BY Art Thiel 09:00AM 03/31/2014

Thiel: Mariners’ payroll again big at top, bottom

Shocking as was the hire of Cano, it is equally dismaying to Mariners fans that the club didn’t upgrade elsewhere before the start Monday of the 2014 season.

Robinson Cano has to wonder from where the offensive help is coming. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

When last we left the Mariners, the manager, after quitting during a days-long public rant, later slaughtered his bosses in a news story, ownership went nuts on its own with an outlandish player contract, and the Seattle sports market finally experienced a major national sports championship.

Other than that, it’s been quiet. Which is, of course, the problem.

The offseason tumult obscured the fact that, aside from hiring closer Fernando Rodney, 37, for two years and $14 milion — a dubious move, based purely on the belief that big investments in closers are a poor use of resources, given their relative availability — the Mariners did little to supplement from the outside their $240 million investment in Robinson Cano.

In the off-season to help Cano, they invested in three position players: Willie Bloomquist ($2.8 million), Corey Hart ($6M) and Logan Morrison ($1.75M). Together, that’s $10.55 million. Based on spring training results, that investment might get them one starter, if Hart is healthy enough to be DH, which he hasn’t been  –  5 for 38 (.132 BA) with one extra base hit. He won’t play Monday as the Mariners open the season in Anaheim against the Angels.

Amazingly, Bloomquist — at 36 in his 13th season and filling the annual roster spot of “Mariners retread” after the loss in free agency of Raul Ibanez — is the Mariners’ sixth-highest paid player. And he hasn’t had more than 350 at-bats in any of his previous four years with three teams.

I get the value of a veteran role player, which the Mariners have had from Vince Coleman to Mark McLemore, but they are more useful backing up a solid lineup. The Mariners basically hired three of them, and Hart and Morrison, both coming off knee surgery, can’t play much defense.

It’s the kind of roster awkwardness that helped drive manager Eric Wedge out of the Mariners dugout after three seasons. Even before his acid takedown of club management in a Dec. 7 Seattle Times story, Wedge at the end of season told reporters he and top management were in disagreement.

“It’s where they see the club,” he said Sept 28. “They, being Howard (Lincoln), Chuck (Armstrong) and Jack (Zduriencik). And where I see the club and my vision for the future and theirs, it’s just different. And that’s about as plain as I can make it.”

Wedge never spelled out the different views, but his successor, Lloyd McClendon, may soon understand. The hires of Bloomquist, Hart and Morrison continue the trend of  misshaped rosters — top- and bottom-heavy — with too few mid-level producers. It’s often been that way since the last playoff team since 2001. Yet GM Jack Zduriencik continues to insist that the roster was ripe for the infusion of a big-time, big-money talent such as Cano.

“I was happy for the city, I was happy for the organization,’’ Zduriencik told the the New York Post last month. “It was gratifying to say to the fans, ‘We told you we were going to do this when the time was right.’”

Of course, the time was supposedly right a couple of years ago when the Mariners went after Prince Fielder, then Josh Hamilton last year. Skeptics doubted the sincerity of the Mariners’ pursuits, figuring it was for show. But there’s no doubt about their motivation this time to get Cano — they offered three years and $65 million more than his old club, the Yankees, usually the industry standard for reckless disregard when it comes to financial sense.

As colleague Steve Rudman points out in a previous post on the site, Zduriencik is counting on the farm-raised talents of Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders to finally become the mid-level, mid-career contributors so sorely lacking in Seattle, yet so prominent in well-run franchises such as the Cardinals in St. Louis.

Should youngsters Brad Miller and Mike Zunino also have solid second seasons, the Mariners can get beyond .500 and into contention. But that also supposes that young pitchers James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Erasmo Ramirez hold their own in the rotation.

And then there’s Abraham Almonte, a 24-year-old rookie with 72 major league at-bats who hit .182 this spring, yet will start in center field.

Every MLB team begins a season with some ifs — the Dodgers, a National League favorite,  have five pitchers on the disabled list — but the Mariners have ifs like sharks have teeth. That has been obvious throughout the off-season and through an 18-12-3 spring record that offered yet another cruel tease.

For a team with 11 winning seasons in 37, it’s remarkable an uptick has yet to happen. Then again, as was pointed out here recently, Zduriencik and his predecessor as GM, Bill Bavasi, have identical records through five seasons: 359 wins and 451 losses. That kind of relentless commitment to mediocrity is a hard thing to sustain.

