As Mariners’ general manager I vow to make rational decisions, spend the money as wisely as possible and concoct a roster that has the potential of getting into the playoffs and having postseason success while continuously pushing forward year after year.
The only rules here are that the $95 million mark must not be exceeded unless one of the two prime free agents are involved, and the fantasy portion of this little game isn’t taken too far into the netherworld that is the hot stove league 2004-2005.
Note: The money being paid to former Mariners Jeff Cirillo and Kevin Jarvis do not represent taxable roster payroll, therefore is simply just money owed. Many reports have stated that this will be included in the team’s payroll in 2005, while Howard Lincoln gave no indication in one direction or the other.
My first personnel move is to sign either Troy Glaus or Carlos Delgado before the competition for either of them gets too hot. The M’s can jump on any free agent immediately without the concern that they might lose their first round draft choice as compensation, just as they did a year ago with the signing of Raul Ibanez. Since the Mariners are slotted in the top 15 of the June draft, they would not surrender their first-round choice, instead sending their second-round selection in its place. Signing Glaus or Delgado very early in the free agent period would give the club time to re-evaluate and move on to the next area of need.
There are pluses and minuses to both sluggers’ resume and they begin with the injury bug.
Delgado has had a lower back problem that has hampered him from time to time over the past three years and limited the 32-year-old first baseman to 128 games this past season.
Glaus has youth on his side, turning 28 this past August, but has the worst injury record of any of the major free agents. The third baseman had surgery on his throwing shoulder this spring and though he returned to the lineup in September, Glaus could not play the field as he waited for the injury to heal.
Playing in just 149 games over the past two seasons, Glaus has fought off back and shoulder problems and hopes to leave them behind as he heads into his free agent year.
When either player is in the lineup the production is top drawer and both are capable of carrying on offense for days at a time. Delgado would seem like the more natural fit for the Mariners since he is a left-handed power hitter but Glaus’ credentials are just as strong- he is a third baseman. The hot corner has been a tough position for the M’s to fill for more than a decade and the lack of solid third basemen around the league push Glaus’ value up a notch.
The deciding factor here might just be the contract that each player would play for. As a player leaving his prime and entering the twilight of his career, Delgado probably isn’t looking for a five-year deal and would likely settle for three guaranteed seasons.
Glaus, being four years younger than Delgado, will command a longer contract but might have to settle for three guaranteed seasons with incentive-laden years afterward.
Dollar amounts would hover in the area of $10 million for each player, depending upon the market, but considering Delgado’s age and sub par 2004 campaign and Glaus’ second straight injury-riddled season, both might come in just under the $10 million barrier.
I will assume that Delgado’s price is three years at $9.25 million per season and the agreement of $2 million dollar bonuses in each season that he reaches 625 plate appearances.
I will also guess that the cost for Glaus is a similar annual figure as Delgado but includes a more lucrative incentives package should the UCLA grad cure his injury disease and stay in the lineup all season long. Three guaranteed seasons for Glaus at $9 million a piece, plus a two-year option at an average of $11.5 million if he steps to the plate 600 times in 2007, the third and final guaranteed season.
After gathering all of the data my choice is to sign Carlos Delgado. His left-handed stick automatically impacts the M’s offense as much as any one hitter on the market could have. Balancing the order with Raul Ibanez as the two power sources from the left side, Delgado is a perfect fit for the dollars, the years, and his projected impact.
After securing the team’s most productive hitter since Edgar Martinez was driving in 145 runs in 2000, I will now jump heavily into the market for a free agent starting pitcher.
But first thing is first; take care of your own.
In a previously negotiated agreement, I decline the team’s $6 million option on Eddie Guardado and the closer immediately exercises his option at a much more payroll-friendly $4.5 million for the 2005 season.
I also decline the $1.55 million option on utility man Jolbert Cabrera and notify infielder Willie Bloomquist of the club’s intention to non-tender the 27-year-old a contract, making him free to sign with any club.
Back to the matter at hand; a starting pitcher.
I would love to have a name like Pedro Martinez or Roger Clemens to toss out on opening day and in the first game of a playoff series but even more so than Beltran and Beltre, those two appear to have their sights set on staying with their current clubs to end their respective careers.
