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About ten months ago the A’s cashed in their chips for Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. Within days of the deal, Joe Sheehan wrote:

I’m not convinced that in 2005, Mark Mulder is going to be better than Dan Haren. Forget money. I think the indicators for the two pitchers are going in opposite directions, and with Mulder’s health an open question, and his brutal second half fresh in memory, it’s not hard for me to see Haren being more productive next year.

Dan Haren, of course, made good on that prediction and delivered exactly what the A’s were looking for when they pulled the trigger.

        GS  IP     H9  BB9  SO9  HR9   ERA  RA   RA+  VORP
Haren   34 217.0  8.8  2.2  6.8  1.1  3.73 4.19 1.13  39.5
Mulder  31 197.0  9.6  3.1  4.9  0.9  3.75 4.07 1.11  33.7

Oakland responded by locking up Haren through his arbitration years, much like they’ve done for years with numerous other cornerstone players.

Name      Signed Age  Yr_1  Yr_2  Yr_3  Arb_1  Arb_2  Arb_3   FA_1
Hudson    8/00   25    --   0.5   0.85  2.7    4.55   6.0*+
Chavez    8/00   23    --    --   0.5   2.4    3.55   5.2     6.0*
Mulder    9/01   24    --   0.75  2.6   4.4    6.0+   7.25**+
Hernandez 3/02   26    --    --   0.46  1.85   2.9    4.14
Zito      5/02   24    --   0.5   0.9   2.7+   4.8+   7.0*+
Crosby    4/05   25    --   0.5   0.75  2.5    3.5    5.25
Harden    4/05   23    --   0.5   1.0   2.0    4.5    7.0*
Haren     9/05   25    --   0.5   0.55+ 2.5+   5.0+   6.75**+

All figures in millions of dollars
"Age" is age during the first year of player's new contract
* Team option
** Potentially vesting option
+ Contains incentives/escalators that could increase salary

This chart might not be flawless, but the point is to note the patterns Oakland uses to keep their payroll chiseled. Haren’s deal is creative, and he’ll probably earn a good bit more than the chart shows. If and when Haren becomes a Super Two player after 2006, which is a virtual lock based on his service time, his salaries are designed to step up.

Haren's Deal
               2006  2007  2008  2009  2010
Base/Minimum   0.5   0.55  2.5   5.0   6.75*
If Super Two   0.5   2.2   4.0   5.65  6.9*
Maximum        0.5   2.2   4.0   6.0   8.0

Oakland’s 2010 option vests if Haren reaches certain innings requirements (they are very attainable). A series of escalators (which incrementally raise the salary if performance thresholds are met) can produce virtually any salary between the base and the maximum. And like most other contracts, additional bonuses are in place for things like Cy Young awards, Gold Gloves, MVPs, and if Oakland does well in the playoffs.

By comparison, Rich Harden‘s contract (signed last spring) is more backloaded, which makes sense for a younger pitcher who is likely to hit his prime further into the future. One thing the A’s do well is aligning players’ contracts so that the most expensive years are the players’ most productive; the team at least stacks the odds in their favor for this to happen. Joe Blanton and Huston Street should be next in line for long-term deals.

Free agents for Oakland this winter include first base/designated hitter types and relievers: Erubiel Durazo, Scott Hatteberg, Octavio Dotel, Jay Witasick and Ricardo Rincon. While that looks like a decent array of good-not-great talent, the group contributed very little to the A’s in 2005–just 17.1 VORP combined–thanks to injury (Durazo, Dotel), age and declining skills (Hatteberg, Rincon) and only spending a half-season with the team (Witasick). This crew was relatively dead weight, and the money can be better spent elsewhere.

The A’s have several arbitration cases, but none of them looks too costly: Joe Kennedy, Juan Cruz, Bobby Kielty, Seth Etherton, Mark Ellis, Adam Melhuse and Kiko Calero. The team’s entire core is returning, and between young players developing and hopefully healthy seasons from Harden and Bobby Crosby, the A’s could be vastly improved next year.

