Winter 2011-12 -- Hey, What Could Go Wrong?


Q.  Have Prince Fielder deals worked out for the buying team before?

A.  Here's a good read at Fangraphs.  Eno Sarris riffles through young, super-productive FA's to get a measure of their impact on teams ... that they left, that is.

It's not necessarily a comprehensive "capture" of the history of things, but Sarris looks at the free agency departures of:

  • Adrian Gonzalez
  • Miguel Cabrera
  • Mark Teixeira
  • Jason Giambi
  • Mo Vaughn
  • Rafael Palmeiro
  • Fred McGriff

The names speak for themselves.  It reminds me of the early-90's Braves bringing up a lot of talent but grabbing The Straw That Stirs the Drink in free agency, that being Maddux.

There are times when you go out and buy a Miguel Cabrera  ... and just bask.  For the rest of the decade.


Q.  Leaving the Mariners where?

A.   If you can find three different hitters to add +25 runs apiece -- say 3B, LF, and C that would be great.  

Do remember that if you pay an MLB(TM) vet to provide you +30 runs at third base, you have to deduct whatever Kyle Seager would have done.  

If you pay a vet to give you +30 runs in LF, you might as well send them Casper Wells in the deal, because in order for the vet to lift you by 30 runs, Wells will have to be on the bench.  That's the one big problem with 25 Honda Civics.  You are essentially shedding the Scrubs who were competing at the Civics' position.


SSI would plump for the "Star That Stirs The Drink" strategy, seeing as the pitcher is full of bubbly ingredients like Seager, Carp, Wells and co.  In player-pairs:

  • You like Fielder DH and Seager 3B (with Carp at LF)? 
  • Or do you like Pagan LF and McGehee 3B (with Carp at DH)?

At SSI, we're firmly in the camp of Stars & Scrubs, just because of the mulligans we get in the lower half of the roster.


SSI respects opposing points of view.  Honda Civics is a reasonable paradigm.

But this specific player, this stadium, this team, it's a no-brainer.  If Prince Fielder would come here -- he might, with Jack and big $$ -- and if Howard and Chuck would pay him -- they might not with "not getting carried away" the local mantra ...

... you'd have your scoreboard changer, you'd ignite the excitement for the kiddies to buy into ... and still have the other positions wide open for Zduriencik's talented youngsters to play.

You're not going to be able to buy four trinkets that add up to 200 runs, and if you tried, you'd just be subtracting the talented Scrubs that they replaced.

The problem is that the Prince Fielders of the game sign with other clubs, not with Seattle.  The problem isn't that Prince Fielder wouldn't make you better; the problem is that he's likely a pipe dream.

The song remains the same.  Get you a 100-RBI bat if there is one, via trade or the market.  ... and as to the improvements with the young 'uns?

In Jack We (will have to) Trust,

Dr D



I'm not against Fielder, but I think it's verrrrrrry remote, and the differences between the Fielder and non-Fielder paths are so enormous, that I doubt that the Z-crew is spending a lot of time on that scenario.
My query: the one thing we haven't seen yet is Ackley, Carp and Smoak all being productive major league hitters at the same time.  I think it will come, soon, and last awhile (let's hope!).
So can a three-headed monster of young bats in the middle of the order be "the straw that stirs"?  and make the rest of the lineup better?
And for 2013, Catricala and/or Chiang:

Rick's picture

The Cubs for sure.  Anyone else?  Seems to me most teams have their big slow slugging first base/DH.  Of course, the Cubs are not adverse to spending money.  Perhaps Prince would welcome a change of scenery, and he might welcome a dh role every third game or so.  It seems like a good way to extend a career and stay fresh over a season.  But he won't come here to be our DH, so there's going to need to be a job share at 1st with Smoak.  But I like the idea of having to compete with basically one club.  I don't like the idea of that one club being the Cubs, however.  I'd rather it be Tampa Bay.


As to the Teen Trio being "the straw that stirs," it's happened a buncha times before...
The 1975 Red Sox, having Fred Lynn and Jim Rice explode on the scene, being an extreme example...
I have an inkling for your 3-headed hydra scenario bro'...


