Home Grown Bats and Dreams of Cano
Game of Thrones - release the Hound

There's talk in the shouts about Cano, since it's the offseason so pipe dreams are a way to pass the time until dull reality strikes.  Let's forget for a second that Cano has Jay-Z representing him, and I have trouble believing Cano would come to sleepy Seattle no matter the price or the supporting cast.

Let's say he would come if he got the contract in the neighborhood of what he wants (30 per for 7 seven years, opt out after 3 or some such), and we would have to make a choice: plunk down the change, or let it ride with the kids and some lesser lights added via trade or FA.

As was said earlier in the shouts, the team that developed all 9 position prospects themselves and were title contenders doesn't exist. OTOH, many of our 9 positions are filled with extremely talented youngsters.  It's nice to think they could all work out and make us into a division winner, but again, it's never quite happened that way.

But how close has it been?  Are there any teams in the couple decades or so that home-grew the vast majority of their lineups and competed for pennants?  What would that look like?

Well, there's the 2008 Rays, who won 31 more games than the '07 squad:

Homegrown: Dioner Navarro (couple hundred PAs with the Dodgers before becoming a full-time Ray), Carl Crawford (7th season), Evan Longoria (first season), BJ Upton (3rd season)

Imported: Cliff Floyd (last legs), Gabe Gross (6th part time season, last legs), Eric Hinske (7th season benchie), Carlos Pena (6th season), Iwamura (9 seasons in Japan make him not a rook, but I guess he could be "homegrown"), Jason Bartlett (4th season)

So only half their lineup actually consisted of homegrown talent (in 2009 Zobrist got promoted to full-time work, so that counts too, and they keep building from within as much as possible).  This is actually a trick answer, however, because the reason the Rays got 30 games better was because their pitching lopped almost 300 runs off their allowed totals from the prior year.  The offense was about the same as '07 (average).

All it took to make all that happen was a decade of never winning more than seventy games, trading off every good player they acquired for more draft picks, and netting so many of them in the end that Major League Baseball changed the rules so you could never do it the Rays Way again.  So that's a hard model to follow - but maybe it speaks to making the pitching the priority instead of helping our painfully underproducing offense.

You'd think with 40 million to spend this offseason we could do both, though.


Is half your offense coming from the farm the best you can do?  Well, there's another team I'm thinking of: the 90s Indians did a really steady job at it.  Their 1994 strike shortened contender (and 100-win '95 team) consisted of:

Homegrown: Sandy Alomar (came from the Padres with 23 PAs there, 5th season), Jim Thome (first real season), Carlos Baerga (5th season), Kenny Lofton (came from Houston with 79 PAs, 3rd real season), Manny Ramirez (first season), Albert Belle (5th season)

Imported: Eddie Murray (last legs), Paul Sorrento (3rd real season) Omar Vizquel (6th season)

Those Indians were something else.  Still can't believe they didn't win a World Series... but at least they got there. And they built most of the thing from their own farm or with great trade pieces that hadn't had a chance to succeed elsewhere.

But it took a few years after gathering SEVERAL Hall of Famers onto one squad to make it work.  Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar and Albert Belle were already there for a few seasons holding down the fort before two MORE HOF-level players showed up in their first full seasons (Thome and Man-Ram) to take them over the top.

Who here thinks we have 5 potential Hall of Famers on this team?  Five Hall of Very Good? Five All-Stars? Five above-average major-leaguers?

I like Seager, Zunino, Miller and Franklin to be above-average (should they all stay). But building an offense around above-average hitting glove infielders isn't exactly the way to success. Here are the OPS+ numbers from that 94 Indians team:

Sorrento - 106 (Smoak should have that locked up...)
Alomar - 115 (okay, mayyyybe Zunino can do that...)
Baerga - 119 (I guess Franklin or Miller had better bring it)
Man-Ram 125 (ouch, that's within reach of a career year by Seager)
Thome - 127 (we're running out of hitters who can do this...)
Kenny Lofton - 145 (okay, there's no way...)
Belle - 194 (what!?!)