My first four phone calls were already placed as Delgado was being negotiated and the pitchers contacted were right-handers Matt Clement and Carl Pavano, and lefties Odalis Perez and Eric Milton.
After talking to Milton’s agent and learning what he was looking for, I decided to scratch Milton off my list so I can concentrate more on pitchers who actually deserve an annual salary of $7-9 million. Milton’s credentials just don’t measure up and the cost and risk outweighed the reward.
Starting at the top and gauging the interest level as well as the proper fit for the club, it becomes clear that Pavano wasn’t so interested in sailing west. I suspend talks with his agent and move on to Odalis Perez and Matt Clement.
Perez had a better 2004 than his six wins would indicate but his asking price does not match his ability, even though he is three years younger than the former Marlins, Padres, and Cubs hurler. At this point my focus turns to the 30-year-old power arm of Clement.
As I close in on my starting pitcher addition, my eyes stay peeled to the rest of the league and I see Beltran signs with the Chicago Cubs and Randy Johnson is traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pedro Martinez spurns the Yankees’ big-money offer to stay in Boston for three more years and Clemens decides he wants one more year with the Houston Astros.
Among other things I notice is that the Braves have decided to return John Smoltz to the starting rotation and have re-signed outfielder J.D. Drew.
I also see that even though we’re now in the first week of December that many of the big name free agents are still sitting out there and haven’t come close to signing.
Third basemen Glaus, Adrian Beltre and Corey Koskie, outfielders Steve Finley and Magglio Ordonez, second baseman Jeff Kent and pitchers Matt Morris, Derek Lowe and closer Troy Percival still remain as do Perez and Clement.
On the first Wednesday in December I decide today is the day I make a serious offer to Clement and see if I can’t lock him up. Just as I move to pick up the phone and dial, line two rings through.
On the other end of the line is Dodgers second-year GM Paul DePodesta. The conversation goes something like this;
JC: “How is life in Hollywood Paul?”
PD: “Not too bad JC, and I hope you can help make it even better.”
JC: “I’ll see what I can do- what’s on your mind?”
PD: “Just wondering if you guys might be interested in dealing Randy Winn.”
JC: “We might be, but without a full roster we have to hang on to Randy, he was our second best hitter last season.”
PD: “I understand that but if your willing to make a deal, we’d be willing to send a useful package back your way.”
JC: “Make it Joe Thurston and Antonio Perez and I’ll pack Randy’s suitcase myself.”
PD: “You have yourself a deal JC.”
Jumping the gun just a bit due to the solid offer made for Winn, the Dodgers have themselves a left fielder and I just broke off more than three and a half million clams from the books.
Back to work, I make the call to Clement’s agent and offer three guaranteed years at an average of $7 million per season and immediately get turned away. Clement, who made $6 million in 2004, is apparently getting serious interest from the World Champion Boston Red Sox and Theo Epstein is offering $20 million over three seasons.
I’m not giving in at this point and get to work on my own arbitration eligible players and free agents and look around the league for another bat.
After a week and a half of quiet talks and meetings with agents, Clement’s agent calls and lays it all out on the table.
“Boston has offered the 20 for three and if you can add a year or another three million to that offer, my client will sign today,” Clement’s representative said.
I quickly respond with a counter that intrigues both agent and player, and Clement is in the bag.
Three years guaranteed at $7.25 million per season, with a fourth year team option at $8 million that vests with 400 innings pitched in the two previous seasons. With Clement’s history of a few smaller nagging injuries, the prospects of a 34-year-old Clement being paid $8 million is a scary thought unless he proves to be healthy in the two years prior.
As I’m on the horn with the league office I get word that the Yankees have signed 2B Jeff Kent to a two-year deal and Magglio Ordonez signs a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
As Christmas approaches and all of the arbitration issues have been resolved (Gil Meche signs a one-year $2.75 million contract to avoid arbitration), I’m still sitting pretty with payroll and have the itch for another hitter.
Surprisingly there are a few quality bats still available, and one in particular that I have liked all along.
Before I put Lee Pelekoudas and company back to work on adding a second middle-of-the-order hitter, we get the deals done with left-hander Ron Villone on a one-year $1.65 million deal and catcher Dan Wilson on an $850k deal in the backstop’s final season.
