clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Rosenthal: Three years, pending a physical. No word on money yet.

If Miguel Batista's so smart, why's he signing with Seattle?

A few months ago I was exchanging emails with Dave regarding potential bargain starters available in the offseason. Some of the names that came up, off the top of my head: Jason Johnson, Rodrigo Lopez, Angel Guzman, Kameron Loe, Jeff Weaver (this was before the playoffs), Tim Redding, and Miguel Batista. All of them looked like reasonable back-of-the-rotation starters that the Mariners could land without having to pay very much, leaving plenty of room to sign a Matsuzaka or Schmidt or whoever to put at #1.

I underestimated this market.

The Royals offered Batista $24m over three years, and there's no reason for him to take a discount to play in Seattle. In case you haven't noticed, this team's been pretty pathetic. So if and when Ken Rosenthal's words come true, Batista's going to be a Mariner through 2009 for at least $8m a season. That's a formidable deal. There's no way around it.

It's a move that shows both the intelligence and the shortcomings of the Mariner front office. Miguel Batista's a durable starter who keeps the ball on the ground and rarely gets blown out of the water, so in that respect he's a valuable pitcher. Batista, like Horacio Ramirez, Jarrod Washburn, and Richie Sexson, was properly identified as a guy who could succeed in this environment and help the team win. The problem is that, once the front office saw those potential values, they spent out the ass to get them, requiring that they consistently perform to the best of their respective abilities to be worth the price. Bavasi's heart is in the right place, but God bless him, he just struggles with the execution. If you like Miguel Batista, but his price soars above the level you expected, you don't keep bidding. You drop out and sign John Thomson instead. Yeah, he has his risks, but given the discrepancy in cost he's far and away the better gamble.

So let's say Batista chooses Seattle over Kansas City for the same contract. This means that, in 2008, the Mariners will have Batista, Beltre, Sexson, and Washburn locked up for a combined $43.13m. That's roughly 45% of the team payroll tied up in four players who might give you half that production. I know I say it over and over and over again, but one more time, bad contracts add up. If you're already operating with reduced flexibility, you don't go out and reduce it further by giving $24m to a 36 year old.

Following the Soriano trade, the Mariners had leftover cash that they needed to spend. After all, it doesn't make any sense to let the owners pocket the money. Rather than putting it towards someone who'd come on a pricey but short-term commitment, though, they're taking a three-year risk with slim odds of being worthwhile. A few days ago I was saying that, if nothing else, at least Bavasi wasn't tying up the team with future payroll, but now I can't even use that defense anymore.

All right, enough of that. At least Miguel Batista's useful, in a Jarrod Washburn sense. He doesn't strike anyone out, but he's a good bet to give you 30 starts with an ERA in the mid-4's, which has value. And where Washburn only gets by at home because of Safeco's spacious dimensions, Batista will be able to feast off of Betancourt and Beltre no matter where he pitches. The same goes for Horacio Ramirez. By making the pitchers complementary to the roster, instead of the park, you make them look better 32 times a year instead of 16. That's a good idea on the part of the front office, even if it isn't necessarily intentional. You can't waste those kinds of infield gloves on a staff of flyball pitchers.

Miguel Batista's going to be okay. When you look at a rotation of Felix/Washburn/Ramirez/Batista/Baek you feel like throwing up a little, but Batista by himself is an acceptable player, one of those guys who "always keeps his team in the game" (which I expect to hear several dozen times this year) and who's capable of improving Jose Guillen's incoherent pseudo-English. Assuming he signs, he's a fine pitcher and he improves the Mariners from where they stood a day ago. He just doesn't improve them enough.