Josh Hamilton went on The Dan Patrick Show and said Seattle was “not really” pushing harder than other teams to land him prior to his signing with the Angels. Photo Credit: AP
This one may never get entirely resolved, but for what it’s worth, Josh Hamilton went on the syndicated radio and TV program The Dan Patrick Show on Friday and gave an interview in which he was asked about the process that led to his signing a five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Towards the 10-minute, 30-second mark, he was asked by Patrick whether the Mariners had made “a strong play” for him.
“No, not really,” Hamilton said. “I mean, they were just like some other teams. You hear about Seattle but other teams, you didn’t hear about.”
Hamilton declined to name the others he ranked alongside Seattle, though, when pushed by Patrick, he agreed the Yankees were one suitor. Ultimately, he said, he had no idea where he was going to end up right up until the Angels delivered the deal.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik went on Sports Radio KJR this week and told host Mitch Levy that the team had been a serious player for Hamilton right up to the end.
“We went at him full bore and we put a very nice offer on the table,” Zduriencik told Levy.
The Mariners had initially offered Hamilton four years, $100 million guaranteed, with two non-guaranteed vesting options for $25 million apiece in 2017 and 2018, though these figures weren’t mentioned in the radio interview.
Zduriencik told radio host Levy that Hamilton’s agent phoned last week and asked whether the Mariners were willing to go one year more than the winning bid wound up being — in other words, a six-year offer to trump that of the 89-win Angels. When Zduriencik — who didn’t know it was the Angels he was bidding against — said he didn’t think six years was possible, Hamilton took the Angels’ offer.
Talks between the Mariners and Angels for Kendrys Morales didn’t begin until Tuesday morning. Photo Credit: AP
Turns out a congratulatory text message from Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik last week to Angels counterpart Jerry DiPoto on his Josh Hamilton signing was what got the wheels turning on today’s Kendrys Morales-Jason Vargas trade. Zduriencik had been in contact with DiPoto throughout the past year and at the recent winter meetings, discussing possible fits between the club.
Zduriencik was surprised when DiPoto swooped in and landed Hamilton, but moved on to his next plan soon after.
“When he got Josh, I sent him a message and said ‘Congratulations on the deal. I’m still interested in acquiring some offense and do you have some pieces there that would interest us?”’ Zduriencik said in a conference call with reporters a short time ago. “He texted me back and said ‘I will keep you in mind. We’re just letting the dust settle and just trying to figure out all of our options with adding Josh to the club.”’
Zduriencik said DiPoto another text over the weekend, reminding him he was still open to any bat talks.
Then, in the late morning yesterday, DiPoto called him back and said Morales was potentially available.
“We talked all through yesterday and then consumated the deal late this morning and early this afternoon,” Zduriencik said.
Now, we see where Morales plays and at whose expense that comes.
First baseman Justin Smoak and DH Jesus Montero appear most at-risk, given that Morales is a switch-hitter and even at his not-so-best in a comeback year in 2012 was easily superior to those two players. Much will depend on the health of Morales, who broke his leg in a home plate celebration after hitting a walk-off grand slam against Mariners closer David Aardsma in 2010 at Angel Stadium.
Morales only made it back last season, appearing in 134 games and making 522 plate appearances with no further DL stints. But he played only 28 games at first base, and no one expects him to man the positiondaily in Seattle. So, really, if he’s to primarily be a DH, there is going to be lots of juggling here for the Mariners unless they plan to trade somebody or move them to Class AAA.
Zduriencik said the team has been in contact with all of the medical staff and doctors who treated Morales, have his medical reports and are satisfied he’s healthy. He liked the two productive months Morales put together in August and September and felt it was a good indicator of what’s to come.
As for where he’ll play and who will give up time, Zduriencik said he’s discussed this with Eric Wedge and his staff and “we both were very confident there will be enough at-bats to go around to be able to work well with everyone.”
The Mariners offered $25 million less in guaranteed money to free agent Josh Hamilton than did the winning Angels bid. Photo Credit: AP
I’ve had the weekend to mull over the reaction locally to news the Mariners offered free agent slugger Josh Hamilton a four-year, $100 million contract with two vesting option years worth $25 million apiece.
As we now know, the Los Angeles Angels offered Hamilton five years, $125 million and got the hitter they were after.
So, my analysis of the situation? The Mariners were outbid by $25 million. Plain and simple.
As for the rest of the talk that went on throughout the weekend, about whether the deal was “competitive” in the sense that the Mariners really believed they had a shot at Hamilton, that’s more about spin and PR and all else. I mean, $25 million is a whole lot of money and whenever a winning team on the field can outbid a losing one by a 25 percent margin in the eight-figure dollar realm, that club will usually take home the free agent 100 times out of 100.
Was the Mariners’ bid truly competitive? Or merely designed to look competitive in order to serve the PR purposes of the damage-control leaks that came out about the offer on Friday morning?
I’ll admit that my standards for true competitiveness may be higher than that of some other analysts out there, but if I was going to make Hamilton an offer I hoped would actually win his services, my bid would have been for more than four years.
