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December 23, 2008

Prospectus Today

Free Agent Dragnet

by Joe Sheehan

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Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira. Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira. Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira. Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira. Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira. Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira. Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira. Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira. Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira. Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira. Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira. Rafael Furcal. Mark Teixeira.

Good, we're all caught up. Now here are the takeaways from these stories:

  • People change their minds.

  • Agents are paid lots of money to take heat for their clients.

  • You can't take anything that's said publicly in a negotiation at face value.

That last point is critical right now. It's sweet that teams are racing to declare their lack of interest in Teixeira, like politicians racing away from a bill that polls poorly. However, it's only December 22, and saying that you're not going to pursue a player on December 22 is meaningless. Nothing happens in the last ten days of the year, especially when Christmas falls midweek as it does this year. Appearing to pull out now is just a negotiating stance designed to increase the pressure on Teixeira and potentially lower the eventual price, and it's a stance with absolutely no cost. It's not impossible that a deal could be reached between now and January 5, but the history of the industry is that nothing significant happens after winter solstice.

The Orioles want Teixeira. The Red Sox would take him. The Angels need him. The Yankees need him. The Nationals... have a lot of money to spend. Fifteen other teams would do well to kick the tires and could dip into their industry subsidies if they really wanted to make a run. He's the best position player on the market, and the best position-player free agent since Carlos Beltran (excluding Alex Rodriguez's not-really-free-agency last year). The numbers being bandied about-seven or eight years at $22-24 million per year-are not unreasonable given what CC Sabathia signed for, or what Alfonso Soriano, an inferior free agent, got two winters ago from the Cubs. Baseball can point to the national and global economies all it wants, but the industry is flush with cash and more than able to keep paying out large salaries for excellent baseball players.

Teixeira will eventually sign the longest and most lucrative contract in baseball history not inked by Rodriguez, and no amount of posturing by his suitors changes that.

---

In other news...

The Yankees are apparently interested in Manny Ramirez. I can't quite figure out what to do with this. On the one hand, I see Ramirez as one of the safest bets on the market, someone who's going to hit very well until he either doesn't want to play or can't physically make it onto the field any longer. Edgar Martinez is his comp in that regard. Like Martinez, Ramirez is pretty close to becoming a full-time DH, and an AL team makes a better fit for him than one in the NL. The Yankees need help on offense, and in this market, only Teixeira is a better positional free agent than Ramirez.

On the other hand, signing Ramirez closes off the path to Teixeira and exacerbates a roster logjam in 2009. With Ramirez, the Yankees would have five outfielder/DHs without having a single center fielder in the bunch: Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Xavier Nady, and Nick Swisher. Damon and Swisher can passably fake center field, but putting either between two of the other players is going to bring back memories of the mid-90s Rangers' teams, or even the famed 1989 Dodgers, who started Kirk Gibson or Franklin Stubbs in center field a combined 19 times, often paired with the other of the two and Mike Marshall, Kal Daniels, or Mickey Hatcher. It's hard to conceive of a defensive alignment of those five players that wouldn't send Phil Hughes on a three-state killing spree by Flag Day. That's before dealing with the possibility, looming like a deadline, that Jorge Posada will have to get some subset of his playing time-or perhaps all of it-at DH and first base.

Signing Manny Ramirez makes baseball sense in a vacuum, but what it does to the defense and the roster may make it impossible to execute. The Yankees need offense. Adding it in a way that hurts an already shaky defense and squeezes the roster is likely counterproductive. At least adding Teixeira upgrades the defense and defines the roster in some sense-he plays first base, everyone else moves to accommodate him. Ramirez could be slotted in left field, right field, or DH depending on what other players do, but we know that playing him in a corner brings that -10/-15 glove into play. When you add it all up, it's hard to see how he fits in the short term.

---

While we're all focused on the biggest names on the market and which of them might become Yankees, let's take a second to look at an ex-Yankee who could be on the brink of some success. The Padres signed Chris Britton to a minor league deal. Taking Britton, who has the skill set of a good set-up reliever, and putting him in Petco Park, is like finding money. Two years ago the Padres picked up Heath Bell from the Mets, basically for free, and Bell has 173 strikeouts in 171 2/3 innings as their eighth-inning guy. With Bell set to become the closer, Britton could well play Bell to his Hoffman for the next two seasons. Just considering Britton's work at the highest levels...


Level      IP    ERA    K/9   K/BB   HR/9
AA       16.0   2.81  13.50    4.0   0.00
AAA      85.0   2.44   8.89    4.2   0.53
MLB      89.1   3.83   5.84    2.1   1.01

I would submit that his MLB line doesn't do him justice, as his 2008 season was spent being jerked around by the Yankees. Check out this log:

  • Britton doesn't make the team out of spring training, and is recalled April 25.

