Here is something you haven't heard very often: Jack Zduriencik's track record in free agency is really, really good.
Now I know what you're thinking. "There's no way you'll get that stain out!" /sorry, wrong website. Now I know what you're thinking. "Ken, I know they legalized marijuana in Washington, but I didn't know you liked to get wet."
First of all, I love to get wet. Second of all, if you think that Jack has a poor history in free agency, I think you've been looking at it from entirely the wrong angle. (I first typo'd that as "angel" which you'll find out is entirely appropriate.) When people argue that Jack's history in free agency is poor, they argue that the team simply steers clear of the big name free agents that are required to win titles or at least keep you competitive and put butts in the seats.
What we ignore is that this argument -- big name free agents that are required to win titles or at least keep you competitive and put butts in the seats -- isn't proven to be true. I wrote about free agency and World Series titles here back in December of 2011.
Many of the large deals you're about to see in this article have been massive disappointments. Then again, one can't say that simply staying out of the fray also makes you a good general manager. Andrew Friedman stays out of the fray and the Rays are consistently competitive in the AL East. Tampa's payroll this year is about $62 million, about $22 million less than the Mariners, and they're 3.5 games back of the lead in the division.
If you're going to follow the Rays plan, you'll need great prospects, savvy free agent deals, and smart trades. Does Jack display such skills?
Rather than me just telling you that answer, or my interpretation of that answer, right off of the bat, let's just look at what Jack has done. Let's objectively stand back and rather than just say "Fister, Figgins, Morrow, Griffey, & Associates" we actually just look at the data.
If you see any glaring omissions (there are definitely minor transactions omitted) then let me know. If you see any errors, then let me know. Otherwise, here's all of the pertinent things that Jack has done in five years.
Mariners carried a payroll of $117 million in 2008 and famously lost 101 games. Payroll dropped to $98 million in 2009 and Jack was tasked with rebuilding (again) a terrible Mariners team. He got off to a hot start. Maybe too hot. Maybe... Gosling hot.
(Obviously not Gosling hot since they didn't win all the championships.)
Sign Russell Branyan for 1-year, $1.4 million. Branyan wasn't in the MLB Trade Rumors top 50 free agents (or honorable mentions) that year. Branyan was worth 2.5 fWAR, hit .251/.347/.520 with 31 HR, .269 ISO. Third-most valuable hitter on the team.
Sign George Griffey, Jr. for 1-year, $2 million. Griffey hit .214/.324/.411 with 19 home runs in 117 games, worth 0.0 WAR.
Sign Michael Sweeney for 1-year, $500,000. Sweeney hit .281/.335/.442 in 74 games with 8 home runs for 0.2 WAR in 74 games.
Gutierrez hit .283/.339/.425 with 18 HR, 16 SB, 31 UZR and a team-high for hitters, 6.0 WAR.
Vargas appeared in 23 games, making 14 starts, posting a 4.91 ERA, 5.07 FIP, and 0.2 WAR.
Chavez hit .273/.328/.342 with 2 HR, 9 SB, 5.9 UZR and 0.6 WAR in 54 games.
Carp hit .315/.415/.463 in 21 games for 0.6 WAR.
Traded Aaron Heilman to the Chicago Cubs for Garrett
Olsen Olson and Ronny Cedeno. Cedeno was tied with Yuniesky Betancourt as least-valuable on the team at -0.8 WAR in 59 games. Garrett Olson was also tied there at -0.8 with a 6.42 FIP in 80.1 innings.
Williamson for Aardsma. Aardsma was exciting for awhile, but ended his career with the Mariners with 1.8 WAR, which gives the M's a +1.8 WAR investment on Williamson.
