Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Giants Afraid of Large Contracts?

I think the Giants have definitely learned about the repercussions of multi-year contracts, in general. They’ve especially learned a valuable lesson on signing pitchers to long-term deals. I recently read some stuff on the initial reaction to the Zito deal when he was first signed. The reaction from many (especially the SABER guys) was not positive. They basically pointed out that Zito was a solid 3-4 starter that was paid #1, elite starter money. They didn’t suggest he was horrible, but rather grossly overpaid. The only real upside they could see was that he was much less likely to break down and would probably throw 200 innings a year through his contract, which has value. Assuming his performance this year continues until the end of his contract, I’d say they were dead on. The first 2 years, of course, being borderline disastrous. Baseball has learned this lesson across the league from guys like Mike Hampton who got huge contracts and never pitched. Jason Schmidt is another example as is Chan Ho Park who’s numbers dropped off after signing a big contract with Texas. Pitchers are volatile and much more susceptible to injury and thus should get deals of fewer years, especially if they have ANY injury history.

Rowand and Renteria are mistakes on a smaller scale, Rowand being the bigger of the two. Renteria didn’t seem like the worst signing at the time. One reason is that most people would not have predicted such a huge drop-off from him offensively and also thought he would excel more in the NL. The second is that Sabean signed him in very the beginning of the offseason (as he did with Affeldt and Howry). The signings were before the market essentially crashed. He was being proactive and he got burned because of the economy, which I think was a surprise to a lot of people. As for Rowand, my belief is that the Giants were trying to make a statement. They wanted to make a somewhat “big” signing and they also wanted to target a certain “type” of player. The type of player that will recklessly run into a wall and break their nose just to make a catch. The anti-Barry Bonds if you will. They overpaid him for 1) intangibles and 2) career numbers for the Phillies on his walk year that he likely won’t ever see again.

So that means that the Giants have 2-3 untradeable players because of their contracts. Ranked: Zito > Rowand > Renteria. Zito’s is considered an “Albatross.” It’s actually considered the 1st or maybe 2nd worst contract in baseball. Vernon Wells is the competition (*).

I do think they have got wise. I think they realize big risks are very damaging, especially if you’re not the Red Sox or Yankees. Even these teams don’t expose themselves completely. The Yankees plan to cut payroll this year.

The Giants are probably learning from their own mistakes and those others around baseball. As a fan I can only pray they are taking note of the new statistics in baseball as well because they have been slow to adopt them. It should no longer be a secret that OBP and OPS play a huge roll in how many runs a team scores. Its way more correlated to total runs than batting average.

(*) Vernon Wells – worst contract in Baseball
In 2009, he had something like a high .600’s OPS and played the worst CF in MLB. He had a good 2006 and 2008, but horrible 2007 in addition to his recent 2009 so it remains to be seen if he will get better or what’s to happen. Ready for what is REMAINING on his contract?

2010 = $12.5 M
2011 = $23 M
2012 = $21 M
2013 = $21 M
2014 = $21 M
= $98.5 M remaining

Ouch. The previous GM (J.P. Riccardi) responsible for this is a Moneyball guy. He is also responsible for the horrible Alex Rios contract(**), BJ Ryan contract(***) and the handling of Roy Halladay this July. 1) The Blue Jays won’t ever get as much value for Halladay as they would have in July and 2) He’s downright disgruntled now and said if they don’t deal him by Spring Training he won’t waive the no-trade clause and will just wait for free-agency after next year. That would result only in them having him one season and a second or first round pick depending on who signs him(****).

(**) Good thing Sabean didn’t pull the trigger on Rios for Lincecum, can you imagine? J.P. did redeem this one by unloading Rios via waivers to the White Sox, thanks to their GM Kenny Williams. Rios is also rapidly declining.
(***) He pitched poorly after being great for Baltimore, then got hurt, then came back and sucked, then was released
(****) 1st round pick only if one of the teams with top 15 records for the season signs him, otherwise a 2nd rounder and of course the sandwich pick (pick between 1st and 2nd rd)

Oh ya! J.P. got canned…

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