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My Cheap Solution

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By now, everybody and their mothers know that the Mariners are looking to add another bat, preferably someone cheap and left-handed who can fill in at DH or left field. Which, by itself, is all right with most of us, provided the rest of the money gets put into the rotation; the problem comes when you realize that Bavasi's looking at Carl Everett to fill that hole, someone who's neither a good player nor a good person.

Granted, the remaining options on the market are less than desirable, but consider what Everett would really bring to the table - he'd a bad outfielder, so he'd force Ibanez into left while sliding into the DH role, and his best-case offensive upside is somewhere around a .270/.330/.450 batting line, similar to the kind of performance you could get for the minimum from any number of guys in the minor league free agent pool. Carl Everett does nothing for this team, and there's absolutely no reason to guarantee him a few million dollars to prove that point over and over and over again.

Which is why I'm hoping for Jeromy Burnitz.

Stop laughing.

Here's the thing (things?) about Burnitz: he's cheap, he's available, he fills a need, and he's exactly the kind of player who'd be more valuable to the Mariners than anyone else.

Taken at face value, it's hard to see what there is to like - Burnitz will be 37 next year, and he's coming off a .757 OPS as an everyday right fielder in Wrigley. He's kind of a big guy, too, not real graceful in the field, and his long swing would invariably lead to a bunch of crushing strikeouts.

When you're searching for cheap solutions to roster holes, though, you have to dig a little deeper to see who's a match, and the more I look, the more I like the idea of Burnitz patrolling left field for the Mariners in 2006.

Burnitz has long been regarded as one of the most extreme lefty pull hitters in baseball, using his long swing to get ahead of fastballs over the plate and drive them down the right field line. It's not just reputation, either - over the last three years, nearly two-thirds (65%) of Burnitz's extra-base hits have gone to the right half of the outfield, with many of his home runs flying just past the foul pole. It's been a consistent trend for the duration of his career, and it's likely to remain intact as he ages. Whoever signs Jeromy Burnitz this winter is going to have a crazy pull hitter on their hands.

So, why Seattle? Safeco's vulnerable to left-handed hitters, of course. Here's the park factor breakdown for homer-friendliness in Safeco over the past four years (where 100 is average and >100 is homer-friendly):

Right-handed Hitters: 89
Left-handed Hitters: 121

Lefties have been able to hit for a ton more power in Seattle, in part thanks to the 327' right field line (along with a few other reasons). The batting average park factors are about even between lefties and righties - Safeco reduces them both about equally - but Burnitz is a distinct and fairly extreme flyball hitter, so he'd be able to take better advantage of the short porch without taking the same kind of statistical hit as many other hitters. In short, Safeco is the perfect home environment for a hitter like Burnitz, and he's probably the best left-handed sock we'll be able to get for the money we're looking to spend.

That's not it, either. Burnitz may look like a brick shithouse, but he's deceptively terrific with the glove - his ratings were positive across the board, with UZR ranking him an incredible +14 for 2005 (UZR, of course, being the best defensive metric we've got). Even if you want to call that kind of extreme performance a one-year fluke, we can still feel comfortable calling Burnitz a +5 or so in left field, which only makes him look better.

Think of it this way: if you sign Carl Everett, then you've got Ibanez playing in left field the majority of the time. If you sign Burnitz, then you force Ibanez to DH, and that's a 10-15 run upgrade before you even start talking about offense.

I don't think signing Jeromy Burnitz as a starter makes sense for too many teams, but the Mariners are definitely one of them. He's a perfect match for the team and the ballpark, with his offensive style well-suited for the short right field porch and his defense coming in handy for a contact pitching staff with a big outfield. For one year and a few million dollars, there's nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain. What's the downside? A decent glove with a .720 OPS? Fine, then you look at the standings come midseason and decide whether or not it's worth upgrading. But with an upside somewhere around Raul Ibanez's bat with a good glove to boot, I don't see why you'd turn him down in favor of some heap of bigot trash like Carl Everett.

Sign Jeromy Burnitz. Pour the rest of the money into the rotation. You won't be disappointed.