Monday, April 5, 2010

Paying for Potential

So the Red Sox' deal with Josh Beckett is done. Ups to the organization for evading tax codes by waiting until today to get it done. And minor ups to the player who took what many consider to be a slight hometown discount. That's probably true: I think any team who would pay more than what the Red Sox paid for the guy would be foolish. But there are a lot of foolish teams out there.

Seventeen million a year (that would be an "under" for last Friday's post) is a hefty chunk of change for a guy who is--let's face it--is still somewhat unproven. Not unproven in the respect that he hasn't had the opportunity to achieve resounding success. But unproven in the respect that, moreso like AJ Burnett than like John Lackey, he's had some success but hasn't been able to sustain it for an extended period of time. He's shown flashes of brilliance, just enough to tease anyone with a reasonable baseball eye.

This is an interesting (and disconcerting) pattern we're starting to see from the Red Sox' organization. They like to gamble on guys with a lot of upside. They like to pay less for potential (hello Smoltz, Penny, and Matt Mantei). They like to pay a moderate amount for potential (Matsuzaka translating into MLB, Scutaro after excelling in his ONLY season as an everyday player). And they like to pay a lot for potential ($70 million for the Next Mickey Mantle who just hadn't panned out...yet or ever).

This Beckett move has to be in the Drew category. Obviously not as heinous, for reasons I'll explain later, but the Red Sox sometimes have to realize that guys like Drew and Beckett AREN'T PROSPECTS ANYMORE. What you've seen over the past seven, twelve years--that's what you're going to get out of the guy. A flash of potential, and an occasional really bright flame, but for most of the time, you'll see a slighly better than average baseball player. Beckett can have the Blister Curveball working for 5-7 starts at a time, but no magic in the world is going to make the Blister Curveball work all the time. Not even during the 2007 season. Just like Drew can have two big hits and one big month, then become invisible for the rest of his time here. Beckett is a third starter. Perhaps the best third starter in baseball. But a third starter nonetheless. And it is inconsistent logic that the team would pay $17 million a year for a third starter with a lot of potential...

...and not pay $23 million a year for a first baseman with a lot of kinetic. Instead of being a powerhouse, Theo Epstein wants to be the Wilmington Girls' Track Team. Good. This money could have been spent more efficiently.

Not that I dislike Beckett. I think despite his soft skin (literally), he is one of the few players on the team who 1) will take responsibility for sucking, 2) will be dissatisfied with anything less than perfection, and 3) gives a crap about being less than perfect. While Papelbon talks more about his contract than about winning baseball games, Beckett wanted to get the contract garbage out of the way so he can focus on winning baseball games.

Two more things to say about this:

-It's another example of the Red Sox sucking at contract negotiations. It doesn't look like Beckett was gouging them or negotiating too stiffly here. He wanted to avoid inconvenience. But still, he didn't sign for the hometown discount. Seems like the team gouged themselves.

-It also looks like the team wants to eat more money. They have a lot of money invested in their rotation for the next four years, with Matsuzaka, Lackey, Lester, and Beckett. They have Wakefield for two years. God forbid Buchholz, Casey Kelly, Bowden, or someone else gets their act together. A good pitcher or two will be sitting on the bench or in Pawtucket. And other than Lester, the rest of the big contracts are virtually untradable unless money is eaten.

Until next time, I don't get paid to make those f'ing decisions.


jason said...

this post made me curious about something, say you (dv) were the one making the decisions for the team lets say you took over around 2002 what do you think the team you would have assembled would look like right now?

Anonymous said...


I like the Beckett signing, but not for a lot of the reasons that most people in New England like it. Most people like it because they think they got an ace pitcher for a lot less than what they Yankees paid for theirs (23 million dollars). Unfortunately, Beckett isn't an ace. As you said, he's a number 3, and maybe a number 2 starter. But Beckett got that type of money. John Lackey and AJ Burnett are very similar pitchers and received very similar contracts. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Also, what's Beckett's replacement value? The guy has averaged more than 16 wins a year in Boston (and yes, I realize that wins aren't the most important stat when valuing a pitcher). Is that ace stuff? As mentioned earlier, no, it isn't. But, it's still very good and you can't necessarily find a ton of those guys out there on the market, and when you do, they seem to be getting $85 million. So, from that perspective it really seems like the Red Sox saved themselves a years worth of salary on Beckett. Again, this signing isn't a do or die situation, but it's still a prudent one that I believe will benefit the Sox in the end.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Fair to say I know who the shortstop would be.

