Tag Archives: Cliff Lee

The Rebuilding Process, Year 5

One year ago I asked your reaction following Prince signing in Detroit. One year later, I’m curious what your take is on Josh Hamilton signing with a division foe, for nearly $100 million less than Prince got.

This is my 5th installment in a series of posts I’ve done recapping and forecasting the Mariners Rebuilding Process, since Jack Z took over as GM. You can find the prior posts here: Years 1 and 2 Year 3 Year 4

Let’s recap the 5 year rebuild plan I laid out in October 2008.


2009, Year 1: Shed dead weight, Begin overhauling the farm
Summary: Traded Putz for Guti, Carp, Vargas, and managed to get rid of Silva, Betancourt, and Johjima, while also using 3 of first 5 picks on Ackley, Franklin, Seager.
Grade: A+

2010, Year 2: Shed dead weight, Continue building the farm (and lock up Felix)
Summary: Signed Griffey and Sweeney, locked up Felix and acquired Cliff Lee, then swapped him for Smoak. Could have done without the Morrow trade and of course the Figgins contract. Selected Walker, Paxton, Pryor in rounds 1, 4, 5.
Grade: B-

2011, Year 3: Bring the youth up, Evaluate potential, Acquire more young talent
Summary: Hired Wedge, traded for Brendan Ryan, picked up Wilhelmson at a local bar, and signed low cost vets such as Cust, Olivo, Kennedy. Fielded an even mix of youth and vets, but loads of young talent in the pipeline for the first time in forever. At the deadline traded Fister for Furbush and Wells. Hultzen chosen with #2 pick.
Grade: B

2012, Year 4: continue youth movement, achieve .500 record
Summary: Swapped Pineda for Montero and made some shrewd acquistions in Jaso, Iwakuma, Luetge, Millwood, Perez, then saw a young roster come up 6 games short of .500, while improving by 8 games from prior season. Picked Mike Zunino #3 overall.
Grade: A

2013, Year 5: add 1-2 big pieces, contend for playoffs
Summary: Thus far we’ve seen a few low cost signings in Bay, Ibanez, Bonderman, and a 1 for 1 swap of Vargas-Morales.
Grade: ???

I’ve said this before, but in 4 1/2 years on the job, Bill Bavasi set this organization back 5 years, minimum. Last year I stated

“For the first time on Jack’s watch, I think the on field W/L record is important. .500 ball is a reasonable expectation this year, which would be a welcomed site for our eyes.”

Well, The M’s flirted with .500 in 2012 and showed noticeable improvement, albeit without much offense yet again. Entering year 5 the talk of laying the foundation and replenishing the system should be over, and playoff contention ought to be close. Zduriencik has said as much if you’ve heard any of his recent interviews.

If the blueprint holds form, the M’s will be adding 1-2 big pieces this offseason, and assembling a playoff capable team in 2013. This sounds great but it is nearly January and almost all the big name free agents have signed elsewhere, and the only acquisitions Seattle has made are Robert Andino, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and a swap of Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales. Not exactly blockbuster moves capable of propelling the M’s from 75 wins into contention. I suppose the big moves we hoped for are still possible if Jack can, for example, land Justin Upton and Michael Bourn, and add a veteran pitcher to round out the rotation. That would certainly be a competitive team, but is that the best route to take?

Given how the AL West is shaping up, it may be best to hang onto the prospects, add a couple decent pieces, and shoot for a respectable 80-85 wins in 2013, while waiting until next year to make the big splash. I don’t see a scenario, at this point, for the M’s to overtake Texas or Anaheim in 2013, and probably not Oakland either. So why go all in? I’m not suggesting Seattle give up any hopes they had for next year, just because the division rivals are pulling away, but I don’t want the M’s to mortgage the future to field a better team next year, but one that cannot be sustained.

Keeping a positive trajectory is crucial next year, seeing an improved offense is also important, but that’s about all we can reasonably expect in 2013. This puts real contention off until next year, and adds a year to the original 5 year blueprint, but taking the path that leads to sustained success is what is most important. We’ve seen the Washington Nationals do this, and Tampa Bay also, and with much less money. It may not be popular, given the fractured fan base, plummeting attendance, and a decade of bad baseball, but Seattle has never given a player a $100 million contract, and unless it is a Felix extension, I don’t see it happening for at least another year. And surprisingly, I’m fine with that.


