Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Shaikin asks, Mannion answers.

I've avoided a Shaikin pun thus far, and, as my holiday gift to you, I will continue to do so. Here are some selected queries and responses from a lengthy interview I'd highly recommend:
How would you say the divorce proceedings between Frank and Jamie McCourt have impacted the Dodgers' spending this winter? Have you been asked -- by Frank McCourt, by Major League Baseball or by anyone else -- not to take on major long-term contracts this winter?
Our baseball and business decisions have not been impacted by the proceedings. Neither [General Manager] Ned [Colletti] nor I have been asked by anyone to limit long-term liabilities.
Maybe it's the conspiracy theorist skeptic in me, but I'd sure rather hear "are not limiting" than "have not been asked by anyone to limit" future obligations. But this line is nothing new. Remember that Mannion has implied that the divorce wouldn't affect the club's spending until 2011.
So how would you explain to skeptical fans why the Dodgers are not in on any of the best free agents?
Ned has demonstrated a fantastic ability to read the talent market. We made back-to-back NLCS appearances for the first time in three decades as a result of Ned's ability to make the right acquisitions at the right time. We want the same thing our fans want, a team that can compete for a world championship year in and year out, and we've been in that position for the last two seasons. We expect that to continue.
This one sort of stings, right? I mean, yes, the Dodgers have been in as good a position as a fan can ask to win a championship each of the last two seasons. But the acquisitions which Mannion considers vital to those opportunities came at extraordinarily out-of-whack costs. Namely, Colletti gave up Carlos Santana for 233 league-average plate appearances from Casey Blake. Santana, as you likely know, is one of the best prospects in baseball.

And though Blake was a Dodger during one of the more remarkable stretch runs in recent years, he was hardly a driving factor of the team's success. The perception that he was, however, led to a 3-year, $17.5 million contract extension for the already 35-year-old Blake. The Dodgers will be paying him $5.25 million as a 37-year-old, and then another $1.25 million in 2012 just to make him go away. Granted, he had an improbably good 2009 campaign--as in career-year good--but it's hard to see his sustaining that level of play for one more season, let alone two. Extending Blake also closed the door on--

--Josh Bell, who became expendable. And indeed, Bell was expended in July, when the Dodgers dealt Bell, one of their best prospects, to Baltimore for 27.2 innings of George Sherrill. Let's not forget: the Dodgers won the West by three games, and that includes a fairly ridiculous September swoon. While arguing that Blake made the difference in 2008, when the Dodgers made the playoffs by two games, is at least plausible, the 2009 team didn't need Sherrill in the least.

I should quit this rant now--there's something powerful to be said about making whatever moves necessary to put a playoff team in even better position to win the October lottery. I get it. But the reality is that such future-foreclosing moves get a free pass if the team wins the World Series. If the team doesn't, the moves are fair game. That's how this works, mostly. So while we're patting Ned on the back for these sorts of moves, let's not forget how dramatically he's mortgaged the future in the process.

I'd better run one more Q-and-A before I go off on the Wolf non-offer...oh boy...Shaikin beat me to it:
[Shaikin runs through a long bullet-point list of examples of the Dodgers' financial corner-cutting over the last few years, including the Wolf non-offer. Seriously, people, go click the link and check this out. In fact, here's the link again. There's stuff in there I didn't even know about.]
For example, with Wolf, this is a very complex economy. Folks were building five-year strategic plans a long time ago. They're now into five-month strategic plans. So to take a guy and say, we're going to offer him arbitration, and put yourself in a position where you may have been able to acquire a similar pitcher for less money later on, isn't prudent use of a civic asset.
Oh dear Lord. "A similar pitcher for less money later on." A similar pitcher. For less money. Later on.

Really, Dennis? What in the world are your criteria? "Breathes oxygen?" "Possesses knowledge of baseball?" "Can grow a wicked goatee?"

Look around!

A similar pitcher.

This might be easiest: here's an all-inclusive list of pitchers with as many 2009 innings as Randy Wolf with a better K/BB ratio. I know that's some corner-cutting of my own, but hey, it's a down economy.

Halladay, Haren, Vazquez, Greinke, Verlander, Lee, Lincecum, Wainwright, Shields, Hernandez, and Sabathia.

Um, yeah. That's it. So "a similar pitcher" is one who is arguably in no lower than the third-tier of all Major League starters. I mean, look at that list. Halladay, Greinke, Lee, Lincecum, Hernandez, and Sabathia pretty much define the top shelf. The other guys are studs in their own right. And what else strikes you about that list? Not a single guy is available. Not for anything the Dodgers can reasonably offer, anyway.

But you know what I'm doing here, right?

Joel Pineiro had a slightly better K/BB ratio than Wolf and accounted for one fewer out on the season. He is "a similar player."

For less money.

This is where it gets fun. I'm not an expert on the arbitration process, but what would Wolf have received? $8 million? $10 million? $12 million? And that on a one-year commitment to a player who, according to Fangraphs, was worth $13.6 million last year.

And of course, he wasn't going to accept arbitration.

So what will Pineiro cost? Well, given that he is now "the best free agent starter available," a lot. Jayson Stark says his price tag is "north of Randy Wolf." So--similar player? Yes. For less money? Unlikely. And it would take a multi-year commitment.

Later on.

Later on? When is later on? After Pineiro, the free agent starting pitching market plummets to the take-a-chance guys like Bedard, Martinez, and Sheets and the innings-eaters like Garland and Padilla. Similar to Randy Wolf, they are not.

My lengthiness alarm is pounding through my skull as I type. And I know you're here for divorce stuff. But I feel like Mannion's 'similar player, less money, later on' thinking deserves treatment. Which, speaking of, can also be found here (True Blue L.A.) and here (Dodger Thoughts). And if you have some of your own, please link it in the comments.

I'll leave you with one last quote from Mannion in response to a Shaikin follow-up about Wolf and the cst of the draft picks the Dodgers would have received when he signed elsewhere. Now, I'm warning you in advance, Mannion backed off this statement, and what I am doing is cherry-picking in its purest form. But still, he said this to a reporter. That makes him accountable:
Those millions that are potentially in play, they can manifest themselves where the opportunity is. If the opportunity is in buying more portable concession stands, then that's what you do.
Worse than Jamie's Manny-or-the-kids gaffe, right?

Tomorrow: my warmest holiday wishes and some site news.


  1. Don't worry about "lengthness" problems. I'll read whatever you write.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Now I'm intrigued. What was comment 2, submitted, then removed, by the esteemed blog owner.

    And 5 minutes into the future, no less. I guess I'll have to look to see what tiome aone is used for for the time stamps here. Strange that it isn't PST.

  4. That should have read "time zone". Central, it appears.

  5. Indeed. I live in Minnesota...see you guys in about 10 minutes...