Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The New Paradigm

In reading the various round ups of today's trade constipation, Bowden keeps sounding off about how things are different. Nobody's willing to trade their top prospects for rent-a-players.

"One thing we know is that we are getting parity in the game, and when you get down to the trade deadline, small-market clubs do not have to dump payroll anymore. You are not seeing prospects getting traded, except for the Atlanta/Texas trade [Mark Teixeira was traded to the Braves for prospects]. They are not going anywhere. The Yankees and Red Sox are holding onto all of their prospects. That is the theme you are seeing everywhere."

If that's the case, and you're a team that's desperately trying to build up its farm team, you've gotta shift strategy, right?

Isn't the easiest way, then, to acquire extra draft picks? Signing players and letting them walk at the end of the year? Shouldn't smart teams be intentionally doing this?

And if that's the case, how do we rectify that with the team's recent signing decisions?

  • I made a few more points in comments...

  • 16 Comments:

    • I don't think we can readily reconcile all this, and I have to say at first blush you are right (and no, that wasn't a setup to disagreeing with you).

      I'll *attempt* to support Jimmy Hairdo: Could there be any "insider information" regarding the Belliard and Dmitri signings?

      We all know Cristian Guzman is cursed with regards to this franchise, so we should probably assume he'll be of little to no value to use next year. As such, Lopez will again play SS and we need a 2B. Enter Ronnie's braids. So that signing, in addition to be pretty dang cheap, might have been worth it.

      But Dmitri? We signed him at his near peak value. Strike one for sure. Signing him, as you point out, means no compensatory draft picks. Strike two. But where's Mr. Nicky J these days? The rumors are all that he's not even going to make an appearance at RFK in a game this year. Maybe he's not doing as well as we'd all like? Maybe his loooong history of injuries (max of 130 games in a season?) and this in horrible one have caught up to him? He's obviously a slow healer, but maybe he's really not doing well? If so, we very well may need a 1B to start the season while he still gets back in playing shape. So maybe, juuuust maybe, Dmitri was signed as insurance???

      I'll also point out that Bill from a previous thread referenced that Belliard/Dmitri might be worth more if they were signed. I said that as well a few days ago. Jimmy Hairdo may have thought the Belliard signing was insurance and Dmitri's made him more tradeable.

      Let's just all hope that this was addition through treading water (couldn't come up with a rhyme).

      By Anonymous fa-NATS-ic, at 7/31/2007 11:34 PM  

    • Chris, I think you bring up a really good point. Oakland seems to have been doing what you suggest for quite a few years.

      But to play devil's advocate, who is to say that Young or Belliard wouldn't have accepted arbitration?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2007 11:41 PM  

    • Few loose ends...

      Not sure if I responded to Bill's pointing out of Bowden's comments on that thread or a different one... but Bowden said they had more calls on Belliard and Young after signing them, but that doesn't necessarily mean there was more interest. It's just that those were closer to the deadline. I can't imagine that Young's contract makes him MORE tradeable.

      In fairness, there's almost no way the Nats would've gotten FA compensation for Ronnie Belliard. They'd have had to have offered him arbitration, which would be a huge risk -- they'd pay out more in one year for him if he accepted than they're paying for two years of him.

      Of course, they could have a gentleman's agreement for him to decline, but that's sorta outside the rules (wink, wink), and given what a hard time Belliard had finding a job LAST year, I'm not sure that he'd be toooo cooperative. And if he ended up as a type A free agent, which he was last year, there's almost NO team that would touch him because they wouldn't want to give up a draft pick for a marginal player.

      Now Young... it comes down to how much research the team has done. Bowden alluded to it in the interview, saying that they weren't sure if he'd net compensation.

      I find that kind of odd. I looked at it a few weeks ago and said he was probably close. They'd have access to more information than I would, and would be able to better determine. What's funny about that, though, is that the only way he'd definitely NOT be compensable at the end of the year is if he tanked. And if he tanked, you'd be able to sign him cheaper in the offseason anyway.

      Who knows.

      There are lots of ways of building teams. Some made the argument that the team needed to do more in the last offseason to bring players in just for the draft picks. Yet they didn't.

      So at the end of this year, the team isn't going to have one extra draft pick. And they haven't brought ONE prospect into the system that would've otherwise not been there.

      Have they REALLY improved the farm system then?

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/31/2007 11:42 PM  

    • Some really good points, especially the last, and you should move that up out of comments.

      The passing of this trade deadline as it did really forces the issue of what exactly is "The Plan." I know it's a bit of a running joke, but seriously, beyond platitudes, what is the team's strategy going forward.

      It's the biggest difference between being a fan of the Colletti Dodgers and the DePodesta Dodgers. Colletti seems very reactive, very obvious, very superficial, very short term. There really doesn't seem to be a plan beyond Colletti's view whether any particular move in isolation seems to help or hurt the team.

      DePodesta really seemed like he was playing a long game and making moves to build the franchise across all levels over a period of years. He certainly wasn't perfect, and some moves really didn't work, but it was very exciting to root for.

      By Blogger Sam, at 8/01/2007 12:03 AM  

    • I might expand that into a broader post at some point. I think it's a fascinating topic.