  • He's sent down April 29 without pitching, and is immediately recalled.

  • Throws 2 2/3 shutout innings on May 1, his only work in a stretch of 18 days.

  • Sent down again on May 9. Immediately recalled.

  • Throws two decent innings on May 12, his second appearance in 18 days.

  • Sent down May 20. At this point, Britton has more demotions (three) than appearances (two) dating back 27 days.

  • After pitching twice at Scranton, he is recalled on May 29.

  • He pitches on June 1 and June 3, then is DLed on June 6 with a strained ribcage, no doubt incurred while packing and unpacking.

  • After a two-game rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League, Britton spent most of July at Scranton. He made eight appearances for the Barons over the next three weeks, throwing 12 innings, striking out 11, and allowing two earned runs.

  • He was recalled on July 31, shoved into three innings of mop-up relief, and immediately sent back down.

  • He was recalled on August 6 and sent down on August 8, again without having thrown a pitch.

  • Britton was recalled on August 17 and spent the rest of the year in the majors, throwing the wettest of mop-up relief. In fact, in all 15 of Britton's major league appearances last year, there was a lead or deficit of at least four runs when he entered the game.

There's no way I'm judging the guy based on his having an ERA above 5.00 in the majors with that kind of travelogue. I love this signing, one of my five favorite moves of the winter. Britton will throw 70 above-average innings for the Padres, innings that will look stunning given the run context.

---

Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, do so wholeheartedly, surrounded by loved ones. My best wishes and my gratitude go out to all of you who make me smarter, every single day. Happy holidays.

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

28 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Rob_in_CT

The Yankees useage (or lack thereof) of Britton is even more puzzling when you consider their overall bullpen strategy in 2008. Outside of Mariano, Farnsworth (before being traded) and Marte (once he came over), it was "throw a bunch of no-names up against the wall and see who sticks." And honestly, by this year Farnsworth was just another against the wall guy to the Yankees.

Guys like Brian Bruney, Edwar Ramirez, etc. were trusted to pitch important innings. Yet Chris Britton, with solid results in both the minors and the majors (AL East, no less), was basically ignored. The only thing I can come up with is that he's fat and someone (Girardi?) in the organization *really* doesn't like fat guys.

Dec 23, 2008 09:29 AM
rating: 1
 
pbconnection

Clearly, there was something other than performance that dictated the Yankees usage of Britton. I think that his weight had something to do with it - perhaps he failed to make weight goals that the Yankees set for him and he ended up in the dog house. This is the only theory that I can come up with, since the Yankees gave legit shots to all kinds of minor leaguers in '08.

Dec 23, 2008 10:14 AM
rating: 0
 
J Scott

There was something other than performance that dictated Britton's usage by the Yankees? Sure there was...THEY HAD BETTER OPTIONS THAN BRITTON. A question that Sheehan needed to address was: Whose innings should Britton have been taking? Guys like Ramirez and Dan Geise were exponentially better pitchers out of the bullpen when they pitched IN SCTANTON. Since Sheehan doesn't want to look too closely at Britton's work in the Bronx, the only thing we have left to look at are the relative performances of the available options when they pitched in Scranton. And the available options were MUCH, MUCH better there. The bullpen was not a problem for the Yankees in '08 and it doesn't figure to be one in '09. Chris Britton's disposition is (or should be) a complete non-issue.

Dec 23, 2008 11:32 AM
rating: 0
 
pbconnection

While the bullpen wasn't the problem for the Yankees in '08, it doesn't mean that they couldn't have better utilized Britton. When the innings and opportunities afforded to guys like Hawkins, Ohlendorf, and Robertson are considered, it just doesn't make sense for Britton not to get a reasonable shot at contributing.

Dec 23, 2008 12:46 PM
rating: 1
 
J Scott

Having better options doesn't constitute an adequate rationale for not deploying Britton? As a matter of fact, it does. There's absolutely not one single thing about Britton's work at Scranton (or in the Bronx) that would justify giving him Robertson's innings. Robertson was a better pitcher last year and that gap is only going to grow.

Dec 23, 2008 13:13 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Actually, the Yankees had a lot of talented relievers in 2008, a lot of free-talent types floating around. I'm not really arguing that Britton should have pitched more, in this piece. I'm arguing that Britton's season was so difficult, with so much turmoil, that you can't hold his ERA against him too much. He was really handled roughly.

Dec 24, 2008 10:07 AM
 
juiced

I just dont see how Tex ( or anyone besides maybe Pujols) is worth 8 years at 20 million plus. Tex is already 28, the first 3-4 years of the deal you can expect close to peak performance, but the back end is a fool's errand. Add to the mix the fact that he is filling an unimportant defensive position where talent is abundant and you wind up with opportunity losses when your farm system develops big hitters that Tex blocks. In a rational market a team like the Sox would offer him $35mil per for 3 years. This would blow away the other offers in terms of annual value, and give Tex the flexibility that Sabathia has to reexamine his career in a few years. And you wouldnt be committed to him in his middle 30's for 20 million a pop.

