Why the Mariners Should Trade For Matt Kemp

This offseason, the Dodgers are looking to trade Matt Kemp.

Their outfield is very crowded. They have Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford out there. Matt Kemp is dispensible to them.

They also need cash for when they shell out to resign/extend Clayton Kershaw after the 2014 season, which is going to cost the Dodgers $200+ million plus.

Kemp is owed $128 million through the 2019 season. He just turned 29 years old this September. The Mariners would control him through his age 34 season, which basically means we get him (assuming we do get him) for the rest of his prime, and then his contract is up.

However, Kemp has suffered injuries throughout the last two seasons, only playing 179 Major League games over the last two seasons. When Kemp is healthy he is indisputably one of the best position players in the game. He produces on the same level as Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Joey Votto, et al.

Other than the fact that Kemp is currently in a walking boot and may not even be healthy by Spring Training, this seems like a perfect situation for the Mariners.

His current trade value is quite low, due to the injuries. The Dodgers are looking to unload salary at all costs, and may even be willing to eat some of Kemp’s salary, if the deal is right. The Mariners should pounce on this opportunity, as they have realistic trade pieces to acquire Kemp and the monetary means to afford him once he is here.

A deal consisting of Nick Franklin, Erasmo Ramirez, and James Paxton/Brandon Maurer (preferably Brandon Maurer) should do the trick. With that prospect package, the Dodgers might even be willing to eat some of Kemp’s salary. The Mariners do not lose much, considering Nick Franklin either gets traded or rides a cold Seattle bench for 155 out of the 162 games next year, and Erasmo Ramirez will never be great, and the same goes for Brandon Maurer.

James Paxton, however, could end up being an all-star caliber pitcher, so ideally the M’s keep him out of the deal. Danny Hultzen could be tossed in the trade too, despite his injury issues and maybe even Dustin Ackley. Any combo of three or more of those players could be enough to entice the Dodgers to make a deal.

Now let’s focus on Kemp. To put it simply, he’s outstandingly amazing. In 2011 he put up video game numbers with 39 homers, 40 stolen bases, a .324 batting average, and a .586 slugging percentage. Or to cite some more useful stats, a .399 OBP, and an 8.4 WAR. That is exactly what the Mariners’ top six position players combined to produce in 2013.

To put it even more simply, if you shoved the 2011 Kemp into right field for the 2013 Mariners, the M’s would have shot from a lowly 71 wins to 81+ wins (due to the difference in WAR from Mariners’ right fielders last year and Kemp’s 8.4 in 2011). That is a .500 record without any additional changes. Obviously this is way oversimplifying the situation, but it gives an idea of what type of player Kemp can be. He possesses the ability to single-handedly change the outcome of a team’s season.

And that is the type of production the Mariners need. Kemp likely won’t produce an 8.4 WAR in 2014, but is something close to 5.5 or 6 reasonable? I think so.

He was on pace for a WAR of ~6.0 in 2012 before he got injured. He also put up a 5.0 war in 2009 and a 3.1 WAR in 2008. There was an off-year in 2010 where Kemp produced a mere 0.1 WAR. Before 2012, Kemp played four straight complete seasons, so there is reason to believe his injury-proneness the last two seasons has been somewhat of a fluke.

Conclusion time:

The Dodgers are interested in trading Matt Kemp. The Mariners have the peices to go out and get Matt Kemp from the Dodgers. Kemp’s trade value is low right now, so the Mariners would be getting a pretty reasonable deal. The M’s wouldn’t have to part with any major prospects in order to acquire Kemp; Nick Franklin, Erasmo Ramirez, and Brandon Maurer/James Paxton should do.

Additionally, the Mariners can afford Kemp. They have a willingness to shell out some cash this offseason, as shown by the Cano deal, and Kemp arrives with a price tag of only $20-$21 million/a year for the duration of his contract. And LA may very well be willing to eat a small portion of that contract, bringing it down to perhaps a $17-$18 million per year range. Also, generally speaking, Kemp is a pretty healthy player.

The Mariners should trade for Matt Kemp. There are no two ways about it.

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Remaining Free Agents Who Will Help the Mariners

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.

 

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Are you ready to RUMBLE?

I’ve been ignoring this blog for quite a while now, and about 8 months ago I wrote a post saying how I was going to start writing more posts and since then I’ve written exactly one post, which I am planning on taking down immediately after I finish writing this one. How ironic.

