Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wicked Witch of the West: The Empire Returns

Wow, Boston and LA pulled off the huge trade. as reported by MLB Trade Rumors:  LA receives Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto for James Loney and four prospects, Rubby de la Rosa, Alan Webster, Ivan De Jesus, and Jerry Sands.   Apparently Toronto screwed with the deal by claiming Rubby, so he was pulled off waivers and will be traded as a player to be named later in the off-season to complete the trade.  MLB Trade Rumors also provided their take on the prospects.

They also followed up with a post on future obligations.  $189M in 2013 and that does not include arbitration eligible players or pre-arb players (in particular, Clayton Kershaw).   Wow, all the talk about Yankees West appears to be coming true.

ogc Thoughts

First off, I was wrong about the OF situation in my comments previously.  Crawford according to the article, just had surgery two days ago and thus will not be playing this season for LA.  So Victorino stays as LF.  So no vet angst over playing time as I had posited (thanks to Shankbone for noting this in the comments on the other post too).

Overall, I still don't think that this is a game changer, just a move that makes things much more interesting, as an ancient Chinese proverb noted.

Obviously, the huge plus is them getting A-Gon.  He is a great improvement over their disappointment, James Loney, who has never lived up to his hype that his first season brought along.  However, for what he's hitting this season, he's not that big an improvement.  Still, maybe returning to the familiar NL West and NL in general might get his offense going, much like Pat Burrell returning to the NL with us, so there is that potential danger to us.  We will, as always, have to see what happens.

But good news is that he is a lifetime .212/.312/.364/.676 in Dodger Stadium, 5 HR in 165 AB.  That is partly the strong pitching that LA has had, but as I have shown over the years, pitchers have deep splits between home and road, due to the extreme pitchers park.

And there are some good news in this trade.  First off, Victorino has been doing nothing for their lineup with his poor hitting so far.  .292 OBP and .629 OPS overall means nobody for any of their formidable middle lineup to drive in atop the lineup.  Though Mark Ellis has been doing a great job getting on base.

However, at least in August, only Hanley has stood up and supported their offense.  Both Kemp and Ethier have not risen to the occassion.  And if A-Gon is still Adrian when he joins the team (and maybe not, he did homer in his first AB for them), then that would not help them as much as they hope.

Josh Beckett is also hope in a bottle, more so than A-Gon.  He has not pitched well for the last month.  He was OK for a month after being DLed in June, but he has not done that well in the past month.  Still, like A-Gon, he's a vet, and who knows what might have been his problem, and maybe, just maybe, he figures it out when he joins their club.  But like A-Gon, its prove it to me time.

So potentially, they could add a lot, but right now, they are marginal improvements over Loney and, presumably, Blanton, from before.  And it costed the D-gers two potential top-line (both Rubby and Webster are seen as #2 starter types) starting pitchers and they are not that well stocked there at the major league level, and now not so much at the minor league level, though they were able to hold onto top prospect Zach Lee.

Let alone the financial obligation going forward if A-Gon, Beckett, and Crawford continues to underperform their contracts going forward.  They will be over the luxury tax threshold next season most likely and thus would have to go even further over in order to sign any good pitching, which is what they really needed, in my opinion.  Hitting helps, don't get me wrong, but teams can only win so many games with offense when the pitching is not great, as our 2002 Giants team showed in the World Series.

The key, really, for the Giants is as one of my commenters pointed out by noting my performance widget to the side:  our starting pitching needs to be their shutdown selves and do what they are capable of for the rest of the season.  And really, in the early season, it was Lincecum, but after the Perfecto, it was Cain too, and Zito, of course, has been Zito, then Vogie had his two game hiccup.  They all need to collective step up, kind of like what they did in 2010 when they went all those games with giving up only 3 runs or less (and as always, the bullpen must continue to be superlative).  If they can do that, we should have no problem winning the NL West, because the offense has been good enough this season often enough for this pitching to win a lot of games.  The starting pitching now needs to step up.

Closer Envy

I heard someone on KNBR note that the Giants need a closer because you can't win in the playoffs without a closer.  I find that funny, it's like saying that African Americans aren't good enough to play baseball before Jackie Robinson broke in:  just because it didn't happen before is more a matter of opportunity than lack of success.

I think our situation works.  Bochy basically had a closer by committee situation going on for the 7th/8th for the past three seasons, why can't it work by shifting it to the 8th/9th?  Just as I believe that not all pitchers can be closers, just because a pitcher wasn't used as a closer before doesn't mean he can't be a good one.

I also find it funny how everyone is so down when Hensley and Affeldt didn't hold the fort today.  We won five in a row, we aren't going to win them all.  Relievers are hard to judge month to month, let alone day to day.  Small Sample Size greatly affects their numbers.  So do one really bad game.  And really, Hensley is more of a middle reliever anyway, not one we should be counting on greatly.

