The Mariners netted themselves another viable hitter on Saturday, swapping right-hander Paul Blackburn for Athletics’ infielder Danny Valencia, but GM Jerry Dipoto thinks it could spell the end for first baseman Dae-Ho Lee and outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.
Although the Mariners haven’t refused to extend offers to Lee or Gutierrez yet, the Tacoma News Tribune’s Bob Dutton reported that Valencia is expected to platoon with Dan Vogelbach at first base and in the outfield corners with Seth Smith, Nelson Cruz, and Guillermo Heredia. That leaves little room for Lee, who manned 84 of 104 games at first base during his first major league season and was utilized in a DH and pinch-hit capacity during the other 20 appearances.
As for the outfield situation, Dipoto plans on handing 24-year-old Ben Gamel one of the outfield corners while Leonys Martin patrols center field. While the Mariners expect to see the majority of Valencia’s starts at first base, he could duke it out with at least three other players for the outfield corner — four, if Gutierrez stays in the mix.
Neither Lee nor Gutierrez were standouts at the plate during the 2016 season, which doesn’t help either free agent as the Mariners solidify their 2017 roster. Lee batted .253/.312/.428 in 317 PA, producing 14 home runs and a .740 OPS as one of Seattle’s few right-handed hitters. For Gutierrez, 2016 saw another dip in his offensive production with a .246/.329/.452 batting line and 14 home runs in 283 PA.
We’ve heard the back and forth between players and owners on money, on safety, on the size and the shape of the season. But not until now have we heard just how little baseball Major League Baseball and its owners actually want: 48 games.
That’s all they want, at least if they have to, as agreed, pay players their prorated salaries on a per-game basis. That’s the report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who writes this morning on the state of the current negotiations.
Passan’s article has a lot more than that. It contains a number of financial calculations about how much teams say they stand to lose per game played under any given scenario. That said, given the near total opacity when it comes to owner finances, we have no real way to evaluate the claims. The players have a bit more access to league financials, but even they are reported to be unsatisfied with what the owners have shared in that regard. So, while interesting, nothing Passan presents there is really convincing. It stakes out the positions of the parties but doesn’t really tell us much about the merits.
Which is to say that a 48-game schedule sounds like either (a) a bluff aimed at getting the players to offer financial concessions; or (b) a declaration from the owners that they’d prefer almost no baseball if it means that they have to lose any money. The whole “we’ll happily take the benefits of a good market but won’t bother if there’s a chance we might lose money” approach I’ve lambasted in this space before.
We’ll see soon which it is.