BY Art Thiel 04:44PM 01/14/2012

Thiel: What to know about Mariners' trade

Loss of Pineda for what could well be “only” a rookie DH puts even more pressure on Mariners to overpay for Fielder, now being courted by AL West rival Rangers.

The void of Michael Pineda will need to be made up for by more than Jesus Montero. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Why did the Mariners sacrifice a huge talent like rookie All-Star pitcher Michael Pineda?

Because the franchise bosses know a truth they will never tell, but the rest of us can easily deduce: The Safeco Field Theorem that says the Seattle franchise will always be the last choice of any quality, veteran free-agent slugger whose baseball priority is career power stats (see Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Prince Fielder).

The theorem is virtually a fact, now that we have the Adrian Beltre Corollary that shows his power numbers before and after his five years in Seattle (2005-2009) were superior.

As a Mariner, Beltre had a slugging percentage of .459. The year before, as a Dodger, he had a 48-homer season that produced a slugging percentage of .629. In 2010, he signed with Boston, where he slugged. 553. In Texas last season, he slugged .561.

The distinction fairly screams.

While it can be contended that Beltre was juiced in 2004, and that he was hurt in 2009, and that all hitters’ slugging percentages improve in Boston and Texas, and that right-handed hitters still hit SOME home runs at Safeco, and that lefty hitters such as Fielder will always have a better chance at Safeco than righties, the Beltre Corollary is what any agent will share with veteran power hitter who has choices regarding employer.

Scott Boras is the agent for Beltre. Scott Boras is the agent for Fielder. Any questions so far?

Q: Yes. Does that mean that Mariners have no shot at Fielder?

A: The only way the Mariners have a shot is if the market for Fielder collapses back to them, something like eight years at $150M, instead of Boras’ 10-years, $200M+. It’s possible, given that the big players — Yanks, Mets, Phils, Cubs, Angels etc. – have claimed thus far to be sitting out this Boras dance.

But along with every school child, Boras knows all it takes is two to make a market. He has Seattle. Fielder is being squired about the Metroplex this weekend by the Rangers. If the Rangers fail to sign Japanese pitching star Yu Darvish by a 2 p.m. PT Wednesday deadline imposed by Japan baseball’s posting rules, rumors have the club shifting the Darvish money to the pursuit of Fielder. Should the money offers from the Mariners and Rangers be roughly equal, it’s a no-brainer that Fielder will choose the Rangers.

Q: Why is it a no-brainer?

A: It’s the Safeco Field Theorem:  The park is too big and too cold, Seattle is too far away from the rest of baseball as well as from the Sun Belt homes of most players (Fielder lives in Florida), and franchise ownership for a decade has done little to demonstrate an ability to win big within the career span of the average major leaguer (about four years). The Rangers have a hitter’s park in a market that’s a two-hour flight to Florida and an ownership that emerged from bankruptcy to help put the team in the last two World Series.

Of the three factors, only the last is fixable. Someday.

Nothing this month is going to fix the fact that the people who approved the acquisitions of Jose Vidro, Scott Spiezio, Eric Byrnes, Pokey Reese, Rich Aurilia, Chone Figgins, Carlos Silva, et al, and approved the departures of Griffey, Rodriguez, Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Adam Jones, et al, are still in charge.

What part of “duh” is not clear here?

Q: Didn’t the Mariners once win 116 games in Safeco?

A: The 2001 team was built on pitching, defense and the 262 hits and 56 stolen bases of AL MVP Ichiro, plus the 141 RBIs and 37 home runs from Bret Boone, who had never hit more than 24 in a full season. This was three years before baseball began serious testing for performance-enhancing drugs. Just sayin’.

Q. What does this have to do with trading away Pineda, who is exactly the kind of pitcher that the club needs to succeed in Safeco?

A: It’s because the Mariners are limited to two forms of player acquisition: Draft/international free agency, and trade. They’ve done fairly well in the draft (Griffey, Rodriguez, Dustin Ackley) and adding internationals such as Ichiro, Pineda, Felix Hernandez and Kazu Sasaki. But to get a premium slugger, they have to trade, which is the least desirable route because the club is giving talent treasure for talent treasure. As expensive as it is to buy a veteran free agent, it is only cash, and there’s always more of that. There are far fewer starting aces such as Pineda.

No matter how the trade for catcher Jesus Montero works in five years, they will have had to surrender something close to irreplaceable, even if the Mariners have a potential abundance of major league pitching.

Q: So this is a bad deal?

A: No one can say definitively now because both players have such small MLB track records. The Mariners were so desperate for power hitting that they had to go the trade route. The biggest virtue to Montero is that, at 22, he has six years under club control before he reaches free agency and leaves, which he will do when his right-handed power numbers suffer from ballpark effects.