22 comments:

  1. Forgot to mention their strongly possible season ending injury to Billingsly, so their additions might only offset this loss, as he had been 6-0 since returning to the team after DL earlier.

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  2. I would say it's a definite short term upgrade for the Dodgers at an astronomical long term cost. That said, Beltran was a definite short term upgrade for the Giants at a moderate long term cost(Wheeler) and it ended up not working out, so you can never be sure about these things.

    The only way this doesn't become a long term disaster for the Dodgers is if their ownership continues to have no limit to the $$$$$$$.....they are able and willing to spend to cover the back end of these contracts when the players are no longer performing.

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    1. Thanks for your comment DrB! You make some good points, particularly about the D-gers basically acting like they have unlimited money, appreciate them.

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  3. The more I think about this trade, the more I like it for the Giants moving forward. I have a friend who is a big Padre fan, and she also is pretty stoked about this. By my estimate, the dogs are already $14MM over the luxury tax for 2013 with 5 roster spots open (before signing any FAs like Choate or League). Best guess for their beginning payroll is $200MM. That means about another $30MM luxury tax alone. And every FA they sign costs 25% more in tax. They have no big contracts that they would either be willing to part with (Kershaw, Kemp, AGon) or other teams would eat (HanRam, Crawford, Beckett) so I think they're stuck with that massive payroll and at least 3 years of tax. In short, they needed pitching and they picked up Blanton and Beckett...good luck with that.

    They have to hope Kershaw can remain dominant, Babs isn't going to spend a lot of time on the DL (he's probably done for 2012), Capuano can remain effective, Harang can be decent, and/or Lilly and Beckett have anything left. What I see is one stud, a #2 who is hurt a lot, and a bunch of mediocrity. Four guys who might catch a lightning in a bottle year (2012 Capuano) or pretty much be done (2012 Beckett, Blanton).

    The division is built on pitching, with three pitchers parks and two launching pads. You need pitchers who can throw a lot of fly balls in SF, LA, and SD and keep the ball down in AZ and COL. And an OF defense that can make plays as well. The dogs picked up a solid 1B who is on a slow decline at the expense of almost all of their farm system (save Zach Lee who looks really good) and they didn't address their biggest need: starting pitching.

    OTOH, they have a very good bullpen with Choate and League (I was hoping we'd pick up one of them). Unfortunately for them, I don't see their SP giving the bullpen very many leads now that Babs is done.

    34 to go, we shall see...

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    1. thanks for your astute and detailed comment, Jewy! You make a heck of a lot of good points!

      Yes, their pitching leaves a lot to be desired, and then they lost their #2, Billingsley, who has been peforming more like middle rotation guy in recent seasons. Not quite a Zito, but close enough that it should give LA fans pause that their #2 is often enough like our #5 starter.

      However, I'm not enamored with Zach Lee. Sure, he's young for the leagues he has been in, but his ERA has not been great and neither has his K/9 or BB/9. It is nice that at age 20 he can maintain a 2+ K/BB ratio in AA, but a 6.5 K/9 in AA doesn't translate to much in the majors. The Dodgers are rushing him up the minors, I'm not sure why they promoted him, sure great K/BB ratio but a 20 YO striking out only 8.5 K/9 in Advanced A isn't that special to me, what am I missing?

      Exactly, a bullpen is not as useful if there is few leads being passed from starting pitching.

      I will add that I have some worry that with rest Beckett can be dangerous again in 2013, but right now for 2012, he's very wobbly and I am loving the fact that his first start is in Colorado, where he might get beat upon and give his confidence a pummelling.

      Thanks again!

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  4. I think it boils down to how much A Gone has in the tank. Here is my point - he is a 294 career hitter, a natural. His defense is excellent. He helps out in the short term huge, and if he catches fire, we are in trouble. He lengthens that lineup, and replaces anemic James Loney, who was the 15th worst 1B. Sure it was Fenway and the bandboxes of the AL, but a down year for him so far is 300/343/469 with 16 HRs. Even if the power is leveling off and going to take a hit at Doyer stadium (Gonzo being known for that oppo field power), he still is a 300 hitter. Apparently his OBP is suffering due to impatience with offspeed, maybe its a decline too. We can hope. I still consider him a cornerstone player, the kind that is very very hard to acquire. So I do fear that part.

    Beckett - maybe he has a dead cat bounce in him, but reports are his velocity is down 2-3MPH, plus the sweet attitude issues and the chicken and beer diet. Keep it up I says! I will have no problem rooting hard against Beckett, we Giants fans have long memories and I hated him with the Fish.

