M’s serious about adding starting pitching

 Saturday, ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney tweeted that the Seattle Mariners are “bound” to end up signing one of three free-agent starting pitchers in Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. This was not a report of anything imminent or even one suggesting a deal is near, but it does make sense. The Mariners need a No. 2 or 3 starter to support the efforts of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.

When I see reports of interest or even suggestive tweets such as Olney’s — which is certainly more than just a common-sense statement — I check in with a few of my own sources to see if I can find out anything additional. What I asked was this: “Anything more than speculation to Buster’s tweet about Garza, Santana and Jimenez and the M’s?”

The text responses I received:

“For sure.”
————-
“When we checked on Matt (Garza) we heard Seattle, (Red) Sox, Twins, Yankees. Too rich for our blood.”
————-
“We like Garza and Jimenez; Maybe they (Seattle) like them more, because we’re not getting very far.”

The dollars and years are likely be upwards of Ricky Nolasco‘s 4-year, $49 million deal, rather than in the neighborhood of Jason Vargas‘ 4-years and $32 million or Phil Hughes‘ 3-year, $24 million contract reported Saturday.

Each of the three, I’d guess, will cost $15 million or more for five or more seasons. The Mariners may have to be even more aggressive to convince any of them to agree to come to a club that doesn’t presently appear to be a contender in 2014. To get any of the three, Seattle may have to be willing to go six years and $75-85 million.

None of the three, in my opinion, are that valuable, but sometimes it takes what it takes and for the Mariners it might be well worth a gross overpay or two to not only improve the team but show other players that they mean business. Of course, an “overpay,” even if it’s truly market value, will send many of you running and screaming down the halls.

Exercise this: If you, as a Mariners fan, went into hibernation for the next six weeks, woke up in mid-January and learned that your team had added Garza, Grant Balfour, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Dioner Navarro, Clint Barmes and Rajai Davis, you’d be at least somewhat excited that the 25-man roster could be competitive, if not a contender in 2014.

[In no way am I suggesting the above will happen, or anything like it. Just making a point.]

I’d assume the first thing you searched for on the internet after learning about such acquisitions would not be about the players’ salaries. World Series odds? Analysis from the pundits? How to get tickets? Not the player salaries. And once you did finally see them, you wouldn’t flip out and curse the moves. Why? Because the roster was improved greatly.

The problems with spending big money on free agents is 100 percent subjective. There is no salary cap and the luxury tax is not something the Mariners are anywhere near. They could give a free agent like Garza $30 million per season and that doesn’t mean they cannot, and won’t, still add other necessary players. Individual player salaries are only damaging when the club decides it will not continue to invest financially because it’s hit its self-imposed limits.

At any rate, don’t let the starting pitching interest fool you. The Mariners are hot after offense at several positions.

Timing
A lot of you have expressed your frustration with the fact that the Seattle Mariners have not signed a free agent or made a trade for a prominent player. I get the urgency, but it’s early. Not having done anything up to now does not suggest they won’t, can’t, or have lost out on players they want, or should want.

If Christmas approaches and nothing significant has occurred, it may or may not be time to assume nothing major will. That really depends on what’s left in free agency, and how many trade-available types remain. But yes, in 3-4 weeks, I, too, will want to have seen something big go down. Doesn’t have to be the blockbuster of the offseason, doesn’t have to be the perfect transaction or set of transactions, but something substantial, yes.

Until about that time, however, I don’t see any reason to worry, complain, freak out or even be frustrated.

This may be a good time to reiterate what I said two months back: I don’t believe it’s possible that the Seattle Mariners go from where they are now — a 70-75 win team — to contender status. In my opinion, it would be asking too much for any general manager to accomplish such a task. That isn’t an excuse for Jack Zduriencik. That’s just the truth, as I see it.

A lot of things would need to break the Mariners’ way for 85-plus wins to be possible in 2014, and free agent deals and impact trades are only part of that. They’d also need some of their young players to step up and be very good next season, including a few bullpen arms.

The Trade Front
I shared all the free-agent names I’d heard linked to the Mariners here, and I even included some trade scenarios that have been bandied about since the end of the World Series.

Another name that is out there is Chase Headley — though his potential availability has never gone away since the San Diego Padres have yet to get his name on the dotted line of a contract extension. The Mariners like Headley, and would play him in left field, but it does not appear the Padres’ asking price is even in the neighborhood of what the Mariners may be willing to offer.

From what I can gather, the Mariners are trying very hard not to include James Paxton in trade packages, while all but refusing to discuss Taijuan Walker. Zduriencik told me earlier this offseason that Hernandez, Iwakuma and Seager were untouchable, so it appears they are trying to rob someone in a bulk deal. Ultimately, Paxton, Franklin or Miller will have to be involved in a trade, if Walker is truly off limits in almost all instances — perhaps for Giancarlo Stanton he’s available — or the M’s aren’t going to be able to acquire impact talent via trade, in my opinion.

