I've always said that to win in Seattle w/Safeco, you need three things - good/great defense in CF, a good/great DH and a great bullpen. I guess I can't complain much if Dipoto ticks off all three of those boxes.
Our last White Board update was on Nov. 18th. Wow, a lot of things have solidified. By "a lot of things" we mean everything in the bottom half of the inning. Except that Jerry DiPoto is threatening to scrounge a cheap 1B.
No, actually last time 'round we kidded that Leonys Marteen was the Designated Athlete, being as he was all we had to show for a Grand Philosophical Sea Change. But! A glance at the white board will reveal that the M's have now also swapped Mark Trumbo out for Norichika Aoki. Now, THAT's athleticism that even Dr. D cannot gainsay. Maybe the New M's can't take the Astros in rounders, but they can blast them away on the pommel horse.
This white board assumes that the M's will retain Iwakuma or purchase Chen. Dangerous assumption there keed.
But it's all good. If the M's save $15M on SP2, you slide Roenis Elias into that spot and deploy $15M elsewhere. Can there be any serious doubt that "elsewhere" means Jason Heyward if not Mike Trout? Who wouldn't want Elias & Heyward for Iwakuma?
DiPoto said yesterday that it wasn't "likely" that the M's would be in on marquee names. Actually, if DiPoto is as good at identifying Tyler Skaggs as he's put on his own marquee, the M's can blow off Asian pitching and sign Heyward or Upton without breaking a sweat. Then you move Aoki to center field for 155 games and every person on the saber spectrum is giddy with joy.*
*Actually Seth Smith would give way.
The TNT has put up a neat little Free Agent Toy and it pegs the 'roll at $135M. According to them, you've got $25M to spend on Iwakuma/Chen and whatever Flintstones Vitamins you want to throw down the gullet of our culture change. I'm guessing that Grizzly would not be averse to Mark Lowe and Shawn Kelley. Dr. D would not be averse to something from just below the border. Not Mejico's border; Jorge Campillo was a long time ago. We're talking about the border just below China's eastermost satellite dictator.
De Fratus isn't on there for the same reason that David Robinson isn't... Damon Robertson? Whoever. Same reason Andy Wilkens isn't on there. Shawn O'Malley. We were talking about DELTAS, man.
|C||Iannetta + Clevinger||... zunino||Legitimizes the ballclub||+30. Love it (and Clevinger's swing)|
|1B||Montero + Wilkins*||... morrison||ho-kay||=|
|CF||Leonydas king of Spalda||... jackson & miller||Slides runs from offense to defense||-10|
|DH||Nori Aoki||... trumbo||Aoki in DH slot for comparison's sake||+10|
|SP5||Karns||Elias, Monty & Co.||What a cool add for zero diner-o||+20|
|CL||Benoit||Rodney||... So we get 1.5 good years||+20|
|RP #7||Bass||Ramirezes, Kensings, etc||Does add crispness and subtracts BBs||+10|
At this point, things are taking shape. A bargain 1B and 1-2 short relievers. So we can pain-cil in All Kindsa Gains:
- Leonydas + Aoki = sideways moves that DID make us way more athletic and grassworthy. Still: sideways
- Catcher = GAAIIINNNZZZZZ. And Dr. D is rapturous, watching Steve Clevinger swing a baseball bat
- SP5 Karns = our best chance at a Bas Rutten shot to the AL West's liver (aside from bustouts by the other 3 young guns)
- Bullpen = definitely on its way
- Management, toughness and culture among the Scrubs = a dream come true
Exactly none of it will move the WAR meter. Well, approximately none of it will. And yet this is the kind of Pat Gillick shufflecups that CAN produce a big, mysterious turnaround.
Can you make all kinds of gains without making any kinds of WAR gains?* We got a Next Gen Sabr GM, no? This is Jerry DiPoto being Sabe.
*Well, in a way they got some WAR gainz. :- ) We aim to see players #18-25 to grab 0.0 WAR each, rather than -0.7 each. But there are a lotta GM's trying to do that ...
But to me it's more reminicient of Z's first off-season. But I mean that in a good way. First big thing is to fix CF defense to make it elite again. Then a lot of dumpster diving for hidden gems. Z got bigger seasons than expected from Branyan and Griffey.
Z had a mess on his hands, bu there was some key talent. The main job was to change the culture from a horrible 61 win season.
We don't need to get a Branyan - we have Cruz. No Ichiro, but I'll take Cano and Aoki. Don't have a Beltre but we have a Seager. I'll take Seager and his Safeco friendly lefty bat. Hey, we have a Felix again! But man, I'll take 2-5 as is over the mess we had going into 2009: Washburn, RRS, Jabu, a raw Vargas. We had Bedard. But yeah, give me Walker, Karns, Paxton, Elias if I must choose between the two. Paxton is our Bedard. If he stays healthy, everything changes in a big way.
