|Kyle Seager (Wikemedia Commons, User UCInternational. Source: Flickr, author hj_west)|
The real significance in Seager's deal comes from the dearth of contracts to players like Seager for a long, long time. However, first, the deal itself is very good for the Mariners.
Reports also surfaced this morning that both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval signed with the Red Sox, for 4 years-$88 million and 5 years-$90 million respectively. Ramirez is four years older than Seager and produced 3.4 fWAR last season, compared to Seagers 5.5 fWAR. Sandoval is only a little over a year older than Seager and posted a 3.0 fWAR.
Simply put, both Ramirez and Sandoval are older, inferior to Seager's overall talent level right now, and still earned average annual values in their contract right around what Seager might make in his option year, which is presumably a peak annual value. While I would expect Seager's deal to be cheaper annually because all three of his arbitration years were bought out, it is clear that the free agent seasons bought out in his contract are still well under the current going rate for starting infielders of his caliber. Financially, Seager's contract is a great deal for the Mariners.
However, the real significance of this contract comes from the echoes of Mariners history...and the echoes go on for a long time. The hallway of homegrown hitters signed to contract extensions has a long, bleak stretch that spanned unblemished until today.
Consider this stunning, depressing, and amazing fact: Kyle Seager is only the second home-grown position player the Mariners have signed to a contract extension that was drafted in my lifetime. The other is Ken Griffey Jr. and he barely counts. I was born in January 1987 and he was drafted that June. I don't particularly remember him being drafted, though of course remember him playing. Also, Griffey's extension was nothing like Seager's. It was not a long-term deal and he ultimately signed a long-term extension upon a trade to the Cincinnati Reds.
Now, if you are like me, you are probably asking, "but what about (insert several M's hitters)?" Here are those answers:
- Jay Buhner: Not home-grown. Acquired in a trade with the Yankees, forever captured in a Seinfeld episode.
- Ichiro: Debatably could be included, though I wouldn't say he was developed by the Mariners. He signed as an international free agent, never spent a day in the minors, and was the AL MVP in his first MLB season after making the jump. He was a free agent acquisition in my eyes.
- Edgar Martinez: Signed as a 16-year-old in 1982, before I was born.
- Dan Wilson: Not home-grown. Acquired in a trade with the Reds.
There are also the hitters that got away. The Mariners had some chances, a few more obvious than others:
- Jose Cruz Jr: Had a decent career - elsewhere, after he was traded to the Jays for bullpen depth.
- Raul Ibanez: Allowed to walk for nothing and emerge with the Royals, before coming back to Seattle a couple times.
- Tino Martinez: Traded to the Yankees, after becoming an All-Star in Seattle, for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock.
- David Ortiz: Traded to the Twins for Dave Hollins, though Ortiz was a raw prospect and a no-name at the time of the trade.
- Jason Varitek: Traded to the Red Sox (along with Derek Lowe) for Heathcliff Slocumb. Never forget.
- Alex Rodriguez: Undeniable talent, but hard to argue the M's ultimately lost out when he signed with Texas.
The list could grow with names such as Bret Boone added, but he was traded for Dan Wilson, so that seems harsh and not really in the spirit of this post. Boone was not a missed opportunity; he was a trade chip for another long-term piece (and he even came back and enjoyed his best seasons in Seattle anyway).
The Mariners are maligned for their inability to produce hitting prospects, and to a degree they have earned that reputation. However, they had several chances to lock up home-grown hitters the past quarter century, and for one reason or another, never did.
Until today. Kyle Seager, Mariner for life. Today, Kyle Seager transitioned from lovable surprise and a secret of the Pacific Northwest to one of the core position players in all of Mariners history. He will go down as one of the best to ever play in Seattle thanks to this contract.