MLB Free Agents, Press Conferences and Respect

Ballparks, Free Agents, Games, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Stats, World Series

The Yankees press conferences/coronations have always gone far beyond your ordinary, run-of-the-mill “I’ve always wanted to be a Yankee” lovefest with the unsaid truth that “they offered me the most money.” Therefore it was no surprise that Bob Lorenz referred to the upper echelon of the Yankees front office as “dignitaries” when the club introduced Jacoby Ellsbury last week.

Dignitaries? They’re guys who run a baseball team. Who thinks they’re dignitaries? Randy Levine is a dignitary? Brian Cashman is a dignitary? Joe Girardi is a dignitary? This is all part of the narrative that is put forth not just in a Yankees press conference, but press conferences across the board that are introducing the new player. The Yankees press conferences are generally banal, pompous and cliché. With Ellsbury, they added “creepy” to the list of adjectives as Girardi said to Ellsbury: “You’re no longer a thorn in our side. You’re a flower in our clubhouse.”

Uch.

Of course these florid displays are done in the interest of selling tickets, getting the photo ops holding up the uniform, uttering the by the book statements about how it had little to do with money and the state of the organization was the key component in the decision to sign. “I felt wanted.” “They treated me with respect.” “I’ve admired X, Y and Z from afar for a long time.” It’s a silent contract between the media and the clubs that there won’t be hardball questions launched on a day of advertising. Naturally this is diametrically opposed to the inherent implied intention based on the title of the event: press conference.

The Mariners press conference for Robinson Cano was much more interesting because of the shots Cano took against the Yankees. Much was made of Cano’s comments about being disrespected by the Yankees when he was introduced as the new Mariners’ second baseman.

Did he have a point or was he just giving a reason separate from the $240 million and no state income tax in Washington?

The term has different connotations based on the context. Respecting the process; respecting the people who are hired to do a job and letting them do it; respecting the players and what they want.

The term of “respect” isn’t to be dismissed out of hand.

When Pedro Martinez signed with the Mets after the 2004 season, he did so because the Mets offered the most money. But at the press conference, he said something interesting about the Red Sox. He asked why he had to wait for the team to offer him an extension after all the work he’d done for the franchise, most of which was gutty and brilliant? They put him off and put him off, letting him reach free agency where, like Cano, there was always the possibility that another team would go crazy to garner the headlines of stealing a star personality from a team that could afford him. In retrospect, the Red Sox were right to let Martinez leave and they did raise their offer further than was their preference to try and keep him. It would’ve been a “severance” contract because they knew he’d probably lose his effectiveness and get injured in the latter years of the deal. He rejected it and signed with the Mets.

Is it a similar dynamic with Cano and the Yankees? Can he feel offended when comparing his situation to what the Yankees did with Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran? The Yankees committed almost $200 million to those two players, one of whom is injury prone and the other who is going to be 37 in April. They were also prepared to spend $150 million on a Japanese pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka, before the posting rules were changed.

“You have the money for them? A 37-year-old? An oft-injured former Red Sox? A Japanese pitcher who will be hit or miss? And you can’t pay me?” These are not selfish or stupid questions. Independent of the money, would you feel wanted and respected if your former team did that?

This has nothing to do with the wisdom of the decision. But the Yankees complaining about payroll issues and then tossing all of this money at Ellsbury, Beltran and the planned bid for Tanaka with more on the way doesn’t mesh with them doing everything possible to keep Cano.

If the Yankees had come close to the Mariners offer, would Cano have left? If they hadn’t signed a far inferior player, Ellsubry, to a $153 million contract with an option for $21 million in 2021, could they have convinced Cano to stay? Rest assured that the option has certain kickers that will guarantee it. They might be games played in the last two years of the deal or a number of at bats, but they’re there. If Ellsbury is healthy, he’ll reach the option. So with the deal they gave to Ellsbury, it matches what they offered Cano.

Wouldn’t you be insulted by that if you were Cano – a player who never misses games and was a homegrown talent – and saw himself offered the same money they gave to a player who’s constantly on the disabled list and isn’t nearly as good? Cano doesn’t seem to be the sentimental type and doesn’t care about having his uniform number retired or a plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. But if he was and the Yankees tried to talk him into staying for less money, what was he staying for? Mariano Rivera is gone. Derek Jeter is on the way out. Alex Rodriguez may be gone. Andy Pettitte is gone. Eventually, he’d be the only one left from the old guard and it would fall to him to be the leader – something he clearly doesn’t want. So if they’re not offering the most money; not offering the guarantee of a championship run every year; and giving him the mystical future of a “historical place amongst Yankee greats” in lieu of everything else, why not go to Seattle?

