The Mariners have finally opened their off-season, and it's the old dull Swiss Army knife Willie Bloomquist, who Jon Heyman is reporting is about to join the Mariners. It's a two year deal worth $5.8 million, according to Ken Rosenthal.
That's some cash. Bloomquist has never made more than $2 million in a season, and now the Mariners are about to offer him the payday of his career at age 36. It's without question an overpay, especially compared to the deal Nick Punto got (1/$2.75). Nick Punto is the same age, better, and got half of what WFB did. The Mariners are paying a premium to know exactly what they're getting - a barely above replacement level baseball player that plays defense everywhere but fairly poorly, and one who has hit better in recent years than he has in the past.
Bloomquist is now 36 and has provided at least respectable offense for the Diamondbacks over the past two seasons, piecing together 488 plate appearances, combining for 0.9 fWAR. He still doesn't have an ounce of power or patience, but can still left-handed pitching reasonably well. He missed a bunch of last year with a hand injury, and now he'll return to the same organization he spent the first 10 years of his career with.
Bloomquist still plays all over the field, and the Diamondbacks actually let him play a significant amount of shortstop in 2012, though it resulted in a -15.5 UZR/150. Bloomquist has always been able to play everywhere, but he isn't particularly good anywhere - in fact, Bloomquist owns a negative UZR at every position he's ever played.
Bloomquist gives the Mariners options, and there will be interesting fallout from this deal that we'll examine in a bit. For now, assuming no other moves, Bloomquist will backup shortstop, third base, and second base for the Mariners, as well as LF/CF in a pinch. There's value in versatility, and even though Bloomquist isn't an asset at any one specific spot, the fact that he can help everyone else shift or stay at their optimal positions can provide value elsewhere.
This is already being heavily criticized online, and it's understandable. Bloomquist is not worth this contract. Period. Without considering money, he isn't a terrible player to fill out a bench. If he were 12 years younger and came from within the organization, he would probably be viewed as an asset. The Mariners don't currently have anybody who can fill in all over the place, and because they have an affinity for bad fielders and inflexible roster construction, Bloomquist probably means more to the Mariners than other teams.
Bloomquist is going to make $2.5-$3 million a year for the next two years. Don't react to it like it's on the same level as Carlos Silva or Chone Figgins. This deal isn't going to block anything, and it isn't going to hamstring payroll. It's an overpay, but at it's such a low price point that the potential impact is already overstated. It isn't exciting, it isn't the big splash fans want, but things are moving. The sequence of events doesn't matter, but it feels like it does. It doesn't make any difference whether Bloomquist signs now or in February, but for so many fans holding onto hope that this is the year the Mariners go nuts and sign a bunch of good free agents, it kind of feels like perhaps this is as good as it's going to get. Maybe it is. Maybe they'll keep overpaying for mediocre players, and maybe the next contract won't be as minor as this one. When that happens, the organization will be properly skewered. Color me wary, but not yet upset.
If there's one thing this shows about the Mariners, it's that they're not afraid to go out and get the guys they want, even if the deal is above market value. If they choose to extend this philosophy to Nelson Cruz, that's when I'll have a major problem. For now, this deal is met with relative indifference.