This Is Probably Not A Youkilis Deal

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As part of the agreement to let Billy Beane got to Boston after the 2002 season, the Red Sox were sending a minor league infielder to the Athletics and their new GM Paul DePodesta as compensation for Beane being freed from his A’s contract.

That player was Kevin Youkilis.

Beane’s ridiculous and obnoxiously arrogant justification for this was that they (the Red Sox) would find plenty of “Youkilises”.

Yeah.

They’re all over the place.

This is just another reason the Beane tenure in Boston would’ve been a disaster of Michael Bay proportions.

Because teams are now so cognizant of a player’s potential and know what they bring to the table both statistically and physically, it’s hard to imagine the Padres are getting a top tier prospect for letting GM Jed Hoyer and assistant Jason McLeod join Cubs new team president Theo Epstein in Chicago.

The Padres don’t seem all that bothered about Hoyer’s abrupt departure mid-contract.

They have a qualified candidate taking over in Josh Byrnes. Byrnes is a good GM; in fact, I wanted the Mets to hired Byrnes instead of Sandy Alderson in part because he’d been a GM more recently; in part because hadn’t engendered the vitriol with his blunt talk and over-the-top credit-seeking behaviors. Byrnes was one of the two finalists for the Mets job that went to Alderson.

It still strikes me as odd that the Padres would be so willing to let their GM go to a team in the same league—a team that they could potentially compete with for a playoff spot or actually in the playoffs.

Compare this with the Marlins decision not to allow their executives to talk to other clubs about potential job openings even if the job is ostensibly a promotion from their current status.

As dysfunctional as the Marlins appear, they’ve kept their baseball operations team largely in place during Jeffrey Loria’s entire tenure as owner. Larry Beinfest, Michael Hill and Dan Jennings have all attracted interest from other clubs and been refused the right to interview. This was the idea when the Marlins signed them to long term deals. The executives exchanged the right to leave for security—much like a player does when he signs a contract.

The Padres are getting something for their decision, but don’t think the player is going to be substantial; he’s probably not going to turn into an MVP candidate like Youkilis did if he makes the majors at all.

I wondered about this in a posting a week ago and I still haven’t seen a viable explanation.

Epstein knows Hoyer and trusts him, but if this were another team asking to interview him and the Padres said, “yeah, go ahead” without concern as to whether he stays or goes, I’d take it as a red flag.

As for Hoyer, he took the job two years ago; why does he want to leave so quickly? And more importantly, why are the Padres so borderline enthusiastic to see him go?

On an entirely different note, in keeping with the Michael Bay mention, here’s “Pearl Harbor Sucked” from Team America: World Police.

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Don’t Expect Miracles From Theo Epstein

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The Cubs paid a lot of money and are going to send undetermined compensation—a prospect or prospects—for the right to hire Theo Epstein while he still had a year remaining on his contract with the Red Sox—Boston.com Story.

Only hindsight will tell whether or not this is a wise move.

In similar fashion, the Red Sox were set to hire Billy Beane from the Oakland A’s after the 2002 season and send a young infielder named Kevin Youkilis to the A’s for the right to do so.

Beane backed out on the deal that was worth over $12 million and had some insane perks such as letting Beane spend a chunk of his time on the West Coast and run the Red Sox from there.

Retrospectively, it’s hard to see Beane having replicated the success enjoyed by Epstein and his staff with the Red Sox. Two championships; an annual contender with homegrown talent; and daily sellouts speak for themselves.

Now Epstein’s the man with the reputation.

But 5-years at $18.5 million? For a team president?

I’m dubious.

What’s Epstein going to do with the Cubs?

First he’s hiring trusted acolytes from the Padres and his days with the Red Sox including current Padres GM Jed Hoyer.

I wondered yesterday why the Padres were letting Hoyer go without compensation since he’s under contract through 2014, but they’re going to receive prospects from the Cubs as well.

I wouldn’t give up players for an executive, but this is the way business is being done today. Don’t automatically dismiss how good the prospects might be because few knew what Youkilis was before Moneyball.

If anyone’s thinking the Cubs are going to be a lean machine of inexpensive “finds” that the “genius” Epstein discovered using some arcane formula that he and only he knows, you haven’t been paying attention.

Back when Beane was set to take over the Red Sox, an important factor in his potential for success or failure is that the details of Moneyball and Beane’s strategies weren’t widely known because the book had yet to be published. He was operating from a personal strategy borne out of desperation that not all were privy to; now, everyone has the same stats and are, again, reliant on old-school scouting techniques; an intelligent manager; superior coaching; smart trades; good free agent signings; and luck.

Those who point to other clubs who’ve been successful on a budget aren’t delving into the requisite factors of a team like the Rays maintaining excellence without any money and a decrepit, uninviting ballpark—they’ve got a load of starting pitching from being so consistently terrible for years; locked up key components like Evan Longoria; and have been masterful at finding bullpen arms and putting them in a position to succeed with an altered approach and a superlative defense.

There’s a baseline of talent with the Cubs—just as there was one with the Red Sox when Epstein was placed in charge there. It’s not as deep nor as good, but they have some starting pitching with Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano (who’s a lunatic, but might be salvageable); they have Starlin Castro; and relievers Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol.

It’s not a barren wasteland and there’s no mandate to cut costs due to monetary constraints.

This whole series of events is a bit incestuous and reminiscent of the decried “old boys club” of yesteryear when former players or loyal executives were placed in the perch of GM rather than finding someone qualified to do the job with a breadth of experience in every aspect of running an organization.

Epstein, who wanted to leap from the Red Sox Hindenburg, got his out—and a lot of money and power—with the Cubs.

Hoyer is leaving a situation where he couldn’t spend big and is grabbing the Epstein ladder to be his top lieutenant and run the club on a day-to-day basis while Epstein acts presidential.

Another former Epstein assistant, Josh Byrnes, is taking over in San Diego.

This is a similar dynamic to that which was rebelled against with Moneyball—that “old boys club”. Outsiders have become insiders, except that now, it’s not a litany of former players and longtime employees, but young college graduates who cut their teeth as interns, crunched numbers and worked their way up; it’s reaching its logical conclusion with the failures of such names as Paul DePodesta, whose tenure with the Dodgers was a nightmare that cannot be conveniently laid at the feet of Frank McCourt as many set out to do in his weak defense.

Beane himself has become a punchline.

And that’s a far cry from what was essentially a blank check and contract that Red Sox owner John Henry used to lure Beane to the Red Sox.

In today’s world, a GM has to be savvy to finances, scouting, development and stats; he has to delegate; and he (or she—Kim Ng is going to interview for the Angels job) has to be able to express himself to the media, saying things without saying anything to get into trouble.

Epstein has all these attributes.

But so did Beane.

Could another GM candidate like Jerry DiPoto or Tony LaCava go to the Cubs and do essentially what Epstein’s going to do? What he did with the Red Sox? Spend money, draft well, make some trades that might or might not work out and cover up any free agent mistakes with more money?

Yes.

And could they do it at a cheaper rate than $18.5 million for Epstein; presumably another $5 million for Hoyer; and the prospects that are going to the  Padres and Red Sox?

Again, I say yes.

Time will tell if this was a smart move. Just as the Red Sox were fortunate that Beane backed out on them and they hired Epstein, the Cubs could see one of the people they had a chance to hire go elsewhere and become the man they think they’re hiring now, except another club will benefit from that unknown.

The Cubs got the man they wanted.

We’ll see if it works out or if they would’ve been better off to have had the negotiations come apart, leaving them to hire someone younger and with the same attributes that got Epstein the Red Sox job in the first place.

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The Padres Generosity Of The Absurd

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With the near end to the negotiations freeing Theo Epstein to join the Cubs as team president and the simultaneously anticipated and apparently agreed to deal for Jed Hoyer to the Padres to take over as Cubs GM, the differences in the machinations are stark.

The Red Sox are getting something for the right to poach their contracted employee and the Padres aren’t.

Epstein is under contract for one more season with the Red Sox and the club was being outrageous in its initial demands for compensation as they asked for Matt Garza; Hoyer is under contract to the Padres until 2014, but owner Jeff Moorad isn’t asking for anything in return.

It’s strange bordering on irrational.

And it’s making me wonder exactly what’s going on in San Diego.

Josh Byrnes is reportedly going to step right in and take over for Hoyer; he’s a qualified GM and was hired by Moorad when he ran the Diamondbacks.

