Sunday, November 26, 2006
No whammies, no whammies
I've been pondering what to write about the huge contracts doled out this offseason without saying "OH GOD YOU'RE ALL RETARDED!", and this offseason kind of feels like 2000 all over again. The best comparison I can come up with is related to Press Your Luck contestant Michael Larson, who broke the system. After we got the whole collusion business out of the way, free agents have broke the system again, and are eager to take the dollars before the GM's realize what they just did. As evidence, just look at the free agent market; I can't remember a year where so many top players signed before the Winter Meetings even began. The only real marquee player left on the market is Barry Zito.
How I envy the Cardinals, not only are they in a weak-ass division, and not only do they get 6 free games against the Royals year after year, and not only did they win the World Series, but everyone in their division that actually spends money seems to throw it down the trash can. The Astros paid $100 million to a player who, while very good, doesn't seem like someone who will age well, and was far from elite. Meanwhile, Carlos Beltran is making a similar salary (with one more year), when he could have been a key factor towards the Astros playoff runs in 2005 and 2006. This just goes to show you: When you have a franchise player, you do not let that guy walk. Beltran's move to New York set the Astros back from the moment in happened, and after this years abysmal CF production, it sewed the seeds for the signing of the wrong Carlos. The Astros, by the way, have still done nothing to remedy the fact that Willy Taveras, Brad Ausmus, Adam Everett, and the pitcher will all be batting in their lineup. Craig Biggio is no bet for real production either.
Going back to Beltran, a lot of people (myself included), assumed the leader for his services would be Arte Moreno and the Anaheim Angels. They had a hole, no real prospects who could play center, and the internal options were marginal players at best. Well, after passing him up for Steve Finley, who promptly fell off a cliff faster than SportsCenter did, they were forced to turn to Chone Figgins for much of last year. Once again, the lack of desire to chase a franchise player hurt, and they are going back to the well again this year, with the strange signing of Gary Matthews Jr. for 5 years and 50 million. This contract, like Lee's, will be a sunk cost by year four at the latest; Matthews had a career year and will be 37 by the time the contract ends.
I wonder how much of that 50 million was made just by that one phenomenal catch against the Astros last year.
Slightly better was the contract handed to Juan Pierre, which is damning with bated praise. At an average of one million or so less a year, the Dodgers have their very own league average center fielder. Unlike Matthews, Pierre has been universally weighed as a good defensive center fielder in terms of range. Also unlike Matthews, he's 28 and probably won't fall completely off the cliff by the end of the contract.
One last thing I want to weigh in on regarding these players: The Giants are said to have offered as much or more to all three of these guys. They were fortunate here and it got me to thinking: Without Barry Bonds, would the Giants just be the West Coast Baltimore Orioles?
Just look at their signings the last couple of years:
-Matt Morris, aging rotation vet, horrible.
-Mark Sweeney, aging righty masher
-Tim Worrell, aging mediocre pen arm
-Jose Vizcaino, aging fuck you for Game 1 of the 2000 WS
-Omar Vizquel, aging but surprisingly has played well, although losing a step or 9 defensively.
-Armando Benitez, not quite aging, but horrible.
-Mike Matheny, aging and horrible defensive catcher.
-Jeff Fassero, decomposing
-Moises Alou, aging and pretty good
-Released AJ Pierzynski after giving up Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser for him.
You have to go back to the Alfonzo and Durham signings after 2002 to find players that were added in their prime to the Giants team. The farm system has been completely barren-exempting players they've traded. They finally came up with Noah Lowry and Matt Cain (who is promising), in the last few years. Before that, we have a list of shredded arms (Jesse Foppert, Kurt Ainsworth), and mediocre starters/passable bench players (Pedro Feliz, Marvin Bernard). When the best you can produce is mediocrity, and you actively engage in losing draft picks to avoid paying them money (Michael Tucker), you need to be signing free agents in their prime to keep the ship moving. The Giants have not done that, and as such look to be in the bleakest non-Pirates/Royals situation of any baseball team over the next few years.