BOOM! from the left side
Bat571 was on to something

A few threads back, Bat571 opined that the M's should be in the middle of the Bryce Harper scrum.  You know, Bat is a wise man and he's right.  We should be in.

With all the Padres talk, and that of the White Sox, Cubs, Phillies and just about anybody else, it now appears clear that several "mystery" teams have done more than inquire about Harper.  It has also been reported that the Nationals actually offered Harper a 10-year deal for more than the $300M that has been reported.

But here we are, closing in on Spring Training, and Harper has no deal and those "mystery" teams are sniffing around.  Both would indicate that ten years, the contract length he and Boras want, is not going to happen.  And if there were a $300M contract on the table right now, I think Harper would grab it in a hurry.  It appears that  he and his agent may have overestimated just how much (and for how long) he could bring home.  I've listened to MLB Radio a bunch over the last week or so, and it seems that nobody there thinks he gets either 10 years or $300M. 

So if the number of years has fallen to 8 or 7 or 5, then the magic formula is going to be AAV.  Harper will want something of a Grande AAV and he will want something flexible, a contract with an escape clause a few years down the line.

There is no reason that the M's can not meet those two demands.

To wit:  After the '19 seasons concludes, our hometown good guys will have right at $49.5M available due to the expiring contracts of Felix and Encarnacion.  Well, OK, we may have $6M in buyout costs for those two guys.  Still, we have a ton of cash available.  And then there is the  nearly $28M that is cleared after the following season, when Gordon and Bruce come off the books.  Oh, add the $15M from Mike Leake's contract that clears after '20, as well.  Seager's contract we're stuck with.  All the other lucrative contracts that we have are entirely easy to dispose of.  But beyond that, really the only two young guys that we have who will get rich in the next three seasons are Mitch Haniger and Mallex Smith, and the both of them are easily swapped out, in a hurry (more below).

So there will soon be money available to spend, lots of it, even by the Mariner's usual thrifty fashion.

So a shortish contract, with an easy opt-out and a Himalayan-high AAV is entirely possible for the Mariners to manage and just might be enough to get the interest of Scott "Beelzebub" Borus.

And here's the reason why we should consider it:  Bryce Harper is a HOF type LHB vs. RHP.  The guy creams righties.

Minus his one injury shortened season, Harper has never OPS'ed less that .833 vs. RHP (and that with a .391 OBP), has twice been over 1.000, and has a career number of .944! 

To give you a contextual sense of a career .944, Willie McCovey's career vR OPS was .926.  He's in the HOF.  Ken Griffey, Jrs.' was .936. He's in the Hall.  Big Papi's was .981, He's going to the Hall.  Larry Walker's was .993 and he played in Colorado!  OK, he's not in the HoF, but he played in Colorado!  Figure him for 100 OPS pts less if he played elsewhere.   Harper is better!  And Mel Ott's career OPS vR was .950.  Harper is sort of an Ott.  Or maybe he's sort of a Junior?  Take your pick, I don't care.  Junior slugged .554 vs. RHP.  Lest you think that Harper's numbers are built upon BB's, he has slugged .543.   That's Mel pictured above, by the way.  Tom Emanski, hitting video guru, would be appalled at Ott's stroke.  Well, stuff it Tom; Mel knows best.

All of those LHB's named above were productive long after the age of 26, which is where Harper is right now.  Harper isn't going to fall apart guys.  He might be sort of a dink, or a World Class one (which I'm not quite buying) but the guy can beat up RHP. He had a terrible dWAR last season but that was mostly due to the fact that he had 59 starts in CF.  From '15-'17, when he was almost exclusively a RF, he was a (combined) -0.5 fielder.  Over three seasons, that's about a 1.5 drop from Haniger.  Peanuts. 

Oh, by the way, Jose Altuve has a career OPS vs. lefties of .887.  Mike Trout hits lefties to the tune of .940.  Harper is better vs. RHP than Altuve is vs. lefties!!  He's Trout's equal, in that regard.  OK, Trout does hit 1.006 vs. RHP.  That's why he's on the very very short list of the greatest RHBs of all time. 

Add it up how you want, but Bryce Harper is a generational RHP-ripping talent. Manny Machado, seeking a huge payday himself, hits left-handed throwers at an .816 rate. OK, he plays SS, I get it.  Gimme Harper instead: Every day and twice on Opening Day.

