EVERY plan needs to be a 3 year plan. Anyone who has played a little OOTP or other Sim-league can likely attest to the reality that "most" baseball contracts are of the 3-and-under variety. There are, of course, the 3 years of team control for newbies - followed by 3 years of arbitration. Yet, even when you look at the more open-ended FA contracts - the over-three year contracts are reserved for a VERY small subset of young-but-studly players.
So, there is a problem in setting the foundation as "what about 2011". The foundation NEEDS to be: what about 2011, 2012 and 2013? Who is "locked up" contract wise through that period - (doesn't mean you can't trade them - just means you know what your control over them actually is).
The club as ALREADY inked: Felix, Figgins, Ichiro for significant money for (all three?) years. (is Gutz in there, too?)
They've got a number of players under control or in arb situations. (Moore, Johnson, Tui, Saunders, Ackley, Fister, Vargas?, other prospects)
Then you have the "likely walking" (FAs to be) group: Kotch, Wilson(s), Lopez, Bradley, Lee, Bedard, Aardsma, League -- (bullpens are routinely FAs or short-termers).
You got TONS of options in regards to where you want to direct your efforts. Except for Figgins, most of your significant 'money' is still productive. But, you've gotta believe this is just a career blip for Figgy. (Think Lowell back in '05 -- at age 31, he posts a .658 OPS and is 'thrown in' as a salary dump).
The big headache is the inability of Seattle to develop any hitting talent. I know *ZERO* World Series teams, (including the Yankees), who didn't develop MULTIPLE decent hitting regulars from within. Moore could be #1 -- but he was obviously having growing pains. Saunders could become decent (at least as good as Langerhans, at the least). But, I don't think 'journeyman' or 'fill-in' level players are gonna do it. I think the minors HAVE to produce a Pedroia - or Howard - or Longoria - Mauer, etc -- if Seattle is ever going to be more than the occasional 'good year' scare to the teams that DO develop talent.
It can't be done on FAs alone.
Carp would qualify (from my perspective), since he didn't prove anything with another club. It doesn't have to be someone drafted by Seattle - but I think it does have to be somebody that tasted their first MLB action with Seattle.
I stated months ago that a Tui/Ackley MI "could" become that home grown anchor to build an offense around. 1B-Carp, 2B-Ackley, SS-Tui, 3B-Figgins -- that COULD be an outstanding infield. BUT - Carp has to translate to a 30-HR hitter in the bigs - which few think he can do. But, with a 'lead-off' hitter in RF, the club has a construction problem by getting another in CF. (In truth, Gutz has enough power where he could qualify as a 'light-power' corner OF -- so that's almost a wash). But, the need for big offense from LF and DH is increased because of the RF situation.
You get a 60ish HRs from your LF+DH slots ... then you've got a balanced offense. But, this REQUIRES that you get acceptable offense from those developed players -- be it Carp, Ackley, Tui -- or Limonta, Pequero, Liddi.
While you can't expect every callup to be a finished product (a la Pujols) from day one in the majors. (Morneau hit .664 in his first 40 games), the truth is "most" of the key players on winning teams entered the league hitting around .800 OPS from the get-go. They all weren't #1 prospects. Many uber-spects flame out, (Andy Marte), while complete surprises explode onto the season and just keep going - (Uggla).
If it's me? I'm getting Carp and Tui onto the field THIS year ASAP -- and see if they can produce anything that hints at an .800 OPS. If not, move on. With beans invested in Kotchman, it costs nothing to give Carp a legitimate shot.
With Jack Wilson hurt - the only cost is if you think perhaps JOSH Wilson could actually be your SS for the next few years. With his K rate under control (so far), may Josh Wilson IS an answer at short. (He's got a .756 career OPS in the minors - and hit .763 in his AAA days).
Maybe Tenbrink is the big bat at 1B the club has been needing. Maybe Johermyn Chavez is the heir apparent to Ichiro that can bring power to the Seattle OF.
For 2010 - I think the club ultimately scrapped the long-shot odds of winning anything when they opted to re-up Griffey and Sweeney - and essentially cost themselves a LOT of offense from the one offense-only slot on the roster. Even though Sweeney is doing well at this point, the CHOICE was one that (IMHO) "poisoned the well" in regards to showing LEGITIMATELY valueing production over veteran entitlement.
Sweeney, at least OUTPLAYED the competition during ST. Griffey didn't. He didn't show anything left in the tank back in April - but was given a waiver due to previous greatness. It hurt the club in actual production - but more importantly - robbed the team of the credibility they had earned in 2009 by "seemingly" valuing production and work over press clippings. Today - they're back to square one.
OK, I'll step into the breach.
Assuming for the sake of argument, but not conceding, that:
1. Even with a sharp reversal of fortune (which, while due, may not be forthcoming), this team is probably sub-.500 and non-contending.
2. Jack Wilson may well never again be an every-day MLB shortstop (and if he's not that, he's not much of anything).
3. Erik Bedard may well not throw an MLB pitch in 2010, in which case who knows what happens with him.
4. Generation Tui may well produce only one regular MLB contributor: Doug Fister (and no matter how successful he will be, his stuff will always leave him a whisker away from AAAA status). In other words: Tui, Moore, Saunders, Carp, French and the rest could end up as busts or part-timers (I remain hopeful for Saunders, of course).
5. Generation Ackley can't be counted on in 2011. Sure, Pineda is busting up AA, but they aren't going to rush him to the bigs. He's not at the Felix-Strasburg level. If he's there in 2011, it won't be as a workhorse starter. Ackley didn't waltz into AA and become instant Rod Carew. Triunfel is young and good, but not likely to make a flying leap into the MLB lineup. A guy like Edward Paredes can help in 2011, but he's a role player.