The liability is that he’s a mediocre catcher, and may wind up only a DH, meaning that more treasure must be expended to upgrade that position. But the biggest apprehension is that the Yankees thought he was worth trading. When any GM trades with the Yankees, he better be Indiana Jones, because there’s lots of cliffs, snakes, boulders and shaky foot-bridges in the immediate future.

It’s not that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik isn’t up to the task, it’s that the Yankees always devote more resources to baseball because they want to win so much more than the Mariners and many teams.

The most obvious sign is the ability to throw money and acquire the best veteran free agents, which always annoys the more casual fan. The less obvious sign is the resources devoted to scouting and training. The Yankees almost always hire the best people and give them the best tools to do their jobs well.

So if the Yankees have the No. 3-ranked prospect in the game, according to Baseball America, and they trade him, they know something the rest of us don’t. Conversely, if they acquire a young player with great potential but a limited track record, and they have missed some large flaw, they can absorb his failure more readily.

After a decade’s worth of decline, the Mariners have no wiggle room in this trade. The risk is mostly with the Mariners. And because this deal has no financial impact since the players are at or near major league minimum salaries, it actually increases the pressure on the Mariners to get Fielder because Pineda has been lost.

To make 2012 anything more than another incremental trudge toward a .500 season, ownership had to step up to purchase contention. So far, they have not. If  ownership discovers the Rangers Wednesday opening their checkbook to Fielder instead of Darvish, they will have no choice but to do what Boras wants:

Even though the Mariners  proved the Safeco Field Theorem was true with the Beltre Corollary, the club must overpay Fielder to make it a secondary consideration.

Anything less, and the Mariners, in hiring a rookie DH to replace a potential ace, may not even be treading water.


YourThoughts

  • Jbryder1

    I think you are too negative about this deal art.

  • Jbryder1

    I think you are too negative about this deal art.

  • Soggyblogger

    In regards to the Safeco Field Theorem: Why isn’t this a fixable problem? Cannot a fence be erected moving the fence closer to home plate? Is that illegal? Unethical? What? Sorry I am so ignorant. 

    • Pixeldawg13

      Soggy, yes the fences could be moved in.  Then you’d have a pitcher’s park with close fences.  The cool marine air won’t change.

      I tend to like Radio Guy’s scenario #3–which would be helped by moving the fences out a bit.

      • Angus Podgorny

        People need to quit using St. Louis and Kansas City of twenty years ago as examples of how teams with no power win.  Baseball has changed and nobody wins with just pitching, defense, and speed these days.  It just isn’t done anymore, and other than the two examples cited, it has rarely been done.

      • One174

        If the cool marine air causes flies to die short of the fence, why wouldn’t moving the fence in make more of the flies into homers?

  • Soggyblogger

    In regards to the Safeco Field Theorem: Why isn’t this a fixable problem? Cannot a fence be erected moving the fence closer to home plate? Is that illegal? Unethical? What? Sorry I am so ignorant. 

    • Pixeldawg13

      Soggy, yes the fences could be moved in.  Then you’d have a pitcher’s park with close fences.  The cool marine air won’t change.

      I tend to like Radio Guy’s scenario #3–which would be helped by moving the fences out a bit.

      • Angus Podgorny

        People need to quit using St. Louis and Kansas City of twenty years ago as examples of how teams with no power win.  Baseball has changed and nobody wins with just pitching, defense, and speed these days.  It just isn’t done anymore, and other than the two examples cited, it has rarely been done.

      • One174

        If the cool marine air causes flies to die short of the fence, why wouldn’t moving the fence in make more of the flies into homers?

  • scot04

    Ownership should have stepped up & said we’ll be responsible for Ichiro’s contract.
    Make it separate from payroll and tell “Z” there’s 19M more to spend; Go get Fielder.
    We all know ownership is going to want to resign Ichiro this way they could do so without tying managements hands.
    Still if we knew we would trade Pineda for a power bat & young good hitting catcher we should have
    obviously called the Reds. Gives us the DH, Catcher & starting pitcher + a minor league reliever.4
    for 1 one plus Alonzo’s left handed bat is a better fit. Not to mention a
    better defensive catcher who might not have as much power but also hit well in the
    minors.  Either way I cannot see why M’s did not just say Pineda only and stick to it.  (Yes Z wanted a RH power bat, but still.)
    We definately gave the Yankees a no lose proposition.

