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First major free-agent signing
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Author:  Wabberjocky [ Mon Nov 21, 2005 2:27 pm ]
Post subject:  First major free-agent signing

The Seattle Mariners signed Japanese catcher Kenji Jojima, 29, to a three-year deal valued at $16.5 million.

Thus ends a courtship in which Jojima spurned the Mets, refusing even to meet with GM Omar Minaya.

This is huge. Baseball Prospectus has done a lot of credible work with translating Japanese statistics, and, even with adjusting for Safeco Field's cavernous confines, it's projected by some Mariner blogger friends of mine who have been associated with BP that Jojima will hit close to .300, with an on-base percentage of .340 and a slugging percentage up around .500.

In other words, he could have nearly the offensive impact that Ichiro had when he came to Seattle in 2001.

Combined with the re-signing of closer Eddie Guardado, the Mariners are now in a prime position to bag a premium free-agent pitcher. A.J. Burnett or Kevin Millwood, anyone?

Author:  wordygurdy [ Mon Nov 21, 2005 2:33 pm ]
Post subject: 

I'd be careful about characterizing Millwood and Burnett as premium free-agent pitchers. Free agents, yes; premium, not sure.

By the way, what's up with Ichiro and Mike Hargrove? Ichiro's got his nose out of joint about something, eh? From what I read, it seems as if Ichiro's getting a little too big for his britches. The buzz in New York is that perhaps the Mariners could deal Ichiro to the Yanks to play center, with the Mariners asking for Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang.

I would deal Cano straight up for Ichiro, but I would keep Wang.

Author:  Wabberjocky [ Mon Nov 21, 2005 2:56 pm ]
Post subject: 

Ichiro will not be traded. His value to the franchise far exceeds what he does on the field.

Ichiro sounded off to a Japanese newspaper recently about how he felt certain teammates gave up too early in the season, playing cards in the clubhouse instead of rigorously preparing like others. His agent characterized him as "disappointed but not unhappy."

It'll all blow over. Ichiro is THE franchise, and as long as the Mariners have a majority Japanese owner, whatever needs to be done to accommodate him will be done. Bringing back Guardado was part of that plan, and so was adding Jojima (especially now that the M's have said goodbye to Shigetoshi Hasegawa). He is the face of the M's earnest Pacific Rim marketing, and at virtually every Safeco game, Japanese tourists by the thousands pack the seats to get a glimpse of their rock-star-like idol. He is a revenue-generating machine for the Mariners. Oh, yeah ... and he's still a great player — still one of baseball's best defenders, and, even hitting "just" .300, still a dangerous on-base machine with power he can unload at any time.

As far as Burnett and Millwood go, they are the top free-agent pitchers on the market this offseason. So they're "premium," relative to that market, with guys like Jarrod Washburn and Matt Morris making up the second tier.

Author:  Wabberjocky [ Thu Nov 24, 2005 5:37 pm ]
Post subject: 

Something that gets overlooked at free-agent-signing time is that the signings aren't really "free" — in addition to the money a free agent costs, a team must also give up a high draft pick to the player's former team. Stories about free-agent signings always overlook this amid the "WE GOT DAVID CONE!!!!! (or whoever) hoopla, but a lot of these draft picks come back to haunt their former teams.

This is something a discerning baseball fan would do well to educate themselves on, if only a little. One of the best sources for good, informed analysis and speculation about baseball's future stars — and about the types of compensation due for the different classifications of free agents (types A, B and C) can be found from Jim Callis at Baseball America.

Scroll about halfway down for a short but enlightening breakdown and explanation of free-agent classification and compensation.

Next treatise soon: The Rule 5 draft.

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