    Crawford - who knows how that plays out, he was the cost of doing bidness for the Doyers, and maybe a fresh start will be what he needs. I think he is the posterboy for watch out for FA moneys and was one reason I fear'd the Melky Cabera lockup - not enough extra base power. He is a wild card though, he could be done, a 100MM lodestone, or he could break out.

    Punto - clearly the key to the deal. Agent Ned loves loves loves himself some middle infielders, vet division.

    I agree with you on the pitching - huge cost to their upside, and I really think their staff is held together with bailing wire and duct tape. Harang and Capuano in particular as well as Beckett and Blanton. If they do win out I do not see them going far with only one ace and no good #2. And I am not buying Pajama Boy (Billingsly) as a #2. So the Doyers have some serious weakness there.

    I just read some Mets related stuff - why didn't the Mets try to dump Johan and Bay with Wright basically - well, look out, next year the Doyers could want a new 3B midseason...

    We cannot compete with this type of largesse, which I think will really drag in the back end big time. The Doyers just committed to paying MLB some extra money the next 3 years easy because none of this is tradeable again. The question is, will they keep going? The only premium arm is Greinke, and they have filled out most their positions at this point. So they maybe done for a minute. The Gints need to make smart moves now.

    One more - Mets just put Giant Killer Scott Hairston on waivers, as well as Andres Torres! The Dodgers are actually running out of roster space for claims. My guess is they will snag Hairston. if the Gints could snag Torres would we make that move?

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    1. Thanks as always for your great comments Shankbone!

      Yeah, A-Gon is the real deal. I should have looked at his game stats closer in my post: after a slow start, he has been on fire for the Red Sox since mid-June. Hopefully he goes through a slump in adjusting to a new team. But so far so bad, he's just hitting the snot out of the ball.

      Which means: Pence's grace period is over, we need him to step up, hopefully the 3-hit game is the start.

      Still, no matter how well he hits, if others aren't then they will have trouble scoring: LA 1-1 in the A-Gon era.

      Looking at his stats, huge number of infield flies this season, hopefully a sign to come. Also, as you noted, less patience, walk rate way down for the season. Fingers crossed!

      yes, we do have long memories! :^)

      Good point about Crawford being a total wild card, it could be like Rios, if he suddenly performs like before, his contract could be OK.

      To that point, he was hitting really well before the surgery, after a slow start. And if I remember right, recovery from TJS for position players isn't as fraught with danger to performance. Another wild card that I haven't noticed anyone mentioning is his transition to NL from AL, whether that affects him or not.

      Ha, yes, we agree about Billz not being a prototypical #2.

      About the Mets, not quite the same situation. They are burdened with Bay and Santana in 2013, but are basically free of them (less parting gifts in 2014) after that, while Wright is not signed long-term, his new team would have to woo him, unlike A-Gon who wass basically stuck with the trade (Teixeira commented that this was one reason why he chose NYY, the no-trade clause that Boston refused to give him). If ownership gives them the OK, both Bay and Santana could be simply released at any point in the next year, and the pain won't reverberate long-term, unlike Crawford's deal.

      As badly as the finances look in 2013, their total committed payroll in 2014 is back under the luxury tax threshold, depending on what they do with Kershaw, and with their free agents and team options. So if they play their cards right, the luxury tax ia a one year aberation and they will have A-Gon without penalty beyond 2013.

      But you are right, the Giants can't compete with such largesse, though I would note that I don't think teams can't regularly buy success in the playoffs, I can't think of any team that bought long-term success in reaching the playoffs without going through the necessary pain of losing and developing cheap long-termm stars from their draft picks. That's why the Yankees didn't do much after the Reggie year until they started losing in the early 90's when King George was convicted by the government and MLB suspended him from the team, whereupon they picked up the pieces of their long-term core: Jeter, Posada, Riviera, Pettitte. Surround them with big spending money, you win a lot of championships, but since that golden period, one World Series in a dozen years, King George is rolling in his grave. I'll admmit that they bought their last championship, but with their current rotation, I don't see them making it all the way this season either.

      I think the Giants just need to make smart moves all the time, that is just the way baseball works, I think, much like Yoda taught, you do or do not, there is no try.

      Ha, I was thinking about Andres too. But Hairston would be the better pickup I think. I just don't see LA or AZ allowing Hairston to make it to us, so I agree with you, though, whereas Andres probably does. He's actually been hitting OK since ASB (.732 OPS), but his BABIP is sky high, so who knows how long that will last. And really, it probably is already over, he has been stone cold the last two weeks (.318 OPS).

