"Extreme Rebuilds"
Tanking in the NBA? Sure. In the NFL? Just maybe. Baseball? Say what?


Travis Sawchik with an article on "extreme rebuilds."  Dr. D finds the entire premise to be weird in baseball; it certainly works in basketball and sometimes may work in football if tanking gets you the difference between an aircraft carrier quarterback.   Sawchik writes, typically for Fangraphs,


While Houston’s title seemed inevitable for most of Wednesday night, an eventual coronation has seemed probable for some time. A smart team that bottoms out to enjoy premium picks and talent, that finds value in trades and free-agent signings, that improves players through development and training practices — that’s going to be a very successful team. And a lot of people expected the Astros, even during their Disastros Phase, to be quite successful. Houston’s plan wasn’t all that different from the one embraced by the Cubs en route to a curse-ending championship in 2016. Even the Yankees have benefited from a similar model. Each club has provided the industry with a roadmap to building a super team.

While the Astros’ roadmap isn’t unique, it is more extreme. The Astros bottomed out at a $26 million payroll and 111 losses in 2013, a campaign that tied for the ninth-most single-season losses in the game’s history and the most since the 2003 Tigers lost 119. The Astros stunk, in part, because of circumstances within their roster then depleted farm system. They were also awful by design, though. 

In reality, the Astros followed an NBA-style tanking model. It made sense. It’s better to be really bad for a while, and position yourself to be really good, than to be mediocre for a long stretch of time. More and more clubs appear to be adopting this mindset: reduce payroll, exchange veteran talent for prospects, and get in better position to acquire elite talent in the draft and internationally. The Astros took a rational, logical approach and maximized the return.


But how can the baseball amateur draft work like that?  I mean, if you happen to lose 115 games the very year Alex Rodriguez comes out, fine.  But short of that ... taking the #8 draft pick in each round is fine.  But!  Take away the first round pick and assume your org's first pick is #8 in the second; now you're behind everybody in draft slot.  So what's the advantage of losing 95 games -- a single top-10 ammy pick?  

How much WAR do you expect from a #8 pick rather than a #19 pick?

And the funny thing is, the Mariners have HAD those picks, haven't they?  Zunino and Ackley and Hultzen and Clement and how many young Mariners SHOULD HAVE BEEN George Springer?


You can deal 4th-, 5th-year stars for handfuls of prospects, and if you do this four times, you can restock your farm.  :: shrug ::  Like how would THIS Mariners team do that, exactly?

Once you get down to real specifics, what did the Astros gain from (1) tanking itself as opposed to (2) drawing some nice cards when their turn came round the table.  I'm sure you guys could answer that better than I could.


A lot of times I wonder if sabermetricians simply take satisfaction in seeing a chessplayer like Jerry Dipoto utilize the Resignation Rule, to run up the white flag -- which, I believe, they would quickly find less appealing if they were to sit in the GM's chair themselves.

"Tanking" in baseball makes little sense to Dr. D.  With the exception of a Billy Beane-style missile launch of 5 major vet-for-spect trades in one winter.  But I could be wrong.  I often am.





"Zunino and Ackley and Hultzen and Clement...?"

And don't forget to add in the valuable trade commodities that should have netted some premium young talent. Cliff Lee. Michael Pineda. Even Doug Fister. To me the single biggest failure of the Zduriencik organization was how they completely fumbled the chance to BE what the Houston Astros are now. They lost big time. In addition to high draft picks, they had premium trade bait. Didn't matter. They didn't have the organizational skills to take advantage of them. The Astros did. 


It didn't quite make sense to me when Dipoto came in (though the possibility seemed doable then) and wouldn't make sense to me now after adding all the youth and seeing Zunino bring in value from one of those picks.  Notice how Ackley II is progressing after being moved back to his assumed position that Jack moved him off of on draft day?  Jackson...

I can see doing it if you're Miami right now or some such but Seattle hasn't made great sense to tear down in a few years.  Well,  never having had the developmental chops to pull it off properly has kept it from making great sense at any point.  Ugh.  I like what I'm seeing so far developmentally under JeDi, but we'll see.  Still, can't see doing it with this roster after a couple years of retooling youth in already.

I could sit through it all as long as I saw the process working.  I always saw it with Houston even watching them snap up a couple players in the draft that seemed preferable but were passed over by our genius'.

What if Dipoto had traded Felix and Cruz that first winter among others and tore it down?  I'll just assume Cano would have stayed.  


To make this off-season make up the deficiencies we've seen, without necessarily crippling the team, I see a clear #1 path:

Step #1: Preemptively go after Yu Darvish. MLBTR says 6/$160M - offer it up front, no quibbles, with Uwajimaya coupons and tickets to Japan (Delta - product placement opportunity with Russell Wilson pushing Alaska Air) and whatever else he wants. Convince him the Darvish-Paxton-Felix threesome will be historic.

