Ask the Diamond Genius 12/10

Jason A. Churchill answers your questions in the fourth installment of "Ask the Diamond Genius."

Q: Freddy Garcia for Nomar Garciaparra; Boston wanted Garcia in July, why not now?
-Chuck Woods, Tacoma, WA

DG: There are several reasons why both Seattle and Boston would not do a deal like this. The M's are not interested in paying Garciaparra $11.5 million in 2004 and then losing him to a California team following the year via free agency. Nomar is expected to favor Anaheim, San Diego, and Los Angeles, due to his hometown being in SoCal. Seattle would much prefer a long-term answer such as Miguel Tejada. The Red Sox are no longer in the market for an expensive pitcher after acquiring Curt Schilling recently. Freddy is expected to receive an arbitration salary of at least $8 million for 2004.

Q: Why wouldn't the Mariners, or any team, offer all of their free agents arbitration so that when they sign with other teams the M's get the draft picks in return?
-Ryan Britten, Saginaw, MI

DG: Any team offering arbitration to their own free agents is taking a risk. If the player decides to simply "accept" arbitration in lieu of signing elsewhere, the team is responsible for his 2004 salary. For example, if the M's had offered Mike Cameron arbitration and Cameron, not liking his options outside Seattle, decided to accept arbitration and take the one-year contract, the M's would have been on the hook for whatever salary was agreed on or decided by an arbitrator, likely close to twice as much as what the M's offered Cameron to stay in the first place. In general, offering certain players arbitration is just too much of a payroll risk.

Q: I have a question concerning Bryan Heaston who played for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers last season. He is from my hometown, and I know his father. He came back from last season saying he was probably due to at least go to Double-A next season. I say he is stretching it a bit. I didn't see any of his games but with his numbers last season it seems "A" ball in California is more like it. What do you think? Also how would you rate his progress? Does he have what it takes to make the big leagues?
-Monty, Farmington, NM

DG: Heaston, a 23-year-old right-hander, had a decent 2003 season. However, nothing indicates that he would be a sure thing to slide into San Antonio for 2004. With so many other quality pitchers in the system that had more success, with higher perceived upsides, and even some of the clan from Inland last season, Heaston is very likely to start the year with the 66ers of the Cal League. Other quality hurlers such as Ryan Ketchner, Glenn Bott, Bobby Livingston, Miguel Martinez, Jared Thomas, Troy Cate, Emiliano Fruto, TA Fulmer, Cesar Jiminez, and Ryan Rowland-smith, all likely to get consideration priority over Heaston for promotions to Double-A. Not to mention the possible holdovers such from San Antonio's staff of 2003. Heaston's ceiling doesn't reflect that of a pitcher figured to make it to the majors at any point. My personal evaluation is from limited experience seeing him pitch, but most signs point to Heaston being a marginal prospect at best right now. Things can always change, but he is 23 and the time to make such a move is NOW.

Q: When do the Mariners have to make a decision on the arbitration eligible players like Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen?
-Shannon Lampkin, Everett, WA

DG: The deadline for tendering contracts to arbitration eligibles such as Garcia, Guillen, Randy Winn, Joel Pineiro, Ryan Franklin, Ben Davis and Gil Meche is December 20th. There is the possibility that the clubs decides to non-tender or trade certain arbitration eligible players. Carlos Guillen, Randy Winn, Ben Davis and to a lesser extent Freddy Garcia are among those who could be traded or even be free agents by Christmas. Ryan Franklin is said to be close to agreeing on a two-year deal with the club to avoid arbitration altogether and the team's philosophy is to do the same with as many as possible.

Q: I have a question about the Hall of Fame. How is a player eligible or not eligible? Who are the voters?
-William Kolzer, Pacific Heights, CA

DG: A player has to be out of baseball for five full Major League Baseball seasons, barring some sort of freakish Pete Rose style legalities being involved. The voters consist of a Hall of Fame Committee and they along with every member of the Hall of Fame - players, managers, owners, etc. - make up the voting party for the Hall of Fame. There is also a Veteran's Committee that can vote in any players not yet inducted after they are out of Hall of Fame options. A player can only be up for induction for five years. If that player is not inducted by receiving at least a 75 percent approval rate he is taken off and becomes eligible to be voted in by the veterans committee five years later.

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