Happy Free Agency! I am a sucker for hot stove talk, MLB trade rumors, and general off season gossip. I get the feeling this could be an eventful winter for the M’s, and I am thankful that Jack Z will be calling the shots once again. That being said, I thought I would speculate on some potential moves the M’s could make over the next few months, and in doing, I’ve created my off season plan.
Before delving into the plan, let’s remember where the M’s are in, and the state of the franchise. 2012 will be the 4th year of Jack Zduriencik’s regime in Seattle. He inherited a major rebuilding project, no doubt about it. Top to bottom, the organization was a mess. For 3 years, Jack has concentrated on bulking up the farm, adding depth, and above all, talent. It took a couple years to shed the dead weight—bad contacts, bad draft picks, bad hires, and despite a couple setbacks (Chone), most fans understand the path the organization is on. It’s not as though losses don’t matter, but the record is not as important as the master plan, and Jack has not deviated from building the whole system, which is really the only way to sustain success. Even the Yankees and Red Sox, for all the money they throw around, build from within as good as anyone, and this has been Jack’s focus all along.
In 2012, wins and losses will matter. The grace period is gone, and the M’s had better start producing. A .500 record should be a reasonable goal, so considering the 2011 M’s won 67 games, where does Jack find an additional 14 wins this off season?
Let’s assume the M’s payroll is set at $90-95 million, which is on par for the past 3 years. $60 million is already guaranteed for Felix, Ichiro, Guti, Ryan, Ackley, Figgins, and Olivo, so Jack will have about $30 million to fill out the roster. Next, Jack will need to address the M’s 6 arbitration eligible players: Kelley, Vargas, Aardsma, L-Rodriguez, and League. If I were Jack, I’d non-tender Aardsma, but keep the others, for what will cost about $10 million total. Some would prefer to keep Aardsma, and trade League, but the money is virtually even between the two, and I think you need to keep one. League was an all-star closer, despite his brain lapses, so unless the trade market is high for a guy like League, I’d hang onto him. Finally, another $5 million will be tied up in about 10 spots, the kids like Smoak, Carp, Seager, and most of the young relievers who all make about $450,000. With the remaining $15-20 million, and still a few holes to fill, here’s the roster I would aim to assemble (click to enlarge).
Jump ahead to see how I’d get this team put together! Continue reading