PRO - very true that the huge $$ teams would appear to have 1B's ... in particular, the Sox have not only AGone at 1B and Ortiz at DH, but also  they have yet another superstar 1B playing over at 3B...
You can bet your bottom dollar that the Sox, for example, will not bid a dime on Fielder...
CON - there's always somebuddy ;- )


The Cubs will be interested. Ditto the Nationals. The Rangers will have the $$, especially if they let Wilson walk. That TV contract is massive, two consecutive WS...
That's my nightmare scenerio - that the Rangers land him in order to take a run at 3-5 more pennants.


But then, maybe we can finally cobble that Smoak + Pineda for Votto (Fielder) that people have been selling... 
We dodged one bullet with Cliff Lee.  Let's hope the stRangers aren't smokin' mad enough to throw that money at Prince.
Ouch.  Ruined my day there Grizzle.


What I find interesting from the list noted is that from what I can tell, in 100% of those cases, the FA acquisition was going to a team that was ALREADY good.  I've skimmed the entire list of WS winners in the FA era, and the only case I have found (which is not to same I might not have missed one) where a superstar arrived and turned a losing team into a playoff team was Barry Bonds.  San Fran was sub-.500 when Bonds was acquired. 
The "straw that stirs the drink" is a valid paradigm.  I'm all for it.  FIRST, give me the drink.  I'm sorry -113 runs isn't a drink to be stirred, unless you're hyped up to stir water.

benihana's picture

To assume that the current state of the M's roster is -113 runs is to ignore that fact that the entire 2011 season was spent upgrading and transitioning the line-up.
WAR, pythag, VORP, are much like ERA, good at telling you what happened, not so useful at telling you what is going to happen in the future. 
Don't forget - that much of the M's abyssmal offensive performance is based on guys who are no longer on the team or in the teams future plans.  The 2011 opening day starting line-up?
RF Ichiro3B Figgins - goingLF Milton Bradley - goneDH Jack Cust - gone1B Justin SmoakC Miguel OlivoCF Ryan Langerhans - goneSS Brendan Ryan2B Jack Wilson - gone
5/9ths of that line-up is gone or going, replaced by the likes of Ackley, Carp, Seager, Robinson and Wells already!
Yeah one addition isn't gonna give us +100 runs, but don't ignore the five additions this team has already made.  And that's not even mentioning the bench and bullpen upgrades.  Jeff Grey, Aaron Laffey, Chris Ray, Jamey Wright... that's +30-40 runs right there....
This August and September were 2012.0.  An early, early preseason audition session.  What does that team project to be valued at next season? Let's start there, rather than starting with an already outdated number.
- Ben.

benihana's picture

Wilson, Bradley, Cust, Langerhans, Figgins and Saunders contributed a combine -2.9 WAR last season.  Nearly 3 WINS below replacement in 315 combined games played.
Replace them with Ackley, Wells, Carp, Gutierrez, and Seager and what do you get?
Well the CF combo of Langerhans and Saunders combined for 77 games played and -1.2 WAR, Guit managed to produce 1.1 in 90.  Figure that to be a +2 WAR over the season. 
Bradley? -0.6 in 28 games - Wells 0.6 in 31.  Already a +1.2.
Cust -0.1 in 67.  Carp 0.5 in 79.  Straight swap gets you .5, full season +1 minimum.
Figgins -1.2 in 81 games.  Seager .5 in 53.  +2 wins.
Wilson 0.2 in 62 games.  Ackley 2.7 in 90.  Straight swap, 1.66 wins. Full season I'd bet +2 wins.
Total changes already made to the line-up? We're talking 8-9 wins looking forward - what's that? 80 to 90 runs already added?
- Ben.


For a team in this kind of transition, *unquestionably* the April-Sept. aggregate stats are going to be misleading.
Love the calculation.  80-90 runs feels about right, intuitively.
You know you can post on the front page Ben :- )

M-Pops's picture

Question for Taro or Icebreaker,
What is your opinion of Iwakuma? How does he compare to Kuroda, who has a similar repetoir?
He had shoulder troubles again last season, so maybe he would sign a 1 year deal to prove his health/effectiveness. Do you think Iwakuma would be much more effective next season than Blake Beaven?
A transitioning NPB pitcher could not find a better spot to land than in Safeco, I would think - maybe Petco.
If Z can't get Bedard to come back, this could be an interesting add.


