Tag Archives: Jack Cust

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.

    THE BLUEPRINT

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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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.

-Dan

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Opening Day Quick Hits

– Jack Hanahan starts at 3B for Cleveland. Jose Lopez starts at 2B for Colorado. These statements are surprising, but I should probably point out that Hanahan was 3-5 today with a homerun and 3 runs scored, while Lopez was 2-5 with a homerun, 2 RBI, and a stolen base.

– Seattle’s odds of winning the divison are about the same as the odds of Jack Cust hitting a home run. If the M’s fate this season came down to one at bat, in which Cust had to hit a home run, our odds would be slim, but I would definitely watch to see what happens. This is why I will watch the Mariners this year, and I hope you are encouraged to as well.

– In case you missed Jeff Sullivan’s post on SB Nation, here are the 5 worst team slogans for 2011.
(5) Toronto Blue Jays: Hustle + Heart (2.0)
(4) Seattle Mariners: Ready to play
(3) Houston Astros: We are your Astros
(2) Florida Marlins: Catch our moves
(1) Kansas City Royals: Major League moments-
The Mariners set modest expectations when they promised that their players would be ready to play baseball, but this is setting expectations as low as expectations get. All this slogan does is confirm that the Royals play Major League Baseball, and that over the course of their season there will be moments that take place during their games. It doesn’t say anything about whether those moments will be good moments or bad moments, memorable moments or forgettable moments. It just says that there will be moments.

– The Mariners are a 1/2 game back in the AL West. If they are to get out of last place, they had better start playing some games.

– I was browsing on USS Mariner today and I stumbled across a March ’09 post. The entertaining part was the comments section, as it often is. Some comments are stupid when they are written in present day, and the stupidity is often multiplied 10 fold as time passes. Here was the one that caught my eye-

Wait about 2 more years when Tui, Carp, Moore, Olson, Fields, and (most importantly) Aumont get called up among others and are more polished as major leaguers, along with the young guys we have now on the roster such as Jeff Clement that haven’t broken out yet but should at some point

I don’t know what to say about this, other than, yikes.

– Finally, opening day is refreshing for a number of reasons. For me, it signals the end of winter, though looking outside does not exactly back up that statement. But another refreshing part for me is that for the next 6 months, I can sit back and watch the most pure sport there is. Oh sure some will argue baseball is far from pure, and when it comes to balls and strikes, and safe vs. out, mistakes are made. But how often does a game end and one thinks, “boy, the umpires cost us that game.” In football, soccer, and basketball, refs drive me nuts, and there are times where I blame them for a part of my team’s loss. This rarely happens in baseball, and it is refreshing. No more Pac-10 officiating!

-Dan

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Ranking Your 2011 Mariners

The big news today is basketball related, with Isaiah Thomas announcing, rather unexpectedly, that he will indeed forgo his senior season at UW. He’s off to the NBA, which sucks for Husky fans. Time will tell whether this is a wise decision by IT, but I’m happy for him. Next year’s expectations will be lower now, and it could very well be our last year watching Terrence Ross, but the team should still be good, and contend for the conference yet again.

With that news, I’m officially closing basketball talk on the blog, until at least the draft in June. Why? Because today is opening day! As Andrew noted, things have been dry on here lately, but nothing like some M’s baseball to stir conversation. In case you have not heard, the 25 man roster is official. Looking over the team last night, I started ranking guys in my mind, and that’s what this post is all about. In addition to ranking the 25 man roster, in terms of most valuable to the team in 2011, I’m also throwing 3 more guys into the conversation: Ackley, Gutierrez, and Aardsma. The latter two are on the DL, and Ackley will probably be up sometime in June, so they belong on this list too.

    Ranking the Roster (Most Valuable to Least Valuable)

1- Felix Hernandez—He is the King of Seattle, and the best pitcher on planet Earth. Yes, Felix is the Mariners’ most valuable player. Go away trade rumors!
2- Ichiro—The team’s best hitter and most valuable everyday player. Also, the coolest Mariner ever.
3- Justin Smoak—I want to fall in love with Justin Smoak, and so does this city, but he has a lot to prove. IMHO, this guy is the lynchpin to the M’s offense in 2011.
4- Franklin Gutierrez—I fear for Guti’s long-term health with every day that passes without an explanation, but assuming this mystery stomach ailment gets treated, Guti is the team’s best defender, and a top 5 hitter, a valuable asset indeed.
5- Milton Bradley—Depending on which Milton shows up, batting 3rd, Bradley could easily lead the team in production this year. But can he stay healthy AND out of trouble? I wouldn’t bet on it.
6- Erik Bedard—Hard to argue that a guy who did not pitch last year could hold much value, but IF healthy, Bedard provides huge value to this team. And IF his spring performance is an indicator of what’s to come, his worth is as high as a #2 starter.
7- Chone Figgins—This guy had better bounce back, and I expect he will now that he’s back at 3rd and settled into Seattle. The M’s should be annoying to play, and Figgy leads that annoyance.
8- Jason Vargas—I still don’t think of Jason Vargas as a #2 starter, but he earned this spot after last season. Can he provide an encore?
9- Jack Cust—Batting clean-up for your Seattle Mariners…Jack Cust. Really? You better believe it! He will strike out a ton, but I gotta think he is an upgrade at DH, and he is an awesome interview.
10- Miguel Olivo—The team’s main acquisition this winter, Miguel can’t be worse than our catchers last season, but he must improve on his first go around in Seattle if he is to win over the fans. Continue reading

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The Mariners Obvious Moves

Note- I started writing this over a week ago, but I don’t think anything has happened since then to change anything.  Consider it an indirect response to Joe’s earlier payroll post, although I didn’t originally intend it that way.

