the three, Kharsten Whitson, simply thought he was worth more than the Padres offered, so he will go to the University of Florida. It might be interesting to track Whitson's career earnings, because he turned down $2.1 million guaranteed from San Diego. While I think there are many good reasons to turn down that kind of money, Whitson clearly indicated that he simply thought he wasn't offered enough. I am not sure I agree with him, but perhaps that is a post for another time. Bottom line, Whitson is what I would consider the prototypical case when a player doesn't sign. He compared the value of college to what he was offered as a pro, and chose college.

However, the other two unsigned first-rounders have unique stories.

K-Rod's Hot Mess

Francisco Rodriguez
An atypical pitching pose
Francisco Rodriguez is in a jam that he might not be able to save.

The story began last weekend, when police took K-Rod into custody after what was called an "altercation" with a family member after the game. Apparently, Francisco has a bit of a temper, and it got the best of him. The Mets remained closed-lipped, as is customary with more personal matters. However, since the police had to get involved, it seemed like a pretty substantial confrontation.

We got concrete proof of how bad the scuffle was. K-Rod tore a ligament in his throwing hand, so he's gone for the year. He admitted that he injured it in the aforementioned scuffle he got in.

For a more in-depth report, here is the story from the New York Daily News.

As bad as this situation already looks, it could get a whole bunch worse for Rodriguez.

Improving Draft Pick Contracts

Today was the deadline to sign players taken in this year's amateur draft, with the exception of college seniors. As usual, most of the high-profile picks waited until the last second, and then signed. Here is an updated list, in case you want details.

Instead of analyzing specific players and contracts, I would rather take this opportunity to talk about the draft signing process in general.

Wak's Firing Justifiable

As reactions to Wak's firing mount, one caught my eye over at FanGraphs. You can read it here, but basically Matt Carruth argues that Wak's, or any manager's impact, is hard to quantify. However, he concludes that no matter the impact, it probably wasn't enough to make the M's sink or swim. They are bad because they don't have talent.

I was all geared up to agree, but as I lined up my supporting data, I realized that I might have to reassess my stance.

I started with one of the cooler baseball geek tools on the internet, the lineup analysis tool at Baseball Musings. Good luck spending less than an hour playing with it. I always have to try all sorts of hypotheticals.

Anyway, the lineup analysis tool spits out an expected run output for the given offense, but also provides optimal and worst lineups, because order does make a difference. Since the manager fills out the lineup card, we can think of the difference between the best and worst lineups as the difference a manager can make in offensive output.

Wakamatsu Canned

Don Wakamatsu
The Mariners won tonight, but does that really matter more than the story off the field? I won't even leave that as a hypothetical. The answer is no. Don Wakamatsu, and anyone associated with him still around (Ty Van Burkleo, Rick Adair, and Steve Hecht), were "relieved of their duties" before the game today.

Jack Zduriencik will be on the post-game show, and I will write this as I listen to that. However, I have some initial thoughts. I had a feeling that today was inevitable when I wrote this post about Griffey last week. I am definitely a believer in the Griffey conspiracy, and that he has something to do with today's big decisions. I will not belabor that point, because it is all arguing truth and rumors. Refer to the post I linked to above if you want to argue about the Griffey conspiracy, and I will be happy to take up that argument.

For now, go with me, and assume that Wak had to go for Griffey to have a relationship with the Mariners. This post, then, is really an extension of my thoughts on the 2010 Griffey fiasco.

Sweeney To Philly

Mike Sweeney
Not much to analyze, but still worth talking about. Mike Sweeney, about to be activated from the DL, was acquired today by the Philadelphia Phillies for cash or a player to be named later.

The analysis takes a sentence, but I'll break it into a couple shorter ones. Mike Sweeney is old, and liable to retire in a few months. It was tough to see a roster spot for him in Seattle at this point too, so it isn't surprising that the Phillies more or less just took him.

Sweeney single-handedly makes me a Phillies fan for the next few months at least. He is universally regarded as a class act, the type of guy that deserves to win. On top of that, he was a darn good player in his prime, but those years happened in Kansas City. Sweeney has never made the playoffs in his lengthy, quality career. Add how good of a guy he is, and it would be a shame if he never got a taste of the postseason. I know the world isn't fair sometimes, and the ironic twist is that Sweeney is the type of guy that can handle that, but still...come on, baseball gods! Sweeney deserves his chance.

That's about all I have to say. I'm amazed that Sweeney fought his way onto the M's roster twice as a non-roster invitee, and it was somewhere between inspiring as a human interest story, and maddening when looking at the roster construction. However, frankly, he might have been the M's best hitter with a more healthy 2010...which again, is somewhere between inspiring and maddening.

In the end, Mike Sweeney gets a legitimate shot at the playoffs, and the Mariners don't have to figure out how to wiggle him back on the roster in a meaningful role. This is a win-win, no doubt about it.

