Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quietly Cheap

MLB.com has a generic winter meetings preview up. Nothing new or terribly exciting, but two lines stuck out for me.

1) "General manager Jim Bowden is trying his best to make the Nationals a better team in 2008, but he most likely will have to do it again with limited resources."

There's no reason the resources are limited, especially with the cash cow of a ballpark. Payroll doesn't always correlate with wins, but if this team sits on one token FA signing and the arbitration increases as a sign that they're investing in the team while pocketing millions of dollars from increased revenues...

2) "Under Kasten's orders, Bowden has declined to comment before the Winter Meetings begin in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday."

Under Kasten's Orders? We've always assumed. It's just funny to see it in print.

32 Comments:

  • It's like we all moved to Kansas City, and we will just have to adjust to being outspent by those fancy teams on the east coast.

    Until the payment due dates arrive for east-coast-priced season tickets. Then we have to readjust back here at home to the wealthy east coast market.

    By Anonymous EdDC, at 11/28/2007 3:12 PM  

  • "In terms of starting pitching, Livan Hernandez has said that he would like to play for Washington again, but he may prove to be cost prohibitive for the Nats."

    As Livan would be at best a number three starter on a championship caliber club, I wonder how many years it will be before the Nats actually become a contender given such a miserly view towards FA spending.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/28/2007 3:26 PM  

  • Much ado about nothing. Kasten's philosophy regarding free agents has been clear and consistent from day one. Any Redskin fan should be envious of a management team with an actual proven and unwavering philosophy.

    By Anonymous Let Teddy Win the Presidents Race, at 11/28/2007 3:39 PM  

  • What exactly is Kasten supposed to say?

    "Hey, I've got 30 million buring a hole in my pocket . . . who here wants to make a deal!!!!" Next thing you know, we have a presser where we're introducing our newest #1 starter Carlos Silva a bargain at 4 years 50 million.

    I seem to recall the Yanks saying that they would not under any circumstances ever negotiate with A-Rod is he opted out. In the words of the infamous Ron Ziegler "That statement is now inoperative"

    Except for the "unnamed baseball sources" that claim the Nats are "interested" in Baldelli and Dukes, there isn't much "news" here.

    Be happy for some moderate steps in the right direction . . . I mean its not like last year when a couple of our SP slots were going to be filled from the minor league FA pool.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/28/2007 3:44 PM  

  • I think they are still right to limit their spending. Jones may be an exception (for no more than three years), but if not, there is no reason to spend money unless we are going to compete. Until then, they are right to trawl the rough for diamonds and try and take chances on cheap youngsters. The Brewers have good young pitchers, the Met's good young bats, but any money we don't spend this years, is money we can spend when the younger players are ready.

    By Blogger Ben, at 11/28/2007 3:46 PM  

  • Met's good young bats, but any money we don't spend this years, is money we can spend when the younger players are ready.

    Yes, to the extent that the $10 million we would've committed to someone in 2010 could be used elsewhere.

    But it's not like they're going to take the $10 million they're 'saving' by not signing someone and spend THAT money on a 20-million FA in a few years.

    The majority of teams operate on a year-to-year budget based on the revenues they expect to receive. Some of Kasten's statements about how he hasn't finalized some of the budget aspects indicate that the Nats do the same.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/28/2007 3:48 PM  

  • fair enough, but we can't expect them to simply have one re-building year, and then start spending on the big free agents and suddenly win stuff. If this team is to succeed it is because we have a good farm system, that can sustain long term success. Until we are ready to compete better to either save money or plunge it into the farm system and scouting. We are still laying the foundation for success.

    Also Bowden can't be kept on the leash for long. He'll make a signing soon enough...

    By Blogger Ben, at 11/28/2007 4:13 PM  

  • or plunge it into the farm system and scouting. We are still laying the foundation for success.

    Sure, but the law of diminishing returns applies. Take the draft, for example. The Nats spent as much as any team in the league, but it was just a fraction of what the Yankees are going to pay ARod next year. Because minor leaguers have no true bargaining rights (well, they're limited, at least), they're a HUGE value and there's no way that $30 million saved on the MLB level is going to be able to be spent in the minors.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/28/2007 4:16 PM  

  • Most of us have always liked the idea of building for the future, by focusing on young talent and developing that talent--and then addding the final FA piece or two when the Nats are ready to compete for the penant. To me this is the perfect un-Orioles plan.

    Now the Nats have a free new stadium, letting them hike seat prices. So should they keep their small market payroll?

    Sometimes you have to generate the fan support you need to produce a winner. In other words, the fan base should be built along with the young talent, because the revenue producers (the fans) are as important as the runs producers in these formative years.

    This is why it makes sense to be aggressive now in bringing in at least some top young talent--players who will still be in their primes when the Nats make their run. All such moves should be made looking three and four years down the road.