  • scot04

    Ownership should have stepped up & said we’ll be responsible for Ichiro’s contract.
    Make it separate from payroll and tell “Z” there’s 19M more to spend; Go get Fielder.
    We all know ownership is going to want to resign Ichiro this way they could do so without tying managements hands.
    Still if we knew we would trade Pineda for a power bat & young good hitting catcher we should have
    obviously called the Reds. Gives us the DH, Catcher & starting pitcher + a minor league reliever.4
    for 1 one plus Alonzo’s left handed bat is a better fit. Not to mention a
    better defensive catcher who might not have as much power but also hit well in the
    minors.  Either way I cannot see why M’s did not just say Pineda only and stick to it.  (Yes Z wanted a RH power bat, but still.)
    We definately gave the Yankees a no lose proposition.

  • Bert

    That’s pretty fatalistic, Art. Do you have an abundance of examples that demonstrates the Yankees superior knowledge and capacity to divine the future of young ball payers?
    This trade may work out for the M’s, or not. Pineda has had arm troubles already, and that can derail any pitcher’s career at any time. Over at the Times, Larry Stone is comparimg this to the trade that brought Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter to Toronto in exchange for Tony Fern Fernandez and Fred McGriff – a trade about filling holes, not about salaries. This could very well be a trade that makes everybody come out looking good.

  • Bert

    That’s pretty fatalistic, Art. Do you have an abundance of examples that demonstrates the Yankees superior knowledge and capacity to divine the future of young ball payers?
    This trade may work out for the M’s, or not. Pineda has had arm troubles already, and that can derail any pitcher’s career at any time. Over at the Times, Larry Stone is comparimg this to the trade that brought Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter to Toronto in exchange for Tony Fern Fernandez and Fred McGriff – a trade about filling holes, not about salaries. This could very well be a trade that makes everybody come out looking good.

  • We’re doomed

    I’m mostly with you on the Safeco Theorem, except that other teams seem to not have trouble hitting home runs here. This column is dead-on, the only problem with it being that now I wonder why I care at all. I was stoked about the deal but this brought me careening back to Earth. When do we get that NHL team again? *sigh*

  • We’re doomed

    I’m mostly with you on the Safeco Theorem, except that other teams seem to not have trouble hitting home runs here. This column is dead-on, the only problem with it being that now I wonder why I care at all. I was stoked about the deal but this brought me careening back to Earth. When do we get that NHL team again? *sigh*

  • Anonymous

    Three things:

    1. I hate to see Pineda go (no explanation needed), but you have to give something to get something, and what the M’s got is a 22-year-old rated the #3 prospect in Baseball America last year.  Yes, the Yankees WERE willing to trade Montero, but they had to give something, too.  I’ll wait until the end of the season to weigh in whether it was a good deal or not for the M’s.

    2. The only reason FIelder would sign with Seattle is for the money.  Period.  It wouldn’t be for those night home games during the balmy months of April and May, nor for the would-be homers that die at the warning track because of the cool marine air from Elliott Bay nor for all those walks he’d get because other teams would rather pitch aorund him to get to the rest of the Mariners order.  That’s not a recipe for success.  And, by the way, why are so many other big spenders passing on bidding for Fielder.  What do they know?

    3.  Maybe the organization should be building a team that fits its ballpark instead of trying to fit square pegs into round holes.  Sure, you always want more power, but I think of the great teams Whitey Herzog had in KC and St. Louis (neither of which had hitters parks):  His Royals and Cardinals were built around pitching, defense and speed-speed-speed, and they both were able to compete and win pennants even though neither had true home run threats.  Of course, it helped to have a Whitey Herzog to manage these team and Eric Wedge is no Whitey Herzog.

    In the end, we’ll all have to stop hyperventilating and just wait and see.  Pitching is not the problem in Seattle, hitting is, and bringing in a potential .300/30/100 guy like Montero can only help, even at the cost of a great arm like Pineda’s.

  • RadioGuy

    Three things:

    1. I hate to see Pineda go (no explanation needed), but you have to give something to get something, and what the M’s got is a 22-year-old rated the #3 prospect in Baseball America last year.  Yes, the Yankees WERE willing to trade Montero, but they had to give something, too.  I’ll wait until the end of the season to weigh in whether it was a good deal or not for the M’s.

    2. The only reason FIelder would sign with Seattle is for the money.  Period.  It wouldn’t be for those night home games during the balmy months of April and May, nor for the would-be homers that die at the warning track because of the cool marine air from Elliott Bay nor for all those walks he’d get because other teams would rather pitch aorund him to get to the rest of the Mariners order.  That’s not a recipe for success.  And, by the way, why are so many other big spenders passing on bidding for Fielder.  What do they know?

    3.  Maybe the organization should be building a team that fits its ballpark instead of trying to fit square pegs into round holes.  Sure, you always want more power, but I think of the great teams Whitey Herzog had in KC and St. Louis (neither of which had hitters parks):  His Royals and Cardinals were built around pitching, defense and speed-speed-speed, and they both were able to compete and win pennants even though neither had true home run threats.  Of course, it helped to have a Whitey Herzog to manage these team and Eric Wedge is no Whitey Herzog.

