URL Weaver: Leverage Index

Darren Oliver is a very good pitcher. Despite being in the neighbourhood of 100 years old, Oliver just capped his fourth successive season with an ERA under 3.00, his third consecutive season posting a FIP under 3.00 and his fifth straight season worth more than one Win Above Replacement on Fangraphs.

As a man of his age is wont to do, Darren Oliver is having a going problem. Does he want to go home to be with his wife and kids or does he want to lace’em up one more year? Oliver signing a one-year contract with a club option attached with the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2012 season. As previously noted, he pitched extremely well for Toronto but now flirts with retirement.

As Andrew Stoeten of DJF covered in detail, part of Darren Oliver’s reluctance to make a decision on his 2013 fate relates back to that club option he agreed to. The club option calls for a “mere” $3 million in salary for next season, less than he received in 2012 and far, far less than the fair market price.

Is Oliver within his rights to hold out for a little more money or demand a trade to his hometown Texas Rangers? Should the man honor the contract he signed with Toronto like the upstanding citizen we believe him to be? Should the Jays pony up for a little extra Black Magic (his words!) in 2013? To all those questions: yes.

In a vacuum, yes they should. The Blue Jays are a team headed in one direction and one direction only: up. The litany of moves GM Alex Anthopoulos made this winter helped position the Jays as the betting favorites in the American League East. The final piece of the puzzle was trading two highly regarded prospects (Travis D’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard) for recently crowned NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.

The Jays could have kept their prospects and delved into the free agent market if just pitching depth was their aim. But the Jays recognized that getting the true talent of their team from 88 wins to 90 wins (or thereabouts) is both difficult and invaluable.

The same applies to Darren Oliver. Using Darren Oliver in high leverage situations versus Aaron Loup or Brett Cecil represents a significant upgrade, not to mention peace of mind for returning manager John Gibbons (!!!).

Sure, Oliver should probably honor the deal he signed just one year ago. But rare is the opportunity for a player, at the very end of his career, who can make coming back to play an extra season worth his while. Those worried about setting a bad precedent should take a step back and recognize how rare a situation Oliver finds himself in.

The Blue Jays won’t be getting exploited any more than they would be exploiting a pitcher of Oliver’s considerable skills by paying him half of what Brandon League is set to make in 2013. Did Oliver agree to his deal in bad faith perhaps? That is not too big a stretch to assume – that Oliver was already thinking retirement but if his year went well and he felt up to it, maybe he could squeeze out a few extra dollars in the exchange.

This isn’t the time for the Toronto Blue Jays to start worrying about appearances and counting pennies. They are all-the-way-in on this title push – having trusty old D.O. on-board is a great way to bring that dream closer to a reality.

And the rest

Baseball Prospectus presents the top 10 Padres prospects. Not a lot of sexy names and a defense-first catcher at the top of the list but there is enough depth to make this a top five system. [BP]

Projecting BABIP and regression for pitchers. BABIP for pitchers is a real thing, don’t fight it. [Beyond the Box Score]

Tory Renck of the Denver Post grinds all the axes with Larry Walker. What a maroon. [Big League Stew]

Andrew McCutchen is the greatest human [Buzzfeed]

Rob Neyer pins ole DOBoner’s ears back after Dave O’Brien plays the relativism game with the Braves new BP caps [Baseball Nation]

CSN Bay Area has an update on the Sergio Romo situation: he wasn’t even a passenger on a flight, but there to pick up or drop off somebody else? [CSN Bay Area]

Before you read this (or this), remember who’s been in the Giancarlo Stanton jocking game since the start. [BP]

With Justin Upton reportedly in play again, might the Mariners finally make the big splash for which they desperately long? [U.S.S. Mariner]

Comments (28)

  1. The Oliver situation is interesting to watch because it’s so unique. I can’t think of another instance of a player seriously considering (or leaning towards?) retirement following the best season of his career.

    It does make me wonder what the purpose of the $3MM option ever was in the first place, and what the Jays expected to happen here. If he pitched poorly then they wouldn’t have exercised it; if he pitched well enough for them to exercise it, did they really expect him to take a 33% pay cut following a good year, especially at his age? I haven’t seen this discussed much but I just can’t see what the purpose of that option ever was from the Blue Jays’ perspective.

    • It is an unique situation.
      In terms of the option, you make a good point as to why the Jays offered it. I guess they thought that even if he had a half decent year, they would utilize it and he would honour it. And I think he would have if the jays didn’t go on a crazy spending spree.

      I think this is more Oliver realized he had a good year and if the jays are willing to spend on others, then they should him. If not, he’ll threaten to retire.
      What Oliver doesn’t realize is that with the addition of Burhle, the Jays not have a saftey option in JA happ to be that left reliever outta the pen.

      I think the jays let him walk

      • I don’t think the Jays’ other moves have anything to do with Oliver’s desire for more money, personally. He was hinting at retirement as early as last Spring – it was never a guarantee that he’d come back. I can’t imagine that the team getting better would have made him less likely to do so.

  2. Do I want Oliver back? Sure.

    The question is why even bother negotiating the second year at a reduced rate when they signed the contract in the first place? He wanted to hedge his bet that if he had a shit season, and still wanted to make money he could do so. He didn’t have a shit season though – and now we get a guy who clearly still wants to play – just not make less than last season.

    Anyone who thinks Oliver should be able to leverage this should also believe that the Jays could force Adam Lind to pay back the $5M he didn’t earn last season. Or maybe they should reconsider Cabrera’s below market contract too. Casey Jansen only makes $3.9M this season. How much should he hold out for?

