Is Melky Cabrera the right move for the Mariners?

Dec 9, 2014, 5:28 PM | Updated: Dec 10, 2014, 5:06 pm
Signing Melky Cabrera would help the M’s now but could hamstring their spending ability down ...
Signing Melky Cabrera would help the M's now but could hamstring their spending ability down the road. (AP)
(AP)

There has been no movement on the outfielder front at the Winter Meetings so far but we could see something soon. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com Tweeted Tuesday that the Matt Kemp sweepstakes could be down to one team.

“Hear Orioles, Rangers and Mariners, early Kemp players, are all out on him. Seems like might be Padres or bust,” Heyman wrote.

The Padres are reportedly willing to part with Yasmani Grandal and possibly one of their better pitching prospects, Matt Wisler, to bring Kemp to San Diego. No word yet on how much of his salary the Dodgers would pick up, but if the report is true then the Mariners will have to move on from a player that has had their attention since the trade deadline last year.

Will they turn to Justin Upton? It seems unlikely as there are reports that the Braves are trying package him with third baseman Chris Johnson, who is owed $23 million over the next three years. They are also reportedly trying to pair up Evan Gattis, with the even more unpalatable salary that comes with B.J. Upton. The Braves need to move at least one of these players with the addition of Nick Markakis, but the Mariners simply may not be a fit if they are unwilling to part with starting pitching.

Melky Cabrera is still available and there are reports that the Mariners are the favorite to sign him, but I wouldn’t pencil him into the lineup quite yet. If this was as simple as giving him a Nelson Cruz-type deal, it would most likely be done by now.

While Cabrera, like Cruz, would look good in the lineup next year, how would that look four years from now? The thing to remember here is, aside from the Hisahsi Iwakuma and Fernando Rodney contracts – a total of $14 million in 2015 – the Mariners do not have any big salaries coming off the books until Cruz’s deal expires after the 2018 season. If the Mariners make this deal you would have to think they are done for awhile giving out bigger contracts.

I’ve talked about this quite a bit on this blog but even without knowing what the Mariners’ payroll will be, it is still safe to say the payroll is unbalanced and will get more so in the coming years.

The Mariners will spend from $66 million to $84 million annually on four players though 2018. Add Cabrera to the mix and they will approach the $100 million mark. In 2015 and 2016 the Angels will spend $80 and $85 million on four players and then $78 million on three in 2017. The Rangers will pay $66 million to four players in 2015 and $54 million to three players from 2016-2018.

All along we have been told that with the Mariners’ new television deal their payroll would eventually be competitive with those of Anaheim and Texas. We are starting to see that. There is little doubt that both clubs will replace the big salaries that come off their payrolls with other big salaries.
That will be the problem. Those teams will be filling needs at that point while the Mariners may not be able to do so via free agency because of the money they have tied up.

The Mariners have to take into account what the roster looks like in 2017 and 2018 when making decisions. Yes, the window is open to compete now, but you also don’t want to wake up a few years from now and find them in the situation the Phillies are in now. They got their World Series, they spent a quarter of a billion dollars on payroll last year and now their general manager has come out and said they probably won’t be competitive for a couple of years.

If you have questions about Cruz or Cabrera and their production three and four years out, you might think twice before making another large financial commitment.

There are still options. Alex Rios is still a possibility. Would he be a perfect No. 2 hitter like Cabrera? No, but he could be useful if platooned. There could be other trades available as well. The Nationals come to mind with a rather crowded outfield. Perhaps the price comes down with Yoenis Cespedes. There is always the possibility of making a deadline deal as well.

How do you balance the present with the future? Do the Mariners have to give up one of either future dollars or future players to be successful this year? Which is more valuable to them and their future at this point?

Notes

• This has been linked in a number of places but in case you missed it, Franklin Gutierrez made his winter ball debut Monday night and homered in his first at bat. Check out the clip. The call is spectacular.

• For future planning as several of you have asked, Fanfest will be Jan. 24 and 25.

• In his meeting with the Rangers beat writers, Texas general manager Jon Daniels said with the Rule 5 draft coming up Thursday that they would protect Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on their Triple-A roster.

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Is Melky Cabrera the right move for the Mariners?