Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Return of the Kid...Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

As I'm sure you've heard, the Mariners inked Ken Griffey Jr. to another one-year extension yesterday. The deal, however, has been criticized by notable figures in the Mariners sabermetric community.

Dave Cameron at USS Mariner cites diminished roster flexibility as his chief critique:
If we assume that the M’s are going to carry 12 pitchers again, that leaves them with a four man bench. One of those spots is reserved for the back-up catcher, and now Junior occupies another. That means the final two bench spots have to serve as the reserves for the other eight spots on the field.
Meanwhile, Jon at formerly-Bleeding Blue and Teal now-Pro Ball NW maintains a snarky ambivalence:
"Whatever...[h]opefully Griffey can use his super dooper clubhouse chemistry powers to lure in a free agent that Seattle otherwise would have trouble pulling."
Of course, there are plenty of the old-guard writers who excitedly await Griffey's return to the clubhouse. These include sabermetric averse writers who fawn over veterans and uncritical Mariners fans.

I feel that the oft-cited clubhouse tangibles that Griffey brought to the team this past season and increased Griffey-related merchandise sales are worth the $3.5 million (reported value of the contract if all incentives are met). The contract is hardly an albatross; monetarily, the incentive-laden deal is similar to the last minute deal he signed this past spring.

On the field, in ~450 PA, he somehow led the team in walks...though that may be more an indicator of how O-ffensive the offense was in '09 than anything else. That said, I harbor no fantasies of a return to form and I'm sure Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik doesn't either. It doesn't help that Griffey had surgery on Oct. 26 to remove bone spurs from his soon-to-be 40 year-old knees.

I'll concede the roster flexibility criticism to a certain degree. Jack Hannahan, Bill Hall and Matt Tuiasasopo can be utilized as super-subs in many positions to help fortify an already outstanding defense. Griffey, however, will most likely be utilized as SS Jack Wilson's late-inning pinch hitter against RHP. Wakamatsu, depending on who else Zduriencik acquires this offseason, can mix-and-match with the remaining bench players. Wak effectively mitigated Griffey's on field-presence as much as he could, particularly given Endy Chavez' injury and early-season roster deficiencies that weren't addressed until the arrivals of Hannahan and Hall. I'm confident that he'll be able to do the same in 2010.

Bottom line though, I like the move as a baseball fan because it allows me to see one of my favorite players evah continue to have an impact on my favorite team. Whether it's a net positive impact remains to be seen.

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