First base has the PCL's most productive guy of 2015 penciled in, with a platoon partner, and he's still young. Ketel over Yuni? You bet! - you bet I go with Marte.
No fat Griffey, LF looks productive - Guti/Smith > the recently departed Ibanez of 2008, mainly because we won't have the headscatching defense Raul offered - and no Balentien patrolling there. No Ichiro patrolling right next to young Guti, that's too bad...but we have an Aoki as Ichiro-lite, and Cano replaces a productive Lopez, and yeah, we are talking Cano and not Jose Lopez. No question marks there regarding production. And toughness at the plate.
Catcher is not Rob Johnson. Nuff said there.
Bullpen? Smith and Beniot and whoever else emerges from Furby and etc. to what else we add to the pile going forward. Bullpen is easy - Z always did it - often with smoke and mirrors. DiPoto will too.
That team won 85 games. I like what we're looking at by comparison right now by a lot. Everything else going forward into Dec. - March is gravy.
Well, z didn't always build a good bullpen from scraps. The 2015 bullpen was a disaster, as was 2013. We all thought it would be a dumpster fire going into 2014 but we got a pleasant surprise. I would definately spend on the bullpen - I think they are two good-to-excellent pitchers away from competency there now.
So, it looks like Dipoto says we have a trade or two coming up. OK....then who do we have that is swapable?
Young arms, for sure: Paxton, Walker, Elias and Montgomery. The first two of those guys are probably staying, or so I would wager.
We've tossed Elias' name around so often that it is hard to imagine that he hasn't been involved in serious discussions. And he is probably more delectable to other GM's than Monty is.
I would be big surprised if Deej is involved in a trade. You would be selling WAY low, I think. But perhaps Dipoto assumes he's a bust already and is willing to get a tough BP arm for him. I wouldn't....
We have a weird situation with our corner OF's: all three of them (Aoki/Smith/Guti)are one and done guys. Such a situation would leave us right back at the FA OF trough next year. And we need that 2nd CF'er, no matter what Dipoto says about Aoki. I think he's just joshin' there, btw.
So, we're going to trade Elias + for a multi-year OF who can plyay CF. Hmmmmm......????? Wonder why we haven't thought of that before.
And when we do, me thinks we go get a BP arm with Smith. He's the other bat-type asset we have that has value. Trading Taylor makes no sense because you just have to get another Taylor. But if you get your multi-year OF, then Smith may go for something this year, rather than for nothing next.
I'm not PUSHING for a Smith trade, never have. I'm just saying that he's the guy you could roll pretty easily into something with an VG 80 inning arm.
I'd say catcher is a big plus but SP is slightly down (Kuma to Karns). The overall in the outfield (including defense) seems to me to be a cumulative positive although it's hard to say how much. The bullpen looks slightly up already, as does the bench and depth almost everywhere. SP looks about the same on depth while 1b and 2b/3b/SS have less options. You hope you never need a lengthy backup option for Seager or Cano anyway, but there's less to choose from now.
Seeing it as equivalent seems to be from attributing the offense of the regulars only while ignoring the huge defensive upgrades in total. My perspective may just give more credit to Martin and Clevenger than yours. Catcher and maybe 1b seem to be the only spots the defense might not be as good to extremely better.
If we're looking at full season difference I think the offense should be greater as well.
There's probably $20- $35 million left to play with? (Assuming you play a chunk of that on Heyward or the like, Seth Smith can be traded for cost saving by Aoki taking his spot). The bullpen could use a chunk of change. SP could use an add but I think many are forgetting Karns when they say we need 2 more. I'd think a capable #2 is all that's required but I'd personally rather see the 3/4/5 spots go to youth. There's 2 LHSP and 3 RHSP (including Karns) that won't be free agents until 2020-2022 that Oakland would likely have in their rotation. You know, those young rotations that take the league by surprise? I think we can squeeze the 3 best in and still have 2 for depth or maybe swing/long relief. Actually Felix fits that time frame too but he's not as cheap. Why trade any of them if you don't have to?
DiPoto phrases his approach in a colorful and convincing way:
"We've done our big game hunting in the past, (Cruz, Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez) they are the core of our club. They are signed long term and they are celebrated elite All Star level players. That is the group we are building around. What we are doing is we are raising the floor around them."
... which is part of the reason that Stars & Scrubs wins. Much easier to upgrade a position from -0.5 WAR to 1.1 WAR than it is to move from 2.0 to 3.6.