12/07/2004: Thought for the Day:
As far as team-building strategy goes, I am a big believer in paying a premium for elite players and avoiding expensive mediocrity at all costs. In other words, $250 million for Alex Rodriguez doesn't make me shake my head nearly as much as $16.8 million for Guzman, which is why the early returns this offseason are a little confusing to me. Why would a team like the Reds, with a payroll near the bottom of the National League, commit to paying over $4 million per year for Wilson, when they could probably find someone capable of giving them 90% of the production for 10% of the cost? Why would the small-market Twins spend a million bucks a year on backups like Juan Castro and Mike Redmond, and then quarrel over money with impact players like Corey Koskie and Brad Radke?
I just don't get what's going on, and I've decided that there are three possible explanations. One is that the earliest signings in any offseason are the ones that, for the most part, make you shake your head. Teams that act quickly are doing so without a market being set, and thus there is more of a chance that the contracts they hand out are bad ones. In other words, if you give me a bunch of money to go grocery shopping for the first time and when I show up at the store nothing has a pricetag on it, there's a chance I might end up coming home with a $75 gallon of milk.
The other theory is that the GMs acting early, like Jim Bowden going on his shopping spree in Washington, are the ones more prone to handing out "interesting" deals. Of the 13 multi-year contracts that have been given out already this offseason, Bowden, Brian Sabean, and Terry Ryan have each been responsible for two, while Omar Minaya and Ed Wade have been behind one each. I am certainly not saying that is a list of bad GMs by any means, but those names being associated with questionable free agent decisions doesn't exactly surprise me. On the other hand, it's also not shocking that Theo Epstein is the man behind the one deal I approve of.
The last explanation is that maybe I have just completely misjudged the free agent market. Perhaps I was suckered into believing all of that talk about more responsible spending and no more gigantic, ARod/Manny Ramirez-type contracts being given out. When I wrote up my position-by-position free agent previews, I expected guys like Wilson, Lidle, and Glendon Rusch to sign for one-year deals and maybe a million bucks, so clearly I am completely out of touch.
Len on 12.07.04 @ 06:30 AM CST