So you cash in Lee, and that will probably net a couple more guys at the Ackley-Pineda level of development. So, in theory you could have a nice cohort of people helping in 2012 (assuming no Mayan-calendar catastrophes) -- Ackley, Pineda, Robles, Triunfel, Paredes, prospects obtained for Lee, and potentially (but almost certainly not as regulars right away) guys like Liddi, Poythress, Seager, Moran.
Then what do you do about 2011?
You have Ichiro, Felix, Guti and Figgins. You have MB, Lopez, young catchers, Doogie, whatever version of RRS's arm shows up, whatever Saunders and Tui turn into, some bullpen arms who may or may not be solid.
You have potentially huge holes in the rotation, shortstop, and power positions (1b/DH/corner OF) without any logical candidates.
Hard to clean house when Ichiro and Felix are the faces of the franchise, trading Figgins would be selling low, and Guti surely wouldn't bring back what he's worth since he's not a "name" player with dazzling "marketable" stats (that is, he dazzles in the stats that don't get casual fans' attention).
Hard, if not impossible, to reconstruct a contender on the fly (even using the Phase I run-prevention strategy) if Lee and Bedard fall out of the mix and Wilson is not plugged into the middle of your defense. And that's before you try to do something about offense.
So do you just let Saunders, Moore, Tui, etc. go out and see what they got? Try to get a young shortstop in the Lee trade (even if that blocks Triunfel there)?
Overall, I agree that you need a long-term plan and homegrown talent and most of the rest. But I don't think you can just say, "well, it's Year One of our three-year plan and we're going to just trot out every Mike Carp we have until we discover which one of them is going to turn out to be Ryan Braun." (I'm overstating your argument, as I hope you can tell.)
I mean, the three-year plan is actually pretty good. Ichiro, Felix, Guti and Figgins are all signed. Ackley and Pineda are top-flight prospects. Guys like Fister, Saunders and Moore have promise. Triunfel and Robles look like strong probabilities to be MLB contributors, etc.
But the question raised is what do you do in the interim. It's hard to set the tone that losing is acceptable. Veterans can get unhappy and less productive or seek a trade that upsets the long-range plan. I think Year One of the three-year plan is still important, even if you don't have the home-grown impact players.
I'm just saying that if you subtract Lee, Bedard, Jack Wilson's defense and the good version of RRS from what we thought we were getting, the near-term looks pretty medicore, even if you assume that Figgins and Lopez come out of their nose dives.
And it's a real challenge to know what to do about it, other than just endure it.
One of the things about MLB that I think isn't quite appreciated is how small the distance is between mediocre and disaster.
Seattle has gone, what?: 88,69,85 wins in a 3-year stretch, (and are looking at another 70 win season at the moment).
Two years ago Tampa went from worst to first (mostly) by letting their home grown talent blossom. Cincinatti is tied with the Cards for 1st in the NL central without the "big move" change of things that people (wrong, IMO) associate with winning organizations.
I wasn't really trying to say that Seattle should just pack it in and treat 2010 as a full-tilt rebuilding year. It's more along the lines of - they have the luxury of doing just that without having the move-blocking salaries they had with Sexson and Batista (et al) that was the reality under Bavasi. Realistically, a GM can bench (or toss aside) his single-season million dollar plug-ins w/o a lot of grief. Dumping guys making 8 figures is a different story. (That's why the Bradley/Silva swap was such a good move -- the club knew it was rich in Silva-level pitchers -- but sorely lacking in Bradley level hitters).
The only upside for 2010 is -- Lee won't be going anywhere before July. So, the club still has some time to turn things around.
From my experience, it is highly unlikely the entire team will turn things around -- barring some kind of "reset" event. (#1 is fire the manager, typically). Sometimes, it is simply that a new season has begun. The players are not PHYSICALLY as bad as their numbers, (except Griffey). The problem is mental - and when you've got a team-wide slump, you need a team-wide event to change the landscape.
Not that this is entirely Wak's fault -- but the real danger of just continuing down the current path is that Wak DOES "lose the team", (if he hasn't already). Dig too deep a hole, and the reset button won't work. Just a few years ago, Houston was in a deep hole, and replaced one mediocre manager with another - caught fire and went to the Series.
The question for 2010 is - How do you hit the reset button?
Jack has definitely been working on the future as well as current roster...but I doubt this is a 3 year plan.
Franklin, Baron, Noriega, Poythress, Seager, Raben, Chavez, Cleto, and etc are not 2 years away...but all have potential.
It will be interesting how Jack melds together the Tacoma and West Tenn teams into his pitching and defense philosophy... I just hope someone expoldes soon from the Liddi, Truinfel, Halman, Mangini, Carp, Peguero, Carrera group, so that jack has a few more playing pieces.
The distance between mediocre/disaster and contender isn't far either, especially with the right young players and a weak division. Hense the worst to first scenarios that we have seen. I can easily see Lee on our next WS team, or to catch our next cache of young studs like Randy for Garcia/Guillen/Halama. I would rather see the former, as aces are hard to come by, but time is short. Some players need to step up and act like they want the jobs. It feels like regression back to the losing culture, and we need some leaders to refuse to let it continue.
Now that I check it: Felix is locked in through 14, Guti and Figgins have a club option for 14, and even though Ichiro's deal expires in 12, he's certain to re-sign unless the situation is a complete disaster. So, sure, you can also view it as a 5-year plan and factor in the group that's now at Clinton.
But, in reality, if they aren't competitive by 12, then there will be a shakeup anyway, and Felix and Ichiro could be part of it.
A game that made me want to go find the highlight reel. It's been awhile.
Doogie outduels Verlander on the basis of 1 K vs. 8 K, but it works for him. Let's hope that Happy MB is the fuel that brings this bandwagon out of the ditch.