Griffey Still A Presence

Sleepgate, or whatever you want to call it, isn't over yet. In fact, it may have never left this team. As I was driving into work this morning (and as you can tell, I'm being so productive right now), Geoff Baker was on KJR. He said that he was surprised that Don Wakamatsu did not get fired yesterday. More interestingly, he said that he has heard the M's have to either can Wak, or sever ties with Griffey.

Interesting, to say the least.

First of all, nobody within the Mariners is on the record confirming anything close to this report. They probably will come out and deny it at some point today too. That's just how these kind of things work.

However, as ridiculous as the Baker report is, it adds up more than anything else people have theorized. Just last night, I was at the Rainiers game (and I thought this blog post would be about Michael Pineda), and one of my friends brought up how odd it is that Jack Zduriencik hasn't backed up Wakamatsu as he has come under fire. It seems like an obvious sign that the two aren't on the same page, and almost as if Z wants to fire him.

I hadn't bought into that theory though. Z had just hired Wak last year, and they were always on the same page then. Wak is Z's guy, and they built this team together. Furthermore, Z doesn't seem to be the kind of guy to turn and burn so fast. However, I couldn't deny that Z was acting a bit like an aloof GM positioning himself to fire a guy. It wasn't all adding up.

Deadline Deals: 2010 Edition

Not much to add to the title. This is exactly what it says it is. The deals:
  • Cardinals acquire RHP Jake Westbrook from Indians, Padres acquire OF Ryan Ludwick from the Cardinals, and Indians acquire RHP Corey Kluber and RHP Nick Greenwood from the Padres - Nice to see a three-way deal at the deadline. Westbrook is what he is, a dependable, pitch-to-contact kind of starter. Hardly flashy, but solid. Maybe Dave Duncan sees something in him, but I don't see much that can be tweaked. As for San Diego, Ludwick instantly becomes the second best bat in their lineup behind Adrian Gonzalez. His addition could propel them to a division title, given how low-powered their offense is. However, the Indians are the real winners in this deal. Greenwood doesn't look like much to me, but Kluber knows how to strike out batters at prodigious rates. His numbers suggest a classic power pitcher, both with the Ks, and lots of fly balls. He might give up more than his fair share of home runs as a big-leaguer, but he will replace Westbrook for a fraction of the price when the Indians are relevant again. Good move for Cleveland, solid for San Diego, and disappointing for St. Louis. They have apparently been impressed by rookie Jon Jay, so Ludwick was expendable, but I think they could have got more for Ryan if that was the case.
  • Dodgers acquire LHP Ted Lilly and INF Ryan Theriot from Cubs for INF Blake DeWitt, RHP Kyle Smit, and RHP Brett Wallach - The Dodgers needed to make a move to expect to stay in the NL West race, and this is that move. They needed a starting pitcher, and Lilly upgrades their rotation, though he is only solid at best. Presumably Theriot is insurance in case Rafael Furcal gets hurt, or at least that's the only reason I would acquire him in this trade. I like DeWitt more than Theriot, though Theriot can play shortstop and DeWitt can't really. Smit looks like organizational depth out of the bullpen to me, and Wallach is too far away to say how good he might be, but early returns are promising. The deal looks like a push to me.

Trades, Trades, Trades

This has turned into a more active trade deadline than I thought it would be.  Here are recaps of all the trades that have happened in the past couple days that did not involve Roy Oswalt:
  • Rangers acquire INF Jorge Cantu from the Marlins for RHP Evan Reed and RHP Omar Poveda - For as good as Texas has been, they have had a black hole at first base the entire year. While Cantu is not an impact guy for most teams, he may prove to be for Texas because of how big the hole was. There was also some initial speculation that Cantu may play some second base with Ian Kinsler heading to the DL, but I doubt that thanks to today's action. As for what Florida got in return, it is a pretty standard trade deadline kind of haul for a guy like Cantu. Reed is a reliever in AA with nothing to positive or negative about him. He looks to me like the AAAA reliever type at best. It is tougher to say what Poveda becomes, since he is out all of this year with arm surgery. He had great strikeout rates through the lower levels of the minors, but those started to desert him, even before the big injury. How Poveda bounces back will decide how good this deal was. If I had to pick a winner right now, I'd go with Texas.
  • Rangers acquire INF Cristian Guzman from the Nationals for RHP Ryan Tatusko and RHP Tanner Roark - Guzman is a nice backup infielder that will play in Kinsler's absence. Probably the most noteworthy piece of this deal is that it seems to be a clear indication that Texas sees Cantu more as a first base option, and won't try him much at second base. Given that it has been a few years since Cantu has played second, that's probably a good idea. As for the Nats, they get a pair of largely uninteresting arms. Tatusko's ERA has dropped considerably this year, even though he is more hittable than ever. That's weird, and it makes it hard to say how good he is, though no matter what I think he is a marginal MLB arm at best. Roark has a great name, but not the game to match it. He has pitched better out of relief in the minors, but who doesn't? Both of Tatusko and Roark profile as roster fillers, but when you have a place for Miguel Batista, you welcome these kind of guys with open arms. Solid, though utterly forgettable deal for both sides.

