This And That
My first Valentine’s Day as a married man was a lot of fun. It also involved zero baseball, so I’m catching up today. Might as well catch up out loud.
M’s sign Josh Fields for $1.75 million
As Derek noted, this is a bit of a surprise. While Zduriencik has stated that they were talking to Boras in the last few weeks, the tone of the conversations seemed to be “Here’s our offer of slot money, and if you don’t like it, we’ll take the compensation pick this summer.” However, the M’s sort of blinked, and met halfway between their original offer and Boras’ demand, getting Fields into the organization in time to get him into major league camp and get a look at what he could potentially offer later in 2009.
I know the initial reaction to the move wasn’t very positive, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t jump for joy either. We’ve been preaching for years how easy it is to build a bullpen on the cheap, and you just really don’t have to invest much in finding low cost arms who can turn into pretty good relievers. Remember, before J.J. Putz was J.J. Putz, he was just a generic middle reliever with no out pitch. These kinds of transformations happen all the time. So, in most cases, to spend a first round pick on a relief pitcher isn’t really the best use of resources. Not to mention the track record of recent “major league ready” college closers is absolutely horrible, so they aren’t nearly the sure thing that they are often painted as.
So, it’s pretty easy to sit here and wish they would have just let Fields go back in the draft, take the #21 pick next summer as compensation, and let Zduriencik and staff add another higher impact talent in June. However, it’s not so obviously cut and dried.
First, there’s a time-value thing at work here. You get Josh Fields right now, where with the #21 pick, you don’t get him until this summer, and that’s optimistic – the rule on compensation picks awarded for not signing prior year draft picks is that you only get them once. So, if the prospect the M’s took at #21 decided to take a hard line stance on his signing bonus, the M’s would be in a pay-him-or-get-nothing scenario. They would have significantly less leverage with the compensation pick than they have with Fields, so expecting a quick sign for that player is probably unrealistic. In most cases, when the team is in that kind of situation, they’ll go with a conservative pick – an overdraft on talent of a guy who they know they can sign for something close to slot money. So, hoping that the M’s could use that pick to nab an elite talent was probably wishful thinking. In reality, they’d be looking at taking a guy like Fields with that pick – a senior who couldn’t go back to school and had reduced leverage. In this case, they’re getting that kind of player now versus getting a similar player this summer and then hoping they could sign him without a potential compensation pick as leverage.
With Fields, there’s a non-zero chance that he could be pitching for this team in the second half of the year. It’s not likely, but it’s possible, and that possibility holds some value that the compensation pick just wouldn’t have. In a division that looks fairly weak, adding a 10% chance of a potential second half relief ace has some real value. So, to pass up that chance to help the ’09 Mariners, you’d have to believe that you could get a better long term prospect this summer, and sign them with reduced leverage. Is that possible? Sure. Is it likely? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure Zduriencik and McNamara know better than we do, and I’m certain they talked about this before signing Fields.
So, yea, Fields may be a sub-optimal use of a first round pick. In reality, if we could go back and time and have a do-over on that one, we’d gladly take it. But that’s not the option they had here – the question was “sign Fields or try to sign the compensation pick?” I think there’s a pretty decent case to be made that the present value of having Fields in camp now cancels out quite a bit of the possibility of getting a superior prospect this summer. Hopefully, this is the last reliever we spend a high pick on for a while, but signing Fields is a defensible move.
Braves bid for Griffey
Seriously, this is kind of ridiculous. The Braves play in the NL, where there is no DH. They want a LH hitting left-fielder, and are deciding between Griffey and Garret Anderson. Anderson isn’t the hitter that Griffey is, but he can still play the field. The M’s, also deciding between the two, need a DH. Griffey shouldn’t play the field. Anderson has no value as a DH. And we might be looking at a scenario where the M’s end up with Anderson and the Braves end up with Griffey? That’s just dumb. This whole thing is dumb.
M’s claim Luis Pena on waivers, DFA Tug Hulett
Speaking of building bullpens on the cheap, Pena’s a potential closer who just cut loose by the Brewers because he had one terrible season last year. His command deserted him for ~60 innings, and unless it was due to some kind of permanent flaw that isn’t fixable, he’s exactly the kind of decent upside free talent that good bullpens are made out of. Best case scenario, he’s the new Grant Balfour – a true power/strikeout arm with lousy command who figures it out and becomes a dominant flamethrower. The M’s just keep collecting guys like this, and between Walker and Aardsma and now Pena, odds are pretty good that they’re going to find one really good reliever out of the bunch. This is how you build a bullpen.
Hulett goes away to create a 40 man roster spot for Pena. He hit well in Tacoma last year, and he’s a LH bat, so he wasn’t without value to the organization, but the acquisitions of Ronny Cedeno and Reegie Corona made it impossible for him to make the squad this year, and the infield down in Tacoma was getting crowded as well. Hopefully, he’ll skip through waivers and stick around, but even if he doesn’t, Hulett for Pena is a trade worth making for this club.
Larry Stone has his own blog.
This is awesome. Any more chances to read Stone is good news. He isn’t the USSM Endorsed Baseball Wiriter for nothing. He has a great take on the game, and is a terrific writer to boot. Welcome to the blogosophere, Larry – the quality of our sphere just improved exponentially.