Earlier this week, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said that he felt he would have more financial resources to work with, and today Mariners president Kevin Mather confirmed as much in an appearance on 710 ESPN’s Brock and Salk show (Brady Henderson of 710 ESPN has transcribed some of the highlights). Mather explains that the Mariners spent $16MM more than they had budgeted for in 2014 (a total payroll of $107MM), but ownership has no intention of scaling that back after seeing the team’s performance this season:
“They’re fans and they seemed extremely pleased with the competitive nature of the games and September, meaningful baseball, and not one of them has said, ’What are we going to do to get that $16 million back?’ They were all saying, ’What are you going to do to get us six more wins next year?'”
Fresh off the signing of Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM contract, the Mariners posted an 87-75 record — their best since 2007 — and cleared two million fans at Safeco Field for the first time since 2010, which Mather says will help him to acquire more resources for Zduriencik.
If you have time to listen to the audio of the full interview (it’s roughly 21 minutes long), Mather’s interview is well worth hearing in its entirety. The first-year president was insightful and candid throughout as he discussed the extension of Zduriencik, the relationship between Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon, his own role with the team and the club’s approach at the trade deadline as they weighed a run at David Price.
Mather feels that Zduriencik’s contract extension was turned into a bigger deal than he’d expected. He echoed a story told by Zduriencik shortly after the extension, stating that he simply broached the topic casually at the end of a business lunch, asking the GM, “Does your wife like it in Seattle?” Zduriencik responded that she loves it, and Mather recalls, “I said, ’Well, your contract’s up at the end of the year. Why don’t we talk about getting that extended?'” Mather does admit that Zduriencik’s rebuilding effort took longer than it should have, but he called the decision to extend him after the club’s success an “automatic.” Asked about Zduriencik’s best ability, Mather did not hesitate to say “personnel evaluation,” referring to evaluating young players.
Beyond that, he recalled his first test as a president — asking ownership for increased funding to sign Fernando Rodney late in the offseason. Unhappy with the asking prices of remaining starting pitchers and bats, Zduriencik suggested the idea of shortening the game. “The first thing I really tried to sell to ownership was, let’s take the ninth inning off the board,” said Mather, adding that he received little resistance on that front.
The team’s biggest desire moving forward, Mather says, is to avoid going through a “dip” like the Mariners went through from 2004-14:
“We need to be 85 to 95 wins every year, which means we need to draft well, we have to get our draft picks signed, we have to be strategic with our free agent signings, but we need to be competitive year-in, year-out. And you don’t do that by signing broken-down, middle-of-the-road free agents and hoping.”
Regarding the club’s summer interest in Price, Mather emphasized that with the team looking at a Wild Card spot, it was too difficult to mortgage the future. “Will you give up — and I shouldn’t use names — but will you give up [James] Paxton, or [Taijuan] Walker, or [D.J.] Peterson for David Price?” he asked, rhetorically. “…I want to be competitive in 2015, 2016, 2017 — these are young players that we control.”
Lastly, he discusses the impact that the team’s strong performance will have on attracting free agents. While he says it’s a selling point, the biggest red flag for the Mariners in attracting free agents, in Mather’s opinion, is the team’s travel schedule. Mather says he’s been assured by new commissioner Rob Manfred that MLB will look at the travel schedule in order to avoid scenarios like the one that came up this year where the team went from California to Houston to Toronto and back to Seattle without an off-day. He’s reminded Manfred about it multiple times, though he acknowledges that it may take a year or two in order to truly alleviate that pain for West Coast teams.
Assuming the Mariners pick up Iwakuma’s option which is for $7MM and Jackson and Seager arbitration combined come to another $10MM +/- their commitments for 2015 come to about $87MM for just 9 players at that point. That still leaves them needing to sign 16 players to fill out their 25 man roster. No way they stay under $110 to $120MM even with no “big name” FA signings this winter.
Any significant FA signing say like Melky Cabrera or someone else could easily bring their 2015 opening day payroll in the neighborhood of $130 to $140MM.
Are the Mariners willing to jump their opening day payroll from what is was to start the 2014 season of $90MM to about $130 to $140MM to start the 2015 season? That’s the question.
You do realize that most of the team is still under arbitration (or not even at that stage yet). I think the entire bullpen outside of Rodney/Beimel (FA) are under 1M. As is 2/5 of the pitching staff, SS, and C. Ackley/LoMo/Saunders won’t get too much more than what they earned this year, so we don’t have to worry about that. Roughly about 95M is probably on 20ish players.
Payroll should go up to about 120M. It was 90M this year at the end I think (at least that’s what Cots says) so I can see that. Allows us to go after Lester and a bat and then fill in the back-up roles with either veterans or more rookies.