Hoyer did a good job with the Padres considering the mandate he was under to trade Adrian Gonzalez and payroll constraints. The team made a shocking leap into contention in 2010, he acquired veterans Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada (without giving up anything for them) to try and win; he got the jewels of the Red Sox farm system for Gonzalez; acquired top prospects for Mike Adams; and acquired Cameron Maybin for replaceable bullpen pieces.

Other deals, like the one for Jason Bartlett, haven’t worked out; and he should’ve traded Heath Bell before Bell’s yapping mouth and declining performance put the Padres in an unwinnable situation.

But he’s done the best he could with the hand he was dealt.

And he’s bailing.

There’s been an odd aura around the Padres for years.

From Sandy Alderson’s management style of cultivating factions; pushing Bruce Bochy out the door because Bochy rebelled against front office interference and he was making too much money for Alderson’s tastes; hoping that former GM Kevin Towers would get the Diamondbacks GM job in 2005 (that went to Byrnes), then putting Towers in a position where he was either going to get on Alderson’s train of dysfunction or get dragged behind it; to having Paul DePodesta operating what amounted to a spy agency independent of Towers; to the way things have developed under Moorad, it’s as if they like to have dysfunction over cohesion.

The tree of bizarreness for this is striking.

Clearly Moorad thinks a lot of the Red Sox because he hired both Byrnes and Hoyer from their positions as assistants to Epstein; what’s also clear is that Moorad prefers Byrnes as his GM. Why else would he simply let Hoyer go to another club in the same league and not ask for anything—anything at all—for him? Something?

What makes it worse is that Moorad made his name in sports as an agent.

One would assume that he knows the sanctity of a contract and why its terms shouldn’t be violated; or at least the team interested in an employee under said contract should provide something of value in exchange.

Perhaps he isn’t all that impressed with Hoyer to begin with and wanted Byrnes all along.

It’s bad business to have another club raiding his front office and for him to say, “okay, go” as if he doesn’t care one way or the other; Moorad being fine with it shouldn’t matter. No one wants to be perceived as the guy who can be stolen from without consequences; it’s a bad precedent to set.

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MLB Rumors And Strangeness

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If this is what we have to look forward to as the off-season beckons, you’d better get yourself a raincoat and a gas mask because it’s getting worse before it gets better.

Jed Hoyer to the Cubs?

Jon Heyman suggested this on Twitter, so it’s in the Joel Sherman-realm of the idiotically speculative; but if Hoyer, who’s been with the Padres for two years, is already considering leaving to join Theo Epstein as (one would presume) the GM of the Cubs to run them on a day-to-day basis, I have to ask what goes on in San Diego that Hoyer would want to bail so quickly? Are he and Epstein that close that they have to be near one another? Is there something wrong with his current job that he needs to leave? The Padres have a lot of young talent and good starting pitching, so if he’s bailing, I have to wonder if Jeff Moorad is interfering and making it an untenable, unattractive situation in which to stay.

The funniest thing in all of this maneuvering is that Epstein would presumably inhabit the role of his nemesis, Larry Lucchino, and hover over his former protege while he tries to do the GM grunt work.

A rift is inevitable.

Here’s some really weird logic.

In this posting on MLB Trade Rumors, the Blue Jays off-season outlook is explored.

The author doesn’t think as highly of the 2012 Blue Jays as I do with the “maybe” tone of their potential to contend as soon as next season; I’m saying right now that the Blue Jays will make a serious run at the playoffs in 2012.

What I don’t understand is the following statement regarding the closer situation and GM Alex Anthopoulos:

Anthopoulos said after the season that he expects the Blue Jays to go outside of the organization for bullpen help, either through trades or free agency. This makes sense, though the Jays have some internal options. B.J. Ryan‘s contract is off the books, but the memory of his contract lives on. I don’t expect the Jays to bid aggressively on the top free agent closers, especially those who cost draft picks.

The logic of this is what? That because a closer like Ryan—who was Cy Young Award-contending brilliant in his first season with the Blue Jays—got hurt and turned out to be a costly mistake, the Blue Jays should ignore any and all free agent closers?

Ryan also had one of the worst sets of mechanics I’ve ever seen in my entire life, so it shouldn’t have come as a shock when he needed Tommy John surgery.

This argument is akin to saying because the Blue Jays drafted infielder Russ Adams in 2002 and he didn’t work out and since they bypassed the chance to draft Cole Hamels and Matt Cain, that they should shun any infielder that comes up in the draft and take a pitcher instead.

