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The Baseball Case For/Against Carl Everett

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Everybody knows that Carl Everett is a stark raving lunatic. He's said and done some strange and terrible things in his life, and he ranks near the top of the list of abrasive malcontents who play professional baseball. On the other side of the coin, though, Everett's played for a number of good teams without causing so much as a stir, and the champion White Sox had all sorts of nice things to say about his clubhouse demeanor.

Is Carl Everett a nice guy? I don't see any reason to believe that he is, but given that nobody has any idea how much weight we should put on player personality when it comes to building a successful roster (there have been arguments made for anything from "none" to "all of it"), I thought it would be worthwhile to look at this from a strictly baseball standpoint. Why is Carl Everett a good idea? Why isn't he? How do dinosaurs tie into all this?

SIGN THE GUY!

The Mariners don't have too many requirements for the bat they're looking to add this winter - whoever it is just has to be a relatively inexpensive left-handed hitter who can play the outfield a little bit if need be. Everett meets all three.

Let's tackle these in order. Inexpensive? Everett's your guy. Depending on who you believe, he's going to wind up with a one-year commitment worth somewhere between $3-4m. The benefit is that it leaves the Mariners with a lot of money to throw at the rotation without tying them to a two- or three-year guarantee. Carl Everett isn't a long-term solution to anything, but he's one of the better options available in a thin market, and you can ditch him for somebody else next November without being on the hook for the rest of his decline phase. Short-term contracts are a wonderful thing.

Left-handed? Sort of, in that Everett's a switch-hitter who spends most of his time batting lefty. The overwhelming majority of his home runs get yanked to right field, and as a fly ball hitter, that's the kind of thing that bodes well for a successful season in Safeco Field. Everett isn't a pull hitter of the same magnitude as Jeromy Burnitz, but he's not Ichiro, either, so he could get a bit of a power boost in Seattle.

Play the outfield? Sure, why not? It obviously wouldn't be his primary role - were Everett to sign, left field would be Ibanez's job - but Raul needs a rest from time to time, and Everett has 1,098 games of outfield experience. Not only does that mean a fresher Raul Ibanez down the stretch, but it also takes some of the 4th OF responsibility away from Willie Ballgame, which can only be good for the standings.

Carl Everett is no one's ideal DH, but on a cheap one-year deal, he could do some good things for the Mariners and help them towards a playoff push.

I'D LIKE TO ISSUE A PRE-EMPTIVE DECREE OF DAMNATIO MEMORIAE

Two years ago, Carl Everett might've looked like a good idea. 217 games and 593 outs later, though, not so much. He's a platoon player in the middle stages of a well-established decline, his body no longer capable of holding up under the wear and tear of a Major League season. His acquisition would do little, if anything, to help the Mariners win more games.

Where do you start? Everett hit .251/.311/.435 last year in something of a hitter's paradise, collecting the majority of his at bats as a DH because he can't play defense anymore. The year before, he put up a .260/.319/.402 batting line in roughly 300 plate appearances, too, so it's not like this is a one-time thing. Could he rebound? Sure, it's possible, but it's unlikely - Everett turns 35 next June, an age at which not even the spectacularly anomalous Bret Boone could maintain his sudden career revival. Everett was once a fairly athletic guy, and looked like he might age well, but now his body is something of a bloated mess, and there exists the distinct possibility that he's on the brink of total collapse. The odds of decline have to be considered greater than the odds of improvement, here. Safeco could mask some of that, but even then, we're estimating that he ends up breaking even with his 2005 batting line.

To make matters worse, Everett can't touch left-handed pitchers, meaning that you'd either be coughing up outs in crucial games against division rivals, or paying him to play in a max of 115-120 games. His career OPS is 17.6% worse against southpaws than it is against righties, which starts to look worse and worse the more a player declines. I'm not saying it's that hard to find a DH platoon mate who can hit lefties a little bit, but it's certainly an inconvenience.

Of course, could we even depend on Everett to be healthy when we need him to be? Since finally breaking into the league in 1995, he's played in an average of just 72% of his team's games, never surpassing 147 in a season. He was reasonably healthy for last year's White Sox, but his lower body has always been a problem, with nagging hamstring and groin problems flaring up from time to time and almost completely sapping him of his footspeed and agility. If you sign Carl Everett to be an everyday player (or close to one, anyway), you need to have a replacement in mind, because that guy's all but guaranteed to stumble into considerable playing time.

Because Everett's range has, for all intents and purposes, disintegrated to the point of negligibility, he can't come in and contribute anything in the field - rather, he forces Raul Ibanez into an outfield corner 140 times a year, which isn't good news for a pitching staff that's going to need all the help it can get in a big ballpark with lots of room for fly balls. On top of that, you still have to deal with the fact that a guy who put up a .745 OPS a year ago is your regular DH. Since 2000, the league-average DH has hit .264/.345/.447, meaning that Everett would have to experience a significant career rejuvenation just to provide average production. That's bad. You know how you always hear guys talking about players in the minors who can hit, but who can't play the field for beans? Those guys are everywhere - everywhere - and several of them could probably provide better offense than Carl Everett.

See, nobody should be comparing Everett to other available corner outfielders - they should be comparing him to everyone capable of swinging a bat, since that's all the Mariners would be asking him to do in 2006. What do you expect from a replacement-level DH? Something like .250/.300/.400? Does Everett really represent a $3-$4m improvement on that kind of performance? All you really need to do is sign the next Bucky Jacobsen for the league minimum and try to act surprised when he equals or exceeds Everett's batting line. Here's one candidate. There are tons of others.

Signing Carl Everett isn't going to kill the team; that kind of thing doesn't happen with one-year contracts. However, it's unlikely to make the Mariners any better, and in that respect Bill Bavasi might be better off using the $3-$4m to build a really impressive fort out of ermine sofa cushions. It's the dreaded lateral step - by itself, it's not a real big deal, but these kinds of things add up, and before long you finish the season two games out, wondering what you could've done different.

This guy's far more likely to create problems than he is to solve any. Avoid Carl Everett. He's all downside.