Thursday, December 07, 2006

To Barry, Or Not to Barry, That is the Question

People seem to be misunderstanding what I'm trying to say about Bonds, so given all the Barry news from the winter meetings, I thought I would try again, plus explain my strategy more.

I'm not saying teams don't want to pursue Bonds, I'm only saying that Bonds, by foregoing incentives, makes the potential offers from the other teams to be abnormally low because of all the risks involved with him. And as much as we like to make fun of teams and their wild spending, they do take into account business factors - after all, the players always say that cliche, that baseball is a business - and business risks is foremost among them.

The Risks A Team Takes By Signing Bonds

Here are the risks I see with Bonds, it doesn't take an MBA. First and foremost, he could be jailed at any moment, as far as anyone is concerned. Whether it be his buddy Greg Anderson being tired of being jailed and deciding to testify or the IRS determining that he violated some arcane income tax rule and throw their huge book at him, either could throw him into jail if it happens. In addition, there is the fear of poisoning the clubhouse. There weren't all the rumors of dissension about his perks if there wasn't some truth to it.

On top of that, there is the fact that he is 43 years old next season and father time may take his time with some people, but he will eventually win and make the strong ordinary. Willie Mays was hit with this when he was only 36, going from 52 HR to 36 HR to 22 HR (or thereabouts, going from memory) in successive years. Lastly, beyond all these other issues, he is at risk for injury, he had his elbow problems last year which hampered his hitting, he had his knee issues the year before, and at his age, there are plenty of other things that can go wrong, like, say, he could sign for $18M in January, bang his knee on a table in February, go through surgery for his bum knee, go through another surgery for his bum knee, suffer an infection that nearly takes his leg, necessitating another knee surgery and he plays maybe 20 filler games for us at the end of the season.

Plus, there is the chance that fanatic fans of the team signing him launching protest websites and organizing public protests against Bonds in front of the stadium and during games. Just read the stuff on the web about steroids abuse and see the venom hurled Bonds way. How could that not lead to opportunistic people creating a website and drumming business their way but fomenting a protest against the signing of Bonds and then the playing of Bonds. It is like that guy who got his 15 minutes of fame protesting the New Coke, then someone dared him to take the taste test and he ended up choosing Pepsi, there are people out there who will cease upon an opportunity to get their 15 minutes of fame, a la the reality shows, and flame the fans of discontent over THEIR team signing Barry.

All these risks are significant enough that a team will want to account for it in their contract offer. No team, not even the Yankees, can swallow an $18M contract and cheerily accept that they might not get anything for that money. That is why I've been saying that teams won't try to sign him, the risks means that their best offer will be no where near what Bonds has been asking for.

How He's Different

One comment noted that Barry is not different from TO, Iverson, Giambi, or Sheffield. I would throw Sprewell in there too, particularly as a close comparison, since he strangled someone and could have been thrown in jail for that. And I would agree that they are similar to a large extent. Large egos for sure. Most are deadly in the clubhouse (and to their manager/coaches). Most are controversial in one way or another. Most have a love/hate relationship with the media.

But Bonds trump them all. None of them are being pursued by governmental bodies seeking to throw him into jail once they have the evidence. None of them are close to beating a long revered career record. For some fans, Bonds being the career leader would be the equivalent of putting the Ku Klux Klan as the head of the NAACP. Many if not most see Bonds as a steroids/HGH abuser who didn't earn any of the awards and homers he has gotten, the worse example of the whole lot of players who have cheated, mainly because his abuse has been the most documented of any of them. I mean, Bonds has had two books written on his troubles, and I'll bet that is two more than has been written about all the players named above. None of the players above have that combination of factors that make him too risky for a team to offer him more than a few million in base with the rest in incentives.

I think it will be interesting, however, what happens when Giambi's contract ends. Sheffield's abuse was said to be just a one year mistake, but Giambi outlined a huge list of abuses, and I think he is lucky he has not had to be a free agent for a while. Perhaps things will have died down by then, but I think the stigma will hit him like it did Sosa and especially Palmeiro. But if he has had any deterioration in his skills when he goes free agent, he is probably toast.