      Still, I think they do that move (depending on cost of prospect; Anderson has not made very complimentary comments, plus has enmity from A's days, and perhaps he's mad about Melky too) as he would be a nice RH complement to Blanco.

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  5. It seems like madness to me. I had been thinking more of the $$, and hadn't thought of the rotation until the posts here. I see "Yankees of the west" comments elsewhere, but for a similar payroll, they sure don't have the Yankees' roster.

    As noted, they've spent themselves into a corner. Across the board, players in decline, with contract money as if they're in their prime. I think only Gonzales, standing alone, is worth it. They do (or will have) buckets of money, but already they are indeed at the top end. Any of these guys (plus Kemp) becomes injury-prone, or becomes "done" - any of them - and it's a horrible deal. What's good for the Giants is that the Dodgers may now be stuck with this team. Greinke et al indeed come at a very high price - for a long time.

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    1. The Yankees West comment is more in reference to spending ungodly amounts of money, not to simmilarity with roster.

      I think, relatedly, our comments is to the point that while the Dodgers are spending as much as the Yankees, they are not yet as good as the Giants, though obviously these moves make them much more competitive.

      Yeah, that is the silver lining for me too, thanks for point it out, that the D-gers might be stuck with the team that they wished for.

      The good news to me too is that they are so far above luxury tax in 2013 that it is conceivable that they have to pull on some reins on their spending until off-season after 2013, which would mean that they are stuck with this pitching rotation for a good while longer (and at best).

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  6. Interesting article covering a bunch of must know facts about the deal: http://www.bizofbaseball.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5723:10-must-know-facts-in-the-blockbuster-red-sox-dodgers-trade&catid=26:editorials&Itemid=39

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  7. I should note too that we need to be cognizant that the D-gers spending is not that outrageous. We talk about the bottomless pockets of the owners, but the elephant in the roomm that hasn't been mentioned a lot (but I had noticed in one of the articles) is that LAD expects to sign a HUMONGUS TV deal in the off-season.

    This is the deal that McCourt was hoping to sign to save his ownership (and given how lousy an owner he had been, I now wish that he had been able to get that deal through). He was going to sign something similar to the Angel's $150M PER SEASON deal, but now the talk is that they will get more per season (though with the rough economic waters nationally and globally, we will see on that). I had forgotten about that until that brief mention somewhere.

    That alone pays for much of the profligate spending they are doing with regards to 2013, and on top of that they got radio and, of course, the gate receipts (as well as parking).

    Wow, this article says they can hope for up to $225-375M annually from this deal: http://ballparkdigest.com/201208275435/major-league-baseball/features/dodgers-fox-already-informally-talking-new-tv-rights-deal

    That pays for a LOT of mistakes.

    Plus, they might be planning for a new ballpark too, and with luxury boxes and a retail complex, they can be rolling in even more dough before A-Gon's contract is over (depending on zoning laws and permits.

    One rumor I read long ago when the new owners were announced was that they might work out a deal with the Staples Center where the new D-gers park is built next to the Center and the two real estate owners build on the D-gers current land for retail and business complex, maybe homes too.

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  8. I love this deal...as a Giants fan.

    Adrian is a good hitter, but playing in Dodgers stadium is not a good way to increase home run totals. He isn't so fast that he can get a bunch of doubles either. Overall 1st base has materially improved for the Dodgers, but the price was exorbitant even if you just look at Adrian in isolation.

    Crawford - decent defense, I'm sure the Dodgers are thinking of moving Kemp to a corner. Otherwise a horrifically expensive, medium to low offense, high risk.

    Beckett - he'll get a bounce from pitching in Dodger stadium, but 2nd rate pitchers don't get the same AL to NL improvement.

    As for Yankees of the NL, I would term this deal more like a combination of the most risky Pittsburg, Colorado, and Chicago Cub contracts. Adrian = Giambi/Yankees(ok a little negative as Adrian>Giambi), Beckett = Neagle/Hampton, Crawford = Soriano.

    I also completely disregard all that 'Magic' talk about no limits to Dodger spending. That's a load of crap, the buyer's consortium is mostly hedge fund money. These guys are even more profit oriented than McCourt was - their jobs literally depend on it.

    They're making a big splash now mostly to pump up the TV side, but the extent of their mistakes will haunt the Dodgers for a decade.

    Last note: the Dodgers need pitching. They had almost no one after Kershaw, and that no one is now injured (Billingsley). Jansen going out is also not great, but even Dodgers setup men weren't awesome either.

    If you're going to spend like a moron, then sign Cliff Lee. He fixes several major problems and gives the Dodgers a 2nd good pitcher.

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    1. Thanks for your comments. I see most of your points, but I disagree on some.

      First, I can't see them upsetting Kemp by moving him to the corner.

