The State of Play

First off, sorry for the lack of posting. It’s been a difficult term at school. Now it’s the holidays, and I’ll be good.

The Mariners, as things stand, are not a good team. They might not even be an OK team – they fluked their way into a nice little season last year, but now the big worry is that the front office sees us as a true 88 win roster that needs minor tinkering to make the playoffs. This would be a pretty horrific mistake to make.

Where are the problems with our roster?

LF, 1B, DH, and 2 starter slots. If we accept Jose Vidro as essentially unmovable, we then have 4 problem spots on the roster. Not good.

Raul Ibanez is a liability in left field. He makes the occaisional spectacular (looking) play, sure, but he’s not very fast and takes some Byrnesian routes out there. Most defensive metrics have him as one of the worst left fielders in the game (and we’re talking Adam Dunn/Manny Ramirez territory). Replacing Ibanez in left with a merely average defender is probably a two win move by itself. However, rumours of the demise of Raul’s bat were heavily overstated. He absolutely carried the team from early August onward, and he’s exactly the sort of hitter that can thrive in Safeco – left handed and with reasonable pop, helped out immensely by the short porch in right. The Mariners really cannot afford to lose that from the lineup, unless someone seriously thinks Ben Broussard is the left handed sock for which we’ve been yearning.

At first, we have the much maligned Richie Sexson, who had the misfortune of slumping for the entire season, whilst playing first like his feet had been nailed to the ground. Will he bounce back offensively next year? Yep. He might even put up an OPS+ of over 100. But he’s being paid like a star, and if we’re really lucky he might end up as a below average first baseman next year.

As for the starters, is there anyone who wants Jeff Weaver or Horacio Ramirez back next year? No? Well, let me make a few points in their favour. Weaver first.

Jeff Weaver is a known commodity, and historically bad start aside, he was a decent #5 pitcher for us last year. Another point in his favour? He’d come really cheap, which is always nice.

Horacio Ramirez is young, relatively cheap, and left handed. If he magically acquires some talent this winter, I’d be all in favour of bringing him back. As it stand right now, he’d make an excellent ligament bank in case some of our players get hurt.

So what do we do?

Here’s my ideal scenario:

Milton Bradley on a 2 year deal, with Jeremy Reed/Wladimir Balentien as injury backup. When healthy, Bradley’s an excellent defensive outfielder with a good arm, and a very solid switch hitter. Unfortunately, he’s crazy and has a habit of breaking all the time, most recently while being tackled by his own manager. I still think he’s worth the risk: getting three centrefielders in one outfield would give us a defense the likes of which we haven’t seen since 2003, and they can all hit a bit too.

Richie Sexson to San Francisco, with us eating $8M of the contract, for whatever we can get. I know there’s a lot of scepticism around the blogosphere about Richie’s trade value, but if Brian Sabean doesn’t jump at the chance to add Sexson to his team for $6.5M, I’d be really surprised. That frees up some payroll to play with and also opens up first base for Ibanez to slot into. One think we have to watch out for here is getting a bad contract back – if you can’t completely get rid of him without getting something useless in return, keep Sexson on the bench and let him walk at the end of the season. Ibanez is a terrible defensive outfielder, and he’ll probably be a pretty bad first baseman, but that’s still a better package than Big Richie.

Re-sign Jeff Weaver for to two year $4M deal. No, I’m not insane, or at least I don’t think I am. This isn’t a huge investment. If he sucks again (I don’t think he will with the defense improved), just DFA his sorry ass and make him go away. If he doesn’t, well we’ve just bought low and patched up a spot in the rotation in an offseason where everyone’s clamouring for pitchers. RRS would be my first choice to replace him if things go pear shaped, and to that end he’d assume the long-guy role in the ‘pen. Morrow’s in AAA in this little dream-world of mine.

Explore some trade possibilities with the Rays (have you seen their new stadium, by the way?It’s absolutely gorgeous). Dave Cameron favours J.P. Howell, and I agree. I’d love Sonnanstine too, but that would be a bit of a stretch. The Devil Rays have a lot of starting depth, but they need a bit more bullpen help and perhaps a catcher too. I’d start at Eric O’Flaherty and Rob Johnson and see where that ended up (Clement, however, is off limits).

On paper, that’s a much better team than last year, and done without mortgaging the future away. We’d still be relying on Ichiro, Beltre, and Felix (and now Bradley’s health) to get us into the postseason, but I reckon that if Bavasi could execute the plan above, it’d be a very successful offseason.

Will he? Of course not. Hopefully nothing goes too badly wrong.

Feel free to flame me over the Weaver thing.

-Graham

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12 Responses to The State of Play

  1. Ken says:

    There are two ways to compute costs. Accounting costs and economic costs. Richies accounting cost is his salary, $14m. Assuming that you are correct and we have to eat $8m of Richie’s contract, then that money is sunk, we are on the hook regardless, thus, his economic cost is the price another team would pay to take him off of our hands, 6m. Vidro’s cost to us is also 6m. Richie’s PrOPS last year was .820, Vidro’s was .750 (About the same difference as Beltre and Betancourt). If you don’t like props the Bill James handbook (admittedly not my favorite projection) also has Sexson better in 08. They are the same age and Vidro has more of an injury history. They are both useless on defense, so they should only play DH. Since the costs are the same, and one player is better and the other has a vesting option, if anything, isn’t dumping Vidro better. I feel most people are so focused on Richies unlucky 07 and high accounting cost that they misread the situation, he’s likely an above average hitter that costs us only $6m. I’d take Richie.

    As for Weaver, after he came back from his injury he posted a 4.76 era with a .802OPS against. That sounds pretty good to me for a cheap back of the rotation guy.

  2. Graham says:

    The point here is that you can’t get rid of Vidro, so you make the best of a bad situation by dumping Sexson, and recouping $6M, which should be close to $Bradley.

    If Vidro could be moved at all, I’d be completely in favour of it.

  3. Ken says:

    I think you’d actually be in FAVOR of it (note that there aren’t any u’s in favor). If last years props is more indicative of their current talent, and i believe it is, then even eating a bit of Vidro’s contract (which would make him economically cheaper, but still economically suckier as well) and getting rid of him is worth it, the difference was, like i said, Beltre to Betancourt, thats pretty big. and when you factor in that at some level it will trigger another year on the contract, not playing Vidro sounds even better.

  4. Graham says:

    Let’s not get into a British English vs. American English spelling fight…

    If Vidro is moveable, then by all means go for it. He’s probably not, though. Sexson will be looked at as a good bounceback candidate and thus someone who has some value. Vidro will be looked at as a fat, slow DH. I’m not sure the .300 batting average will be shiny enough to convince another team to take him off our hands – Sexson seems like a far more easily moved commodity.

    I completely agree with you about the probable skill levels of both players, I just suspect it will be impossible to dump Jose Vidro.

  5. brentschwartz says:

    I’m heading out the door so I will be brief.

    Here’s how I see it:
    Richie Sexson is coming off an unsustainably bad season. Jose Vidro is coming off an unsustainably good season. Basically it boils down to Richie Sexson or Milton Bradley, 2008.

    I’m not a huge fan of Bradley. He’s been injury prone (only had more than 400 AB’s once and he’s been a problem everywhere he’s been. Last year he was injured while going after an umpire. I don’t see him as worth the hassle. I’m also skeptical that he comes cheap. Again this is my first impression.

  6. Ken says:

    I’m not going to speculate and say Milton Bradley is this, or would sign for that. But Brent’s right about his durability/headache issues. It’s probable that something would go wrong.The thing that doesn’t make sense to me is intentionally making your team worse. Sexson is likely to be something like 20 runs better than Vidro, why would you make your team two wins worse if you didn’t have to? Is Bradley likely to be two wins beter than whoever his replacement would be if he didn’t sign? Is adding Bradley/Jenkins/whoever out of the question if we don’t lower our payroll by an extra $6m? I don’t know.

  7. Graham says:

    RE: Sexson

    Wait, what? Where did you get 2 wins from?

    Just looking at projections, Jose Vidro is expected to go .297/.368/.418 next year; Sexson .246/.339/.479 (fangraphs has the Bill James projections up). I’m fairly confident that ZIPs and PECOTA will give similar results. That’s maaaybe 5 runs ever the course of the season.

    Also, if you look at the move in isolation, of course it’s stupid. The key here is getting rid of one of them moves Ibanez to first, getting his lead glove out of the outfield, which is a true 20 run improvement, and Raul’s a better bat than Sexson anyway.

    The most significant improvement that could be made to this roster is replacing Ibanez and Guillen’s outfield gloves with people who can actually catch the ball. There is absolutely no hope of doing this unless Turbo or Sexson are gone. One of them is moveable. Move him, bite the bullet on Jose Vidro.

