Even as the Mariners talked to commissioner Bud Selig on Monday to determine the rules in pursuing their next general manager – and whether they could approach playoff teams for permission to immediately talk to candidates – there was more than speculation involving where the team goes next.
For one thing, any candidate making a pitch is going to have to come up with ideas on what to do with the nine players already under contract for $75.9 million in 2009.
And those numbers don’t include the Mariners’ top two starting pitchers, Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard, both of whom are arbitration eligible.
Add them to the mix, and it’s probable that whoever runs this franchise from the GM’s office next year is going to face a payroll of $86 million or more for 11 players.
Beyond that, the team as of now lacks a left fielder, a center fielder and a designated hitter, has problems at catcher and has a second baseman with only adequate range who doesn’t want to change positions.
Oh, and there are two members of the 2008 opening day rotation – Carlos Silva and Miguel Batista – whose earned run averages were higher than 6.00 and whose 2009 salaries total $20 million.
When the interview process begins, team CEO Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong could be forgiven for looking over the team roster and telling the candidates one thing:
Go ahead – make my day.
“We’re looking for new blood, new ideas,” Lincoln said.
The team is going to need that and more.
Just who will be the next Mariners GM – or, for that matter, who will interview for the position – is little more than a matter of media speculation today.
Armstrong insists the Mariners have not talked to a single candidate yet.
And not all of those they want to interview will be allowed.
“I’m sure some teams will deny our request when we seek permission to talk to one of their employees,” Armstrong said.
The candidates, at least those laid out in a wide circle of speculation, range from current GMs to experienced assistants.
Brian Cashman’s name was eliminated Tuesday when he signed on for another three years with the Yankees. But Milwaukees Doug Melvin could be interested; he reportedly was unhappy when forced to fire Brewers manager Ned Yost late in September.
There’s Peter Woodfork, an assistant in Arizona whose baseball career began in the commissioner’s office – in the media relations department.
If the Mariners want to break barriers, the most intriguing candidate is Los Angeles Dodgers assistant Kim Ng (pronounced “Ang”), a 39-year-old woman Baseball America named the best general manager candidate a year ago in its “Best Tools” issue.
She’s worked for the Yankees and Dodgers and the American League office, handled arbitration cases, scouting and player development departments and minor league systems.
There are former GMs out there – Randy Smith, Gerry Hunsicker, John Hart – and a raft of names that come up whenever a GM is fired.
Those include Toronto assistant Tony LaCava and Arizona numbers cruncher Jerry DiPoto,a former big-league pitcher. Another sabermetric disciple is former Dodgers GM Paul Depodesta, a Harvard man now working with the Padres.
All the interviews – and the interviewees – will be kept secret if possible by the Mariners, who hope to begin the process in earnest next week and have a GM named by late October.
That will coincide with the Oct. 31 contract expiration of manager Jim Riggleman and the entire coaching staff, none of whom is likely to be even interviewed for the managerial job.
There will be a hiring process for the new manager and his coaches, and there will be other details for a GM to deal with immediately.
Those include free agent outfielder Raul Ibañez, who made $5 million in 2008 and will be looking for far more money – and a winning scenario.
There are only two other Mariners free agents: reserves Willie Bloomquist and Miguel Cairo.
There are, aside from Hernandez and Bedard, three other players arbitration eligible: pitcher R.A. Dickey, catcher Jamie Burke and outfielder Jeremy Reed.
And then there’s the matter or reassembling the roster of a team that lost 101 games.
A challenge? Yes, but there are only 30 major league GM jobs available, and there are worse opportunities than working for an ownership group that spent close to $120 million in 2008.
When the interview process begins, candidates will be asked what they would do – in detail – with a team that had no one hit 30 home runs, has no one returning with as many as 90 RBI, couldn’t produce a 10-game winner and has only one returning player with more than six stolen bases.
Go ahead, Armstrong and Lincoln are likely to say – make our day.