Dec 23, 2008 10:36 AM
rating: -3
 
jlefty

respectfully disagree. opportunity losses don't apply because if the talent is there (and with the yanks, it really isnt..), trades can always be made. yeah maybe it puts more pressure on jesus montero to stick at catcher, but if he doesn't and teix/arod are in the way, montero still retains his value as a trade chip.

also, you assume that the market isn't rational (and that your solution is rational, but you don't know that teix would take that deal as he may not be looking to maximize career dollars, but instead job security. PLUS, you don't know that 35/3 even maximizes career dollars for teix because you admit that the back end of this deal is bad for the yanks, so why would his age 31 deal be anything special), even though there is no evidence that it's not, or even shouldn't be.

Dec 23, 2008 13:32 PM
rating: 3
 
Richie

I'll agree that if there's fault anywhere, it lies with Furcal 100%. There is such a thing as 'Business Ethics'. Those who think there isn't, it just speaks to their own individual and personal lack thereof. You don't want to be doing business with them.

So, is what Furcal did through his agents well beyond the pale of normal baseball negotiating? Could Perotto or somebody address this?

Dec 23, 2008 10:41 AM
rating: 1
 
Nick Smith

"Teixeira will eventually sign the longest and most lucrative contract in baseball history not inked by Rodriguez"

You think Teixeira's going to top Jeter's 10 year $189M deal? I think he'll top the AAV but not the years or the total dollars.

Dec 23, 2008 10:52 AM
rating: 0
 
Schlom

I think that Hoffman is going to end up back on the Padres which would leave Bell in the set-up roll again.

I agree with juiced, not sure how giving a long-term deal to a 1B makes any sense. It kind of reminds me of the Rockies contract with Todd Helton. They will both be 29 at the start of their long-term deal. However, Helton's contract is an albatross right now and he was probably better than Teixeira.

Dec 23, 2008 11:05 AM
rating: 0
 
PeterBNYC
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Joe, as usual, you have very good advice for the Yankees, which they will likely not take. They should be actively seeking to trade Matsui, Nady, Cabrera, and maybe Damon. None is a solution to their real outfield problem, which is CF. I have suggested earlier (and got hooted at) that the Yankees should go after Curtis Granderson. The Tigers spent an awful lot on payroll last year and got nothing for it ecept last in the division and a testy relationship between Leyland and Dombrowski. Why would the Tigers trade Granderson? Because he does not supply the power they need. Why would the Yankees want him? He has a deal that is not overpriced and four years to run, he has multiple skills, including playing a first rate CF, which none of the above will supply (except Cabrera), and the departure of the others will clear up a difficult positional logjam and shed payroll- if they are going to sign Tex or Manny (and I think a Manny deal- short term- is a good solution for them), something they will need to do. But I doubt they will.

Dec 23, 2008 11:52 AM
rating: -4
 
Amos

You might as well suggest they trade for Sizemore.

Dec 23, 2008 12:46 PM
rating: 6
 
DWrek5

I dont understand this comment about Granderson, "he doesnt supply the power they need".

- He doesnt play a power position
- However for his position he does provide nice power
- If they get rid of him, chances are his replacement in center will have less power

Dec 23, 2008 13:23 PM
rating: 3
 
PeterBNYC

I am puzzled to run into this comment comment of mine and find it flagged. The negative comments deliberately misread what i was suggesting- the Tigers don't need a valuable player like Granderson when they have so many other needs the Yankees could supply. And the Tigers likely will not want prospects, they will want everyday players now..... Ahh, the hell with it.

Feb 11, 2009 12:19 PM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

1) to PeterBNYC - the Tigers should and would demand the moon for Granderson - any deal would have to _start_ with Hughes and Austin Jackson and some combination of MLB proven pitching. It just is not going to happen.

2) Tex and where he might go - paraphrased from something I posted earlier at baseball think factory - I think he should take the Nationals offer - Like all signings, there are risks. We all know the Yankees try to sign everyone, but they haven't been to the World Series in 5 years now. Tex is likely the 2nd best 1B in baseball today. And the guy better than him is the best player in baseball today. As long as the offer isn't extremely backloaded, and Tex avoids injury in the first half of the deal (never a given, but at least more likely at his position), then those figures may not be so out of touch assuming (a fair assumption) that the economy begins to recover and MLB contracts continue to rise.
To summarize my ideas:
1) Over a ten year period, any competently run team in baseball should be even money to make the playoffs between 1-3 times. Their willingness to go all out to sign one of the top players in the game indicates that they are trying to win.
2) Looking into the next ten years, the odds of any one team making the playoffs more than 3-4 times would be fairly low.
3) If the money is fairly evenly spread out over the life of the contract, the salary will not be extremely out of line in its second half, especially as Tex has a fairly well rounded game at a less than intensive defensive position that gives him a solid opportunity to retain a high level of hitting ability into the future.
4) If Tex signs with the Nats and leads them to even one pennant (hell - even one playoff appearance) and continues his career path for 8-10 years, his chances to gain entry into the HOF go up immeasurably - much more so than if he signs with the Yankees/Red Sox and joins their ensemble cast of stars.