The Issue: The Guaranteed Money

And that is the crux of the matter, how much base or guaranteed money he is getting. He wants at least $14M and has been asking for either $18M a year or a two year, $40M contract with a vesting option for the second year. How crazy is that? The RISK of him suffering any of the problems I noted above is huge, and any team touching that for the money Bonds is reported to be asking for is even further lost from reality than the teams paying all that money this year to nothing players, like those teams were Mercury bad, but doing that with Bonds would be Jupiter bad. But given the strong, underwhelming response from teams - there is a huge list of teams in the Merc today acknowledging that they did not speak to Bonds yesterday - I think that they understand these risks and have not gone beyond putting Bonds name on the list of free agents, then crossing him off.

What people seem to be missing is that I'm saying that Bonds is between a rock and a hard place. He wants $18M with no incentives, teams are probably offering him a Frank Thomas 2006 type of contract with a low base and full of incentives, to cover the RISKS to the team that Bonds might not, for one reason or another, not play games, like he did (or didn't) in 2005, no team wants to blow out their payroll for an $18M player and watch him rehab all year to play a month's worth of games. I'm not saying teams don't want him, but that they don't want him enough to offer more than a small base contract with huge incentives.

No one, not even the Giants. According to recent reports from ESPN, the Giants have offered about half of the money Bonds is asking for (which puts it in the $7-9M range, based on the rumors on what he is asking for/working to get) with incentives that would bring him close to the money he is asking for. That's what I've been saying, the Giants can afford to risk that 1) because like the other teams, they need a hitter like Bonds, but more importantly 2) they know his health and body, they know the fans would not go out on the streets and riot if he is signed (no other team has that guaranteed, all risk the wraith of their fans if there is enough hatred in their fanbase), they can actually go and market Bonds's chase of Babe Ruth, while other teams would hide it on the back page of the sports section.

No Way, No How

However, Bonds said that he won't play for incentives, no way, no how, never, ever, ever, and that's pretty close to his quotes. So we have an impasse here: any team, if they are prudent, needs to offer a small base with lots of incentives to cover the RISK that Bonds might not play the number of games you hope he will, but, however, Bonds has publicly spit all over over that and hasn't changed his tune yet, and could be even insulted if any team offered him that officially, given his public reactions to the Giants treating this as a business.

Until either a team gets so desperate - and one would assume not, judging by the lack of demand for Sosa and Palmeiro - or Bonds changes his mind about incentives, no team will want to sign Barry to such a large - and risk-fraught - contract that he has been asking for. And it would take a strong-willed owner to do that, a King George or the Texas Rangers, and the former has said nothing plus is so full up on DHs that they traded Sheffield away and the latter has publicly said that he is not pursuing him. There is also the Angels, who has a billionaire sugar daddy, so it is always possible that he ups the ante and pursues Bonds, but their team is in as bad a shape as the Giants, in terms of making the playoffs (they have the A's shoving sand in their face, we have the Pads and D-gers), and they already have 4 starting OF types, so the 4th would be the DH, and they have a boatload of infield hitters that one could also DH too.

The Waiting Game

He is playing a risky game here with the Giants. They have basically laid their cards on the table if they have already offered a $7-9M contract with incentives bringing him close to his demands. However, given the gap between Bonds demands and their best offer, Sabean has been doing the prudent business thing and trying to find replacements for him in case they are unable to sign him.

And despite Bonds's lame agent's lame proclaimations, these are not insults to Barry, they are not signs that they don't want Barry, they are not signs that they are insulting Barry: it is a business and they need a power hitting RBI machine to man LF and other positions on the team.
And if Barry is going to stick his head in the sand and say "lalalalalala - I can't hear you - lalalalala" and not budge from his demands, the Giants will need to move in another direction. To be prudent, the Giants need to kick the tires of a lot of player and try to set up a big trade or two to get a big bat, because there is no guarantee that Bonds will ever sign with us. I agree with those who say that the Giants are probably not going to be playoff contenders without Bonds (and some say even with) and I'm OK with that. Not happy but OK.

Don't Blame the Farm System on Sabean

Ann Killion blasts Sabean in today's Merc for not planning better, but I thought that this was a good plan: with Bonds at or near retirement, you have a huge pot of money that you can spend for a replacement or you can resign him for a year and have that money available the next year for his replacement. In addition, is it his fault that Benitez and Matheny became spots of concern with their injury problems? That further added to his needs. And if Hillenbrand had hit anywhere near his previous career numbers, he might be our 1B right now instead of Aurilia.

