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December 3, 2009

Prospectus Today

The Unbearable Lightness of Being the Red Sox

by Joe Sheehan

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I had a lot of fun Tuesday night, serving as a guest lecturer-really, Q&A target-for the Sabermetrics 101 class at Tufts University in Boston. Along with Baseball Information Systems' Steve Moyer, and at the behest of my friend Dr. Andy Andres, I got to spend a few hours talking about matters serious and otherwise with a group of students who, had this been 20 years earlier, might have been engaging in thrust-and-parry with Gary Huckabay, Clay Davenport, and others on rec.sport.baseball.

I absolutely love events like this, where I get to talk about what Prospectus has done and is doing, but also about baseball and performance analysis. One of the things I miss is participating in the BP annual's book tours that come in the spring, with the chance to have these back-and-forths with people, some who have been reading us for 15 years, others who just saw the crowd and meandered over. There's always been an element of proselytizing involved in working with BP, and it's something that I'd come to love over the years. Sitting in that classroom, touching on any number of topics-wishing at times I'd had one of the truly smart guys with me when a statistical query stumped this dumb journalism major-will definitely be one of the highlights of the year. I'd like to thank Andy and his students, as well as Steve and BP's David Laurila, for a great time.

Being in Boston, however briefly, has me thinking about the hometown nine, which could be in line for an interesting offseason. When I look at the Red Sox, I see the best organization in the game, one that has raised itself to the point where consecutive seasons of not winning a pennant leave the fan base restless. The transition I've talked about with the Yankees, where there's a disconnect between what the reality was for fans in the late 1980s and early 1990s with what came after, seems to be developing in Boston. In six years, this franchise has gone from "please win the World Series before I die" to "how come you haven't won since 2007?," and all the irrationality attached to that attitude.

It's these expectations that make it tempting to pay through the nose to upgrade a part of the team that's already a considerable strength. The Red Sox, with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, go into 2010 with arguably the best front end of a rotation in the AL. Nevertheless, there's a clamor for them to acquire Roy Halladay, a free agent at the end of '10 who has been made available by the Blue Jays. Halladay would make the Sox better in the short term, but not by nearly as much as you might expect. If you trade Buchholz for him, the upgrade is perhaps 15-20 runs saved over 220 innings, or about two wins. If you can acquire Halladay without trading Buchholz, it's a bigger upgrade depending on how you project Michael Bowden or Tim Wakefield or perhaps a mid-level free agent to do.

There's a reason for making this kind of upgrade. The Sox are in the range where marginal wins have the most value, moving a team that much close to a postseason berth. The competitive environment of the AL East, with strong Yankees and Rays teams, requires higher standards than does the rest of baseball. Certainly Halladay would make a postseason rotation even more formidable, and if the postseason schedule is compressed in 2010, having an additional starter who can carry a significant load will be even more valuable.

On the other handů you're trading for one season of play. That's 34 starts, 220 innings, plus whatever may happen in October. You may even have to agree to a risky long-term extension to complete the deal, as Halladay has a no-trade clause, and like any player in this situation, he would certainly welcome the chance to secure his future without taking the risk that he'll get injured in the upcoming season. There won't be any discount; Halladay has the leverage and can comfortably compare himself to CC Sabathia and Johan Santana, each making more than $20 million per season. So to acquire Halladay now is to take the worst of both worlds: paying in talent and having to commit to a market contract for his future, all at a gain of one season's upgrade.

This is also the Jays' problem. Just as the Twins were forced to take less for Santana than it was assumed they would, the Jays may be stuck choosing between an unimpressive package of prospects for Halladay and allowing him to leave at the end of 2010 for two compensatory draft picks. Neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees were willing to trade their best prospects two winters ago, nor would Santana agree to a deal that didn't include a contract extension, leaving the Mets to swoop in with a package that now reads like a bad joke. The Jays' challenge is to not make that same mistake, and given the parameters-you're effectively trying to make the best trade for three parties, not just two-it may be impossible.

