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The Moody News: The Time of the Spendthrift Mariners?

The Winter Meetings have come and gone and it turns out that there was more action immediately before (for most of baseball) or after (for the Cubs) the meetings than at the actual meetings.  Seattle proved the exception there signing Robinson Cano to a massive 10-year, $240 million contract.  After that they added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison.  But before they even got enjoy their new toys reports surfaced that they bid against themselves to get Cano.  This was a very odd set of moves for the Mariners.  I liked either Hart or Morrison for the Cubs, but that was as lottery tickets with a high upside.  The Mariners made a huge financial commitment in acquiring Cano.  Relying on Hart to protect him seems more than a little risky.  If they're as in as the Cano deal makes it appear, there's no reason not to go get Nelson Cruz to hit behind Cano,or even consider using their strong minor league system much like the Blue Jays did last winter to acquire multiple pieces.  I really want the people of Seattle to have a winner but this team feels like a marginal contender at best in a division with the A's and Rangers.

That doesn't even take into consideration a rapidly developing Astros franchise that added several major league pieces at the meetings.  The biggest of these was ex-Cub Scott Feldman, who signed a 3-year $30 million deal with Houston.  The Astros had to go pretty high to get a guy who may well be the #5 starter on that team when the pact ends, albeit still the highest paid.  However, this does establish that the darkest days of the rebuild may be over in Houston.  Part of me wonders if Jeff Luhnow was forced to move after sinking ratings and attendance last season, highlighted by the mind-boggling 0.0 rating for their September 22nd game.

Yesterday, the Royals got in on the fun by adding Omar Infante on a 4-year $30-million deal.  The money here isn't terrible on its surface for a guy that fills in the giant black hole that was second base but Jeff Passan raises an interesting point: for the $62 million they gave Omar Infante and Jason Vargas, they could have had Ervin Santana back.  However, Buster Olney counters that the Royals might be able to have their cake and eat it too.  Draft pick compensation could force Santana to work something out with Kansas City.  If Olney is right, I hate this deal less but everything the Royals have done feels kind of half-hearted given what they gave up to open a two year window with James Shields.  Putting Samardzija aside for a moment, Kyle Zimmer, Adalberto Mondesi, and to a lesser extent Bubba Starling are major assets that won't contribute to the Royals this year.  Using one of them to acquire a cost controlled piece to complement the major league team seems fair given how important this year is.  Because next winter, we're all going to be speculating on who will sign James Shields and it won't be the Royals.

A team that usually does things well, on the other hand, made a move yesterday, too.  The Tampa Bay Rays re-signed James Loney for 3-years and $21 million.  Loney is certainly not the best first baseman in the game, but his career OPS+ of 106 makes him just above league average offensively and he was a 2.7 WAR player for the Rays last season.  By comparison, Infante -- with a higher AAV and commitment in years -- has a career 93 OPS+, making him slightly below average.  True, Loney can't play second and the Royals needs were pretty specific but it is a sign of one small market team getting value from their free agent signings and the other struggling to do so.

Moving leagues, the signing of Loney directly impacts the Pirates, who are still looking for a first baseman and, with Hart, Morrison, and Loney off the market, find themselves with increasingly few dance partners.  The Mets. Ike Davis is the best of the available options and it looks like they'll have to compete with the Brewers to acquire him.  MLB Trade Rumors has a list of available first basemen, and the list gets pretty thing pretty quickly.  Matt Adams at the top is only going somewhere if a team can convince the Cardinals to give him up.  That will not be cheap.  Second is free agent Kendrys Morales, whose bat barely makes up for his somewhat limited defense.  In addition, he comes with draft pick compensation.

This takes us back full circle.  The Mariners gave Kendrys Morales a qualifying offer and they only get a sandwich pick if he signs with someone else.  If this happens, they will acquire and forfeit that pick for signing Robinson Cano.  If Morales can't find a new home, though, they get no compensation selection.  So the Robinson Cano signing will wind up costing them $240 million and their second round draft pick.  They may need something a little stronger than coffee up there in the pacific northwest.

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  • I don't like the Feldman signing for HOU. Yes, they needed to add some MLB quality players to their roster... But Feldman's best days were had in the NL last year and if he was a AL West caliber SP, Texas wouldn't have let him go. Happy for his bank account and all, but he didn't help his career by going to HOU.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think Feldman likes 30 million in his pocket and pitching on a team that has the pieces to be pretty good a couple years from now.