      Second, Beckett is not a second rate starter, he's been very good most of his career, though I suppose you mean that he's been second rate this season, which he has been, but up and down, depending on his health, it appears. If he is healthy and on, he's first rate, particularly in Dodger Stadium.

      Again, the Yankees of the NL comment is related more towards their bottomless pocket spending rampage. With all that cable money expected to come in, they will make a lot of profits while spending like the Yankees (much like the Yankees). Great point about them being hedge fund people, yes, they are VERY profit oriented.

      I agree, clearly, these contracts will haunt them for a long time. However, if they are pulling in $225-350M as one writer asserted, particularly on the higher end, the Dodgers can actually, even with all the spending locked in for 2013, spend even more money on one or two big contracts this off-season, and STILL make money. As they are still getting revenues from all their other sources, including tickets, concessions, and parking, plus local radio as well, which should be pretty big too.

      Oh yeah, they need pitching and how, that's been my point with every big move the D-gers made so far.

      Fortunately, they can't sign Cliff Lee, he's signed to Phillies for a long time still, and they would want Zach Lee (to start) if LA wanted Cliff.

      They will probably go after some of the top free agent starting pitchers, Zach Greinke, Edwin Jackson (ironic since he was a D-ger prospect traded away), maybe Colby Lewis, maybe Francisco Liriano (Ned has a soft heart for former Giants prospects). Not sure who among the free agents are actually doing well this season: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/04/2013-mlb-free-agents.html

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  9. Re: Kemp - I'll agree to disagree. Kemp has a gigantic ego/drive to excel, and a big part of that is that he can play CF defense as well as anyone. Frankly if he were more professional, he would realize that the absence of his bat militates being less aggressive on defense as well as on the bases. Frankly no one cares except him if he steals 40 bases or slams into the wall trying to a web gem, and the absence of him in the Dodgers lineup and the Dodgers subsequent free fall clearly showed how vital his bat is to the team's overall success.

    As for Beckett - he'll get a bit of a pop from Dodgers stadium and 1 out of every 9 batters being a pitcher. But it won't be anything like the past AL pitching superstars coming to the NL. More importantly, if Dodgers stadium is enough to resurrect Capuano and Harang, then it really doesn't matter who pitches for the Dodgers at home. What the Dodgers need is pitching away from home, and pitching to win playoff games. Outside of Kershaw, they don't have that.

    Regarding Lee: if the Dodgers can take on huge bank and trade prospects for Beckett/Crawford/AGonzales, I don't see at all why the same couldn't have happened for Lee. The Phillies have strong needs as well.

    As for the economics: the consortium paid $2 billion for the Dodgers. Let's work out the math: 10% annual return on $2 billion dollars is $200 million. So while the cable deal is great, unless the ownership group wants sub 10% return ad infinitum (and note these aren't compounded annual rates, they're flat rates), I still don't see the Dodgers spending $200M/year while simultaneously keeping the hedgie owners happy.

    Thus while no doubt there will be some more off season Sturm und Drang, my view is still that most of this is posturing to pump up the value of the cable deal - as in look! We're investing massively to build the Dodgers into a can't miss business proposition both to the cable peeps and the Dodger fan base, but the cable peeps are the ones with a contract in negotiation right now. Once that negotiation is done...

    Then the question is just how real this Dodger spendthrift is.

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    1. I'm confused. You were the one saying to move him to LF, I was the one saying he wouldn't want to move. I agree that it is his ego making him steal so many and slam into walls. There are many players who play like that, for a recent Giants, Nate Schierholtz, Aaron Rowand were like that. Pistol Pete Reiser for an older example. They were talented but injured themselves regularly making plays, ultimately cheating themselves and their teams of much better play.

      As I've noted many times before, I admired Barry Bonds realization that he's important to the team and thus he needed to not make dangerous plays just to get an out, he saw the bigger picture of how his being healthy and around to do great things means that he can't do stupid plays where he gets the out but then is lost to the team for an extended period.

      Oh, another one: Mike Krukow. I love Mike, but I'll never forgive him for running into the brawl and injuring himself in a fight, putting him on the DL at a critical point near the end of the season.

      My point about Beckett is that he could be that guy on the road, just that we will see.

      My point about Cliff Lee is that the D-gers farm system is pretty much tapped with all these deals, and the Phillies would want a lot more than Zach Lee to give up Cliff. The Phillies is not going to give up Lee for Lee, though maybe if Ethier was part of the deal, I can see it happening with Lee and other prospects. But the Phillies need a lot and the D-gers cupboard is pretty much bare now.

      I think you are forgetting that the owners are accounting for return on their investment from increases in team value. Also, I think that they see the need to invest more money (i.e. accept less returns) early on in order to plant the seeds for future growth (and to justify higher TV network deal).