Red Sox fans may want Halladay, but the team has little reason to pay through the nose, twice, to get him. There's certainly a price where it makes sense for them to make a trade, but if they have to deal Buchholz, if they have to deal Casey Kelly, and if they have to commit to 2011-2016 at a staggering rate, then they are probably better off having "just" a very good rotation, focusing on improving the back end of it and the bullpen, and adding parts to what may be the most flexible mix of position players in the game. The Red Sox are not about going all-in for one season at a cost of many others; they're about winning 95 games every year. If they can trade for Roy Halladay within that framework, fine, but whether they do so or not doesn't change the caliber of this franchise.

Hallday wasn't the big story while I was in town. No, there were two others, the first of which involved Dustin Pedroia's willingness, even eagerness, to play shortstop. Pedroia was a shortstop in college and for a chunk of his time as a prospect, moving to second as he approached the majors. He's a good second baseman, not a great one, and just based on his skill set I suspect he would be a slightly below-average shortstop, costing maybe five to 10 runs a season with his glove. The main problem I see is that his size would seem to limit his lateral range and his throwing arm, making him comparable to David Eckstein at the position. A shortstop who fields like late-20s Eckstein and hits like peak Pedroia is a very good player, so that's actually a reason to move him.

The issue is that it's making a move for the sake of making one. The Sox don't have a strong internal option forcing Pedroia off of second base so much as they see a free-agent pool longer on second basemen than shortstops. So rather than sign a sure-to-decline Marco Scutaro or Miguel Tejada, they see picking up Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez, both a bit younger, as the stronger play. I see the rationale, but rather than move a key long-term element of the team from his best position, I'd rather see them roll the dice on moving someone like Hudson to short. The equation is much the same, and the level of investment in the move is significantly less. If it fails, you haven't messed on up a core contributor, just cost yourself some runs and money and forced yet another midseason trade for a stopgap. Heck, the Sox could even run Jose Iglesias out there by August, eating the 550 OPS in exchange for the +20 defense.

Think about 1997, when the Red Sox moved their fantastic incumbent shortstop to second base, over his strenuous objections, to make room for Nomar Garciaparra. John Valentin was moved because there was a better player on hand, and the move was designed to maximize the talent on the field. Moving Pedroia, while similar on the surface, is a move of convenience based on the fleeting makeup of one year's available talent. Moving Pedroia for that reason is a mistake, and while it could work out, the risk involved is significant and not worth it for the difference between signing Hudson and signing Tejada. The Sox can find a better plan.

The other story of note was John Henry proposing changes to how MLB redistributes money. Shockingly, his plan would have the greatest effect on the Yankees, as it focuses on high payrolls rather than high revenues. It was self-interest disguised as economics, and should be condemned as such. Henry correctly questions the efficacy of wealth transfers approaching a billion dollars to a number of teams that do not appear to be using that money to change their competitiveness. His solutions, however, are unoriginal-yet another call for guaranteeing a portion of revenues to the players in exchange for payroll constraints-and, as all owner plans have always done, fails to address the central problem.

Henry is a smart man, a successful man, a man who has made his wealth based on knowledge of finance and economics and the use of hard data. So why won't a man like that acknowledge what outsiders such as Keith Woolner and Derek Zumsteg have known for years: that the problem MLB faces isn't an issue of payroll or revenues, but the differences in potential revenue that have developed across markets in the past 30 years? A man with the background of John Henry has to understand that central point, and yet he presents a plan that would do absolutely nothing to address it.

Smart, serious people have presented well-crafted solutions that directly address this problem. The first owner to take up one of these solutions, to back a plan that has nothing to do with limiting labor costs or hindering the competitiveness of a rival or dipping into the public till is the owner I will take seriously on this topic. The problem of differing incentives across markets is the one that drives everything else, that makes it profitable and even sensible for the Royals and Pirates and Marlins to be run in the soul-crushing way they've been run for more than a decade. MLB has never once attempted to address this, and the plans they've enacted have made the problem worse. Until fixing the marginal-revenue problem becomes the game's top priority-and it is very reparable-no equity among markets is possible.

I want to know why one of the smartest, most accomplished, most economically-literate men in baseball won't embrace a real solution.