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Mariners Offseason: Looking Ahead

The baseball offseason is underway, with the Mariners already making a few roster moves in the last couple of days.  Gone are David Aardsma, Luis Rodriguez, and Jeff Gray, at least temporarily.  While Gray was claimed off waivers, Aardsma and Rodriguez were released, so there’s a chance that either or both could be back.  With Aardsma rehabbing until at least midsummer, neither would be a huge loss.

Last offseason was surprising in its predictability.  I remember writing early on that there seemed to be a number of obvious moves.  The team had a lot of holes, and it seemed the best move was to upgrade each spot as much as possible.  I never expected Jack Zduriencik to do exactly that.  Usually the offseason brings surprises.  No one expected Cliff Lee to become a Mariner two years ago.  No one expected Vernon Wells to become an Angel last year.  Those are two extreme examples at opposite ends of the spectrum, but offseason moves are generally more unexpected than not.  Teams have so much more knowledge than fans do, about both themselves and players.  We don’t even know what the Mariner payroll will be for next year.  We can make guesses, but for all we know they might raise it to $125 million to sign Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes.  Not likely, but we just don’t know. Continue reading


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5 M’s Quick Hits

None of these points deserve a full post, because full posts on goodguyssports.com typically involve hours of research, in depth analysis, and material worth publishing. I don’t think any of these fit that bill, but please read anyway.

1) We’ve yet to mention the unbelievable comeback on Monday night. In short, the M’s were down by 7 in the 7th, at which point they had about a 0.6% chance of winning. Craziness ensued and Seattle pulled out a miraculous victory. My first thought watching this was, this is what makes baseball great. In baseball, there is no clock. So even when the M’s were down 7 in the 7th, Toronto couldn’t just milk the clock, no, because in baseball you’re required to get 27 outs, no matter how long it takes. Baseball and golf are two of my favorite sports, and neither involve time. Maybe I’m oddly attracted to this aspect.

2) It feels like every time I watch a Miguel Olivo at bat, he swings and misses at least twice. I have not seen every one of his at bats, and sometimes you draw conclusions, but the stats don’t back it up. But in this case, Olivo really does swing and miss more than any player in baseball. SWSTR% is an advanced stat that measures the percentage of strikes that are swung at, and missed. Olivo leads MLB (eligible players) by swinging and missing an astounding 24% of the time he swings at strikes. Rod Barajas is 2nd in baseball at 19%. Olivo has dominated this statistic in recent years. In fact, he has led every year since 2007. How many guys can say the’ve led baseball in a stat category 5 years running?! Jack Cust is 2nd on the M’s in SWSTR%, at 12.4%. Cust sure seems to swing and miss a lot, but Olivo still has him beat by double the whiffs.

The bottom line is when you’re a big league hitter, and you swing at a ball in the stike zone, you should make contact around 90% of the time, even if it’s just to foul it off. I’d like to watch Miguel in BP sometime, because he probably swings and misses at every 4th pitch.

3) I just found out that when you see a bunch of “K” signs tracking how many strikeouts a pitcher has, a backwards K means the batter struck out looking. I thought fans just got lazy and put them up that way. Oops.

4) When Guti returns, in a couple weeks Lord willing, the team will have a decision to make, because unless an injury, trade, or major slump occurs, there is no obvious candidate to be demoted. Those on the block include Langerhans, Saunders, Bradley, Cust, Kennedy, Rodriguez, or perhaps a bullpen arm like Wilhelmson or Ray (don’t get me started on Chris Ray). I won’t get into the implications for each guy, but at this point, it’s hard to justify demoting or cutting any of these position players, for various reasons. These things tend to work themselves out, otherwise the M’s could have a logjam in the outfield/DH position.