I still believe Fielder is our best use of funds, because it allows the other kids to get their acts together around a very serious lynchpin.  We have plenty of young TALENT, that isn't really the problem.  Jack has done a really good job, IMO, of talent wrangling.
But now we have to sift through which talents we want to bet on, which we want redundancies for, and which should be moved while they have value.  IMO, the Trayvon Robinson add was really smart, not only because he has talent but also because his first option year was 2010 apparently, which means we can put him in Tacoma while we take Wells around the block and figure out our Guti issue.
But we're gonna have to make lots of those calls.  What do we do with Guti?  Where does Carp play?  How about Seager?  Brendan Ryan was very useful, but also had some serious injury issues and is mercurial enough to cause Wedge headaches.
Personally, I think we have these positions penciled in when ST starts: 
1B - Smoak
2B - Ackley
SS - Ryan
RF - Ichiro
CF - Guti
C - Olivo
That leaves 3 spots, for which we already have several candidates:
- LF could be Wells, or Carp, but Wells could move to CF if Guti sucks again and Carp can DH.  We could add a FA here if we choose.
- 3B has Figgins but he's basically lost his job at this point.  I'd say it's Seager's, but I think they may need him as a sub especially at SS if Ryan's bulging disk problem remains a problem.
- DH could be a FA addition simply because a DH bat would/should be cheaper than a fielding position for a middle-of-the-road bat.  
1) I expect to add a Twin, funnily enough.  If we want Cuddyer I think we're gonna have competition, but he's a good veteran voice and a leader, and he's a RH bat that DESTROYS lefties, which we could use since we're very lefty-vulnerable at the moment.  He could also play some 3rd if we needed, in a pinch, but would be our LF.  He'd be a Raul Ibanez style add.  
Kubel is another option if we want Carp or Wells in LF instead.  He shouldn't be very expensive either, which should appeal to the suits.  I've been saying we'll get Kubel for a while now, but I could easily see it being Cuddyer instead.
IMO, that's the major bat addition.  Carp DHs if we get Cuddyer and plays LF if we get Kubel.  Wells in both cases is the 4th OF (aka CF in waiting for a bad start by Guti), and if Ichiro is gone next year there's a very viable RF position for him if he's doing well.
Seager plays 3rd, and if Ryan gets injured again then he can slide over to SS while Liddi comes up and Figgins might get time.  
It's a fairly safe plan that lets most of the kids who survived their first pro experience to get more of it, while those that showed obvious growth needs get to work on those.
Liddi has options, and will join Robinson in the minors where they'll play every day and wait for injury or opportunity to strike the on big club.  They'll be joined as prospects pushing for promotion by F-Mart, Franklin and Catricala.  That gives us two 3B, two OF (one a possible CF too) and a SS all trying to knock loudly on the door still - plenty of blue-chip replacement pieces in the upper minors, with some other intriguing ones like Chiang as well.   
What we don't have is a catcher, so I still expect to trade for one.  As long as we don't add Jeff Mathis, I should be all right with it. :) I still think we talk to the Reds and trade them at least one arm for a catcher to back up and eventually take over for Olivo. 
2) Which means we will likely spend the rest of our payroll (15-20 million available) on an arm or two.  I expect to bring back Bedard, which is fine since Vargas is a stop gap for next year anyway (assuming he's retained, which I do).  It's a LOT to expect Hultzen or Paxton to be ready out of Spring Training.  Doesn't mean they won't be, but if they are then just kick Beavan back to the minors.  
Felix, Pineda, Bedard, and Vargas feels like a repeat, but I do expect it.  I wish it was Fister and not Vargas, but ya can't have everything, I guess. I would be surprised if we didn't add a vet pitcher while settling for a middling improvement with a 2nd-tier bat...but I was surprised they went with Pineda right out of ST this year too.
Putting Furbush back in the pen helps our lefty situation there, but I could see us adding a lefty reliever as well.
Bullpen of League, Wilhelmsen, Furbush, Kelley, Lueke and the new guy?  I can see that too.
I guess I don't expect this offseason to be a crazy-busy time for us.  The YEAR was, but the offseason I don't believe will be.  I'm sure Trader Jack will have ample opportunity to prove me wrong, but a Kubel/Bedard/lefty offseason sounds about right to me.
Is it enough?  If the kids can play, it will be.  Ackley, Smoak and Carp are gonna have to be major, productive cogs though, and Seager, Wells and crew can't bomb out.  The young arms will have to produce, both in the pen and the rotation.  Hultzen needs to hit the ground running in the minors, and Paxton needs to refine his control of his devastating stuff.  I think they can. 
If the minor league hitting talents can come through too (Nick Franklin and Vinnie Catricala, I'm talking to you), we'll be set in a couple years without a major FA add this offseason.
But I think next year is gonna be playing for .500.  Grand schemes are great, but I don't expect large steps and expenditures this year.  I think Fielder + Paxton would reap more rewards than Cuddyer + Bedard, but the latter to me looks like the more likely plan the Ms will follow.
Just get me that young, stud catcher at a reasonable price, Jack, and I can wait a little longer for your labors to finish bearing fruit.


