The Hot Stove Season is heating up fast. Most of the news these days is about Qualifying Offers and possible free agents interest and potential trade partners. What with our near historic levels of disappointment last season, we have an awful lot of interest in the activities of the coming months and how those activities might improve our lot. Our lot sucked. Instead of our lot fronting Lake Tahoe, it turned out to be fronting the Salton Sea. (Punning the metaphors, there. Don't get all nasty on me.) So here are some tips to that might help with your sanity.
First off, Jerry Dipoto goes into this off season with a cupboard still bare. Arte has spent his money, along with a few first-round draft picks that could now have been prospects and/or trade chips. Reagins left the farm system empty and Dipoto has had the chance to only rebuild the very basement with two drafts (the first one heavy with catchers and the second one heavy with pitchers). So don’t go into this expecting that Dipoto has some kind of magic potion to create unlimited resources from which he can deal. And he has to compete. Other teams, perhaps with more appropriate options, might be wanting the same resources that we need.
Second, consider your perspective. It's November, not January. The list of options and the quality of the names and the risks behind those names look a hell of a lot more daunting from here than they will from January. But Dipoto cannot wait until January to start getting work done. Try practicing your brilliance from this perspective, rather than from hindsight later. Name your targets now, when their 2014 production is NOT known and everything is based on risk, past performance, and unknown cost. Who do you think we need to have? What price do you think they will cost us in players? What do you think is the going to be the rate for top of the rotation pitcher (~5-7 WAR)? Middle of the rotation (~2-4 WAR)? Back of the rotation (~1-2 WAR)?
Third, please do try and remember that market value gets reset EVERY off season. Yesterday’s dollars do not compete for today’s talent.
Fourth, unless you are Dipoto himself, or possibly his personal assistant, it might be wise to temper your emotions concerning the stuff you hear and read concerning offers, packages, etc. If you would not trust a guy like Mark Whicker with the bar tab, why would you trust a guy like him with knowing the truth about private negotiations worth tens and hundreds of millions of dollars??
Fifth, and finally, something few seem to pick up on: player value is driven, in no small amount, by a team's needs at the current time. And it can also be driven by the needy team's ability to pay. For example, if the Mudville is dangling Mighty Casey to two different teams, there is no reason to let both of the needy teams know everything about the offers of their competing bidder. In such situations, the bids will be asymmetrical. One team will be offering more than the other, and Mudville will be encouraging this because one team will be wealthier in its talent pool than the other. And yet, even in that kind of scenario, Mudville might opt to choose the offer that seems poorer in the general market, because that poorer offer actually provides a better fit for Mudville at this point in time.
Just some things to help keep you sane during the coming months of winter...
Hey, one last thing. I notice a couple of folks following me on Twitter. If it’s any of you people, don’t waste your time line. The only tweets that I generate are the ones that automatically come with my blog posts here, as part of the editing tools. There is no special, insightful, hilarity to be culled from hanging around my Twitter output. Nor did I get in on that IPO. All I do is alert people to come here. It’s here that will be found all of my special, insightful, hilarity. If any. Maybe. Some day.
- Happenings: As noted Wednesday, Dipoto signed Chris Volstad to a minor league contract, with an invite to Spring Training in 2014. Why should anyone really care about such things? It's just a minor league deal to bulk up the farm system, right? Everybody calm down! Well, the reason you might want to care is because such a signing opens up people's minds to new kinds of thinking. Thinking (and I use that word hesitatingly) such as this: Angels' signing of Chris Volstad could affect Hanson, Williams. "Volstad could be a low-cost alternative to Hanson or Williams, who are both eligible for arbitration after having subpar seasons...Both Hanson and Williams are projected to make $3.9 million next season, but if the Angels don’t tender them contracts, they would become free agents and come off the books of a team that is about $15 million shy of the $189-million luxury tax threshold for 2014 and is looking for some financial flexibility."
- J.B. Shuck: Somehow, in some world that intersects with the one you and I occupy, Wilson Sporting Goods scanned the full compliment of LA Angels defensive talent and managed to come up with J.B. Shuck as the team's Defensive Player of the Year. Supposedly, "winners are determined by using a formula that balances scouting information, sabermetric analysis and basic fielding statistics". Now, I know he had one spectacular catch. But this is the same guy who looked completely clueless early on. Completely. Clueless. It pains me to be the one who does this, because I detest defensive metrics (at least until the hit tracking and field tracking data get incorporated down the road). But let us agree that, however flawed, the flaws are consistently applied. So lookee here. If you scroll down to "Team Player Value--Batters" and click on the "dWAR" header, you will see the Baseball Reference metrics of those players who contributed to the team defense the most, all the way down to the least. Go ahead. Go find Shuck for yourself on that list. As a tip, you might want to start at the bottom and work your way up, it will be a lot quicker.