Putz+ for Gutierrez+: Putz was worth 0.1 WAR to the Mets, Green was worth -0.3 WAR, Jeremy Reed was worth -0.6 WAR for a total of -0.8 given up to the Mets. Valbuena was worth -1.5 to the Indians (though he's had a breakout recently in the Cubs organization.) The total given up to those initial teams is -2.3. Gutierrez has been worth 8.9 WAR to the Mariners, with an extension given. Mike Carp was worth 0.9 WAR to the Mariners. Jason Vargas was worth 6.0 WAR to the Mariners. Kendrys Morales has been worth 1.4 WAR to the Mariners. Brendan Ryan has been worth 3.8 WAR to the Mariners. In his second stint, Branyan was worth 0.7 WAR to the M's after getting dealt for Carrera. Chavez was worth 0.6 WAR to the Mariners. Cedeno was worth -0.8 WAR to the Mariners. Olson was worth -0.8 WAR to the Mariners. Cedeno was part of package for Ian Snell, Jack Wilson. Snell was worth -0.5 WAR to Mariners. Wilson was worth 0.2 WAR to Mariners before re-signing on new deal. Job beget Abe.
Total of players received in that package then and players received since: 20.4 Difference: +22.7 WAR for team Jack.
(The current remnants of the J.J. Putz deal: Franklin Gutierrez, Brendan Ryan, Kendrys Morales, and 20-year-old utility player Luis Caballero.)
Sweeney. Paid like a rookie, played like a... well, a decent rookie.
Heilman for that Cedeno/Olson crap.
Moves NOT made:
Here is the list of Top 50 free agents from MLB Trade Rumors (with sometimes accurate, sometimes wildly inaccurate predictions) and out of those players the M's signed... none of them. Jack Z's hands were actually completely tied with the fact that ownership wasn't going to pay $117 million for a loser again.
The 2009 payroll was trapped with guaranteed deals for Ichiro ($18 million), Adrian Beltre ($13.4 million), Carlos Silva ($12.25), Jarrod Washburn ($10.35), Miguel Batista ($9.50), Kenji Johjima ($8.00) and Erik Bedard ($7.75).
Absolutely zero of those dollars were agreed to by Zduriencik, but he still had to work around those contracts. Those contracts from Bill Bavasi that totaled $79,250,000. The players that Jack brought in cost more like $8.3 million in 2009 salary, but included the 6.0 WAR Gutierrez, the 2.5 WAR Branyan, and many important role players.
What Jack absolutely could not do because of the previous regime:
Sign free agents. Probably a good thing in retrospect and I don't just mean because we think Jack sucks at signing free agents. I don't think that he does.
There was pretty much no chance that Seattle would sign a player like C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, or A.J. Burnett -- that's what the Yankees are for. Instead, they let a player like Raul Ibanez walk for a (still too high) three-year deal with the Phillies. Ibanez was the third-most valuable hitter on the team in 2008, but they were fine to let him make like a tree and
fall over when nobody's watching leave.
Though Raul was worth 3.6 WAR in 2009 with Philadelphia, that dropped to 1.2 in 2010 and -1.6 in 2011. For over $31 million in three easy payments.
Manny Ramirez would have been nice? Ramirez signed a 2-year, $45 million contract with the Dodgers and has played in 199 games since.
A.J. Burnett to help a bad rotation? Not unless you match the Yankees crazy deal of 5-years, $82.5 million. No, not just match but... surpass by a bunch.
Bobby Abreu got four years and $32 million from the Angels and was worth a little more than 5 WAR on the entire deal before being traded to the Dodgers in 2012 and having to pay them to take him away.
The best free agent acquisition by far was Sabathia and he was practically unavailable and ridiculously expensive.
Moves made during the 2009 season:
Traded Cedeno, Jeff Clement, Aaron Pribanic, Nathan Adcock, and Brett Lorin to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell. Wilson played in 31 games, hitting .224/.263/.299 with great defense for 0.2 WAR. Snell started 12 games and had a 4.20 ERA, 5.23 FIP and 0.2 WAR.
Traded Justin Souza to the Athletics for Jack Hannahan, who hit .230/.311/.345 in 51 games with 0.6 WAR.
Nothing for Wilson and Snell. Some people were concerned about the former potential of Clement leaving, plus some of the lives arms in the minors, but none of them have done anything yet.
