Why not Miller?

Dave · June 7, 2006 at 6:33 am · Filed Under Mariners 

At the risk of inundating the blog with yet another Andrew Miller thread, I think it important to take a look at what really happened yesterday, now that I’ve detached myself from the fanboy disappointment of the first pick. There’s been a lot of speculation on why the team went for Morrow over Miller, ranging from Howard Lincoln calling the shots to Frank Mattox tying up Fontaine and stuffing him in a closet. Thankfully, none of that happened. So what did?

First, you have to understand how MLB is attempting to deflate signing bonuses for draft picks. While there is no official cap, the commissioner’s office sends every team a list of “recommended” signing bonus’ for each pick in advance of the draft. Bud Selig and Bob Dupuy regularly remind the owners that they are part of a team attempting to hold down the costs of doing business, and every time that one owner exceeds that recommended slot bonus, they make it harder for the league to institute its defacto salary cap on the draft.

For the #5 pick, the recommended slot bonus is about $2.5 million. Last year’s #5, Ryan Braun, signed for $2.45 million. MLB has a strong interest in seeing to it that this year’s #5 signs for somewhere in the same neighborhood.

Now, going along with the commissioner’s recommendation is not mandatory, and they have no legal authority to do anything to a team that exceeds the slot recommendations, but if you want to know how much power these slot recommendations hold, look back to last year’s draft. Among the first 300 picks (or, essentially, the top 10 rounds), you know how many players signed for significantly more than the slot recommendation?

Four. Justin Upton, the #1 pick, got $6.1 million when slot was $4.5 million. Mike Pelfrey, the #9 pick, got a major league deal worth about $6 million when the slot was about $2.2 million. Cameron Maybin, the #10 pick, got $2.68 million when slot was about $1.9 million. Finally, Taylor Teagardan, the 99th pick, got $725K on a slot of about $400K.

That’s it. Four times out of 300, the team decided to go against the MLB recommendation and give a player what it took to sign him. The D’Backs, the Mets, the Brewers, and the Rangers all took the trade off of experiencing the wrath of Bud in exchange for getting the player they wanted.

The Mariners, as an organization, were not willing to make that exchange this year. Now, I know everyone loves to blame Howard Lincoln or Chuck Armstrong for anything dealing with money, but this really was an organizational decision. It didn’t happen in the draft room yesterday. Going into the draft, the club made a decision that they were going to pay slot money for the fifth pick. Period.

Due to his contract demands, Andrew Miller was not an option once that decision had been made. The club wasn’t going to fight Bud Selig on this issue. While we might all despise Seligula, the owners love him. He’s made them huge amounts of money and turned the public reaction against the players in almost every labor dispute. When Bud tells the ownership of every club to do the right thing to hold down costs, they listen, whether we like it or not.

The M’s didn’t look at Andrew Miller and Brandon Morrow and say “you know, we think Morrow is almost as good and we can save a few million bucks here.” The club looked at Miller’s contract demands, realized there was no way in hell he was signing for anything close to the $2.5 million they wanted to offer that selection, and chose to draft the best player remaining on the board who would fit into the recommended slot.

There was no war between the scouts and the front office. Fontaine didn’t have the rug pulled out from under him, though I guarantee you he’d trade Morrow for Miller once both players have been signed and their bonuses paid out. This wasn’t a case where the organization “went cheap” to save money. The Rockies went cheap, getting a far inferior talent for below slot. If you want a fan base who has a right to be pissed at their front office, it’s those people in Colorado.

But the M’s just bowed to pressure from the commissioner, just like pretty much every other team does. They did the “solidarity, brother” thing with most of their fellow owners, refusing to shake the boat and cross the commissioner’s office. And so they took the best player they knew they could sign within those constraints.

Is it frustrating? Yea, it is. But it’s not worth torching Safeco Field over. I’ll have a post on Brandon Morrow in a little bit, and guess what, I actually like him as a pitcher. I’d rather have Andrew Miller, but I understand why the club passed on him, even if I wish they had given Bud the finger anyways.


152 Responses to “Why not Miller?”

  1. The Ancient Mariner on June 7th, 2006 11:54 pm

    Re #140: The other thing, Ed, is that your description of the general consensus is way off base. For instance, when the M’s signed Beltre, you could hear Dave doing cartwheels through the monitor — and for another instance, Dave has said more than once that A-Rod is worth the deal he signed with Texas. Where Dave and DMZ (and others who post here, myself included) find that sort of deal ridiculous overspending is when the player’s probable future performance doesn’t match the money, whether due to age, to the player not really being that good, or what have you.

  2. plivengood on June 8th, 2006 11:16 am

    Re 117: Anybody who has ever met Dave and spent more than 5 mimutes with him knows he’s not a prick. Not even arrogant; opinionated, maybe, but in a good and engaging way. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always come through in the written word.

    These “you’ll have to take my word for it” posts always draw the same questioning comments. I find myself thinking “Hmmmm, I wonder how many scouts Dave talked to? I wonder how high up in the system they go? I wonder how many of them were scouting Morrow vs. Miller (since it isn’t a given, with the exception perhaps of higher-level scouts and cross-checkers, that a given scout would have seen both other than perhaps on film)? How close to Fontaine do his sources go?” All of this will help fill in the cracks in my opinion/reaction to how close I think Dave is to “fact” or “speculation” on what is really a continuum. But in the end, Dave has more sources than just about any of us, he’s a smart guy, and if you want him to keep sharing stuff he can’t say much about you have to have a certain level of trust and respect.

    Re 118, JAS — that nailed it for me about as much as anything I can say in putting myself squarely in the “I’ll trust Fontaine’s judgment for now” camp. There are just so many variables in this decision that it is unfair and simplistic to ever say “this is about a roughly equivalent talent evaluation” or “this is about money, period.” It is a very nuanced decision about both of these factors and many others, and it’s impossible to ever know precisely what the group-decision-making process was.

    In the end, we got a premium arm. He may or may not end up being better than Andrew Miller, but he definitely will be cheaper and less trouble for the organization (great point about the slots, Dave; hadn’t really thought about that angle). We may not like it, but this is a defensible decision on a lot of fronts.

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