Examining Three Possible Free Agent Hitters For The Mariners

So you want a big stick? That’s what she said.

The Seattle Mariners are in the midst of a decade long playoff drought. This drought has driven fans away in droves as attendance has plummeted to its lowest levels since the early 1990s (when it looked like the club was moving to Tampa Bay). Those that are left watching the Mariners wonder why the squad struggles offensively and some….shall we say interesting?…fixes coming to the Mariners organization. Unfortunately for Jack Z it is pretty clear that the fences are not the only problem plaguing the anemic Mariners offense, talent is. So how does one go about fixing the offense? Well there are quite a few ways for that situation to be addressed.

  • The Draft: This is the route that Jack Z and the front office have taken so far and it has had mixed results at the Major League level in Zduriencik’s first four years in charge. As a result of this strategy you’ve seen such players as Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley.
  • Trades: Zduriencik has had some success with trades as well especially since it has netted he M’s powerful and promising young catcher Jesus Montero. You also saw him acquire the often injured Franklin Gutierrez in a 12-player trade during his first few months as the M’s General Manager.
  • Free Agency: This has been Jack Z’s biggest failing as a GM and it has led to one of the largest black holes on this roster. That black hole would be Chone Figgins which was a move that barely made sense when he was signed (I’ll say it here, my dad was right and I was wrong) and now clearly doesn’t make sense. But when you look at the other signing (on offense) have kind of made sense form a needs point of view, see Olivo, M.

All of that being said it is now time for the M’s too add a bat and begin rebuilding their fan base’s interest in a club that’s had its imaged soiled by incompetent management decisions in the last few months. And this needs to happen fast as there is only a few interesting bats out there for the M’s to look at (and possibly sign). Let’s get to some of those big names available to the M’s through contract negotiations;

  1. Josh Hamilton: This guy is one big bopper and unlike some of the other names that you will see actually could end up in Mariners uniform; reports say that the M’s are in the running. Hamilton’s long history of drug and alcohol abuse is well reported and deserves consideration, along with his injury history. Last season he played in 148 games and posted a .320 BABIP and had a decent 9.4% Base on Balls rate. But you have to consider how inconsistent he was last season and Brett Miller of West Coast Bias has pretty good break down.
  2. Nick Swisher: Swisher is probably one of the more intriguing possibilities because of the contract he is demanding, especially when you consider the fact that he will cost whatever team signs him their first round pick. His BB% (12.3), from last season, is higher than I expected but when it is compared to his K% (22.6) it becomes clear that Swisher definitely likes to swing. And when you take a guy who likes to swing and put him in a hitter-friendly park he is going to often get away with mistakes more often; Swisher posted a .360 BABIP at Yankee Stadium and a .291 away from home (still a decent BABIP).
  3. Melky Cabrera: The third most intriguing bat (in my opinion) Cabrera tested positive for extra testosterone in his system earlier this season and missed 50 games as a result. Despite his suspension he still posted a pretty good BABIP of .365 in a notorious hitters park in AT&T (his road BABIP was .394 and overall was .379). His high K% (12.3) and low BB% (7.3) are of some concern though as it indicates that he doesn’t get on base all that much and strikes out at a high clip; but his ability to hit, and hit consistently, in a pitchers park is something that deserves attention for Mariners brass.

This is one of the thinnest free agent markets I have seen for hitters in my time following Major League Baseball. These three batters are the three most well-known and most likely to produce on the market this off season. If the Mariners can nab one of these players to shore up a weak and inconsistent line-up it could be beneficial to an anemic offense and an apathetic fan base. Obviously the offensive issues are at the top of the list, but Jack Z can go a long way to restoring the fan base by signing a big bat this winter.

  1. Pst, you spelled West Coast Bias “West Cost Bias” 🙂

    1. Woops…I would do that and its fixed!

  2. My quick (and by quick I mean a few hundred words) takes on these guys, and your analysis of them!

    Josh Hamilton: I feel like he’s a huge risk. If the money for him and Swisher were the same, I’d definitely take Hamilton, though. His upside is greater, and I believe that despite his generally low contact rates, he hits the ball hard enough to maintain a .320 or better BABIP for the first three years of any deal he gets. Plus, dingers! My only apprehension is that he’ll probably have to take a trip to the DL, and he’s prone to massive slumps. If it takes significantly more than $125 million, no thanks.

