Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On Greg Halman

I'm going to write very little about outfielder Greg Halman's murder, because I'm not sure I have a single word that can adequately capture his exquisite athleticism, the deep regard of his teammates, or the gigantic hole of potential his five tools might have filled for the Mariners or some other major league team. 

It is simply sad and senseless for his family, friends, teammates and fans.  Perhaps the best words were written by Jeff Sullivan over at Lookout Landing.

Prince Fielder savior?

The Hot Stove League beginneth.  After another 90+ loss season the M's face starting another year in search of success. The name being tossed around as though he represents the second coming is Prince Fielder, the slugging first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Fielder is a fine hitter and decent first baseman, and a lefty who could hit majestic homers into the Hit It Here Cafe.  He could be the anchor bat of a Mariners lineup for a decade.
Is Prince Fielder the left handed anchor to their lineup the M's have been waiting for?  Is he worth $250 million for ten years? 
If the M's are willing to spend about $250 million for ten years.  Scott Boras is his agent.  Fielder turned down $100 million for five years last year, and it's estimated it will take those kinds of numbers, dollars and years to sign him.

Do you do it?  Geoff Baker at the Seattle Times says yes.  The M's have the money to spend on Fielder and make the team better at other positions.  I'm not quite sure how the money works out, but maybe they do.  He is confident those opposing a Fielder signing are simply shell-shocked from past free-agent failures, bad signings in the first place, and are willing to accept mediocrity from their home town team.

Dave Cameron at USS Mariner has a different take.  The Fielder deal is simply too expensive for what you get.  Further, according to Cameron, the Mariners aren't cheap, they're just stupid, having made a plethora of bad deals since Bill Bavasi's hire as GM in 2003, which they are still crawling away from.

I confess, I am more in the Cameron camp than with Baker.  If the M's want to make a splash signing Prince Fielder fine, it's not my money (but they better not raise ticket prices dammit!) He's one guy in a position that is fairly easy to fill with a serviceable bat at a cheaper cost.  David Ortiz would do fine at Safeco and cost a lot less.

What really troubles me are those years.  If we were talking $25 million for five years, I'd say yes, snap it up.  But ten years, really?  I know Fielder is a vegetarian and takes care of himself, but he's a big man.  Every time I think of  him I think of Mo Vaughn, another big guy, another hitting prodigy, a MVP, who ended up broken early in his career.  And Fielder is 50 pounds heavier than Vaughn. The risk of injury over ten years is simply too great leaving aside questions about Prince's girth. We would have said the same thing about Grady Sizemore a few years ago.  A Seattle guy, great glove and bat.  He could have been our center fielder for a decade, right?  We'd be zillions in the hole and Sizemore would be in rehab.
Grady Sizemore would have been a great fit in Seattle, with his  defense and bat--three years ago.  What we'd signed him to a ten year deal? 
That leaves aside the the question of satisfaction for the player or the team.  Almost no pairing is happy in a contract for more than three or four years.  Adrian Beltre is a great example of that.  He was never quite the player we hoped he'd be in Seattle.  Never quite the player he hoped he'd be either.  I never questioned his desire.  He played hard and was a mentor to many of the younger Latino players on the M's, but when his contract was up it was clearly time for him to go.  And look what he's done since he's gone.  Beltre was awesome with Boston, and is an integral piece to a championship Rangers team.  I don't believe Fielder can be the only guy on a team struggling to find itself, any more than Beltre could and at a much higher cost.  I don't think he would be happy for a decade under those circumstances.
Adrian Beltre was a good guy and a great defender, but never the hitter we hoped he'd be.  It was time for him to leave after four years
Another reason to avoid the Fielder sweepstakes are the steps that must be danced in order to bring him aboard.  The Scott Boras dance, in which he floats as many rumors as possible about his clients to convince those few bidders that may have interest that every team really will pay any amount under the sun to have the privilege of Prince Fielder gracing their locker room. Aside from all the spin and bullshit that goes with the dance, is the time wasted in which teams, hopeful of signing Fielder, give up on players X, Y and Z that may fill important needs, and then lose out on the superstar sweepstakes.  Boras is not quite the social cancer of say Tim Eyman or Grover Norquist, but in terms of useless expenditure of time and money, he's right up there.

Finally, do you really want to be paying $25 million a year to any player when they are 38 years old?  The entire planet is all over Ichiro Suzuki at 38, struggling to live up to his career numbers making $18 million per year.  What makes a Fielder signing any more palatable?  What makes us think he'll continue to hit 35-40 home runs per year well into his decline phase?  And what will be saying in 2022 when we are looking back on this deal?  How stupid will Mariners management look then?