Brandon Maurer, Michael Saunders, Erasmo Ramirez and Carter Capps, even all in the same package, isn’t going to net the Mariners Matt Kemp, Stanton or any of the ilk.

I imagine their stance — if that truly is a stance and not just a distant appearance — will change, if it hasn’t already.

Most likely Mariners (40-man Roster) to be traded
1. Justin Smoak, 1B
2. Michael Saunders, OF
3. Tom Wilhelmsen, RHP
4. Brandon Maurer, RHP
5. Hector Noesi, RHP
6. Nick Franklin, 2B/SS
7. Yoervis Medina, RHP
8. Erasmo Ramirez, RHP
9. James Jones, RF
10. Blake Beavan, RHP

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

37 Comments

  1. And why would the Rangers trade a guy they just acquired who’s cost controlled?

  2. Latest Rumors:

    R. Cano 2B is being offered 200Mill by the M’s.
    M’s are in talks to trade for M. Kemp OF.
    M’s are in trade talks for B. Anderson SP.

    With the trades today I would like to see the M’s go after M. Choice who Tex just aquired from the A’s.

  3. I use to respect your rational points of view, now you just rant.

  4. Why do I think they signed Willie Ballgame as a retirement present for Armstrong? Because they are still living on past glory? The Mariners are running in place, The A’s have already eaten their lunch and may rub it in by fleecing them in a trade for Brett Anderson. The Angels need two pieces for their rotation and only have $10 million left between them and the luxury tax. Somehow they will find two arms and Mariners will end up watching Noesi intently during spring training. If they are waiting on Tanaka and get him I will rescind all my negative impressions. As noted above there is a lot of, laundry to be washed before MLB and NPB end up with a spiffy new posting agreement. The rich and poor among the MLB billionaires are now at loggerheads on letting the little guys get a shot at the Tokyo Talent Teasers. NPB still doesn’t even have a Commish after the last one quit over lying about juiced baseballs. Both nation’s players unions are not cutting anyone any slack that isn’t paying their dues. See what happens when grownups take over a good kids game?

  5. Revisionist history is neat when you are trying to make a point. Furbush was not much of a known quantity at the time of the trade. Wells was considered a flawed, YOUNG player with good potential. Francisco Martinez was fairly well regarded but by no means a sure thing. Plus, don’t forget Chance Ruffin who may have been considered the linchpin of the deal. At the time of the trade, while there was a slight lean toward it being a win for the Tigers, there were some folks who thought the promise of Seattle’s return made it worth the while.

  6. The hot stove is moving REALLY fast right now.

    In a way, I’m sorta glad that all the M’s have done is overpay for a bench player. That’s how little confidence I have in the front office. Hopefully Nelson Cruz refuses the teams money and signs an albatross deal with another club.

    Meanwhile, Doug Fister, Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson, Bran Wilson, and Joe Nathan are off the board. Lots of dominos starting to fall already before the Winter Meetigs have even started.

  7. Edman,

    You just posted a link that contradicts your own arguments that A) a deal isn’t likely to get done and B) that Japanese teams aren’t motivated by money when they post players. Nice work.

  8. Way to not make it personal, Paul. That’s your best response?

    The Yankees will pay nearly as much for one dimensional Brendan Ryan, with the possibility of making up to $10 million with incentives. Are they nuts too?

  9. Brendan Ryan is a superb defender. How many of his at bats would you like to watch in a Mariner uniform? Yankees gave in similar dollars, with incentives that could earn him up to $10 million. Oops, Ryan can’t really play all the middle infield postions, nor can he play the outfield.

    Who exactly said Jack was bringing Bloomquist back strictly for his glove work?

  10. Seattle only trades for or signs former players when they are TOO OLD AND NO LONGER PRODUCTIVE. Also, trading for Fister would mean Jack Z would have to revisit one of his many mistakes as GM. Jack is in WAY OVER HIS HEAD. He was a nice scout, but a horrible GM. He should have been fired.

    Brace yourselves for the huge overpay to Nelson Cruz, that is likely our next move…

  11. In fact if we needed a #3 starter so bad, why not just trade Franklin or Ackley straight across for Fister. That is a fair trade and the Tigers get the infielder they were looking for. Fister is a really good pitcher.

  12. It amazes me that teams keep trading Fister, a top 25 MLB starter, for crap. We received less then crap and the Tigers received crap. Nationals just fleeced the Tigers big time.

    Wow.

