Should Seattle Mariners Exercise Reported Payroll Flexibility?

Todd Pheifer@tpheiferAnalyst IIIFebruary 4, 2013

The Seattle Mariners have some team payroll flexibility. At least, that is according to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Baker’s analysis appears to be solid, but this raises a question: Should the Mariners spend just because they can?

Baker suggests that the Mariners will have a payroll that is somewhere in the neighborhood of $79 million for 2013. The sad reality is that $8.5 million of that will go to Chone Figgins, who is no longer on the team.

The assumption is that the Mariners have the money to spend simply because they reportedly made an offer (via to Josh Hamilton for a substantial yearly salary.

Obviously, some fans were disappointed to lose out on Hamilton, but it did result in an intriguing outcome. Specifically, the Mariners were reportedly willing to spend some big money on a free agent.

Quick! Find someone else and sign him before management changes its mind!

Unfortunately, there are few players left from a free-agent class that wasn’t terribly deep in the first place.

Should we bring up the name Michael Bourn one more time? As noted by Lookout Landing, the rumors about Bourn will not go away, even though there is not a lot of evidence that the Mariners are actually interested in or pursuing the former member of the Atlanta Braves.

Is there a reason that Bourn remains unsigned? If he is such a valuable commodity, why was he ranked so high on the free-agent list (via but has yet to find a new home? Seattle cannot be the only team that could benefit from a speedy outfielder.

As much as Bourn might be an upgrade over other outfielders on the Seattle roster, he would create a serious logjam. The Mariners may be lacking in quality, but they do not necessarily need another outfielder at this point.

Spring training is going to be confusing enough.

In addition, Bourn could potentially be a very expensive signing who locks up the payroll for many years to come. There are still articles suggesting that signing him would be a good fit (via for the Mariners, though this is still a controversial topic.

In addition to the financial burden, Bourn would cost the Mariners a future first-round draft pick. That can be a valuable commodity, so it should not be given up lightly.

It seems reasonable to suggest that Bourn may remain on the market without signing a contract. This may be a case where teams are interested in Bourn, but are hoping that the price will keep dropping as spring training approaches.

Eventually, Bourn may be available for a deal of two or three years.

There is certainly room for this Mariners team to improve, and fans have remained very patient with the franchise. However, there may be wisdom in passing on Bourn, Grady Sizemore or a pitcher like Kyle Lohse.

Bourn still looks like a 30-year-old who could be primed for a decline in a season or two. Simply because the Mariners do not have a “true” leadoff hitter does not mean that they should break the bank on the best remaining free-agent option.

An upgrade does not necessarily equal actual quality.

The fact that Seattle is willing to spend money is a good sign for a team that could use a marquee name in its lineup. However, spending for the sake of spending should usually be avoided.

This is not a gift card that will expire before the season begins.

This lineup has real potential, and the additions of Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse, combined with the growth of several of the young hitters, could lead to positive results in 2013.

A figure of $79 million is not overly high in today’s world of Major League Baseball, but perhaps Seattle should save its cash for the next free-agent class, as well as long-term deals for Felix Hernandez and some of the young hitters.

Spending does not always represent progress.


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