Burnett to Blue Jays, other good stuff

DMZ · December 5, 2005 at 4:25 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

In this mid-day filing from the PI.

The Mariners, from this short piece, appear to now be headed after Millwood or pursuing trade offers (which, really, is wise: if you can’t get Millwood, even at a premium, you’re better off not getting involved with the remaining second-tier free agent pitchers).

With the recent signings and all the noise about the market, I want to share a couple of thoughts Jeff and I were tossing around.

First, there is more money in the market right now. Shared media revenue is up in particular, so teams have more money to spend. So in turn, when teams evaluate how much they can afford to spend, there are a couple of factors that go into it (how well they think the player will perform, how that’s worth to them, how close they are to the playoffs, and so on).

Then there’s the knapsack problem. Sayyyy you’re the Mariners, and you have one position to fill and $15m to do it. You have four choices:

A: Random minor league free agent, $350,000, baseline
B: Modestly coveted cast-off, $1,000,000, +1 win
C: Good undervalued free agent, $5,000,000, +3 wins
D: Highly coveted free agent, $11,000,000, +5 wins

You pick D if you’re trying to win then, even though that’s clearly not the most efficient choice (and may limit your ability to make roster moves in the future, and so on).

Beyond the market rising, though, there are several things worth noting:
– Don’t chase a market. There’s a difference between understanding that a commodity is more valuable and buying tulip bulbs in 1636. If a win is now worth $2 million instead of $1.5, that doesn’t make B.J. Ryan’s contract defensible as a value purchase.
– (related) This is cyclical. A few years ago, an average left-fielder got a 1 or 2 year deal for a couple million a year and the players were investigating whether owners were colluding. It looked like teams were doing a much better job valuing players, particularly the concept of scarcity. But it turned out not to be a long-term trend: this year, that’s out the window. It’ll be back.
– Be flexible. If the free agent market would suck up your payroll budget and force you into long-term deals that hurt the team, look elsewhere. This, more than anything else, is the lesson of “Moneyball” (not “OBP is awesome!!!”): look for undervalued commodities. In this case, for instance, you could look to free agents towards the end of their fat contracts, picking up a shorter deal for one of those guys. You could, if your organization is sufficently flexible, buy every Cuban defector and phenom from Latin America for a year. Or, as Dave’s argued, you shop for what other teams overlook: defense, for instance, or players who might succeed with your team that struggled elsewhere.


64 Responses to “Burnett to Blue Jays, other good stuff”

  1. lefty on December 6th, 2005 8:03 am

    Yorvit would be more valuable as a back-up catcher, than Bigbie would be in any capacity. He split time in a bandbox (Camden) and Coors last year, and had no power. He had no power the year before, but he made up for it by getting on base at a marginal rate (that is a joke).

    Yes we need a left fielder, but it only makes sense to get one that will improve upon what we have. Mike Morse, who I am think will not be any great shakes, could probably be every bit as productive in left as Larry Bigbie. If we are going to give up something, talent or FA salary to left fielder it should be a significant improvement over what we have.

  2. Russ on December 6th, 2005 8:39 am

    Huff for a year in the DH slot would be a nice stop gap if we can trade for him with easily replaceable parts. He is in his contract year, has something to prove and with little pressure on his glove, this could serve him and us well. I don’t believe Ibanez in left is a bad thing. He is a league average LF’r and he won’t harm us by playing the field as some have suggested. If one trys to compare Ibanez to the likes of Ichiro! and Reed, sure he’s a tad (or alot) slower. He’ll get to the balls he should and he’ll keep us in the games.

    Meche and Mateo are both easily replaceable parts. Meche especially. Whatever potential he may have had has either dissappeared or never was. I’m thinking it never was.

  3. Grizz on December 6th, 2005 9:30 am

    A smart team will pick up Bigbie. His real value comes from his defense in leftfield (and he can back up center if needed). Bigbie walks (career OBP .331) and has modest power (career SLG .398), so the Bloomquist comparision does not hold up (career .308 OBP/.341 SLG). He makes an ideal fourth outfielder, but he could form the lefthanded half of a productive yet cheap platoon for a team willing to wait for a better option rather than overspending now on a marginally better “name” player.