    If the Nats add talent by trades instead of FA signings, that is fine. The point is that money spent now is not necessarily wasted.

    By Anonymous EdDC, at 11/28/2007 4:22 PM  

  • I totally agree that they're cheap, but other than Andruw Jones, who would you feel is actually worth the money? It's not like FA has an embarrassment of riches. It's more like just an embarrassment. I obviously want to see them spend some money, but would you rather the Nats look like the San Francisco Giants with tons of washed-up overpaid has-beens?

    That said, I think the perspective of many of us is directly colored by our experiences with the Redskins. Most Washington fans are so tired of seeing free agent busts by now that we'd rather see too little free agent spending than too much.

    By Blogger Michael, at 11/28/2007 4:41 PM  

  • "with limited resourses"---but, of course. When you think of the Nats' owners, just think of the money grubbing skin flint, Carl Pohlad of the Twins.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/28/2007 4:58 PM  

  • This is why it makes sense to be aggressive now in bringing in at least some top young talent--players who will still be in their primes when the Nats make their run. All such moves should be made looking three and four years down the road.

    Do you seriously think that the Nats would turn down a chance to acquire a player who would help them in 2008 and still be a positive contributor in 2012? Of course they wouldn't. The problem is . . . those guys are REAL VALUABLE. It's not like you can just back order a 300/30/100 middle IF from the factory in China. There is a finite supply and the price is huge.

    I won't pretend to know the ins and outs of the stadium lease but I am pretty sure that its not "free." What's the difference between leasing your stadium and owning it? Aside from the equity question, what is the difference in paying to service a loan to build your own stadium and paying rent to someone else who owns the stadium?

    Would it have been cheaper to build the stadium themselves? Maybe. But I'd be willing to bet that wasn't an option.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/28/2007 5:08 PM  

  • I thought the same thing as I read that article. We going into a new stadium, that will have some off the highest prices in the majors, and your telling me their still going to be acting like the Royals or the Marlins. Come on, I know were not the Yankees or the Red Sox (Heck, were not even the Mets, Dodgers or Cubs), but we are a big market team and it's time they start acting like. I'm not saying we should totaly ditch the plan, but we should have a bigger payroll.

    By Anonymous Natsfan7, at 11/28/2007 5:11 PM  

  • The best place to add payroll this year probably isn't via Free Agency (especially since Hunter's signing likely priced A. Jones above what he's worth to us).

    What CFers or MIers out there are up for FA after next year and might be potential Soriano-esque salary dumps/cash outs?

    By Anonymous estuartj, at 11/28/2007 5:36 PM  

  • There's no reason the resources are limited, especially with the cash cow of a ballpark. Payroll doesn't always correlate with wins, but if this team sits on one token FA signing and the arbitration increases as a sign that they're investing in the team while pocketing millions of dollars from increased revenues ...
    . . . then what? You'll call in the D.C. National Guard? ;-)

    I agree; the line you bolded is stupid. It would be much better -- or at least more accurate or honest -- simply to say that there's a disconnect between what they're willing to pay the guys on the FA market and what other teams will inevitably pay those guys.

    By Anonymous Basil, at 11/28/2007 5:36 PM  

  • Yes, anonymous, a lot of people do believe the Nats are leasing the new stadium at a sum whereby they would be better off if they had just gone ahead and built their own ballpark. But they were prohibited from building their own ballpark by DC or MLB or somebody, the belief goes.

    However, please look at the facts.

    DC provides a $610.8 million stadium, financed through: taxes on DC businesses at $21 to $24 million per year (thanks, DC!), plus another $11 to $14 million per year in ticket and concession fees (thanks, fans!), and then the owners kick in 5.5 million a year in their lease.

    Not a bad deal for the owners. They would not have preferred to build their own stadium. They required DC to build it as a condition of coming here.

    So DC taxpayers and the fans deserve almost all the credit, if you want to call it that.

    http://www.ballparks.com/baseball/national/wasbpk.htm

    By Anonymous EdDC, at 11/28/2007 5:37 PM  

  • Here's something that popped up mlbtraderumors.com today:
    The Rays and Twins have had discussions about shortstop Jason Bartlett. Would a 1 for 1 trade for Rocco Baldelli make sense? Buster Olney believes the Rays should consider trading for the Nats' Cristian Guzman.

    By Anonymous Tom L., at 11/28/2007 7:00 PM  

  • Chris, Chris, Chris, Since when do you believe anything Ladson writes? Usually, if Bill says someone is good, you get the stats to prove him wrong. Does that mean that JimBow has a pot of money, since Ladson says he doesn't?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/28/2007 8:47 PM  

  • if this team sits on one token FA signing

    Like Andruw Jones, you mean?

    I don't think I understand what you're after with this, Chris - you make a persuasive case of "Jones or bust," and a statistical case that most of the FA pile out there is just plain garbage, but here seem to imply that if they don't sign anybody (which would seem to be ok if they don't get Jones) than they're CHEEEEEP!

