Tuesday, August 14, 2007

City Under Seige: CHEEEEEP Watch Day 423

Tick Tick Tock goes the stately clock, another night, another day, and we'll see if McGeary or Smoker are the one. The deadline for signing them (and all '07 draft picks) is tomorrow at midnight. And it's another test for whether the Nationals words match their actions. At a minimum, one of them needs to be signed. In an ideal world, they'd tell Herr Selig to go stick an HGH-filled syringe into one of his liverspots.

But that's not likely to happen.

Major League Baseball exerts a ton of pressure on clubs to stay within the recommended signing bonuses. There's no official requirement that they do, but teams typically want to stay within Bud's good graces, especially if they want delicious cookies tossed their way, such as the All Star Game.

And with Stan Kasten, a noted hardline labor guy, and the hand-picking of the Lerners, there's a chance that the Nats won't rock the boat.

It seems like they're a few hundred thousand apart on Smoker. I'd bet anything that that would get done. There's a few million apart on McGeary, whom they drafted in the sixth round knowing he'd want first-round money. He's much less likely, but, really, they should make the commitment to the kid.

NFA, in a way, argues otherwise. He argues that you can't point to the major league payroll and investment there and use that as a hammer to beat the Lerners with for not signing the kids because the nature of the money is different and because MLB and the Union have set up a system where kids and vets are treated differently.

He's right to an extent. The money IS treated differently. Typically, major league teams have set budgets in various areas, and money doesn't bleed from one area to the other. A dollar spent on the MLB level (provided its within the budget caps they've set) doesn't really take away from that on the minors. So, yeah, you can't really point to the money blown on Dmitri Young and day that they should've spent that on McGeary.

But, as he does acknowledge, the ultimate source of the money is the same. And when you're talking about a few hundred K in McGeary's case, you can find that under the average MLB team's cushions. Know how you save $300K next year? You don't re-sign Alex Escobar. His minimum-salaried roster replacement cost that much. Calling up Joel Hanrahan (or whoever) to replace an injured John Patterson cost the team that much. These are tiny amounts of money in the scheme of things. No, it's not the same account (or "color" as NFA suggest), but if that's the problem, reprogram the money. Shift an extra $300K from some other account and get it done.

(His other point about how the teams CAN stick it to the kids because of collective bargaining issues is exactly correct. But it's also safe to say that while it behooves the industry to keep things down, it doesn't make sense for any particular team to do so; that's why you're seeing so much more pressure on clubs to keep $$$ down)

To the end of reprogramming money, Svrluga shares some good news:
Yesterday, the Nationals held their regularly scheduled ownership meeting downtown at the Washington Square offices of the Lerner family, the corner of Connecticut and L NW. It is my belief that the baseball operations people pushed for more money to sign Smoker and McGeary, and there is some thinking that - in order for the Lerners to live up to their pledge of building through scouting and player development - they have to come through and sign these kids (particularly Smoker), whatever it takes.


This team made a promise to invest in the long-term future of the club when it slashed payroll by $30 million in the offseason. So far, they've lived up to it, hiring the best employees and really making a commitment. But the draft is the biggest commitment they have, and it makes no sense to spite themselves over $200K for Smoker. And ideally, $1-2 million over McGeary.

Next year, in the new park, money is going to roll in, even far beyond the projected payroll increase. They owe it to the fans of this team, the suckers like us who still follow this team no matter what, to spend that extra piddling amount, that drop in the bucket.

One other note on that. Because the Nats don't have any compensable free agents this year (having re-signed Belliard and Young), the Nats will have fewer draft picks overall, fewer high (1st, supplemental and 2nd round) draft picks, and it appears that they'll have a lower draft position (ie lower slotting value). Again, this goes to the whole color of money argument and how they likely won't spend next year's money this year, but they'll be spending LESS money on draft picks next year. Shouldn't that then free them up to spend more this year?

Just a quick eyeball of the slotting chart from NFA shows that they'll be spending about $1.5 million less, if all things stay the same, next year. Couldn't they find a better use for that money THIS year?


  • Chris - Thanks for the counterpoint. I really enjoy this "inside baseball" stuff. Your point about expenditures for next season is valid and I did overlook that. Assuming they have only their own picks in 2008, the Nationals have two choices: (a) spend those "excess" dollars today to get Smoker and McGeary or (b) play the game of grabbing tough high school signs in the later rounds (say, 15th and outh) with thoughts of buying them out of college. We all know where the conventional wisdom would have them going (and no into the Lerner's pockets is not an option)

    By Blogger Brian, at 8/14/2007 12:03 PM  

  • I think not signing Smoker would set a really bad tone for the organization. How they treat Smoker and McGleary is what I've been waiting on to form opinions(even if that's not entirely rational) on how they will run things. If they really are just a few hundred thousand apart on Smoker, then it's not going to make any sense at all for him to have not been signed. The money may be budgeted in different places, but with the revenues that are coming into teams these days, I find it hard to believe that an extra $500K is going to make or break this team one way or another.

