Saturday, October 28, 2006

M's Offseason Part 1: The Lineup

If the M's did nothing this offseason this would be your starting nine:

Player Pos 06 VORP 07 Salary
Ichiro CF 46.4 13,500,000
Ibanez LF 37.8 5,500,000
Sexson 1B 24.9 14,000,000
Johjima C 24.0 5,200,000
Beltre 3B 19.9 11,750,000
Lopez 2B 18.3 350,000
Broussard DH 16.7 ~5,000,000
Betancourt SS 13.6 400,000
Snelling RF 3.2 ~500,000

VORP is from Baseball Prospectus, salaries are from lots of disparate sources, Broussard and Snelling are arbitration eligible so I'm making educated guesses on them.

You'll need a 4th outfielder to spell Snelling, a righty masher to platoon with Broussard, but if they stand pat, that's the nine that'll be pencilled in most days. We know how the Human Brain Delay loves his set lineups.

The problem here is that while this lineup is not good enough to win, in my opinion, there is no obvious black hole to be filled. The worst hitter in the lineup is Betancourt and he's cheap and helps you with the glove. Lopez, Snelling are real cheap and Broussard is reasonably productive for his price(or at least he was in Cleveland, he actually has a negative VORP as a Mariner). Kenji and Ibanez are solid mid-level performers. Ichiro had a bit off an off year, but is still one of the top 20 or so players in the league.

The real problem is that two guys are being paid to be elite performers but are not giving you elite performance. Beltre was the 15th best 3rd baseman offensively in baseball. He's closer to Maicer Izturis than Troy Glaus. He got outhit by Rich Aurilla and Mark Teahen. Sexson was more productive, but still nowhere near what he's getting paid to do.

If you had 3 top tier players, 3 mid level guys and 3 decent cheap young players that would be a good offense. But when two of your top tier guys perform at mid-level or worse, its not enough. As Jason pointed out here, we've got about 200 runs to make up either on offense or defense and the free-agent pitcher market ain't going to get it done.

So I don't think the M's can stand pat, they have to improve the offense. How? If you can find a taker for Sexson or Beltre, you could then pursue a "Big Bat." Its possible to do it in one big deal. Would the Yankees take Beltre and Soriano for A-Rod? Or Sexson straight up for Sheffield (you push Snelling into left, Ibanez to DH and Broussard to first)? The Red Sox were willing to give Manny away a couple of years ago, what do they want for him now? Sexson and Reed maybe? Scott Rolen and Tony LaRussa don't get along, would the Cards take Beltre and something else for Rolen?

Or you could do it in two parts. Trade Sexson or Beltre for pitching or minor leaguers and then you can take on the salary to get a truly elite hitter. Say the Giants are interested in Sexson, you move him there and then sign an OF/1B/DH (Bonds? Carlos Lee? Soriano? I'm not recommending anyone, just throwing out names). You could also pursue trading for an elite player at one of your cheap positions (say you replace Betancourt with Miguel Tejada). Then Betancourt becomes a trading chip to acquire pitching or a cheap replacement for Beltre or Sexson.

There are lots of creative ways you could move Sexson or Beltre's salary and then add an impact hitter. I fear that Bavasi lacks that creativity. I suspect that he'll let the best free agents go and end up overpaying for some mediocre guy to take Snelling's regular lineup spot, leaving USS Mariner's favorite Aussie to be the fourth outfielder. Maybe you'd get lucky with that guy, but more than likely he'd give you Snelling's production for 10 times the price. And of course the worst case scenario is Carl Everett Part Deux.

Another mediocrity isn't going to get it done. The Mariners need a bold move to improve their chances of winning the West. Hoping that Adrian Beltre, MVP candidate or Richie Sexson, circa 2005 show up is a recipe for disaster. Of course I think we knew the 2007 season was going to be a disaster when they hung onto Grover.


At 7:55 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Hear hear!

I'm all over trading for a bat, but like you, I'm pretty skeptical that a) Bavasi is sufficiently creative, and 2) Grover wont frak it up.


Post a Comment

<< Home