Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Struggling Organization: Seattle Mariners

Oh boy, where do we start here? The Mariners are a complete mess. They have fallen a LONG way since 2001, when they won a record 116 regular season games. Seattle currently sits 29.5 games out of first place in the AL West and 23 games out of the wild card. GM Bill Bavasi and Manager John McLaren were fired in June because of the team's poor performance. Obviously, their season is cooked, but the Mariners still seem stuck in neutral. At the trading deadline, inti rm GM Lee Pelekoudas refused to trade either Jarrod Washburn or Adrian Beltre and instead decided to stand pat with aging veterans on horrible team. So how did the Mariners wind up in this situation? The answer is simple: money.

Free Agents
The Mariners front office has been willing to spend money. The Mariners payroll this season is just over $117 million dollars Obviously, this is a good thing. However, they have spent money on aging players on the downside of their careers. Take a look at all this wasted money:
Carlos Silva: 4 years/$48 mil (began this year)
Jarrod Washburn: 4 years/$37.5 mil (ends next year)
Adrian Beltre: 5 years/$64 mil (ends next year)
Miguel Batista: 3 years/$25 mil (ends next year)
Kenji Johjima: 3 years/$24 mil (begins next year)
Richie Sexson: 4 years/$50 mil (released)

Quite simply folks, it is unbelievable that one team can spend so much money so badly (over $200 million on 6 players). Besides Beltre, none of those players was entering their "prime" during the seasons that the Mariners are paying them for. And the Mariners have gotten very little from these 6 "big signings" as they have all disappointed in their own way. That's horrible baseball management by Mariners management and GM Bill Bavasi as they failed to give the M's the best chance to win.

This off season, the Mariners made a splash by acquiring Baltimore Orioles ace Erik Bedard from the Seattle Mariners for OF Adam Jones (top prospect), SP Chris Tillman (top prospect), SP Tony Butler (good prospect), RP George Sherrill and Kam Mickolio. The Mariners obviously thought that they were going to be more competitive this season, but this trade makes them look foolish. Jones has been a mainstay in the Orioles lineup with his combination of athleticism and power. Sherrill has been the Orioles closer this season and actually made the all star team. He could prove to be a valuable trade chip this off season (even though the O's control his rights for the next few seasons). Tillman could actually wind up being the real coup of the deal as he is pitching great as a 20 year old in AA ball (7-4 3.67 ERA with 124 K). This deal looks even worse for the Mariners when you consider that Bedard has missed more than a month because of shoulder stiffness. Yikes.

The Mariners have drafted well over the past few years, but they could have done better. In 2005, the Mariners drafted Jeff Clement, catcher from USC, who has finally gotten some playing time this season. Clement could develop into a stud catcher, but considering that Ryan Braun, Jay Bruce, Ryan Zimmerman, and Matt Garza were drafted after him, Clement has a lot to live up too. And no one can forget that the Mariners let Clement waste away in AAA while they gave at bats away to Richie Sexson, Kenji Johjima and Jose Vidro. Yuck.

In 2006, the Mariners selected starter Brandon Morrow with the fifth pick over Clayton Kershaw and local boy Tim Lincecum. All three have made it to the majors, but the Mariners rushed Morrow to the bigs by using him as a reliever in 2007 and half of 2008, before finally sending him back to AAA to develop into a starter.

Could you imagine the Mariners with Braun and Lincecum instead of Clement and Morrow? They would have two studs and potential greats, but instead they have two unproven talents who the Mariners have mishandled. We'll see what happens when Morrow and Clement get a true shot to show what they can do.

Bold Prediction
*Mariners struggle in 2009, come near .500 in 2010 before finally sniffing the playoffs in 2011 and 2012*
The Mariners have lots of payroll coming off the books in 2009 so the rebuilding process could be expedited. The Mariners still have some talent: Ichiro, Felix Hernandez, Jose Lopez, JJ Putz, Raul Ibanez (free agent after this year), Morrow, Clement, and Balentien; but, the sad reality is that they will not be able to competed with the consistency of the Angels, the offense of the Rangers, or the great young talent of the Athletics. The next 2 seasons will be rough for the Mariners, but as long as they can spend wisely, handle their young players better, perhaps trade away some veterans (Bedard, Washburn, Beltre), and continue to build the farm system; then the Mariners will come back to prominence in a few seasons.

Plus, they have a scary Moose Mascot. He creeps me out. C'mon Mariners, you can do better!

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