I think you are severely underestimating what those other 16 players the Mariners will have to sign or re-sign will cost either through arbitration or something else. Without going into detail lets just use a broad brush look at the remaining 16 players in generic terms: 2 players say cost $4MM each = $6MM, 2players say cost $ 2MM each = $4MM, 4 more cost $1MM each = $4MM, 7 players cost league minimum = $4MM +/- Total for 24 players equals My original 9 at $87MM + $8MM + $4MM + $4MM + $4MM = $107MM Now the one additional significant FA signing say about $15MM + for a Cabrera type OR about $25MM for Lester. The Mariners payroll should come in at anywhere from $122MM + to $135MM +. And I think I’ve been real conservative in those other 15 signings. Again the question is are the Mariners willing to go from about $90MM in 2014 to upwards of $120 to $130MM conservatively if they wanted to make a significant FA signing? Even If I’m off by say $5MM on the high side that’s still a pretty big increase of 2014 that has to make them think twice.
I did the math and I might be underestimating a tad, but I also don’t think that 120M is breaking the bank for the Mariners. We were at 117 in 2008 and that was without a good base to work on. Again, with a signing of someone like Lester, that puts the payroll up to about 125ish and leaves room for a bat to go to 130M. The Mariners had the highest jump in attendance and were 1 game away from a 1-game playoff against the A’s. The front office is also changing from Lincoln/Armstrong and with the signing of Cano, or the first big FA bat that has actually panned out in Seattle, the team will take more risks.
I don’t think that a lot of the salary arbitration will be big wins for the players outside of Seager. Most of the people going up for it right now are either ‘pen guys (Wilhelmsen/Furbush), underperformed for part of the season (Ackley/Jackson), and injured (LoMo/Saunders). I can easily see 9-10 guys be on the team at the minimum salary and that puts us at 15 players for about 74M (including Iwakuma’s option).
Based on my numbers I think we would be in the $110-112m range with ONLY a Lester signing.
Vmart will cost a “minimum” of $15m/yr, and to land in Seattle we’ll have to add that 4th extra year that few will offer. I read today that Vmart has a awesome relationship with Lloyd, so that will be a big plus…but to land him I’m sure we are looking at $15-17m/yr, which after Lester a Vmart signing will push us to approx $125-129m. Then adding Cuban Tomas could jump our payroll in the $142-146m range.
We could lower that total if those 3 trade took place by trading Saunders. In that $142-146m total it includes an estimated $3.5m for Saunders, which we could move via trade.
Instead of Cuban Tomas we could use Saunders to land Kemp via trade with a discounted Kemp salary. Z has Lots of options.
Maybe a Lester signing will free up enough to get aggressive for Stanton (doubt it, but anything is possible) throwing Saunders/Ackley/Miller/Elias/Walker/Romero. I’m just throwing names out there.
Lots of offseason options. Will be interesting to say the least!
You are all theoretical talk
GD, there is no way for the Mariners to be at only $110 to $112MM with Lester. As I mentioned previously they will be at just about $87MM for just 9 players. That’s the current players under contract plus Iwakuma, Jackson and Seager. Adding just Lester at say $22MM per that puts the Mariners at $110MM +/- for just 10 players. They still need to sign or re-sign 15 more players and NOT all of them can or will be at league minimums. The total payroll without unloading significant salaries after 25 players are signed has to come to at least $130MM plus.
I’m not saying the Mariners can’t afford it only will they go that high. That’s a significant jump from their opening day 2014 payroll of $90MM.
BTW, I realize they had a decent jump in attendance from 2013 to 2014 but they were still just over 2MM and 23rd out of the 30 MLB teams.
Zunino 500K, Elias 500K, Farquhar 500K, Medina 512K, Ackley 1.7M, James Jones 500K, Taijuan Walker 500K, Paxton 500K, Maurer 500K, Chris Taylor 500K, Brad Miller 500K… That’s 3/5th of the rotation, your pen, starting catcher and your starting SS/Util
There’s 11 dudes for 6.7M not including their farm system.
Why are any of you talking about a Lester signing? I understand Seattle is the closest team on the same parallel as Boston but, Lester will be wearing red Sox once again in 2015. BB’s blackest mark on his remarkable GM career.
A 5 million dollar bat? Why do you want one of those?
Lester is a poor use of resources even if you could sign him. Seattle doesn’t need two 20+ million aces. Two teams in all of baseball have that and they both have payrolls significantly larger than whatever Seattle will end up with next year.
Cause none of the lesser named pitchers impress me enough and the Mariners NEED another starter. Plus, Iwakuma has only a couple years left. He’s got maybe 3ish years in the tank as a starter imo. He’ll be 34 a week+ after Opening Day.
