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January 9, 2009
  
Did Minaya Miscalculate the Market?

Baseball is currently a buyer’s market. With the financial crisis within the United States no longer are teams willing to give players like Vincente Padilla double-figure million dollar deals to be borderline-good players. In fact, some of the biggest free agents thus far this season, such as Brian Fuentes, Pat Burrell, Jason Giambi, and Trevor Hoffman, have signed deals that would have seemed like complete steals a few years ago. While those deals may still seem like bargains for the teams signing them, the stock market’s downturn (and Bernard Madoff, now joining the likes of Jimmy Rollins as a Met fan foe) has lost some baseball owners serious money that would make one forget all about the pennies on the dollar saved in signing a guy like Hoffman for $6 million instead of $8 million.

So with the market being as it is, what have the Mets done to take advantage of it? I know Omar Minaya does not have an MBA and cannot be entirely culpable for failing to analyze a market, but such is the responsibility when you take on running a budget of over $135 million. Last year Omar Minaya spent money unwisely on guys like Matt Wise, Brian Schneider, and Luis Castillo, money that is lost (and for Schneider and Castillo will continue to be lost) and cannot be recovered. Luckily Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez, Oliver Perez, and others are now off the books and have freed up some wiggle room for Omar to spend.

But I cannot seem to wonder why our cross-town rivals have been able, during a recession, to spend lavishly on A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira. And while I may not agree with the money given to each player, the money being available is what I am more concerned with. It seems that Brian Cashman was able to pinpoint maybe not a weak market, but at least an off-season in which many prime free agents would be available. He was able to get money off the books this summer for numerous players, such as Giambi, Mike Mussina, Bobby Abreu, Andy Pettite, and Carl Pavano, giving him the green light to get three of the best players in the game.

Or maybe it was just dumb luck. Maybe all the money just happened to come off the books at the perfect time for the Yankees, and all those free agents just happened to be available the exact same off-season. It definitely is a possibility, and Cashman is certainly not infallible when it comes to handing out contracts (see Pavano, Carl), and he also has a larger checkbook to work with. Still, the likes of Castillo and Schneider are blocking other players from coming in.

Perhaps an interesting situation would have been to let Carlos Delgado walk, considering it cost the Mets $16 million to pick up his contract. If you let Delgado walk and sign Giambi (who actually had a marginally better 2008) for the $5.5 million he was signed to, that gives you $10.5 million more to work with when trying to get a guy like Lowe. Although replacing a clubhouse guy with a known former steroid user may cause the Public Relations department to work overtime, it may be worth the $10.5 million saved, especially if Giambi puts up good numbers again.

However, this also brings up the fact that Omar Minaya does not seem to have the ability to spend as much as he would like, despite what Fred and Jeff Wilpon have said in the media. With the Madoff scandal possibly burning somewhere between $100-300 million of Wilpon’s personal money, it is currently unknown if Omar can spend. The fact that he is offering Derek Lowe $12 million a year for three years when last year he gave Luis Castillo an overpriced deal says that he is either playing hardball with Boras or unable to throw out the big bucks. Either way the Mets may be in trouble when Frank Wren decides he is sick of getting spurned by every free agent and throws everything and the kitchen sink at Lowe.

Has Omar Minaya done a good job as General Manager of the Mets? I think so, as I do not blame him for the past two years (despite the fact that I have blamed everyone from Sarah Palin to Greg Dobb’s parents to Tim McCarver for the past two years). The collapses were more circumstantial than anything, and I am impressed with the J.J. Putz deal and assembling of some amazing players around the core of Wright and Reyes. I just hope that he is able to handle the economic situation properly and, if constrained by the possible empty pockets of the Wilpons, is able to be wise in his decisions (which he was not able to do with a nothing payroll in Montreal).


15 Responses to “Did Minaya Miscalculate the Market?”

  1. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on January 9, 2009 at 5:25 am (#917101)

    Hey Pat-
    I profoundly disagree with the idea of replacing Delgado with Giambi. While I´m not a big Delgado fan, he´s definately worth more than Giambi; besides, I´m sick of ex-Yankees. And Delgado´s option did not cost $16 mill- it was a $12 million contract vs a $4 million buyout, meaning the cost of picking up the option was only $8 million. They´d still be paying Delgado $4 mil in addition to any money to Giambi, so the savings isn´t worth it.
    As to the Yankees, they just got lucky having a bunch of big, bad contracts expiring at the same time. The Yankees exploit their luxury of an unlimited pocketbook mostly by the ability to absorb bad contracts, like Pavano´s, Damon´s and Matsui´s. The Mets don´t or won´t just absorb bad contracts like Castillo´s.
    A final question: Who would you rather have had catch in 2008, Schneider or LoDuca? Or someone else–who? Schneider sucks, but he´s not making huge money, and his contract expires after 2009 (along with Castro´s). {I still think that Omar´s worst oversight as GM was leaving Jesus Flores unprotected, when he knew that he had a need for a catcher 1 year later. Bad planning…}

  2. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on January 9, 2009 at 5:28 am (#917102)

    ps- Unless they can swing a trade, the Mets will likely overpay next year for catcher. Probably Bengie Molina or Ramon Hernandez.

