The MLB Hot Stove is upon us, but it has yet to warm up. This is the time of year when some ballclubs must make decisions that will alter their future for years to come.
You have your clear contenders and rebuilding teams. The rest are in the middle with no clear direction or perception. Some of these squads are in somewhat of a ‘No Man’s Land” because they have veteran talent and eye-popping payrolls but have maxed out their results, but they don’t match expectations.
And with no bright light to look forward to, they should strongly consider tearing things down and starting all over. Here are the two teams that need to seriously think about it.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants have now missed the playoff in three of their last four seasons, including the previous two years. They finished last in the NL West during 2017 with 98 losses and 40 games out of first. They improved by nine wins in 2018, which still put them at 18.5 games out. And this isn’t some young, rebuilding franchise that is looking to take steps each year.
San Francisco had the third-oldest roster and the second-highest payroll from all 30 teams in 2018. Yet, they were abysmal once again. The front office believed that they had a chance to compete after a horrid 2017, which is why they decided to ‘retool’ or ‘reload,’ instead of rebuild, and brought in veterans like Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, Derek Holland, and Tony Watson.
Suffice to say, it didn’t work out, and now they are at crossroads. They have a bloated payroll with aging veterans who aren’t worth the money, but there was foreshadowing to this a few years ago; management just didn’t want to accept it and tear everything down.
However, former Head of Baseball Operations Brian Sabean took a step down to a vice president role, perhaps signaling a change in a different direction. But, they should not just stop there, instead, opting to tear everything down completely.
They are not going to be competitive with this roster and need to start cleaning up some contracts to make the future less bleak. Their payroll for 2019 is projected at around $142 million without arbitration and free agency costs.
Mark Melancon and Jeff Samardzija are signed through 2020. Johnny Cueto, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Buster Posey are signed through 2021 (Posey has a club option for 2022). And Evan Longoria is locked up through 2022, with a club option for 2023. All are aging and have significant price tags attached to them. The core has had its run, but now it’s time to start fresh.
They need to start by trading off some of their more valuable assets and continue to build up the farm system. Madison Bumgarner is easily their most valuable trade chip. He’s in his prime, a proven left-handed ace who is big-time in the postseason, and owed just $12 million in 2019 before hitting free agency.
Brandon Belt’s value is up for debate, but the first baseman is a proven veteran that takes his walks and will hit for power. His price tag and health may be a turnoff for some clubs, but he can play. However, for the Giants, he’s become expendable. Posey is expected to eventually move to first base because of age and the fact that the team’s top prospect is a catcher.
Joe Panik is another guy, albeit coming off a terrible 2018, who can garner some interest. Before this season, he was perceived as a steady veteran at second base who could get on base at an above-average clip and not strike out. And he’s still in arbitration for two more seasons.
The Giants also have a group of relievers that can fetch something on the market. Perhaps they can use their most valuable assets to create some payroll flexibility by attaching them to the big contracts, and in return go for lesser prospects. And that is where the scouting department has to do its thing. Whatever the case, the San Francisco Giants need to end this era and begin a new one officially.
People say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And you can argue that the Seattle Mariners have exemplified that better than anyone, as they try to end a soon-to-be 18-year playoff drought.
They’ve come close a few times over the years: one game out in 2014 and three in 2016. 2018 looked like the year the drought was finally going to end, but, after an excellent first half of baseball, the Mariners collapsed in the second half, losing both their AL West lead and falling out of the wild-card race.
The offensive core of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager just hasn’t been able to get it done over the past five seasons. Neither have the additions of Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, and Dee Gordon. And the starting pitching hasn’t been what they envisioned either, with James Paxton struggling to stay healthy and Felix Hernandez hitting a decline like no other. Even the bullpen is solid and anchored by an elite reliever in Edwin Diaz.
They’ve had excellent talent; talent that’s good, but just hasn’t been good enough to get over the hump. And they have roughly $131 million committed to 2019 before arbitration, free agency, and team control costs. So maybe it’s no surprise that Jerry Dipoto is considering blowing things up.
Sources: The Mariners are considering a full-fledged teardown this winter. If trade market is strong, they’ve told teams they’re willing to move just about anyone. And if that happens, they have indicated they’re willing to wait a few years to build a competitive team again.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 6, 2018
And they have trade assets that can get them a pretty penny which could help restock arguably the worst farm system in the game.
Mitch Haniger is proving to be a steal for Seattle, and with him just entering his prime and under team control for four more years, the Mariners can lure a team in need of a bat to pay a high price. James Paxton has had injury issues but is a frontline arm when healthy. And he’s under team control, for two more seasons. Jean Segura is a shortstop who can hit and will fetch some value as well.
Edwin Diaz is a 24-year-old reliever coming off arguably the best season of any bullpen arm. He had a 1.96 ERA, 1.61 FIP, 0.791 WHIP, and 124 strikeouts (44.2% of batters) in 73.1 innings. Best of all, he is under team control for four more seasons and would still be 28 at free agency.
The front also office needs to decide on third baseman Kyle Seager, who is coming off a career-worst season but was still able to hit 22 home runs.
Dipoto has been an aggressive executive since taking over the reins in Seattle, so there’s no reason to foresee him stopping. But, instead of continuing to pull from the farm, he should consider cutting down on payroll and move some of his most valuable pieces to help restock it.
Rebuilding would also mean letting Nelson Cruz walk unless it’s for one year to pair him with Robbie Cano and keep them somewhat competitive.
The Mariners are in an unenviable position, and the easy choice would be to tear it all down and start from scratch. Why keep trying what doesn’t work?