5) Finally, this thought came to me yesterday as I drooled watching Justin Smoak’s opposite field homerun. Where would the M’s be had Ruben Amaro (Phillies GM) not called last winter and offered Cliff Lee?
Think about it. If we hadn’t landed and then traded Lee, we would essentially have Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and Juan Ramirez (none of which are past AA), instead of Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson, plus the immeasurable joy of watching Cliff Lee for 4 months! I doubt very much if an Aumont, Gillies, Ramirez package could have landed us the coup we got from Texas. And also, if we had 101 losses with Cliff Lee 1/2 the year, how many losses might we have had without him? Yikes, that’s a disturbing thought.

It’s off to KC for our 4-8 Mariners. Oddly enough, despite a poor record, the M’s have split their first 4 series, winning 2 and losing 2. This year is hardly about wins and losses, but I would be pleased if we could somehow scratch back to .500 at some point.


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The Rebuilding Process, Year 3

A couple weeks ago I wrote about Years 1 and 2 of the rebuilding process the Mariners are in, orchestrated by Jack Zduriencik. With year 2 nearing completion, let’s look ahead to year 3 of rebuild mode.

Following this 2010 season, the Mariners will likely find themselves less ahead of schedule than what had been anticipated going into this season. The 85 wins in 2009 will be followed up with something like 65-70 wins. The Mariners do not have much money coming off the books, and their best player from 2009, Cliff Lee, is wearing a Texas uniform at the moment. In some ways, things may look bleak for the Mariners after this season. However, looking again at the big picture of rebuilding in 3-4 years, I think the positives still outweigh the negatives because of the strengthened farm system, the lack of bad contracts, and a strong nucleus that are all signed (Ichiro, Felix, Smoak, Guti).

Rewind with me again to November 2008. The Mariners were a mess, kind of like the Seahawks are today, and similar to Husky football after the Willingham era concluded. In each case, our team needed to blow things up and rebuild. This happens in sports, and typically, rebuilding takes 3-4 years. Of course the Yankees can do it in 1 year, and the Royals or Pirates need about 10 years, but for a Seattle team in a good market, 3-4 years is about the norm. This season it appeared the M’s might be able to take advantage of a weakened division and some savvy trades, and take the shortcut from rebuilder to contender in just 12 months. But 2010 has not panned out, and while it looks like the M’s are going to have to start over again once this year ends, the reality is the foundation for rebuilding was laid a year ago, and Seattle is finishing year 2 of a 3-4 year rebuilding process.

In his “Wait ‘Til Next Year” series, Matthew recently broke down each position, and forecasted the roster heading into next season. Certainly a common theme in these posts is the uncertainty at multiple positions, but despite the question marks, the M’s will continue building around a solid group that will surely include Felix, Ichiro, Ackley, Gutierrez, Figgins, Saunders, Smoak, Pineda, Vargas and Fister. Others from the current roster will be back next year, and some will not, and additions will need to be made, either via trade, free agency, or growth in the farm system. Given how difficult it is to predict trades, let’s look at the unrestricted free agent crop for 2011, and specifically, free agents that may be realistic targets for the Mariners, give their needs. Yes, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter may hit free agency, but again, this list only includes realistic targets, at positions the M’s may have an interest.
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The Last 2 Days

Yesterday I returned home from a 3 week stint working at a Young Life camp.  Without cell phone service and limited internet connections, I wasn’t able to keep up with sports the way I usually do.  But what a day yesterday was to return to the real World.  As soon as I got cell phone service I received a text message from Matthew saying that the Mariners were about to trade Cliff Lee for Jesus Montero.  I was ecstatic about this.  When I left this kind of offer was a little bit crazy to even dream about. 

Then, the deal was off.  Some people say it was Adams ankle injury that ended this deal.  I’m no expert but that’s not the case.  The deal was off because the Rangers offered Justin Smoak.  No one knows if Smoak will be better than Montero at this point.  There’s only so much scouting reports can tell us and they sure can’t predict the future.  If there is one thing that our GM excels at though it’s talent evaluation so we have to trust him at this point, in my opinion.  By now, if you’re at all interested in the Mariners you’ve heard the scouting reports.  Justin Smoak is an above average defender with a bat that should hit for a pretty good average and 25-30 home runs.  He has a good eye and is a switch hitter (although he has some pretty drastic splits thus far).  I’ve heard comparisons from John Olerud to Mark Teixeira but the one I most agree with after reading everything available is Adrian Gonzalez.