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

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

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jlefty

most flexible group of position players? the team with ortiz, vmart, youk, lowell, varitek, and jd drew? youk is the only flexible player in there and all he can play is (albeit quite adeptly) 1st and 3rd.

Dec 03, 2009 11:04 AM
rating: 1
 
Matt Kory

Martinez can play first, Youk can play 3rd, Pedroia (according to him) can play shortstop, third base, catch and pitch simultaneously, Scutaro can play anywhere, and now Lowell is apparently ready and able to play first. That's some decent flexibility. I'm not sure it's the best in the majors, but I'm willing to believe Joe if he says so.

Dec 04, 2009 05:19 AM
rating: 1
 
Adam Madison

"willing to believe Joe if he says so"? Doesn't that sound a lot like the sort of groupthink BP tries so hard to avoid?

Dec 09, 2009 10:17 AM
rating: 0
 
shocker4602

Joe, do you think maybe Henry knows a lot of these other options and that his suggestions do not really attack the problem, but is just publishing these suggestions because they serve his club the best (ie restricting the Yankees)?

Dec 03, 2009 11:15 AM
rating: 1
 
Eugene

I think that's his point. Henry, knowing that there are real solutions to the imbalance of the competition and broken incentives for many small market teams, is instead, as you say, proposing a solution that maximizes both his earning's and his team's potential. Of course it's rational for him to offer salary caps as a fix. Joe is objecting to a such a smart man being dishonest for personal gain.

It happens all the time and by all teams. This is just one example but seeing as it's been in the news recently, it's a good one to address.

Dec 03, 2009 11:27 AM
rating: 1
 
shocker4602

Oh and vmart plays catcher and first, and drew can play all 3 of positions, and ortiz, lowell, and varitek are coming off the books after this year and were given rewards for bringing the Sox two championships in 4 years so thats why they may not fit with the flexibility plan.

Dec 03, 2009 11:19 AM
rating: 0
 
jlefty

the last time drew played center more than 10 times in a season, he was 10 years younger.

Dec 03, 2009 11:51 AM
rating: 1
 
J Scott
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

"When I look at the Red Sox, I see the best organization in baseball..." Do you see dead people, too? Let's see, in the aughts the Yankees won significantly more games and made a lot more money...but the Red Sox have the best organization? No, they don't. But, but...aren't there better measures than games won and money made? There are certainly other measures, but there are no better measures. The only thing bringing in other measures does is it allows you to introduce an enormous amount of subjectivity into a question which has a very simple and obvious answer.

Dec 03, 2009 11:49 AM
rating: -23
 
Rob_in_CT

1. Sheehan is a Yankees fan, dude.

2. The Red Sox have won 2 WS, won a ton of games and have a very healthy farm system. Their market, while large, is not 1/2 of NY. They have done nearly as much with less. It's not crazy to think of them as a model franchise.

3. I too am a Yankees fan.

Dec 03, 2009 11:53 AM
rating: 11
 
Adam Hobson

1. He may be a Yankees fan, but I think he likes to overcompensate sometimes in his analysis to hide that.

2. The Yankees have won 2 World Series this decade as well (2000 started the 2000s...) they also have 4 Pennants and 8 divisional crowns. They have also won 956 regular season games this decade. The Yanks have won over 100 games in the regular season 4 times, including thrice in a row, and have only missed the post season once.

The Red Sox have 2 World Series titles, but only 2 Pennants and one divisional crown. They have won only 920 regular season games over the decade, never won over 100 games, and have only made the playoffs 6 times in the decade's ten seasons.

As for market size, The Red Sox are not limited to only Boston, and cover most of New England and even some of up-state NY. The Yankees also have to share their market with the Mets.

The Red Sox farm system while healthy, isn't really all that better than the Yankees system, if it is at all. The Yankees certainly have higher ceiling talent closer to the majors, but probably lack the positional depth of the Red Sox.

That all said, the Red Sox are a very well run franchise, I just don't think they are heads and tails above all the others. If anything, I think they tend to over-think themselves with cute moves like signing the Penney/Smoltz/Baldelli-types rather than the obvious move staring them right in the face in signing Mark Teixeira. (Granted the Yanks made the same mistake a few years ago when they went mediocre starting pitching crazy rather than sign Carlos Beltran, who was begging to get signed by the Yankees)

Either way, it's certainly a fun time to be fans in the AL East (except for you Toronto fans, sorry about that).