Souza for Hannahan. Whouza?
Betancourt for anything. I'll bet in court under oath that it was a great deal.
Washburn for anything. I don't think we got 'burned on this one, you guys.
Flores for Hall. A bad major league player for a guy? Okay.
Morse for Langerhans. So far Michael Morse has had one good year in a career that started in 2005. But that's one more than Langerhans. (Technically, Langerhans had a 2.5 WAR season with the Braves in 2005. Morse's career season was 3.1 WAR.)
Shed the contracts of Adrian Beltre ($13.4 salary in 2009), Jarrod Washburn ($10.35 salary), Miguel Batista ($9.5 salary), Erik Bedard ($7.5 salary), Endy Chavez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Russell Branyan (~$5 million total.)
Jack saw payroll drop from $117 million to $98 million in his first year. It would go to $91 million in year two but he had flexibility there by seeing over $40 million from the Bavasi era go bye bye. What moves would he make?
Traded Tyson Gillies, Phillippe Aumont, and J.C. Ramirez to the Philadelphia Phillies for Cliff Lee. Posted 3.7 fWAR in 13 starts before being traded. Aumont has been worth 0.1 WAR in his career. J.C. Ramirez has pitched 5.1 innings in the majors.
Traded Carlos Silva to the Chicago Cubs for Milton Bradley. Bradley hit .205/.292/.348 in 73 games, worth 0.0 WAR. Silva was worth 1.8 WAR to the Cubs that year but didn't pitch in the majors again.
Traded Bill Hall to the Boston Red Sox for Casey Kotchman. Kotchman hit .217/.280/.336 with 9 HR in 125 games for -1.6 WAR, worst on the team.
Signed Chone Figgins to 4-year, $36 million contract. Figgins hit .259/.340/.306 with 42 stolen bases, worth 1.2 fWAR in 2010. Ended up worth -1.1 WAR in three seasons, while getting paid for four!
Signed Felix Hernandez to 5-year, $78 million contract extension. Worth 19.5 WAR since start of 2010.
Signed Franklin Gutierrez to 4-year, $20.25 million contract extension. Fell to 1.9 fWAR in 152 games with just 5.9 UZR and hitting .245/.303/.363 with 25 stolen bases.
Re-signed Ken Griffey, Jr. to 1-year, $2.35 million contract. Worth -1.0 WAR in 33 games.
Re-signed Erik Bedard to 1-year, $1.5 million. Did not pitch in 2010.
Re-signed Jack Wilson to 2-year, $10 million contract. Hit .249/.282/.316 in 61 games for 0.0 WAR.
Re-signed Mike Sweeney to 1-year, $650k contract. Hit .263/.327/.475 in 30 games for 0.5 WAR.
Signed Eric Byrnes ($11 million salary paid for by Diamondbacks) Hit .094/.237/.156 for -0.5 WAR in 15 games.
Signed David Pauley. -0.2 WAR in 90.2 innings.
Signed Jesus Colome. 0.0 WAR in 17 innings.
Signed Chad Cordero. -0.1 WAR in 9.2 innings.
Drafted Kanekoa Texeira in Rule 5 draft.
Aumont+ for Lee: As noted, Lee alone would be a +3.6 WAR for the Mariners, and Lee only pitched in half of a season with Seattle. Lee was worth more than that to Seattle though. Justin Smoak has been worth 0.9 WAR to Seattle, with 1.0 WAR coming in 2013. Blake Beavan has been worth 0.7 WAR. Lueke turned into Jaso (2.6 WAR) turned into Morse.
Hall for Kotchman. I mean, he really sucked. Not like Bill Hall was a loss, but Kotchman alone was a loss.
Silva for Bradley. (Even if it was for Silva, it was more expensive for nothing.)
Morrow for League. Roughly -7.7 WAR against the good guys.
Moves NOT made:
MLB Trade Rumors top 50 free agents for 2010 was a little more underwhelming than the 2009 list, and Figgins landed at fourth overall. That was the third baseman that the Mariners signed, while Beltre went to the Red Sox on a one-year deal. It would have been really nice to keep Beltre, who has posted 21.4 WAR in the last 3 and a half years, but that's not really something to worry about.
