Now that the 2011 Mariners seasons has ended (mercifully), it's time to look toward the future. Many people want to see the M's try and make a big splash and sign Prince Fielder.
That would be a mistake.
Prince Fielder is a fantastic player, don't get me wrong, but he is not the answer.
The most obvious reason not to sign Fielder is the money. In 2010, Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard signed a five-year, $125-million extension. Agent Scott Boras has already said he wants a Mark Teixeira-type deal for Fielder. In case you were wondering, Teixeira's contract is for 8 years and $180 million.
While Fielder's deal will probably be closer to $160 million, it's still way more than he is worth. The Yankees and the Red Sox can afford to pay one player (probably a DH) $20 million a year. The Mariners cannot.
In 2005, the Mariners, coming off a similarly awful year, tried to make a big splash by signing high-priced veterans Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre, both coming off big seasons. Sexson signed a four-year, $50-million deal while Beltre signed a five-year, $64 million deal.
Using WAR (wins above replacement) to evaluate the players, Sexson had a 3.9 rating his first season, and he never was above 2, the number considered to be an average MLB starter, again. The M's released Sexson before the end of his contract in 2008.
Beltre fared better, posting a 4.6 and 3.5 during his contract. Even though Beltre was loved by the fans, he was nothing more than an above-average player. We were paying him like an MVP candidate.
Beltre's subsequent success with other teams has led others to think we should have given him an extension. While I'm happy to see him succeeding, his offensive skillset was never going to translate well at Safeco. He was not worth a big extension.
For the Mariners, Fielder would most likely play DH because he is not anywhere close to being a solid defender. That significantly reduces his value. In addition, it's usually a lot harder for players to go to the American League after playing in the National League.
So if the Mariners don't try and make a splash by signing Fielder or trying to trade for a slugger, Joey Votto for example, what should they do?
It's my hope that the Mariners use their financial flexibility this season to continue to improve incrementally. Rebuilding takes time. Hopefully, they can find a few steals in the free agent market or get some value by trading some of our spare parts.
The goal is to become a contender year in and year out. That goal takes patience.
In an interesting piece on Mariners'blog lookoutlanding.com, the author broke down the rosters of each of the eight playoff teams and how they were built. Looking at the main components of the team (starting position players, rotation and closer), it's interesting to see the results.
While the Yankees relied heavily on free agency and the Rays relied heavily on homegrown talent, the rest of the clubs had a balanced mix.
Since there are only three ways of acquiring talent (drafting, trading or signing free agents), it's expected that most teams try to invest evenly across those ways.
However, each team had players acquired throughout the past decade or beyond. Using the same criteria to look at the Mariners, only Felix Hernandez, Ichiro and Michael Pineda have been with the team before 2009, the year general manager Jack Zduriencik assumed the job.
As Cougar fans, we should know about growing pains. We are finally starting to see the fruits of Head Coach Paul Wulff's rebuilding efforts. The Mariners need to be patient and build a strong foundation if they hope to catch the Texas Rangers in the next few seasons.
The M's attendance level was awful this year. Signing a big-name free agent doesn't put people in the seats. Winning does. And winning, like a lot of things in life, takes patience.