Some team is going to AAV Harper to the tune of a $35M-ish payday.  They are going to have him locked for for 4 or 5 years with a Player Option for the next season. That's my bet.  Maybe 6 and 7.  Something like that. Why not make it the Seattle Mariners? 

Bite the bullet and pay him $25M this season.  Give him $45M next season.  Give him $30M and $35M the next two seasons with a Player Option for  the following. He collects nearly $165M over 5 year and then goes out for another contract.  If you only have him for 4 seasons, big deal, we're supposed to be competitive in '21, anyway.  We've now got young guys in the pipeline, OF bats poised to be MLB-ready by the time he and Haniger make their escape.  If Smith makes too much in three seasons, big deal......we have plenty of young CF's down on the farm.

Heck, if you need arms, trade Haniger for them: Like it or not, he's not Harper.....and he's mostly likely going to be gone about the same time, anyway.

The Felix and EE money allow you to do it.  Leake, Gordon and Bruce go away soon enough and then you spend that cash elsewhere.

Harper CAN be a Mariner.  Let's see Jerry pull a Jedi mind trick and make it so (mixing SciFi metaphors, I know).

I'm with Bat571.  We're not real GM's, but we do play them on SSI.

Comments

1

I mean you mention Trout who's an obvious target in 2 years.  Betts and Trout could both come free that same offseason.  Betts is .936 VsL/ .874 VsR.  He had a .917 VsR in 2016 and 1.037 last year.  He's 26 now but won't be a FA until he's 28.  With numbers similar to Harper except without the fragile seeming batting average. 

With Betts I would have more concern about his slippage related to home parks, same with Arenado.  In either case it's still worth it, you've got to have RHB as well.  Harper could fit the park best out of all options of any of now plus the next 2 offseasons.  Nonpitching options.

Sale, Cole and Bumgarner are all expected FA next year.  The year after we could be talking about DeGrom, Hendricks, Robbie Ray, Julio Teheran or Taijuan Walker or Graveman, Stroman, Gausman, Bauer or Chatwood for that matter.

Is Harper the one you have to have?  The minors are stocked in outfielders and not really anything else.   I suppose you could trade extra as options prevent themselves for other needs to be filled.  If you've got to trade Haniger, JRod or JKel before the 2022 season so be it. 

Harper now and Trout in 2 sounds even better.  Except they play positions that could block our 2 highest ceiling prospects.  Which is also to say we have hopes to approach their production for practically nothing for a few years. 

I'm not convinced either way on getting Harper or waiting until needs are better known.  He's the only LHB coming up on free agency that I'd really want.  I don't think Dipoto is likely to be betting on an inability to produce on outfielder out of all this talent in the next couple years.  It seems like an infielder like Machado where the depth is thinner makes more sense.  I'm happy with either signing or with the team keeping that flexibility for now.  They could probably swing signing both and only be into luxury tax 1 year, not that I think they should.

Edit: I think Harper will still be good at 35 (10 years) and personally wouldn't balk at 10 if the AAV was reasonable.  Not as certain about Machado although Mochado seems to me to have a likelier defensive value.

which I think is being underrated at SS.  Last year he got his first negative defensive ratings in a small amount of innings at his first time playing mostly SS since he was 18 in A-ball.  So I dug deeper.

Among 22 qualifiers at SS last year, Inside Edge has Machado at:
11th in 90-100% at 97.4%
9th in 60-90% at 78.6%
6th in 40-60% at 63.6%
4th in 10-40% at 31.6%
8th in 0-10% at 5.6%, only 11 players even made 1 of these last year at SS.

So, I think he's a solid and good SS defensively, given more reps back there to reaclimate.  If he isn't already.  Or maybe he'd be okay being Zobrist+?

2

So, as the 40-Man sits now, a fair bet for our Opening Day positional 13 guys might be:

C:  Narvaez and Frietas (because no other catchers are on the 40-Man)

1B: Vogelbach  (We almost have to give him a shot, else we will lose him, as he is out of options. I still think Servais hates the guy.  He may have to temper that, or push the brass to trade him for next to nothing, which would be incredibly stupid)

2B: Dee Gordon.  Sigh.