      The contract that LA has committed to drops under the luxury threshold in 2014 if they let the big contracts go, like Beckett. The only year they have to spend over $200M is 2013, based on current contracts. So their cash flow will be that much better sooner than most think, if they chose to not invest as much in the team once the network deal is signed.

      And from what I've gathered about baseball taxation, there are plenty of accounting grey areas that get pretty black, so that their cash flow is usually much higher (and that is what is related to future valuations, not net income, at least in modern corporate valuations methodologies) than it appears when publicly discussed.

      Ah, one of my favorite terms, Sturm und Drang, thanks! :^)

      I do agree that the cable deal is what this is all about, but once the ink is dry on the dotted line, the contracts they are signed to for 2014 is way under the luxury tax and they don't necessarily have to spend it on free agents.

      I still expect more spending than before, when their cash flow increases that much due to the cable deal, they can keep their spending near the luxury tax and still look like heroes to their fans, while still pocketing gobs of money, especially if the high end estimates ($350M) is reached.

      Thanks for the comments.

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  10. Re: Kemp

    I pointed out that getting Crawford is understandable from the viewpoint of the Dodgers moving Kemp to left. You noted that Kemp might be upset at moving - so I'm in agreement. The ultimate point though, was that the deal was poorly thought out if Kemp was not already in agreement to move to left field, and it seems this is very possibly likely true (i.e. Kemp wasn't consulted on the possibility of left field).

    As for Lee - it isn't absolutely clear to me that the Phillies aren't also at least considering clearing out payroll. Their problems this season were primarily offense related, but their actions were to clear out what little offense they have in order to avoid luxury tax. Trading off Lee for bucks, then going after a big banger (Hamilton, for one) would be a very interesting notion.

    I do agree Beckett *may* do as well on the road as any Dodger pitcher does at home, but frankly for the price he's being paid, he needs to be a top 10 pitcher in the NL. Do you think he is a top 10 pitcher in the NL? Because I don't.

    As for ownership - I don't agree at all that 'team valuation' is in any way a viable metric. For one thing, relative valuation is completely out of hedge fund control. They could do everything right, but a major economic contraction (more than likely in the next 4 years) would drop valuations dramatically.

    The only way for a hedgie to show year on year results is cash flow. Cash flow is also subject to some vagaries of the economy, but much less so than valuation - particularly if most of the Dodger's income is from the cable deal.

    In any case, time will tell. Sure, the Dodgers' payroll isn't that bad next year, but that isn't the point. The point is that bad contracts don't suck at the beginning (usually), they suck at the end. And hedgies are far more aware than many owners just how corrosive a big ticket bad deal can be to the bottom line.

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    1. OK, I see, thanks for clarifying. Yes, that reminds me of the whole Marlins-Hanley situation if they did not clarify that with him beforehand. However, that is where I was confused: Crawford has been a LF for years so it would be natural for LA to start him in LF and Kemp in CF. So I am not sure where you got the idea that Kemp is moving to LF and Crawford is moving to CF.

      Regarding the Phillies, that does make sense what you say. From my view, they admired what the Giants did in 2010 and has been trying to copy that. Offense can come and go, but great pitchers like that don't, usually. If they did change their view on how to win, per my thought, then they would not trade Lee, but to your point, it would be very interesting if they flipped Lee in order to sign Hamilton.

      OT, but I think any team rushing in to sign Hamilton is crazy, he's already had two very public relapses in the past year, and it took a friend in one case to help him (and even then, he fooled his friend). Unless the team is hiring him 24/7 friends to keep him on the straight and narrow, that's fiduciary irresponsibility.

      I'm not saying that Beckett isn't overpaid. Heck, everyone knows Zito is way overpaid. All I'm saying is that Beckett appears capable of still being a very good pitcher, irregardless of salary, and so I fear that. They don't need him to be a Top 10 pitcher in the NL, they need him to be an improvement above what they got before, and that is very possible, I think.

      Any baseball team owner looking at 4 years as a long-term period don't really deserve to be a baseball owner. Look at the Angel's Arte Moreno, he dropped ticket prices to one of the lowest in the majors in a long-term effort to boost attendance and build team valuation over the long-term. Most owners are not in it for short-term gains, they are looking for long-term gains (plus a certain amount of publicity for some).