Dec 03, 2009 13:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Al Skorupa

So your point would be something like: "Red Sox: 75-90% of the Yankee success at half the cost!"...?

Dec 03, 2009 14:55 PM
rating: 2
 
Adam Hobson

I don't know what this obsession with cost is about, but isn't the point of baseball to win the damn games at any cost necessary?

Or would it be better for the Steinbrenners to pocket the money paid by the hardworking fans of New York rather than try to field the best team possible.

Dec 03, 2009 21:03 PM
rating: 0
 
Al Skorupa

No one is "obsessed" with cost. The issue is that a fair and accurate evaluation of front office performance can't be made without taking into account the resources available.

Dec 04, 2009 22:48 PM
rating: 1
 
Justin

The Redsox tried pretty hard to sign Teixeira. His wife picked the Yankees. You can't really fault them for taking low cost, short term gambles on 'undervalued' veterans.

Dec 03, 2009 15:14 PM
rating: 3
 
Benjarvis

I would argue the real shift in the Boston organization occurred closer to 2002, so it may not make sense to look at this in a "current decade" parameter. I can't look up the numbers right now, but I'd be willing to bet that since '02 the Sox and Yanks are close to dead even in most metrics (wins, runs scored, etc.).

Dec 04, 2009 05:17 AM
rating: 2
 
Adam Hobson

If we are looking at shifts within the organization then we are really just picking rather arbitrary parameters. At least a decade is a decently long length of times that is quite statistically significant.

Choosing 2002 as a shift in the Red Sox organization may be fun, but its also conveniently right AFTER a Yankees World Series appearance and another three victories prior to that.

The Yankees themselves have also recently occurred a shift where their offseasons have been more about building the organization for the long term (see passing on Johan Santana) rather than picking up every over the hill George Steinbrenner favorite out there (see Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson, not to mention David Wells).

So yeah, we can probably pick arbitrary periods where one team seems better than the other, but I figured a decade was a big enough sample size with a fair enough starting point to actually mean something.

Dec 05, 2009 17:51 PM
rating: -1
 
Matt Kory

Not to get bogged down in semantics, but the Yankees have won one World Series this decade. The "2000s" began in 2001. If you don't believe me, ask yourself this question, "when was the first year ever?" It was year 1. There was no year 0. Thus 2001 was the first year of this decade.

Sorry for the digression.

Dec 04, 2009 05:28 AM
rating: 0
 
Patrick

You're kind of right. The new millennium started January 1st, 2001. But the decade began January 1st, 2000. Unless you consider 1990 part of the '80s, 1980 part of the '70s, etc.

Dec 04, 2009 07:43 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt Kory

I think technically it is, right?

Dec 04, 2009 09:36 AM
rating: 0
 
Adam Hobson

Unless we are talking creationism here, I believe the first year ever was something like 14 trillion BC or something like that ;-)

That said, considering we name our decades after the last two digits, the "80s", the "90s" the "00s" the decades unlike the centuries or millennium start on the 0s.

Dec 05, 2009 17:45 PM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

"As for market size, The Red Sox are not limited to only Boston, and cover most of New England and even some of up-state NY. The Yankees also have to share their market with the Mets."

I know very well that the Sox's market is more than Boston. I live in CT (which is split, obviously). My wife is a Sox fan from NH.

The NY market is indeed split between the Yankees and Mets. It's just so ridiculously huge that even if you split it 50/50 (which isn't reality - thanks in no small part to good work by the Yankees, but no mind) the Yankees half-share still outclasses the Red Sox market by a solid margin. In no way am I claiming the Red Sox are a small market team. I laugh at Henry's self-serving "plan" that hurts the Yankees, small market clubs, and leaves the Sox untouched.

But the fact remains: the Sox did as much, or nearly as much, with less. I like it, because it's forced the Yankees to get smarter as well. There have been blessedly few stupid moves by the Yankees in the past several years. No more Pavanos, Wrights or Farnsworthlesses. Thanks, Theo!