3B: Seager.  Death by shift.

SS: Tim Beckham (Just because we're going to save a Crawford year but blow smoke about using AAA to smooth out his error total)

LF: Domingo Santana (He's had 8 career LF starts.  He's not particularly a good glove in RF)

CF: Mallex Smith

RF:  Mitch

DH: Jay Bruce, but Encarnacion, if here. I think we trade him before Opening Day.  We will eat a bunch of salary, of course.  But he's easier to trade than  Bruce, I think. If you buy down almost all of Bruce's salary for two years, then you can trade him.  I've been advocating that for a long time. If you keep both Bruce and Encarnacion, then there is no way you keep Vogelbach, unless Bruce is your 4th OF, which is defensively disturbing and developmentally ridiculous. So I suppose I should say our DH is Jay Bruce.  To keep Encarnacion until mid-summer, thus dumping Vogelbach, would be sort of insane in terms of building for the future and giving a guy a shot.  I might scream, as well.  Basically we need to give one of those guys away. 

So that would be 10 guys.  Healy we shuttle off to Tacoma and ask him to not K so freaking much.  In Tacoma he will go head to head with Joey Curletta.  That will be fun to watch.

So those 10 would leave us in need of a 4th OF, a SS/2B and another guy.

4th OF:  As currently rostered it should be Braden Bishop.  I would love to see this.  L-O-V-E.  He plays CF with glovey elan, is probably a GG guy in LF and is due the shot.  That's the way to invest in the future.  Somehow I think we blow this one, along with  mucking up Vogelbach, too.  The way to not blow it might be to sign a cheap MLB guy who plays all the OF positions.  But if we're looking toward '21, then Bishop should be the guy.

2B/SS/3B:  Dylan Moore.  We gave him a MLB contract for some reason.  This is it.

#13:  Maybe we keep both Bruce and Encarnacion.  Bleh to that.   The Opening Day best call is to keep Negron up until Crawford gets 25 games in Tacoma, at which point he's our SS and Beckham inherits the Utility role.

So, 1. Smith (LHB) 2. Haniger (RHB) 3. Bruce (LHB) 4. Santana (RHB) 5. Seager (LHB) 6. Vogelbach (LHB) 7. Narvaez (LHB--a likely platoon with Freitas) 8. Beckham (RHB) 9. Gordon (LHB)

That's pretty lefty dominated: Dump Bruce and it gets better.  

Worthy of consideration:  Right now, the Padres Wil Myers is owed $73M over 4 years.  Kyle Seager (for the Padres) would be owed $71M over 4 years.  The Padres 3B looks to be Greg Garcia, unless they play Myers there. Or unless I am missing something.  I have no problem swapping Seager for Myers, playing Myers at 3B and even paying the Padres a big chunk (or all) of $15M in '22 to cover the Seager cash, as a trade makes his '22 season a player option.    The Padres habe young OF'ers in spades; Myers is very expendable for them.   Seager will bounce back some, but the shift has erased the Seager of '14 and '16.

3

With Crawford and Healy in Tacoma and both probably coming up around the deadline together, as space is created.  Beckham trade seems likely at that point after building some value.  That means that White is spending the same time in AA though or Healy is bench/Util in Tacoma.

Dylan Moore has 791 innings at 1b, 17.1 innings in CF and 81 in LF giving him some experience at every position outside the battery.  I recall Dipoto talking him up on a Wheelhouse or Hot stove show but can't find it without listening to them again.  Basically said that he was the utility player of the future.  If it works out at that cost it will be another great move.  LookoutLanding's John Trupin also had him as UTIL of 2021 shortly after he was acquired;

https://www.lookoutlanding.com/2018/11/26/18111678/if-2021-is-the-marine...

I think Encarnacion is going to TB or Houston once they find their offers to the big bats weren't accepted.  The Lefty Bruce it sounds like is much likelier to make it to the deadline at least.  Expect him to rival Seager for shift quantity if he's playing.  With Seager, what is it about 2014-2016 facing the shift 200-300+times with BA of .367, .303 and .300 that just isn't working anymore?  Mostly I see line drives becoming flyballs.