In addition, she needles him for his farm system but she, like many, has forgotten that a large portion of the pitching staff is constructed with farm products - cheap pitchers - and there is no team out there today who has a competitive team built only with farm hands, there is always a mixture of farm, free agents, and trades. And there are more on the way up, Sanchez, Lincecum, Wilson, Misch, plus a number of good ones down lower who are percolating up.

She also don't know, and most don't know, that it is extremely hard to build up the farm system without Top 5 picks seeding your farm system, as I tried to show with my research on draft picks. The odds are not good for finding good players after the first 10 picks or so, and particularly so after the Top 20 picks. And once you get past the first three rounds, good luck, that's really like a needle in a haystack! By the 100th pick overall, the success rate of finding a good player was approximately 1%, covering the years 1986 - 1998, as suggested by my research.

I calculated the probability of finding a good player (i.e. a good starting player) when you have a pick in the 21-30th range in the first round. There is a 43% chance that you end up with nobody after 8 years of picking in the 21-30th range (and Sabean had less since he purposefully forgoed some), and 38% chance that you end up with one. So there is an 81% chance that you end up with either 0 or 1 good player. Right now, we have Cain and maybe Lowry who would fall under that category, and, yes, they could falter, but right now Sabean looks pretty good to beat the odds on 1st round draft picks in the last part of that round with his drafting.

That's why I have a good chuckle seeing people get so happy over getting draft picks for our free agents, they act like they won the lotto when all they found on the ground was a scratcher's ticket that most probably (11% chance of finding a good player) will turn out to be a "cuppa" prospect - that is, a player who only makes it up for a cup of coffee in the majors. And obviously the odds get even worse once you get past the first few rounds and into the later rounds.

My Thoughts on The Current Team

Here is my thoughts, which I've probably put in one place or another all over the place, but now I'll lay them out together. I believe that rebuilding years need to be down and out disasters where you get a Top 5 draft pick. We were not that far the past two years, only 5 picks away and we lucked out last year and got Lincecum, who was talked about as a top 5 pick and so far he has played like one. So if we don't get Bonds, I think we are there with the team we have, lots of good pitching, but no bullpen to rely on yet, and the offense is mediocre at best without Bonds.
Hopefully, though, I hope to get Bonds still. With him, I like the lineup, even with Feliz. Roberts/Winn, Vizquel, Winn/Linden, Bonds, Durham, Molina, Aurilia, Feliz would be good because while Feliz is a below average 3B, he would be an above average 8th place hitter, and he could pick up more RBIs for us there than any other 8th place hitter. People miss that you can't have league average or better hitters at every position, even the Yankees struggle with that one sometimes (Cairo was starting for a while, so was Womack if I remember right).

What one needs to do is look at how the lineup matches up against the league. This lineup would be OK, not special, but OK, and with a young, strong rotation, we have two good pieces to try to make the playoffs. The bullpen clearly is a work in progress, but relievers can be easier to pick up mid-season for a lowly prospect, like when we got Stanton for Martis or Herges for a prospect (though I think that turned into a starter in the Padre's rotation now...). And with Bonds playing as 100 games or more, I think the team can be competitive like this.

However, even if the Giants roll a craps with Bonds and watch him not get more than 100 ABs in the season, the Giants win there too, because, as I noted, without Bonds, we don't have much of an offense nor have much of a bullpen, and Sabean can do a wholesale auctioning of players at mid-season. Vizquel and/or Durham (Durham would get more though) can be traded for prospects and we bring up Frandsen to replace him. Roberts or Winn can be traded and Ortmeier can take his place, giving us an outfield with Roberts/Winn in CF and Linden and Ortmeier in the corners - or perhaps even EME or Schierholtz if they happen to be ready. Hopefully we can trade Feliz and get something, and start Aurilia at 3B, then plug in Ishikawa at 1B. And that's just with the players we currently have, maybe we can get a few good position prospects with these trades. Just go all youngsters, and get a great draft pick in the Top 5.