Josh Hamilton was the Mariners’ latest failed attempt to land a”big” bat. Photo Credit: AP
Whenever the Mariners miss out on a big free agent bat, or don’t try hard enough, or whatever, the usual whistling in the dark begins from some quarters about how the team didn’t really need one in the first place. I can understand these sentiments, since nobody really wants to admit their favorite team — or front office — is up against it when the season is still three months away from actually beginning.
But there is a glaring middle-of-the-order need for this ballclub, a legitimate lineup power presence that the Mariners have lacked for years. The results have been there to see for three years running and no amount of logic-twisting, wishful thinking or burying our collective heads in the sand will make it go away. The Mariners had historically bad offenses in 2010 and 2011 and were again worst in most important MLB categories last season. A huge factor has been the liberties taken against Seattle’s young lineup by pitchers who have little to fear from a game-breaking, home run and extra-base slugging guy.
I tried to spell this out yesterday in a post about why Nick Swisher — for all the good he can bring to an offense — won’t be that type of guy the way Josh Hamilton was. Within minutes, somebody jumped into the comments thread with one of those ludicrous, useless factoids about how the San Francisco Giants were 30th out of 30 teams in home run hitting and still won the World Series.
That point about the Giants would be a great one if it at all addressed the issue at hand, which it doesn’t. Because limiting the discussion of a “big” bat to a team’s overall home run total alone adds absolutely nothing to this discussion. Worse, those who don’t know any better might buy into the faux logic on-display and help contribute to the kind of complacent acquiescense to mediocrity that has become commonplace in internet discussions surrounding the Mariners.
What the point about the Giants and their home run total ignores is that San Francisco had two players in their everyday lineup with slugging percentages of .500 or greater. In baseball circles, .500-slugging is generally considered the differentiator between elite sluggers and more ordinary ones. We can quibble about the odd exception but in general terms, if you get a .500 slugger in your lineup he will tend to strike a certain fear into pitchers.
So, the Giants had Buster Posey at a .549 slugging percentage and Melky Cabrera at .516 in their lineup for most of last season. And that’s playing home games at AT&T Park, where offense can be suppressed just like at Safeco Field. Obviously, Cabrera wasn’t around for the playoffs but Posey sure was and in that lineup he is indeed a difference-maker.
Know who else had .500-slugging difference-makers in the lineup? Eight of the nine remaining playoff teams.
The only exception was the Atlanta Braves, where Jason Heywardonly slugged .479 with 27 homers as that wild-card team’s leading extra-base guy.
Hey, there are exceptions to every rule. But if you want to get better as a baseball team, you’re better off at least trying to emulate some of the successful franchises rather than always attempting to buck the trend.
Six of the 10 playoff teams in baseball last season had two lineup regulars who slugged at least .500.
The Mariners? Their leading slugger was John Jaso at .456, but he’s a part-time player with 361 plate appearances. The team’s best-slugging full-time player was Michael Saunders at .432 over 553 plate appearances.
How does that stack up with playoff teams? Not very well.
Michael Bourn was an all-star caliber center fielder in Houston for years before moving on to Atlanta last season. Photo Credit: AP
Every year, we get into a “Who? Who? Who?” debate on this blog about whether there were ever really any bats out there that the last-place Mariners could possibly have acquired to help them. Just to run down the list from this winter one more time, in reference to free agents and trade targets already off the board that could have helped make Seattle better: Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan, Kevin Youkilis, Shin-Soo Choo, Torii Hunter, Ryan Ludwick, Shane Victorino, Melky Cabrera.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten a bunch, but feel free to default to that list next summer when the “Who? Who? Who?” owls make their annual pilgrimage to the comments section, set up nests and start unleashing their droppings.
In the spirit of keeping the list current and raising the spirits of fans who assume all hope was lost today when Hamilton signed with the Los Angeles Angels, there still exist some offensive avenues for the team to explore that do not include Hamilton.
For me, the most intriguing one doesn’t even involve Nick Swisher. Most people and their laptop technicians now expect Swisher to jump to the Texas Rangers to fill the outfield void left by Hamilton’s big bat. Thing is, Swisher is not Hamilton and probably never will be. Sure, you can make a case that some of their statistics are similar, including their on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) and their WAR (wins above replacement level). But the similarities end there when it comes to the type of presence and impact each can have on a lineup.
With Hamilton, you know the game can change with one swing of his bat — no matter what ballpark he is playing in — because his raw power places him amongst the elite of the game. With Swisher, the high OPS is attributable more to his walk rate and on-base ability, where Hamilton tends to be a free swinger and send the ball a long, long way when he does connect.
And when it comes to the impact on any given lineup, the thought of Hamilton sitting smack dab in the middle of it has the ability to terrify opposing pitchers, even when they are several batters away from facing him. You’re going to think twice and then three times before putting anybody on base ahead of Hamilton — even if “ahead” means three or four spots up in the batting order. With Swisher, not as much. That’s a major difference between the two and why Hamilton is considered more of an “impact” bat and will get the bigger money from teams willing to spend on such intangibles.
