Archive for the ‘Pipe Dreams’ Category

canogum

There was some serious hotstove craziness this morning, with a slew of signings, including the massive, shocking move of J.P. Arencibia to the Rangers Robinson Cano out of the AL East, to the Seattle Mariners. I’d like to take a look at all of them, plus the implications on the markets for pitching and second base, but thanks to last night’s excellent holiday party for those of us at theScore, plus my sweating about Spain and Chile after today’s World Cup draw, I’m not quite capable of doing much beyond looking at the real earth-shaking one, and the one you’re most likely to hear Jays fans groan about– and for damn good reason.

Sort of.

Cano would have made a world of more sense for the Jays than he does the Mariners, and in the abstract there is absolutely no reason that Rogers shouldn’t have been able to pay this kind of money, and to ensure whoever is running the club that the deal wouldn’t hamstring them later on, when the contract becomes the giant flaming albatross that it’s destined to. Or maybe they wouldn’t have even had to– the contract is just not that bad.

Last month Dave Cameron of FanGraphs wrote about teams accepting dead money on a deal like this, and applied a standard aging curve to Cano to project his WAR for the next nine years. By that (obviously imperfect) measure, Cano would still likely be almost a three-win player in 2019, the sixth year of the deal. The projection suggests he’d have accumulated nearly 30 wins by the end of that season– not unrealistic– which would make the entire deal worth about $8-million per win right there. That’s fair enough value on this market, I’d say, to look at whatever production he could bring in the remaining four years– or whatever savings you could muster by eating some dollars and moving him elsewhere– as gravy.

As easy as it may be to rationalize if you want to think about it that way, though, it’s still a gigantic commitment, and you’re still staring at years of paying a guy $24-million when you know full well he’s not going to be nearly that productive. It’s an immense gamble, but one I’d have been more comfortable with the Jays betting on than Prince Fielder and his questionable body type, or Albert Pujols and his questionable age (not to mention his poor, by his old standards, final season in St. Louis).

The point, however, is moot. This year Mariners partnered with DirecTV on a $2-billion deal to start a regional sports network that will show the club’s games for the next 17 years, though there surely would have been interest from their current carrier, Root Sports Northwest, or from Portland-based Comcast SportsNet Northwest as well. The Jays, of course, don’t have the luxury of selling their rights to the highest bidder, or creating a new network for themselves, because they’re already someone else’s content– Rogers. And, as we well know (though occasionally fail, or try hard not to understand) that part of the appeal of owning the club is, for Rogers, precisely that they can get the content at below-market rates. Good for Sportsnet– it helps them save money for things that they do have to bid competitively on, like NHL rights– but bad for the Jays.

It goes both ways, though, too. There are huge incentives in ensuring the club maintains a strong brand with strong interest in it, which makes it all the more valuable as cheap content. Part of doing that is by investing in the club, and not to defend them too much, but that commitment can be seen in the jump from a $70-million payroll in 2011 to $150-million in 2015. Even factoring in the extra $26-million each team gets with MLB’s new national TV deals, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Apparently, though, the sorts of mega-deals we’re talking about with Cano just don’t fare well in the cost-benefit analysis.

It’s a shitty way to have to look at it when you know that the money just sitting there, and that the deal is not even necessarily terrible, that flags fly forever, and that ownership has just been spending lavishly on hockey, but it’s not like the recent $5.2-billion NHL rights deal, or last summer’s MLSE acquisition, weren’t subject to the exact same kind of considerations. So I get it. This is how the club is run. We can’t expect the Rogers corporation to operate like Mike Ilitch or for the Jays to be able to get their hands on the same kinds of funds or the same kinds of revenue streams as clubs who own their own RSN.

A business case needs to be made for everything, and while you can make a business-of-baseball case for Cano, I think, can you make the case that the $240-million is going to create at least that much additional revenue for the company over that span? I don’t know that you can. And it would be nice if we could separate this kind of stuff out from the skewering of Anthopoulos, Beeston, or even Rogers itself that is, if my radio is any indication, follow in the wake of this move. They are all operating within a framework. It is what it is.

And let’s be clear, that framework still allows for paths to success– and to major free agent signing– just not, apparently, ones like this. Let’s also be clear, it’s the framework, and not some silly pseudo-rule that limits the length of contracts they’ll sign, which is behind the Jays’ reluctance to be players for a game-changing player at one of their most glaring positions of need.

On the surface it seems obvious that they should have been, but in reality it should be obvious why they weren’t.

I wrote hopefully about Cano as a pipe dream back in October in a piece that I think works well as further reading on these matters.

Cano What I’m Thinking?

canoface

“In all honesty, it would appear that the Blue Jays are the best fit for Cano if the Blue Jays are willing to make the commitment.”