    Which do you want? A boatload of overpaying on has-been, ne'er-will-be's, or not overpaying which might possibly end up resulting in *gasp* profits for Uncle Teddy? (Oh, the horror!)

    I'm with Basil, here, the line about "limited resources" is dumb, since they're only limited in the cosmic sense of "Not bigger than the GDP of El Salvador," but I don't get where you're going - you seem to waver between "Don't overpay" (even though pretty much everybody in the market GETS overpaid), and "If you don't spend, you're CHEEEP." If Boz wrote columns like that, you'd nail him for changing his position.

    By Anonymous Marc, at 11/29/2007 9:00 AM  

  • Like Andruw Jones, you mean?

    If you take the mlb.com statement at face value, that's not going to happen.

    Yes, I've advocated Jones or Bust, but that's in the context of center fielders. There are other options -- Dunn, Livan, trading for someone... Burnett, Capuano, and number of SP options that would take prospects and cash.

    There's definitely still time to do it, and I'm not condemning their entire offseason now... just reacting to a line in a piece about their offseason plans...

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/29/2007 9:09 AM  

  • Dunn has full no-trade protection until June per his option being exercised.

    But ultimately Dunn would just block Marrero in a year or two, since they're both heavy hitting guys who can pretend to play LF or play 1b half decent.

    And sure, there's room to swap a few of our young prospects for some middle of the rotation guys with no cost controlled years left. But our prospects are just young, they're very young. So young that they haven't yet reached maximum hype and we can expect several to have a higher trade value come July or next offseason.

    It makes a lot of sense to sit on our money and sit on our prospects right now. Signing a type A is crazy for this team. Most of the type Bs are going to be overpriced albatrosses in a few years. Hunter will make $15 mil when he's 36. Do you really want to be writing about Andruw Jones' age 34 season being an $18 million dollar waste of space on (by then) a good team? Especially since that 34 year old Jones will likely be blocking one of our prospects then.

    2 year deals with free agents would be fine. Even over-paying on 2 year deals would be fine. But at this point in the offseason, players are still looking for 5 years on their new deals, and we don't need that kind of commitment.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/29/2007 9:22 AM  

  • Especially since that 34 year old Jones will likely be blocking one of our prospects then.

    Who?

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/29/2007 9:24 AM  

  • I'm not a Bowden fan but we blame him for the wrong things. He's done a good job finding players with the resources available to him and he's a victim of his own success. I've always said that the man driving this train is Stan Kasten and he's the one that deseves to be put on the hot seat about our concerns. Ben said that that "they" (Kasten) can't keep Bowden on a leash for long. Sure they can and have done just that. Kasten will never approve any deal where the $$$ or contract length are to expensive; so Bowden doesn't have any choice. Remember, Kasten built the Braves that way and he intends to build the Nats the same way. As fans, there's no use getting all worked up about high price free agents or big name trades. Kasten wants us to be very patience and keep supporting the "revenue stream" !!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/29/2007 9:53 AM  

  • Not a bad deal for the owners. They would not have preferred to build their own stadium. They required DC to build it as a condition of coming here.

    That seems to be a reasonable demand for an owner of a baseball franchise. A place to play. Would the Lerner's have been happy to put together a deal to build their own stadium? Don't know that.

    Still, they are on the hook for between $16m and 19.5m per year just to pay for the stadium. So you can't call it "free" by any means.

    Now you can call the 20-25m the taxpayers are kicking in a subsidy . . . and you would be right. Not unlike tax breaks and subsidies that local and state governments hand out to businesses all the time. But that doesn't translate directly to the year to year revenue of the team. It's just money they don't have to spend servicing the debt on a new stadium.

    Open question to all the "spend money on the team now crowd" . . . give me a name. Please. Tell me who they can get. And remember, the Nats have precious few top tier prospects to trade.

    So to be realistic, there are just two types of guys you would be able to add. 1. Grossly overpaid veterans and 2. guys with injury/attitude problems. So have at it. Spend the cash c'mon.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/29/2007 10:41 AM  

  • I can't say I would understand a move to obtain Dunn, we are over stocked at 1B and Corner OFers as it is, unless you think that WMP is going to be a bust or that he could switch to RF and Kearns could handle CF.

    I do think Dunn would waive his no trade clause to be reunited with Bowden. What would the cost be to obtain Dunn and would the Reds really be willing to roll the dice on a trade with Bowden after being fleeced on the Kearns/Lopez for Majewski/Bray trade?

    By Anonymous estuartj, at 11/29/2007 11:24 AM  

  • God the thought of Dunn-Kearns-Pena outfield gives me shivers! That's 400 strikeouts and god knows how many outfield errors in the making.

    Yeash, no way!

