Ask the Diamond Genius 1/28

Jason A. Churchill answers your questions in another installment of Ask the Diamond Genius. Included this week are answers to your questions on the future of Freddy Garcia, the strategies behind scouting, and the pitching makeup of M's 2003 16th round draft pick Aaron Jensen.

Q: I just have a question concerning team payrolls. What is included in team payrolls as far as how Major League Baseball comes to the team totals for the luxury tax purposes? Is it salaries only or does a team's overall player expense come into play such as per diem during Spring Training etc.? Does an entire signing bonus count or just the amount that is actually paid during the year?

Cris Davis
Snohomish, WA


DG: The league tallies up the each team's total salaries paid out plus the club's share of the union's benefits package, which is shared equally between the 30 teams in MLB. Per Diem money for spring training is not included in the totals, although incentive bonuses, and signing bonuses are included for both luxury tax and revenue sharing purposes.



Q: I have a question about arbitration - what in the world is it? What purpose does it serve? What are all the different deadlines for and what if the deadlines pass? I guess that is more than 1 question but I have no idea what this arbitration thing is all about.

Stan Lewandowski
Pasco, WA


DG: Arbitration is used as a salary scale for two different types of players. Free Agents with six or more years experience who do not have contracts for the subsequent seasons, and players with three to five years of Major League Baseball experience. Following year six, players are free agent eligible and arbitration becomes the same salary tool used with players with three years to five years experience.



Q: What is the type of rating scale that scouts use when evaluating talent in high school, college or the minors, in accordance with their potential for being a major leaguer? Do they just use a 1 thru 10 scale or do they use percentages or what?

Caleb Brady
Springfield, IL


DG: Scouts use a scale that ranges from 20, considered poor, to 80, which is considered outstanding. A rating of 30 is considered well-below-average, 40 is considered below-average, while 50 is rated as major-league-average, 60 is considered above-average, and 70 is considered well-above-average. Scouts from pretty much every club require that a player's top two tools hold a rating that adds up to at least 120, and a three-tool total of 170+. Generally, clubs demand that one of the player's top three tools is his bat. The best fielders in the world will not make or stay in the Major Leagues if his bat rates a 20.



Q: My question is about the Mariners draft last June. They seemed to not take many chances in the past but took one with pitcher Aaron Jensen. He wasn't supposed to be a signable player so he dropped down in the draft quite a bit. What do you know about Jensen? Is he a fastball change-up style pitcher? Fastball-curve? Slider? What is his velocity like?

Shannon Tejara


DG: Jensen is armed with a fastball that reaches 94 and a biting 12-6 style curve ball. His change is a work-in-progress but Jensen has a pitcher's mind and will likely improve his change and create a three-pitch arsenal that rivals that of Felix Hernandez and Rett Johnson. Jensen was a second-round talent that plummeted in the draft due to sign-ability concerns and the M's couldn't pass him up in round 16. The M's were able to get him signed late in the summer and Jensen will begin his pro career this spring.



Q: Where will the team get replacements for Edgar Martinez, John Olerud, Dan Wilson, Freddy Garcia, and Rich Aurilia after the 2004 season? Will there be sufficient payroll for such players to be acquired or will they just go cheap as usual?

Michael Eugene
Renton, WA


DG: Heading into the 2004 season, the M's have but 17 guaranteed contracts to players on the 25-man roster. The payroll in 2005 is likely to be 95+ million, leaving the empty contract spots from the list of free agents you mentioned, a total of $20-25 million or more. There will be money available to go get a big name or two. Don't look for the club to sign anyone looking for extended long-term deals; anything more than four years is a reach. Freddy Garcia's rotation spot will likely be filled in-house by such candidates as Rafael Soriano, Rett Johnson, Travis Blackley, or Clint Nageotte. The M's could take care of one of those spots by signing Pudge Rodriguez this season.



Q: Do you see the Mariners trading Freddy Garcia once the season starts if he pitches well?

John Ramoise
Mukilteo, WA


DG: If Freddy is pitching well it will depend solely on how the team is doing. If the M's are right in it they will hang onto him and ride him out. If the team is not within striking distance, they would most definitely seek a deal for the soon-to-be free agent.



Send your questions to diamondgenius@hotmail.com.

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