At this point I see Myers as a bat first utility player.  Seager is only here through 21 if they buy out his option.  Your proposal adds up to basically adding $22.5 million Myers contract plus $15million to SD minus the $3million Seager buyout plus the $1 million buyout for Myers is about $34. 5 million added for 2022.  For what seems like a downgrade on both sides of the ball aside from getting 3 years younger and significantly faster?  I would not play him at 3b every day either.  I'm not sure but Healy might be better there defensively.  Are you just certain Seager is cooked?  I figured Noelvi as the Seager successor.  

4

The fly in the ointment this year is starting in Japan.

Thus, I believe the M's get to keep a 27 man roster for the time there, and maybe even a until games start back in the US... which will add ICHIRO to the mix... and make this team even more left handed.

With that said, I am confident the back up catcher is not on the roster yet. 

Further, like you said, I expect a trade to break up the log jam with Vogs, EE and Bruce... but I don't think we will like the trade. Teams know that Dipoto MUST do something, so not much bargaining power.

Lastly, I fear Negron gets the last spot... but with the timing to get to the final 25 man being different from other teams, I fully expect Dipoto to try to float someone through, possibly even 2 if he keeps the rule 5 pitcher (13 pitchers then??)

It will be interesting, and I'm betting someone will get injured... but not sure if that will make the selections any easier or obvious. 

5

I am with you Tacoma.  I want Harper, but my ”likely roster makeup” riff was based on the idea that I don’t think we go get him.  I Should have made that clear.  Thanks for coming back.  I appreciate the reply.     I totally forgot about the Ichiro deal.  Drats.    As to not liking a Vogs, Bruce or EE trade, any swap of the last two is fine by me.  Unless we buy big between now and ST, in an effort to compete this year, then EE and Bruce are simply in the way.  Move one of ‘em out!  BTW, if we are looking for a cheap-ish and professional 20 starts, we could do way worse than Clay Buchholz, who remains available.  You could probably get him for $10M over two years.  

6

What I meant by a trade of Vogs, Bruce or EE is two fold. First, Vogs might be the one traded. Two, Dipoto might have to do another package deal like he did with Cano, where he trades away Haniger... or something of bad contracts like Bruce and cash to the Giants for Samardzjda.

Further, while I want Harper, I just do not see any way that Haniger stays a Mariner then. Haniger would have to be used to trade for pitching and fill a hole like C or mid infielder... because at that point, Dipoto is going for it this year.

Then as far as a flyer on a pitcher, many linked E. Santana early in free agency to the M's... and I have heard a couple mention Shields lately, but I could live with Clay.  

7

I have sometimes thought that TB likes our Vogue.  I think not knowing which teams are getting which bats is the hold up.  The teams that want bats have Harper and Machado higher, with reason.  It comes down to who misses out.  Encarnacion and Healy I think are both expendable. 

I've been joking about an all lefty rotation with our everchanging collection.  A batting order filled 2/3 with lefties most days works fine with lefties that hit lefties.  And aren't all shift bait. Looking at stats the lefties do seem to have it a step beyond (or more) for various reasons.  Griffey stadium was kind of built for it as well.  It's easy for me to see a Harper and Haniger middle of the order starting to HaHa through the league quickly with 2 of Smith, Gordon or Crawford often ahead of them.  Thoughts of Smith stealing home in a double steal :

https://www.mlb.com/video/smith-steals-home-in-the-2nd/c-2478825483 on a pitcher's mind. 

Also after reading and looking and watching on Sheffield and Swanson I'm not sure we'll need any more arms for the rotation immediately.  Certainly some depth is required and I can see 2 strong points for bringing in a stronger bounceback candidate.  Depth and deadline value.  As for what's in the rotation going into '20 with Yusei, Marco, LeBlanc and Leake you already can't fit both Justus and the Swan.  Certainly anyone can be traded at any point. 

I'm entirely ready to start seeing these guys in spring.  February 22nd at 12:10 PST vs. Oakland on Root is getting close. 

8

Per B-R, Mallex Smith will miss the first “few weeks” of camp with a forearm strain.  That give Braden Bishop a whole bunch of CF reps and maybe an inside shot at breaking camp with the big league squad.  Kyle Lewis and Don Thompson-Williams will likely get a look-see as well.

9

Is this being done, in Doc's absence? (If not... perhaps that helps explain our dearth of content!)

