The “Screw ‘Em” Template

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It provides no benefit at all for the MLB Players Association to have drafted players—who are not yet members of the union—to receive lavish bonuses for signing their names.

In addition to that, the draft is affecting the MLB free agents. If there is draft pick compensation and unwanted offers of arbitration, a player isn’t “free” to go where he chooses even if there’s mutual interest between him and a team. Other conditions apply—perhaps the interested team doesn’t feel the player is worth losing the draft pick and won’t sign him because of that.

The clubs are in a similar situation. What if they offer arbitration fully expecting the player to reject it, have crunched the numbers and made plans to move on without him…and he accepts it?

Heath Bell has hamstrung the Padres by stating that he’s going to accept arbitration if it’s offered; Rafael Soriano stunned the Braves by accepting after the 2009 season and they responded by trading him.

For those reasons, why should the Players Association care if there’s a slotting system and cost control devices in place to prevent amateurs from making a ton of money and hindering their own freedom of movement?

And why should the teams care?

There’s an underlying bitterness among big league players that a drafted player receives a massive paycheck for his performance as an amateur; that they’re shifted around and prevented from leaving a club or going to their desired venue because of the ties between something that has nothing to do with them—the draft—and their own freedom of movement. It grates on big league players when Bryce Harper receives close to a $10 million payday for what most of them consider nothing.

Clubs would love to have a limit on what they have to pay to amateurs.

Big league players pay their dues literally and figuratively, wait for a chance at free agency and see that constrained by a rule that is in no way connected to them.

The owners and GMs would certainly prefer not to be held hostage by Scott Boras trying to find ways to circumnavigate the draft.

Naturally clubs like the Rays, who’ve benefited greatly from draft pick compensation, won’t be happy about the phasing out of the current system, but they’re smart and will figure something else out. For example, if there’s a limit to what a draft pick can receive as a bonus, there won’t be the reluctance to draft the best available player based on his agent or demands; signability will no longer be as great a factor.

As the MLB PA and MLB negotiates a new labor agreement, the players weren’t going to fight for amateurs with whom they might never play.

The owners don’t want to finance a new Porsche for a player who’s not a guarantee to be an impact producer in the majors.

It’s rational self-interest, not selfishness and will presumably be the easiest part of the negotiation.

Much like the dispensing of post-season shares where there’s a meeting to discuss how much a player traded at mid-season might get, the players aren’t influenced by perceptions of “right” and “wrong”. One segment will say give them a full share; another will say give them a half-share; a third will say give them a quarter share; and a fourth will say “screw ’em”.

They don’t fight over it because they’re not really bothered; it’s worse with the draft picks; I’m sure the vast majority—if not all—the players in the MLB PA said “screw ’em”.

It may sound selfish and coarse, but this is baseball and business.

And in this case, it’s actually quite fair. Or at least realistic.


The Ryan Madson Wheel Spins

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This is why the owner/team president has to be involved and aware of all negotiations and offers that are being discussed.

After it was reported that the Phillies and Ryan Madson had agreed to a 4-year, $44 million contract with a $13 million option for a 5th year, suddenly the brakes screeched and, lo and behold, it wasn’t “official” or it wasn’t “done-done”; or team president David Montgomery hadn’t give his approval; or something.

Montgomery has given GM Ruben Amaro a remarkable amount of freedom to do what he wanted to do; to bolster the big league product by whatever means necessary (trading the entire farm system), and at whatever cost he recommended (the Ryan Howard $145 million catastrophe; bringing back Cliff Lee); now it appears as if Montgomery is closing the vault when a financial commitment makes no sense whatsoever.

Madson, after his first year as a semi-full time closer, was apparently offered a dollar amount that would potentially have lured the battle-tested and better Jonathan Papelbon to Philadelphia.

The Madson signing is on hold.

Murky details are provided in this Philadelphia Inquirer piece where Bob Brookover says that the Madson camp may have “misinterpreted” (whatever that means); and that “it could be argued that Madson is coming off a better 2011 (than Papelbon)” without bothering to make the argument.

