Former GM Jim Bowden — now a radio analyst for ESPN and Sirius XM — went on 710 ESPN Seattle on the Brock & Salk show to talk about the challenges facing the Mariners and GM Jack Zduriencik. Bowden said Zduriencik has been extremely busy this off-season trying to upgrade the club’s offense and expects that he’ll have to trade one of his prized minor league pitchers to bring a bat in.
Bowden doesn’t feel Zduriencik has pressure to win “right now” but “I think there is pressure to make a step in the right direction when you’ve had the worst offense in the league three years in a row. You need to do something, you can’t just watch it. So, you need to make a trade and you need to get a free agent and you need to do it before the holidays.”
While he doesn’t see the Mariners getting in on Josh Hamilton, he likes the versatility and power that Mike Napoli has, along with the reguar season consistency of Nick Swisher.
He sees the coming meetings as having the potential to be the most active of the last 10 years due to rule changes that moved up deadlines for tendering contracts as well as some of the new money injected into the game.
Bowden said there has been a notable hike in salaries over the past year because of new local TV deals signed by teams like the Rangers and Angels and, soon, the Dodgers. But also because of national deals injecting TV and internet revenue into the pockets of all 30 teams in coming seasons. All have been in on some of the game’s best free agents since and thathas driven up salaries for players across the board.
As a result, Bowden said, teams will have to raise their payrolls as much as 20 percent if they hope to keep up.
“I think that’s the point here,” Bowden said. “We advertise how much these players are getting, but you’re not advertising how much the Mariners are getting in revenue. And that the industry is getting. That’s why the salaries are going up and historically that’s the way it’s always been.
“Any time clubs and owners get a big bump in revenue, normally it is passed down to players and I think this off-season, we’ve seen it. You saw that ridiculous Brandon League contract (three years, $22,5 million from the Dodgers) for three years, you saw (Jonathan) Broxton’s at $7 million a year (for three years), which was absurd.”
Bowden said the recent five-year, $75 million deal the Braves gave B.J. Upton was $5 million more than he had predicted while the one-year,$12 million contract between the Yankees and Andy Pettitte was about $1 million more. But it’s all in-line, he said, with the increase MLB-wide in broadcast revenue on a local and national level.
“Clubs have to be committed to increasing their payroll,” he added. “Because the revenues say they have to.”
As for the Mariners, Bowden said Zduriencik has to be creative. He says the Mariners and Indians are a very good match for a trade, given that outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and infielder Asdrubal Cabrera are on the block and the Mariners have young pitching to trade.
Bowden also says the team has to take its payroll back towards $100 million if it truly wants to compete.
“Yeah, because the revenue says you can afford to do that,” he said. “And when you win, guess what happens? The fans come back anyway. And you also have to be realistic. You’re in that same division with the Rangers and the Angels and Oakland. I mean, if you’re not going to spend and you’re just going to wait, that’s not going to help based on the talent that those three organizations ahead of Seattle have.
“So, they’re going to have to be aggressive. It’s just like — I know it’s a small deal, but — the Angels’ deal today of Jordan Walden for Tommy Hanson. They got a 13-game winner today. Certainly, a pitcher on decline and both have risk, but you know,thatwas a nice pickup today. I think the Mariners need to be a little bit more aggressive than they’ve been.
“It’s not just shooting for the Justin Uptons and the Asdrubal Cabreras and the top-notch players thatare difference-makers. But it’s also improving that some of your 18th through 25th players on your roster and making them better players as well. And we just haven’t seen the aggressiveness, wither with the pocketbook or with the deals at the Major League levels lately.”