Since my last post, the Mariners have completed an entire season of baseball, the Seahawks have decided to be the best team in the NFL, and I’ve obtained more swag than the rest of King County combined. Yes, being humble is one of my strong suits.

Anyway, the M’s signed Robinson Cano for 10 years and $240 Million, pending a Monday physical. This has prompted me to inform my dad that software engineering might not have been the best career choice, and perhaps professional baseball would have been the better path. He laughed.

Anyway, I’ve been praying for the M’s to actually do something for a long time, instead of just rotting in their own filth which they’ve done since like 2003.

I’m pumped that Jack Z finally pulled the trigger and spent some money. Does this deal make us instant contenders? No. Absolutely not. It would require more than you or I or anybody can even imagine to make the playoffs next year with the current roster. We’re at least one or two big signings or trades from even a .500 record next year.

But steps have to be taken. Success is not usually acquired in one giant leap. Baseball is a team sport (duh), and one player does not make a team an instant competitor, even if that player is Robinson Cano.

A few more pieces will be needed, I am a huge proponent of the Mariners making a play for Shin Soo Choo. He would be the Simon to the Mariners’ Garfunkel. That might not make much sense.

He would replace either the ever-dwindling former prospect Dustin Ackley, the unexciting Michael Saunders, or whoever else played in the clusterfuck that was the Mariners 2013 outfield. Raul Ibanez, anyone?

Anyway, just a short post. Hopefully if you’re reading this, and I can’t imagine anyone is, I hope you vehemently disagree with what I say so that we can have an internet argument, because I like arguing with anyone who doesn’t have the ability to kick me out of my house.

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Mariners Lose a Few, Still Damn Good

I was going to write this post yesterday, but my internet completely decided to take a shit on itself, and I was unable to do so.

Anyway, long story short, my internet is so bad that I was unable to write a post yesterday.

Since the last time I posted, a week ago, the Mariners have decided to lose like a bazillion games. Three to be exact.

Even though they’ve lost a bazillion games (three), the M’s are still proving that they are going to be an exciting team to watch this year.

They’ve already hit 30 homers this Spring, which is two more than last year. We still have 17 games (more than half of ‘em) to go in Spring, which is very bueno.

The pitching staff appears to be shaping up. Hector Noesi sucks eggs. He will fo’ sho’ be starting (and hopefully ending) the year in Triple A. Maybe the M’s can trade him for nothing in return, because *nothing* (everything) is better than Noesi. That last sentence is confusing.

Erasmo Ramirez is making a strong case for a rotation spot. In six innings he’s allowed zero earned runs and has struck out five.

Blake Beavan is doing the exact opposite, essentially by sucking. He’s allowed three homers in eight innings pitched.

Jon Garland, like Ramirez, is having a good enough Spring showing to make an argument for a starting spot, even though his strikeout rate is a HUGE concern.

Jeremy Bonderman, like Beavan, isn’t doing so hot. He has six earned runs in six innings pitched to go with two homeruns allowed and only three strikeouts.

If I had to predict the Mariners starting rotation right now, it would go something like this:

  1. Felix Hernandez, Amazing Number 1
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma, Slightly Below Average to Average Number 2
  3. Joe Saunders, Slightly Below Average to Average Number 3
  4. Erasmo Ramirez, Potentially Good Number 4
  5. Blake Beavan, Slightly Below Average to Below Average Number 5

Based on that expert analysis, the Mariners starting rotation looks like they could be, well, average. That’s pretty good in my opinion considering the situation in which the M’s entered the offseason.

If I could choose the starting rotation, everything would be the same except I’d replace Blake Beavan with Jon Garland, because Blake Beavan is really bad at baseball.

The outfield logjam is still very much up in the air. Casper Wells is on-and-off, and is only batting .259. He does have two homeruns and a triple and is slugging .667. Mike Morse is doing pretty much the same as Wells, batting .304 with a comparable slugging percentage in four fewer at-bats.

And the outfield situation is being even further complicated by sudden and unexpected emergence of Carlos Peguero, who is batting .385 with three homeruns.

Wouldn’t that be cool if Carlos Peguero swept in and stole the final outfield spot out from underneath Mike Morse’s nose?

Meanwhile, Jason Bay is doing pretty well, batting .400 in 15 at-bats. Presently, there is no reasonable way to predict the Mariners opening day starting outfield. Other than Gutierrez in center and Saunders in right, the last outfield slot is completely unpredictable right now.