  4. eponymous coward on December 6th, 2005 10:35 am

    We already have Larry Bigbie, but we call him Willie Freakin’ Bloomquist in these parts. Bigbie does not improve this team.

    Bigbie has a career total of 31 major league home runs. Willie Bloomquist has 15 home runs during his entire career in professional baseball (majors and minors), in about double the plate appearances.

    (A)bort, (R)etry, (F)ail?

    Also, how does everyone take the rumblings of Millwood and Boras asking for 5 years? My hope is that it’s like A-Rod’s deal, where there’s option years at the end.

  5. DJ on December 6th, 2005 10:43 am

    This Huff stuff has got me thinking…..

    If the M’s pick up Huff aren’t we basically getting two Ibanez’s? A left handed bat, with 20-30 HR potential, and average or below average fielding skills. I always thought given the right bat I could live with Ibanez in left, but i’m not sure Huff is that much of an upgrade.

    Don’t get me wrong I think Huff is a great investment for a team looking for a DH who could play some outfield and 3rd base. But we can’t have 2 DH’s.

  6. jojo on December 6th, 2005 11:31 am

    Id be happy to have two Rauls…one to play left, one to play DH…

    However, Huff is better offensively than Raul.

  7. eponymous coward on December 6th, 2005 11:34 am

    I can live with Huff. Yes, defense is undervalued, etc. If we pick up Huff, we have him on a one year deal at 6.75 million. Unless the talent package we send is too rich (and it sounds like Tampa’s doing a salary dump here, so it might not be), that makes him an undervalued player. I can live with us finding a defensive wizard as our 4th OF to play lots of 7th, 8th and 9th innings in LF if it nets us Huff and Ibanez in the batting order- it shouldn’t be too hard to do that, especially if defense is undervalued….

  8. Colm on December 6th, 2005 11:45 am

    “Look for undervalued commodities”

    That’s why I bought a second-hand Ford Taurus wagon. I love it. Thank you Michael Lewis.

  9. DJ on December 6th, 2005 12:16 pm

    Concerning the Huff trade:
    …..”According to the report, the Mariners have expressed interest, although a Seattle media rumor that the Devil Rays were interested in pitcher Gil Meche and catching prospect Rene Rivera (the baseball equivalent of a bag of magic beans) was quickly shot down by the Rays.”……

    I agree that Huff is a great player, but look at his OPS since 2003: .922, .853, .749. He definitely still has a higher ceiling than Raul, and he would be a fairly low risk investment since hs contract is up after next year. I guess it just boils down to what “magic beans” the M’s are willing to give up for him.

    Sorry for my lack of excitement on this one. Just when i heard this would be a big trading off season and Bavasi said he wanted a big Left handed sock i was expecting something bigger. I suppose i could get excited about Huff……Just keep remebering he’s a bargin.

  10. eponymous coward on December 6th, 2005 12:57 pm

    Just when i heard this would be a big trading off season and Bavasi said he wanted a big Left handed sock i was expecting something bigger

    Giles if off the market, Konerko is overrated, and while Jones has a good glove, his bat has been doing the same thing Huff’s has, except to an even more pronounced degree.

    Provided the 4th OF isn’t someone like Mike Morse (hmm, maybe TB would take him in trade…) getting OJT on being an OF and is a credible defender (ideally, someone you’d feel comfortable with in CF, and even more ideally, someone you could occasionally platoon with the starting LF when you want to give someone a day off- so you’d want a right-handed batter), I think we’d be fine. We’d lose some OF defense with Raul or Huff in the OF, but we could make some of it back up

  11. Mr. Egaas on December 6th, 2005 1:07 pm

    Although, I’m all about Huff again if Bavasi thinks Burnitz is the answer.

  12. Mr. Egaas on December 6th, 2005 1:13 pm

    [Everett post coming]

  13. DJ on December 6th, 2005 1:21 pm

    [Everett post coming]

  14. Mr. Egaas on December 6th, 2005 1:25 pm

    [this post was a joke as if it’d been deleted and now it has been]