The “argument” would be inconvenient to make because it doesn’t exist. Papelbon’s better. Papelbon was better. Papelbon will be better.

It’s a form of public castration of an executive to prevent an agreed-upon deal after the fact, after it’s been reported that it was done—and I do believe it was done—but Montgomery is right to say “wait a second” and reconsider the options of what can be purchased or maintained with that amount of cash.

Whether it was the public reaction; media and blogger ridicule; or basic common sense—it’s only relevant in the perception of Amaro. In trusting their baseball people, club bosses have signed off on contracts that they were uncomfortable with. Perhaps these circumstances were such that said owners/CEOs felt it was more important not to undermine the titular head of their baseball operations. But this Madson contract was and is ludicrous and now it’s going to be even more embarrassing to the Phillies if they still agree to those numbers after hesitating because Madson simply is not going to be worth that money.

This is why the head of the organization proper has to be cognizant of what’s being offered; the GM has to have a number in mind and run it by the people who sign the checks before presenting it. Scott Boras—Madson’s agent—can get any story he wants into the media at any time, true or not; once the details of the deal were out there, the magnitude of the investment became clearer…or maybe Montgomery didn’t even know about it, which is somewhat unfathomable, but possible. Teams will let such occurrences pass to protect the organization from the aura of ineptitude that happens everywhere, but is generally relegated to teams like the Mets, Orioles and Pirates because it’s convenient to frame those teams as not knowing what they’re doing. But there are no GMs with full autonomy to do whatever they want—it’s a myth—and the spinning from the club’s PR department won’t gloss over that reality.


The David Ortiz Free Agency Profile

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Name: David Ortiz

Position: Designated Hitter.

Vital Statistics:



Listed Weight-230.

Actual Weight-probably around 250 at least.



Signed as an amateur free agent by the Seattle Mariners in 1992; traded to the Minnesota Twins for Dave Hollins in 1996; signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in 2003 after being non-tendered by the Twins.

Agent: Fernando Cuza.

Chances of returning to the Red Sox: Very good.

Teams that could use and pay him: Boston Red Sox; Toronto Blue Jays; New York Yankees; Baltimore Orioles; Texas Rangers; Los Angeles Angels; Seattle Mariners; Oakland Athletics.


Ortiz hits for power and walks a lot; he’s a superior hitter in the clutch and has no fear of the big moments—he relishes them. He’s a fiery competitor.

He’s popular in the clubhouse with the media and most teammates; the fans love him and he’s great with children. In 2011, he drastically cut down on his strikeouts.


Ortiz might be a “Red Sox Player”. I don’t mean that he’s a creation of Fenway Park—he’s always hit well enough on the road—but that he’s a Red Sox whose main successes have come as a Red Sox and if he’s taken out of that comfort zone, there’s a chance that the team signing him will get 12 homers, a .260 batting average and endless regret that they didn’t realize that the Red Sox uniform was part of what made Ortiz Ortiz.

When things came apart for the Red Sox, where was he?

He was certainly all over the place after the fact, talking a lot and saying things that would better have been left unsaid. For example, in a defense of his teammates’ gustatory activities during games, Ortiz stated that beer and chicken had long been a part of the Red Sox clubhouse culture; while he was probably telling the truth, he should’ve kept quiet. As for his free agency, he suggested he might want to go to the Yankees—a no-no in all aspects of playing in Boston.

His personality might not work in a different atmosphere and his insertion to a close-knit group like the Angels or a young, rising team like the Blue Jays would be a misplaced puzzle piece.

If he joined a club with little chance of contending like the Mariners, his sunny personality—which is partially an act—has the potential to morph into self-serving and whiny misery.

What he’ll want: 3-years, $36 million.

What he’ll get: From the Red Sox, 1-year, $12 million with an option for another year at $12 million; from another club, 2-years, $25 million.

Teams that might give it to him: Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Rangers, Angels, Mariners.