The prospects are doing, well, prospect-esque. Nick Franklin is playing pretty poorly, and definitely will not start the year off with the Big Club. Brad Miller is doing a bit better than Franklin, but not good enough to steal the starting shortstop spot in Seattle from Brendan Ryan. Mike Zunino is batting only .222 in 18 at-bats. He’ll have a one way ticket to Tacoma.

Meanwhile, the Big Four are pitching nicely. The three of them not named James Paxton have actually looked quite capable on mound . Danny Hultzen has done well to the tune of zero earned runs in three innings of work. His current K/9 rate is 18.00. Taijuan Walker is doing ok-ish, he has an ERA of 5.40. James Paxton is not doing so hot–he has an ERA of 14.73. That happens to be the same ERA as Hector Noesi’s. Brandon Maurer, the final member of the Fantastic Four, has only one earned run in six innings of work.

Sadly (for me, anyway), Kelly Shoppach is outperforming Ronny Paulino. I have a strong preference for Paulino being Jesus Montero’s backup this season, but that seems less and less likely as this Spring wears on.

In conclusion, many balls are bouncing the right way for the Mariners organization this Spring. If players continue on their current Spring trajectories, the M’s roster could end up looking pretty damn good. But, a lot of things can change in the remaining three weeks of Spring. Stay tuned.

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Damn We’re Good

The Mariners are the hottest team in Spring Training. Franklin Gutierrez hit yet another homerun in yesterday’s contest against the Dodgers, and added a two-run double for good measure. Many other Mariners are having hot springs (bad pun) too. There are a few poorer showings that could be vital in creating this year’s roster.

Despite top prospect Mike Zunino hit his first spring training homerun, Zunino has produced little to talk about. Barring a complete and utter hot-streak, he is destined to start the year in Tacoma.

Despite all of the positive vibes surrounding the M’s, 4 of the 6 Mariners who have 15 or more at-bats are batting .200 or lower. Those players are Casper Wells, Nick Franklin, Alex Liddi and Brad Miller. Casper Wells and Alex Liddi are competing for spots at the Big Club, but their poor showings so far in Spring have likely hurt their chances to get ample Major League at-bats. Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, the M’s two top shortstop prospects, are definitely not going to make the Big Club out of the gate. That was expected though, so it’s don’t get too disappointed about their poor play.

Some of the best Mariners so far are Justin Smoak, Franklin Gutierrez, and Carlos Peguero. Smoak has hit two homers and has more hits than outs. Gutierrez has three homeruns already in only 11 at-bats. Peguero is batting .429 with three homers in only 14 at-bats. The Big Peg* is making a case for a big-league spot that is more than just 6th or 7th outfielder/Tacoma guy. If he keeps hitting like this, he could be the 4th outfielder in Seattle.

As a team, the Mariners have more homeruns than the Angles, Red Sox, Brewers and Dodgers combined. That means the M’s have 20 homeruns, which is a damn high number. Some ominous stats would be the M’s 29th-lowest walk total, their 4th-highest strikeout total, and their next-to-last stolen base total.

After seeing those nightmare stats, I’m a little less impressed by the M’s eight consecutive wins. Don’t let your enthusiasm be tampered by a few bad stats. I’m not. Hopefully the homerun parade can continue while the M’s steal some bases and get some free passes.

Tremendous Springs have rarely translated into winning seasons for the M’s. In fact, of the M’s ten winning Springs, only three of them have translated into winning seasons. However, it’s still awesome to win games. Winning games is by far more exciting than losing them in Spring (duh), and it makes me more excited for the regular season.

Anyway, GO Mariners! Win games!

*Yes I did just make up that awesome nickname for Peguero.

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Mariners Get Off to Hot Start

Since the horrendous charity game against the Padres to start the Spring, the Mariners have been on a roll. They’ve won four in a row, and each Smoak and Gutierrez dinger raises my expectations for the coming season a little more.

The M’s have already hit 10 homers. They only hit 28 in 2012 Spring training. Obviously all Spring training stats must be taken with a grain (or handful) of salt, but hey, 10 homers!

Gutierrez’s homer against the Brewers today was an absolute monster-mash. He would not have been able to muster a moonshot like that in 2011 or 2012. This means he is back at full strength, and that the M’s (could) have a sensational threat in centerfield. If Guti remains healthy the whole year, the M’s could have a 30-year-old center fielder with a 5.0+ WAR, similar to his 2009 season. Who needs Michael Bourn? Josh Hamilton has had only one season with a WAR over 5.0.

