I’ve never been to a winter meeting. In fact, I’ve never even really been to a trade show. I’ve been to shows at fairgrounds and stuff like that, but I’ve never been among a huge chunk of my peers-slash-competitors. I’ve never been among an orgy of industry commerce with more hotel key swapping than Hope Solo at the Olympic Village.
The best analogy I have in my life is my first time encountering the Taphouse in Seattle. 160 beers on tap. Better yet, it’s like when I went to IPA Fest at my local watering hole. It wasn’t just a lot of beer, it was a lot of my favorite style of beer, with one-off kegs from breweries you don’t exactly find at any local dive. In that orgy of beer, I wanted to be a naughty boy and try everything. In this orgy of MLB talent, Jack Zduriencik is becoming pretty naughty, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
(By the way, my best friend had other plans on the night of IPA fest. He threw up mere minutes after this picture was taken, and we didn’t drink nearly enough to be throwing up. I wish I had pictures of that instead.)
Zduriencik has expressed interest in just about everybody. We hear “things are heating up with Michael Bourn,” the rumor to follow is “Mariners interested in Michael Bourn.” The Mariners have checked in on Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, Garrett Jones, Billy Butler, Jason Kubel, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Nate McLouth, Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, and Dee Gordon, to name I’m sure not evertyone. The Mariners are in on everyone. They’re always in on everyone, and they never get anyone. That’s the trend to this point anyways. Nonetheless, they continue to try to acquire talent, and if one was measuring effort on MLBTR references, well, the Mariners are probably trying harder than anyone. I mean I didn’t count, but my phone was vibrating in my pocket all day with each new rumor that popped up. That counts for something that is less than nothing, but hardly something I’d accept as a quantifiable measure if I were having this argument with myself.
What has happened in past years though, is that the Mariners do make big moves. Believe it or not. They traded for Cliff Lee. They signed Chone Figgins. They traded Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero. They make moves, but nobody sees them coming. That causes some anticipation, and every time I look at my phone I’m hoping it reads “Mariners trade something worth very little for Mark Trumbo” or “Zduriencik walks out of Kevin Towers hotel room backwards, holding a gun, carrying Justin Upton by the collar of his shirt.” I never get to read those things.
What’s more realistic, almost imminent some may say, is that Jason Bay will be a Seattle Mariner. The team flirted with Bay back in December of 2009 when he signed with the Mets. I didn’t expect I’d paint such a slutty picture of the Mariners when I trapsed through the lead paragraph, but if the shoe fits, try to fuck it, I guess.
Bay used to be a good baseball player, and he hasn’t been very good of late. That seems like most of the reason for outrage from Mariners fans over the idea of the team signing him. He’s unlikely to get much more from the team than the minimum, if he gets a guaranteed contract at all. Even a guaranteed contract carries a risk-reward element that may make it worthwhile to pay a couple hundred thousand dollars to check Bay out, and cut him at the end of spring if he’s not going to make the team, much like the team did with Hong-Chih Kuo last offseason.
Bay has hit lefties well in his career, and he’s hit righties well in his career. Jason Bay has been a pretty good baseball player, and though a bad fielder, he’s been right above the threshold of being unacceptable in left field. His glove, and all the other oft-unmentioned other parts of his body and equipment that go into fielding, have been worth very little in terms of positional value, as Bay is a -7.7 UZR/150 guy in left field a position that is set at -7.5 in the WAR formula, with DH set at -17.5. Bay is barely two runs more valuable per approximate full season than he’d have been as a DH with the same production.
Of course, Bay has been quite bad with the Mets, posting a 91 wRC+ in 1125 plate appearances. But he’s posted a 112 wRC+ in the same period against lefties, and has battled injuries. If the Mariners sign Bay and he’s not healthy, he goes away. If they sign him and he beats out Casper Wells, who cares? Why are we so worried about keeping Casper Wells happy?
We are penalizing Jason Bay because we know his name. We weren’t up in arms when the team claimed Scott Cousins from the Blue Jays. And some people hated it when the team traded a non-asset for a piece of the puzzle shipping Trayvon Robinson to the Orioles. Context is unimportant, all that matters is whether or not we know the names of the players involved.
We know Bay’s name, so fuck that guy.
Some of the guys don’t make a ton of sense though. As I said yesterday, a team with two designated hitters is a team with a huge roster issue. Jason Kubel and Raul Ibanez belong in nobody’s left field. Michael Bourn is a Scott Boras client with very little power and a skill set that shrinks in value if he plays anything but center field, and if he moves Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez off the position he saps their value too.
The Mariners were known to have met with Boras today, but for all we know they could be discussing a trade-and-extension for Jacoby Ellsbury.
This front office is very good at creating smoke screens and diversions, and then coming out of nowhere with a move that nobody saw coming. That’s what they do. That’s probably what they’re doing here. I’m going to keep writing about it, but I promise you that the narrative won’t change with one day’s events. We’re always on high alert for this team to do something, and we’re always on high alert for them to do nothing at all.