I'd guess if I had been in charge since then (assuming the farm development being the same), it would be Youkilis/Andy Marte/free agent at 3B, Hanley Ramirez at SS, Pedroia at 2B, Nomar/Youkilis/free agent at 1B. Outfield would be Number 2 in center, Brandon Moss or David Murphy in right, and Johnny Damon II (like Piston Honda II) in left. One of the corner infielders (Marte/Nomar) would be on short years to wait for either the rise of Lars Anderson or the FA signing of Adrian Gonzalez. It is also not inconceivable that I would have traded Moss or Murphy to make myself able to acquire a bigger corner outfielder--probably Jason Bay. Also would have made the trade for Victor Martinez using Masterson and probably those outfielders.

Rotation would be Sabathia (provided I win the bidding war)/Lowe (provided I lost the bidding war), Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, and Wakefield/Anibal Sanchez. I feel like Sanchez would have been pampered a little better in AA instead of being rushed right to the majors to throw a no-hitter and subsequently blow his arm out.

Bullpen would be similar. Papelbon, Okajima, Bard. Although it would not be out of the question that I would have traded Papelbon by now, maybe as part of a trade for Victor Martinez. Would have cut Timlin earlier, would have Wakefield in there, and would have let go of Hansen and Delcarmen both by now.

People who would have come and gone would have included Schilling, Omar Vizquel and Jeremy Reed, but not Coco Crisp or Mark Bellhorn. Or JD, of course.

the gm at work said...


I agree, and that's why I never said in this post or last that I'm really against this signing. I'm a little tentative about it, for sure. If you're not, you're not paying attention.

But the way things are right now, with Burnett getting $82.5 and Lowe getting almost that much in a crappy economy, this seems to be probably a reasonable price for an overvalued commodity (the commodity being a third starter). It is very possible that Gil Meche would get MORE today than what he got in 2006-7.

jason said...

that is kind of what i expected, heavily reliant on the farm.. what about manny? i guess this woulda been a better thing to ask in the offseason when things are slower

the gm at work said...

Trading him had to happen. Getting Bay in return was the best possible scenario. And yes, this would have been better to ask during the four months when neither of us had anything to say.

Patrick said...

is jason jb? if so two questions (and if not please ignore both):

1. we just spent 4 months wading through an off-season, and you wait until the second day of the season to ask a question that is that thought provoking? not only is it interesting, but probably would have generated 2-4 posts between the two of us and a lot of conversation about how everyone else would have proceeded in the comments. for 3 years and almost two months i've been positive bandi was the biggest stain on this site, but you've put yourself into contention with this.

2. when are you going to give me your predictions for yankee batting averages this year? i need to stay consistent since they won the world series with you giving me your (lowball) estimates last year.

Patrick said...

also gunn, can we get your thoughts on brett gardner today since as of yesterday you have become our new resident gardner news/analysis man?

the gm at work said...


JB is Jason. Jason is JB. Meet us in Vegas in two and a half weeks.

For someone who was so passionate about the Beckett signing (you sent me a text message last night indicating "yes" with nineteen S's and ten exclamation points), I thought you'd bring more to the table than ragging on our commenters. Ciao.

Anonymous said...

Yea Pat.

Bush league.


jason said...

pf, haha i realize that it was a great idea with poor timing, but im just a commenter you are supposed to come up with ideas for posts so start carrying your weight and ill take .299 for jeters avg this year

from the bronx said...

what is thames doing in LF tonight? he should be a PH only... the guy runs like hideki matsui and throws like johnny damon... huge mistake, especially because Gardner hits well against lefties.

Anonymous said...


They're probably trying to protect Gardner because they don't want him to get exposed by playing every day.

It's for his own good.