Friday, February 08, 2008

Grading the Mariners Offseason Moves

Spring training is only days away so it's time to see what Seattle has been up to this winter. In chronological order:

Declined arbitration to OF Jose Guillen (F)
An unconscionable move. Even for a front office that has demonstrated its incompetence time and time again this was a horrendous decision. If Guillen accepted arbitration Seattle would have retained one of its most productive players. If he declined Seattle's offer the Mariners would have been compensated with a top-50 selection in the 2008 amateur draft. Even if the M's didn't want Jose to return in 2008 for whatever reason (he's had personality issues in the past and will be suspended the first 15 games of the season due to performance enhancing drugs) they knew Kansas City was ready to offer him a lucrative contract. Basically there was no way Guillen was going to accept a one-year deal with the Mariners when he had a three-year offer sheet from the Royals ready to go. Seattle had a free draft pick in its lap. All it had to do was offer arbitration. Instead the team decided to let Jose walk away for nothing.

Selected RHP R.A. Dickey from the Twins in the Rule 5 Draft (C+)
The Mariners plucked a knuckleballer from Minnesota for $25,000. If Dickey sticks with the team Seattle has to hand over another twenty-five grand to the Twins. Considering what arms cost nowadays this was a bargain basement deal. The kind of low-risk, under-the-radar move good teams make.

Signed RHP Carlos Silva to a four-year contract with a mutual option for 2012 (C)
Starting pitcher was the biggest need for Seattle entering this offseason. After whiffing on several hurlers (Hiroki Kuroda topping that list) Bill Bavasi overpaid for Silva to ensure the inning eater signed with the Emerald City. Carlos helps fill a need for the M's but he's neither great nor cheap. $48 million should buy more than durability.

Signed INF Miguel Cairo to a one-year contract (C-)
Cairo is like a Hispanic version of Willie Bloomquist. One mediocre utility player is enough. What's the point in having two?

Signed LHP Horacio Ramirez to a one-year contract (D)
The horrible trade that keeps on giving. If he's released before Opening Day the team only has to pay him 1/6 of the $2.75 million Ramirez is due.

Signed free agent OF Brad Wilkerson to a one-year contract (C+)
Another shrewd and low-risk move by the Mariners. Who knew they were capable? If Wilkerson remains healthy he should be a serviceable outfielder. Seattle needs a left-handed bat to compliment a lineup heavy on right-handed hitters. Brad might be the man.

Acquired LHP Erik Bedard from Baltimore for OF Adam Jones, LHP George Sherrill, RHP Chris Tillman, LHP Tony Butler and LHP Kam Mickolio (D+)
In the short-term the Mariners are a better team. Adding an elite pitcher like Bedard (along with Silva's addition) transforms Seattle's biggest problem, the starting rotation, into a plus. However, the outfield and bullpen take some heavy blows. By making this move and mortgaging a significant portion of its future Seattle is saying it is a contender now. Thus anything less than a playoff appearance in the next two years will be a colossal failure. It's too soon to project whether Erik will resign with Seattle so there's no point in speculating beyond 2009.

Here's how this trade will break down:

* decent chance the Orioles win. Some of the prospects go onto have productive careers while Seattle fails to make the playoffs through at least 2009 (regardless of how well Bedard pitches).
* smaller chance the Mariners win. Seattle earns a playoff berth in 2008 and/or 2009 while none of the prospects pan out in Baltimore.
* small chance both teams wins. Bedard helps the M's make the playoffs and a majority of the prospects pan out for the O's.
* extremely small chance both teams lose. Bedard and Seattle miss the postseason. Jones et al flop in Baltimore.

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