I’ve Changed My Mind…
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on November 10, 2006
I would NOT sign Jason Schmidt. I wouldn’t sign Adam Eaton. I wouldn’t trade for a relatively expensive bench bat, or sign any big-money player to a one two or three-year, multi-million dollar contract.
If Jason A. Churchill were the General Manager of the Seattle Mariners, I’d sit on my hands and make low-risk, medium-to-high reward moves.
The free agent market sucks… again. Every single top-tier talent will be grossly overpaid, no matter which club lands them. It’s one thing to be overpaid; all professional athletes and entertainers are overpaid. But to be so atrociously overcompensated for a 3-5 year period, well, it’s an abomination and I would not participate.
Not this winter.
J.D. Drew just opted out of a 5-year, $55 million deal that he signed just two seasons ago, even though he was due $33 million over the final three seasons. Why? Because his agent, Scott Boras, advised him how much more he can get and who he can get it from. At worst, Drew is likely to get the same $11 million salary, but for at least four seasons, rather than the three that remained on his contract with the Dodgers.
He’s also likely to get that new deal with a team much closer to his home in the South, somewhere like, say, Houston or Baltimore, which is why Drew, the player, opted out in the first place.
Drew isn’t worth $11 million a season. Jason Schmidt isn’t worth more than two years and somewhere around $8 million per, but some dumb organization, maybe the Emerald City’s Finest, is going to hand the soon-to-be 34-year-old righthander $10-12 million per season for three or four years.
The Seattle Mariners are in a tough spot. Their GM and field skipper have used up 8 ½ lives and have to win now, or else. The front office has to do something to bring back the mojo on First and Edgar. The suits, including Mr. Yamauchi, only care about their own bank accounts and will always do what makes them cash, which is to say they will do whatever will put butts in the seats at Safeco Field.
And they don’t need to win to do that, at least not on the surface. All they need to do is create excitement to spur offseason ticket sales. They don’t spend their time, money and energy on building a winning baseball team, they use up their resources putting together a moneymaker, which would partly explain why they have been so unsuccessful on the field of late.
Instead of putting a winner on the diamond, which in turn would certainly make them assloads of dough , they do what they believe is the best way to fill as many seats as possible.
That is insane.
Imagine sitting at your desk or at the dining room table while a small and perhaps geeky crowd gather around as you work on a Rubik’s Cube, your favorite thing in the world to do – perform in front of people. They all want to see you solve the classic puzzle box, and the faster you do so the more interesting and entertaining it is for them.
But instead of trying to solve the Rubik’s, which may take you hours but is exactly what the audience wants to see and experience, you try to do whatever it takes to keep them interested enough to stay and ooh and aah, without doing the work and actually getting the deed done.
Greedy. Lazy. Preposterous.
The M’s tried to take the easy way out of the hole they dug themselves in 2002 and 2003. When they should have been rebuilding on the run by methodically saying goodbye to the vets and adding younger talent, they were trying for the quick fix.
So here they are, three years in the cellar, and while things are certainly looking up, they are two years behind the process. The year 2006 should have been year one of actual contention, not a sub-.500 club with as many holes as the corkboard in Lou Piniella’s office. But since the suits insist on the quick fix, Bill Bavasi’s job is that much tougher.
This isn’t about me saying Bavasi is a great GM and has not been given anything to work with. Bavasi may be a bad GM, but the thing is, we’ll never know. What if he had the freedom to do things in a manner that did not represent the upper management’s current motives?
What if Bavasi could pass on the entire free agent class of 2006, and head to spring training status quo? Because that’s what I would want to do, with the possible exception of a few low-cost additions that could burst into a great signing or two.
Spending up to the payroll limits just to avoid leaving financial resources on the table can do one of a few things to a club each season.
1) Everything can work out fine, the team wins 95 games and go into the playoffs, making everyone happy and excited about the Mariners again.
2) A few things might work out, a few might not, meaning that quite a bit of cash went to players that aren’t performing, or are spending too much time in street clothes.
3) A disaster. The pitcher you sign gets hurt in year one, and as he enters year two of a four-year deal at age 35, he’s even more of a health risk after all the nagging days spent on the DL the previous season.
The mid-rotation innings eater you signed that used your own ’05 offseason mistake as a salary comparison to get No. 2 starter money out of ya, turns out to be no better than the league-average arm you signed last winter. Surprise, surprise.
And the bat you traded for, that makes big money over the next two or three years, is siked out by Safeco Field and ends up hitting 30 points below his career average and can’t seem to get his power stroke going, wasting the prospects you surrendered to get him in the first place.
What a friggin’ waste.
What are the chances that it’s No. 1? Yeah, not very good.
No. 2 might not be so bad, it’s pretty much where the M’s are today, but that isn’t working out too well, is it?
Bavasi has no choice. He has to spend whatever cash he can to save his gig. Manager Mike Hargrove “recommends” the same because he has a job to save, too. But it’s not the right thing to do.
I’m not advocating doing nothing at all. The club needs changes, whether they are talent-lateral moves or true upgrades. But the M’s should stay away from all the top free agents and avoid trading away cheap, young talent for expensive, aging veterans.
Simply put, the Seattle Mariners cannot afford to become the nest for a half-dozen albatross-like contracts, most of which would have been given to undeserving players.
The team should be thinking about the early prime years of the foundation of the roster, such as Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt and Felix Hernandez.
Howard Lincoln and the suit boys just keep digging that hole deeper and deeper every year, and as they do so it drags down the GM and all of his cohorts in the scouting and player development, without ever really giving them a chance to truly build a team, Whether they were truly capable of the task, or not, is irrelevant.
Bavasi is going to make at least two mistakes this winter, because he’s fighting for his job and has no choice but to take enormous risks.
He loses either way.
There’s almost no chance that Bavasi retains his job beyond 2007, if the suit boys stick to their guns.
I’m so disgusted with the lack of true worthwhile free agents that I just don’t see how an aggressive free-spending philosophy makes any sense for the club right now. The longer the suit boys wish to manage their franchise in this manner, the team’s success will be dependent on three things and three things only.
Luck, luck and Bob Fontaine.