Not many teams can combine a win with Bonds crapping out and thus the Giants can afford to give him more money, as the risk is lower there, because then we would get a great draft pick and a great prospect who could be only a couple of years away from contributing. And according to comments I have read about next year's draft, I have heard that there are more talent there this year, thus it would be harder to make a mistake with an early pick, and more likely you will get a good player.

Love That Pitching Staff

Meanwhile, I love how our pitching staff is shaping up. Cain and Lowry head up the future rotation, with Lincecum possibly making it into a three headed (and cheap) monster. Then there is Sanchez and Hennessey/Correia to round out the rotation for now. I think that the key to winning the playoffs consistently is to have a pitching staff who is pretty consistently good. From the PQS research, it is clear that keeping the number of disaster starts down is the most important key to having good stats, not having a lot of dominating starts. It is once a pitcher gets consistent enough to avoid those types of starts that his stats starts looking good instead of mediocre. I think the potential for having a monster rotation is there for us, with these four, and while that will take some luck, I think this is better than having a farm system full of hitting prospects and no pitching prospects.

The bullpen, however, is still a work in progress. Chulk is probably our best setup guy right now and Benitez is our closer. Brian Wilson probably is another setup guy and potential future closer. Taschner and Misch will probably compete for a LOOGY spot and Sabean will probably sign someone like Kline to get the vet presence there. Then Hennessey and Correia.

While that is not great, I think the potential is there to be good, especially with Billy Sadler and Brian Anderson sitting in the wings, probably/hopefully ready to join the team by mid-season, if not earlier. And with both being closers (and Taschner and Wilson has seen time as closers in the minors), we should be able to find our future closer from among them, in 2-3 years.

Plus we have a number of pitchers coming up with promise. Nick Pereira, Clayton Tanner, Kelvin Pichardo, Dan Griffin, Waldis Joaquin, are the best among them. So things are looking good for the Giants in terms of their pitching staff. Now, hopefully the team can spend their money on good hitters and win our a World Series Championship soon.

4 comments:

  1. Well, I guess I have to admit I was wrong about Bonds. I thought, with his incredible skill SOME team would pick him up, just as TO has always found SOMEOME who would take a chance on him - even Dallas. But it seems the reporters havew pretty well interviewed all of the teams and established no one wants him. Stupid on their part. Boy, Bonds in that St. Louis line-up??
    I agree Martin, the potential for an indictment is a very big deal, but that, as far as Bonds goes, can be dealt with in the contract - ie an indictment cancels the rest of the contract. So, in terms of money, any team could protect themselves. They cannot protect themselves from the uncertainty - or the hole that would appear in their lineup if Bonds were indicted.
    Technically, an indictment would not neceassarily end Bonds playing days - he would be out on bond, presumed innocent, and likely still be allowed to play. The league would be on very shaky ground to suspend him based only on an indictment.
    I also am in complete agreement he should be brought back - but not at $18 mil. I do think the Gs have a certain right to recoup a little of what they lost in '05 and '06. I think their proposing incentives to get him to the $17/18 million range is very generous. I think he is worth much more than Sheffield, but it seems to me the market has pretty much petered out. I thought he would get $14 mil, with some incentives. Now, since it appears he has no market, I think $10/12 is fair and reasonable. I don't think you want to be too insulting. After all, they want improved attitude as well as games played.
    I have to say I am surprised the Dodgers are not interested. Have you seen their outfield?
    Assuming Bonds is back, I also like our chances for contending in '07.
    You didn't mention, but I think Worrell is a possibility, assuming his neck (disk) problem has resolved thru injections and rest. think we need only one addition to the pen, a stud sort of like Stanton turned out to be, someone for the 8th inning. If we go as constituted, we could use another bull pen 8th inning guy. ?We will have a young staff, who throw a lot of pitches and, consequently don't get deep into games. They will really tax the bullpen. Yes, Cain is improving, but with Sanchez and Hennessey, you are going to see a lot of bull pen innings. This is why I think Sabean might trade Lowerey and sign Zito - innings pitched. Zito is not a traditional #1, but he is an excellent #2, kind of what we thought we were getting in Morris. So, if we have the money, trading Lowerey gets us a bat, getting Zito saves us the need for a $5 mil RP.
    I have to say, I am surprised Frandsen got shoved so far down the depth chart. I really thought he was going to replace Viz II, paly all the IF postions and get around 35-425 ABs and see if he was the 'future.' With Durham here for 2 years, I guess that is not necessary. So, he well may be a trading chip.
    Based on what has been done, what is rumored, and Sabean's past, I do not see him undergoing a traditional rebuilding. At worst, he will do what he did this year, try to put the best team on the fiels he can, even if he has to bring in a few stop gaps - and wait for next year's FA market.
    It has been an interesting year - full of surprises. Even tho I think I have some understanding of Sabean, he really fooled me this winter.

