The Mariners signed Robinson Cano, but that signing alone will not make them contenders in the AL West…yet. The M’s still have a ways to go in order to be legitimate contenders, as the A’s and Rangers are looking like they will be formidable this year once again.
There are several free agents who look quite attractive still. Bartolo Colon and Shin Soo Choo being the main targets remaining. If the Mariners can sign both of them, the team will be good enough to compete for a playoff spot. And on the off chance the Japanese star MAsahiro Tanaka is posted by his Japanese team, and on the off chance the Mariners can outbid the Yankees for his services, the Mariners would be a bona-fide contender for a World Series contender this year.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Shin Soo Choo is a five-tool outfielder who spent last year in Cincinatti. MLB executies believe he will end up receiving a deal similar to Jacoby Ellsbury’s at around 7-8 years, $150-$160 million.
That price tag is a little bit steep for a player of Choo’s caliber. He has never finished in the top 10 in MVP voting, although last year with the Reds he did finish at number 12, his best ever.
Last year, Choo’s WAR was either 4.2 or 5.2, depending on who you ask. According to Fangraphs, his value last year was about $26 million, according to the market value for wins these days. Since Choo is 31 and will be turning 32 in July, he is at the age where players typically exit their prime. But since Choo is coming off of the second best year of his career, and the fact that he has a typically durable body type (5’11″, 205 pounds) I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and give him two more years of prime-production (4.5+ WAR)
Following the typical player path in WAR decrease of -0.7 WAR per year after their prime, he will produce 4.5 WAR in 2014, 4.5 in 2015, and then 3.8, 3.1, 2.4, 1.7, 1.0, then 0.3 for the next 7 years. That is a total of 21.3 WAR for the duration of a 7 year contract. Assuming a value of $5 million per win, Choo should receive a contract for about $105 million over the next 7 years.
However, Choo will also be searching for more money at the end of his contract and that is why teams will have to overpay relative to his actual value. If the value of a win is closer to $6 million as opposed to $5 million, his actual value is closer to $125 million. So an overpay of about $25 million would not be too bad, especially for the value that he will provide in the first 2-3 years of his contract.
If the M’s can get him for $145-$155 million for 7 years, he will be worth it, especially if the M’s are targeting 2014 or 2015 for a championship.
Let’s say Choo replaces everyone that played right field for the M’s last year, and has similar production to last year, he will add 7 wins to the Mariners win column, as M’s right fielders totaled -2.1 WAR last year. Coupled with Cano replacing the 0.0 WAR produced at 2nd base last year and adding 6.0 wins to the Mariners win column, the M’s could be expected to win 84 games this year.
Just for the sake of not being overzealous, lets round that down to a barely above .500 record of 82 games.
Now let’s add Bartolo Colon into the mix. Bartolo had a WAR of 3.9 last year. His FIP was 3.23, which is quite good for a player entering their age 41 season. His estimated value last year was just shy of $20 million. Colon will recieve a contract significantly less than that figure. Last year his salary was just $3 million. He certainly over-delivered for the Oakland A’s last year.
His expected WAR next year is 2.8, netting him an estimated value of $14 million. This again, is certainly far over what he will receive. I believe a contract of 2 years and $10 million dollars should be expected for Colon. Perhaps even less. A 1 year, $4 million dollar contract also seems reasonable to expect for Colon.
The Mariners should absolutely pay Colon for his services, as they currently are slightly shorthanded in the starting rotation after Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Adding in Colon would solidify the rotation at the top end while leaving enough starts for youngsters James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Brandon Maurer, and Erasmo Ramirez.
If Colon replaced Aaron Harang and Erasmo Ramirez last year, who totaled 35 starts between them, Colon would have added 3 wins to the M’s win total last year. If he came in and replaced Joe Saunders, he would have added 3.3 wins. That would give the Mariners 85 wins on the year, again being very conservative.
If the Mariners go out and get these two guys, they can be expected to be over .500 next year, perhaps at even 87 wins, and that is assuming guys like Taijuan Walker and Brad Miller don’t improve at all. When they do, the M’s will be a serious 90+ win threat, of course, if Choo and Colon are signed.