Step #2: Make Miami a decent offer for Stanton (Neidert - Bishop - Torres +++; Heredia - Miranda - Moore?) and convince Stanton that the lineup for Seattle with him as #2 will be historic and winning with the reinforced pitching; no rebuilding required.

Step #3:  Find somebody (suggest sending Darvish, Felix, Stanton, Cano, Cruz, Junior, and Edgar) to deliver Kate Preusser's "Open letter to Shohei Ohtani" (see Lookout Landing) personally to him. Convince him that, with him, the Mariners can be a dynasty rivaling the Yankees over these next 6-10 years. Sign him for whatever MLB allows. Promise him that he can pitch and play occasional LF with Haniger and Stanton out there with him in the first year. Promise him that, once he gets settled as a pitcher, and as Cruz ages, he'll get plenty of time at DH. Convince him the Darvish-Paxton-Felix-Leake-Ohtani rotation will be talked about by our grandchildren, as will the Segura-Stanton-Cano-Cruz/Ohtani-Seager-Haniger-Alonso-Zunino-Gamel/Ohtani (however it works) lineup.

Step #4:  After that, Alonso will be fine at 1B until Evan White is ready. Jerry can find a BU Catcher.

Step #5:  Sign Iwakuma to a split MiLB - major league "quality control" coach position (i.e., can't be in the dugout during games) contract that keeps him available as the #6-7 starter, but has him helping Darvish and Ohtani.

Step #6:  Sign Ichiro to a contract, make him the #5 OF and let him get a ring as a Mariner.

Step #7:  Explain to Gamel, Heredia, Miranda, Gonzales, Moore, et al, that they will get their chances; this will be a dynasty.


1.  Get Darvish

2.  Get Stanton

But you can’t afford both.

3.  Sign Ichiro.  Not necessarily for his skills but mostly for his work ethic.  

4.  New baseball truth:  The old BBT was to copy the Royals and Cubs, lading up on hot BP arms, coming out your wazzu.  The Astro paradigm is to get your young bats up pronto and to not muck with them, just let them mature. 


Could the Ms afford Darvish AND Stanton?

The Ms finished 2017 at $165M. Using MLBTR figures for arbitration, the current roster figures to $153M. So they'd have to go to somewhere over $190M to do it. Will they? I don't know, but it is the clearest and cleanest way to add the 12-15 WAR needed. Ohtani should add a bunch at a discount initially, but the general belief is that he wants to sign with a contender; so the Ms have to look like one to get that "bonus" WAR.  I believe Stanton, Mather, and Dipoto know the numbers, and that Stanton and Larson are more committed toward building a winner. It needs pitching and some more hitting wouldn't hurt. And it needs about 6 WAR from each. In this case, you will get what you pay for, and will not get it if you don't. And, Seattle wants a winner and will amply award one with seats and gear sales. $40M worth? Probably not; but getting attendance up over 3M again sustained would pay alot of it.

We'll see what happens. But I can dream of a team my kids can tell their grandkids about.


In that Miami might eat a small chunk of at least year 1.  Possibly not.  Depends on the haul required to get them to.

$40 million is the number I've heard coming off the books, that doesn't match to what you're saying so maybe it's not 40...  But there are teams out there willing to take on other contracts for a price that could help make it work. 

If Stanton took to learning a chunk of the collective knowledge of players and coaches here right now...The other guy I'd like to see make advances in hitting after coming to Seattle is Billy Hamilton.  Suggested recently at SoDo Mojo, but I've been after him since high A.  Worst case he's the 4th/5th OF we thought Dyson would be.  Well, I guess worst case is he's playing that level - some bat but everyday in CF.  My hope would be that his bat could be found here.  If not he should be a stud late game replacement I'd love to have on my bench.

I know there's only so many OF spots but I'd assume Miami would be taking Heredia or Gamel because Haniger will not be going anywhere.  Haniger, He'mel (remainder), Stanton and Hamilton?

Hanjag's picture

The departing FAs(  Valencia, Dyson, Ruiz) 13 million combined

Gallardo declined 13 Mill

Kuma performace incentives could have taken 10 M to 15M declined.

Smyly made 7 M this year and would have got a big raise if healthy to the 10-11 M range.

so 52 M off between the 6 mentioned. 

Seager gets a 8.5 M raise

Zunino and Paxton will get several more million each but other than that there was the Leake trtade.

Leake will make 11 M.

Segura gets 3.4 more to 9.6M

Erasmo will go up 1 M+/-


52 M give or take off 

30M for Leake and raises

22M less

Fuzzy dummy math. I am not sure where the pay figures come from we added Erasmo, Alonzo, Leake as higher salary types is their pay pro-rated for season remaining? Time will tell 

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