      You are reacting as if the owners are treating a baseball team like it is a hedge fund. Whole different investment asset class, if that is really what they think, that they are similar assets, then the Dodgers are in deeper doodoo with them than McCourt, and he's been proven to be a moron in terms of how to be a team owner, he's only lucky someone very very very wealthy really wanted to buy the LA Dodgers.

      yes, only time will tell, these are only my opinions, not facts. If they are having the proper long-term view to this investment (and placing a $2B cash bet, to me, signifies that they are looking long-term, at least to the end of this decade, if not longer), these contracts will be way over by then. The goal, it seems to me, is to create enough of a splash now to stimulate demand for their product, so that a network rushes in and give them a huge contract that will finance a multitude of stupid contracts, like how the YES network has done for the Yankees.

      Thanks for the discussion.

      Delete
  11. Re: Crawford/Kemp

    Crawford is a left fielder for the Red Sox because Jacoby Ellsbury is a Gold Glove center fielder. However, Crawford vs. Kemp - absolutely clear which one is more valuable as a bat. Thus from a purely objective standpoint, Kemp should be in left to preserve his bat while Crawford's now questionable offense becomes less of an issue if he can flash glove in center. Agreed that he might not be able to, but then again he does have the speed...

    Re: Lee/Hamilton
    Agreed. I think Hamilton is a huge risk, but so is having all your offense dependent on a man with no knees (Utley) and a big man who's shown his age (Howard). Having no offense this year showed clearly that the Giants' 2010 formula worked only because the Giants had at least an average offense then, just as Philadelphia's 2012 results is matching the Giants 2011 results. I'd also note that Hamilton isn't the only banger available this off-season. There's Encarnacion, Wright, and a couple of Yankees.

    Re: Beckett
    As far as season record, I do think Beckett is an improvement. However, the question isn't the improvement, the question is if the improvement is worth the cost. Yes, Zito was a huge mistake. Merely that Zito's contract exists doesn't mean you need to go and repeat it.

    As for the hedgies: Certainly I agree a baseball team isn't a hedge fund. However, a hedge fund owner fundamentally acts different than a single owner. Single owners can act in a more long term manner, but hedge fund managers cannot. Hedge funds work for the people who have entrusted their money to that hedge fund, and those people get awfully antsy (and may leave/redeem) if a few years' of bad results show up.

    Here's a Forbes 2011 profile of the Dodgers:
    http://www.forbes.com/lists/2011/33/baseball-valuations-11_Los-Angeles-Dodgers_338671.html
    Note that in 2011, with a $118M payroll, the Dodgers had revenue of $246M but only an operating profit of $33M.

    Jumping payroll $50M - which is roughly what the Dodgers have done - means the profit is now a loss. I don't know the details, but I'd guess that the overall is about even if the $2B was also used to offset the previous $500M debt, then again the hedge fund might be using debt as a means to extract cash out - in which case the equation tilts the other way.

    Be that as it may, profit based on valuation is a function of revenue. 2x to 2.5x valuation vs. revenue is what I've seen before, so unless the Dodgers sign a $700M/year TV deal, I think the concept of hedge fund profit via future Dodgers value is impossible unless we're talking 50 years from now.

    So while a big TV deal will happen - at the same time the pound of flesh needed by the hedge fund owner cannot be ignored. The Angels got $150M/year, the Lakers got something similar depending on who is talking. Even assuming the Dodgers attendance goes up and/or the Dodgers non-TV profitability is not negative despite the payroll jumps, the TV deal has to be well over $200M/year for the hedgies to make their bank.

    Doesn't look like a very high probability to me.

    On the other hand, squeezing more profit out of the Dodgers non-TV revenue plus the TV deal - that I can see. Thus either the Dodgers win the World Series 2 or more times in the next decade or they do a Loria. Who, I might add, works in tandem with David Samson - who very much is a hedgie type.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Crawford last regularly started in CF in 2004, so this is not just a Boston move. Given that Damon Hollins, who appears to be a journeyman player, "forced" him to LF in 2005, I think most people will agree that, maybe Crawford is fast, but CF is not his forte, defensively.

      About preserving Kemp, you have no arguments from me and I agree that he probably should move, but there has been no indication that the D-gers are hoping to do that.

      I agree that the Phillies are in deep doo-doo regarding their offense and pitching, I do not envy their GM's job. But simply swapping Lee for a big bopper won't solve all their problems, I guess is what my point is, that won't get them to the playoffs. They need to figure out how to keep Lee as well as sign a big bopper, whoever it may be.

      But Hamilton is a huge risk.

      I don't see what the issue is with Beckett. He's been a proven good pitcher for a number of years now, and while possibly overpaid if he continues to perform at a lower level, is still an improvement over what they currently got. It is not like he's as bad as Zito in performance or pay. He's only salaried at just under $16M for the next two years, and he has a long history of top performance. Baseball isn't about efficiency, it is about being more talented than the other team and performing at that level.