  • In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    It's not the 30 mil contract. I'm happy for him and his family. But I think he could have got that anywhere. Yes HOU should be an up and coming team. But most of their talent is even further away than ours. They won't be competitive while he's there. I think he struggles back in that division. Too much offense in the AL West for him....

  • I hope the Cubs never do this

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    They already have....Thy name be Edwin Jackson

  • 1 mistake is enough

  • Market price is too much for the Cubs to invest for anyone 30 or over.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I agree. Signing guys over 30 aren't going to help much when they aren't going to put you in the pennant race. If you are only missing one piece of the pie, there is that exception, but even then it would be a short term signing to plug a hole, like Kevin Gregg last year on a non contending team. Mark Grace said it best, old players don't get better, they get older.

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    A package built around James Paxton and Edwin Diaz would get my attention.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    That it would, but with the Mariners financial situation they have no reason to trade either Paxton or Walker which they have said they will not do.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    What is their financial situation?

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    They've got a ton of flexibility even after signing Cano. If Walker and Paxton weren't major league ready, they'd probably go out and sign one of the FA starters, but I think they feel (could be wrong) that they're going to need to spend their remaining resources on offense.

  • Can we assume that the current mkt for Shark consists of TOR, PIT, BAL, with SEA & perhaps TEX on the fringes?

    Btw, Paxton doesn't do a ton for me. Sounds like he may end up in pen; lot of prospect watchers seemed to sour a bit last yr.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Maybe Atl. on the fringe too.

  • I wonder if Floyd signing indicates otherwise for ATL.

    Oddly, there looks like a mini-glut developing for quality SPs: Price, Shark, Garza, Ubaldo, and possibly Tanaka. You also have Arroyo & Santana out there. I guess the only teams that are likely in SP mkts that I didn't mention earlier are NYY & ARI.

    Feels more and more to me like we should really push to work something out with Shark......

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    The potential signing of Gavin Floyd would certainly affect the Braves need for Samardzija, but perhaps do nothing to affect their desire. If the signing happens, it would knock the Braves down a peg or two in my book.

  • Breaking News: Random Basketball Announcer Speaks On Subject He Knows Nothing About. Sets The Internet On Fire!

  • To my eye, the teams that have the means and the win now situation to trade young assets for a pitcher that can contribute immediately are the Blue Jays, Orioles and, to a lesser extent, Braves, Pirates and Royals. None of those teams are heavily in on Tanaka. The Mariners don't fit the profile because Walker and Paxton are already contributing at the major league level and contributing well.

    With the potential loss of A.J. Burnett, the Pirates would still have 5 decent starters in Liriano, Cole, Wandy Rodriguez, Morton and Locke. They have quantity. The question is, with their proximity to the World Series, would they want to improve upon the quality of their rotation by adding someone like Samardzija. What might make them even more willing is that they have the prospect depth to possibly get him without giving up Taillon. Kingham and Glasnow as a headlining duo might get the job done.

    The Royals' time is clearly now. They have Shields at the top of their rotation, rookies Ventura and Duffy will like start the season with the team, with Guthrie and Wade Davis rounding it out. If they get Santana back, they likely will have no reason to want Samardzija. If they don't, Jeff would be a vast improvement over Davis and provide insurance against one of the rookies faltering. Kyle Zimmer is exactly what the Cubs are looking for and is currently not on KC's 40-man roster. He would be a late season addition (a la Gerrit Cole) at the earliest.

    The Braves have been quiet this off season. Some think, too quiet. They have plenty of good young pitching already in their rotation with Minor, Teheran, Medlin and the emerging Alex Wood. Teheran and Wood will both be 23 to start the upcoming season with Wood possibly over-achieving last season. The Braves won't resign either Maholm or Hudson but do have Brandon Beachey returning from injury. Samardzija would definitely add a veteran presence and likely be a vast improvement over Beachey. The Braves top pitching prospect is 19-year-old Lucas Sims who will start this season in High-A. Besides being a little further away from the bigs than the Cubs would like, he represents the type of talent they are looking for.

    That leaves the Blue Jays and Orioles. Baltimore is in dire need of arms, especially ones with TOR potential. They added Bud Norris at the deadline to complement Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen. None of those guys are dominant. Samardzija can be, but has thus far been inconsistent. They lost Feldman to the Astros and have let Jason Hammel go. Rookie Kevin Gausman was brought up at the end of last season may have been rushed, but, as of now, would be the 5th starter. They have Zach Britton as their 6th starter, but he hasn't been good...ever. Might they be willing to improve by swapping Gausman for Samardzija knowing they have Bundy in reserve?