Dec 04, 2009 10:44 AM
rating: 1
 
Adam Hobson

Ok, I can agree with that.

And I do enjoy a strong challenger in the Red Sox. I was actually a bit disappointed there was no Yankee/Red Sox ALCS this year, even though we know it would be filled with five hour games and of course gone the full 7 games and left us all drained afterward.

That's also why I'm a little concerned with their more recent moves where they are over thinking themselves like the Penney and Smoltz signings or jettisoning Manny, because I'm just not sure the Red Sox went "all in" last year, and I'm not sure they are doing it this year either, but the postseason is young so who knows.

Dec 05, 2009 17:57 PM
rating: 0
 
judyblum

As a Sox fan, that's the only part of getting knocked out in the first round that I didn't find too disappointing. I'm just getting too old to survive those all night torture sessions.

Dec 06, 2009 08:34 AM
rating: 0
 
Al Skorupa

I would have a hard time voting for a team that spent 200 million a year for a decade and only has one ring to show for it, and - oh yeah, they had let the core of their team fall apart so much they had to give out almost 500 million in contracts on free agents the year before that title to make it happen.

The only amazing thing about the Yankees of the last decade is that they only won a single title spending that incredible amount of money.

Dec 03, 2009 13:27 PM
rating: 0
 
Richie

"I want to know why one of the smartest, most accomplished, most economically-literate men in baseball won't embrace a real solution."

Ummm, 'cuz the problem benefits him big-time?

Joe, this is a little silly. Why in the world should John Henry want KC to compete with him for a wild-card slot? No one makes enough money to buy a baseball team through selflessness. The system as is benefits the Yankees over him, and him over the remaining 28 teams. You expect him to embrace a solution to that?

Feel free to condemn self-interest. Feel free to point out when it's pretty darn transparent. But don't be shocked when you see it.

Dec 03, 2009 11:54 AM
rating: 6
 
J Scott
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Sheehan is a Yankees fan. Who cares? I know lots of Yankees fans who are relentlessly wrong about a lot of things.

The Red Sox are a very successful organization in their own right. They certainly are, they just aren't the BEST organization. They clearly are not that.

Dec 03, 2009 12:04 PM
rating: -26
 
Rob_in_CT

CLEARLY!

Dec 03, 2009 12:45 PM
rating: 0
 
Matt Kory

In the future you may want to at least try to rebut the notion with some sort of information or analysis. The reason you currently have a -21 rating is because you just said "no" and left it at that.

Dec 04, 2009 05:30 AM
rating: 2
 
buddaley

I think the Rays with Aybar (2B and corner infield), Zobrist (2B, OF and if necessary SS and 1B), Sean Rodriguez (2B, SS, OF), Kapler (all 3 OF), Joyce (all 3 OF) and in a pinch probably Longoria at SS, Brignac at 2B, Crawford in CF and Upton in RF) have a pretty flexible group of players. And if Fernando Perez is over his injury and on the team he can also play any OF position.

And most of them can play the various positions at least adequately. It is probably only the catchers, Pena and Burrell who are only 1 position players. In fact, if looking at last year's team, you could add Iwamura as a 2B/3B player and Gross for all 3 OF positions as well.

Dec 03, 2009 12:06 PM
rating: 2
 
Randy Brown
(189)

My vote is for the Giants. Kung Fu Panda can play 1B, 3B, and a little catcher, and every other position player can be replaced.

Dec 03, 2009 17:10 PM
rating: 4
 
Al Skorupa
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Wow! A big fatbody who can play below average to poor defense at multiple positions!



Dec 03, 2009 17:56 PM
rating: -5
 
drmboat
(754)

My problem is in proving the long-term benefits of a "real solution". For all the talk about MLB making its problems "worse", they have pulled in record amounts of revenues and fans over the last decade, despite two recessions. Maybe Z's plan would have done even better, but then prove it. Find an economically savvy replacement for Pappas and show me the sensible solution that also looks better on paper.

Dec 03, 2009 12:17 PM
rating: 1
 
Rob_in_CT

The key to a plan like Z's is how you judge market size. Also, what do you do with things like the YES Network, NESN, etc?