      Any owner that treats any investment as if it were a single class of investment is headed for disaster (which I don't mind for the D-gers :^). So maybe I don't understand who exactly owns the D-gers now. I thought it was mainly one owner with Magic and other minority owners. But your statement - "hedge fund managers cannot" - suggest that the actual owner is a hedge fund. This would explain why I'm not understanding this line of the discussion.

      Yes, if this were a hedge fund as the actual owner, they would not tolerate a long period of losses. I'm aware of the Forbes data, and try to rely on that as an objective number, but I've seen some experts say that Forbes does not fully capture the accounting hijinks that baseball owners do with regards to profits.

      But using Forbes, yes, 2013 does look like a huge loss. I'm not as certain about 2012 itself. My point has been that they can justify a loss in 2013 if they believe that the loss will lead to higher cash flows in the future.

      Furthermore, my understanding is that the new contract will kick in for the 2013 season. And that it is a large increase over what they were getting before. If the $150M per year contract adds in $50M per year additional revenues, that $50M uptick in payroll is covered. And if they get more than the $150M (some estimates go much higher), that's additional cushion on their profit margins.

      Meanwhile, there has been a lot of speculation on what they will do with the prime LA property that they go in the deal. Creating a huge business complex would generate huge cash flows in the future, which is also part of the investment criteria that the owners would have taken into account when buying the D-gers.

      But nice example with Loria and Samson, hey, if the D-gers are run like the Marlins, that would be OK with me, soaking the LA fans like Miami does. And I don't think LA has the smarts Miami had in winning World Series (Dombrowski was the brains) or the guts (as it required selling off their best players) to do what is necessary to rebuild when the time comes.

      Still, I would note how they got a new stadium in Miami and was able to boost their payroll a lot (they were pursuing Pujols too), so they got a nice stream of cash flow from somewhere to pay for that largesse. Maybe LA is planning for the same.

      Delete
    2. Oh, and thank you for the discussion, this has been interesting and informative.

      And I've been searching for how much of an increase that the $150M is over what they are currently getting, but have not been able to locate any data. But given how the Angels went on a huge buying spree after they got their contract, I have to think that it was a substantial increase.

      Delete
  12. I can't remember where, but the Angels TV deal increased from around $37M/year to $150M/year. The $110M+ increase more than justifies the Angel's spree, especially if they can grow even more.

    Then again, Moreno didn't spend $2.15 billion to buy the Angels, he spent $180 million. Sure, this was 2003, but note that McCourt bought the Dodgers for $430 million in 2004 and the Dodgers had just won the NL West.

    Did the Dodgers increase their revenues by 5x in the past 8 years? I think not.

    As for accounting - certainly there are some games possible, especially considering the parking split (McCourt had another company own part of the Dodgers parking). Be that as it may, the other point is that McCourt was clearly milking the Dodgers for cash, in no small part due to his divorce proceedings, thus it is unlikely that he was keeping up with long or even just longer term upkeep costs. The point being, the profit the Dodgers made in 2011 was likely on the high end rather than low end. For that matter, McCourt still owns half of the parking around Dodger stadium...

    Lastly as for the new Dodgers ownership: Magic is the face, but Guggenheim is the money:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/02/sports/la-sp-0503-dodgers-owners-20120503

    [quote]Mark Walter, the new chairman and controlling owner[/quote]

    Mark Walter is Guggenheim.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment. I've been dying to see what the Angels got above what they had before. No, I think most people agree that the $2B price tag was a huge overpay, kind of like the Zito deal: the price seems so high that one can't imagine the buyer ever getting plus value out of the deal, but that it would be interesting to see what falls out.

      If I didn't make it clear that I'm aware that Magic is only the face, I apologize. In any case, thanks for giving me the new owners's name, I never really put it to memory. Magic is just an easy way to refer to the new owners, but I will commit the name to memory this time (or at least will try).

      Yeah, I know, sick, right? The new owners pay over $2B for the team and still only gets 50% of the real estate. At least he is a silent partner in that, with no voting rights, he's just along for the (lucrative) ride that the new owners are planning. One idea I've heard is that they might partner with the Staple Center, build a new Dodger Stadium there, then jointly develop with the Staple Center owners Chavez Ravine into some sort of huge mega-business complex with expensive housing to boot. Not that I saw this described like this anywhere, but the thought that came to my mind is Santana Row on steroids AND HGH.

      McCourt was already milking the team even before being forced to sell because of the bankruptcy and divorce proceedings. It was that fiduciary irresponsibility that helped put him in bankruptcy, I think. All the reports I recall reading noted that he was treating the D-gers as his little cash cow that he could milk whenever he wanted to buy anything.

      Thanks for the link, I'll be sure to read it when I get a moment. Again, your comment is much appreciated.

      Delete

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