    And that leaves the Blue Jays. They spent a ton of money last off season and didn't see any results, finishing last in the AL East. Their starting rotation consists of R.A. Dickey (39), Mark Buehrle (35 in March), J.A. Happ (31) and Todd Redmond (28). None of those guys had ERA under 4.15They lost Josh Johnson to the Padres and currently have Esmil Rogers (28) penciled in as their 5th starter. The addition of Jeff Samardzija would make a sizable impact on this rotation. Precluding a free agent signing, the Jays don't have much in proven and ready pitching coming in the pipeline. Former stud Brandon Morrow (29) is rehabbing from a forearm injury and, as of November, was only able to do long-toss. He also was fairly ineffective last year and injured in 2012 as well. Sean Nolin (24 in 2 weeks) has pitched 1.1 innings in the bigs and gave up 7 hits, 6 ER, a homer, a walk and no Ks. He's like the left-handed version of Kyle Hendricks in that he relies on command and has marginal stuff. After that they have a bunch of hit or miss guys like Drew Hutchison (23), who showed well in the AFL, but hasn't pitched in the bigs since June 15, 2012 due to injury, 2010 1st round pick Deck McGuire (24) who has been stuck in AA the last two years and the oft-injured Kyle Drabek who has reported lost a lot on his fastball.

    With money constraints making signing one of the top FA starters unlikely, the Toronto Blue Jays would appear to be the most motivated trading partner the Cubs have. Plus, they also have what the Cubs seek, young and talented pitching prospects that were at High-A level or better last season. We all know who they are, and we all know that up to now, Anthopoulus has been unwilling to part with them. They have a long list of other talented arms (Daniel Norris, Alberto Tirado, Matthew Smoral, Adonys Cardona, Chase DeJong, Miguel Castro and even Shane Dawson), but they are all much further away from the big leagues than Stroman and Sanchez.

    And so the waiting game continues, as it should. The Cubs have no reason to trade him now and every reason to wait for the right conditions to come along to push one team's GM to take action.

    I have no idea why I just wrote all that...

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Ask the Dodgers if having 5 starters to start the season is enough.

    The Pirates do have a nice 5 man rotation, but if one thinks that those 5 will make 162 starts is misguided.

    JS would certainly help that rotation.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Agreed. That's why I listed them as one of the possible trading partners.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Nice Summary.

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    Thanks. Good luck in the Cubs Den Fantasy Football playoffs tomorrow!

  • In reply to Quedub:

    You too.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Great write up! I have a question, what happens if all the teams that are in the market for "Shark" end up becoming non buyers at the deadline? Although highly unlikely, but look at the Nationals last year. I am on the sign "Shark" wagon, but if we trade then we should sooner than later.

  • In reply to Zambrano’s Fist:

    Thanks, Z Fist!

    I don't think you should base your decision making on whether or not to trade somebody on a worst case scenario of what might happen at the trade deadline.

    The deciding factor for me is whether you get an offer that brings back what you're looking for, no matter what the timing. And that includes signing an extension. If Samardzija agrees to a contract that the FO considers reasonable, then they should sign him. But likely after one more round of calls to interested GMs to get their best and final offers.

  • So the Cubs are rebuilding and sign Feldman to a 1 year deal and flip him for prospects.

    The Astros are rebuilding and sign Feldman to a 3 year, $30 MM contract.

    And people are unhappy with this FO?

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    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I get the impression the 0.0 nielsen rating shook up the 'Stros' front office, they probably feel they need to look like they're making an effort. Mariners' attendance went from 3.5 mil in 2001 to 1.7 in 2012. Don't think it can't happen here.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    In my opinion the unhappy fans are usually the less educated (about baseball) fans. That trade gave us a possible long term bullpen/closer and a flame throwing, albeit wild, potential 3.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Does kind of boggle the mind, doesn't it Irwin?

    These guys give me the impression that they really do know what they are doing. Whether, or not, it results in a World Series appearance (or two, or more) remains to be seen. But they do seem to be building a quality system and in a nice, sustainably measured way.

  • I think the Pirates still have options at 1B with Mark Reynolds, Casey Kotchman, Carlos Pena and Kevin Youkilis still there... Knowing how the Pirates operate, if one of them fall through the cracks, they will sign them for 1-2 years just to fill the void... Maybe even sign 2 (Kotchman and Pena) to minor league deals and let them battle it out in ST.

  • Quedub that was very well written & spot on.
    The only teams, at the end of the day, who MAY meet our asking price are BAL & TOR.