The 2 pitchers acquired should be contributors in the future.  One is in the mold of a Doug Fister type starter except with a little more velocity.  The reliever seems to be a pretty standard guy.  He has a plus fastball and slider and has amazing K/BB rates in the minors.  He could be in the bullpen by next year.  The other guy might turn out, he might not. 

I’m excited about this deal.  Cliff Lee might have given the Seattle Mariners the best 2 months of pitching they’ve ever had.  I could do a whole different post on this but, to put a long story short, he was absolutely amazing.  He might go help the Rangers win the World Series.  Which leads me to the question that many fans might be asking, “Should I still cheer for Cliff Lee even if he’s playing for a division rival?”  My answer is yes.  I mean, why not?  The Mariners are not going to come back in this division and the Rangers are an exciting team.  They have young talent that’s easy to root for.  It’s not like Cliff Lee is going to re-sign with them anyway.  As of yesterday the Rangers became the AL team that I will cheer for to make the World Series. 

Back to the trade, it is awesome for a couple of reason.  This trade will not hurt the Mariners this year because the Mariners suck this year.  This trade won’t hurt the Mariners in the future because Cliff Lee won’t be there in the future.  You know who will be with the Mariners in the future?  Justin Smoak.  I saw a commenter at Lookout Landing say we basically just made a prospect swap, dropping Phillipe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, and Juan Ramirez and picking up Justin Smoak, Blake Beaven, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson all the while we got to see some of the best pitching anyone has ever seen.  The prospect swap was awesome by Baseball America standards. 

Both of the big names made their debuts tonight and both were bad.  Don’t read into this.  We all know Cliff Lee is awesome and Smoak is still in his rookie season figuring things out.  This trade will definitely not be “won” or “lost” by the Mariners this year.  We won’t be able for figure that out for a few years.  I would argue that it’s almost impossible for the Mariners to lose this trade but I’ll save that.  The Rangers could lose this one easily, I think.  Although they won’t if they go on to win the World Series. 

The game tonight was awesome.  Lopez barely hit that ball out (classic Jose Lopez) but when he dropped that bat and looked towards the dugout I could feel the frustration he released with that hit.  I don’t care for Lopez as a baseball player but you have to feel for him, along with countless other Mariners, as he is having just an awful year.  It was the first game I’ve got to watch since coming home and it was so much fun to watch.  I sure do hate the Yankees. 

Well this post has rambled on long enough.  I have too much to say and not enough patience to organize those thoughts right now.  I’ll just end with this:  Good job Mariners, in a season that’s gone incredibly wrong, the last 2 days worked out about as well as they could have.


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Cliff Lee Almost a Yankee

1:00 Update:  Should have waited 45 minutes on this.  Sounds like the deal might be off, which could just be negotiations or could mean another team made a really huge offer.  I guess we’ll see.

I planned to write a post about the various Cliff Lee rumors today before leaving on vacation tonight, but it looks like that won’t be necessary.  Barring the deal falling apart at what sounds like the last minute, Cliff Lee will be a Yankee by the end of the day.  He’ll be dealt or the deal will be off before he makes his start tonight, which means he’ll likely never play another game in a Mariners uniform. 

If the rumored deal is correct, the Mariners will get a haul, mostly in the form of one Jesus Montero.  He’s a catcher who will likely end up a 1B or DH, but his power bat is maybe the best in the minors.  He struggled to start the year as a 20-year-old at AAA, but has turned it around in the last few weeks.  Being 20 in AAA entitles him to some struggles, so no real worries.  I’ve seen his bat compared today to Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez, and Edgar Martinez “with more raw power”.  There are never any guarantees with prospects, but he has more offensive potential than any Mariner minor leaguer since… I don’t know, Alex Rodriguez?

