Greetings from Kansas City International Airport ….
I figured I’d throw up quick blog post since my hotel kicked me out, my flight is delayed by an hour and I have some free time.
The Mariners went 4-4 on that road trip. And it certainly didn’t feel like a .500 road trip with the way they played overall. They’ve won four games in their last 14, and three of them were against the Astros.
At this point, they are 63-77. There are 22 games remaining in the season, they would have to go 11-11 in those games to avoid losing 90 games. Nothing we’ve seen recently says that will happen. It seems like 90 losses is an inevitability.
The bigger question is what happens going forward. General manager Jack Zduriencik is under contract for next season, despite the Mariners’ reluctance announce it publicly. But that one-year means little. The Mariners fired Bill Bavasi with one year left on a contract. Regardless of what happens this season, the Mariners could make a change at GM. There is certainly enough cause – four losing seasons out of the five under Zduriencik’s tenure.
Eric Wedge is not under contract for next season (that we know of). And if the Mariners do fire Zduriencik, Wedge would likely be gone too because any GM replacement would want to hire his own manager.
Really, these next 22 games shouldn’t matter in either Zduriencik or Wedge’s future. You would expect the Mariners leadership of CEO Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong to know what they plan to do going forward. They’ve had enough information in front of them to make a decision. Because nothing about these 22 games is really going to tell them anything different than what they should already know. But then again, the Mariners line of thinking on things doesn’t always mesh with mine.
Elsewhere … my friend Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and USS Mariner, references a blog post I’d written on one of his own posts (hey at least more than a few people are reading them).
Dave wrote about the concept of Kendrys Morales not being a middle of the order hitter like the Mariners have proclaimed him to be.
1. On most teams, Morales isn’t a middle of the order hitter. The numbers show that he probably doesn’t fit that perceived role. On this team, he is that guy because they don’t have anyone else like it. It’s Morales and Kyle Seager – unless they can invent a time machine for Raul Ibanez. And they don’t have anyone else like him coming up through the minor leagues. Check out the rosters, there isn’t a true middle of the order power bat prospect in Triple A or Double A ( I don’t count levels below that because of the attrition and failure rate of players). The Mariners have lauded Morales as middle of the order guy in large part because they would like to sign him to an extension and keep him around.
2. The Mariners can make a qualifying offer of 1-year, $14 million to Morales for next season, which he can accept or forgo. I wrote that he “could” get a better deal if he opts for free agency. The reason I wrote that is because Scott Boras is his agent. And it’s what he does. Do I think a team is going to give a $5-year, $60 million contract to a full-time DH? Not a chance. I’d be stunned (and jealous). But I think he could get three years at $33 million. Never underestimate Boras or the desperation of a GM or organization. This year’s free agent class isn’t overflowing with great hitting. The chances for Morales to get a multi-year deal are running out. He’s 30. He’s not going to get a six year deal or a five, but a three-year deal with an option year is possible. Of course, whatever team that signs him will have to f0rfeit a first-round draft pick to the Mariners. And while more and more teams place importance on draft picks because of financial investment, there are some teams that are focusing on the now.
3. If Morales were to accept the qualifying offer and earned $14 million next season, it would be measured as an overpayment if they got similar production this season. You could debate overpayment vs. actual production on almost every player, even Felix Hernandez. Of course, Morales’ value to the Mariners could be measured as higher because of the lack of hitting on the roster and in the organization. As I said, there isn’t a plethora of options for offensive upgrades out there for this team via free agency. And nothing we’ve see so far would tell you that the $14 million saved by not offering Morales would somehow lead to a wiser, better investment in another player.
4. I do think the Mariners will continue to add to their payroll budget. Lincoln and Armstrong may seem to be naive to some of the bitterness and anger of the fanbase, but they can look at the dwindling attendance and know they have to put a better product on the field. The purchase of Root Sports will allow them to generate new revenue going forward. They truly have no reason to not boost payroll. And if they don’t, it would just be another shot to their credibility.
Also Jeff Passan of Yahoo wrote this great column on Taijuan Walker and the lack of African-American kids playing baseball. Some very good stuff from Taijuan, who really is engaging and enjoyable to talk to. And he’s right about the game being too expensive. Select teams and such have prized low income and even some middle class families out of the sport.