    BAL-read Angelos- is too cheap to sign someone like Garza. Being in the same division, a trade with TB seems highly unlikely.

    Not sure of TOR's budget but they haven't seemed very active on any of the FA SPs. AA seems to have a mean Shark crush. Their window with this group is closing, as well.

    Ideally, IMO, we extend for 5yr/60-70 mil.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Thanks, Carl. I lean toward extension as well.

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    Can anyone figure out what was the purpose of the Ratukan Golden Eagles head honcho coming all the way to the winter meetings? I mean, anything that couldn't have been accomplished with a conference call or a dozen private calls to interested parties? Seemed like a journey of 10,000 miles for a feeble wheeze.

    btw Quedub if you're still on, sorry I was snippy with you a few days ago.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Because playing Bay Hill and drinks at Rachels can't be accomplished with a conference call...

  • Cubs Chavez signs minor league deal with KC .....

    Chavez is just 24 years old, but will be joining his 4th professional franchise in 2014. Last season, he split time between the Cubs’ AA affiliate as an outfielder and their rookie-level club as a pitcher, though it seems like the Royals prefer Chavez’s bat. In 2,834 plate appearances, Chavez boasts a line of .261/.340/.438. His 8.4% walk rate and .177 ISO are quite respectable, though not overly impressive. Defensively, Chavez has experience at all 3 outfield spots, but right field is where he’s spent the majority of his time. With Jorge Bonifacio at Northwest Arkansas, I’d expect Chavez to move up to Omaha, or be shifted to left field at AA.

    http://kingsofkauffman.com/2013/12/14/royals-sign-three-players-minor-league-contracts/

  • Not that I give a crap , ultimately , about saving Ricketts $5-10 mil over 5 yrs but what do guys thing is reasonable- all things considered for both sides-on a Shark extension.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    5 years between 55-60 mil, maybe even go as high as 65... Samardzija is set to make like 5 mil in arb salary, so I think it's fair.

  • 5/65 seems very generous but reasonable for Ricketts/Epstoyer IMO. Even if Shark was to have a really good yr, he'd be unlikely to get a huge arb # for '15 , based on his track record. Hence he's being paid generously for last 2 arb yrs + 1st 2 of FA.

    Honestly, he's not getting good advice if he wouldn't accept anything north of 60-65. Given the amount of $ that he's already made + injury risk, it's a no-brainer.

    We talk about talks being stalled but there is obviously something bigger going on. I think 5yrs between 55-65 is the dollar amt that most would agree is fair.

    However , either Epstoyer/Ricketts can't/won't pay the reasonable freight or Shark just doesn't want to be here, long-term. I'm more inclined, at this point, to think the issue lies with management .

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I wouldn't be in a hurry to take that deal if I was Samardzija. If he signs the five year deal, his next shot at free agency puts him at 32-33. If he doesn't sign and plays the next two years for the Cubs and performs like he has or a tick better he'll be better off. He'll be 29-30 and probably get a longer deal for more money. The next contract he signs will probably be his best so he has to play his cards right. If I were him I'd wait it out unless the cubs offered 7-8 years with an escalating annual salary. That doesn't mean you have to trade him, but I don't see an extension of less than seven years happening.

  • I do not see a team out there who needs Samardzija more than the Cubs for the foreseeable future. Both sides are posturing because of a difference of opinion on Jeff's worth. Samardzija isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

  • Interesting that the Marlins need a 3B and Mike Olt was named specifically by the author.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/12/marlins-still-looking-to-add-third-baseman.html

    Also of interest is that Mayo thinks Colin Moran will be MLB ready by end of summer. Yet his entrance into low A ball wasn't spectacular and he struggled in the AFL. Whereas Kris Bryant was a beast everywhere, including the AFL.

    If Moran is the future 3B of the Marlins (no reason to think he's not), then Olt doesn't make sense. He won't come as cheap as a true stop gap i.e., Murphy/Valbuena, etc...

    Might be a tad early, but I think our depth at 3B is going to pay off with some trades between now and next years winter meetings...

  • We've seen this movie before. Looks to me like somebody Seattle is in full blown panic/save my job mode. It's a long gamble and if it pays off, they'll look like geniuses. More than likely though, they wind up like Toronto this past year, the Angels the last couple of years, the Fish when they got their new ballpark and countless teams in the last 40 years. It takes a long time to recover from the damage these kind of moves can make, as we all know.

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    I'm hungry. Where's the Brunch?

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    I'm having spam, spam, spam and spam.

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