The rest of the deal is likely to be 2B David Adams and a third guy, possibly RHP Zach McAllister, decent high-minors prospects in their own right.  We’ll have more info on them when/if the deal is finalized.  I hate seeing Cliff go, and would have loved an extension, but this is about as good a deal as I’ve hoped for.  The only person realistically discussed whom I would prefer over Montero is Justin Smoak, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be better than Montero.  There’s also no guarantee Montero will be good, but if you’re going to make a move, and the Mariners are, this is a great one to make.


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Better Without Cliff Lee?

Right this second, Cliff Lee is the best pitcher in baseball.  His numbers are ridiculous, and beyond the numbers, he’s dominant in a way that has to be seen to be understood.  We often joke that Ichiro can hit the ball exactly where he wants to at any time.   I think Cliff Lee’s at the point where he can do anything he wants on the mound.  Wednesday night, he gave up two doubles in a row with no outs and didn’t give up a run in the inning.  Granted, one of the doubles was a bloop where the Mariners forgot to cover second, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was the first time in history where a team had two consecutive doubles, without someone being thrown out on the bases, yet couldn’t score in the inning.  He’s ridiculous.  Need a strikeout?  Not a problem.  Want a pop-up for fun?  Here you go, Wilson Brothers!

I would be very happy if the Mariners signed Lee to a 5 year $125 million contract tomorrow.  They could go to $150 mil. and I’d be happy.  Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are extremely small.  In all likelihood, he’ll be traded in the next couple of weeks.  If we’re lucky as fans, he’ll be in Seattle long enough to start the all-star game in a Mariners hat, but even that’s doubtful.

We’ll have a goodbye post when he’s actually gone, though.  The point of this post is to examine if it’s possible for the Mariners to get better by trading Lee.  I’m not talking about in future years, either.  A trade has to make them better in 2011 and beyond or else it’s a bust.  Which isn’t out of the realm of possibility.  What I’m wondering is if the Mariners can become a better baseball team in 2010 with whatever they get back in a Cliff Lee trade. Continue reading

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The Rebuilding Process, Years 1 & 2

    Year One

Following the disastrous 2008 season, the Mariners blew up the team, hired a new general manager, and eventually a new manager as well. Seattle was officially entering into a commonly used sports cliché, “rebuilding mode.” Jack Zduriencik wasted no time cutting bad contracts, bad draft picks, and basically any dead weight that Bill Bavasi had left behind. Entering the 2009 season, expectations were low, but excitement was building thanks to a new fresh regime. Last year’s team overachieved by most standards, thanks to a terrific record in close games, a reinvigorated team chemistry, and numerous players having career years. Needless to say, the Mariners seemed way ahead of schedule, finishing with an impressive 85-77 record. It felt like the rebuilding process might have come and gone in just 1 year.

    Year Two

Jack Zduriencik followed up the ’09 campaign by shedding the rest of the dead weight, and with new money to spend, Seattle acquired Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, and a couple other role players. A year after expectations were low and playoff talk was not even on the radar, suddenly the 2010 season began with renewed hope and fans were encouraged to “Believe Big.” We all know how this year has unfolded. The close game fortune from last year is gone, the Griffey reunion lasted a year too long, and instead of career bests from numerous players, we are witnessing career worst performances by many. The rebuilding process we had hoped might last just 1 year is still in process. For a moment, Zduriencik saw a shortcut out of rebuild mode, but that crack was quickly closed. It was a risk worth taking, because legitimate shots at the playoffs don’t come often. A failed attempt, such as what we are seeing unfold, is upsetting, but probably won’t set the team back much. Cliff Lee is sure to be traded shortly, and the package Zduriencik gets in return will likely outweigh the 3 prospects that Seattle sent to the Phillies for Lee, and once the 2010 season is buried, Zduriencik will continue to build.

The bad contracts have been shed, the foundation has been laid, and despite this lost, tumultuous, depressing season, the Mariners are probably still on track to accomplish the long term goals that were set back in November, 2008. The high expectations heading into 2010 can easily distract us from the big picture, and while there is a lot to be frustrated about at the current moment, when looking at the full view, it’s really not that bad given where this team was just 2 years ago.



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