  13. This leaves one spot open on the 40 man roster. Jack will sign Raul Ibanez to a 3 year 32 million dollar deal and consider the roster set for next year. Then the promotions department can get all their bobble heads and other crap ready for the next 2-3 years…

  14. The thing about the Bloomquist signing that bothers me is more the amount. Sure, we may be able to afford it but teams find guys like Bloomquist for league minimum every year, it seems like. And even more than the cash we are giving him, this gives me little hope that things are going to change in the front office. Yet another “sentimentality” signing that appears to have more to do with public relations than baseball sense.

  15. I wonder if they got more than Casper Wells, Furbush, and a fringe prospect?

  16. Just reported no details yet. Fister traded to the Nationals. Interesting…

  17. Edman is a forever defender of all things Jack Z. A true Jack Z “apologist” if there ever was one. The guy can do no wrong in his book. I just don’t get it. Edman, are you on the team payroll?

  18. Yes some pro’s and some con’s. He has been useful to some teams or he wouldn’t still be around. But I agree with EK, it’s all in how the M’s use him.

  19. This really isn’t a news flash but Bloomquist is a horrible defender. Horrible! If you are bringing him in to a be a super utility backup defender then you could have done better, IMO.

  20. Money is your only response, Jerry? How much money would Tanaka generate over his career in Japan? Not everything is about money, that’s primarily an American dream, not one shared by everyone.

  21. I agree with you. Bloomquist isn’t a terrible player. He is versatile, and can back up at 2B, SS, and 3B. He also hits lefties fairly well, and is thus a good fit for a team with lefty hitters at the above positions. If he’s used well (spelling the above guys against tough lefties), he’s not a bad player.

    In fact, I think that taking advantage of platoons is one area where the M’s could most easily improve their offense.

    The problem is that the M’s have developed a track record of bringing in guys with some value if used correctly (like Ibanez and Morse) and using them in ways that hurts the team. They also have a track record of overpaying for those types of players, like they did with Bloomquist.

    In itself, the Bloomquist signing won’t kill the team, and could actually work out. But it’s scary because it follows a pattern of poor roster construction. They don’t seem to understand the game as well as rival clubs. That’s unsettling.

  22. “Why should they be fully invested in a process that removes their best talent to put it in MLB uniforms?”

    Um…hmmm….tough question….perhaps they might want….I dunno……MONEY!

    As in tens of millions of US dollars! That’s a fairly powerful motivator.

    Otherwise, they can wait and let those guys reach free agency and leave for nothing.

    Read the news coverage. A deal is nearly complete. It’ll happen. Soon.

  23. I think the (rather obvious) point that mgvernon is trying to make is that other teams are making smart moves, while the M’s are doing nothing positive.

    While the M’s were busy signing Bloomquist to a contract that is a pretty gross overpay, these things happened:

    -the A’s signed Scott Kazmir to a great contract (2yrs/22 mil)

    -the Met’s signed Chris Young for 1yr/7.5 mil

    -the Blue Jays signed Dioner Navarro for 2yrs/8 mil

    -the Dodgers signed Dan Haren for 1yr/10 mil

    -the Padres signed Josh Johnson for 1yr/8 mil

    -the A’s signed Nick Punto for 1yr/3 mil

    -the Rangers signed Giovani Soto for 1yr/3 mil

    -the Rangers and Tigers pulled off a really awesome trade for Prince Fielder/Ian Kinsler

    All of those signings are smart to at least solid. The only positive move the M’s have made is letting Chuck Armstrong retire.

    Obviously, the offseason isn’t over. But the Bloomquist signing is another red flag pointing to the fact that the M’s just don’t really get it. This signing, plus the constant rumors linking us to players like Nelson Cruz, are not at all encouraging. They made TERRIBLE decisions last offseason, and it looks like they haven’t learned much.

    This is particularly apparent when you consider what we’ve done versus our division rivals. The A’s added Kazmir to their already excellent rotation, and signed a player in Punto who is better than Bloomquist but at a much reduced cost. The Rangers made a very bold trade that helped them add a potentially elite bat at a position of weakness (1B), while clearing a logjam at 2B to make room for one of the best young talents in baseball in Jurickson Profar.

    And the M’s added Willie Bloomquist.

    I’m scared that Jack is going to further handicap a team that is already bad before he finally gets the axe.

  24. Just a formality? Have you been following this? The Japanese want substantial changes to the posting system. It’s not just a matter of renewing an existing agreement. Why should they be fully invested in a process that removes their best talent to put it in MLB uniforms? They have more to lose, than to gain, in this process.

    Any team putting all their eggs in the basket of ” nothing to worry about” would be making a foolish assumption.

  25. Why get really upset over the Willie signing? He’s utility enough to play the whole infield and some outfield. No, he is not a saber-darling, but he may free up a roster spot for another player by being so useful. Right now, only Franklin can back up Miller, and I’m not sure that Willie isn’t a better choice at SS backup. Plus now, Franklin or Ackley can be traded and a backup exist. It’s really not enough money to effect any other contracts. The guys just a utility that a lot of teams would find useful. Oh, and he can always be a DH when Morales hurts his ankle, lol.