    In the end, we’ll all have to stop hyperventilating and just wait and see.  Pitching is not the problem in Seattle, hitting is, and bringing in a potential .300/30/100 guy like Montero can only help, even at the cost of a great arm like Pineda’s.

  • Anonymous

    Three things:

    1. I hate to see Pineda go (no explanation needed), but you have to give something to get something, and what the M’s got is a 22-year-old rated the #3 prospect in Baseball America last year.  Yes, the Yankees WERE willing to trade Montero, but they had to give something, too.  I’ll wait until the end of the season to weigh in whether it was a good deal or not for the M’s.

    2. The only reason FIelder would sign with Seattle is for the money.  Period.  It wouldn’t be for those night home games during the balmy months of April and May, nor for the would-be homers that die at the warning track because of the cool marine air from Elliott Bay nor for all those walks he’d get because other teams would rather pitch aorund him to get to the rest of the Mariners order.  That’s not a recipe for success.  And, by the way, why are so many other big spenders passing on bidding for Fielder.  What do they know?

    3.  Maybe the organization should be building a team that fits its ballpark instead of trying to fit square pegs into round holes.  Sure, you always want more power, but I think of the great teams Whitey Herzog had in KC and St. Louis (neither of which had hitters parks):  His Royals and Cardinals were built around pitching, defense and speed-speed-speed, and they both were able to compete and win pennants even though neither had true home run threats.  Of course, it helped to have a Whitey Herzog to manage these team and Eric Wedge is no Whitey Herzog.

    In the end, we’ll all have to stop hyperventilating and just wait and see.  Pitching is not the problem in Seattle, hitting is, and bringing in a potential .300/30/100 guy like Montero can only help, even at the cost of a great arm like Pineda’s.

  • RadioGuy

    Three things:

    1. I hate to see Pineda go (no explanation needed), but you have to give something to get something, and what the M’s got is a 22-year-old rated the #3 prospect in Baseball America last year.  Yes, the Yankees WERE willing to trade Montero, but they had to give something, too.  I’ll wait until the end of the season to weigh in whether it was a good deal or not for the M’s.

    2. The only reason FIelder would sign with Seattle is for the money.  Period.  It wouldn’t be for those night home games during the balmy months of April and May, nor for the would-be homers that die at the warning track because of the cool marine air from Elliott Bay nor for all those walks he’d get because other teams would rather pitch aorund him to get to the rest of the Mariners order.  That’s not a recipe for success.  And, by the way, why are so many other big spenders passing on bidding for Fielder.  What do they know?

    3.  Maybe the organization should be building a team that fits its ballpark instead of trying to fit square pegs into round holes.  Sure, you always want more power, but I think of the great teams Whitey Herzog had in KC and St. Louis (neither of which had hitters parks):  His Royals and Cardinals were built around pitching, defense and speed-speed-speed, and they both were able to compete and win pennants even though neither had true home run threats.  Of course, it helped to have a Whitey Herzog to manage these team and Eric Wedge is no Whitey Herzog.

    In the end, we’ll all have to stop hyperventilating and just wait and see.  Pitching is not the problem in Seattle, hitting is, and bringing in a potential .300/30/100 guy like Montero can only help, even at the cost of a great arm like Pineda’s.

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully we have gotten an everyday player who will be valuable sooner than later. Pineda is a huge talent and it’s sad to see him go.

    As to the sorry state of the M’s, until the common threads of their last 10 years are gone, Lincoln and Armstrong, it’s not worth buying tickets.

  • 1coolguy

    Hopefully we have gotten an everyday player who will be valuable sooner than later. Pineda is a huge talent and it’s sad to see him go.

    As to the sorry state of the M’s, until the common threads of their last 10 years are gone, Lincoln and Armstrong, it’s not worth buying tickets.

  • http://twitter.com/andrew_lupton Andrew L

    Because attendance would be uneven depending on match up? The NBA should not be welcomed back without concessions, and if that’s the prerequisite for a SB then thanks, but no thanks.

  • RadioGuy

    “Guest” is right:  MLS is not top-rank soccer, but it’s NECESSARY soccer because it gives domestic talent experience and a chance to improve their game.  It definitely has its place.

    Still, I’m glad the Sounders understand the “big picture” of their sport.  Yes, it’s nice beating teams like the Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake, but teams don’t really earn a reputation beyond their own borders until they start beating teams from beyond those borders.  The CCL is a step in that direction, including this series with Santos Laguna, who’ve been quite successful in Mexico’s Premier Division in recent years.  This IS a big game.

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