Beltre was a solid ~3 WAR player for the Mariners, but he didn't want to be that kind of hitter. His opportunities with the Red Sox and Rangers have helped him develop into an MVP candidate in better environments for what hitters like to do: Hit. He wasn't coming back to Seattle.
Players NOT signed include: John Lackey, Jason Bay, Randy Wolf, Jose Valverde, Marco Scutaro, Rich Harden, Johnny Damon, Orlando Hudson, Nick Johnson, Marlon Byrd, Vlad Guerrero, Hideki Matsui, Ben Sheets, and so on. J.J. Putz only received an honorable mention, but has been a top reliever since.
The M's dropped significant payroll and added Figgins and Lee ($9 million salary), with extensions for Felix and Guti. Jack dipped "big" into free agency this one time, and it failed. What about the times he didn't dip into the big free agent dollars? What about them indeed...
Moves made during 2010 season:
Traded Ezequiel Carrera and Juan Diaz to the Cleveland Indians for Branyan.
Traded Hannahan to the Red Sox for cash.
Traded Sweeney through waivers to the Philadelphia Phillies for cash.
Lee for Smoak+ : Consider the circumstances. Even before Smoak started to play well, Lee was a pitcher that was going to leave via free agency. In return, the M's got six years of Smoak, Beavan, and then eventually Jaso and then eventually Morse.
Carrera for Branyan.
Hannahan and Sweeney for dolla dolla bills
Trade Maikel Cleto to the St. Louis Cardinals for Brendan Ryan. Hit .248/.313/.326 with 10.6 UZR at shortstop for 2.8 WAR in 123 games. Cleto has -0.5 WAR in 15.2 career innings.
Sign Miguel Olivo to 2-year, $7.5 million contract. Hit .224/.253/.388 with 19 HR and 0.0 WAR.
Sign Jack Cust to 1-year, $2.5 million contract. Hit .213/.344/.329 with 3 HR in 67 games, worth -0.2 WAR.
Pick up 1-year, $1 million option on Erik Bedard. Pitched 91.1 innings for 3.45 ERA, 3.70 FIP for 1.3 WAR.
Sign Chris Ray to 1-year, $1 million contract. Pitched 32.2 innings for 3.31 ERA, 3.36 FIP and 0.2 WAR.
Sign Adam Kennedy to 1-year, $750k contract. Hit .234/.277/.355 for 0.3 WAR.
Sign Josh Bard to 1-year contract. Hit .210/.256/.333 in 26 games for 0.0 WAR.
Sign free agent Tom Wilhelmsen on March 3, 2010 after five years of retirement. Pitched 32.2 innings for 3.31 ERA, 3.36 FIP and 0.2 WAR.
Cleto for Ryan. Another gigantically underrated move.
Bedard. For a million dollars (this will probably never seem like a small amount of money to me) they got a good half-season and some prospects.
Moves NOT made:
A good free agent class included Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre, Jayson Werth, Victor Martinez, Adam Dunn, and Hiroki Kuroda. But the Mariners were coming off of a 101-loss season with a $91 million payroll. That increased to $94 million in 2011, and the M's weren't dropping many big contracts.
They still owed Ichiro, Bradley, Felix, and Chone a combined $52.5 million that year. The next three biggest contracts (Jack Wilson, Aardsma, Gutierrez) combined for $13.8 million, already pushing it to $70 million for seven players. And those seven players, with the exception of Felix, weren't extraordinary. In fact, Ichiro, Bradley, Chone, Wilson, and Aardsma combined for -1.4 WAR in 2011. (Aardsma did not pitch.)
Gutierrez was worth only 1.1 WAR and he was the third-most valuable hitter on the team, after a guy that played in 90 games, and a shortstop with a .289 wOBA. Difficult to convince free agents to walk into that situation, especially when you're highest offer might be a $5 million salary if you are really lucky. Again though, free agency hardly ever works out as planned on the day that player signs his contract.