In sports, the term “respect” doesn’t necessarily mean what it means in the workaday world. It means you’ll pay me and treat me as if you need and want me. Had the Yankees ponied up, Cano would’ve forgotten the slight and signed. Instead, he went where the money was and that happened to be Seattle. The idea that he wasn’t treated with respect may sound offensive to people who see the money he’s getting and think, “How dare he?!?” But in Cano’s world, it’s not out of line. It came down the money, but it also had to do with the Yankees deciding to pay Ellsbury instead as a preemptive strike in case Cano left. And he did.




var addthis_config = {“data_track_addressbar”:true};

Advertisements

Pujols May Save the Cardinals Again

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Albert Pujols did the Cardinals a huge favor by departing for Anaheim and the Angels. Not only did he save them from paying a player who’s listed at age 32 (but might be older) $220 million for 10 years, but he gave them a substantial amount of money to use in other areas. Because they won the World Series last year, the afterglow gave them a pass for any perceived negativity.

With Pujols gone and Lance Berkman already onboard from a mid-season 2011 contract extension, they signed Carlos Beltran at $26 million for two years. He’s been an MVP candidate for them.

This current Cardinals team isn’t that good; their manager Mike Matheny has made some rudimentary strategic mistakes—as would be expected from someone who’d never managed before anywhere; they have holes in the starting rotation due to injuries to Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter. But they’re only 2 ½ games out of first place in a mediocre division and parity-laden National League and they have the farm system to make big deals. With the money available from not having to pay Pujols along with the expiring contracts of Carpenter, Berkman, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook, they can pursue a Zack Greinke and potentially bolster the bullpen by expanding a Greinke trade to include Francisco Rodriguez. Greinke wouldn’t have to be a rental either; the freed up money could be used to sign him long-term.

The Cardinals without Tony LaRussa are being run more like a business with Matheny a functionary and not having the power to win turf wars as LaRussa did. Carpenter is out for the season with surgery to repair nerve damage in his shoulder. In the past it would’ve been guaranteed that LaRussa would bully his way into getting Carpenter another contract in spite of his age (38 next April) and frequent injuries. Now that’s not the case. The Cardinals let Pujols leave making any player disposable if his demands are extreme.

Thanks to Pujols, the Cardinals can be big buyers at the deadline and it could benefit them greatly for the rest of 2012 and beyond.

//

The Yankees Would’ve Been Better With Beltran

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

The underlying suggestion from another “Carlos Beltran offers self to Yankees” free agent story is that he was about to sign the contract with the Cardinals and had his agent contact the Yankees to see if they’d be willing to do the same contract.

In 2004 it was slightly different in several ways. His agent then was Scott Boras; now it’s Dan Lozano. The offer to the Yankees back then was for less money and fewer years than the Mets offer; this time he asked for the same deal. And back then, he was a star center fielder in his prime; this time he’s a very good right fielder turning age 35 in April whose health is still in question.

Did it come at the last second and did the Yankees turn it down without seriously considering it? Was there a backchannel communication to the Yankees saying, “keep Beltran in mind because he wants to be a Yankee”? Or did the Yankees know he was interested and wait to see what the price was before turning it down?

If George Steinbrenner were still around, a player like Beltran who clearly wants to be a Yankees would have been a Yankee. But now they’re monitoring their payroll to such a degree that amid all the ridicule aimed at the team across town, the Yankees have actually done less to address their needs this winter than the Mets have.

Rather than sign a free agent or go all out via trade to acquire one of the available starting pitchers, the Yankees re-did CC Sabathia’s contract to keep him and re-signed Freddy Garcia; they also exercised the option on the player that Beltran would’ve replaced, Nick Swisher; and today, they re-signed veteran Andruw Jones.

Apart from that, nothing.

Did they think about Beltran and weigh the pros and cons?

If they chose to replace Swisher with Beltran, they’d be getting a better player; both are switch-hitters, but Beltran is more consistent from both sides of the plate and a far bigger power threat batting lefty than Swisher; Beltran’s a proven post-season performer while Swisher’s been an abject failure; Beltran would be more expensive ($26 million for 2-years) than Swisher, who’s only going to cost $10.25 million in 2012.

Beltran’s knee problems are not to be discounted—he could wind up back on the disabled list at a moment’s notice—but apart from a hand injury, he stayed healthy in 2011. Beltran played in 142 games and adjusted well in a position switch to right field. 22 homers playing his home games in the notorious pitchers parks of Citi Field and AT&T Park bode well for a renaissance as a 30-35 homer power threat in Yankee Stadium.

Swisher has trade value because teams appreciate his on-base skills, pop and gregarious personality along with that 1-year deal; Beltran wouldn’t have cost a draft pick to sign because of a clever provision slipped into his Mets contract by then-agent Boras that his club couldn’t offer him arbitration.

Could the Yankees have signed Beltran and traded Swisher for an arm like Jason Hammel? Jonathan Sanchez? Jair Jurrjens?

Would they be better than they are now?

I’m not an advocate of standing completely pat in any circumstance and especially when the team overachieved based on luck with two veterans Garcia and Bartolo Colon, then got bounced in the first round of the playoffs; but that’s what the Yankees are doing.

With the improving Blue Jays, the Red Sox and Rays still in their division, plus the flashy signings made by the Rangers and Angels, the playoffs are not a guarantee for the Yankees anymore and this current roster is aging and thin in several key spots.

