Thursday, November 09, 2006

Burrell Follow-Up: Crasnick Musings

Jery Crasnick, of ESPN, reports that the Giants have not spoken with the Phillies yet and pooh-pooh the idea that he could be headed to the Giants. Lefty posted great excerpts at his blog. I posted my reply and ideas there and thought I would post them here as well, since this is a big topic about the Giants:

About Burrell, I think most Giants fans knew that it probably will not happen, but that's the fun part of the off-season, before the Hot Stove starts with free agency opening up, when we can speculate all we want on who we want or don't want, or would like to get.

Crasnick Got Some Things Wrong

Comparing what was said in the SJ Merc's account of what happened, there is some disagreement between their account and Crasnick's. The Merc noted that it was Burrell's agent who said this publicly about SF and 1B. The Phillies and Giants had nothing (at least from the article's viewpoint) with the public statement, it was all Burrell's agent, which presumably he represent's Burrell's interests.

So he may not have warmed to the position when the Phillies tried him there, but presumably he said, through his agent, that he would be willing to play there. And since he was a 3B when he was an amateur, one would hope that he has some fielding skills that will translate there, even after all these years of playing OF.

And what exactly does he mean by "didn't exactly warm to the position?" If he meant that he resisted the move, that could be because he was a 3B when drafted but the Phillies just shoved him at 1B without even giving him a chance at 3B. He was very young then, whereas, hopefully, he is more mature now. If he meant that he wasn't good defensively there, well, I would take my chances for a 30 HR hitter. And like I noted, he was a 3B before, so I can see why he might have problems in the OF, which necessitates the Phillies replacing him REGULARLY in the OF, drove me crazy having him on my fantasy baseball team. But one would hope 1B is more like 3B, instinctually, than the OF, plus, if I remember right, his fielding stats per baseball-reference for 1B in his first season, albeit small sampling, but he acquited himself well statistically, though obviously fielding stats are still in the 1800's.

Negotiating 101

As far as the Giants interests in Burrell, this is where negotiating skills come in. As much as Crasnick mentioned other spots Burrell might be willing to go to, obviously Burrell's not interested in other spots, he's only interested in SF, else he would have mentioned other teams. And true, he might not be laying out all his cards right now, this might be his plan B, plan A is try to get something done with the Giants and there is no promise of a plan B.

Looking at this from Burrell's viewpoint, he holds all the cards with his no-trade. He's basically told the Phillies, who has been chafing under his salary since at least mid-season to go talk to the Giants if you want to save my salary NOW to enable the team to sign Soriano or whomever high priced free agent they may be looking at. No guarantee that he will change his mind on other west coast sites, and perhaps he might not even want to go there, afterall, he grew up in this area, maybe SF is his only interest, else the Phillies are stuck with him because he doesn't want to go to other west coast teams.

Reeling in the Catch

The Giants in this situation has to play it cool, if they want to maximize leverage, by not initiating contact. It's called reeling in the catch. The Phillies right now have no choice but to call the Giants IF they are serious about saving Burrell's salary. The Yanks and Bosox have not and will not be interested, they are full up on LF/1B/DH types, I think, so they temporarily have a window open now to trade him to the Giants and save salary.

Because this is existential baseball - what exists now is an opportunity to trade him to the Giants and get salary relief, this opportunity could expand as Crasnick suggests, but it is Burrell they are dealing with and he has only said SF. If they wait, they may lose the opportunity, the Giants might resign (gulp!) Feliz, Hillenbrand, and Bonds or spent all their money, so then they are no longer interested, or even Burrell would tire of their inactivity and rescind his approval. The window may close and they will be stuck with him.

Now that's not the worst thing in the world to be "stuck" with Burrell, but if he hasn't been in their plans since at least mid-season, I don't see them changing plans any time soon and make him a part of it. They need to trade him.

Giants Need to Stay Cool

So the Giants need to play this cool. This is all public now. Force the Phillies to initiate the call, force the Phillies to make the first offer, force the Phillies to decide who and what they need from the Giants to make this trade. Because, the Giants don't have Burrell now, so if this doesn't work, they still don't have Burrell, but they already had their ideas and plans for how they were going to build the team anyway without Burrell falling into their laps.

So they need to be cool, unlike Giants fans, and wait this out, make them the stronger party in the negotiations, it is the Phillies who need, it is the Phillies who want, that's the best way to force the Phillies to accept Benitez and whatever other terms the Giants feel is necessary to make the trade a good one for the team.

Some people think that Linden has to be part of the trade, but if the Giants play their negotiating cards right, they will get to minimize what they have to give up to the other team and perhaps not have to give up Linden, but give up a minor player lower in the system. Don't know how it will end up, but to minimize what they give up plus improve the chances that Benitez IS part of what they give up, the Giants have to deal from a position of strength, and that's by forcing the Phillies to initiate the trade, the pressure is all on them to do something, Burrell would be happy to continue being a Philly, the Giants already was moving ahead with their plans which didn't include Burrell. But the Phillies, if they want to save money for free agents spending which happens very soon, will have to deal Burrell soon, if they want to save his salary for free agents.