Justin Smoak has gotten me really excited. Could his two homers mean he’s finally primed to maintain his September success? Since these are Spring training numbers it’s best to compare them to…Spring training numbers! Last year he had zero homeruns in Spring training. Same level of competition. Similar(ish) weather. Much different result. Perhaps his whole season will produce a much different result.

In other Spring training news, Michael Morse is striking out all the time. Dustin Ackley hit a triple, flashing some speed on his fresh, surgically healed ankle. Brendan Ryan, the other Mariners 2012 starter to go under the knife this offseason, hit a homer. Not going to say he’s going to be a magician with the stick this year but a homer certainly isn’t a bad thing.

Jason Bay is showing some plate discipline with two walks already in six plate appearances. Nick Franklin stole a base, perhaps proving that all of his weight gain hasn’t slowed him down. Or perhaps he got lucky.

Other than that, small sample sizes are killing any chance to be insightful and analytical, but it’s still good to try. Perhaps in a week it’ll be more beneficial to look at player’s stats and performances, like when Brendan Ryan isn’t batting .500 with a 2.000 slugging percentage.

I haven’t been covering each Spring game and I don’t think I will. I’ll probably do weekly Spring action recaps like this one with some projections mixed in here and there.

Anyway, cheers! Baseball is here.

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Who is Danny Hultzen? 2013 Predictions

Danny Hultzen, the Mariners first-round draft choice in 2011, had an up and down year in 2012. He performed outstandingly at Double-A Jackson, however, he struggled after being promoted to Triple-A.

The major decrease in effectiveness is likely due to a combination of being worn down by the minor league lifestyle (long bus rides in Double-A) and better competition at the Triple-A level.

In Tacoma, Hultzen averaged almost a walk per inning, but while in Jackson, he averaged

Danny Hultzen pitching for the Rainiers, where he will spend most of his time in 2013. Image from Minor League Baseball.

Danny Hultzen pitching for the Rainiers, where he will spend most of his time in 2013. Image from Minor League Baseball.

only 0.4 walks per inning. Pitchers don’t just forget how to hit the zone, so exhaustion must have had something to do with it. Contrary to popular belief, Hultzen wasn’t entirely terrible while in Triple-A. Of his 12 starts with Tacoma, he had seven where he gave up two or fewer runs. However, he walked two or more batters in every Triple-A start.

Struggles become easier to swallow as a fan once you realize that struggles are a part of every young player’s career. Hultzen seems to have already realized this, and is taking the poor performance in stride. He said in an interview with David Laurila that “it was a tough stretch, but it’s helped [him] out a lot. It’s been very beneficial, because [guys] need to learn how to fail in this game.”

Hultzen knows what he’s talking about. Realizing that failure is practically guaranteed in baseball is very important. Having the ability to shake it off and learn from it–even more so.

But this article isn’t to dwell on Hultzen’s struggles last year. This article is to look forward to 2013 and beyond.

What will Hultzen achieve this year?

For one, his innings will definitely increase. They have to. In 2011 he threw 123 innings. In 2012 he only threw 124. He will not continue that trend in 2013, so 145 to 155 innings should be expected from Hultzen. In 2014 he will likely throw 175-185 innings before making the final jump to the 200+ innings the M’s expected when they drafted him.

The big left-hander will start the season off in Triple A, and remain there for most of the year. He’ll make 20-25  starts in Tacoma before being called up to the Big Club in August or September to start a few games. Depending on how the Mariners are doing, he could be up sooner than that.

Expect Hultzen to come out of the gate quickly in 2013. A 1.75 or 2.00 ERA doesn’t sound unreasonable for the month of April. After that, he will cool down and his ERA will be 3.00-4.00 for the months of May and June. He will go on a hot streak for eight or nine starts before his inevitable call-up in August or September.

Hultzen’s 2013 walk rate will not be absurdly high like his 2012 Tacoma walk rate. His walk rate will shrink to a more Hultzen-esque 3.5BB/9. His strikeout rate will be a stellar 10.25-10.75K/9. These figures would create a strikeout to walk ratio of 3 to 1.

Hultzen will continue to use his low-to-mid-90′s fastball coupled with his tremendous changeup to keep hitters off-balance. His slider will continue to improve and could become an above-average offering over the course of the year. His command of all three pitches will remain impeccable, and perhaps become even more so.

2013 will be a vital year in the development of Hultzen, a future staple in the M’s rotation. Hultzen’s upward trajectory will continue in his eventual path to a solid #2 starter behind Felix Hernandez. Danny Hultzen will make enormous strides in 2013.

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