One pitfall, it seems to me, is failing to capture the full market of teams that are fairly isolated, like the Mariners, Cardinals... even the Red Sox to a degree (who not only have Boston, but basically all of northern NE along with good chunks of CT and RI).

If stuff like that gets properly accounted for... I like the Z plan better than most I've seen. But then I'd prefer to just add more teams to the NY market.

Dec 03, 2009 12:50 PM
rating: 3
 
stimetsr

Similarly, I recall hearing years ago that Cincinnati had one of the country's largest "natural support bases"... including half of Indiana, half of Ohio, and pretty much all of WVa, Ky, and TN. I don't know how much of that is true anymore, and I'm also not sure how much of that should translate into money for the franchise. Still, they do draw a lot more money than one would expect from an area just the size of Cincinnati/Hamilton. But they do claim poverty as often as folks will let them.

Dec 04, 2009 12:24 PM
rating: 0
 
ElAngelo
(942)

Missing from the Halladay calculus is the fact that if the Sox don't trade for him, the Yankees are the next most likely suitors.

Dec 03, 2009 12:18 PM
rating: -1
 
Rob_in_CT

I'm not sure that's true. At all. The Sox didn't get Johan Santana, and neither did the Yankees. I think each team rightly worries about the other getting a guy like Halladay, but would be happy to let some other team get Halladay while they each keep their prospects and payroll flexibility. Halladay is very good, but the price tag is reputed to be high and he's 33...

Dec 03, 2009 12:47 PM
rating: 1
 
Matt Kory

I'm with you, but I don't think that signing Roy Halladay is going to limit the Yankees payroll flexibility. I also don't think them signing Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Jason Bay and [expensive superstar here] will limit their payroll flexibility either.

Dec 04, 2009 05:34 AM
rating: 2
 
Rob_in_CT

Meh. Even the Yankees have limits. It's just neither you nor I really know where those limits are. I've been wrong about this before (assuming the Burnett deal meant no Tex, which infuriated me at the time). We shall see.

Dec 04, 2009 10:35 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt Kory

I'm sure the Yankees have limits, but based on available evidence they are nowhere near them now.

Dec 06, 2009 08:10 AM
rating: 0
 
Luke in MN

"...leaving the Mets to swoop in with a package that now reads like a bad joke."

The Twins got Carlos Gomez, K. Mulvey, P. Humber, and D. Guerra for the last year (2008) of Santana's contract. Santana put up a 7.3 WARP3 in 2008. Gomez has given the Twins 4.7 WARP3 in 2008 and 2009 and has now been traded straight up for JJ Hardy, who's under team control for 2010 and 2011. Mulvey and Humber have been poor in brief MLB play, but Mulvey was traded for reliever J. Rauch this year, who put up 2.1 WARP3 for the Twins (big part of Twins late divisional push). So, on one hand:

Twins traded away:

7.3 WARP3 from Santana in 2008
2 supplemental round picks

On the other hand, the Twins got:

4.7 WARP3 from Gomez in 2008 and 2009
2.1 WARP3 from Rauch in 2009
Maybe 4-6 WARP3 from JJ Hardy in 2010 and 2011
D. Guerra (?? young prospect with upside)
P. Humber (not exciting, 5th, 6th starter type)

I think the salary paid out on both sides here is about a wash (I think JJ's salary in 2010-11 will about equal Johan's 2008 salary the Twins would have paid and the other salaries are minimal).

I might be missing some angles, but do you really think this was a joke of a trade? Frankly, as a Twins fan who was very skeptical at the time, I think it turns out to have been a solid move.


Dec 03, 2009 14:09 PM
rating: 7
 
OonBoon

I'd rather have 7 WARP in one season from one player versus the same WARP from two players over two seasons.

Dec 03, 2009 14:24 PM
rating: 11
 
Travis Leleu

Don't forget about the compensation pick the Twins would've gotten had they just let Santana sign elsewhere as a FA. That's usually valued at around $5.5 million.

So 7.3 WARP3 in one year, versus 6.9WARP from 4 player-seasons. Maybe it's not a joke of a trade, but generally when you trade a guy like Santana for prospects, you'd expect the prospects value to greatly eclipse the value you're losing, when you look at it a few years down the road.