  3. Comment posted by ih8yankees25 on January 9, 2009 at 6:36 am (#917106)

    The thing about Giambi is that he put better offensive numbers than Delgado while playing DH. The question is, can he put up the same amount of offensive production while playing the field full time and in a supposed pitcher’s park? If you look at EqA, which takes almost every factor into account, Giambi’s last year was .307 and Delgado’s was .301 which is a very small difference. And if you take defense and clubhouse peace into account then Delgado’s the clear cut favorite. Giambi’s defense is atrocious, Delgado’s is okay. And like Pat mentioned Giambi has clubhouse issues and steroid issues. So the bottom line is if you look at each of their numbers at face value Giambi is far superior, but by leveling the playing field it looks like Delgado might actually be the better option.

  4. Comment posted by elliot on January 9, 2009 at 7:56 am (#917108)

    Plus Delgado, defensively, is a good fit for the Mets. His best skill, based on observation, is scopping bad throws. Wright bounces more throws to first than he should, and I have seen Delgado save him by making a good scooop numerous times. If Giambi were on first, I doubt that Wright gets his gold glove.

    One more thing. I am a fan - I watch the Mets for enjoyment. I can’t root for the one-d

  5. Comment posted by elliot on January 9, 2009 at 7:59 am (#917111)

    finishing my last post (sorry):
    I can’t root for the one-dimensional cheater that is Giambi. He’s no Met.

  6. Comment posted by dcrockett17 on January 9, 2009 at 9:01 am (#917118)

    Pat, I enjoyed reading the post. However, I think the answer to your question “what have the Mets done to take advantage of the buyer’s market?” is essentially that they’ve played it pretty shrewdly thus far. Whether by indefatigable patience, fiscal constraint, or some combination, Omar is playing his hand rather well.

    The Mets didn’t and don’t need an overhaul. In that sense pursuing Giambi might have been somewhat unwise. Delgado will almost assuredly decline while this is less likely for Giambi, the probably upgrade is not so great as to risk asking Giambi to play the field every game and learn a new set of NL pitchers. Consider also that Adam Dunn is still out there. Although it appears Omar is not a fan, the market may actually force him to consider Dunn.

    A.J. Burnett, I think, was always going to be a Yankee. Even the Sawx didn’t go after him with a full-court press. So I don’t think that was an issue of the Mets being cheap.

    As for not having signed Lowe, the Braves’ involvement could accelerate things with the Mets. But even still, it’s doubtful that the Braves are entering in order to set a new market. They want to operate in the market the Mets have set, and force Lowe to choose between the two teams on their merits.

  7. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester on January 9, 2009 at 9:02 am (#917119)

    Giambi CANNOT play first base. That is what the Yankees learned over the past weveral years. He’s a DH, no more, and possibly quite a bit less. Plus, he’s a cheater.

    And as Dave points out, the cost of Delgado is much less than $16 million, taking the buyout into account.

    It has been reported in the past that the Yankees operate at a loss given their payroll. Even with the expiring contracts, they will still have, by far, the highest payroll in all of baseball, and it will only increase in the coming years, as Wang hits Free Agency, Joba hits arbitration, and they’re having to replace Damon, Posada and others along the way.

    Not to mention having to re-sign Jeter to a ridiculous contract at the end of 2010 season. You think Derek is going to take a huge paycut? No chance. Do you think the Yankees will let him leave? No chance.

  8. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester on January 9, 2009 at 9:06 am (#917122)

    to continue

    I get the frustration in regards to the team not spending as much as the Yankees, but they still have a high payroll at approx $145 m. Granted, some of the money was ill-spent (Castillo), but it is not like they are spending only $35 million. They choose to be picky about where they throw their money around. If we had given AJ that contract, the Wilpon’s would have been KILLED in the media (and here on our favorite website).

    That said, they cannot let a few million stop them from signing Lowe. Up it to $40 m over 3 yrs, and throw in an option based on innings and so forth.

    If that doesn’t work, sign Ollie.

    And make sure to sign a 5th starter. I do not want to see Niese as the #5 coming into the season.