It’s stupid.

The Blue Jays are thisclose to having a superior starting rotation with Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek; the two things they need more than anything else are a legitimate closer and a veteran, 200-inning starting pitcher.

Jonathan Papelbon is out there and available; the Red Sox are in absolute disarray and have always been in question as to whether they were going all out to keep Papelbon; there’s an opportunity for the Blue Jays to make a rapid strike and get themselves an All Star closer with a history of dealing with pressure and getting the big outs in the post-season and simultaneously hurt one of their division rivals.

Barring a pursuit of Papelbon or Heath Bell, they could make a trade for a Joakim Soria or see if Epstein would be willing to move Carlos Marmol.

B.J. Ryan has nothing to do with anything unless they’re looking for reasons to avoid paying a closer. And that would make zero sense.

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Bud Black As Angels GM?

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I’m not sure why there’s a continued choice to place Bud Black into positions with which he has little experience, but there’s talk that he could be a candidate for the vacant General Manager job with the Los Angeles Angels.

Whether or not it’s legitimate or random speculation is unknown.

I suppose it makes sense.

In theory anyway.

Black, the former Angels pitching coach, is close friends with manager Mike Scioscia; it’s known throughout baseball that Scioscia is entrenched and going nowhere, so it would behoove owner Arte Moreno to hire someone who’ll work with his manager relatively seamlessly.

If Black is willing to have his GM decisions yayed or nayed by the person who’s—technically—his underling, it’s not crazy. Black worked for John Hart in the Cleveland Indians front office, so it wouldn’t be a step off the field into unfamiliar terrain.

The parameters are in place and it’s not something to dismiss out of hand.

Black got the Padres managerial job with no managerial experience and the results have been up-and-down. The Padres have blown two playoff spots under Black largely due to mistakes on the part of the manager; while he handles the pitchers well, he’s not a particularly strong game manager. Perhaps, with all the young talent they have coming through the system from trades of Adrian Gonzalez and Mike Adams, they’d be better off with a different manager.

Former Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer is the Padres GM. Could Terry Francona be a fit if Black leaves?

That would be a step up for the Padres, but how would Black function as the Angels GM?

I’m not a big fan of the one person having final say over all matters; if Scioscia is truly running the show in Anaheim, it would be hard for Black to do his job as GM. Some advocate the continuity of everyone being on the same page, I’d prefer to have individuals with strong opinions—even divergent ones—willing to express them and fight for what they want without one having the ability to say, “I’ve heard your argument, now go away.”

The energy of debate creates good things; I’m not sure that would be present with a neophyte GM and a very powerful manager, friends or not.

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Avoid The Consolation Hire

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The Cubs have asked the Red Sox for permission to speak to GM Theo Epstein; one would assume that if Epstein would like to hear what the Cubs have to say, the Red Sox will allow him to do so.

If I were the Cubs, while I wouldn’t cater to the whims of the Red Sox by, say, taking John Lackey‘s contract as compensation to hire Epstein, nor would I do as has been suggested by some to take the consolation prize and hire Red Sox assistant Ben Cherington.

The idea of “same front office, same concepts, same philosophy” has merit in theory, but in practice? I don’t know.

If the Cubs talk to Cherington and make the decision that they’d prefer to go down that road rather than pay for the right to hire and pay Epstein while compensating the Red Sox, fine; but if it’s a next-tier choice to save money in the hopes that they’re getting “Mini-Theo”? I don’t think that’s a great idea.

The Padres hired Epstein’s former assistant Jed Hoyer to middling results so far; Paul DePodesta was an outright disaster when the Dodgers thought they were getting the Moneyball “genius” behind Billy Beane—in fact, because they thought they were getting the genius from Moneyball.

In today’s game the GM has to be able to handle the media and the scrutiny of a large segment of every fan base that has access to the same stats and relentless information and uses them to criticize everything from a minor league trade to how players wear their socks.

People forget that Epstein got the Red Sox job after Beane backed out on an agreed-upon deal. Epstein became the “face” of the franchise who was versed in stats, had experience all aspects of a front office; was a Boston-kid; and would answer to Larry Lucchino; Lucchino was calling many of the shots behind the scenes without having to deal with the media or do the GM grunt work. This is why there was such a big explosion when Epstein’s contract expired after the 2005 season over power, credit and exactly whom was in charge.