Dec 03, 2009 14:55 PM
rating: 2
 
Matt Kory

I think the reason it's been viewed as a bad trade for the Twins is because none of the players they got in the deal have become organizational building blocks. Your analysis is interesting, but don't you think the Twins would have done better by accepting the Red Sox reported offer of either Lester or Buchholz, or the Yankees reported offer of Phil Hughes? I'd rather have Hughes, Lester, or Buchholz and nothing else than what the Twins received.

Dec 04, 2009 05:37 AM
rating: 3
 
RayDiPerna

"Think about 1997, when the Red Sox moved their fantastic incumbent shortstop to second base, over his strenuous objections, to make room for Nomar Garciaparra."

Has it been 12 years already? Egads.

Dec 03, 2009 14:36 PM
rating: 1
 
judyblum

I think the Red Sox may have just failed your FO competence test.

Dec 04, 2009 04:24 AM
rating: 1
 
Matt Kory

How so?

Dec 04, 2009 05:38 AM
rating: 1
 
judyblum

Didn't he call Scutaro a FO competence test?

Dec 04, 2009 06:45 AM
rating: 0
 
elm
(41)

Joe said the following in his IF FA review: "He absolutely can help a good team, but if you sign him and pay him money that indicates you think that he's going to have 2009 three more times, you're making a big mistake. One big year at 33 doesn't change what a player is. Scutaro is something of a competence test for front offices this offseason, and likely to be perceived as a disappointment come next summer."

SO, I guess the question is, how much money is the deal for? ESPN is reporting 2 years, with an option (player? club? mutual? vesting?) for a third, but no reported dollar figures. If it's a club option with a reasonable buy-out, and the salary the next two years is low enough, this is probably a good move for the Sox. But I'm not sure what "low enough" is, nor do I know if Joe and I agree on what "low enough" is. But the Sox are one of the teams that can afford to overpay for a modest improvement.

Dec 04, 2009 07:27 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Two years, $12.5M guaranteed with each side having an option for '12. My sense is that it's a small enough cash outlay that Scutaro can be reduced to his likely role--good utility infielder--over the course of the two years without it blowing anything up. I don't think he makes it through the two years as the starting shortstop.

It's less money than I expected him to get coming off his 2009 performance, so the line from the original piece is basically wrong. At this price, I'd be happy to have him knowing that I'm not anointing him.

Dec 04, 2009 08:48 AM
 
Rob_in_CT

Solid deal, IMO. Options were limited, and yet they didn't wildly overpay. Another reason to think the Boston FO knows what they're doing. Better still would be finding a better solution for SS, but every team has a weakness somewhere, even smart, rich ones.

Dec 04, 2009 10:38 AM
rating: 0
 
Flynnbot

So you want them to spend more money on shortstop on a free agent or trade bait, b/c obviously they don't like their in-house options enough? Paying Lugo and Scutaro $15 million next year isn't enough? Best FO in the game, though.

And you expected Polanco, in the decline of a better career but 34 as well, to make less money than you expected Scutaro, coming off what most indications point to as a huge fluke of a year at 34, to make? Really?

I realize their is a premium for SS versus 2B (or 3B) defense, but a) you expect Scutaro to be a utility guy eventually, thus diminishing that advantage, and b) there aren't that many signs that Scutaro is anything particularly as a defensive player anyway. I just don't understand your read on the free agent market at all.

Best FO in the game, though.

Dec 04, 2009 11:14 AM
rating: -1
 
chico123

Scutaro needs a new agent.

Dec 04, 2009 11:28 AM
rating: 2
 
Drew

It's really 18m when you consider the lost first round pick (the pick they got for Wagner is irrelevant - they already had that). That's too much money for a guy who is very likely to be 10-20 runs below average at the plate and below average in the field.

Dec 04, 2009 21:16 PM
rating: -1
 
Al Skorupa

There is zero reason to believe Scutaro will be "below average in the field." No idea where youre getting that from. The worst projections are "average," while there is some reason to believe he can be a plus defender. The scouting reports certainly read that way. Also, from Theo's comments today it appears their internal defensive metrics had very favorable readings on Scutaro.