    People are looking for excuses to make it ok for Oliver to play this game. He’s well within his rights to retire, and although I would LOVE for him to stick with the Jays – the move by everyone in these parts to reverse engineer this situation as though Daren Oliver didn’t have his agent negotiate this deal in the first place – is a little curious.

    • Oliver situation is nothing like any of those other players. Nothing. Oliver has all the leverage if he’s willing to not play. His situation is unique, don’t shoehorn other scenarios totally irrelevant to this one.

      • Of course he has leverage. he has the same leverage that ANY under contract player has. They can retire. How is that unique? Just because he’s in his 40s doesn’t change a thing at all. Cabrera could do the exact same thing next season if he sets the AL on fire and decides that $8M is far less than he would make had he not signed for 2 years. Any player could retire at any time. Just because its more likely for a guy in his 40s doesn’t change his contract status.

      • it’s not unique.
        Don’t confuse the issue by trying to portray this as some rare and unusual condition. A player wants more than he is contracted to make. He can hold out and wait for a trade or he can retire. This type of shit happens everyday and there’s no fucking way AA caves into a 42 year old LOOGYs demands.
        He doesn’t have any leverage because this is his LAST opportunity to make big money playing baseball. The Jays can find another arm to pitch 60 fucking innings this year.
        Also, you are an equivocating pussy. Get with the fucking program!

    • None of those other situations you point out are remotely similar to the Oliver situation, though.

      Take Cabrera, for instance. If he has a great 2013 then he’ll be under contract for FAR below market value in 2014. But his options are the same as Oliver’s: accept his $8MM salary, or retire. For a 30-year-old, retirement isn’t a legitimate option and he has absolutely no leverage. For a 42-year-old, it’s a different story. Same goes for Janssen. And I’m not really sure at all how the Lind situation is analogous to this one.

      • But just because retirement is more likely in his case doesn’t change the scenario from Cabrera or Janssen. It simply makes the leverage play more likely. And he’s well within his rights to choose that. Is the tactic somehow different because he “really means it”?

        I used Lind as an example of a case where if the shoe is on the other foot – and if we’re going to be changing contracts mid-stream would you blame the Jays for trying? There is a reason it isn’t done. The CBA, and precedent that it sets for others – especially where value is set at similar instances as industry standard.

  3. There’s a reason why holding out is poor from in baseball and that reason is guaranteed contracts. The implied trade off for having guaranteed contracts is that players don’t hold out the way they do in sports where they don’t. Donald Fehr understood this well and never endorsed this sort of tactic. There have been a few exceptions but for the most part when a player demands a trade, it is handled very discreetly by both player and team. Oliver’s willingness to walk away and retire gives him unique leverage but he’s still acting against the interest of both his union and baseball in general by doing this. The Jays would do well to walk away. No they can’t sign a lefty as good as Oliver at this point but they could still sign a good reliever like say Brandon Lyon. He probably could be had for what Oliver is asking and it would be a small compromise to make for the greater good of the game.

    • Is this really all that different from, say, Lance Berkman saying he’ll retire unless someone pays him what he wants? Sure, Oliver has a contract with the Jays, but he has no obligation to play if he doesn’t want to. Remember a couple years back when Gil Meche left $13MM on the table and retired early? Everyone was applauding his integrity and his team was able to pocket the money instead of paying him to pitch in another season’s worth of rehab games. Darren Oliver has the exact same right to walk away from his money, but if the Jays are willing to pay him a premium to convince him to stick around for another season, I don’t see why there’s any problem with him accepting it.

      • YES it is different. Not in some abstract way that is hard to understand either! One guy has a contract for 2013. The other doesn’t. This owuldn’t be an issue at all if Oliver was a free agent.. which he was last season.

        They already settled this issue a year ago when Oliver’s agent negotiated a guaranteed contract based on the club picking up his option. The fact that it is “below market” is directly associated to his previous year being “above market” in that the Jays offered him the most money.

  4. I have no problem with Oliver accepting it either but I would have a huge problem with the Jays offering it. It’s just not done in baseball. It’s a terrible precedent to set for the reasons I explained above. Sign someone else if you have to but don’t be the first team to cave to a player who has a contract and is holding out.

  5. “The club option calls for a “mere” $3 million in salary for next season, less than he received in 2012 and far, far less than the fair market price. ”

    Far, far less than the fair market price huh? Do you have any kind of reference point for that? Please tell me what history says a 42 year old, lefty specialist out of the bullpen is worth. You seem to have great data on that market.

  6. The Jays should absolutely not give in to Oliver. They OVERPAID him last year so that if he was good enough to pitch in 2013 it would be for them at a reasonable rate. I’m not even sure how anybody thinks Oliver has leverage – if the Jays can afford to pay a reliever his fair market value it would make more sense to trade Oliver and his below market deal for value and sign that guy than to bump up Oliver’s salary.

    Oliver’s situation isn’t so unique either. In a few years the Jays are going to have a team option on a 41 year old with similar career earnings to Oliver in RA Dickey, one who very well may feel he deserves a raise to return too if the team has already shown a precedent in doing so. And if Dickey’s knuckleball is holding up like we all hope and MLB salaries continue their upward trends he’s going to be asking for more than 1m to be tacked on to his league-average-SP-salary.

    • This is nails. The guaranteed contract is the greatest thing the player’s union has going for it. Sometimes a players screws himself out of some money but it’s better than being kicked to the curb with no money if you get injured which is the risk every NFL player runs. Oliver is pissing on his union’s greatest legacy by acting this way and if the Jays cave they create a precedent that’s bad for them and horrible for baseball.

  7. Drew, you’re a good writer, but what the hell does this mean?

    “As a man of his age is wont to do, Darren Oliver is having a going problem.”

  8. “*peace* of mind”, surely…

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