I do agree with your salary assessments, but there are ways to lower payroll by moving other pieces like Saunders/Ackley/Maurer/etc. We can be assured Smoaks $150k buyout will take place freeing up approx $2.6m too. Iwakuma is a lock for his 2015 $7m and a no brainer.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see some trades that would add through subtracting other player salaries. Some potential trade candidates:
Ackley, Dustin $1,700,000
Saunders, Michael $2,300,000 (ARB Eligible)
Ramirez, Erasmo $511,800 (Can’t even imagine him on the team in 2015) DFA candidate.
Romero, Stefen $500,000
Yes Saunders is probably going to hit approx $3.5m in Arb.
Signing Lester would push Elias to the BP, thus the M’s not having to resign Beimel in the $3.5-$4m range in 2015.
Z stated 2 bats AND a top SP. My guess is:
1. Lester 7yr $22/yr with similar contract incentives as Felix (bringing him back to his hometown)
2. VMart. I think teams will stop at a 3yr Beltran type deal in the $45m range. To get him signed Seattle will have to go out 4 years $60-$65. I honestly don’t have a problem with VMart even though he’s 36. That would solidify our DH slot for the next 4 years, and that has been our serious problem that we haven’t been able to resolve since Edgar left.
3. Cuban Tomas as our RF power RHB. It’s gonna take 7yrs $105m to land him though.
My friend if you are even remotely close the Mariners are looking at an opening day payroll of about $150MM I just don’t see that as being a realistic goal for the Mariners.
Chris Young was great in 2014 for us, but will be too risky on a lot bigger contract in 2015 that he is deserving.
Beimel will probably cost in the $3.5m range for 2015, but landing Lester would push Elias to the BP (as an emergency starter) for league minimum and the M’s put Beimel’s $3.5m portion towards part of Lesters salary.
Elias to BP
We can do this hypothetical all day, but there is no way the Mariners add those 3. Maybe one if they are aggressive, not 2 and definitely not 3.
That’s your guess? Three of the most desired free agents?
Lester will have the Red Sox, Yankees, and most importantly the Cubs pining after him. 7/22 brings him to 154 without your incentives, which don’t seem very plausible. 154 is the range he can get near with 6 years on the open market. The Mariners need to give him 24 at least to be in the running.
3 years in the mid 50s range is likely where teams will stop for V-Mart. If Seattle wants to go higher with a fourth year, they have a shot.
Tomas could happen I guess. I bet he’ll sign for the most money wherever he gets it.
A rods 60 million is coming onto the books. So I don’t think the Yankees will be a factor.
More likely yankees add one big name than the mariners add 3.
His salary next year is an unfortunate hit for them, but it’s basically offset by the contracts coming off the books. They’ll have money to add someone if they want to.
Let’s just stop here. They said they are willing to raise payroll, not this. Raising payroll isn’t the same as raising it $60MM a year.
Not to mention that raising it 60 million now doesn’t account for the not so insignificant raises that the arbitration class will get in 2016 with only a few contracts coming off the books, which will also need to be replaced.
I agree with your assessment on the $130-140m range. Remember that we have an entire year of ROOT Sports Network revenue in the bank ‘finally’, which is adding an ‘additional’ $110-$130m in revenue to the team. Plus the M’s paid off their stadium back in 2013. Seattle also had the highest % attendance increase in 2014 sitting at 17% and that was Seattle only hitting 87 Wins this year. This tell the M’s Brass that the fanbase is more than “ready” to support this team moving forward.
Seattle could easily jump to $130-140m without flinching, I even think they could choose to go to $150-160m if they wanted. Angels and Rangers jumped to that level of payroll way before their new TV deals were signed…counting on their future profits of their TV deals.
Signing Lester & VMart would push our payroll in the $120m range. Adding the Cuban Tomas power RHB will push us to $135-140m.
Z openly stated the other day 2 big bats AND a top SP. Doing those 3 things will push payroll in the $130-140m bracket. should be interesting and a VERY fun offseason!
There is no way that would happen.
It is going to take $160MM payroll to sign those 3. Comparing Seattle to LA and Dallas is totally wrong. Seattle is about half the size of Dallas metro, and let’s don’t even get started on LA metro.
If Mariners can go to $160MM then Yankees can go to $400MM, and sign Tomas, Lester, Shields, Scherzer, and Hanley.
Hisashi Iwakuma’s $7 million option represents a raise of only $500,000 over his 2014 salary. The Mariners will shed Corey Hart’s 2014 salary of $6 million and may save another $2.5 million by non-tendering Justin Smoak. Kendrys Morales and Chris Denorfia,who were not on the Opening Day 2014 roster, are free agents.