    Nick Swisher: I disagree that he likes to swing. Last season, he swung at just 41.1% of pitches thrown to him (data from Fangraphs), against a career rate of 39.3%…his strikeouts are more a result of having just an average contact rate. Swisher made contact on 76.3% of his swings this year, slightly down from his career rate of 78.2%….for some contrast, Kyle Seager has a greater contact rate (about 82%), but strikes out less despite swinging way more than Swisher (47.4%). Swisher’s a very patient hitter, he’s very consistent, and not often injured. He’s close to as valuable as Hamilton, but less of a risk. I voted for Swisher in the poll for that reason.

    Melky Cabrera: Hitters generally affect their BABIP more than pitchers, so I believe he can keep it high, but .379 seems unsustainably high…there’s a good chance that he regresses just through simple luck. That being said, Melky would be the cheapest of the three, as he’s trying to re-establish his value after the PED thing. I’d be in favor of the Mariners giving him the one-year deal he needs to do that.

    Though to be honest, I’d be pretty pumped with any of the three.

    1. As you said any of these three would be a huge get for the Mariners. That being said, Swisher experienced significant drop offs in their BABIPs once they left their extremely hitter friendly ball parks; as I pointed out in the article Swisher went from a .360 BABIP at Yankee Stadium to .291 on the road. Hamilton’s BABIP slightly improved from home (.319) to the road (.320). It feels like of those two he’d be the more likely to consistently produce at Safeco.

      But for me the most intriguing of the three would be Cabrera who still managed to put up a monster BABIP (and as you noted probably unsustainable) at home in a very big ball park. With the fences coming in at Safeco and him wanting to prove himself he might be the cheapest out there. I think a one-three year deal on the cheap might be an interesting idea for the M’s to do.

      1. I don’t think Melky has much incentive to sign a multi-year deal. I think he’d prefer a one-year deal so that prove that he’s good without PEDs and re-enter the market looking for a big payday next off-season.

        I also feel that Swisher’s .360 BABIP is unsustainably high for him. For a stat like BABIP, I feel like the more data we have, the better. Swisher’s career .292 BABIP is essentially the same as he put up on the road last year, and I think that reflects his true talent level. His career .292 BABIP has led to a triple-slash line of .256/.361/.467, which is good for a wRC+ of 120, meaning he’s been 20% better than league average in his career. I’ll take that, even for $100 million.

        1. That’s slash line is interesting. I just feel that Melky is low risk considering he’s spent the last few season playing 81 games in AT&T Park. But Swisher spent a good chunk of time playing in Oakland and still put up a career .292 BABIP so you could say that they are pretty similar; Melky is just going to be cheaper for a shorter period of time while Swisher wants a long term deal. Definitely something that should be heavily weigh when considering who to sign.

          1. It’s true. I think it depends on what the Mariners want. Do they feel like now is the time to get a guy that can bat between 3-5 in the order the next five years, or do they feel like none of those guys are available? If the guys they want aren’t available, Melky makes for a great stop-gap.

          2. That’s what I’d do in this case. Especially when you consider the budget Jack Z has been (and probably will continual be) stuck with after Bavasi blew through cash during his time as the GM.

  3. This is a list of the top 3 hitters available this offseason, not “3 Possible Options for the M’s.” The Mariners don’t have a chance at signing any of these guys. If you were any of these three would you want to play in Seattle? I think Seattle is building the reputation of being a place where big free agent’s careers go to die. Better keep building the organization from within, or keep bringing in the walls at Safeco.

    1. You are correct in pointing out that these are the top three free agents on the market period; the reason for it me saying its the Mariners is because of my target audience for the radio show. I would like to point to you this article by John Heyman saying that the M’s are predicted to be one of the finalist for Josh Hamilton. As for Nick Swisher he is expected to reject his qualifying offer from the Yankees and will become a free agent.

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