Christmas Eve is upon us and I’m leaning heavily toward taking a day off to enjoy a turkey leg, some fruit salad and a piece of apple crisp. But something won’t let me leave the office.
Instead of hanging around and brainstorming all night, I decide to head for home.
But not before the phone rings one more time. It’s the agent for a certain slugger that had earlier declined interest in the Mariners and he states that his client is interested in hammering out a deal before the new year so he knows sooner, rather than later, where he is going to play the rest of his career.
After several hours of give and take, we strike a deal to bring in said slugger and the staff is feeling very good about getting this done. We came into the winter with three major goals and this would make us 3-for-3.
All we’re waiting on is a fax to return from the player who is at his home for the holidays. For minutes, that seemed like days, we waited but the fax didn’t come in.
Maybe the player changed his mind. Maybe the agent got a better offer at the last minute. Either way it was time to head out and take the following day off.
Christmas is a few hours away and the looming disappointment of the recent breakdown of the deal to add another run producer is wearing on me.
I’m awake all night with a bucket full of stress, knowing that a good portion of the club’s makeup relies heavily on signing that second hitter. This was the last slugger on the market that interested our club and losing him at the last second was depressing.
After falling asleep very early on Christmas morning, I wake up to a beeping sound that I can’t place at first. My alarm wasn’t set, my phone isn’t ringing, and the alarm to the Range Rover is much louder and more like a siren than a beep.
I roll out of bed and head out into the hall to see if I can locate the noise. As my wife, Catherine Zeta-Genius, calls out for me to shut the noise off, I walk toward the sound as it is still going strong.
“Beep, beep, beep.” Pause. “Beep, beep, beep.” Pause. “Beep, beep, beep.”
In the pitch black of the early morning I poke my weary head into my office and realize the noise is coming from my desk, more specifically my fax machine. The Brother 7000 MX given to me by former Mariner great Julio Cruz was beeping sharply but there was no incoming fax.
The fax that could have made my Christmas a fine holiday just wasn’t there.
Or is it?
I approach the machine, a shiny silver contraption with a handset on the far left and a glowing touch pad in the middle, and fold down the paper tray.
My heart is racing as I fumble around to get a few sheets of fax paper to load. The moment the paper hit the tray, the beeping stopped…
…And a fax rolled in.
The fax was nine pages long and I refused to look at any of them until all nine pages were in the receptor bin.
After a few short minutes, that again seems like days, I collect the multi-page facsimile and flip it over.
The cover page is blank, leaving me to worry that it is just another typical useless fax from my bosses, Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong.
Page two is also blank. So is page three and four.
Now believing that Howie and Chuck were only playing tricks on me I grab all nine pages and toss them flat on the file cabinet that sits across from the desk, and make way for the kitchen for a much needed drink.
As I take the first step toward a buzz I deserved more than anyone on the planet, I notice something out of the corner of my eye. I see ink.
Pages five through eight are full of printed ink- the fax was at least real. Flipping through frantically I find the cover page and hold it flat up against my face with my eyes closed.
A few deep breaths later I open my eyes to the cover page of a signed Major League Baseball Contract. At the top of the document’s first page is the player representative’s name. That line read “Scott Boras”, and was followed by a signature.
After scanning through the middle pages and getting the final page, I see the stylish signature of one Adrian Beltre placed next to the printed version of the 26-year-old’s name.
Six years and $78.5 million later, the M’s have a legit third-sacker with power and defense. Something they really haven’t had in their 27-year history.
Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls--the Seattle Mariners have just been re-tooled.
Your new batting lineup will consist of Ichiro Suzuki and Jeremy Reed setting the table for newcomers Adrian Beltre and Carlos Delgado. Raul Ibanez and Bret Boone hitting in the 5th and 6th slots followed by Bucky Jacobsen, Jose Lopez and Miguel Olivo rounding out a very nice lineup that has speed at the top and power throughout the middle of the order.
After acquiring Clement, the services of Ryan Franklin are no longer needed and he will be shopped around.
The bullpen might need some tweaking and with a few dollars left to spend, adding a quality arm through free agency or via trade shouldn’t be the most difficult thing to do.
What will be difficult is handing this job back to Bill Bavasi to make mid-season trades and get this team over the top.
All I know is that I did my part. Time for Howie, Chuck and Bill to do theirs.