- Memories: Do you remember that super-cool base that Mike Trout stole back on September 7th, against Texas here in Anaheim? Yeah, me neither. But now you get to own that memory! MLB is auctioning off game used stuff. C.J. Cron's Futures All-Star cap! Peter Bourjos' left shoe! Collin Cowgill's equipment bag! Josh Hamilton's foul ball (one of, I would assume, many)! It should come as no surprise that most of the bidding activity involves Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Jered Weaver stuff. But don't go clicking over hoping to find something like a Trout jersey, or a Weaver glove, or anything such.
Buy Stuff - Crazy-ass Baseball Finds On the Internet:
Dirt. Baseball field dirt. In tiny little vials. In a collage. On your wall.
Joe Buck's new announcing partner, replacing Tim McCarver?
Stan Musial's stinky old socks. But, with stirrups!!!
This Date In Baseball History: 1920 - Big day...BIG day. The 1919 Black Sox Scandal has just occurred. Ban Johnson (think John Goodman) was running the combined leagues almost as his personal business yet ignored the potential scandal, forcing the teams to gather on this day to remove him. Instead, the teams attempted to redefine the National League, which was to include the Yankees, White Sox and Red Sox. The reorg would be undone a few days later and Kennesaw Landis would be installed to supplant Johnson as Ultimate Ruler, with powers that last to this day...........2005 - The U.S. House of Representatives pass a resolution honoring Shoeless Joe Jackson, he of the above scandal. This from his hometown District Representative in lieu of his ineligibility for the HoF..........2005 - Bartolo Colon named AL Cy Young Award winner, making him the second Angels pitcher to recieve the award, joining Dean Chance.........2010 - Jon Miller and Joe Morgan are dismissed by ESPN as the announcers of Sunday Night Baseball, finally granting the wishes of these guys, who you might actually know for their writing behind this, this, or this.
Rounding Up The Major League News
- Rise of The Nerds: The Houston Astros just hired a guy away from Baseball Prospectus, announced just after last week’s WeekEnd HaloLinks. "I am excited and a little sad to tell you that I’ve been hired by the Houston Astros as a mathematical modeler in their Decision Sciences department." Who knew that Houston had a "Decision Sciences" department??? Considering how Arte likes to run his front office off of cheap college kid intern labor, this can NOT be good news for LAA...........Meanwhile, other news suggests that the Phillies are getting deeper into using advanced metrics to aid in their decision-making. This reality, by the way, is something that the BBWAA needs to completely ignore in order for their legacy to remain relevant. Anyway, the part about the Phillies story that bugs me is this nugget: "Scott Freedman will work with the Phillies this offseason in adding advanced metrics into their player evaluation process. Freedman works in Major League Baseball's labor relations department, where he assists teams in salary-arbitration cases, among other things...We were contacted by [the commissioner's office] this summer. They proposed the arrangement, we had a need and took advantage of it." Why the hell is the League Front Office reaching out to help the Phillies? Are they doing this for every team? If not, why the favoritism? And why a person whose specialty appears to be strongest in salary arbitration hearings? Shouldn't the Player's Union, not to mention player agents, be all over this as an indicator of a form of collusion? What the hell??
- Gunslingers: One of the oldest plot lines in Western movies and television shows was the young gunslinger wandering into town, all alone, looking for that sheriff known as the fastest draw alive. Time to prove who really IS the fastest draw, and the kid is all moxy. One of the reasons that plot line worked over and over and over again, is because it resonates so strongly with modern, real world, examples that we encounter in our daily lives. One day we are all the young gunslinger full of moxy, and then another day we find ourselves the old sheriff tiring of fending off yet the latest gunslinger. Thus it is in baseball, as well. Jerry Crasnick dives into the tale of Jay Z riding into town and taking over the saloon, boasting to all within ear shot that Sheriff Boras' days are numbered. It's a long read, but well worth it. My take, though, is that Robinson Cano & 2013 might be the wrong timing for Jay Z to make a name for himself amongst baseball players.
