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September 9, 2016

Transaction Analysis

Baseball Player Signed

by Jarrett Seidler

Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed QB/OF Tim Tebow to a minor-league contract for a reported $100,000. [9/8]

Let’s get something out of the way up top here: Tim Tebow is a tremendous, tremendous athlete. We shouldn’t take that away from him because he couldn’t throw a football at a NFL level. He’s one of the greatest players in the history of college football. He’s a plus runner at 255 pounds, something few in baseball can match. His all-around athletic ability is no joke at all, even if aspects of this signing are.

Can he play? Probably not. Michael Jordan was one of the greatest athletes ever, and gave baseball a try at 31 with a similar long-ago baseball background to Tebow. He hit .202/.289/.266 at Double-A and went back to basketball. The examples of football stars who were also somewhat successful baseball players—Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, most notably—were good college baseball players who never gave up the game for a long period like Tebow did. At initial glance, the idea of Tebow making The Show starting out in instructs at 29 is completely ludicrous. But I’m hedging to “probably” because, unbelievably, there actually were credible reports out of his showcase that gave him major-league upside. Maybe there was undue excitement or hype there, but Tebow will also get every break possible, because he’s Tim Tebow.

From a baseball perspective, taking a look at a freakish athlete that probably doesn’t have much of a shot but flashed some real power and speed is defensible enough, if not deserving of any sort of notice. There’s a guy or two like that on most teams in the low-minors—but they’re usually in their early-20s or younger, not 29. At his age, without the name value, Tebow most likely only gets a shot in an independent league instead of in organized baseball. Perhaps there’s an additional on-the-field fringe benefit to the organization in work ethic and leadership here, and maybe that’s enough to justify it all. By the same token, Tebow will also stand as a beacon for the patent unfairness of baseball. Some otherwise deserving farmhand is going to lose their roster spot to make room for a famous person. Maybe that kid was 2017’s Phil Evans or T.J. Rivera, just a shot away from hitting themselves to a utility career in the bigs. Probably not, but you never know.

Of course, it’s easy to be a cynic here. Tebow will bring with him enormous, mostly positive media and fan attention. With that will surely come a surge in gate revenues for the minor-league affiliates graced with Tebow’s presence. It can’t go without saying that the Mets themselves own two affiliates Tebow could play for: short-season A Brooklyn—in their home market, the biggest in baseball—and High-A Port St. Lucie—on the southern outskirts of Tebow Country in Florida. Especially at Brooklyn, the Mets have prioritized gate revenues and publicity, and BP’s own Kate Morrison predicted Tebow would land with the Mets weeks ago because of that. At the end of the day, baseball is a business, no matter how much we might hate it, and signing one of America’s most popular athletes is almost surely a good business move. Even if it’s out of the Bill Veeck playbook more than the Sandy Alderson one. —Jarrett Seidler

Jarrett Seidler is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jarrett's other articles. You can contact Jarrett by clicking here

Related Content:  New York Mets,  Tim Tebow,  Hail Mary

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