Obligatory Oswalt Trade Analysis

Roy Oswalt got traded from the Houston Astros to the Philadelphia Phillies. I debated letting this one go, because there is more than enough analysis out there already. However, it's just way too fascinating of a deal.

Here are my two cents, and then some.

Angels Take Haren Off D'Backs Hands

Dan Haren
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim acquired RHP Dan Haren from the Arizona Diamondbacks for LHP Joe Saunders, RHP Rafael Rodriguez, LHP Patrick Corbin, and a player to be named later.


Haren hasn't been great this year, but he has a long track record of success. He has been one of the best pitchers in the majors for several years, and he is only 29 years old. Furthermore, some of Haren's peripheral numbers suggest some tough luck this year, in particular his absurdly high .350 BABIP. There are good reasons to think that Haren will bounce back, even though he is still pretty valuable this year.

Also, Dan Haren is signed through 2012, with a team option for 2013. Bottom line, the Angels just acquired a heck of a sidekick for Jered Weaver. Their rotation is set for the next couple of years. This deal is a tremendous boost to the team right now, as well as in the future.

So, what did the Diamondbacks get for such a valuable asset?

Filling out the 2011 Roster

It's the final afternoon of 2011 Mariners week. In the last post I talked about the arbitration eligible M's, and put together the "locks" on the 2011 M's roster. The remaining pieces I haven't looked at our league-minimum, team-controlled folks.

Let's start with the major holes still left to be filled:

2011 Arbitration Eligibles

2011 Mariners week continues with a look at the arbitration eligible players. Arbitration functions as a process to transition players from the league minimum salary to whatever their value is on the open free agent market. As such, all arbitration eligible players are a good value in theory.

There is a catch in most cases though. Often, players are out of minor league option years by the time they hit arbitration. So, offering arbitration to a player is often attached to a commitment to keeping the player on the team.

While there is the occasional budding star mixed in arbitration, the majority of these players are in the serviceable to solid range. In other words, the majority are supporting pieces on a roster. Since the majority of arbitration deals come at good value, the real question is if the piece is worth keeping or not.

Here are the decisions the 2011 roster has to make. Current salary is in parentheses:

The 2011 Core

This is 2011 Mariners week at the Musings, as I said with the first post yesterday. I split the roster into three basic parts: the guaranteed contracts, the arbitration eligible players, and everyone else (the folks making the minimum salary with no way out unless the team ditches them). Today is a look at the guaranteed 2011 contracts.

A guaranteed contract is a big deal, both for a player and a team. On the team's side, all the money is guaranteed, even if the player is cut loose. It's a significant financial commitment. On the player's side, the system is set up to make them go about a decade in pro ball before hitting free agency.

The system is set up for players with guaranteed contracts, particularly big ones, to be the core of a team. Players need to be good in a team's eyes to warrant big money, and they have to have accumulated enough MLB service time to make it this far. We will see that the Mariners have a few exceptions to this rule, but the basic premises set up how I will evaluate the core.

The first question is as simple as they come: How good is the core? Is it a group a winning team can be built around? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

The second question is almost as important: Is the core worth the money it is getting paid? There is only so much money to go around, and if players are gobbling up more salary than they are worth, it means that the overall core probably isn't that good, and also limits the ability to improve it with outside help. This is why bad contracts are so crippling.

I will start with the second question and get back to the first. Here is a look at each 2011 Mariner with a guaranteed contract:

The 2011 Mariners

Or, the alternative title, "How To Make The 2010 Mariners Palatable To Watch." This season is over, and it has been for a while. As a result, my emotional investment in this season has gone down the toilet, and that's probably the healthy thing to do with a team like this.

However, I still care about the Mariners, and even if wins and losses don't matter in 2010, the games do. Wins and losses still matter for the 2011 M's, and what happens between now and then will alter the outlook of that team.

This is my way of saying to not expect much more about the 2010 Mariners here. Current players will still be talked about plenty, but more with an eye towards what it all means for next year, when wins and losses matter again.