Their worst hitters were a HOF-level glove in Vizquel at 71 and a 38 year old DH at 87.  I'm sure we could find that.  It's all the 100+ numbers we need to locate.  And their staff had an ERA+ of 107 so lets not think they were carried just by offense.

By any measure, even IF we are lucky enough to have 5 HOF level players currently with this team (lets say Seager, Miller, Zunino, Franklin and DJ who will come up next year) it'll take another couple of years to get that to work out without outside help.


I've been saying 2016 is the end of the gestation date for this current farm talent for a couple of years now.  If we stick it out, wait for Peterson and Choi, trade no one and let our pitching sort itself out we're still a couple of years away.

I'm not against that, if we believe in the farm talent.  Smoak and Ackley are making it hard to believe in all of our talent coming together and performing at their assumed levels; still, both guys could take another step forward this next year and start really helping us. But we kinda have to bet on that if we're not gonna take large steps to add outside production to our offense.

Re-signing Morales and adding an outfielder is a start, but in this theoretical world where Cano would come here I would be interested.  The Indians were so stacked offensively they wound up trading away Richie Sexson and his 40 bombs a year because he was blocked by Thome. We would walk over hot coals for 40 bombs from one player.

If we want to make this work before the second half of the decade and have a viable team to follow, I don't see how it happens without outside help. We have two #1 pitchers right now, and a TOR (or TWO) slated for the back half of the rotation while they get their feet under em.  Now would be the time to back them with more than 600 runs a year, you would think.  Not later - now.

In the mythical world of Cano interest, I'd trade Franklin and a low-minors arm like Diaz for Joey Bats, sign HOFer Cano, and let the chips fall where they may the next 3 years. It's kinda too bad we don't live in that world - that would be a fun team.

Still hoping the 2014 Ms team can be a fun team - and a winner - without any need for pipe dreams.  Hopefully the dominos start to fall soon so we can get a glimpse.





That would be a different post, listing how Oakland with a lower payroll than us consistently kicks our tails both in the $/win and the standings, AL West titles... whatever.  They don't rely on HOF production from drafting amazing talent, but instead stay flexible and trade anyone at a moment's notice to get an edge.
It's hard to stay that agile when being run by Committee, especially this one. And if we really are drafting as well as the rankings and minor league box scores say we are, we don't want to be trading away our talent, we want to be harnessing it.
Our ability to harness it is still very much in doubt. We'll see in the next year or two, I guess.


What the "it COULD happen" crowd has to reckon with, the one that cites the precedents of Cleveland, Tampa Bay, or Oakland, is whither we get the confidence that this particular team, this particular franchise at this particular time, has that in them. I supposed you could say, theoretically, yes. But are you going to bank on that? Me, I don't see it.
Re: Cano I had a comment eaten earlier today, but the gist of it was this: Not gonna happen, but if it WERE to happen, in addition to overpaying Cano to entice him here (probably in both years and salary), you would have to add a future payroll premium to overcome the albatross the contract would certainly become for some number of years on the back end. In other words, you would have to say, "I'm not committing to three or four years of glory and then three or four years of choking on the contract. I'm committing to overcoming the choke years by increasing my payroll as necessary to compensate for it. If the M's are willing to do that, then fine. What, you're not holding your breath?!

GLS's picture

The idea that the Mariners would handle payroll that way doesn't square with the reality of how they've behaved in the past or currently. That's fan logic, basically. I mean, supposedly Ichiro's money was looked at differently, but at the end of the day it's still dollars in and dollars out and if they did somehow decide that they need to "make a splash" to restore credibility or whatever, I guarantee you that they would look at each one of those dollars exactly the same as they do every other dollar.
I don't really think it would be a good idea to go after Cano just like I didn't think it was a good idea to go after Hamilton and then Fielder the year before. My biggest issue with these efforts is the motivation. In each case, it smacks of trying to sign a big free agent so that you can look like you're doing something vs. actually putting together a complete roster that is capable of winning.
The guy we really missed on, that's still hurting us, is Adam Jones. That was our franchise outfielder right there and the fact that we traded him for basically nothing is the gift that keeps on giving.