Trading Swisher for a starter and signing Beltran would’ve made the team better.

Did they consider it seriously? Or did they ignore the player who obviously wanted to be a Yankee to the point where he essentially groveled for the chance?

Twice!

The Yankees made a mistake with Beltran in 2004 and they may have just made the same mistake in 2011 at a cheaper price.

//

The Carlos Beltran Free Agency Profile

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MVP, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Name: Carlos Beltran


Position: Right Field; Designated Hitter(?).

Vital Statistics:

Age-34; he’ll turn 35 in April.

Height-6’1″

Weight-215.

Bats: Both.

Throws: Right.

Transactions: Drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 2nd round of the 1995 MLB Draft. Traded to the Houston Astros in June, 2004. Signed as a free agent with the New York Mets in January, 2005. Traded to the San Francisco Giants in July, 2011.

Agent: Dan Lozano.

Might he return to the Giants? Yes.

Teams that could use and pay him: New York Yankees; Toronto Blue Jays; Boston Red Sox; Baltimore Orioles; Detroit Tigers; Kansas City Royals; Minnesota Twins; Los Angeles Angels; Texas Rangers; Seattle Mariners; Atlanta Braves; Philadelphia Phillies; Washington Nationals; St. Louis Cardinals; Chicago Cubs; San Francisco Giants; Los Angeles Dodgers; Colorado Rockies.

Positives:

Beltran comes to play every single day; he hits for power, average and gets on base; he can steal a few bases when necessary; he’s a solid defensive right fielder.

In spite of the repeated whining and reminders of that one pitch from Adam Wainwright in which Beltran watched a curveball break in for strike 3 to end the 2006 NLCS, Beltran is a clutch player who’s come up big in the post-season repeatedly.

I’ve said it again and again: Babe Ruth himself wouldn’t have hit that pitch and even had Beltran swung, he had zero chance of hitting it or fouling it off. Get over it.

Beltran’s stunning decision to part ways with Scott Boras will put forth the sense that he’s not going to be a hard-liner when it comes to a new contract and isn’t looking to receive a “Boras Contract” in which the agent asks for something insane that only a few teams are capable of providing.

He can handle the big city and the spotlight as long as he’s not the center of attention.

Negatives:

His surgically repaired knee held up in 2011, but it has to be in the back of any club’s mind when they sign Beltran that it could be a major issue at some point during the contract.

Is he or is he not willing to DH?

If he’s willing to DH, his options will be extended to a large chunk of the American League; if he’s not, then he’s limited to the National League and will hamper his ability to maximize his dollars. Beltran preferred to go to a National League team when the Mets were trying to trade him. Does he want to stay in the NL? Or is he flexible? Would he even think about playing some first base?

He’s a quiet, background player who doesn’t want to be the out-front leader.

What he’ll want: 4-years, $70 million.

What he’ll get: 3-years, $48 million.

Teams that might give it to him: Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Tigers, Royals; Twins; Angels; Rangers; Mariners; Phillies; Braves; Nationals; Cardinals; Cubs, Giants.

Beltran was one of the few players by whom Boras appeared to do entirely right.

Boras followed his desires by offering his services to the Yankees for less money than what the Mets offered; he got a clause inserted into the Mets contract that Beltran could not be offered arbitration, making him more attractive to prospective suitors due to the lack of draft pick compensation; and he got him paid.

Yet Beltran and Boras parted ways in advance of Beltran’s free agency and the player switched to Dan Lozano.

Who can speculate what it means?

Beltran must, must, must be open to DHing at least part of the time if he wants to get a contract of longer than 2-years.

Regardless of how desperate a club is to add his bat, his steadfast refusal to DH would hinder him terribly; and it’s a self-serving exercise in playing the outfield and running the risk of missing time and playing in 110-120 games when he could play in 150 games.

DHing isn’t for everyone—ask Adam Dunn—but this is a matter of exponentially increasing his ability to stay in the lineup as opposed to insisting on playing the outfield.

He has to do it.

The Red Sox could use Beltran’s quiet professionalism; the Yankees could use his switch-hitting power; he’d be a terrific acquisition for the Blue Jays; and the Cardinals could slot Beltran into right field if they lose Albert Pujols.

The Giants have spent freely on keeping middle relievers Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt and there’s been talk that they’ll be willing to trade Matt Cain for a bat. (I don’t think they’re trading Cain.) The easiest thing for the Giants would be to try and keep Beltran if they feel he can play the outfield on a 3-year deal.

The Rangers were very interested in Beltran but since he didn’t want to DH and made that clear, the Mets sent him to the Giants. Texas would be a great spot for him.

Would I sign Beltran? I like Beltran, but wouldn’t spend that amount of money for the number of years he’s going to want on a player with his knee issues.

Will it be a retrospective mistake for the team that does pay him? If it’s a NL team, it’s a safe bet that they’re going to regret it. If it’s an AL team, he’s more likely to produce and stay in the lineup.

//