Here are your 2011 Seattle Mariners, in order of salary (all following salary info from Cot's Baseball Contracts):

Roster Moves Galore

There were roster moves made by the Mariners today that involved a grand total of seven players. The biggest are at the AAA level, which says all you need to know about the way this season is going. Nonetheless, here are brief looks at all the moves:

  • Sean White demoted to AAA Tacoma - White hasn't been very good this year, to say the least. So he goes down to Tacoma where he won't be bad for Seattle until he's back.
  • Chad Cordero became a free agent - The Mariners didn't release Cordero. They gave him the chance to go to AAA, but he elected for free agency. Chad has been nowhere close to his pre-injury self, which isn't surprising. He was a nice story, but a remarkably hittable reliever that got by mostly with guts and poise. I hope he catches on somewhere else, but I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't.
  • Chris Seddon called up - Remember last year, when Jason Vargas was a fringy, soft-tossing left-hander? Chris Seddon is the new Jason Vargas, except with cooler hair. I think Seddon looks kind of like Tim Lincecum from the back, or maybe like a bizarro version of him, since Chris throws left-handed.
  • Jamey Wright signed - Who can forget Wright's glorious spring training campaign with the M's back in 2003? Wright reminds me of Brett Tomko - always has had an intriguing arm, but the results have never been what was expected. He is the definition of a veteran journeyman at this point, and I think he is only here until Erik Bedard and/or Shawn Kelley are healthy anyway.
  • Edward Paredes, Anthony Varvaro, and Dustin Ackley all promoted to AAA Tacoma - The most interesting move today is definitely the Ackley promotion. It seemed logical after the Cliff Lee deal, or more particularly, after the M's announced that Matt Lawson, from the Lee deal, was going to AA. Rumor on the twittersphere is that Ackley homered in his first AAA at-bat! Paredes and Varvaro are also prospects, but in the bullpen, so not the same sizzle as Mr. Ackley. I would still rate their promotions as more interesting than the MLB moves though, aside from perhaps Seddon.
Pretty soon I am going to put together a post diving into 2011 a little deeper, but it makes all the sense in the world to push some of the guys standing out in AA up into AAA for the second half of the year. The 2011 roster is deeper if the current AA group is able to step up and provide organizational depth, even if they figure to be more important pieces down the road. This organization is definitely shifting to more of an assessment mode.

Changing The Midsummer Classic

Let's be honest, the MLB All Star Game has no business calling itself "The Midsummer Classic" anymore. The bloated rosters, designated utility players, and attaching World Series homefield advantage to it have morphed it into something that everyone can pick at. In MLB's quest to seemingly please everyone, they have crafted something that nobody truly likes.

The current format has got to go. Here is what I would do:
  • Make the All Star Game an exhibition again. Let the team with the better record between World Series contestants get home field advantage. I like that fans vote in the starting lineups, but that only makes sense in an exhibition setting. I've written about my preference before.
  • Let fans vote in three starting pitchers and one closer. If fans are good enough to vote in starting lineups, they are also good enough to vote in the core of a pitching staff.
  • Have the BBWAA determine all the players not voted in by the fans. The BBWAA is good enough to vote on all the post-season awards, as well as who goes in the Hall of Fame. They are good enough to make solid All Star selections. Most importantly, they take the toughest choices out of the managers' hands. Managers should be able to focus on their own seasons, and not worry about offending any of their own players with their selections.
  • Trim rosters back to 25 players. Both teams should look like teams, not small armies. It makes the game itself more authentic, and a selection more prestigious. I understand that rosters have expanded to keep teams in better shape for extra innings, as well as accommodate the need for every team to be represented, so that's why this is not my final change.
  • Require that every team has at least one representative in the All Star Game or the Home Run Derby. It is an unwritten rule that Derby contestants are All Star selections, so this written rule kills that tradition. I think it is for the better anyway. Right now, with a pair of 34-man rosters, there are a total of 68 slots. With a pair of 25-man rosters, and a 9-man Home Run Derby field (as would be my preference), there would be a total of 59 slots. That's not a ton fewer, and it would seem like an even smaller gap because the Derby slots are open to either league. Or, in other words, this set up still makes 34 slots available to either league to fulfill the representative rule. Although the Home Run Derby isn't as big of a deal as the All Star Game, is there a big exposure difference between riding the pine in the All Star Game, and taking a bunch of hacks in the Home Run Derby? If anything, the Derby is a better place for a lone representative from a bad team to end up.
  • All Star Games tied after nine innings are decided with a home run derby. This is my most radical change, but the game works much better for pitcher usage if it is guaranteed to last nine innings, no matter what. In the derby, each team would pick three batters, and each batter would get three outs to hit as many home runs as they could. It would be like three Home Run Derby innings, and whichever league's trio that slugged the most homers would be the winner. If the leagues were still tied after three, then each would select another hitter, and each of them would get three outs, and so on and so on until the tie is broken. Admittedly, this would make for a gimmicky finish, but it's fine in an exhibition, and serves a pragmatic purpose.
That's my vision for the All Star Game. It would work way better for me, and I think it would work way better for baseball.