My friend you still have to field 25 players the names are not really that important for my analysis. The 9 i mentioned are fixed. The balance of the 25 is conjecture. No team is going to have all league minimum players fill the remaining 16 spots so it just is a matter of an educated guess. I could be wrong but If I am I don’t think it’s by much.
The Mariners can pay Victor Martinez to DH for 20M next year and still keep their payroll under 115M.
The M’s tv deal is going to push them to that 150. Also for those who think the M’s or Seattle isn’t a good place to play they were only 1 game away from making it. They are a really attractive team. They need another starting picther and two more bats to push them into the playoffs and beyond. V Mart makes a lot of sense.
So the Mariners are going to go to $150MM because you say so?
The world doesn’t work like that. You think they are suddenly going to add $45MM in additional payroll easy? A team owned by a publicly traded company is just going to add that amount of salary because you say so? I can see them going up higher, but if you are thinking like that you are going to be incredibly disappointed.
Hey with the new Smash Bros out today, Nintendo should have plenty of future Mariners money flowing in, right??
Yes the M’s Tv deal ‘could’ push them to $150m, but I don’t think they go over $130m in 2015.
1 game from making what? The wild card game?
Important point. There’s usually a relationship between investing in players, performance, and attendance. It’s up to management to decide how to best leverage their dollars. The Yankees obviously spend too much, and unwisely, and Tampa just can’t draw, but usually there’s a big difference for the fan when a team goes from, say 81-81, to 86-76. Add a few wins to make the team competitive for a playoff slot, and you can usually get it back in revenues.
Desperate Needs: DH & Corner power OFer
Luxury Needs: Adding one more top SP (Scherzer Or Lester Or Shields)
Infield: I don’t thin Seattle will mess with 1B with LoMo’s 2nd half amazing success I think Seattle will run with LoMo during the 1st half to see if he can continue his success in the 1st half of 2015…with JD Peterson being a mid-season Callup. So we don’t have to worry about 1B in 2015. The rest of IF is pretty set.
Bullpen: Pretty much set for 2015. Beimel is the only question. Sounding like Z is going to try and pull off a top SP which would probably move Elias to BP & backup starter.
Rotation: Felix, Iwakuma, Paxton, Walker, Elias (looks set but as we saw this year with injuries to Iwakuma/Paston/Walker we truly need another top SP). Chris Young was a low cost wonder for 2014, but he’s not worth the $6-7m in 2015 that it will take to retain him.
Trade Candidates: Ackley, Saunders, Mauer, Medina, E-Ramirez
lol you guys are hilarious…with all your pipe dreams
M’s don’t need more power bats!!! They were ranked 15th in HRs which isn’t bad considering they play half their games in arguably the most pitcher friendly ballpark in the AL. What they do need is players who can get on base. They ranked 27th in OBP. Only 3 players were able to muster an OBP of over .300, that’s just ridiculously bad. So please no more ball hackers, strike out machines, permanent DH players!!!
Also M’s don’t need starting pitching!!! They are set for next year! They have a good rotation especially 1 and 2 not to mention Hultzen should be ready for 2015. Why the heck would you want to blow 20million+ on Lester or Price when your rotation is fine???
1 King Felix
Was prepared to hate this comment after the first line. But everything you said is true. The M’s need players that can simply avoid making outs. And who can hit lefties. They were very nearly the worst team against LHP.
The rotation should be pretty good, but I would love to add a decent, mid-range starter as insurance against the kind of mystery illnesses that have plagued us the last couple years. I agree this is not the place to spend big.
I’m actually pretty excited for the Mariners. McClendon is a solid manager and the team’s got talent.
I’m personally going to stash this quote for later, in case we see more Morse/Bay/Hart/Morales/retread/injury-flyer nonsense:
“… we need to be competitive year-in,
year-out. And you don’t do that by signing broken-down,
middle-of-the-road free agents and hoping.”
I’d be perfectly happy with two of: VMart, Michael Cuddyer or Melky Cabrera. I agree that getting a top flight starter might be overkill. I would go the route of a veteran pick up in the Chris Young vein, not expecting it to pan out quite as well, but it would be for insurance purposes anyway. Also, expecting Hultzen in the MLB rotation before September call-ups next year is probably wishful thinking. Still, he is a nice wildcard to have. If he can stay healthy and get back to where he was, it will give us several options and be a luxury.
The only major move the M’s need to make is to add Victor Martinez. They should also add a veteran innings-eater type starting pitcher as insurance. But the M’s had just a .611 OPS at DH making an addition at that spot a gigantic upgrade. And it won’t hurt their defense like replacing one of our good defensive corner outfielders with a plodding slugger.
Why are any of you talking about a Lester signing? I understand Seattle is the closest team on the same parallel as Boston but, Lester will be wearing those Red Socks once again in 2015. BB’s blackest mark on his remarkable GM career