Ask the Diamond Genius 12/24

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

Q: What are the Mariners going to do with Jeff Cirillo? He turned down the opportunity to play with the Mets. Would he play for any team? Or is he so committed to being with his family in Seattle that he won't go anywhere? As for my view, why wouldn't he want to go back to the National League where he did well?

Jon Stratton
Walla Walla, WA


DG: Cirillo is simply trying to corner the club into releasing him so he can choose what team he ultimately plays for. He and his agent know that either way he will be getting paid $15 million over the next two years no matter what Seattle does with him, if anything. Jeff Cirillo's public reason for blocking the deal to New York was a smokescreen only believed by fans and media that don't know any better. I'm sure that if Cirillo is released he will end up choosing a National League team unless a can't-miss situation presents itself in the American League. It's doubtful that the M's will end up releasing Cirillo outright, as his no-trade clause is a limited version, leaving several teams available for him to be traded to. The club's stance is that they'd rather have a player that could possible help the team in some manner, than simply swallowing the contract, thus the desire to avoid cutting Cirillo and still paying his guaranteed salary.

Q: Who are the most likely trade candidates in the minor leagues for the M's if they finally decide to make a trade during the season or at the deadline?

Karenna McCormack
Pasco, WA


DG: It's pretty tough to tell at this point what players will be the hottest commodities but you can bet every last dime that teams will start by asking the Mariners for pitching. Clint Nageotte, Travis Blackley, Rett Johnson, Chae Seung Baek, Ryan Ketchner, Felix Hernandez and 2003 draft choice Aaron Jensen would be the arms most discussed. SS Jose Lopez and OF's Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Snelling are the top three positional prospects and the club has three catchers that teams might be seen as a nice piece of a package. Luis Oliveros, Rene Rivera, and 2003 draft pick Justin Ruchti, are all solid catchers with Rivera being the best hitter, Ruchti the best defender, and Oliveros the best combination of the two. The M's will not be in any hurry to deal any of the top few prospects barring a deal they feel they cannot pass up.

Q: Why are there different groups of players and deadlines for arbitration on the same team and what decides the grouping?

Stephen Parker
Seattle, WA


DG: Arbitration is used in two separate situations in dealings with players, their contracts, and their free agency.

The first type of arbitration eligible player is the pre-free agent type. During the first three years of a players MLB career he is under contract at the club's control and his salary is dictated solely at the team's discretion. The player then graduates to becoming arbitration eligible following year three, continuing through year six unless he agrees to a multi-year contract in lieu of arbitration, such as the Mariners' SP Ryan Franklin. In those three years that the player is eligible for arbitration, the team has a deadline date to decide whether to tender the player a contract offer or allow him to become a free agent. This year the deadline for that was Dec. 20th. The M's had until that date to tender contracts to their arbitration eligible players like Freddy Garcia. If the team had decided not to offer any of them contracts, the player becomes a free agent and the team can lose the player's services without compensation, but also has until January 8th to come to terms with the player.. After the player is tendered a contract offer the team has until a pre-determined date to come to terms on a contract or both sides go to an arbiter who will then decide on the player's contract.

The second type of arbitration is used when a free agent situation is present. Player contracts expire every year those players' teams have until a certain date to offer their own free agents arbitration. The reasons a team would offer their own free agent arbitration range from wanting more time to retain the players services after the deadline, or simply wanting to assure that they get draft pick compensation if that player signs with another team. The club loses all rights to that player if they fail to offer him arbitration, as was the case when the M's decided against offering arbitration to Mike Cameron.

The reason for two separate dates is simple: to avoid confusion and give time to the teams to deal with all players and contracts involved.

Q: Are the Mariners ever going to sign a big name free agent and make the noise they sorely need to make in the winter months?

Gregg Williams
Centralia, WA


DG: No.

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