      The progress they're citing this year are mostly products of prior decisions. Nothing they've done THIS year personnel-wise (save for the off-field hirings, which is probably more important than a parenthetical) is any different than what the club would've otherwise done.

      We'll have the same lousy players on the 25-man, and the same improving minor leaguers, but we won't have anything new.

      See, I'm rambling now. That's why I haven't expanded that into a fuller post. ;)

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/01/2007 12:07 AM  

    • Assuming they get Smoker, they've made a strong commitment to this year's draft. I figure McGeary's off the table, but if they bought him off, that'd be a double bonus. I suppose in fairness those are "this year" actions (though getting all those picks were last year's moves).

      Any truth to Bowden's comments re signing overseas? They sure haven't been pusing out much in the way of press releases on that subject!

      By Blogger Sam, at 8/01/2007 12:12 AM  

    • 99% of those signings aren't press-release worthy. They're signing 16-year old kids. It's waaaay too early to judge!

      As long as they're making a steady commitment -- I think we have to take them at their word on this -- then we'll be fine. With most of those signings, it's quantity over quantity. The more you get, the greater the chance the talent fairy will come by and sprinkle some prospect dust.

      They've got two weeks and two big picks they need to sign. Ideally, they'd sign both (especially since one year of Dmitri is less than the two of them). But they NEED to sign Smoker. If they don't, we need to get some pitchforks and torches and go a-huntin'.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/01/2007 12:17 AM  

    • Chris,

      Good posts!

      Could you or someone please explain why the Nats can't reasonably expect to sign McGeary? You and others seem to concede it probably won't happen.

      Yes, McGeary would come in at a million or more above slot, because McGeary has extra leverage over most of the others. Why is that big bucks in MLB? The Nats saved $30 million this season in payroll and got a new ballpark gifted to them.

      The NFA guy said he would not give McGeary much more than slot either, if I remmber correctly, because MLB is a business.

      The best I can figure out, the owners are colluding to stay within slot, and everyone is holding pretty tightly to their solemn vow.

      Yet owners go out and give $50 million to older vets like Gary Matthews, Jr or Johnny Damon, sums that wreck team-building opportunities for other owners, and the big teams spend over $100 million on the younger FAs.

      So it puzzles me. It seems like the Nats are playing ball with the other owners, but nice guys finish last.

      By Anonymous Ed, at 8/01/2007 10:01 AM  

    • You answered your own question.

      There's a lot of pressure to stay within slot, pressure that the Nats are reluctant to break.

      Kasten has always been a hardliner against the players. (even wanting to prevent players from hiring agents). And it's safe to assume that Lerner wasn't selected for his promises to spend lavishly!

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/01/2007 10:18 AM  

    • Thanks, Chris.

      OK, then why is the owners' pressure focused on the draftee kids? This is the one area smaller and mid-market teams (like the Nats THINK they are) can catch up, over the long haul, with the Yanks, Dodgers, Bosox, and Mets.

      Why not collude on the FA market too, where the REAL lavish spending goes on? Why the big distinction? I still don't really get it.

      By Anonymous Ed, at 8/01/2007 10:25 AM  

    • Because the kids aren't represented by a union. They're the ones they can dick over, because there's nobody looking out for their interest.

      MLB HAS colluded on Free Agents twice, maybe three times.

      The first two times, they got hammered, and were ordered to pay out millions of dollars of restitution to the players.

      Then back in '02, there was some minor collusion. I don't think MLB ever directly admitted it, but in the last CBA they added some money to the players.

      so the union looks out for the big guys. The kids? They're expendable as long as Andruw Jones gets his money.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/01/2007 10:29 AM  

    • Last question:

      Every year some teams (seemingly the same big-bucks teams) go over slot, say late in the first round for a player with a tough agent (when the player would have gone higher if he had a soft agent).

      Apparently there is a new secret policy on this practice this year that prevents even a little "cheating"?

      By Anonymous Ed, at 8/01/2007 10:48 AM  

    • Teams can always go over slot. There's no OFFICIAL policy against it.

      But Selig has a mighty strong whip. And he's got lots of carrots (to mix metaphors) he can dangle out there. In the case of the Nats, the All Star Game is a pretty big carrot.

      They changed the CBA last year to give the team's a little more leverage. Ie: Picks have to be signed by 8/15 (two weeks!). Players used to be able to drag the negotiations out for a year.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/01/2007 10:50 AM  

    • Wow, look at Cordero's quote buried at the bottom of the MLB posting: "I wasn't really worried. When I heard they were asking for too much, I felt a lot better. It meant the chances were going to be very slim."

      Jim, you're a joke evaluator and negotiator to EVEN YOUR OWN PLAYERS.

      I worry about this, especially because I think that the intellectual respect of the baseball community is important to moving the team's entire future (And why Bowden's okay with being in "the same place" as they were a month ago is beyond me - shouldn't he always be trying to find a way to move the team forward?). If Bowden doesn't command the respect of his fellow GMs, or even his players, at any level, it's no wonder he's not getting real offers at the deadline and his draft picks are holding out.

      I have a very bad feeling about this handbasket...

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