I have done multiple posts dedicated to talking about ways to improve the offense this season. Even though it may seem redundant at times, I think it is so important that we really need to analyze all the options and decide who is the best of them.
There are two ways to go about this issue. Spend some big bucks and go after a free agent, or try to acquire someone through trade. There are pros and cons to both of these routes, as well as pros and cons for each player that we will consider. That is what this article will be about. Weighing all the options in an effort to see who best fits the needs of this team.
Pros and cons to free agency:
- Don’t have to give up any players/prospects who could help the team in the future. This is something that is always hard and scary to do. You never want to have to give up your future.
- You know the player is interested. If they choose to sign with you, it means they wanted to play for your team. There are times where players who are traded become unhappy and don’t want to play for their new team.
- Josh Hamilton. He is the best player available in free agency, and maybe overall. He could be an instant fix.
- Less to choose from. There are only so many free agents out there, and sometimes you end up settling for whatever you can get.
- Inflated prices. Players always get over-payed because so many teams are interested in their services. To get the top notch guys, you really have to open up your pockets, and be okay with spending a little more than you would like. Free agents can cripple a franchise.
The pros and cons for trading are basically the inverse of what it says above. You get a bigger selection of players, and can get the players that you really want (with some exceptions). You also save money, at least in the options that I am going to talk about. Most players on the trade market have already re-signed long term to more team friendly contracts. On the flip side, you have to give up prospects or current players in order to get who you want. You can overpay with players just as easily as you can with money.
Bottom line, you have to evaluate what you are getting, as well as what you are giving up, and decide whether the trade will help your team or not. All that being said, here are my (final) top 5 targets for this offseason.
Free Agent Options:
Josh Hamilton, 31. Expected contract: 5 years/$100 million
2012 stats: .285/.354/.577 — .387 wOBA — 140 wRC+ — 43 HR
Overall, Hamilton isn’t my favorite choice, but not my least favorite either. He is the best player available, but he also carries the most risk. As great as he is, there are concerns of how well is body will hold up long term. But a .387 wOBA and 43 dingers could bring this offense to a whole new level. I think I would be willing to go 5/100 for him, but anymore than that, both in years and dollars, would be too much for the risk involved. I would go hard at 4/80, but if that doesn’t get it done, and there are no better options out there, then 5/100 would be fine with me. I just don’t want us to get too desperate and make a mistake here.
Nick Swisher, 32. Expected contract: 4 year/$56 million
2012 stats: .272/.364/.473 — .363 wOBA — 128 wRC+ — 24 HR
Swisher went from my favorite option, to my least favorite option, to somewhere in the middle. I started campaigning for him in August, and wanted us to go after him as hard as we could. Then he came out asking for a contract comparable to Jayson Werth‘s 7/126, and that desire went away quickly. But now, Fangraphs (which is where the expected contracts are from) is predicting him to get a 4/56 deal, and I’m right back on the bandwagon. Swisher may be one of the most consistent, underrated players in the game. He puts up 4 WAR year in and year out, thanks to his ability to get on base, solid power, and plus defense in right field. There is still a little risk here though, as Swisher would be 35 at the end of the contract. However, his lack of injury history and ability to move to 1st if necessary makes him a fairly safe bet. I would be ecstatic if we were to sign Swisher to a deal like this, and would probably be okay with 5/70 as well.
2012 stats: .313/.373/.510 — .377 wOBA — 140 wRC+ — 29 HR
You guys may know how much I love Billy Butler. He is probably my favorite non-Mariner, and I would love to have him here. He consistently puts up great numbers, and is signed fairly long term. Plus, the Royals said they are open to trading him for pitching. Only problem is, he is a DH/part time 1st baseman, and we are pretty full in that area. If you want to give up on Smoak and think Montero can play 1st, then by all means bring him in. But if you are like me and would rather upgrade RF, then this trade doesn’t make a ton of sense. We would be upgrading 1st, but leaving our biggest hole to a mediocre platoon of Casper Wells and Eric Thames. I am not suggesting we will upgrade both spots, but I think I would rather leave 1B as is, and give Smoak one last shot. He will be better than Casper and Thames in my opinion. Plus, we have Zunino on his way, which would move Montero or Jaso to 1st if Smoak can’t hack it.
All that being said, Butler is an animal. If we can trade for him, and sign RF to upgrade over the platoon, then I’m all for it. But if it’s one or the other then sadly, I say no Butler.
2012 stats: .280/.355/.430 — .341 wOBA — 108 wRC+ — 17 HR — 2.5 WAR
I really don’t know what to think about Upton. He is the most talented player of the group, but he is also the least proven. He could very easily become an MVP, but he could also turn out to just be a good player. He had a very underwhelming year after putting up MVP caliber numbers in 2011. However, I don’t doubt that he could return to form in the future. What scares me is the awful home/road splits. He is a career .320 wOBA, 90 wRC+ hitter on the road, compared to .399/143 at hitter friendly Chase Field. If he is an average hitter overall on the road, what will he be playing half his games at Safeco? He will no longer have the 80 point bump in wOBA or 50 point bump in wRC+ that makes his stats what they are. I don’t think there is a logical argument that says he will hit anywhere near as well as he does in Chase if he moves to Safeco. Even if he hits slightly above average at Safeco (which I don’t think is logical), then he is still only a .335 wOBA, 105 wRC+ guy. To me, that is not worth Franklin and Paxton.
I want to love Upton. He is so talented and has the chance to become an amazing player. But right now, I don’t love him. I get the feeling that he would come to Seattle and be exposed. He would have to prove he can hit outside of Chase, and he hasn’t done that. I wouldn’t be totally opposed to bringing him in, but I’m certainly not hoping for it. Not at the current price.
2012 stats: .294/.368/.455 — .357 wOBA — 126 wRC+ — 14 HR — 5.9 WAR
Gordon is by far my favorite option. He is the most complete player out of all the players I have named, as seen with his 5.9 WAR. On top of what you see above, he led the league in doubles with 51. However, all of this makes him the most expensive player in terms of what we would trade in return. Although the Royals said they would deal him for pitching, they probably had a proven, #2 type starter in mind. That’s not to say they wouldn’t consider anything else, but I don’t think it’s likely. The trade I mentioned above might not get it done, but I’m not sure I want to give up much more. He is a great player and I really want him here. Who wouldn’t want a 6 WAR player with gold glove defense in left field? But there is a point where no one is worth what it would actually cost.
If Dayton Moore is desperate enough for pitching, he may be willing to trade his best player for a mid-rotation starter in Vargas, a future #2-3 starter in Hultzen, and what could become a very good middle infielder in the future in Brad Miller, knowing he has plenty of offense. However I wouldn’t say it is likely. Taijuan Walker might have to be involved, and I hate to lose him. But if they would take Walker for Gordon straight up, I would do it.
In conclusion, the Mariners need offense. There are many different routes they could take to get it, but to me, these make the most sense. And despite what we may think, the front office knows that too. Now it’s just up to the front office to do their job, and evaluate what is out there, and decide what we need to do to win ball games.