Dec 23, 2008 12:22 PM
rating: 1
 
abcjr2

Posted in the morning by Joe:

"Nothing happens in the last ten days of the year, especially when Christmas falls midweek as it does this year."

Later the same day (the "Dewey defeats Truman" moment):

By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
Published: December 23, 2008
The Yankees have reached an agreement with Mark Teixeira, a free-agent first baseman, on a long-term contract, according to a person in baseball familiar with the matter. The move would represent the third major off-season move by the team and deal a blow to the Boston Red Sox, who had made signing Teixeira the main objective of their off-season.

Dec 23, 2008 13:15 PM
rating: 1
 
Trieu

Teixeira to the Yankees. Sigh. This is huge for them. They go from replacement level to star in one fell swoop.

Dec 23, 2008 13:55 PM
rating: 0
 
ChasesAses

Joe swung and missed on that one, but we still love him.
Everybody gets one.

Dec 23, 2008 14:09 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I have been consistently wrong, over a period of years, in determining what the pace of the market will be. I think I wrote about this recently. I attribute it in part to being an outsider, and in part to...just not being real good at this particular thing.

It's not strange that I'm wrong. It's strange that I'm *always* wrong.

Dec 24, 2008 06:37 AM
 
sbnirish77

"However, it's only December 22, and saying that you're not going to pursue a player on December 22 is meaningless. Nothing happens in the last ten days of the year, especially when Christmas falls midweek as it does this year."

Yes ... Joe, like the Red Sox guessed wrong here ... for a bluff and $ 10 mil they lost their MAN


as Yogi would say "it deja vu (Johnny Damon) all over again

Dec 23, 2008 18:28 PM
rating: -3
 
Richie

I thought the original thinking was 'The Red Sox have little need for Tex, but they'd be happy to bid up his price to the Yankees'. Why is everybody now convinced this isn't exactly what the Sox executed? Why is anybody convinced this isn't exactly what the Sox executed? Cuz up until Tex signed the Sox told the media 'gosh, we'd sure like to sign him'?

Dec 24, 2008 10:52 AM
rating: 0
 
Richie

Oh, and where's Perotto with the answer to my Furcal 'baseball negotiating ethics' question? Dagnabit!

Dec 24, 2008 10:53 AM
rating: 0
 
PDiPirro

Sbnirish77 must be a Yankees fan, because no other person would compare Teix and Johnny Damon.

And I doubt it was the $10 million that stood in the way of the Red Sox netting Teixeira. It was the full no-trade, which the Boston organization refuses to do.

Dec 23, 2008 21:47 PM
rating: 0
 
silviomossa

One similarity is that in both cases, the Red Sox were lucky that they didn't get their guy. In Damon's case, because he wouldn't be worth the money, and he hasn't been. For Teix, he might be worth the money, but the Sox didn't need even need a 1B, and a 180 mil is too much to spend on a guy just to prevent him from signing with your rival.

Dec 23, 2008 21:53 PM
rating: 1
 
danlbfaks

Yankee fans better hope this is the last reason to link Teixeira and Damon.

Dec 24, 2008 06:35 AM
rating: 0
 
cbirkemeier

Joe, this is the second time I've seen or heard you remark that "Edgar Martinez is [Manny's] comp in that regard," referring to the statement of each being "someone who's going to hit very well until he either doesn't want to play or can't physically make it onto the field any longer." The only problem with that is Edgar's production in his final season wasn't so great. In 2004, he had 549 plate appearances and hit .263/.342/.385 for an EQA of .254. That doesn't sound like someone who hit very well.

Dec 24, 2008 08:09 AM
rating: 0
 
Schere

he was 41 years old! In his age 40 season, he posted a 141 OPS+...one of the 5 best age-40 seasons in MLB history. At age 39, he was hurt bit posted another of his usual excellent OPS+, 139, in 97 games. At age 38, he posted a 160 OPS+, another top 10 performance...

Hell, his meager 64 RC in 1004 is still among the top 10 among 41 year-olds. Manny's only 36!

Dec 26, 2008 19:01 PM
rating: 0
 
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