10

I, for one, am excited to see the kids! If Mallex Smith is not throwing or swinging the bat, here four weeks from Opening Day (just now being evaluated for running and fieldng) then chances are he does not travel to Japan, in favor of someone who actually can perform those important tasks for a center-fielder! Assuming we don't go out and make a "silly" signing that would push back everyone in the queue (and thereby limit the kids' development), then the candidates to play CF in Tokyo are Mitch Haniger, Braden Bishop, Ian Miller, and possibly Kyle Lewis or DTW. I'm pulling for the local kid- the UW prospect, who contributes to core Alzheimer's for every base hit- but excited to see how each of them takes advantage of their unexpected opportunity!

11

... from Shed Long (2), Marco Polo and Dylan Morris. Mariners WIN! Tito Gonzales throws a perfect game, on 13 pitches. We can do no wrong! (And if the sun comes out tomorrow, perhaps we can keep it going for more than nine outs!)

12

I've seen it suggested that the Mariners' roster is pretty well set, coming into the Cactus League season. We have five starters penciled in, we know who will start in seven of eight field positions. Assuming JD cannot find good homes, and good deals, for Edwin E and Jay B, then they start out on the roster and get plenty of ABs, to maximize their value to a contender in July. 

So, we're down to a handful of questions. If ON, DG, TB, KS, MH, MS, DS, JB, EE are givens as position players, then...

1. Who plays backup catcher? a) David Freitas, b) Jose Lobaton, c) AJ Ellis or Martin Maldonado or someone else well-suited to developing a young pitching staff, who is not yet in camp.

2. Does Ryon Healy stick at first, or do they take advantage of his option and give him "seasoning" in Tacoma and play Vogs/EE/JB at first? Remember... if Vogs doesn't go to Japan, he's subject to waivers.

3. Kristoph Negron vs. Dylan Morris: which is our Util? (It's probably a moot point after June, when JD comes up and TB takes over that Util role. Or, does TB get traded, if he starts out like a house on fire? That's a question for another month!)

4. Can we live with a bench of Freitas (or another backup Catcher), Morris (or Negron), Bruce (filling in in LF, 1B and DH) and Vogs (filling in for 1B and DH)? We're sacrificing. OF defense, leading up on LH power.

Of course, any injuries in camp (such as M Smith's strained "flexor bundle") throws everything off. I still expect to see B Bishop on the plane to NRT, possibly with M Smith staying in AZ taking BP!

I'll write separately about Pitchers... seems like the Starters are set, barring injury, but there is opportunity for some of the kids we've drafted in relief (esp. starting the season with a 28-man roster!)

13

Here are my best guesses to your questions above.

1. Back up Catcher - I do not think the player is on the roster yet. Hoping for Maldanato, but expecting someone like Jesus Sucre.

2. 1st Base - I expect Healy to start in Tacoma. I expect Vogs on the roster, but to get cut the first week back from Japan... and hopefully he will get through waivers. I'm expecting a lot of Bruce at 1B.

3. UTL - I'm expecting Morris, but as you said this is mute come June when multiple changes are made. It could be Shed at that point.

4. Bench - I'm not sure the M's will have a 4 player bench when they start in the US. My guess is a 3 man bench and extra pitcher. I think Ichiro sticks through May as 4th OF, with DS, MS and MH as the main OF... so OF defense will be pretty good. So bench of Back up C, Morris and Ichiro. Outside shot for Vogs, but I'm not convinced that Servais actually wants him.

14

B-R did indicate the other day that the M's were looking to add a MLB -experienced catcher, on the cheap.

Vogs has to make the Opening Day lineup, has to.  I can't believe we option him out, knowing he will get a shot somewhere.  And I can't believe we get much in trade for him.  As I've said before, keeping Bruce over Vogs is a totally stupid move.  Bruce is a sunk cost and the chance that he brings us anything nice in return is pretty slim.

As to our extra OF, Ichiro certianly comes out of ST on the roster....but I think there is a bit of a shot that our 4th OF isn't Bishop but could perhaps be Ackley.  Ackley played 1B and 2B (as well as LF) last season in AAA.  He hit .298-.387-.403 vs. RHP, as well.  

I could actually see him making the roster, with a good spring under his belt.  And then we keep Vogs when we jettison Bruce!  :) 

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