    RE: Bradley

    Milton Bradley is in almost exactly the same boat Jose Guillen inhabited last winter. Noted headcase coming off a serious injury. Yes, he’s more volatile and fragile, but he’s also a better hitter and a much better defender, and his problems will only serve to drive down the cost. It’s a gamble of course, but it’s not as though it’s high risk/low reward.

  8. brentschwartz says:

    Graham-

    Milton Bradley is a Jose Guillen who actually attacks people. Players, coaches, fans and umpires have all come under attack by Bradley. The first two are much more common than the last two and quite frankly those are a major concern. When a fan throws a water bottle at you, the natural human reaction is to want to throw something back. Everyone else, takes a step back and tells security. Milton Bradley throws the bottle back.

    I don’t think Bradley would be a clubhouse cancer that divided the clubhouse. Either the clubhouse would accept him or he’d unite the clubhouse against him. I don’t see Mac feuding. I do think Bradley is a good bet to go Ron Artest and that is something that would be very bad.

    Prior to Bavasi, the M’s wanted model citizens. Jose Guillen isn’t someone who plays nice, but his problem is that he’s a jerk with a big mouth. The risks associated with that character problem don’t equal the risks that come with Bradley.

    And when Bradley hasn’t been in the doghouse, he’s been hurt. This is a really bad combo. Guillen has had his share of injuries but never to the extent of Bradley.

  9. Ken says:

    I’m going to bed and thus will not try to make any argument, however, I was careless with methodology. I said what I said quickly before going to work. What I did was take last years PrOPS (PrOPS is probably my favorite, unless a player is exceptionally fast or slow it gives what I feel is the best estimate of a players true talent). Both are players are slow so I said it balanced out. The difference between Sexson and Vidro was about the same as Beltre and Betancourt. Since I needed a estimate in a hurry, I looked at Beltre and Betancourt and noticed that their baseruns were about 20 apart, I concluded that since the difference was similar, that was about the difference between Sexson and Vidro. That is where the 2 wins are from. Like Vanilla Ice said “Anything less than the best is a felony.” That wasn’t the best methodology and I should have just waited until Saturday. I’ll figure out the rest tomorrow.

  10. Ken says:

    Alright. So, here I go. If you can accept that PrOPS is a better estimate of their talent than their actual line (which I do) there is OPS wins. Using OPS wins it lists Richie as a having been a little over 1 win better than Vidro last year. It has also been said that if you want a run estimator you can take the difference in OPS and divide by 4, which would indicate that Richie last year should have been 17.5 runs better, that seems like an overestimate to me, although it accurately predicted the difference between Beltre and Betancourt. I prefer PrOPS for evaluating next year because I feel it makes a pretty darn good use of batted ball stats (everything except for speed is incorporated, if JC finds a way to put that in there, he’s gold.). At this point anything not using batted ball data is behind the times and especially so in this case considering the catastrophic lack of luck that Richie recieved last year. I’d say he is at least 1 win better for next year with his bat, but only as DH.

    As far as defensive moves. Raul was rated as about -10 runs in left field, I think it presumptuous to assume that he makes it all up as a 1B, but he likely makes up around 5 runs. But… Adam Jones, who I believe was about an average CF, is likely to be an above average LF, speculatively in the +5 runs range. Now we’ve seen a 15 run improvement in LF, and a 5 run improvement in 1B. I don’t think either of these estimates are considered too out of touch, and now we’ve added 15-20 runs. Jose Guillen as far as I can tell, is in the average range for RF. Indeed, RZR (which is ok) has him about the middle of the pack and +/- (which I love, but only includes the top 10/bottom 5 unless you buy the book, which i don’t love) does not list him as especially good or bad, and thus middle of the pack for 2007. although he was in the top 10 right fielders in 2006.

    bradley, while similar to guillen, is in a different league as far as headcases go. although I’d have to say that the Mariners love model citizens card is irrelevant, we want to win baseball games. Their desire for model citizens used to drive me crazy. I would speculate that at this point, many teams are aware of headcases as being discounts, thus driving up their discounted value and making their salary more approach their market value. I would also speculate we would likely get more of a discount from his injury history than his citizen problems.

  11. brentschwartz says:

    Ken-

    You want to do a post on PrOPS for those of us who aren’t familiar with the methodology of it. I know people are going to read your post and ask themselves “What the Heck is PrOPS?”

  12. Ken says:

    Yeah, I’ll write it tomorrow after work.

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