Without knowing that history, Cano nevertheless knows what he sees on field. Barely having buttoned up his Mariners jersey for the first time in February, Cano weighed in on the fact that the Mariners  were way short on offense and starting pitching and needed to get better. Before even losing his first game as a Mariner, he was recommending the hires of Kendrys Morales, Ervin Santana and others, causing murmurs in the national media that Cano was already lamenting his escape from New York.

That doesn’t appear to be the case yet. Neither does it appear yet that the Mariners have surrounded Cano with a team worthy of contention. Cano mildly disputed his label as the face of Mariners.

“I wouldn’t say it’s only going to be my face,” Cano told reporters. “You’re going to talk about Felix (Hernandez). He’s a guy who has been here a long time, and he’s one of the best in the game.

“Me, myself? There’s nothing that I can do by myself. This is about the team. It’s not about one player. We win as a team, and we lose as a team.”

True. Sadly for Mariners fans, it’s true. And they now see a fine example of that in the Seattle market. Not to add to the pressure, or anything.

Mariners estimated 2014 payroll of $92,081,943, via Associated Press:

  • 2B Robinson Cano: $24,000,000
  • RHP Felix Hernandez: $23,557,143
  • RHP Fernando Rodney: $7,000,000
  • RHP Hisashi Iwakuma: $6,500,000
  • OF/DH Corey Hart: $6,000,000
  • UTL Willie Bloomquist: $2,800,000
  • 1B Justin Smoak: $2,637,500
  • OF Michael Saunders: $2,300,000
  • 1B/DH Logan Morrison: $1,750,000
  • LF Dustin Ackley: $1,700,000
  • C John Buck: $1,000,000
  • LHP Charlie Furbush: $750,000
  • 3B Kyle Seager: $540,100
  • RHP Tom Wilhelmsen: $528,800
  • RHP Blake Beavan: $518,700
  • RHP Yoervis Medina: $512,600
  • RHP Hector Noesi: $512,400
  • RHP Erasmo Ramirez: $511,800
  • RHP Danny Farquhar: $510,800
  • INF Nick Franklin: $510,200
  • SS Brad Miller: $510,100
  • LHP Lucas Luetge: $508,800
  • RHP Stephen Pryor: $506,500
  • RHP Brandon Maurer: $504,600
  • C Mike Zunino: $504,100
  • LHP James Paxton: $503,500
  • RHP Taijuan Walker: $502,400
  • OF Abraham Almonte: $501,900
  • OF Stefen Romero: $500,000

 


YourThoughts

  • Tim

    I’m already sick to my stomach…getting ready to witness another 6 month train wreck…It’s going to all the more painful as we’ll look back on this season which may well be better than the last couple and say, “if only they’d gotten some protection for Cano.”

    But that’s not the Mariner way. Welcome to Seattle Robinson. At least you’ll be compensated handsomely unlike the rest of us.

    Looking forward to the Seahawks though!

    • art thiel

      Ill before the first pitch. Bad sign.

      NFL draft five weeks away.

  • jafabian

    It’s frustrating as a fan to hear the M’s say they won’t hesitate to spend but they stopped at Cano. Supposedly they only want to spend so much on Morales and since he has Scott Boras as his agent I assume the demands he’s giving are ridiculous but Cano needs protection for him to be productive. I’m assuming Morales doesn’t want to be here at this point. I’d like to see Cano earn his salary and talk Morales out of his stubborn Gus Williams-like holdout since as it stands right now the M’s will lose a draft pick for signing Cano. Probably a second round pick. Morales is most likely waiting until June to sign with someone because cluss will be able to sign him without losing a draft pick.

    This was my biggest reservation about signing Cano: ignoring the needs of the rest of the club. They have needed pitching since Cliff Lee left and despite the obvious need as well as having a stadium that supposedly was needed to attract free agents it hasn’t happened. And despite his claims at being a sabermetric savvy GM I haven’t seen a team resembling that at all since Jack Z. came aboard.

    • art thiel

      So you’re saying Smoak won’t be enough protection for Cano in today’s lineup? If I were the Angels, I’d give Cano 4 IBBs.

      • jafabian

        I really hope Justin turns things around this season and I’m hoping it all clicks for him like it did for Tino at his age. But for the time being I know that Cano will will be walking like an Egyptian this season. Justin has got to make people regret that for the team to be competitive.

        • art thiel

          Let Miller hit cleanup.