To riff on the USSM recommendations...
I'm warming to Sizemore. I don't think he's a regular OF anymore but as a primary DH that can play 50 games in the OF, he's attractive. The injury concern should keep his years and $$ down to a manageable level.
I'm somewhat opposed to Moyer, simply because Wedge would have such a rough time getting him out of the lineup if he tanked.


I certainly agree that -113 is only one of many potential beginning points for assessing where the club stands today.
But, one needs to recall that the club was .500 and essentially run scoring neutral when Bradley (et al) were still playing full time.  The club lost its games (and run differential) AFTER most of the swaps were already made.  One *could* look at what the club did after July 5th (when they were 43-43 and minus 3 runs) and not the club was -110 runs over the last 76 games, which is AFTER Ackley had arrived and Bradley was long gone.
There's a mathetmatical approach that could (reasonably) suggest the current roster is actually closer to -200 runs, (if one were attempting to paint a worst case scenario).
One thing to remember about run differentials, however, is they include the pitching.  If you are going to wash away the Bradley and Cust contributions for 2012, fine.  Just be sure to wash away the Bedard, Fister and Pauley constributions, too.  There's about six and half WAR not on the current roster.
We can certainly discuss what the most reasonable assessment of where the current roster stands is.  There's lots of room for variance.
But, my original point stands.  In EVERY case cited in the above article of the uber-star coming in to make a difference, he was coming into a winning team -- not a team that appeared capable of winning on paper - a team that was already above .500 before he walked in the clubhouse.
Now, if Fielder were a 10 WAR guy, (like Bonds), I'd be excited.  He isn't.  For me?  I want 85 wins ( with a run differential that says it is a legit 85 wins), and then I'll GLADLY grab a drumstick and go to pounding to add whatever is needed to push the club over the top.

benihana's picture

That's just the thing, there is a tremendous amount of room for variance.  Trying to figure out where this team currently stands is certainly not as simple as cherry picking some poor performances and replacing them with guys who look like better bets moving forward.  
The expected response to my post was certain to include the fact that the upgrades the M's made had a certain expense to them - ie. Doug Fister and Erik Bedard.  However, once again, we have to calculate the delta between Doug Fister and his replacement for 2012 (Blake Beavan? Paxton? Hulzen?) and the delta between Erik Bedard and his replacement (Erik Bedard? ;-) ).
I certaintly don't believe a fair estimation of the state of the 2012 M's begins the day before their notorious 17 game loosing streak. Which coincided not too surprisingly with Erik Bedard and Justin Smoak's injuries. Nor do I believe the September swoon was particularly representative either, unless you believe Tony Vasquez (responsible for 6 losses August 30th on) is a potential roster candidate for opening day 2012.
My gut tells me that August 2011 is the closest thing we have to April 2012.  A bit below .500, -16 runs on the month (-80 prorated out for the year?). 
That's certainly more than simply Prince Fielder alone, but again, I've always argued that we need to make a major move in addition to Fielder.  2 big MOTO pieces - and then we'll be talking.
- Ben.

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