    Besides, when teams go over slot, they're supposed to tell MLB(at least I think so) why they believe doing so is a wise choice. The team is still very low on legit prospects at least in part because of how MLB ran the team prior to the Lerners. If that isn't valid enough reason to sign Smoker to above slot, then I don't know what it is.

    I recognize the McGleary situation is a bit different, and I think it's a little more acceptable if he doesn't get done, but it certainly would seem to be a positive sign for the future if they show they are willing to take those kinds of risks.

    By Anonymous MF, at 8/14/2007 12:05 PM  

  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that you only get one bite at the apple with the Pick No. [X]A wrinkle. That is, you pass on Smoker and, say, draft Smoker2.0 in the 31A slot. And then that's it.

    If that's the case, they had better well concluded Smoker isn't worth it this time around and Smoker2.0 really is, because Smoker2.0 would have them over a rail in negotiations.

    As for McGeary, I could see it both ways. Reading between the lines, it seems more like he's humoring them and can't be budged out of Stanford unless he's offered 110% of what he wants.

    By Anonymous Basil, at 8/14/2007 12:50 PM  

  • The top tier draftees make it pretty well known what they are looking for before the draft, so drafting a guy and not signing him pretty much boils down to incompetence. They wasted a pick on Sean Black last year over 300K or so. If Smoker goes unsigned, it's wasted again. (Yeah, yeah, next year they can waste another, comparable pick too)

    If you want to sign players, and don't want to be in the speculative market, then draft sign-able players. Go back to getting college guys who are going sign and play now. Stay away from guys like Smoker and McGreary. You can be successful at that, too.

    Just stop wasting the picks entirely, is all I am saying.

    By Blogger Tim Bilbro, at 8/14/2007 12:54 PM  

  • That's an excellent point MF. The Nats can and should play the "You forced this on us when you set the Expos up for contraction" card with MLB. They're the only team that can. Not that Selig has to like it one bit, but it clearly separates us from the "Slot-schmot" position the Tigers, Yankees, etc, seem to take.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/14/2007 12:56 PM  

  • Tim-

    Wasn't that the Pirates position this year? That didn't seem to go over well with the fans...


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/14/2007 12:59 PM  

  • Some of this simply could be a staredown between teams and agents and Budwina over the new system that’s been imposed to see who blinks first. Whenever something like this is initiated no one wants to give up the ground and set the precedent because it becomes the rule in the future (in this case agents who like escalating bonus money each year agreeing to lower bonus money). If MLB really wants to make this stick though teams are going to have to let their picks walk so that next year the agents and draftees will know teams aren’t bluffing and simply wait them out to the cutoff date. Usually teams, not agents, cave first. If teams start caving in this year then just forget about trying to impose the new system of lower bonus cash next year. Budwina may throw a tantrum (and who really cares about that) if this collapses but someone, whether its agents or MLB, is going to blink because it’s hard to see half the 1st round draft picks not signing.

    By Anonymous Tulsa Fan, at 8/14/2007 1:05 PM  

  • Basil - You are correct with regards to the one bite at the apple. Which leads me to believe that teams will replace the unsigned gambles with signability picks thus not only losing a year of development but also lower the proposed talent ceiling of the 31B guys

    By Blogger Brian, at 8/14/2007 1:13 PM  

  • All of this hinges on knowing what these kids are asking for, which of course we don't. Sure the Nats might be jerking Smoker around over $300K or Josh might have gotten a sneak peek at Rick Porcello's deal and decided, "Hey, you know what? Ricky got $7M for being drafted 27th. That means I'm worth at least $5.2M!"

    Likewise, maybe McGeary is holding out for "1st round money" as in $2M or maybe he's got his heart set on $7M or a bus ticket to sunny Palo Alto, CA. You can say that's ridiculous, and I'd agree, but the point is none of us know (excpet maybe Brian, and he's not telling.)

    I'm not sure even Chris and his Lerners Are Teh Cheep Orchestra thinks Smoker and McGeary are worth $12M. And if that's true, it's just a matter of which side is closer to that last chair when the music stops tomorrow night.

    By Blogger Nate, at 8/14/2007 1:28 PM  

  • Everybody go check out nats.com and relax. Ladson reminds us again that Dimitri is going to save the day in LF next year, another perfect result of the Plan. We can all breathe easy; everything is going to be just fine.
    But will somebody please explain to me why the following reminds me of JimBo and company?????

    By Blogger Rob B, at 8/14/2007 1:53 PM  

  • I should ban you for linking to Family Guy. ;)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/14/2007 1:57 PM  

  • Come on man, you can't tell me that the resemblance is uncanny! :)

    By Blogger Rob B, at 8/14/2007 2:13 PM  

  • By Blogger wwwwww, at 10/26/2009 9:31 PM  

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