As for the bat - where the hell are you getting 10-20 runs below average??? The last five years he has been +14.5, -7.2, -5.7, +1.0, -5.1. That's a far, far cry from "10-20 runs below average at the plate."

Take off your Yankees cap and stop pulling numbers out of your ass. No one is claiming Scutaro is some sort of impact player, but he could probably best your projections for him on one leg.

Dec 04, 2009 22:57 PM
rating: 3
 
jayman4

Zumsted's plan is logical: basically use a proxy for market value and distribute revenues based on that proxy. If you perform the proxy value, you win. If you underperform you lose.

A few revision/concerns: there are significant income level differences across markets, not just market size. So that would have to be adjusted but not that hard, but they could be material (disposable income per capita in NY >> KC);

Also the variance in market revenue is not always skill in the ownership.

But, the main advantage of this plan seems to be avoiding revenue hiding. But, I would think that the bulk of revenue comes from media rights/advertising, merchandising and ticket sales, pretty transparent items. I doubt parking shell companies are going to be that big of a driver of revenue, an example used by Derek.

So, if the revenues are reasonably transparent and can be verified, why not revenue-based sharing? MLBPA and MLB duke it out for the % of revenue to be spent on salaries, that creates the pie size. Then divide it by 30, and then you have salary cap per team. You have revenue sharing to allow the smaller market teams to afford it.

You have some adjustors for if a team does not want to spend in a given year (they can accrue the funds for a few years but then lose it and have to pay money to a MLBPA pension or something).

This does transfer value from big markets to small, but I am guessing owners can figure out compensation for that. But I don't really care about rich owners doing better or worse. I care about even payroll resources.

So, my concern is the Zumsted plan, while thereotically elegant, is more complicated than a simpler, arguably similarly fair system.

My guess about why this has not gone forward is that there are no monied constituencies who care that much.

MLBPA: doing great, thanks.

Big Market Owners: have competitive advantage, making big revenues, doing great, thanks.

Small Market Owners: doing less well, but they probably paid less for the teams, so probably making a decent return on their investment. challenge to field a competitive team on a consistent basis, yes, but, hey, do the best we can, make our return. doing great, thanks.

The only people screwed are fans of small market teams. But they don't have much money to sway the debate. So the owners and MLBPA will mull this, while a few small market owners who genuinely like to win may gripe, they are going to lose. The status quo serves those with the money, so nothing will change.

But, I wish there were some metrics on this, the real risk is that fan engagement will erode in small markets. These passions, often developed quite young, take time to erode, but they will if fans perceive that the system is unfair to their team and they don't have much to hope for on a consistent basis. Small markets can try to outsmart bigger ones, but they really don't have any competitive advantage to do so. Draft money favors the big, hiring smart baseball geeks is something anyone can do, so where does a sustainable competitiveness strategy come from for smaller markets? So, smaller market franchises will atrophy, and, once the support is gone, it will be hard to be replaced. It may take time, but the scale of the salary differences cannot be ignored by fans. And it disgusts them if you are on the losing end of it. At least it does me.

Dec 05, 2009 01:01 AM
rating: 3
 
husier
(90)

I wonder if Scutaro is the Red Sox' new Julio Lugo, the guy that was the trendy pick of the moment.

I just have trouble seeing Scutaro repeat (or come close to repeating) what was truly a surprising 2009.

Dec 09, 2009 03:20 AM
rating: -1
 
Al Skorupa

Read the comments following this:

http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/oracle/discussion/red_sox_signed_scutaro/

Scutaro has played most of his career in two parks (Oakland and Toronto) badly suited for his swing - as well as two of the parks that most suppress batting AVG (ask Matt Holliday). All indication are Fenway will be particularly helpful to him, as well.

In either case, he can never be Lugo, since a) He's making much less money over a much shorter term; and b) even if he craps out he can be moved to another team or made into a super sub, since he can play multiple positions fairly well. The contract makes this a real low risk, medium reward kind of deal.

Dec 09, 2009 10:20 AM
rating: 0
 
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