Coming into the offseason, everyone agreed that improving the Mariners to the point of playoff contention was a long shot.  Crazy things happen, and Jack Zduriencik has done crazy things before, but to improve the team that much with a very limited budget didn’t look like it would be in the cards.

What was apparent was moves that could be made.  Coming into the offseason, here’s what I would have laid out as the obvious moves I would look at if I were in Jack’s spot:

  • Find a DH with some power
  • Look hard for an upgrade at catcher
  • Find a middle infielder who could start at second and then shift to short when Dustin Ackley is ready or Jack Wilson gets injured
  • Find a right-handed bat who could platoon with Michael Saunders and ideally play some first base if needed
  • Find a starting pitcher who could be counted on to throw a lot of decent innings
  • Upgrade the bullpen Continue reading

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The Return of Miguel Olivo

The Mariners have just signed catcher Miguel Olivo to a 2 year contract, with $7 mil. guaranteed.  Most Mariner fans might remember Olivo for a brief and disastrous earlier stint with the Mariners, after he was acquired in the Freddy Garcia trade.  He was as bad a hitter in that year plus period as anyone the Mariners have seen recently.

Since then, he’s become a decent catcher.  At the plate, he’s similar to Jose Lopez, with no selectivity, but a little more power and less contact.  He’s going to strike out, and he’s going to hit some homers.  There’s concern that Safeco will completely rob his pull power, which is possible, but it’s one of those things you just have to deal with.  Behind the plate, he gives up some passed balls but has a big arm. 

Olivo’s a legitimate major league starting catcher, and that’s something the Mariners did not have recently.  This isn’t my favorite move, and he might not hit at all, but it could make the Mariners a lot better at a good price, so I’m having a hard time getting worked up about it.

Some other Mariner thoughts, since I rarely have time to post lately (Christmas break is coming!):

  • This move could mean a few things for Adam Moore.  I’ve already seen speculation that he’s automatically a trade chip now.  That would not surprise me a bit, although I have no idea what his value in trade would be.  Not overly high, I would bet.  More likely, I think he’s Olivo’s back-up, catching 50 games or so.  If he progresses and improves, Olivo can be traded.  If he doesn’t, at least they have Olivo.
  • My initial thought on the Jack Cust addition: helpful but unexciting.  He should be a huge improvement to the lineup, but he’s never been one of my favorite players.  A three true outcomes guy with declining power just isn’t my kind of guy.  Still glad to have him over some other options.
  • As everyone knows by now, Jose Lopez is now a Colorado Rockie.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he had a solid year this year, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t a bad move even if he hits 30 home runs or something.  He wasn’t going to succeed in Safeco, and sometimes it’s just time to make a change.  You can argue that the Mariners sold way low on him, which is true, but his contract really forced the issue.  I can’t think of another way they could have gone with this.  He was just a bad fit for the park and wore out his welcome on the field.  Best of luck to Jose in the rest of his career, though.  He always seemed like a good guy, and he underwent some horrible personal issues that made it hard not to root for him, even when he was struggling.  I hope he finds some happiness and homers in Colorado or wherever he ends up.

I would expect there’s at least one moderately big trade coming for the Mariners, but we’ll see.  Going out on a limb, I would bet that Zach Greinke is in a Mariner uniform by the start of 2012.  More later when there are some more moves and I’m done with classes for the semester.

-Matthew

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A Mariners’ Move!

The Seattle Mariners made their first real move of the off-season today, signing Jack Cust to a 2.5 million, 1 year deal.  Dan wrote earlier today about how underwhelming the Mariners off-season had been thus far.  There haven’t been any deals and the rumors have been just as lame.  So, getting an actual bit of news is nice.

Don’t get me wrong, Jack Cust isn’t exactly the most exciting news, especially with the Angels looking like the front-runner for Carl Crawford but I think this was a nice move.  Cust is a left-handed power hitter.  He’s been with the A’s the last few years and has put up solid numbers.  He’s an all-or-nothing type of hitter (like Russell Branyan) who strikes out and walks a ton.

Cust has had a drop-0ff in power the last few years.  His slugging percentages his first two years in the bigs were .504 and .476 (in 2007 and 2008).  The last two years his slugging percentages were .417 and .438.  His home run total has dropped a little bit.  These are the reasons to fear, but there are reasons to expect success.

Cust is a left-handed bat that could do quite well in Safeco.  Signing for 2.5 million is very cheap for a player who would have been the Mariners best power-hitter last year and who will most likely be their best power-hitter this year.  Cust will step into the middle of the lineup and actually give this team at least a little bit of a threat.

Will Cust turn this team around?  No, but he’ll be one of the small pieces that could turn this team back to respectability.  We don’t have much money to spend, but this was a low risk-high reward type of move that we’re used to seeing out of Jack Z.

In other news, the Mariners are reportedly on the verge of signing Miguel Olivo to a 2 year, $7.5 million deal.  When Mariner fans think of Miguel Olivo most come close to throwing up in their mouths, but the truth is he’s not near as bad as we remember.  And, don’t forget that Rob Johnson was our starting catcher a good share of last year.  We’ll have more on this move if it actually happens.  As of now, it’s nothing but rumors.

Believe big!

Andrew

 

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