blissedj's picture

how signing Robinson Cano can be interpreted as anything but trying to put together a winning roster. Even if the reasoning of everyone in the entire organization was 100% to "make a splash" and not a single person cared a tiny bit about winning, signing him would still be a huge step towards a winning roster. Sure it's a pipe dream with low odds of happening, but lets' not make the mere thought of this occurring into something unpleasant.
Do you believe the M's would sign only Cano and let the rest of the team decay around him? As dumb as many fans and bloggers believe the M's are I don't think they would bring Cano in and stop there in hopes that they had made their splash and could rest on that signing for another decade. The M's spending habits may change in the next couple years with more money pouring in from TV. We've seen it happen before. Who in 1995 would have thought the M's would be a Top 10 payroll team less than a decade later?
If Jack Z and company are going to keep churning out great prospects year after year there's plenty of money for 3 or 4 big stars on the club. And Cano is a much safer bet on the surface than the bad body Fielder and Hamilton with his long list of personal issues.
So in order for the M's to please you it will take not only bringing in a roster of good players but also the proper motivation behind each move? Would you be able to enjoy a winning M's team put together through "flawed process"?

blissedj's picture

had to resort to FA for two of their best players in Crisp and Cespedes. Yoenis was a pretty good gamble, but that is the only way they could add an impact bat like his. Without those two players they may not win a division. They do a great job building up talent at lots of positions for bargain prices, for sure!


The initial Yankee offer was seven years, $160 million and it wasn't enough to even enough to get them talking.


He wanted to be the first 300 million dollar man, but I'm guessing he would take being the highest annual average. $30 mil a year would get it done, I'm thinking. The Yankees offer doesn't even make him a top-10 salaried player by annual earnings.  With an opt-out if we're still sucking in 3 years to let him have set that record and then go back to a contender to finish his career, I think he could be had.  
I agree, the Ms aren't gonna get him, but they could. You'd have $55 million or so tied up in two players (Felix and Cano) but we have the cash and the club-controlled players to afford it. Like I said, this isn't fantasy world though - it won't happen.
I do hope that the Ms don't try to sell me on competing for a championship with a completely home-grown roster though, certainly not for 2014.  We've got money, and we'll spend some of it.
How much and on whom are the only questions. Cano won't be the answer.

misterjonez's picture

Ok...crazy idea here: Robinson Cano on a 1year, $40million contract with a pair of identical player options. The first one is iron-clad, the second one is only available if he meets a minimum number of innings in the field at 2B, say 130 games average over seasons one and two.
I know, I know, it's insane...but the going rate for FA wins is probably going to be $6mil, and he's averaged 6+ wins (via Fangraphs, anyway) over the last four years. You pay a slight premium for the shorter commitment, but you also get a shot at having him for three years -- the best three years.
Now THAT would be an interesting statement contract. It gives him the chance to opt out and seek a better contract elsewhere, and gives the M's the chance to recoup the lost draft pick fairly quickly. I know, it's stupid, doesn't help a whole lot with future roster construction and it's probably not even technically legal, but it would be an extreme display of confidence from everyone involved -- and Cano gets to set the single-season earnings record!

GLS's picture

I think the Mariner organization, absent Pat Gillick, fundamentally doesn't understand roster construction, but they are worried about declining attendance and TV ratings, which is why they re-signed Felix rather than trading him, and why they tried to sign Fielder and Hamilton, though luckily they didn't try hard enough.
But it isn't going to happen anyway. No way would Cano come here.
On flawed process, why do you think they've been so bad for most of their existence as a franchise? Except for a handful of years from 95 to 2003, the Mariners have pretty much been horrible. And in those years that they were good, they basically got lucky with a handful of HOF-caliber players. So I fail to see where your scorn comes from. The Mariners need to get more analytical, not less.

