Offseason Plan: The Quest for 40 WAR

2014. This is supposed to be the year that the Mariners are contending. Are they there yet? Not even close, but now more than before the franchise is in a position to get to that point. They've got dump trucks full cash just waiting to unload, and it would behoove them to do so.

Part of the Mariners taking controlling interest in Root Sports is that it will allow them to retain all broadcast revenues. This amount is going to be a much, much larger figure than their previous $45 million annual rate for broadcast rights. This means that they'll actually see a benefit from increased ad sales from an investment in their on field product instead of a static yearly figure. Payroll is going to go up....way up.

So what should a contending Mariner's payroll look like? During Bavasi's last year in 2008 the payroll tipped the scales at $117,666,482. Adjusting this figure for 8.8% compounding inflation puts that number in 2013 dollars at around $128m. Currently with arbitration eligible and cost controlled players included, the Mariners have roughly only $47.7m committed for 2013. That's about $80.3m that they could use on acquisitions this off-season if they're inclined to do so. That's a lot of room to play with if Jack is given the go ahead to go full crazy pants. Sooo let's go full crazy pants.

In order to construct a roster there's a few initial assumptions need to be made.

  • You can't just go throwing millions at Jacoby Ellsbury. No matter how much fans shopping for coffin nails want to make it so, this is not going to happen. The Mariners, as currently constructed, just aren't that an attractive team that a free agent of his caliber in the prime of their career would want to join. Deal with it.
  • Players requiring loss of draft pick will not be acquired. This is the first time since 2009 that the team is in position to have two top 30 draft picks. A team that's built on the draft should continue to do so and shouldn't punt draft picks willy nilly(Hello, Ruben Amaro).
  • Marquee players will be acquired through salary dumps. This is going be the only way to acquire a 5+ win players this offseason. The salary space to do so is available, and this would offset and minimize the talent given up in return.
  • I'm not psychic. It's pretty safe to assume this one. I have no idea what players will be required to make these trades happen, and neither do you. I've done my best to create a scenario where there is talent available to be traded, but I really have no clue what it would take to make it happen. Same goes for any salary absorbed in the trade as well. I assume there's going be some sort of salary relief based upon the talent given up, but I'm not going to factor that in. This is just an exercise of what a roster constructed with these players under a worst case salary would look like. That being said.....
  • Trading Walker or Paxton is a non-starter. Keeping a cheap and talented back end of the rotation is crucial.
  • Buy the rumors. There's really no reason not to buy them. The team's got the money and we need to make a lot of changes. We've been given the shopping list by Olney, and details have leaked about the some specific players the Mariners are pursuing. I'd like to think the details are somewhat accurate. The good players at least.

One additional caveat regarding $ per WAR. Here are a couple articles written on the subject by Dave Cameron if anyone isn't that familiar with it. Again I'm not psychic nor do I have access to any predictive tools that are. I can only go off past performance and analyze players in that regard. I'm attempting to keep all players obtained to under a combined $5m per WAR threshold. I do also believe that once a certain threshold, e.g. 40 WAR for a team total, is reached the dollar value per WAR increases. I had attempted to find the article that justified this, but I failed in doing so. Maybe someone reading this knows what I'm talking about and can link it.

So let's start shopping shall we.....

Sign 3B Jhonny Peralta 3 years/$38 million

Ahh the Lloyd McClendon connection brings us our first guy. This move just makes so much sense. You bring in Peralta to play 3B so that you can shift Seagar back to his natural position of 2B. This solidifies both positions giving the Mariners the ability to move Franklin and/or Ackley in a trade. 3 Year WAR Avg: 3.7

Sign CL Fernando Rodney 2 years/$18 million

Another Lloyd McClendon guy! That connection goes back to when Rodney was with the Tigers and McClendon was hired as the bullpen coach in 2006. Redundant and expensive you say? Well yes! However, it's an item from Olney's shopping list. :( I don't really like it, but I get it. Fun fact: Rodney and Peralta share the same agent. One stop shopping. How convenient. 3 Year WAR Avg: 1.1

Sign 1B-DH Corey Hart 2 years/18.5 million

If they're still around, I could easily envision a Hart/Smoak/Montero 1B-DH platoon. Hart's 3 Year WAR Avg: 3.2

Trade for OF Matt Kemp 6 years/$128 million remaning

This one is going to hurt. If the Dodgers, as expected by signing SS Alexander Guerrero, move Ramirez to 3B then they'll have a glaring need at 2B and in the rotation. With finances that are already pushing the luxury tax threshold, a Kemp trade could allow them the resources to fix that while helping fill a couple of those holes. I would expect that this would be the most logical landing spot for either Ackley or Franklin, but then again I don't know what it would realistically take to get this done. That's a huge, risky contract to take on by itself. Kemp's 3 Year WAR Avg: 3.7

Trade for LHP Cliff Lee 3 years/$77.5million remaining

I love Cliff Lee. You love Cliff Lee. Bringing him in last time was a smart move, and it still is one. The Phillies have been trying to move Lee since last season. This off season brings us rumors of the Phillies and Toronto hooking up once again to swap Joey Bats for Dominic Brown. The Mariners should make lightning strike twice and ease that deal by absorbing salary from the Phillies while providing an additional couple of prospects in return. Lee's 3 Year WAR Avg: 5.5

In total that would be roughly $75.5million worth of payroll added for about 17.1 worth of WAR at roughly $4.3m per WAR added. The total team payroll would come in at around $123m making it the most expensive Mariners team in franchise history. This would also put the team total for WAR roughly around 38.5. When you consider than putting Lee, Paxton, and Walker into the rotation for a full season means you can keep negative WAR contributors like Harang, Saunders, and Maurer out, you're optimistically looking at closer to 40+ total team WAR.

At this level, the value of $/WAR would begin rising significantly. Once that magical 40 WAR threshold is reached, then and only then would it begin making sense for the team to pursue someone like Ellsbury, and he might even be inclined to reciprocate. As this team would still have a hole in the outfield to fill, the salary limit can be pushed even further and a greater return on investment expected. Here is a link to a spreadsheet that includes salary figures and WAR. Also included is a "What if Ellsbury" scenario plus a potential line up along with career splits. I admit all this is nuts. I freely admit it. Then again everything we've been hearing so far this off-season has been borderline nuts so let's just roll with it.