Crawford signed a 7-year, $142 million contract with the Red Sox, hit .255/.289/.405 with 18 stolen bases in his first season, played in 31 games in his second season, was traded to the Dodgers.
Werth signed a 7-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals, hit .232/.330/.389 in his first season, played in 81 games in his second season, and is 34-years old.
Dunn signed a 4-year, $56 million contract with the White Sox and had a lot of fans thinking he'd be the perfect DH for the Mariners. He's hitting .191/.313/.407 with the White Sox since signing that deal.
Martinez signed a 4-year, $50 million contract with the Tigers, missed all of 2012, and is hitting .254/.311/.367 this season.
It turns out that the savviest move was the Cardinals signing Lance Berkman to a 1-year, $8 million contract and him finishing 7th in MVP voting. Of course, he has been paid $34 million since then (by the Cardinals and Rangers) and hasn't done so well.
The best moves of the offseason were Lee (wasn't coming back to Seattle, couldn't afford him anyway), Beltre (ditto), Kuroda, Paul Konerko (wasn't leaving the White Sox, too expensive), and Koji Uehara.
The M's, once very active in the first two offseasons of Z, weren't all that active this year. They didn't feel they had a trade piece or trade offer as good as the one that got them Gutierrez in 2009, but instead they sent a nobody relief pitching prospect (sorry Cleto) for the best defensive shortstop in baseball.
Not bad. Signing Crawford or Werth? Now that would have been bad.
Moves made during season:
Bedard for stuff. We got something for Erik Bedard.
My least favorite eighties band: Fister, Fister. Has been worth 8.4 WAR in about two seasons of play since being dealt. He never came close to striking out 7+ batters per nine innings with the Mariners, but immediately started doing that with the Tigers. Martinez is bad, All's Wells That Ends With Wells Getting Cut, but at least Chance Ruffin turned from a bad reliever into a boring starter!
Trade Michael Pineda and Jose Campos to the New York Yankees for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi. Pineda and Campos both suffered arm injuries, and Pineda just started pitching for the first time since 2011. He has 22 strikeouts and 10 walks in 22.1 innings of minor league competition. Campos, 21 later this month, has pitched 60 innings in single-A ball with a 3.75 ERA, 55 K and 12 BB. Montero hit .260/.298/.386 with 15 HR for -0.4 WAR. Noesi pitched 106.2 innings, worth -0.7 WAR.
Sign Hisashi Iwakuma to 1-year, $1.5 million contract. Pitched 125.1 innings, worth 0.5 WAR.
Sign George Sherrill to 1-year, $1.1 million contract. Pitched 1.1 innings.
Sign Kevin Millwood to 1-year, $1 million contract. Pitched 161 innings, posting a 4.25 ERA, 3.91 FIP and 2.0 WAR.
Sign Munenori Kawasaki to 1-year, $625k contract. Hit .192/.257/.202 for -0.3 WAR. But led the league in WHEART (WAR + HEART)
Sign Oliver Perez to 1-year contract. Pitched 29.2 innings, posting a 2.12 ERA, 2.93 FIP and 0.5 WAR.
Sign free agent Steve Delabar after three year absence. Pitched 36.2 innings, posting 4.17 ERA, 5.09 FIP and -0.5 WAR.
Draft Lucas Luetge in Rule 5 draft. Pitched 40.2 innings, posting 3.98 ERA, 4.03 FIP, and 0.0 WAR.
Lueke for Jaso. Pretty cut and dry there.
Millwood. Yeah, good deal.
Perez. Great deal.
Delabar. Was a belly itcher.
Pineda for Montero. Neither has done anything in the majors since the deal.
Luetge. You got a Rule 5 pick in your organization and kept him. Not bad.
Kawasaki. Hey now.
