2012 AFL Wrap-Up

I wrote an Arizona Fall League preview when rosters were announced back at the end of August. The league finished up play a few weeks ago, and the weekend after Thanksgiving seemed like a decent time see how M's prospects fared. The predictions/questions I had back in August now have answers:

Mariners Make Flurry of Minor Moves

There was a mini firestorm of moves across baseball yesterday because baseball teams procrastinate. Yesterday was the last day to add players and protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Every move the Mariners made (and everyone else for that matter) must be looked through with the Rule 5 draft in mind, because it is the reason for all the movement on what would have otherwise been the latest, slow-as-molasses offseason day in baseball.

I will go in reverse order from how things are usually reported, because it helps make more sense of what happened. Here are the players the Mariners added to their 40-man roster yesterday:

2012 Award Winners

I never got around to posting the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) postseason awards as they were announced. However, thanks to my negligence, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) has also voted on their awards! So, below is a handy table comparing the two associations' choices for 2012:

BBA
BBWAA
Connie Mack
AL: Bob MelvinAL: Bob MelvinManager of
NL: Davey JohnsonNL: Davey Johnsonthe Year
Willie Mays
AL: Mike TroutAL: Mike TroutRookie of
NL: Bryce HarperNL: Bryce Harperthe Year
Walter Johnson
AL: Justin VerlanderAL: David PriceCy Young
NL: R.A. DickeyNL: R.A. Dickey
Stan Musial
AL: Mike TroutAL: Miguel CabreraMVP
NL: Buster PoseyNL: Buster Posey

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance also votes on the Goose Gossage award, given to each league's top reliever. This year Fernando Rodney was voted the AL winner, and Craig Kimbrel the NL winner. The Musings is a BBA member, and my ballot (AL only since I am a Mariners blog) can be found here.

The AL MVP debate has had more than enough words written about it at this point. I made my peace with the triple crown a few months ago, and won't write more, other than to note that the BBA picked Trout and the BBWAA picked Cabrera.

Back to warming my hands over the hot stove league...

Josh Hamilton Comps

The Mariners may or may not end up as a finalist in the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes. Time will tell. They certainly should talk to Hamilton and take a shot at him. He is rumored to want 7 years and $175 million, which would be a hefty investment. Of course, prices tend to come down in negotiations, so he probably won't cost that much. Fangraphs contract crowdsourcing results predict a 5 year, $100 million contract for Hamilton when all is said and done...still a hefty investment.

Some people worry about Hamilton's past drug abuse and how much that may have aged his body. However, there are some important on-the-field concerns too.

Hamilton's skillset is interesting and problematic. He is basically an average (at best) outfielder with a prodigious power bat but a violent approach at the plate. He doesn't walk much, strikes out a bunch, but crushes the ball when he makes contact. Hamilton has been very productive with this skillset, but once his power goes, so does most of his value.

My gut told me that a player with Josh Hamilton's skillset, at 31 years old, is not a good long-term investment. I wondered if I could find some historical comparison I could make to support or refute my gut though.

Kuma And Ollie Coming Back

The Mariners hit free agency with the pitching staff in solid shape, thanks to keeping Hisashi Iwakuma and Oliver Perez before either hit the open market. Iwakuma got a two-year deal with a third-year option. Perez got a one-year contract with performance incentives.

I won't spend much time writing about either deal because there isn't much to say. Both Iwakuma and Perez finished 2012 strong and the deals will look nice if they carry their success into 2013.

Iwakuma was a logical fit in the rotation, given his familiarity with the team already, and his reasonable $6.5 million price tag annually for only two or three years. Iwakuma should join Felix, Jason Vargas, and Erasmo Ramirez as "locks" for the rotation, and the Mariners should be able to find an in-house option for the fifth spot from their minor league pitching depth. That projects to be a respectable rotation in my eyes. Felix is amazing, and everyone else should keep their team in games (provided the teams scores

Felix still needs a true sidekick for a formidable 1-2 punch before the Mariners rotation is really good. Iwakuma isn't that, but Taijuan Walker or Danny Hultzen might be in the next few years. Iwakuma can bridge the gap until the youth is ready to shine.

Personally, I wouldn't have signed Oliver Perez, but I'm not about to quibble over a $1.5 million commitment. Charlie Furbush established himself as the first lefty in the bullpen, so Perez is redundant - especially with Bobby LaFramboise and Brian Moran looking like serviceable bullpen lefties in AAA Tacoma for the league minimum. The Mariners did not need to bring Perez back, but I suppose he also costs next-to-nothing by MLB standards.

I will write more when the Mariners find themselves some hitters.

Payroll Kind Of Matters I Guess

I keep trying to come up with fresh ideas for blog posts. The obvious one for free agency is a grand off-season plan. That would have been fun, and I have my preferences. However, I don't expect the Mariners to do much in the free agent market, and trades are nearly impossible to sniff out. So what's the point?

Instead, I have an overwhelming (but interactive!) data extravaganza. Free agency boils down to money, and in particular the Mariners payroll seems to be a topic of concern most off-seasons. The payroll has sunk about $20 million while revenues across baseball have risen, and it is fair to wonder if the shrinking funds have something to do with the team's struggles. Below is a visualization tool so you can explore just about anything you want relating team payrolls to team victory totals from 1997 through 2012. I would say more, but I still am yet to play with all the options:



Bottom line: payroll does not seem to matter as much as we might intuitively think. There is a connection between payroll and success, but not much of one in baseball.