blissedj's picture

And I agree the M's have not done a good job putting together a roster of good players the past decade. Gillick did a nice job but left the cupboard bare. 1995 M's were not strictly luck, they M's drafted and developed several great pieces. Made excellent trades for Randy and Buhner. The lucky part was that both Jr and ARod were there for them in those years.
As for scorn, I have no scorn. I'm not recommending being more or less analytical. If they acquire good players and try to win each year I really don't care what their methods are. What I do have is some confusion and wanted to ask you point blank if you could enjoy a winning M's team put together using flawed process, or from what you wrote earlier the "wrong" motivation. From reading your comments I'm unsure if you enjoy watching the M's regardless or if you are kinda waiting around watching with a critical eye until they become more analytical. Just wondering where you're coming from. Me, I'm just a fan that wants to watch a winning team full of exciting talent. Sorry if that sounded like scorn earlier, I'm not the best with words sometimes.

GLS's picture

...I would be just as excited as everyone else if they signed a big free agent like Robinson Cano. He's a fantastic player and players of that caliber make your team better, so yes, I would like that. The problem is: then what? Basically, I guess I just don't trust these guys. This is the same ownership that had Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, and Randy Johnson and never made it to the world series. This is the ownership that traded Tino Martinez after 95 and then traded Randy Johnson a couple of years later. This is the ownership that didn't have the balls to trade Alex Rodriguez when he was clearly on his way out of town. This is the ownership that basically wasted Ichiro's best years, but also wanted to re-sign him even though he was clearly in decline.
My problem with this team is that they don't seem to make good decisions on any sort of consistent basis. When I say that I want them to be more analytical, that's another way of saying that I want them to make better decisions year in and year out and put a better product on the field.
When you say "me, I'm just a fan that wants to watch a winning team full of exciting talent," honestly, that's a bit of a cop out. You're basically saying that you don't care how they get there as long as they get there. Okay, so why bother talking about it or having any sort of opinion on what that process looks like? But, you do have an opinion of sorts, which is that they should go "make a splash" and sign someone like Robinson Cano. And you're right, that would make the team better. But then what? What are they going to do with the other 24 roster spots? It seems to me that you're more concerned about splashy offseason moves than you are with actually improving the team.
You say you don't care what their methods are so long as they acquire good players and try to win each year. Okay, fine, but do you think that just happens magically in a vacuum? Where in sports or business or pretty much anything else that humans do is it an effective strategy to not care about the methods?
It's gets tiring watching this team make bad decisions year after year. Honestly, I feel less engaged with what the team is doing this offseason than I can remember in many years past. Rosenthal says that the Mariners are desperate, which isn't at all encouraging. The last time they were desperate they traded away a future franchise cornerstone.
The one thing they seem to be doing really well at is the draft. But the draft isn't a process that's going to make you better right away. It's a critical process, but the impact is felt in ripple effects over successive seasons since very rarely does a drafted player have an immediate impact at the major league level.

blissedj's picture

as long as they are improving and winning. How is that a cop out? That's ridiculous. It makes no difference to me if the M's draft 9 position player studs, sign 9 or trade for 9. As for the reason I talk about it? Well, I can agree or disagree with the players they acquire. I really enjoy considering the different options of who to sign or trade for. Who looks like a good target. But the method or intentions behind the acquisition, not of much interest.
Since your first reply to a post of mine a few days ago I'm not really enjoying getting talked down to or your angry, mean-spirited tone. You seem to latch on to one or two things I say and proceed to denigrate me over them. Have the last word if you wish.

GLS's picture

is that I get equally annoyed when people claim that those of us that want the team to have better process and make better decisions are more concerned with the team having the right process and motivations than we are about having winning baseball, when what I see is that those are the things that make it possible to have a winning team in the first place. Sure, it's possible to have a bad process/good result scenario, but most of the time that isn't what happens. Generally, good process leads to better results than bad process.
Anyway, sorry if this has gotten less than civil. That's probably more my fault, being annoyed at the Mariners and looking for a bone to pick.

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