Prematurely Grading The M’s Off-Season Acquisitions

Because it’s never too early to hand out progress reports.

*Editor’s note: The following list only applies to players who have logged Major League service time thus far in 2010. Likewise, players who were re-signed to contracts (i.e. Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Sweeney, etc.) are not considered. This report card is solely designed to assess the play of new offseason acquisitions.

Player: Milton Bradley

How acquired: Via trade with the Chicago Cubs, in exchange for pitcher Carlos Silva.

2010 salary: $11,000,000

Grade: D-

This trade would go down as a complete failure if Bradley hadn’t been one of the team’s hottest hitters before going on the reserve list with mental instability. On top of that, it certainly doesn’t help matters that Silva has turned into the second-coming of Chet Steadman in the Windy City.

Despite Bradley going nutso and Silva on his way to a Cy Young, this trade can still be salvaged if and when two things happen.

One, Bradley must rejoin the team as the hitter he is capable of being.

Two, Silva needs to return to form as the Carlos Silva we’re all more familiar with.

Number one is imperative. Number two would be nice.

For now, though, we wait.

***

Player: Eric Byrnes

How acquired: Claimed off waivers from Arizona.

2010 salary: $400,000

Grade: F

That Byrnes is no longer with us is probably the only positive we can take away from this whole fiasco. His replacements (in the forms of Ryan Langerhans and Michael Saunders) have been bright spots in the team’s lineup recently, and without the M’s mitigating their losses by cutting bait with the Beach Cruiser, we might not have anything to like about the situation.

Any time you give up on a guy one month into the season, you have to deem the experiment an abject failure. And that’s precisely what the Byrnes experiment turned into. That the team paid the veteran outfielder the league minimum in salary is irrelevant; just wasting time with Byrnes was exactly that, a waste.

In spite of his on-field inconsistencies, we can always look back fondly on Byrnes’ brief tenure with the club as an entertaining source of lunacy. Between the worst squeeze play in history, the face-first warning track dives, and the clubhouse bicycle incident, at least we can say we shared a few laughs.

***

Player: Jesus Colome

How acquired: Signed to a minor league contract.

2010 salary: $400,000

Grade: C+

Colome was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma just one week into the start of the season and has been with the big league club ever since.

In seven appearances, the right-handed reliever has been adequate. He currently owns a 4.26 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 12 2/3 innings of work. Nothing spectacular, but nothing too horrible either.

As a minor league contract guy, the team has arguably received more than what they could have expected from the 33-year-old just by calling him up to the team. If Colome remains on the 25-man roster for the rest of the year and doesn’t flat-out suck, he’ll become quite a bargain and much more than just a low-cost investment.

***

Chone Figgins has struggled out of the gate.

Player: Chone Figgins

How acquired: Signed to a four-year, $36,000,000 contract.

2010 salary: $8,500,000

Grade: D

For the amount of money invested and the level of expectation surrounding a perennial starter like Figgins, this move has been an absolute disappointment thus far for the organization.

The former Los Angeles Angel leads the team in walks (25), but has found few other ways to get on base besides that. His .185 batting average and .235 slugging percentage rank him last among the everyday players. More egregiously, his current .555 OPS is nearly 200 points lower than his career OPS of .745.

Defensively, Figgins has been an upgrade on the right side of the infield, but that has done very little to offset his atrocious offense.

Perhaps the most frightening part about this deal is that Figgins is still under contract for three more seasons. At age 32, it’s possible that the infielder’s best days are behind, which could very well mean it’s all downhill from here.

***

Player: Casey Kotchman

How acquired: Via trade with the Boston Red Sox, in exchange for infielder/outfielder Bill Hall, a player to be named later, and cash.

2010 salary: $3,517,500

Grade: D

Brought here for his defense, Kotchman has been more or less a one-trick pony after the first six weeks of play. He’s got a good glove, all right. Too bad he can’t hit worth a damn.

A peasant’s John Olerud, the former Angel/Brave/Red Sock actually got off to a nice start in the season’s first month. As of April 19, Kotchman was batting .286 with a .962 OPS, had hit three home runs, and had driven in 12 runs.

Fast forward to May 13 and it’s a completely different story.

These days, Kotchman remains at three home runs on the season, has only upped his RBI total by two (to 14), and sports a .191 average to go with a .638 OPS. Yikes.

Even worse, his struggles have been especially bad as of late. Kotchman’s most recent run batted in came all the way back on April 24. In nine May contests, the first baseman has a batting average of .069, an OPS of .309, and has just two hits to his credit, a single and a double. That’s downright ugly.

The team has no obligation to Kotchman beyond this season, and at this rate the 27-year-old will be lucky to make it all the way through the year in a Mariners uniform.

***

Player: Brandon League

How acquired: Via trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, along with minor league outfielder Johermyn Chavez, in exchange for pitcher Brandon Morrow.

2010 salary: $1,087,500

Grade: B

As erratic as they come, League has been either really good or really bad in the majority of his outings. Lucky for him, he has been more good than bad.

A 3-3 record, 3.98 ERA, and 1.18 WHIP are numbers none too exceptional for a hard-throwing setup man. That League has one save to his credit and has been the absolute workhouse of the team’s bullpen (he leads all full-time relievers with 20 1/3 innings pitched), however, is a major plus.

With Brandon Morrow floundering in Toronto, the 27-year-old League is far and away the best player to emerge in this deal. For now, at least.

***

Cliff Lee has given M's fans reason to smile.

Player: Cliff Lee

How acquired: Via trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, in exchange for minor league prospects Tyson Gillies (OF), Phillippe Aumont (P), and Juan Ramirez (P).

2010 salary: $9,000,000

Grade: A

Though he started the year on the disabled list, Lee has been lights out in three starts since regaining his health.

In spite of a 1-1 win-loss record, Lee could very well be 3-0 if the Mariners produced any semblance of an offense.

More indicative of what the former Cy Young winner has done is his 2.01 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 22 1/3 innings pitched.

In each of his outings, Lee has tossed seven innings or more. Along the way, he has averaged five strikeouts per game.

With his contract set to expire after this season, the M’s will be hard-pressed to retain the services of their ace southpaw. Especially when you consider Lee’s performances in correspondence with the rest of the team. (Translation: He’s pitching great, but their hitting sucks. Who would want to play for a team like that?)

***

Player: Kanekoa Texeira

How acquired: Via Rule V Draft from the New York Yankees organization.

2010 salary: $400,000

Grade: B+

Expectations are always fairly tepid for a Rule V draft pick. Texeira is no exception.

A right-handed pitcher who has provided satisfactory middle relief, Texeira will have to stay on the team’s 25-man roster all season long or risk being sold back to the Yankees for half the price the M’s paid for his services (and for the record, the team obtained Tex for $50,000 and would have to offer him back to the Bronx Bombers for $25,000). All of which means we should see Texeira in a Seattle uniform for the entirety of 2010.

Not that that’s a bad thing. The 24-year-old has been better than anticipated, and has come on strong as of late. In his first three major league outings, the native Hawaiian allowed four earned runs. Since then, he has appeared in seven games, giving up a lone earned run in the process.

Subtract his bumpy trio of appearances to kick off the year, and Texeira has a 1.13 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP, and a 4/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Not bad at all for a rookie.

4 thoughts on “Prematurely Grading The M’s Off-Season Acquisitions”

  1. The thing is, its not like we gave up anything really to get any of these guys besides Figgins. And while he has struggled, he has found other ways to get on base and been a good defensive second basemen. I don’t think any of the prospects we gave up for Lee had much of a major league future, they all had significant short comings.

  2. “Despite Bradley going nutso…”

    hey look, Alex, I realize the guy has not shown much of a likable persona onfield or off, here or there (Mr. Bradley has had his share of theres). This said, I’ve known a few people through the years with long-standing emotional challenges and anger management issues, and the “nutso” crack demonstrates real lack of class. Being a longtime very avid M’s fan, I was elated to witness how the M’s organization circled their wagons around Milton Bradley, and I’m not talking about Sweeney’s hugs and “beautiful heart” stories. Sure, management has little to lose in providing a $10 mil/year player with professional help, but I dare say that if ever in your life you find yourself facing a tough emotional stretch, you might enjoy receiving a bit of grace when you ask for it. I’m one fan who was very happy to see the course the organization took and hope Mr. Bradley comes back with a roar is his bat, Buddha and Lord know the M’s need more roaring bats, fewer hugs and tickles and fewer still bloggers throwing potshots below the belt.

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