Saluting THE GENERALS
The complete list of Mariners general managers:
Lee Pelekoudas2008 The free agent inventory
The 2009 free agent class is headlined by pitcher CC Sabathia, first baseman Mark Teixeira and outfielder Manny Ramirez, all of whom figure to command monumental contracts. Some of the big names:
Mark Teixeira, Angels
Carlos Delgado, Mets *
Jason Giambi, Yankees *
Mark Ellis, Athletics
Orlando Hudson, Diamondbacks
Jeff Kent, Dodgers
Orlando Cabrera, White Sox
Rafael Furcal, Dodgers
Edgar Renteria, Tigers
Casey Blake, Dodgers
Hank Blalock, Rangers *
Joe Crede, White Sox
Ivan Rodriguez, Yankees
Jason Varitek, Red Sox
Gregg Zaun, Blue Jays *
Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
Bobby Abreu, Yankees
Adam Dunn, Diamondbacks
Pat Burrell, Phillies
CC Sabathia, Brewers
Ben Sheets, Brewers
A.J. Burnett, Blue Jays
Ryan Dempster, Cubs
Jon Garland, Angels
Derek Lowe, Dodgers
Francisco Rodriguez, Angels
Trevor Hoffman, Padres
Jason Isringhausen, Cardinals
Kerry Wood, Cubs
* Club holds player option This much is spent
Salary Chart for 2009
Ichiro Suzuki$17 million
Adrian Beltre$12 million
Carlos Silva$11 million
Jarrod Washburn$10.3 million
Miguel Batista$9 million
Kenji Johjima$8 million
J.J. Putz$5 million
Yuniesky Betancourt$2 million
Jose Lopez$1.6 million
This is uncertain
Arbitration eligible'08 salary
Erik Bedard$7 million
The roster challenge
Wanna rebuild the Mariners, just as a new general manager will be asked to do? Here’s the shape of the roster you will start with.
What they have: A good beginning with Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, Brandon Morrow and Ryan-Rowland Smith.
What they need: Something of value from – or for – Carlos Silva, Miguel Batista and Jarrod Washburn.
What they have: A closer in J.J. Putz, good arms in Mark Lowe, Sean Green, Roy Corcoran and Cesar Jimenez.
What they need: Someone capable of working the eighth and a left-hander who can get lefties out.
What they have: Kenji Johjima, Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson, Jamie Burke.
What they need: Someone who can, like, catch, and more offense than they got in 2008.
What they have: Bryan LaHair, Jose Lopez.
What they need: Power and production. They got neither in ’08, and Lopez dislikes the position.
What they have: Lopez, Luis Valbuena.
What they need: Someone who can field like Valbuena and hit like Lopez, or just field like Valbuena.
What they have: Gold Glover Adrian Beltre, Matt Tuiasosopo.
What they need: Beltre, for more than one more year, or someone to replace him.
What they have: Yuniesky Betancourt.
What they need: A motivated, focused, mature Betancourt, or someone to replace him.
What they have: Ichiro Suzuki, Wladimir Balentien, Jeremy Reed.
What they need: A corner outfielder with a productive bat and a center fielder, or Ichiro in center and two corner outfielders.
What they have: A bunch of players who could go to the plate four times a game.
What they need: Someone who could do something with four at-bats a game.
First things first: GM candidates
The Mariners need a general manager, and team president Chuck Armstrong has his list of candidates, but he won’t share exactly how many are on it or give any hint who they might be. He did say he’s looking for “new blood and fresh thinking.” Here are eight names that could and should be on that list.
Kim Ng, Dodgers assistant GM
Widely respected with a high-quality résumé, she could be the first female general manager in baseball.
Tony LaCava, Blue Jays director of player personnel
Known as personable and smart and a good baseball man, LaCava will have more than the Mariners coveting his services.
David Forst, Athletics assistant GM
Much has been made of Billy Beane’s work with Oakland. Forst has been Beane’s go-to guy during that time.
Peter Woodfork, Diamondbacks assistant GM
He was a candidate for GM jobs last season after he helped GM Josh Byrnes rebuild the Diamondbacks into a postseason team last year.
Al Avila, Tigers assistant GM
He’s worked under Dave Dombrowski since the two were in Florida, including heading up the Marlins’ scouting that netted Miguel Cabrera.
Paul DePodesta, Padres assistant GM
His stint as general manager of the Dodgers wasn’t a success, but DePodesta is a “Moneyball” disciple of Beane and a well-regarded numbers man.
Jed Hoyer, Red Sox assistant GM
He was named Red Sox co-GM when Theo Epstein took a 10-week leave. He helped engineer the trade that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston.
Doug Melvin, Brewers GM
Melvin is rumored to have been extremely unhappy about being forced to fire manager Ned Yost a few weeks back and may be looking for a different situation.
Ryan Divish, The News Tribune