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  2. Barry's risk of indictment will have no effect on Barry's ability to play the entire 2007 season. It would cause some bad press, but it won't stop Barry from playing.

    For starters, the risk of Barry actually being indicted is very low. If the Feds had the evidence to indict without Greg Anderson they would have done so and there is very little chance that there is any yet to be discovered sources of evidense. If Greg Anderson was going to turn on Barry he already would have. At this point another year in jail just isn't likely to matter to Greg. Between his three stents in jail he has already invested almost a year sticking it to the Feds and he has shown no sign of weakening is his resolve to not cooperate. After this year the Feds will no longer have any leverage against Greg because they will no longer be able to jail him.

    Finally, MLB has never suspended a player because of an indictment. It has always taken a conviction for MLB to suspend a player. Even if Selig tried to suspend Barry the Players Association wouldn't let him. Even if indicted today Barry's lawyers would have no problem delaying the start of any trial until after the baseball season was over.

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  3. I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I was saying that he'll be suspended, but that wasn't what I tried to say. I'm saying that I thought the government could expedite things if Greg Anderson finally gave in, for whatever reason, or if they finally got something concrete on his baseball cards tax evasion, though as I remember now from a long ago, previous post, that if they had anything, he'll be in jail already.

    Still, the team will have to deal with the circus that would envelope the clubhouse with media all over yapping and asking each and every player on the team if this will cause the team to lose focus or disrupt them in any way, when, really, it is the media disrupting things probably.

    But you never know when someone will turn, remember, it was Anderson opening his yap on a secret mic that recorded him talking about Bonds, you never know if he would slip again somewhere, plus he wasn't happy with how Bonds treated him before, according to Sheffield, so his patience with Barry before was already waning, it is a variable thing.

    I haven't heard a good word about Worrell, so I am not counting on him. No "he's doing fine" type of fluff that the sfgiants.com Rich Draper likes to put up, like the Hillenbrand animal article. If he is back, all the better as I think he'll still be able to pitch, but until I hear otherwise, he's out. Because, really, he was out all season and not one encouraging word came out at all, Benitez with the snapping of his tendons got more encouraging word during the season than Worrell did.

    Cain averaged 6.6 IP in the second half, which works out to about 213 IP, so I would not count him in the youngsters unable to stay deep in the game. That would be on the low end relative to Zito, but that's still pretty good, Lowry at his 2006 average would pitch about 190 IP. Plus he pitched over 200 IP in 2005.

    Only 23 NL starters had over 200 IP and 30 had over 190 IP, so both would be in good stead compared to the league.

    Sanchez and Hennessey, who knows, but clearly Sabean favors getting another exprienced starter for the rotation, so we'll see how sturdy he is.

    Oh yeah, and Morris has averaged about 200 IP the past 3 seasons. So that's 3 200 IP eaters on the staff already. Adding Zito would put the icing on the cake but lets see if the rumors hold up after signing Bonds to $16M plus another $4M in performance bonuses (like how they changed the language from "incentives"; helps Bonds save face I guess).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, I am fascinated to see what more they can do after signing Bonds. I think they would love to have another starter. Everything I've read indicates Zito does not want to stay in the Bay area and, in fact wants to go to NY. If that is the case, I don't think there is a starter out there worth the money. I would like to see them bring in one - or even two 8th inning guy(s). IMO, Kline is the only guy they have for that now, and he has been more of a LOOGY, has he not? And Chulk, as much potential as he has, had a 5.24 ERA. As I see it, they have Kline, Chulk, and Worrell for the 8th inning. Even one more Stanton-esqe, relaible guy for the 8th inning would be fine, with ?????Worrell and Chulk covering the 7th. That means, assuming Hennessey stays in the pen, that neither TAschner nor Wilson make the team.

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