Are the Mariners Screwed?

The Angel’s owner, Arte Moreno, decided to extend last winter’s spending spree and shelled out for both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, two of the top free agents on the market. With another awesome team already in the AL West, how will it affect my Mariner’s chances of making the playoffs in the next five years?

There is no doubt that adding Pujols and Wilson improves just about any team in the near future, and the Angels are no exception. However, Mariner fans should not jump off a cliff right away.

Here’s a before (left) and after (right) comparison—not including relief pitching—of the Angels teams heading into 2012 after the big signings.

Pos

Player

WAR

Pos

Player

WAR

C

Iannetta

2

C

Iannetta

2

1B

Trumbo

3

1B

Pujols

7

2B

Kendrick**

3.5

2B

Kendrick**

3.5

3B

Callaspo

1.5

3B

Callaspo

1.5

SS

Aybar**

3

SS

Aybar**

3

OF

Hunter**/Trout

3

OF

Hunter**/Trout

3

OF

Bourjos/Trout

5

OF

Bourjos/Trout

5

OF

Wells/Trout

2

OF

Wells/Trout

2

DH

Abreu**/Trout

1

DH

Trumbo/Trout

2.5

P

Weaver

5

P

Weaver

5

P

Haren**

5.5

P

Haren**

5.5

P

Santana**

2.5

P

Santana**

2.5

P

Pineiro*

1.5

P

Wilson

4

P

Chatwood

0.5

P

Pineiro*

1.5

Total

39

Total

48

 

While Pujols and Wilson provide approximately 11 WAR individually, because of who the Angels leave out of the lineup, I estimate that 11 gets cut down to about 9 WAR over the alternative lineup before the trade. Whatever the exact numbers are, the Angels are going to have a significantly better team in 2012 than they would have otherwise. Nine wins is the difference between the playoffs, and staying at home playing MLB The Show 2013 (which should come out around….oh the ALCS in 2012).

Here’s the deal, though. The Ms are gearing up to compete in 2013 and 2014, not 2012, and it seems like that has been the plan for a while. None of the Mariners four and five-star prospects–Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Nick Franklin—will see the field until the end of 2012 at the earliest.

The Angles are going to have some issues preparing for 2013 and beyond. This year, Pineiro’s contract is up, but the Angels could have had Abreu’s $9M salary off the books, too. In their infinite wisdom, the Angels let his option vest when Mike Trout should have been playing, effectively meaning they have to pay him to not play the 2012 season. And here’s what happens to the Angels in 2013: every player above marked by a “**” will be free agent in 2013. Guess what! Free agents cost a lot of money, and the Angels will be spending quite a pretty penny on Wilson, Pujols and Vernon Wells already (combined about $62M per year for just those three—newsflash: a baseball team requires 25 players). With Kendrick, Aybar, Haren, Hunter and Santana (worth an estimated 14-15 WAR per season) needing to be re-paid or replaced, the Angels may very well not be able to provide a supporting cast for the aging stars Pujols, Wells and Wilson. 15 WAR costs about $75M* on the free agent market, maybe more by next offseason, and now Moreno’s tab is up to $137M for eight players. In other words, unless these signings have an unexpectedly huge impact on revenue outside winning, the Angels may have just one really good shot before dropping back to being a playoff bubble team.

It all depends on how much Moreno is willing to maintain his huge payroll in the next five years, but based on how he’s spending now, he likely won’t be able to spend more later. Pujols, Wells and Wilson are already into their thirties, and won’t get any cheaper. In 2013, just as the Angels are figuring out they can’t afford to direct an all-star cast, the Mariners will be paying cheap money for some great talent, with all kinds of money to spend on complementary free agents.

The Angels will need couple things to happen before their all-in bet can work out beyond 2012. Pujols and Wilson need to age well, and GM Jerry Dipoto has to find low-cost talent to fill out the roster. Based on the Angels’ valuations of guys like Wells and Mike Napoli, I wouldn’t bet on it. The Angels will be excellent in 2012, and will probably be good for years after that; that’s what $200M payrolls do. But they won’t be great so long as they’re paying lots of money to a few players, and as long as they continue to employ Jerry Dipoto.

*The Harvard Sports Analysis Committee estimated that the market is cheaper this particular offseason, but this is likely only a blip, and just means that the Angels overspent on Pujols.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: