Wednesday, January 7, 2009

On Choice

Disconnected IndeedThe cacophony of hand-ringing is reaching epic levels these days, as high profile DH-types and reclamation-styled pitching projects are signing much cheaper deals in far less desirable locales than sunny Toronto. The hand-ringing is such that, had these basement-dwelling molemen not masturbated their palmflesh off long ago, they would now be as fingerprint free as John Doe. Blame quickly falls to either JP or Rogers, for not being in on these bargain-basement sluggers or for slashing the payroll dramatically; leaving bored Jays fans fighting amongst themselves like angry Quebeckers at their Floridian retirement village's Yankee Swap.

The comments following a recent Drunk Jays Fans post reflect this anger, but also reveal some rational thought among frustrated Jays fans. Unless these lowish risk acquisitions blows all expectations out of the water, they are viewed as failures right from the start. When the price on Giambi falls considerably (to nearly Luol Deng levels of thievery, Giambi protecting Holliday is fine work indeed) the outcry explodes from the peanut gallery. If player X signed for Y, how come the Jays didn't sign him for Y + 1??? JP sucks, we're told. Rogers is cheap, we understand.

This thinking is obviously flawed. When teams league wide go into spending freezes, the price of a Giambi or Bradley is brought artificially low. If the Jays chime in with a slightly higher bid, the As or whomever else will come back slightly higher until Fat Slugger X's contract is no longer a steal but a liability.

The other side of the coin is choice. Most free agents go the mercenary route, especially if it they see that particular contract as their career Big One. But if they will be taking a deal well below expectations anyway, why not be choosy where you go? Giambi started his career in Oakland, perhaps he thought best to finish it there? Eckstein took less money to come here last season because he'd have the chance to play shortstop every day.

Pitchers can afford to pick their spots and, as Tomo Ohka & Victor Zambrano can attest, will always sign a cheap deal with a team that sports a big offense (which the 2007 Jays promised but did not deliver) or stands a very good chance of winning many games in spite of rather than thanks to their contribution (here's looking at you Penny). Limit the damage to 3-4 runs allowed in 5 innings of work most times out, grab a dozen wins, turn that into a Carlos Silva deal on the free market. Mr. Scrap Heap can laugh all the way to the golf course.

Of course it's lamentable that the Jays couldn't sign Giambi for less than they paid Eckstein last year, or half of what they pay Johnny Mac. In fact, I just died a little on both the inside and the outside. But there are too many factors at play to simply announce "management is incompetent" and be done with it. Besides, Adam Dunn is still out there, and now LOTS of people are saying he doesn't like baseball. He can't blacklist them all.

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