Moves NOT made:
Payroll dropped all the way to $84 million in 2012; $34 million less than the year before Jack started. Which likely meant that top free agents Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, C.J. Wilson, and Yu Darvish would be tough players to sign. Especially coming off of a 95-loss season, could Jack convince ownership that Fielder would be worth 9-years and $214 million (what he signed for with the Tigers) and could Jack convince Fielder that the Mariners would win games?
The answer we should be grateful to hear: No.
I remember that after Fielder had signed a big contract with the Tigers (or maybe it was Pujols and the Angels) I had made an impassioned comment on Lookout Landing that the Mariners were not doing enough and that I was sick and tired of watching teams like the Angels suck up all the good players.
"Suck away, suckers" is what I think now.
Not just because $214,000,000 seems too much for any player, but look at Prince now. Though he hit .313/.412/.528 in 2012, he's down to .267/.365/.466 this season with a career-low ISO of .198. Fielder is 29 and seven years from now he is guaranteed to make $24 million. He's making less contact in the zone this year (84.5%) than he ever has in his career.
Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million contract. The year before he signed, Pujols posted a career-low .906 OPS. The year after he signed, Pujols posted a career-low .859 OPS. This year, Pujols has a .764 OPS. Albert Pujols is 33-years-old and in 2021 -- six years after Marty travels in the future to save his kids -- Pujols is owed $30 million guaranteed.
Reyes signed for $106 million with the Marlins, and was dealt after one year. He's played in just 24 games this year, though he's played well in those 24 games, so yay?
Wilson signed for $77.5 million over five years with the Angels. He has pitched well, but well enough to still owe $54 million after this year with a limited no-trade clause?
Darvish has been pretty amazing, but for a player that had never pitched in the United States before, Darvish was expensive as fuck. Darvish is probably the one guy where you wish Jack would have gotten it done, both at the time and now, but with the mysterious posting fee it's difficult to gauge what it takes to win.
What many of us wanted in reality was to be the Angels, or at least to make the moves that the Angels have made over the past few years. Well, let me tell you that in 2016 the Angels have a $106 million payroll guaranteed already and all of it goes to five players. You've probably noticed that the Angels aren't winning either.
Free agency is stupid and you should hate it more than you do.
Moves made during the season:
Traded Steve Delabar to the Toronto Blue Jays for Eric Thames.
Ichiro for stuff.
League for stuff.
Delabar for Thames? (It's a lot easier to argue that it's negative now. Delabar's HR/FB ratio has fallen from 19.7% in 2012 to 2.1% in 2013. Who could have predicted that? I'm fine with considering this a negative, but Delabar is still a relief pitcher, so it's barely a negative.)
It's too early to make some judgment calls on moves made before this season. What if Morse is the hottest hitter in the second half? He's been known to be that kind of streaky. The value of Vargas and Morales is almost a dead heat. But many of the moves are pretty easy to judge.
Iwakuma is one of the best values (non-rookie contract division) in baseball. Oliver Perez has been one of the most underrated finds for this team under Jack.
Here's what we know for sure:
Traded John Jaso to the Oakland Athletics, received Mike Morse from the Washington Nationals. Morse is hitting .251/.313/.454 with 11 HR and -0.1 WAR. Jaso is hitting .272/.375/.361 for 1.0 WAR.
Traded Jason Vargas to the Anaheim Angels for Kendrys Morales. Morales is hitting .279/.339/.462 with 13 HR for 1.4 WAR. The Varg-Dog has a 3.65 ERA, 4.01 FIP for 1.2 WAR.
Signed Joe Saunders to 1-year, $6.5 million contract. Posting a 4.51 ERA, 4.52 FIP in 107.2 innings for 0.3 WAR.
Signed Raul Ibanez to 1-year, $2.75 million contract. Hitting .253/.301/.548 with 22 HR for 0.7 WAR.
Signed Kelly Shoppach to 1-year, $1.5 million contract. Hit .196/.293/.346 for 0.3 WAR.
Signed Endy Chavez to 1-year contract. Hitting .274/.298/.342 with low UZR rating for -0.6 WAR.
Signed Kameron Loe to 1-year, $1.05 million contract. Pitched 6.2 innings for -0.8 WAR.