  26. Tanaka is a near certainty to be posted. The agreement between MLB and Japanese baseball is just a formality. It’ll happen.

  27. First, before anyone can even think to sign Tanaka, first there must be an agreement with the Japanese league about the posting system, which has not occurred and should not be counted on as an option, until it is.

  28. I’m curious. When did Navarro become a middle infielder? Why is a guy who had a career year, in Navarro, any greater a choice than a middle infielder who also had a career year? Seattle could sign Suzuki as a back-up, and get a much better defender than Navarro.

    Oh, and btw, when did $5-6 million become the same as $8 million?

  29. The M’s really are making it difficult to like them these days.

    We need new upper management. Fast.

  30. I still think Tanaka makes waaaaay more sense than guys like Garza, Jimenez, or Santana. I’d go all in for Tanaka, then look at those guys as plan Bs.

    I’m sorta warming up on the idea of Cano. If the team is going to overpay, why not do so for the only legit elite player in the market? I’d rather punt a draft pick for him than Ellsbury. Obviously, it depends on Cano’s willingness to leave NY and take the biggest contract.

    After that, the M’s need to get a few bargains if they really want to put together a solid team. As Jason said, this isn’t a problem the M’s can simply throw money at. In free agency, I think Cory Hart, Kevin Youkilis, Rajai Davis, Scott Kazmir, Mike Pelfrey, Chris Perez, Jessie Crain, Carlos Marmol, Franklin Gutierrez, Joel Hanrahan, and Joba Chamberlain would be interesting acquisitions. Via trade, guys like Ike Davis, Brett Anderson, Hank Conger, and Rick Porcello could be great acquisitions. Plus, the M’s should look into guys like Tyler Colvin, Travis Snyder, and Daric Barton as guys with upside who could be available in minimum deals or NRI contracts.

    The M’s are likely to make 1-2 big free agent acquisitions this offseason, and it will be obviously crucial for them to not botch those signings. However, they also need to make a few shrewd lower-level deals that turn net them good under-the-radar players. For instance, how about these types of moves:

    -Franklin to BAL for Henri Urretia and Brian Matusz

    …and/or…

    -Erasmo Ramirez to LAD for Hank Conger

    If the M’s can make a few smart deals like that, in addition to good free agent acquisitions, they could field an interesting (e.g. ~85 wins) in 2014 and put themselves in good shape to contend in 2015.

  31. So they pass on Dioner Novarro and sign Bloomquist to a similar two year deal. I can not express how stupid I find this move. It’s time for Z to go.

  32. Ok, that makes more sense. I still don’t see the need to go 6 years on the pitchers though…I don’t think those 10 guys listed will get you much in way of a trade. The players teams want (Seager or prospects like Walker) are exactly the players we do not want to move. Ackley or Franklin might have some value, but I would rather keep them both another year rather than sell low on them.

    The M’s are very tight lipped, and they probably have trades in the works that we have never heard of or discussed. Just hope they aren’t desperate and doomed to fail ones like the Upton trade last offseason.

  33. Hey Paul, I think the point is for some SP that have options like say Jimenez, Garza and Santana then they will take the highest bid but if bids are close more often that not they go with the team that has better odds of winning. Not Seattle!

    Seattle need to probably make a coule of decent acquisitions and a good season to help, so for now they have to overpay. Not by a huge amount mind you. So my take from this article is more if we overpay so what, we need to improve and dumpster diving or trades won’t get us there alone. So if we ended up paying 10M more than others for Ellsbury or maybe 4 years and $60M for Jimenez then that’s what it takes but better that than fighting for scraps mid January when all the quality guys are gone.

    The chase Headley idea would be good, means we can move Seager to 2nd if Ackley faulters.

    That’s a decent list of average or questionable players, trade the lot of them and I wouldn’t mind. If we sign 3 or 4 guys and trade for 2 or 3 we are going to need to crease the roster space. Maybe keep Saunders as he still has a chance to be a pretty useful player.

    I think we have the ammunition for 1 Ok trade and maybe one average one, will be keen to see where we get to. Jack Z should be the busiest GM this winter he has money, tradeable pieces and a lot of holes.

  34. I don’t think we have to give a PITCHER a “gross overpay” to come play in pitcher friendly Safeco Field. Not sure where you get the 6 year requirement either? I think 4 years and 40 to 50 million gets you Jimenez. I think Minnesota is a less desirable destination for pitchers and they didn’t have to go 6 years to get Nolasco…

    Is there a pitcher out there that would be interested in a one year deal, put up good numbers at Safeco Field, and re-enter free agency next year? I thought Hughes was that guy but he got 3 years…

  35. hi, great article. i’m looking forward to hearing about any upgrades over the offseason.

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