Playing the Game

This will be an interesting game, hope the Giants play their cards right and we end up with Burrell. Burrell is a good hitter, something the Giants need. And they don't have to give up full value for him, the Phillies need salary relief, not his hitting and fielding, which they have apparently grown tired of or just want to move on from. Benitez would be a one season trial and since Armando needs to do well, that could work for them since they need relief anyway.

Which would they rather do, have Burrell or have Soriano with Benitez? Fans think too much on value, there are business and strategy issues with some of these trades that go beyond the value of the player involved sometimes. Burrell vs. Soriano/Benitez is the choice, essentially, if the Phillies need the salary relief to enable the free agent signing of Soriano, and Burrell is clearly not in their plans, and they have a number of OF prospects ready to contribute if Soriano is not signed, plus then they have money that could enable them to trade for a player who fits their plans.

Could Help Bonds Negotiations Too

And if the Giants are able to pull off this trade, that also helps them with their Bonds negotiations. Burrell can play LF, so if Bonds plays the Diva Egotist, they could decide to move on and let Barry see exactly what type of interest exists with the other 29 teams. They would have a lot more leverage if they have Burrell on the team than otherwise, particularly since Burrell would come much cheaper than any free agent signing plus probably hits better than almost all of them but a handful, he would be among the premier free agents this off-season if he was out there.

Sure, it could be as his agent said, 30 teams are interested in Bonds, but I'll bet the vast majority of them are in the Frank Thomas 2006 contract range: low base amount, in $500K to $2M range, plus huge incentives based on games played. That way, if the fans reaction is extremely adverse and they have to dump him and his contract, they don't lose much taking that risk, but if fans grudgingly accept him and he does well, then they have a great hitter paid reasonably.

The Giants don't have to worry about fan reaction and thus would be willing to offer something more like Nomar's 2006 contract: probably something in the $7-9M range, incentives if that makes Barry happy to get more money. But the base is it otherwise, in case he is injured for much of the season, the Giants will self-insure Bonds' risks of missing significant games by paying Bonds less, his expected value if you will, based on chances of missing games, including all his "I'm old and cranky and not playing" games, that's already 20-40 games there.


  1. First of all, I read your blog every time you post and just wanted to thank you and let you know i appreciate your thoughts.

    On this one in particular, I think you hit the nail on the head. The leverage in this situation had belonged to Mr. Burell and Mr. Burrell alone. With the statement that he would waive his no trade to come to SF, he has essentially passed some, not all, of that leverage to sabean and company.
    I think it is very critical for us to try and reliniquish as little talent as possible to get this thing done. Obviously I think it is imperative for us to include Benitez in this deal, but I think it is even more imperative that we refrain from including Sanchez, Lowry, Anderson, Misch, Sadler, or Wilson. The names I have mentioned may not turn out to be bonafide major leaguers, but to waste them in a deal in which the counter party is essentailly looking for a salary dump would not only be overpaying in terms of real value, but even more so in terms of the opportunity cost of not being able to include any of them in an alternative deal.

  2. Thanks for the compliment and the good thoughts!

    Thanks for seeing my point, I haven't seen anyone agree as much as you so I wondered if I was out there, but it seems - and still seems - so plain to me.

    I guess some fans expect the worse, after the Giants traded for Hawkins and gave up Williams and Aardsma, when it appeared that we had the leverage over the Cubs in that situation, and they could be right but I took solace that the Giants hadn't even called the Phillies yet at that point.

    It's a risky play but we have nothing to lose, I think, because Burrell has the timer ticking on the Phils to do something if they want to save money to get someone they really want. If they pass up on this opportunity, they wait another year and $13M with what they feel is a suboptimal team. And when a player is clearly singled out as an "outsider" in this way, it can't help but affect his play in some way, meaning he'll be worth even less in trade later.

    And Burrell doesn't ever have to allow the team to trade him anywhere, so he can be there for the next two years, disgruntled but willing to play it out, and that's never a good situation for the clubhouse. I can see a scenario where he's mad at the team, mad at being sat down defensively, mad at being openly unwanted by the team even though he has a no-trade clause that protects him from being traded without his permission, except for teams he has named as OK (and I assume he can rescind those as well), mad that he isn't wanted as part of the team's exciting future with Utley, Howard, and the gaggle of young pitchers they have coming up, led by Brett Myers. He could, out of bitterness, just sit and collect his $26M with lackluster play, that would show the team.

    So the Giants need to play this out, to refrain from having to include any of our top prospects in the deal. And, as you say, not because they necessarily will be major leaguers, but because we cannot afford to take even that type of risk with the team we have right now, we have to protect the future, as dim as it may appear to be prospect-wise.



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