Signed Jason Bay to 1-year, $1 million contract. Hitting .215/.313/.415 with 11 HR for 0.4 WAR.
Re-signed Iwakuma to 2-year, $14 million contract with 2015 option. Pitched 124.1 innings for 2.97 ERA, 3.91 FIP and 1.4 WAR.
Extended Felix Hernandez to 7-year, $175 million contract.
Re-signed Perez to 1-year, $1.5 million contract. Pitched 34.1 innings for 1.83 ERA, 2.69 FIP and 0.6 WAR.
Signed Jeremy Bonderman to minor league contract. Pitched 38.1 innings for 4.93 ERA, 5.08 FIP and -0.1 WAR.
Vargas for Morales. Possible push, but Morales filled a more important need for a team that's looking for more space for it's young pitchers in the rotation.
Felix. Well, it could be argued against. But you'd be dead.
Ibanez. Ibanez? More like I-bomb-yes.
Morse Could be argued as negative. Has been. Many times.
Robinson for Andino.
Moves NOT made:
The Mariners kept payroll at $84 million. Supposedly a push was made for Josh Hamilton. Suppose that might have been a bad idea? Hamilton is hitting .229/.289/.422 for 0.6 WAR, but it's early yet. Especially early in the 5-year, $133 million contract he received from the Angels.
Hamilton led the pack of free agents last offseason and ultimately hit the big bucks with Los Angeles. So did Zack Greinke, getting a 6-year, $159 million contract with the
Angels Dodgers. Thus far, Zack Attack has a 3.91 ERA, 3.90 FIP and 0.7 WAR with some of the lowest K numbers and highest walk rate of his career.
Michael Bourn waited a long time for a contract, with some wondering when he'd sign with Seattle. He signed with the Indians for a 4-year, $48 million deal. Bourn has played well, hitting .289/.332/.365 with 1.7 WAR, though he's walking about half as often as he did last year, with a few more strikeouts.
Nick Swisher was on the radar of M's fans for a long time. Also signed with the Indians, for 4-years, $56 million. Is hitting .248/.357/.410 with 9 HR for 1.4 WAR.
Mike Napoli has been a good deal for the Red Sox. Playing on a $5 million contract, Napoli is hitting .254/.341/.438 with 11 HR.
Anibal Sanchez kind of snuck under the radar at a 5-year, $88 million deal with the Tigers. Is having an incredible year with 105 K and 24 BB in 86.2 innings.
Francisco Liriano is pitching for a million bucks and has an ERA of 2.00 in 76.2 innings with the Pirates.
Every Mariners fan's favorite Mariner that's not a Mariner: Brandon McCarthy signed 2-years, $18 million with the Diamondbacks and has an ERA of 5.00 but a FIP of 3.76 and 1.1 WAR. (No wonder McCarthy loves advanced stats.)
Moves made during the season:
Loe selected off waivers.
Bonderman designated for assignment.
Possibly more to come:
Morales, Morse, Ibanez, Bay, Ryan, Saunders, Harang, and Perez make obvious trade candidates. You might see more trade deadlines deals by Jack this year than ever before, because they're all impending free agents, they're all valuable in some ways, and the Mariners would need to win all of the rest of their games in July to keep up in the AL race before the deadline.
That's not happening.
The incredible thing is that Raul Ibanez, signed for less than $3 million, has value.
Oliver Perez, signed for (baseball relatively) nothing, has good value.
Morales, long thought to be resting in peace, has value.
Heck, you might even be able to stick your head up a butchers ass for Morse, Bay, Ryan, Saunders, and Harang and get a couple more prospects. Not only that, but when you trade Joe Saunders you almost get double value:
The player you received for him, and the player you replaced him with. One day you've got Saunders, the next you've got Danny Hultzen in the rotation and some single-A utility player that might become a triple-A utility player.
There's more tradeable pieces here than Jack's ever had, even if none of them are Cliff Lee. Maybe that's a good thing; people won't judge him as harshly if the returns diminish.
