Mariners fans asking wrong question in regards to top free agent

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 06: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Minute Maid Park on July 06, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 06: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Minute Maid Park on July 06, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Seattle Mariners fandom is often split into multiple factions on multiple issues. After dispatching those factions on a Mitch Haniger trade, it is time to turn our focus onto a different group of fans.

The inspiration to this piece comes directly from Corey Brock who covers the Seattle Mariners for “The Athletic”. He penned a piece making his case for why the Mariners should be in on assumed 2019 AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole. The piece is well written and does a good job laying out what is a fair case for Seattle’s pursuit of Cole.

And of course, as social media is prone to do, they took a good article and ran with it and it was difficult to find a discussion around the Mariners that didn’t center around the question, “should the Mariners sign Gerrit Cole”? And to be honest, the answer to that question is really simple.

The answer is, “yes”. In fact, all 30 teams in baseball should be trying to sign Cole. He is that good. But we also live in the real world and we can already eliminate about half the teams in baseball who will never spend that kind of money on one player.

Now, the Mariners are not one of those teams. They’ll spend money and have done so more than ever in recent seasons. They have a need for an ace. And they haven’t been to the playoffs in 18 years. It’s a no brainer right?

Well, from the Mariners fan perspective, it seems to be. But this faction of the fan base isn’t asking the right question or even considering it at all. The question shouldn’t be “should the Mariners be interested in Gerrit Cole”. The real question is, ” why would Cole choose the Mariners”.

And when you look at it from this perspective, the answer is as obvious as it could possibly get, rendering the first question entirely moot. Why would Cole select the Mariners? Let’s go over the most common responses.

First, let’s talk about an often over talked about the reason for predicting free agent landing spots: proximity to his home town. We hear it all the time: “Player A is from the region so he probably wants to be closer to that area, making Team B a good fit”. This idea is riddled with holes but let’s go ahead and assume it is true for Cole (and it may not be).

Cole is a west coast guy and played his college ball at UCLA. Seattle is on the west coast. Check. Unfortunately, that’s where the checkmarks stop. 2 MLB franchises claim ground about as close to the UCLA campus as you can get: the Dodgers and the Angles. And San Diego is closer as well, and appear to be interested in Stephen Strasburg so they’ll likely be in on Cole as well.

If proximity is a major factor to Cole, the Mariners are out and the Angels and Dodgers will duke it out to sign the ace. But perhaps proximity to his home isn’t all that important. Maybe he cares about winning?

Again, we run into a major problem with Seattle. They haven’t won anything significant in quite some time and the Dodgers are arguably the most talented team in the National League. Cole also just lost a World Series and if he is eager to go back, signing with the Mariners will delay that action by at least a few years, when Cole could be exiting his prime all together.

Well, you may be saying, maybe Cole wants to carve a legacy and be the guy to end the Mariners playoff drought? Perhaps he does, but remember, this contract is Cole’s one shot at big money. This deal will likely determine where he finishes out his prime and enters the latter stages of his career. Time is a factor. Is Cole going to be willing to wait 2 years for the team around him to be good enough? Probably not.

I’m sure you guys saved your best for last, right? Cole will be interested in the Mariners because they will give him the most money. That is how you lure him to the great pacific northwest, right? Well, we can safely assume that if the money is close between the Mariners and a World Series contender, Cole is going with the winning team.

So we aren’t talking about offering $1 million a year more. How much are we talking about? Cole will likely break David Price‘s AAV record of $34.5 million and most estimates predict a 7-year deal. $35 million a year, times 7 years equals $245 million. That’s the starting point. So now the Mariners have to spend so much more over that mark that Cole is willing to sacrifice proximity to his home, a chance to win a championship in 2020, and at least 2 years of his prime to a rebuild.

What is that total likely to be? $40 million? $50 million? At what point do you reach the spot where the amount of money being invested in one player is no longer worth it? Undoubtedly, people are reading this thinking that Cole could be another Robinson Cano type of signing. That came out of nowhere, so could Cole.

Well, remember the Mariners thought Cano could push them into the wild card hunt. This regime isn’t in that place. Remember, the rumors of the Yankees offer to Cano was somewhere in the 7-year, $170 million range. Seattle gave him 3 additional years for a total of $70 million more than the Yankees offered him.

That was the cost of buying Cano out of a place he was comfortable, had a chance to win, and wouldn’t be a part of the rebuild. $70 million. Cole could cost more. Think about how bad that Cano contract would be had Jerry Dipoto not found a chump willing to take that on. It wasn’t going to be pretty.

When you ask the correct question instead of the one you want to ask and really dissect that answer, it becomes increasingly clear that any discussion of the Mariners and Cole is a waste of time. Unless the Mariners are willing to shell out $40 million AAV for Cole, he probably isn’t going to consider you.

When the time is right, I have faith that his ownership will be willing to spend big in free agency. Perhaps they’ll never give $300 million to one player, but money will be spent. If you don’t have faith in the ownership group, I can understand that. Despite this being a completely different group than the penny-pinching Nintendo group, old scars remain.

dark. Next. 2019 Mariners Off-Season Plan

But judging this front office for their “lack of desire to win” because they can’t land Gerrit Cole is just plain stupid. Being a Mariners fan can be difficult. But while trying to understand the current management team’s plan, it’s only fair to remember to ask the right question.