A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Crying Wolf

Hal Bodley takes a look at an off season in which spending has seemingly gone out of control. Every year there is a battle between the owners and players. The owners are crying that they are broke and the players are crying the owners are stealing all their money.

If I were a player, I'd be tickled to death to get a contract like that of many of the 141 free agents who've signed contracts with major league teams totaling $1.1 billion. That's an average per player of $8 million.

Not since the winter of 2000-01, when the Texas Rangers gave Alex Rodriguez a record 10-year, $252 million deal, have the owners gone over $1 billion in free agent spending.

Bodley also states the money is being spent because the owners have it. While that is somewhat correct since all the owners are filthy stinking rich, there has been a pretty solid balance between the owners trying to break even and spending as much as they could on the players. In 2000, major league teams turned in an average profit of $4.3 million per team. In 2001 the owners turned in an average profit of $4.2 million per team. In 2002 the owners lost an average of $1.3 million per team. In 2003 the owners lost and average of $1.9 million per team. The 2004 figures will not be out for another couple months, but I'm guessing it will be negatives again due to a certain team tipping the scales with a payroll knocking on the $200,000,000 door and losing enough money for every team. The players really cannot ask for much more than that. More than the owners having extra cash, I'd say that most of the money spent this off season was in a lot of desperation deals. Two of the biggest spenders this off season were the Mets and Mariners who would certainly fit that bill. They needed to make some deals to improve their club and that meant overpaying. The D-Backs are guilty of that too. With the prospect of losing Sexson becoming a reality, the D-Backs signed Glaus to try and right that wrong and add pop into their lineup while overpaying for their guy. Major League baseball and their owners are doing well financially, but they are not exactly sitting on top their millions laughing diabolically. They deserve some credit for dishing it out regularly.

The Mets have been the worst offenders this off season by spending $197,800,000.00 in major league contracts so far and inking a slew of minor league contracts while signing their top draft pick as well. Wilpon and the Mets may approach the quarter billion dollar category if they end up with Delgado, but I think it is money well spent. Tom Hicks spent that much on one single player after the 2000 season and something tells me the Mets are getting a bit more for their money and it may actually translate into wins.

In fairness to all 30 teams, only a few have spent big. The Mets, trying to compete with the Yankees for New York attention and anticipating large revenue from a new cable TV operation, have spent the most — $197.8 million on seven free agents, including $119 million for outfielder Carlos Beltran.

After the Mets come the Los Angeles Dodgers ($142.65 million), the Seattle Mariners ($122.45 million) and the Boston Red Sox ($119.15 million).

The blame should not get put squarely on the Mets shoulders, but the fact is no one thought this type of market would materialize. Wasn't this supposed to be a buyers market? Supply and demand tends to do set the market and there was plenty of demand for the players out there. Richie Sexson was supposed to get around $10 million per year and the Mariners squash that notion because they had a need. It's good to be a ballplayer these days and in three years we will be seeing some of these contracts looking much like Jeromy Burntiz's did a few years back. I can only hope it is not one that the Mets signed.

With all the money thrown around by the Mets this off season it's hard to believe that they are playing hardball with their newest target. Not only did they show up 60-90 minutes late to their meeting with Carlos Delgado in Puerto Rico, they failed to even match the Marlins offer in terms of dollar value. While they are close, the Marlins contract is believed to be heavily back loaded which certainly lowers the current contract value a bit, although not that much when you are talking three years. The Mets are most likely not done yet and they still have some financial wiggle room. According to the NY Post, a baseball official suspected the Mets were going to add at least a fourth year option that never materialized. Either way, they still have time to wait out other team's offers before they improve on theirs and I like that approach thus far. I think it may be a smart way to operate in negotiations where there is no clear front runner and no other deep pocketed team. The Mets offer may seem like a slap in the face to some, but the Mets are running this negotiation a bit differently than the others in the way that they do not feel like Delgado is as important a piece to the puzzle as Pedro and Beltran were. Omar knows he has Sammy out there if he needs a fallback guy with power and he knows there are other first base options that could fit the team, albeit with a lot less hitting ability. For the time being their plan is to simply keep up with the Joneses.

* * *

  • John Sickels just did an On the Farm piece on Tim Stauffer. He's been a guy I've been pulling for to succeed after the 2003 draft. For those of you unaware of his story, he was drafted and signed by the Padres for $2.6 million before coming out to the team saying he has some shoulder problems. They downgraded the bonus to $700,000 and the arm problems went away. Then in his first pro season, he shot up through the minors from A ball to AAA ball and is poised to start at AAA with a second half call up possible. Take a look at what John Sickels says about him:

    Stauffer's fastball isn't spectacular in terms of velocity. He's usually at 89-91 mph, sometimes a notch higher. But his heater has good movement and he commands it well. The pitch looks faster than it is due to the contrast with his other offerings: a changeup, a standard curveball, a knucklecurve, and a cut fastball he will use in slider counts. Stauffer demonstrates excellent command of all his pitches. Scouts praise his instincts and work ethic. Stauffer is fully developed physically, and it seems unlikely that he'll pick up much additional velocity. If he maintains sharp command, his stuff is certainly good enough for him to succeed without a blazing fastball.


    While Stauffer doesn't have the pure velocity of a dominant ace, his ability to throw strikes, mix his pitches, and stay ahead of hitters is exciting. If he can avoid further arm problems, he projects as a solid No. 3 starter.

    You could take out Stauffer's name and plug in Petit and it is exactly what people say about Yusmeiro.

  • Quote of the Day:

    "The Marlins are not in the business of overpaying. The worst thing you can do as a franchise is have underperforming contracts and we won't do it. So, if it becomes an overpay, the Marlins will bow out gracefully and we will see the Mets on the field 19 times and we'll look forward to saying hello to Carlos then."
    -Marlins president David Samson

    Thems fightin' words.

  • First Humber, now Niemann.

    The Devil Rays and first-round pick Jeff Niemann have agreed to terms on a five-year major league contract that guarantees the former Rice right-hander $5.2 million, including a signing bonus of $3.2 million.

    "I knew things were going to work out," Niemann said. "It was just a matter of time until things fell into place, and they fell into place perfectly. I'm not sure either side could ask for anything better."

    The thought of Kazmir and Niemann heading a rotation fo while would certainly make any team drool. Add in Delmon Young, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, BJ Upton, Joey Gathwright, and Dewon Brazleton and you just may have a solid team for a few years.

    Surprise! The last two unsigned first rounders both belong to Scott Boras.

  • The Orioles are thinking about getting back into the thick of the Delgado negotiations.

    A club official indicated that the Orioles have the flexibility to increase their second offer once the market becomes more clear. In the meantime, they're waiting to receive a firm contract figure rather than start engaging in a "blind auction" and risk bidding against themselves.

    "I can't say we have a limit," the official said.


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