To simplistically say they should hire an assistant because he’s cheaper is a DePodesta-style mistake in the making and given the time that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is taking in scheduling interviews, he doesn’t want to jump into a hire because it would be well-received; he wants to hire someone who he feels is the right person for the job, as he should.

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Dayton Moore’s Strengths Are Superseded By His Weaknesses

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Baseball’s lower-echelon is inhabited by a “genius” (Billy Beane‘s Athletics are dreadful); an “Amazin’ Exec” (Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners couldn’t win without being able to score); and a boy wonder (Jed Hoyer of the Padres looks terrible in comparison to the man he replaced, Kevin Towers, who has the Diamondbacks in contention as the Padres are floundering).

But what of an executive whose work is ongoing? One who has made some tremendous acquisitions through the draft, but has shown drastic flaws in major aspects of how he runs his club?

When Dayton Moore was hired by the Royals to be their GM, I thought it was an inspired choice. Not only did he have a solid reputation as a development man, but he’d worked under a fine executive in John Schuerholz with the Braves and made well-thought-out changes to the way the Royals ran their scouting staff and minor league system.

There are people who are not meant to be the overseers of an entire operation and that appears to be the case with Moore.

The Royals have an abundance of talent finally bursting through to the big leagues. But that doesn’t eliminate the mistakes and haphazard intractability/capriciousness Moore has shown in signing players and making trades.

Gil Meche pitched well for two of the five years for which he was signed as a free agent and the only saving grace for Moore in the final year of the deal was that Meche basically gave $11 million back because he couldn’t pitch due to injury.

Willie Bloomquist, Jose Guillen, Kyle Farnsworth and Horacio Ramirez were predictable disasters and his trade of a power arm like Leo Nunez for a one-dimensional bat like Mike Jacobs were failures.

He jumped the gun in trading former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke and got a fraction of what he should’ve gotten had he waited.

Now the Royals are again in last place.

Now they’re considering dealing veterans to contending clubs.

But again, Moore has it wrong.

The price for closer Joakim Soria is said to be “exorbitant” for reasons that only Moore can understand. Soria was so bad earlier in the year that he lost his closer’s role and has had arm trouble in the past, possibly due to overwork at the hands of overmatched former manager Trey Hillman. Wouldn’t it be better to deal him now?

With Soria, at least there’s an argument to keeping him. He’s a proven closer and is signed through 2014 at a very reasonable rate.

But for the likes of Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur and Wilson Betemit, Moore is being delusional in both his demands and vacillation as to whether or not he’ll trade them.

Cabrera has played well this season (37 extra base hits; 11 homers; .781 OPS); Francoeur is what he is—a defensive ace with some pop and a head as hard as quartz, but he has use for a contender; Betemit is Betemit—a journeyman player for whom the Royals should sell high while he’s back to the Betemit he was with the Braves and Dodgers and not the one from the Yankees and White Sox which allowed him to wind up with the Royals in the first place.

But according to this posting on MLBTradeRumors, the Royals are “willing to move Betemit in the right deal”.

Right deal?

What’s the “right deal”?

With all their young players starting to graduate to the big leagues, does Moore truly believe that Betemit, Cabrera or Francoeur are going to be key parts of a resurgence after the 2-3 years it’s going to take before they’re ready to contend?

I’m not of the belief that the GM should only get blame for the bad stuff and no credit for the good stuff. Royals Senior Advisor Mike Arbuckle was largely credited to drafting the foundation of the Phillies with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels with nothing but vitriol rained down on former GM Ed Wade.

It doesn’t work that way with me.

The GM is the boss; he gets the credit, he gets the blame.

It’s the same way with Moore.

He’s done a masterful job of finding talent like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Louis Coleman and others on the way.

The Royals are going to get better simply by nature of more talent in the pipeline that was accrued after Moore took control.

He gets the credit.

But the GM is still making ghastly mistakes at the big league level with free agents and trades.

He takes the blame.

To a large degree, the poor decisions sabotage the good work he’s done in building up that farm system.

He’s going to be the GM for the long term with a contract through 2014, but given the mistakes he’s made (and is apparently going to repeat again-and-again), maybe he shouldn’t be.

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