    • Da Kid

      You must have missed the memo. Z didn’t do any of that sabermetric stuff he listed on his resume. In fact, he’s completely clueless about it. All that work was done by his former assistant, Tony Blengino, whom Jack threw under the bus back in November.

      http://seattletimes.com/html/mariners/2022420240_mariners08xml.html

      “Blengino, who was working for the Milwaukee Brewers with Zduriencik at
      the time, said he authored virtually the entire job application
      package Zduriencik gave the Mariners in 2008, depicting a dual-threat
      candidate melding traditional scouting with advanced statistical
      analysis. Blengino said he prepared the package because he was versed in the hot trend of using advanced stats for team decisions.

      ““Jack portrayed himself as a scouting/stats hybrid because that’s
      what he needed to get the job,” Blengino said. “But Jack never has
      understood one iota about statistical analysis. To this day, he
      evaluates hitters by homers, RBI and batting average and pitchers by
      wins and ERA. Statistical analysis was foreign to him. But he knew he
      needed it to get in the door.”

      “Zduriencik then made him “look like an ass” in front of baseball
      operations brass in spring training 2012 after Blengino gave a
      presentation on possible benefits from advances in computerized hitting
      data.

      ““He nitpicked about font sizes and column widths,” Blengino said. “He did what he always does and made fun of something he couldn’t understand.””

      And you wonder why this team sucks? I don’t.

      • jafabian

        I know, that’s my point.

  • Michael Bragg

    The truly awful thing about being an M’s fan is that there’s always next year…This team will be lucky to be 10 games under .500.

    • art thiel

      Not even Opening Day cheers you up?

      • Michael Bragg

        I’m excited to see baseball again, just not that enthusiastic when it’s comes to the Mariners. I hope they do well like Jack Z hopes his guys finally play to their potential. Always about hope with this team.

        • art thiel

          12 years without a sniff tends to harden the organs.

  • Edgar Martinez

    Just underscores the continued bad decision making by Z. Instead of signing Hart and Bloomquist, he could have greatly improved the lineup and signed Morales for about the same money. IDK, maybe he’ll be forced to sign Morales after this sad lineup he’s constructed performs like it probably will. We’ll need some offense with the way the rotation looks right now.

    • art thiel

      Morales overplayed his hand, but the Mariners may be overloaded with guys who can do nothing but DH. If M’s wait until June, they can sign him without giving away a compensatory draft pick. But that would be after their traditional departure from the race by the Memorial Day weekend.

      • Edgar Martinez

        Who would the M’s owe a pick too?

  • Big

    Wait to next year.

    • art thiel

      Come on, Big. You can come stronger than that.

      • Da Kid

        You callin’ Cubs fans weak?!

  • ollie swensen

    a new season begins. lots of cheap parking close to safeco. choice of any seat, any time. no lines at concessions/bathrooms. no hurry between innings. baseball paradise.
    c’mon. go m’s woohoo!

    • art thiel

      You realize that was the Kingdome mantra for almost 20 years?

      • ollie swensen

        right, i knew i’d heard that before.

        “join the mariner action”

      • Da Kid

        Yeah, and we blew that place up. And you realize, I hope, that the money we still owed on the Kingdome, $200 million, was more than twice the M’s 2014 payroll. Couldn’t we have just swapped it for one year of the Yankees line-up? Oh wait — that would mean the return of A-Wad. Never mind. Oh wait! He’s suspended for the season! (And we’d also like back Tino, Luis, Pineda and everyone else we “farmed out” to them, please.)

  • effzee

    Jeez. Looking at that roster, sorted by salary, gives one little to no hope. I mean, there was no reason to have hope anyways, but that sort of just makes it really, really clear. Willie freakin’ Bloomquist is a utility man and is the 3rd highest paid position player. Yet again, not a major league worthy roster. Sad. Truly sad.

  • Trygvesture

    Is it just me or has this been the most buzz-less, ho-hum-who-cares Spring ever? It’s the first time I’ve not bothered to hear a Spring Training game since 1983, nor have I cared to tune in to sports jabber radio to hear what’s being said, nor have I been surprised and disappointed by the ongoing plethora of Jack Z smarm-statements and the Big-name-Bloomquist type signings: It’s as expected. Same record as Bavasi says it all: failure in perpetuity is what the Mariners are and what fans expect. Ennui. It seems Don’t Care and Don’t Want to Care have triumphed, broadly, in the Lincoln world of Bad Baseball. McClendon? Cano? Meh. It’s come to this: All news is no news in Marinerville. A bean-counter president and a thoroughly disliked, derided, discredited and irrelevant tyrant in the CEO chair. Still.
    Doesn’t even raise a hackle anymore.

  • Elvismike

    Yo Art boy: Champs=Sonics too! Jack The Zipper–gotta go!