- El Maneo: Recall, if you please, my essay above. In particular, my 3rd Admonition concerning how market values get reset each offseason. Now take a deep breath. Santana is asking ("asking", mind you), for $20 million per year over the next 5 years. Yeah, Santana wants $100 million. That would park him in Adam Wainright territory. Above Wainwright territory, actually. For a guy who carried an ERA+ of only 74 just 13 months ago.
- Schedule Makers: For a second or two, I considered putting this up as my Video Of The Week. But at 12 1/2 minutes long, it is intended more as a documentary. It's just too cool for a quick giggle. It's the narrative as to how Major League Baseball ended up contracting all of it's scheduling responsibilities to Henry and Holly Stephenson. For nearly 25 years, the Stephensons were the ones who figured out which teams would be playing at which stadiums on which days for the entire enterprise that was MLB. That task included trying to figure out, and minimize, all the travel hops and travel times and keep everything as balanced as possible, despite those many years with unbalanced leagues and divisions. Stunning. I look at them and cannot see anything more than the couple who keeps track of the parish budget. Just think about how much industry was wrapped around the consequences of their pencils.
- Dead Money: Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs does the hard work of diving into big contracts, both long term and short term, and exposing the inevitability of dead money. Using Robinson Cano as the context, Cameron lays out a great compare on what happens to money versus production at the back end of contract alternatives. There is also an intrigued table that exposes what is happening between the top, average and minimum salaries (the minimum, consumed by the masses, is gaining ground on the rare air of the very elite). But in that article are a couple of paragraph gems that are extremely pertinent to what sits right in front of Dipoto: David Price. Cameron doesn't need to call us out, explicitly, but he makes the case that we can compare a Pujols contract to a David Price trade. They are, in the end, rather equitable. But only one of the two are objects of eternal derision.
Video Of The Week
(Epic. Because baseball, and being a kid, are in your blood.)
(Trouble viewing the video? Direct link here.)
People behaving badly. Lessee, we have the Rockies owner getting arrested for a DUI. He seems pretty happy about it in his mug shot, even though he was THREE TIMES OVER THE LIMIT, ASSHOLE!!...We have another ownership family member getting all raged out over street noise...Of course, you already should have read about this nut job...And what happens when a player behaves badly? Well gee, sir, no problem here!...So, with all of that, how about a plan whereby some dude in disguise spends his time cheering up fans by tossing his wiener at strangers? How could this have possibly gone wrong?....................Yep. Gotta pilot test this new-fangled high tech thingy known as "instant replay". Blazing new trails, there, Bud...Hey, guess what? That pilot test of instant replay was used, and the sky failed to fall down???....................Oh, joy. Prepare for the 2014 Victory Lap, everyone.................Be careful what you wish for. Losing McCarver finally comes true, opening the door to Harold Reynolds???...Yeah, THIS Harold Reynolds...................Some people are already missing their baseball pretty badly, and have already run out of ideas for a story angle....................Astro-Doom, to go Boom!....................Why autographs have never really been my thing......................Don't like your job? Thinking of taking up a career as a painter? Simple. Calming. Pressure free. Yeah, painting.
And now, being the full service weekend linkage institution that we are, here is the obligatory moment we take out of each Friday...for beer...
Friday: Begin with San Diego. Good idea. We are still doing San Diego Beer Week. 10 Years of Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens............or Meet The Brewers with Crooked Stave at Stone Brewing in Escondido..........or Johnny Brown's IPA Night at Downtown Johnny Brown's...........Elsewhere, in Roseville for example, Final Gravity is hosting Midnight Sun Tasting...........But, if your REALLY lucky, you are around for the Mushroom & Beer Dinner with Russian River Brewing Company at the Little River Inn at Little River.
Saturday: The Bistro in Hayward is the site of the 8th Annual West Coast Barrel Aged Beer Fest................The Beer Company in San Diego hosts Best Damn Sour Fest 3...........Stone Brewing is active again today with Decadent Decade of Stone Imperial Russian Stouts..............Meet ChuckAlek Brewer & Quaff Night at Downtown Johnny Brown's..........And Sour Saturday at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens............Perhaps most interesting is Field Of Drafts, at Lancaster Municipal Stadium.
Sunday: That's enough. Take a break.
BEER BONUS #1: Agree or disagree; Russian River Pliny The Elder is the finest beer not made by trappist monks in Bavaria?