Does Ted Lilly Make Sense for the Mariners?

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It’s inevitable. As baseball fans, we naturally love to fantasize about our team of choice acquiring certain players, and because of that, the suggestions are always going to start flooding the internet well before the winter arrives. This is especially true for fans of teams that aren’t in contention, like the Mariners. And can you really blame us? Rosterbation doesn’t really get us anywhere, but at least it stimulates the baseball portions of our mind when actually watching the team play won’t.

That being said, one of the things I’ve started to hear recently is that the Mariners should go after Ted Lilly this winter. Lilly is 34 years old, and he’s just now finishing off a 4 year, $40 million contract. Over those 3+ years with the Cubs, and more recently, the Dodgers, he’s accumulated 9.8 WAR and consistently posted xFIPs around 4. Those are solid numbers, and there’s a pretty good chance he’s got a couple more slightly above league average seasons left in him. So, if the Mariners have the opportunity to sign him to a reasonably priced, 2 year deal, they’d be smart to really consider it. However, it probably wouldn’t be aimed at contending next year – it’d likely be more about shoring up that rotation in 2012.

The one thing I’d warn against, though, is signing him to any type of a long term deal. He’s already 34, and he has started to show some subtle signs of decline this season. His K/9, at 7.24, is the lowest of his career, and his 4.23 xFIP comes with a low BABIP and a fairly high strand rate. The Mariners certainly don’t want to end up being stuck giving millions of dollars to a 38 year old version of Jarrod Washburn 4 years from now. It’s also important to remember that signing him would take away starts from someone like Luke French or Nick Hill in 2011, a season that probably won’t matter, and lost seasons are excellent for developing young players.

So, if the price is right, and he’s willing to accept a shorter term deal, it’s something that might work out. Otherwise, I’d look for other, younger options, or just stick with the rotation we’ve got until 2012.

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Tags: Luke French Mariners Nick Hill Ted Lilly

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