The Dodgers offered a number of $5 million, and Gagne’s rep, Scott Boras, offered $8 million. How come the lower number was so compelling? Sadly, the current CBA lacks a clause allowing unfettered access to the process to self-important analysts, so we have to posit a little, and ask around some front offices to hear possible explanations. One NL exec had this to say: “Boras overreached.” Not that there’s a whole lot of ambiguity in that statement, but after prodding, the exec clarified the statement: “Gagne’s in his first year of eligibility, and there’s a bunch of comparable guys. They’re not as good, but they’re a clear baseline from which it’d be easy to convince the panel to work.” This is true.
In my last column, I made a throwaway remark about the Blue Jays possibly and concomitantly being the third-place team in the AL East and the third-best team in all of baseball. It’s an intriguing notion–unassailable quality knuckling under to circumstance. Even so, it’s worth asking whether Toronto might have the goods to displace Boston or New York in the junior-circuit pecking order. With the Red Sox and Yankees already brimming with talent and throwing cash around like Marion Barry sans tracking collar, the Jays, in spite of their substantial merits, will likely be resigned to the brand of pre-October respectability to which they’ve accustomed in recent years. Nothing terribly wrong with that. That’s especially the case for a team on a hermetically sealed budget and facing an unbalanced schedule packed with tilts against the Sox, Yanks and the suddenly passable Orioles. Unaccommodating circumstances notwithstanding, one’s led to wonder: What would need to happen for the Jays, undeniably a fine team with a highly intelligent front office, to pass playoff muster this season?
Staring down the “Evil Empire” won’t be easy if part of the Rebel Alliance is banged up, broken, or otherwise in close proximity to Jim Rowe. While Theo Epstein has been bringing state-of-the-art ideas to the front office, he’s also been adjusting the risk tolerance of the organization. If one of the basic tenets of Moneyball-friendly organizations is getting the most bang for the buck, then watching any of those bucks sit on the shelf is waste. While the Red Sox could be wasteful with their revenue stream, they aren’t.
The key to the team is, of course, Pedro. Providing more than a third of the PECOTA projected VORP for this staff is pretty amazing considering the five-deep quality. But just as it’s been the case for the last few years, this team can only go as far as Pedro takes them. Pedro is watched more closely than any other pitcher, and the continuing focus on preparing his body to pitch makes Chris Correnti one of the real up-and-coming trainers in the business. New manager Terry Francona wasn’t known for a light touch with pitchers in his Philly gig, but this is Francona v2.0.
If Pedro can do what he did last year, the Red Sox will have more than a fighting chance in baseball’s version of Spy vs. Spy. Pedro gets a yellow light based on injury history, but honestly, he’s much less likely than last year to come up lame.