Inside The Park

Baseball\’s Future in the Emerald City

What is the Baseball World Coming To?

Posted by JasonAChurchill on February 28, 2006

First, it was our friend Bob Finnigan jumping the scoop on the possibility that the Mariners will extend the contract of 33-year-old OF/DH Raul Ibanez for two more years and at more than $5 million per season.

Then we get word of the ridiculous extension that former Mariners outfielder Randy Winn received from the San Francisco Giants. The deal will pay Winn just under $8 millon per season through the age of 35.

Also today, the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to a three-year contract with shortstop Jack Wilson.

Wilson is a nifty-fielding shortstop with very modest career numbers – .263/.304/.368. Yep, you are reading correctly, Wilson’s career OPS over his five-year career is .672, or the non-adjusted equivalent of what Jeremy Reed accomplished last season in a disappointing season.

What’s my beef? The Bucs gave Wilson $20 million, that’s my beef.

If we assume that Wilson is a great defender, which may not even be an assumption to begin with, he very well may be truly great defensively, is he worth anywhere near $7 million per season?

He’s not a player that is still developing his offensive skills, he is what he is. His numbers are down slightly from his career numbers, and at 28, he’s not going to flip some switch all of a sudden.

It’s one thing for the Seattle Mariners, they of a top 10 MLB payroll of over $90 million, to pay $5.5 million for an offensive asset, even if Ibanez is just a DH and leaving his prime, and for San Francisco, a club that ranked in the upper-middle of the pack over the past three season in team payroll, to pay a center fielder who will produce at the top of the order the $8 million per year that Randy Winn is now due.

It’s another issue altogether for the Pittsburgh Pirates to give Jack Wilson twenty million frijoles.

Pittsburgh paid out $35 million in player salaries in 2005, and have budgeted for about $47 million in ’06.

Wilson was already scheduled to make $4.6 million this upcoming season, 10% of the team’s payroll, which can be argued as too much for a player of Wilson’s impact, or lack thereof, to be holding down.

In ’07, the year in which would have been Wilson’s free agent year, he’ll be 29 and making $5.25 million, likely about 10% of the club’s payroll, unless Pitt plans to bust the budget – highly unlikely.

In 2008, year two of the extension, Wilson will make $6.5 million. Not sure I can foresee Pittsburgh’s owners raising payroll to $65 million, which means Wilson will soak up more than 10% of the club’s financial responsibilities to the 40-man roster.

To compare and contrast, the Mariners will pay Yuniesky Betancourt less than $500,000 per year through 2008. Years in which the Cuban will be 24, 25 and 26 years old, and certain to dupe or trump Wilson’s offensive output while doing his own thing with the glove which goes unmatched in the game.

Wait, don’t go away. It gets worse for Pirates fans.

Wilson, at age 30, when he is likely to still be hitting in the 260s with a sub-.400 slugging percentage, or at least not much better than those mediocre numbers, will make $7.25 million, probably about 15% of the Pirates payroll. It’s very difficult to even pretend that Pittsburgh’s small-market ownership is working its way to payrolls above $50-55 million over the next few seasons.

The Pirates say they are trying to build a winner. Jack Wilson says he believes in them, which is why he signed the extension. But in order to compete in that division, or in any division, Pittsburgh needs to sign free-agent pitching. Their farm system was once loaded with potential on the mound, but the subsequent surgeries of John Van Benschoeten, Sean Burnett and former No. 1 overall pick Bryan Bullington, have left Pitt with Zach Duke and a slew of other question marks.

Oliver Perez’s health would go a long ways in that regard, but that’s more than a question mark, it’s rather large bet that not even the Pirates can feel safe making.

Pat Maholm is another prospect with solid potential, but how far away is he, and the aforementioned foursome from being helpful, let alone impactful, on the Pirates 25-man roster?

So instead of putting themselves in a position to ink a solid to big-name free agent starter such as Barry Zito, Kerry Wood, Jason Marquis, Mark Mulder or Doug Davis, they spent most of that money to keep a below average shortstop for three extra years.

The Pirates have holes offensively, too, and their catching situation is not in the best of hands. This club has no business handing Jack Wilson that kind of money.

Brian Sabean, and to a lesser extent Chowie Lincolnstrong (I won’t indict Bavasi on the Ibanez extension), are now safe, for the time being, from being ridiculed by me for their outrageous contract extensions over the past week.

Dave Littlefield will take the honor of dumbest GM in baseball – for now, anyways.

The game is full of idiotic personnel decisions. This is just one of dozens that will occur this season. Hopefully for the fans in this city, not too many of them will happen with the M’s.

For reference, Jack Wilson’s baseball-reference list of similar bats. (recent player comps only)
Comps – Kevin Stocker, David Eckstein, Royce Clayton, Shawon Dunston, Kurt Stillwell

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3 Responses to “What is the Baseball World Coming To?”

  1. Goose said

    “Dave Littlefield will take the honor of dumbest GM in baseball – for now, anyways.”

    Allard Baird looks up and says:

    “Boy! Is that a challenge?!”

  2. Whoah. This almost sounds like a move the M’s could make with Willie Boom Boom Dynamite. As Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe said to the Germans in WWII, “Nuts!”

  3. It’s only going to get worse.

    It’s a trickle-down effect from clubs trying to avoid a winter situation where they overspend.

    Instead of 5 years and 75 million for Carlos Lee, they pay 2 and 11 for Raul Ibanez – for example.

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