    By Anonymous estuartj, at 11/29/2007 11:26 AM  

  • Dunn to the Nats? If he plays 1B, hits clean-up and contract extension, WOW. Zimmerman (R) Dunn (L), Pena(R), Church(L) & Kearns(R). Find a leadoff man, put Belliard @ No. 2 and catchers @ No.8. Not bad BUT will Reds deal with Bowden after the Majewski/Bray mess.

    By Anonymous Hooker, at 11/29/2007 3:39 PM  

  • I'm not sure the spend-money-now crowd are saying let's forgo the future by signing a bunch of old guys. All moves should be made looking several years down the road: if it hurts you long-term, then don't do it.

    Maybe you can increase the payroll, and do it in a wise way where you help the present and build for the future. Example: trading for good young players with hefty salaries that small market teams might want to unload--I don't know who, I'm not Bowden. But I actually think Bowden is good enough to make trades like this.

    Anyway, maybe adding payroll now will in fact greatly help the future, because you build a steady flow of fans into the future to constantly fund new aquisitions.

    The stadium helps you increase your payroll. Putting it in thousands instead of millions, suppose you found a builder to build you a new house for $610,000.

    The builder says you can sign a 30 year lease at $5,500 per year, or $458 a month, with no rent increases, for 30 years. Now wouldn't that free you up to do lots of good things?

    By Anonymous EdDC, at 11/29/2007 3:50 PM  

  • Follow up: Dunn 101 walks & 165 K,
    386 OBP, 69XBH w/40HR, 106 RBI.....
    Ryan Howard 107 walks & 199 K, 392 OBP, 73XBH w/47HR, 136 RBI....... I'll take Dunn's strikeouts if the rest of his stats are similiar to Ryan Howard.

    By Anonymous Hooker, at 11/29/2007 3:52 PM  

  • I would agree with getting Dunn if he wasn't going to play the outfield. However, the only alternative is to have him at 1st Base where we already have of $10M tied up for Young & Johnson next season. Even if we moved one of them (difficult for Young, impossible for Johnson) we would still have at least $18M tied up at 1B.

    Not a smart financial move...

    If we could move either Kearns (possible) or WMP (not possible) and sign/aquire a top defensive CF THEN (and only then) would I feel comfortable with Dunn playing LF.

    By Anonymous estuartj, at 11/29/2007 5:23 PM  

  • While I would like to see Dunn as a Nat, I just think there's absolute no way we're going to get him. We have nothing in the way of bargaining pieces or prospects whatsoever.

    No matter what the team does (even if it signs A. Jones and some pitchers) we simply don't have the prospect base built up to contend realistically. Yes, we are a big market club, but even if the river overflow with milk, honey and cash for Kasten and friends, the MLB revenue model means that it doesn't matter anymore. Yes , money matters, but mostly in adding marginal runs and in increasing a team's ability to keep talent. We're already funding our farm system up the wazoo and until we stock it, there's just not much we're not going to be able to do. Furthermore, we can't stock it overnight because we don't have any pieces to move. We've got nada in trade value. Therefore, the only we can really do is wait, and no matter how much revenue Uncle Teddy is getting, that's not going to change. Teams won't give up their prospects without superstars, and teams generally speaking don't let superstars test free agency anymore, plus, even if we got free agents, we couldn't just turn around and dump 'em again.

    So the real question we fans have to ask ourselves is, "Do we want the Nats to spend just to spend money, and by doing so potentially crowd out some undiscovered talents with veterans who break down a lot anyway, or do we want to not spend and basically pour our ticket revenues down the drain?" Any way you cut it, things are sub-optimal. If you want to blame someone, don't blame JimBo or Stan, blame Bud Selig and the other greedy MLB owners out there.

    By Blogger Michael, at 11/29/2007 8:55 PM  

  • The builder says you can sign a 30 year lease at $5,500 per year, or $458 a month, with no rent increases, for 30 years. Now wouldn't that free you up to do lots of good things?

    It says nothing about MY income level though. If I have a monthly income of $1,000, I'm still spending half my income on housing. The fact that I'm in a better house than I should be is not relevant to how much I can spend to furnish it.

    Let's even assume that the new stadium and the attendant lease deal does produce significantly higher than average revenue. Can we weigh that against the terrible local TV deal? How much income are they LOSING through the MASN payoff to Angelos?

    I don't doubt that the revenue stream for the team will be higher than it was last year with the new stadium. I just want to counter the automatic assumption that this stadium is destined to be an unlimited font of revenue. I doubt Stan knows exactly how all the numbers will play out.

    Will they have a local revenue stream that will support a higher payroll? Sure they will. And over time, they better raise payroll, there is a correlation between winning and revenue in baseball so it makes sense to spend. But spending does not equal winning . . . just looks to the north for confirmation.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/30/2007 12:51 PM  

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