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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

December 19, 2007 at 6:56 PM

Silva deal done

NEW UPDATE! (12:25 p.m. on Thursday): The comments thread is obviously up and running as seen down below. Thank you to our engineer and to all of you for being so patient!
6:56 p.m.: Good to be back in the blog business after a couple of days down while our product was re-designed. We went back up minutes ago, so I can tell you that free-agent pitcher Carlos Silva is now a Mariner. His four-year deal, said to be for $44 million and confirmed to me by a source within the past two hours, will be finalized pending a physical. It should be announced no later than mid-afternoon tomorrow.


The Mariners have been courting Silva for quite some time, but their efforts intensified late last week when Japanese free-agent Hiroki Kuroda spurned the Mariners and signed with the Dodgers. It was at that point that the M’s made Silva their No. 1 target. New pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre placed a phone call to the 28-year-old and did his best to sell him on the team and city.
Stottlemyre told me he had Silva at the top of his list of available free agents even before Kuroda signed. He knows of Silva only as an opposing coach, but figures his ability to go deep into ballgames will be a huge plus. Stottlemyre also feels the Seattle infielders are good enough to sweep up all the ground balls that Silva induces with his sinker, while the flyballs he yields should die on the Safeco Field warning track as they have for so many pitchers before him.
Mariners manager John McLaren told me that once the deal is announced, his team’s starting rotation will already be better off than it was last year. “We hope that he does what Miguel Batista did,” McLaren said.
Batista was a 16-game-winner last season, though he is also more adept at striking hitters out than Silva is. In the end, Silva will be as good as the fielders behind him are at scooping up grounders and getting to outfield drives. There are plenty of metrics out there that suggest Seattle’s defense is not as stellar as some make it out to be.
One of those is in the plus/minus rankings by The Hardball Times fielding analyst John Dewan. THT’s newly-released Baseball Annual 2008 lists Dewan’s rankings of the best defensive teams based on video reviews by video scouts at Baseball Info Solutions. They record every batted ball from every game into a computer, providing detailed analysis of what takes place once the game is put into fielders’ hands. They account for location, speed and type of hit.
Players get a “plus” point when they make a play that at leats one player at his position missed during the season. They get a “minus’ point when they miss a play that at least one other player at his position made. Points are tallied up by year’s end and scores given for each team.
Here is the list:
Toronto Blue Jays +92
New York Mets +73
Atlanta Braves +68
Kansas City Royals +66
Arizona Diamondbacks +54
Detroit Tigers +45
Chicago Cubs +36
St. Louis Cardinals +36
Oakland Athletics +25
San Diego Padres +24
Philadelphia Phillies +19
San Francisco Giants +16
Cleveland Indians +8
Washington Nationals +4
Texas Rangers -2
Milwaukee Brewers -2
Colorado Rockies -3
Minnesota Twins -6
Los Angeles Angels -12
Boston Red Sox -14
Baltimore Orioles -14
Los Angeles Dodgers -15
New York Yankees -37
Seattle Mariners -49
Pittsburgh Pirates -50
Houston Astros -51
Cincinnati Reds -59
Chicago White Sox -76
Florida Marlins -88
Tampa Bay Devil Rays -107
The Mariners are only 24th out of 30 major league teams, as you can see. At least in this system of measuring defense. Let’s not forget, folks have been trying to devise a failsafe system to measure defense for years. They’re still working at it. Let’s just say this system is better than fielding percentage, which simply measures how a fielder does on balls he actually gets to. The ones with no range don’t get to the tough ones.
Sort of like a cornerback in football. The best ones aren’t always the guys with all the interceptions. That’s because the smart quarterbacks are afraid to throw their way.
Anyhow, this is a long way of saying that defense could play a huge role in determining what Silva does because he doesn’t strike folks out.
Will Silva make or break the 2008 Mariners? Not by himself. What this signing does is strengthen the back of the team’s rotation — the spots that Jeff Weaver and Horacio Ramirez helped louse up in 2007. At least, in theory it does. The M’s had similar theories about Weaver last year that didn’t pan out.
For me, the only way the M’s have a hope of catching the Angels is to strengthen the front-end of the rotation as well. That can only be done by bringing in Johan Santana or Erik Bedard. I think the money in this deal will preclude the M’s from any more serious talks about Santana — who requires a contract extension of more than $100 million.
But they are still, as McLaren told me tonight, very much in on Bedard. Add Bedard to a rotation of Felix Hernandez, Miguel Batista, Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn and all of a sudden, things look a lot steadier for the Mariners than they did a few days ago. As I said on Monday, failing to land Kuroda was a tough blow but not devastating. Instead of Kuroda, the M’s get Silva. We’ll know which was the better signing at some point next season — though Silva is four years younger.
The key is still Bedard. If GM Bill Bavasi can’t get that deal done, then he just spent $44 million on a clone of what most of his other starters look like at any given time. It should add some stability — but not enough for his team to finish any higher than second in the AL West.

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