Notable Free Agents signed by Jack:
Russell Branyan, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mike Sweeney, Chone Figgins, Erik Bedard, Jack Wilson, David Pauley, Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust, Adam Kennedy, Tom Wilhelmsen, Steve Delabar, Hisashi Iwakuma, George Sherrill, Munenori Kawasaki, Kevin Millwood, Oliver Perez, Joe Saunders, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, Kelly Shoppach, Endy Chavez.
Excellent free agent pickups:
Branyan was worth nothing, then one of the most valuable players on the team.
Wilhelmsen was worth nothing, then a closer, then kind of a crappy closer, but he used to not pitch too long ago.
Iwakuma was the Darvish bargain.
Perez has been an excellent reliever and one of the most valuable pitchers on the team.
Worst free agent moves:
Let's just put it this way. The worst move ever made by Jack Zduriencik was a contract worth $36 million. That's not hitting hard enough is it? Let me repeat that.
In five years, the absolute worst thing that Jack Z has ever done is sign a player to a $36 million contract. That player had posted 6.6 WAR the previous year. Michael Bourn posted 6.1 WAR last year and signed for $48 million. You could argue that Fister or Morrow were actually the worst move, but as far as contracts go, he's given out one major contract.
He also signed Felix to two long-term deals, just like we asked for.
He signed Gutierrez to a team-friendly deal. When he literally imploded, it didn't ruin us.
Players not signed by Jack:
Mark Teixeira, $180,000,000
CC Sabathia, $161,000,000
Zack Greinke, $147,000,000
Carl Crawford, $142,000,000
Jayson Werth, $126,000,000
Josh Hamilton, $125,000,000
Cliff Lee, $120,000,000
Jose Reyes, $106,000,000
Now look at this number again:
That's barely more than the entire guaranteed payroll for the Mariners in 2014.
The Mariners guaranteed payroll for next season is $33 million, with almost $23 million of that going to Felix. Figgins $8.5 million finally drops off the books. Gutierrez has $7 million drop off the books if his option isn't picked up. Morse has $7 million drop off the books. Saunders has $6.5 million. Morales has $5.25 million. Ryan has $3.25 million. Ibanez has $2.75 million.
Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders hit arbitration for the first time, and Smoak actually looks like a major league baseball player. But not enough of one to get an expensive extension or make a ton in arbitration.
At this point you've got to hope that the Mariners infield is actually spoken for with Smoak and more. At the very least, it wouldn't make sense to see them sign big deals at catcher, second, short, or third. If Smoak keeps up his hot play, then there goes first.
In the outfield, Ibanez and Morse might be a good as gone, with Saunders and possibly Gutierrez ($7.5 million team option) to compete in center. Of course, Gutierrez probably won't play enough to justify that. Weaknesses in the outfield could have the team looking on the free agent market, this time for a player that's not just looking for "anyone that will take him" by April.
Over $40 million should come off the books after this season and it would be hard to envision the M's going into next season with a payroll under $50 million. It would also be hard to see them go into next season with a payroll over $90 million. But there should be flexibility there to test pretty much any free agent and give them as good of an offer as they will get.
But should they?
Should the Mariners give Ellsbury a $150,000,000 contract? Is that working out well for anybody these days?
The Mariners should have three rotation spots set, with another reserved for Taijuan Walker and/or Danny Hultzen. Would it be wise to keep those spots open or to prepare for the worst? The best free agent starting pitchers could be A.J. Burnett (that didn't work out in 2009), Bartolo Colon (yeah, really?), Matt Garza, Roy Halladay, Phil Hughes, Josh Johnson, Jon Lester, Colby Lewis, Hiroki Kuroda (always), Tim Lincecum, Ricky Nolasco, and some other guys. (I'm not up on EVERYONE's stats)
They'll have the option to do a lot, in large part because while we've been worried that Jack and the front office have been stagnant on the free agent market, we are quite lucky that they've done so little.
In this case, the love you make is equal to the deals you didn't.