Seattle Mariners: Will Moving the Fences at Safeco Field Attract Free Agents?

Todd PheiferAnalyst IIIOctober 10, 2012

August 26, 2011, Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierez (21) catches a fly ball at the wall against the Chicago White Sox in the fifth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE
Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

The Seattle Mariners are moving in the fences at Safeco Field.

Fans have strongly recommended this decision for a long time. While there are many who are likely to be happy, I have to imagine that some would have liked to see this move a lot sooner. 

Given the fact that the offense has been fairly dismal for the past few seasons, it might have been nice to give the young hitters a better shot at home-cooked power.

Of course, there is the argument that it was just a matter of time before the youngsters started hitting more home runs. The problem is that the numbers are not improving, at least not at home. 

The problems began three years ago. Over the last three seasons, the home run numbers have looked like this:

2010: 101 total (35 at home, 66 on the road)

2011: 109 total (57 at home, 52 on the road)

2012: 149 total (56 at home, 93 on the road)  

Obviously the Mariners had a major jump in overall home runs between 2011 and 2012. However, the major increase was in home runs on the road, while the dingers at Safeco Field actually went down.

The Mariners also hit better on the road in terms of team average, so you wonder if there will be a confidence boost for the current team when the fences get moved. Thomas Holmes used the word “placebo,” which is a great observation and an insightful way to describe how this may impact the team.

Granted, moving in the fences could be a double-edged sword. The Mariners may reach the seats more easily, but their opponent may reach them as well.

The real question is whether this makes Safeco Field a more attractive destination for free agents.

Conventional wisdom suggests that free agents, particularly sluggers, want to join teams with homer-friendly stadiums. Of course, there is also the issue of franchises that are willing to spend the cash.

Albert Pujols signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, even though Angel Stadium is not exactly considered to be a hitter’s park. The Angels gave him a lot of money to come.

Of course, this is all moot if the Seattle management is not willing or able to chase big-name free agents. There is a general assumption amongst fans that teams will always go after new players, but that may not be the case. Seattle has followed a consistent plan of growing their own talent, which means that this move may not be a recruiting strategy.

Perhaps this is more about the psyche of the current lineup than it is about luring new players to Seattle. 

I guess we’ll find out.