Chuck Armstrong, who has been the president of the Mariners for 28 of the franchise’s 37 seasons, announced his retirement on Monday. Armstrong, 71, was one of the driving forces in helping keep the Mariners in Seattle when former owner George Argyros attempted to sell the club to an out-of-state buyer in 1989, and again when Jeff Smulyan sold the team in 1992. Armstrong will work through Jan. 31 and the team said a search for his replacement will begin immediately.
—Greg Johns at MLB.com
Here’s hoping they get a baseball man who can restore the plummeting faith of a fan-base beaten down by bad baseball and clumsy off-field machinations. Heck, I’ll even throw a name out to start the wish list: Tony La Russa, who has indicated that he is open to returning to Major League Baseball in a front-office position. La Russa, linked often enough to the Mariners in the past to make one think it’s possible, could give the organization what Nolan Ryan provided to the Rangers — instant credibility. But if that’s not feasible, and 76-year-old Pat Gillick is content in his retirement, Armstrong’s successor will at least have the advantage of being a new face and fresh voice, untainted by the current disrepair into which the organization has fallen.
Buster Olney of ESPN recently wrote a column stating that the Mariners are regarded as a sleeping giant in the industry — a team in a beautiful part of the country with a great stadium, passionate fan base and bountiful financial resources.
All that is true, but what has been missing so long is the right architect at the top to guide the Mariners out of the wilderness. It is an organization that can’t seem to get out of its own way. Now they have a chance to start the renaissance.
—Larry Stone at the Seattle Times
AL West Commentary
The Angels made the largest relief signing of the offseason so far, agreeing to pay $15.75MM for three years to right-handed sidearmer Joe Smith. Any sizeable commitment to a reliever will be poorly received with sabermetric analysts, but did the Angels at least get the top setup man Smith’s contract suggests? If ERA alone doesn’t convince you Smith is a top setup man, then it’s hard to find a particular standout skill he displayed in 2013.
He’s not a strikeout guy, he doesn’t have great control (especially versus left-handed hitters), and his groundball rate and BABIP weren’t anything special this year. His ERA was low because he stranded 86% of his base runners. The Angels probably don’t have a reason to expect that to be repeated, so they’re left with a guy whose only above average skill might be inducing groundballs from right-handed hitters. They didn’t need to spend $15.75MM to find a guy who can do that, with Matt Albers and Jamey Wright also on the free agent market. That’s not to suggest Albers and Wright are as good as Smith, but with limited payroll flexibility and a need for two starting pitchers, this signing was a questionable allocation of resources for the Halos.
—Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors
So they said
“I had two major surgeries in five months and made it back clean. Nothing pisses me off more than guys that cheat and get raises for doing so.” David Aardsma
“In retrospect, it was a mistake to hire 38 Studios to develop Old Hoss 1K884 Old Tyme Family Base Ball: the Game.” —Old Hoss Radbourn (*For those not familiar with Old Hoss Radbourn scroll down to the bottom of the page.)
“The quality he [Prince Fielder] brings is an old school gamer. He plays every game and wants to play every inning. Don’t think he wants to take a day off or three innings off, he plays every inning of every game. You have to drag him off the field.” —Brewers GM Doug Melvin via T.R. Sullivan at MLB.com
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
Re: Bronson Arroyo — if the Twins like him so much, they should make him an offer. Checked, no offer, but they do like him. Need to offer 3-years. —Darren Wolfson at 1500 ESPN
I think it’s reasonable to expect Mike Napoli to bring home something in the neighborhood of four years and $68 million. In the unlikely event he finds a taker for five years, I’d expect to see a drop in average annual value, but I expect his hip condition, dormant as it may be, will prevent that from happening. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns to Boston on a three-year deal at a slight premium above $17 million, with some kind of vesting option to go to a fourth year. Like any bopper in this limited market, he’s going to get paid. —Jay Jaffe at Sports Illustrated
MLB and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball are expected to continue negotiations for the posting system this week. According to multiple Japanese media reports, NPB officials are expected to fly to the United States this week to meet with MLB to try to reach a new agreement on the posting system. The speculation from Japan is that an agreement could be reached by the end of the month.
Teams expect Masahiro Tanaka to be posted this offseason, but the status of the posting agreement remains in limbo. MLB had presented Japanese baseball officials with its proposed new posting system, which the Japanese players’ association was initially hesitant to accept. They accepted a two-year agreement, which was expected to be approved by MPB, but MLB changed course and took the deal off the table at the general managers’ meetings in Orlando on November 14, citing a delayed response as the reason.
—Ben Badler at Baseball America
According to my research, teams paid an average of just more than $7 million per win acquired via free agency in 2013 (including players signed to multiyear contracts in previous seasons), with that number floating around the $6-7 million range since 2007. Ordinarily we would probably expect that number to stay at around $7 million for 2014, but with the influx of TV revenue, we could have reasonably projected it to rise substantially; based on jumps we saw in 2000 and 2007, seeing the price of a win shoot up to $9 million wouldn’t have been out of the question.
Who wins if the market inflates later: The teams who struck early. When a general manager looks to the free-agent market, his general goal should be to buy wins more cheaply than his 29 other counterparts. Who loses if the market inflates later: Every other team that’s looking to buy this winter. Teams in the hunt for superstars are probably unaffected because there aren’t any marquee names off the board yet.
—Lewie Pollis at ESPN [Insider needed and recommended]
Comment From Guest: Baseball seems to be getting a huge infusion of TV money even though its audience demographics are trending negatively and it has more competition (from other sports, higher-quality TV programming, the Internet). Are regional sports networks making a bad bet?
Dave Cameron: Baseball offers, by far, the most live sporting events per year of any league. Live sporting events are mostly DVR-proof. Cable companies are betting on sports being the thing that keeps folks from cutting the cord.
The Chicago Cubs have signed minor league free agent outfielder Casper Wells. —Matt Eddy at Baseball America
*Old Hoss Radbourn by Sean Gregory at Time.com: The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011 Followers: 15K
Sample tweet: “It became quite difficult to state I was ‘in the best shape of my life’ in Spring Training once the syphilis took hold.”
Ever wonder what a belligerent 1880s pitcher who once started 40 out of 43 games might think of today’s pampered athletes? Luckily, we have Old Hoss Radbourn. One of the more creative phony Twitter accounts out there imagines Radbourn — a real-life Hall of Famer who won 59 games for the Providence Grays in 1884 — as a vain, hard-drinking curmudgeon who makes crude remarks in 19th century syntax. (Based on the historical record, this might not be far from the truth.) Upon hearing that Seattle Mariners center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. took a snooze during a game, Old Hoss wrote, “A ‘mate of mine once fell asleep in the club house during a game. This was quite good, as at the time I was rogering his wife in my locker.” On Mother’s Day, Old Hoss tweeted, “A dying woman once asked me to ‘hit a home run for her.’ I told her she was crazy. It was really hard to hit home runs! Sorry, mom. RIP.” And during this year’s spring training, he noted, “Like this D. Jeter, I once tried to eliminate a stride in my swing. Skipper shot me in the leg. Other than gangrene I was right as rain.” The tweets make you wish that the real Radbourn, who died during the second Cleveland Administration, were still around.