That’s Ken Woolums of Beyond The Boxscore in a post from last night. The piece was tweeted at me by a reader (@jchristidis), and my initial reaction was to dismiss the possibility, because… well… obviously. Yeah, it’s a total pipe dream, but it’s one hell of a pipe dream, isn’t it?

Fills a positional need? Check. Hall-of-Fame-calibre bat? Check. Massive hit to the fucking Yankees? Check. Costs little in the way of prospects? Check. Somehow actually re-energizes the fan base after the violent head trauma that was 2013? Check, check, and check.

And what’s two- or three-hundred million dollars between friends like us fans, Rogers, and Robinson Cano?

I suppose I could also add, “Shows a slight bit more seriousness about winning than taking on Miami’s dumpings and trading outstanding prospects for an iffy ace?”

OK, maybe that’s too far. But still!

“The only thing standing in the way,”  Woolums adds, “is the Blue Jays’ team philosophy of avoiding major long-term commitments. This can be avoided however if the Jays are willing to make an interesting offer. If the Jays were to bite the bullet on the AAV in Cano’s contract, they could offer a massive 5-year deal with an AAV trumping the AAV of any longer commitment offered to Cano. When it is considered that the Jays have a need at second base, this possibility actually opens up significantly.”

Of course it’s crazy, but crazy might be the new normal in the cash-flush Major Leagues of Baseball. Look, for example, at what the San Francisco Giants have done so far since their season ended, agreeing to pay Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum a combined $35.5-million for the next two years, with Pence’s deal running for three additional ones at $18-million per– based on average annual value, at least.

Does, say, $40-million per year for Cano sound so crazy in the context of a market like that? When Mark Buehrle is making $22-million? Well… again, of course it sounds crazy– it’s $40-million a year to play baseball– but, understanding where the market is, and where it’s going with each team now receiving an additional $26-million per year due to the league’s new national TV deals, what this book presupposes is, maybe it isn’t?

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St Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies - Game 5

After the Jays made their big moves this winter, and Rogers finally decided to put their money where for years their mouths had been, a lot of fans took a look at the contract status of Josh Johnson, and at the contract status of Roy Halladay, and made a connection.

Johnson, of course, is a free agent at the end of the season, while the dear departed Harry Leroy has an option for 2014 that only vests if he throws 415 innings combined between 2012 and 13– a virtually impossible task after injuries limited him to just 156 innings last season. The Jays could let Johnson walk and welcome a returning hero eager to jump ship as his Phillies sink into decline, right?

Right???

Yeah, about that…

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We need you.
Hell, I need you.
I’m a mess without you.
I miss you so damn much!
I miss being with you.
I miss being *near* you.
I miss your laugh!
I miss your scent.
I miss your musk.
When this all gets sorted out, I think you and me should get an apartment together!

I know the order of the day is sane and logical reaction to decisions made by a company that is more or less in the business of entertainment, and to submit to subjective analysis coupled with patience and faith that those in charge are making sound decisions to help that same company reach it’s top potential. I know that. I know all of that, but none of it changes one simple fact: I miss Travis Snider desperately.

Like, unreasonably desperately.

By all accounts Rajai Davis is a great guy, a Major League quality outfielder and a sure-fire base-stealing threat. Eric Thames seems interesting, thoughtful and creative, not bound by the limits of what we all consider “normal” facial hair. Ben Francisco never did anything personally to upset me. If any of them were doing anything but playing left field for the Jays this season I’m sure I’d be celebrating their characteristics and foibles, highlighting any small thing any of them contribute not only to the lineup but to the twittersphere, interviews and dugout shot cutaways. The problem remains: none of those fine gentlemen are Travis Snider. I can’t do anything for them aside from gazing out to left and sighing in their direction. Every time there’s an organizational move and Snider isn’t involved I curse. Then I spend the whole day reassuring myself that everything is part of the plan and that the pieces will fall into place when the time is right. That doesn’t change the fact that every day I wake up and Travis Snider isn’t in the starting lineup.

I just… I miss him so damn much.

Every time there is a token “hahaha Look at how much fun these kids are having!” cutaway to the dugout a part of me laments the fact that Snider isn’t right in the middle, growing a hideous mustache or having his haircut mocked mercilessly.

Honestly I’ve tried as hard as I can to not write this post. I already know all the reactions. The Jays are 2nd in the league in runs. Another power bat isn’t the solution to the problem unless Travis can also pitch in high leverage situations. It’s more important to have speed or positional flexibility or whatever Thames brought to the table instead of having Snider rework his swing mechanics at the higher level. He hurt his wrist. He’s still got work to do, etc, etc. I know, I know, I know all of these things, but it doesn’t change the simple fact that Travis Snider playing every day in left field would make me happy.

I know this is silly and that I shouldn’t feel this way, but I do. I know that the key to talking about baseball on the internet and avoiding scorn is to be as sane and as logical as one can and to provide statistical evidence of your claims but sometimes I get tired of being sane and logical and playing by the numbers. Sometimes I just want the 240lb kid who hits one-handed home runs into the upper deck back in my life.