Ortiz needs to stay with the Red Sox. It’s a bad move for him and for a team other than the Red Sox to sign him for more than one year and that’s what it’s going to take to get him to leave Boston. In addition, the pursuit of him might be limited by the knowledge that he doesn’t want to leave Boston and is simply using any and all other offers to extract an extra year or a few more dollars from the Red Sox.

Would I sign Ortiz if I were a club other than the Red Sox? No.

Will it be a “bad” signing for the club that does pay him? For every team other than the Red Sox, Ortiz has disaster written all over him.


The C.J. Wilson Free Agency Profile

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Name: C.J. Wilson.

Position: Left handed pitcher.

Vital Statistics: Age-31. Height-6’1″. Weight-210. Selected by the Texas Rangers in the 5th round of the 2001 MLB Draft.

Agent: Bob Garber.

Might he return to the Rangers? Yes.

Teams that could use and pay him: Texas Rangers; New York Yankees; Boston Red Sox; Toronto Blue Jays; Baltimore Orioles; Detroit Tigers; Kansas City Royals; Minnesota Twins; Los Angeles Angels; Seattle Mariners; Washington Nationals; New York Mets; Florida Marlins; Milwaukee Brewers; Cincinnati Reds; Chicago Cubs; Los Angeles Dodgers.


Wilson is durable and hasn’t had the massive workload that accompanies being a starting pitcher throughout his big league career. He has a clean motion and was a starter in the minors before switching to the bullpen in 2006; he made it to the big leagues and was a reliever until 2010. He’s still fresh.

His versatility will make him useful even if he no longer has the ability to start by the waning years of his contract—he was a closer for the Rangers.

He throws a good, moving fastball; has a nice curve and change-up; is willing to pitch inside; strikes out a fair number of hitters; and despite pitching in a notorious hitters’ ballpark, allowed only 26 homers in 427 innings as a starter over the past two seasons. Wilson induces a lot of ground balls, so he needs a solid infield defense.

He’s very, very pretty according to female purring when he’s on the mound or on camera.


He’s can get wild and has a big mouth which might irritate teammates; players who love to hear themselves talk tend to grate on the nerves.

His results in the post-season have been terrible. With his personality, he appears to get too excited when pitching in a big game, tries to throw too hard and forgets what it was that made him successful. When a pitcher tries to throw too hard or the adrenaline is pumping too heavily, his pitches tend to flatten out and stay up in the strike zone; his post-season struggles weren’t due to a lack of stuff.

What he’ll want: 6-years, $105 million.

What he’ll get: 5-years, $87 million with a club option for a 6th year pushing it to a possible $105 million; plus an opt-out after 3 seasons.

Teams that might give it to him: Yankees; Red Sox; Orioles; Blue Jays; Tigers; Royals; Angels; Mariners; Nationals; Marlins; Dodgers; Cubs.

The Yankees are playing their cards close to the vest so far, but you can bet that they’d dearly love to get rid of A.J. Burnett and replace him with Wilson; how feasible that is remains to be seen, but someone will take a chance on Burnett’s talent at the right price.

The Orioles desperately need pitching and have money to spend, but with the demand Wilson will be in they’d have to overpay drastically to get him and they don’t have a GM yet.

The Nationals also need starting pitching.

Wilson is from Southern California putting the Dodgers and Angels in play; the Angels love to collect 200-inning starting pitchers and a rotation of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Wilson and Tyler Chatwood would be devastating.

The Marlins are diving into free agency and don’t discount the Cubs.

Would I sign Wilson if I were a GM? Yes.

Will it be a “bad” signing for the club that does pay him? No. He’s not a kid—he’s 31-years-old—but as said earlier, his pitching age is different from his actual age because he was a reliever for the first 5 years of his career. It’s almost like an individual placed in a controlled environment—they don’t age as fast. The wear on his tires is lessened; the clean motion and lack of overuse bodes well for him staying healthy into his mid-30s and remaining effective.