It’s why you see guys like GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge saying they’d have chosen Miguel Cabrera over Mike Trout for MVP despite Trout having similar numbers and a higher WAR. It’s for the lineup impact. You can’t measure it. But the folks running real baseball teams and throwing pitches in actual MLB games know what it’s all about. And it’s possibily the biggest reason why so many pitchers have taken so many liberties with the Mariners over the last several seasons — the non-existence of anything in the heart of the order that would make pitchers really afraid of putting guys on base.
Swisher isn’t one of those types of bats, even though his better walk rate and defense keeps his WAR up there on a similar level to Hamilton.
Now, that doesn’t mean Swisher would not constitute a major upgrade for Seattle. The Mariners need good bats and Swisher has one. He can also play right field and first base, which are two areas of need for the Mariners.
But the fact remains, he is not Hamilton. His bat will not impact Seattle’s offense the way Hamilton’s would have. It will make the offense better, but not in the game-changing way that Hamilton’s might have. And for me, that factor alone means that the Mariners losing out on Hamilton does not automatically default them towards Swisher as a fallback plan.
It is not “Swisher or Bust” as one commenter suggested to me earlier.
For me, knowing that any chance of a pure power, middle-of-the-order guy has now vanished, I’d be more inclined to take a look at Michael Bourn as the team’s primary option going forward. To be honest, the Bourn option has always intrigued me because of the so very different approach to bettering the team that it provides.
Josh Hamilton will be smiling a little more today after agreeing to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels for a reported five years, $125 million. Photo Credit: AP
Take another one off the board for the Mariners, with the Los Angeles Angels showing Josh Hamilton the money to the tune of a reported five years, $125 million.
The deal with Hamilton comes one week after the conclusion of the baseball winter meetings in Nashville, in which the Mariners engaged with talks with the slugger’s camp but were unable to complete anything. There had been talk of Seattle discussing a series of three-year deals with Hamilton, and the Mariners were said to be ready to move quickly if the Texas Rangers fell out of the running.
But the Angels just blew everybody out of the water with this.
Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (left) and Shin-Soo Choo (right) were two bats the Mariners had some interest in. Choo is now off the board after going to the Reds last night in a three-team trade. Photo Credit: AP
Somebody asked Magic Johnson at the Zack Greinke press conference yesterday why his Dodgers keep throwing bucketloads of money at every half-decent free agent and trade return out there.
“Ouch!” went the teams not prepared to go as deeply into their wallets.
We’ll see whether or not this strategy leads to a playoff berth for the Dodgers, because, as we’ve discussed ad nauseum on this blog, there is no guaranteed method for winning in baseball. But spending to get the best players is one way that’s been proven to help get teams to the post-season — witness the Yankees of the past 18 years, along with the Red Sox and Phillies, the Braves and Blue Jays of the early-to-late 1990s — and the Dodgers aren’t planning to spend the next five or seven years embarking on any rebuilding plans.
The price of “wanting to win” — at least, by Johnson’s definition — appears to be going up.
Yesterday, we saw two more names of hitters who could have potentially helped the Mariners get taken by other teams. Kevin Youkilis signed a one-year, $12-million deal with the Yankees, while Shin-Soo Choo was traded to the Reds in a three-way deal between Cleveland-Arizona and Cincinnati that cost a pretty bit in prospects and young major league players.
I’ll be the first to say that I never expected Youkilis to get that kind of money. Then again, I never thought Angel Pagan was worth $40 million over four years.
The price of acquiring talent — be it top-of-the-line, or fading-but-veteran — seems to be rising quite a bit and it isn’t only the Dodgers leading the way.
Josh Hamilton remains a free agent as teams weigh their options following the baseball winter meetings. Photo Credit: AP
UPDATE 4:02 p.m.: The Mariners now won’t be announcing the Jason Bay deal until at least Saturday as apparenty the paperwork delay involving their 40-man roster is still not quite fixed yet. Stay tuned. Or go watch football this weekend.
There was a bogus report put out not too long ago by one of those fake Twitter accounts becoming more annoying by the second. It had Josh Hamilton signing with the Mariners for six years, $135 million, but if you’ve been paying attention the last 48 hours or so, you know there is no reason for anybody to go that high in their offers right now because of the possibility the market for the slugger could shrink shortly.
We’re still waiting on the Texas Rangers and what they decide to do with free agent Zack Greinke and also with that rumored multi-team deal for Justin Upton. If Upton goes to Texas, there’s a good chance the Rangers could abandon their pursuit of Hamilton.
Confused? Don’t worry. It’s tough to keep track of it all. Here’s a take from Ken Rosenthal of FOX as to why the Mariners might prefer Hamilton to another free agent they’ve had discussions about, Michael Bourn.
One thing you shouldn’t be confused about is that Hamilton’s camp has supposedly offered the Rangers a chance to match any offer for the outfielder.