  9. Comment posted by njamazinsfan on January 9, 2009 at 11:35 am (#917263)

    Pat, how exactly did Giambi have “a marginally better 2008″ than Delgado? I’m not a Delgado apologist, but let’s look at the numbers:

    Giambi: HR-32 R-68 RBI-96 AVG-247 OBP-373 SLG-502 OPS-876

    Delgado: HR-38 R-96 RBI-115 AVG-271 OBP-353 SLG-518 OPS-871

    Sure, Giambi had a higher OBP, and a slightly higher OPS, but how in the world can you conclude that Giambi had a better year than Delgado? And your salary figures are way off, in that the $16M figure you cited was an option that would have vested had Delgado received a certain number of points awarded in a formula devised on his winning the WS or LCS MVP, & finishing in the top-10 in the league MVP voting. His ‘09 team option was for $12M or a $4M buyout, hence, it cost them $8M to bring him back.

    That said, I agree with you 100% in that the Madoff scandal clearly is affecting their decisions with the team’s payroll, and I don’t think it’s fair, especially when they have the audacity to ask the city for more and more money to complete Citi Field.

  10. Comment posted by Pat Andriola on January 9, 2009 at 11:52 am (#917270)

    Hey guys,

    Thanks for the responses. The Giambi situation was just something I was throwing out there as a possible way the Mets could have saved some cash (if you read the paragraph I didn’t seem very strident in my position on it). I was generally making the point that if the Mets are strapped for cash there are things they must do to be able to retain good players and also save money, this possibly being one of them. In hindsight I probably wouldn’t have made the switch.

  11. Comment posted by argonbunnies on January 9, 2009 at 4:15 pm (#917490)

    I’d been advocating “trade Delgado, then sign Giambi”. I was assuming we could get something for Carlos. Maybe not. But if we could have, Giambi’s recent contract makes it look like an even better idea than I thought.

    Giambi is a hideous defender. In my eyes, Delgado is too. I’m 5′9″ and I could get to more balls than Carlos because I’m willing to get dirty more than once a month.

    As for milking the weak market, we have yet to find out! That’s all about signings and deals we make in the next 2 months. Redding is a waste, as I said in my journal. Unfortunately, I just heard on MetsBlog it’s a done deal.

    Anyone else see the Daily News blog on how our pitchers’ SLG% numbers go up by 150 points with Schneider behind the plate?

  12. Comment posted by andyglass1 on January 9, 2009 at 6:38 pm (#917590)

    I agree that overall Omar has done a good to very good job. Saying the last two years were random abnormalities is inaccurate. The last two season ending fizzles were largely due to the team depending on 3 fragile old men (2 SP, 1 lf), no longer physically capable of playing a significant amount of time, let alone a full time role. Traditionally, successful SP’s log in close to 200 IP per year. A successful team cant have 40% of it starting rotation logging in 30-45 IP. Starting corner OF’rs are normally counted on for 20-25 hr and close to 100 rbi’s. You cant do that if you are only physically able to reach 35-40 AB’s.

  13. Comment posted by dogcatcher on January 9, 2009 at 8:30 pm (#917593)

    Pat-

    as we agree the financial crisis has had an impact, and Oar’s hands are probably somewhat tied by Madoff, how could he have anticipated it?

    As for Cashman, exactly what has he done well for the Yanks? talked them out of trading for Santana (thank god)..how stupid…I dont even blame him for Pavano, but how about $40 million for a minor league pitcher? Cash has the rep in baseball of falling in love with his home growns and seriously overvaluaing them in trades

    I dare suggest had the yanks kept Torre, fired Cash, and traded for santana, they’d be in a lot better shape right now. And I think they know it…they just didnt like the credit Torre got, and they used his reluctance to take a pay cut against him…

    If u want to criticize Omar, beyond Castillo (which was not highly criticized at the time, and was a reaction to eckstein’s outrageous demands), think no RH Of/IB…and no SP backup plan..

    As for Putz, I like the depth, but only if we arent salary constricted..if we are on a budget, exactly what are we going to do with an $8 million setup man next year? We’d have been better off sign both Ollie and Lowe

  14. Comment posted by andyglass1 on January 9, 2009 at 10:48 pm (#917610)

    “think no RH Of/IB…and no SP backup plan..” definitely - having 3 backup 2bmen (Stache,DE,Marlon) serve as backup ss,3b,1b& corner OF didnt really cut it. There was no outstanding fielder (besides Stache - at 2b only) and while he and Damion have power for a middle IF, they are rather powerless when considered at the other positions…. Marlon just hasnt gotten it going lately and with a bench limited to 6 players, I dont see how you can carry a no-hit, no-field, PH.

  15. Comment posted by Wally Dykstra on January 10, 2009 at 1:55 pm (#917670)

    I think the Angels’ signing of Fuentes is going to make Minaya look pretty dumb when Fuentes puts up comparable numbers to K-Rod at a fraction of the price.

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