I just want Travis Snider back. Is that so wrong?

Excuse me. I’m going to sit a few plays out. Stop talking for a while.

It’s probably not a healthy thing to keep stoking Jays fans’ maple-fuelled infatuation with a player still under contract to the Cincinnati Reds for two years, but there are a lot of reasons– something like two hundred million of them– to think that, when the time comes, Joey Votto is going to hit the open market. And for Jays fans yearning (ridiculously) for a Canadian superstar, a first baseman that isn’t Adam Lind, and a club building a national brand and shameless in their willingness to exploit players’ birth certificates, obviously that’s going to be the cause

Jon Morosi addresses this in his latest piece for Fox Sports, citing a source “with knowledge of Votto’s plans” who says that he and the reds “aren’t actively exchanging proposals now and that Votto is ‘in no rush’ to start.” He paints a picture of Votto as an extremely driven player, but more interestingly, for our purposes, someone who has done some thinking about how best to position oneself for stardom.

Sure, on one hand he says that he has “no problem falling under the radar,” but he also tells Morosi that “I think Albert might find — not that I know — that St. Louis might have been a good market as far as him being a star.” Morosi also points out that Votto “recently remarked to Hal McCoy of FOX Sports Ohio, ‘Prince Fielder sure got a lot of money, didn’t he?’ “

But he’s certainly not all about money, as demonstrated by a comment that should make us Jays fans take notice.

“The Blue Jays will be under intense pressure to pursue Votto if he hits the open market, since he was born and raised in Toronto,” Morosi writes. “But Votto seemed unmoved by the local-boy-makes-good-and-comes-home narrative when I mentioned it to him. ‘I want to play for a good team,’ said Votto, who now makes his offseason home in Florida. ‘Cincinnati has a good team right now.’ “

For now. With Votto. Two years from now, who knows?

With a shit-tonne of shit now shit-streaming in from Dunedin, it only seems prudent (read: easiest), instead of creating a massive commentary-laden Afternoon Snack, to pile all of the day’s links into one dump, then following that up with some expanded commentary where necessary. So that’s what we’re going to do each day. Unless we don’t. It’s your Further Comment…

A few weeks back on a podcast I suggested, not even 100% jokingly, that you could “book it” that Joey Votto would be a member of the Toronto Blue Jays come July 31st. I was, of course, like, 95% joking (unless it happens!), but this took a baby step towards theoretical reality Monday, as the Reds somewhat inexplicably decided to lock up reliever Sean Marshall to a three-year $16.5-million extension beginning in 2013.

Parkes wrote about the extension, the pipe dream that is the Reds falling out of contention in 2012, creating the opportunity for a Votto deal, and a possible precedent for it, yesterday at Getting Blanked, as mentioned in the Afternoon Snack.

“Such an asset on the trade market could bring back the type of haul that the Texas Rangers got when they moved Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline in 2007,” he writes. “The Rangers received the top three prospects in the Braves system according to Baseball America in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison, as well as Neftali Feliz and Beau Jones.”

Not only were those the Rangers’ top prospects, but they were numbers 36 (Saltalamacchia), 65 (Andrus), and 90 (Harrison) on Baseball America’s 2007 Top 100 prospects list. And Teixeira was, as Votto will be this July, a year and a half from free agency.

“The conversation likely starts with three of the following prospects,” Parkes writes, I think correctly. “Travis d’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Anthony Gose, Drew Hutchison, Noah Syndergaard and Dan Norris. It would certainly be a steep price, but one that without a doubt would be a game changer in the AL East.”

And it’s one that, in the office here we agreed, the Jays would probably pay. Votto, we think, is the guy for whom they’d break all the rules.

But it got me thinking about whether there are other sorts of crazy notions that might not be quite so ridiculous after all (but probably are). Like… what if the Jays decided that they could be a much better club and could do a much better job preventing runs, without taking such a terrible hit offensively, if they benched Eric Thames, consolidated Lind and Encarnacion into a strict first base platoon, and went the otherworldly up-the-middle defence route, promoting Adeiny Hechavarria to play short, with Johnson or Escobar moving to DH, and Anthony Gose to play centre, shifting Rasmus into left?

Carrying a pair of replacement level– or worse– bats and showing utter disregard for service time and minor league apprenticeship makes the suggestion kinda crazy, you say? Pffft! Poppycock!

Or… OK, so maybe it is. But mostly because it’s a moot point, since Gose will only be available until he’s dealt to Cincinnati mid-season, amiright?

I have no fucking clue what Jon Morosi of Fox Sports figured Joey Votto, who is under contract to the Cincinnati Reds for two more seasons, was going to say when asked about his interest in signing to play for the Jays when he becomes a free agent, but hold onto your tits, this is going to be a real ball-buster:


Holy shit! No way! So I guess he’s really not coming. Sad trombone.