Every year is transition for the A’s. A year ago was the most transitional winter to date for the Beane regime, trading away superstars who, when Beane took over in late 1997, were known only in Southern Oregon (where Hudson debuted as a pro) and East Lansing (Mulder, for Michigan State). But through all the changes, the A’s gave the Angels an honest run for their money. The 2006 squad looks to be nearly intact, but there’s never a quiet winter in Oakland.

Tom Gorman contributed research to this piece.

Dave Haller

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How is that medicine wheel working out? In BP2005 we wrote this about Bobby Madritsch:

Madritsch claims he’s never had health problems since he got the medicine wheel tattooed on his neck. The Mariners should consider offering it free to any player in their system. It couldn’t make things worse. Even protected by that talisman, the late-season abuse was unconscionable. In meaningless games Madritsch racked up huge pitch counts. Sometimes he looked fresh, sometimes he was clearly dragging when Melvin sent him out for more punishment. For his failure to preserve his best healthy pitcher for next year, Melvin should have been fired far earlier than he was.

Madritsch ranked 7th in baseball in 2004 in Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP), and he was third in average PAP/start (behind only Livan Hernandez and Jason Schmidt).

Looks like Bob Melvin can trump a medicine wheel tattoo. Pitcher abuse has some pretty powerful mojo. Madritsch went down with a shoulder strain in April and various attempts to rehab the injury were unsuccessful. At the beginning of October it was determined that he would need surgery on his labrum (the second time he’s needed this procedure).

The team responded by putting him on waivers and designating him for assignment. Kansas City claimed him and Allard Baird hopes that Madritsch will be healthy again sometime around next year’s All-Star Game. Why did Bavasi cut bait on Bobby? Seattle GM Bill Bavasi said, “We have been very concerned about Bobby’s overall health and his approach to improving it.” In addition to wanting that roster spot this off-season it seems Bavasi has questions about Madritsch’s work ethic and perhaps his ability to ever recover from this injury.

The decision to waive him seemed premature to us, especially considering the well-noted problems the Mariners have developing pitchers. On the other hand, Bavasi and his advisors surely know much more about Madritsch’s injury than we do.

Pitching: The loss of Madritsch just worsens the Mariners’ rotation problems. Jamie Moyer‘s contract is up, and if he doesn’t retire he’ll be quite expensive. It’s pretty easy to picture him in Yankee pinstripes. Gil Meche was hobbled with shoulder fatigue and dead arm toward the end of the season, and he’ll be entering his last arbitration year. He negotiated a $2,535,000 contract last year and this off-season he’ll be due a substantial raise; without closely analyzing the comparable players he’ll probably net something in the $3,000,000 to $3,500,000 range.

The big arbitration case they’ll face this winter is with Ryan Franklin. Franklin had some very rough outings in August which almost got him moved to the bullpen (Meche’s dead arm prevented that from being possible). For his career Franklin has been a valuable starter for Seattle and he has a reasonably strong case. It’s easy enough to see him in the $3,500,000 to $4,250,000 range.

The elephant in the hearing room, of course, will be his positive test for steroids. Since this is the first year of suspensions for performance enhancing drugs, it is obviously also the first year that suspended players have to talk about their positive tests in an arbitration hearing. We can’t even begin to speculate as to how this will affect his salary for 2007.

Catcher Change: 2006 will be the first year since 1994 that Dan Wilson will not don the Tools of Ignorance for the Mariners. It’s unclear yet whether he will return to the team as a coach or in the front office, but it does appear that he will remain affiliated with the squad in some capacity. He had a couple nice years at his peak but the Mariners probably should have gotten rid of him years ago. By all accounts he was a nice enough fellow, but he’s been flirting with replacement level since the 2003 season.

I guess there are worse things to reward than good character and charity work. In any case, “So long, Dan!

Tom Gorman

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