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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mariners Not to Bid on Matsuzaka    

Well, it looks official. I guess it could still be misdirection, but Bavasi has never been on the record like this as some kind of ploy. I can hope I guess, but...I don't think so. In another year, maybe that wouldn't be so bad, but Matsuzaka is the only impact starter who really has a chance to be worth his contract this offseason, and the Mariners are in desperate need of pitching. This hurts.

Being bummed about this the last couple of days, I read this this morning. The crux, amongst a variety of other things, is that the Mariners' obsession with making Jose Lopez hit the other way has turned him into a singles hitting machine (who as we all know never takes a walk). What's more, he appears happy with the situation. Maybe he can get his power back, but ugh. Oh, and if you hadn't heard, Rafael Soriano will not be given a shot at the starting rotation this year, in no small part because Mark Lowe's injury is a lot worse than originally reported.

So what is this team up to? Where is it headed? Why is it going there? Why am I along for this particular ride? I really find myself asking this. I mean, basically, you have a franchise that has survived up to this point only because they lucked into Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Alex Rodriguez. Career years by people like Bret Boone, Freddy Garcia, and Joel PiƱeiro were necessary to sustain the image of it being a succesfully run franchise, and its only real strength organizationally at this point appears to be its international scouting. And they're passing on Matsuzaka! I argued myself he might not really be worth the money, but if we offer 4 years and $56 million + to Jason know where this is headed.

Everyone says Bob Fontaine is an excellent scout and one of the guys you want in charge of your draft. That's a damn good thing because while I like some things about Bavasi (and the two are forever linked apparently), the Washburn signing doesn't inspire confidence, although it was the only bad signing that was actually his idea (Hargrove apparently demanded Everett and the Spiezio and Aurillia debacles were mostly still Gillick), and he's gotten pretty good value people he's traded, even if they didn't necessarily pan out (Reed, Foppert, etc.). I'll save any more damning remarks for the end of the offseason, when we've seen what they're really up to, but it looks to me clearer than ever that this is a franchise that has no real commitment to winning, only to putting a reasonably competitive product out there.

What's worse, for me, is that the organization explicitly values all kinds of things that drive me crazy about baseball, and any Mariners World Series victory will reinforce all kinds of bad behavior. It's a total good-old-boys BS do-things-the-right-way organization. It cares more about image than talent. It values local, whiteboy hustle to the extent that it will sacrifice wins to get Willie Bloomquist at-bats, and it's managed by the king of all that nonsense, Mike Hargrove, who seems to have actually convinced himself that the team is better when Bloomquist gets his spot starts. For his bat, no less! I'm rooting for a team that promotes everything I dislike about baseball, refuses to think creatively, and is so risk-averse that it signs Washburn to a 4-year deal because a 5-year deal for a pitcher is just too risky.

I still love a lot of players on the Mariners, and if Adam Jones and Chris Snelling become legit regulars that will reach new heights. I'm thrilled to see Ichiro in center all year, and I love rooting for Beltre, even if '04 was mostly a fluke. But if Soriano gets dealt this offseason and Mark Lowe never comes back to real form, and Felix keeps getting fatter and more arrogant...I don't know. I could become a pretty ambivalent (in the true love and hate sense) baseball fan. I hope they pull off something ingenious this offseason, or Schmidt decides he wants to pitch for the Mariners so bad we get him for 3/$30 mil (fat chance), or something. Because otherwise, this could get real ugly.


  • This piece on Matsuzaka sheds some light on some of the "how much is he worth?" discussion we've been having. There's a lot of projection and such in there that's interesting if you're interested, but for me the key was this:

    Boras has claimed that his client will be among the top 10 to 15 pitchers in baseball as soon as next year. The various translations outlined above would seem to support that. To get an idea of how that translates into value, let's look at a few top pitchers, their performances as measured by VORP, and their worth (approximated as $3 million per win):

    Rank Name VORP Value($mil)
    1 Santana 79.6 23.88
    5 Carpenter 67.8 20.34
    10 Liriano 51.0 15.3
    15 Lowe 49.3 14.79
    20 Sabathia 46.5 13.95
    25 Haren 41.4 12.42

    While obviously that's just a benchmark, it's a pretty nice one and it will be handy for me at least to keep in mind as I think about this offseason.

    By Blogger Jesse, at 6:19 PM  

  • Bear with me here...

    1) We know that Japan has been a priority for the Mariners since before Ichiro arrived. Large Asian community = big bucks. Given that, we have to think Matsuzaka is worth more to the M's than anyone else save the Yankkizu.

    2) The Mariners have had enormous success evaluating Japanese talent. They've imported the biggest superstar thus far (Ichiro), the best closer (Mac Sasaki), and what appears to be one of the better positional players (Johjima). By any measure, they have their shit together when it comes to Japanese talent.

    3) We've long assumed that there would be some degree of "inside baseball" between Yamauchi-san and Seibu, simply due to the owner's direct connection to Japan. Thus it would be safe to assume that Mr. Yamauchi's intelligence is far more reliable than anyone else's.

    In other words, if anyone's got the inside track on all things Matsuzaka, it's Seattle. And they're not posting.

    Given the above three factors, why wouldn't you read their refusal to post as an indication of Matsuzaka's actual value?

    It can't be cheapness alone. These are the same math wizards who overpaid Washburn, Sexson and Beltre. If he's actually Johan the Second, he'd be worth the post and an Oswalt contract. If he's not, then who cares if the Yankees get him? So they have a Japanese Mussina to go with their American one. Big deal.

    And here's an interesting thought. What if something's wrong with him? What if he's hurt? It'd cost Seibu a lot of money if MLB finds out he's hurt before the post goes through. If so, wouldn't Yamauchi be the most likely person to get tipped off? (I'm assuming that the the physicals wouldn't begin until negotiation rights have been secured.) I'll admit to having a creative imagination, but I think Seibu knows that even a minor shoulder thing would be enough to scare off American investments.

    Anyway, I'm just saying that if Seattle is turning down a purported stud like Matsuzaka, in the prime of his career, then I tend to think something's not as it appears.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 12:14 PM  

  • It's not so much that they're not bidding on Matsuzaka (he's pitched an insane number of innings the past several years, and an injury would make his contract absolutely crippling), just that it was the only way I could imagine them getting into contention next year, really.

    What I will say, is that with the possible exception of this case, this team's decisions are generally for the wrong reasons. Matsuzaka would give me hope, because he's a gamble that could pay off in a huge way, which would sort of stave off my pessimism. But it's more that his absence allows me to focus on the problems instead of getting caught up in the hype. I'm not distracted by hoping he's healthy. And I'm terrified about the less "risky" contracts that the Mariners will hand out this offseason (Schmidt and thanks).

    By Blogger Jesse, at 6:58 PM  

  • Given that Hargrove is coming back, any optimism prior to his firing is essentially moot. But you knew that.

    All that aside, I don't think it will take much to win the West next season. Anaheim is aging, Texas still hasn't done shit (and won't), and Oakland is treading water at best. This division could be taken with 87 wins.

    The only glaring problem with this roster is the rotation. (The Soriano rumor, of course, is utter insanity.) The only way to secure an ace is if Felix becomes one, so I don't think there's any need to go apeshit to secure high-end talent. You could roll the dice with Schmidt; I don't think that's a terrible move. But the real problem is inconsistency at the back (Meche et al). Adding an old-reliable who can go .500 but eat 180 innings would be better than trying to take a chance on a question mark like Randy Wolf or something.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 2:44 PM  

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