Friday, December 14, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Arte Moreno Strikes Back

As the current offseason got underway, everyone knew the Dodgers were looking to flex their financial muscles.  There was speculation that in addition to going after the obvious Zack Greinke, they would also make a play for Josh Hamilton.  Down south in Orange County, the Angels put up a surprisingly feeble fight to keep the aforementioned Greinke.  The conventional wisdom was that Arte Moreno had blown his wad on Albert Pujols and was tapped out.

Things took a shocking turn yesterday when Moreno whipped out his checkbook one more time and signed Josh Hamilton to a 5 year/$125 M contract.  In doing so, he was able to poke a stick in the eyes of two competitors:  The Dodgers and division rival Texas Rangers.  The Rangers had been letting Hamilton find his market apparently secure in a promise that he would let them make the last bid.  Moreno is a man of great experience in circumventing that strategy.  He simply makes a bid the player cannot take a chance on turning down and gives them a very narrow take it or leave it window.  As has happened several times in the past, Hamilton took it, and left the Rangers eating Arte Moreno's dust.

Analyzing this trade is actually pretty simple.  When he is healthy and at his best, Josh Hamilton is the kind of player you spend this kind of money on.  He's a clear upgrade on Peter Bourjos or Mark Trumbo or Vernon Wells.  You just aren't going to let those guys stand in the way of making the move.  The problem with Hamilton is he is not always healthy.  In the course of his MLB career, he has played more than 140 games just twice.  He has a history of a drug problem so severe it caused him to miss at least 4 full minor league seasons and parts of others.  He has publicly broken his sobriety at least twice in the last 2 years and has missed playing time with a variety of ailments including a hospitalization for pneumonia.

While the Angels need pitching more than they need hitting, Hamilton will give them value as long as he stays healthy.  The risk is a much higher probability than average that any single game could be the last of his baseball career.

Around the League:

Speaking of pitching:  The Tigers won a bidding war with the Chicago Cubs to keep Anibal Sanchez at a price of 5 years/$80 M.

There is an article by Darren Rovell of ESPN questioning the Dodgers' financial situation.  Definitely worth a read if you can dig it up.

Xavier Nady signs with the KC Royals on a minor league deal.

16 comments:

  1. I really don't like this signing. The Angels already have plenty of hitters. It's the same reason the Giants didn't spend their money on Greinke. Sure, he would improve our rotation, he would improve any rotation in the MLB, but pitching isn't what we needed, so we spent money on position players. And if he had $25 million a year, why didn't he use it to retain Greinke? Just seems like a bad signing, considering what the club was in need of.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's the big question in all this. Why didn't Moreno retain Greinke if he had this kind of jack to spend?

      Delete
    2. If the Halos can get good pitching in return if they trade either Trumbo or Bourges, then the trade might work out.. having Trout, Pujois, and hamilton in the lineup is awesome to think about.

      However if what I read is true that this signing was done above their baseball department without their knowledge, then it could be a red flag for future problems in their organization.

      LG

      Delete
    3. I read that too. Man, if that is true, it is really bad ownership!

      Delete
    4. Clearly, Moreno thought that Hamilton was worth $25M per year and that Greinke wasn't worth what LA paid him. Whether he's right is another thing.

      This will sorely test the findings that it is pitching and not hitting that wins championships. Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton are three of the premier hitters anywhere. But can they win without the pitching?

      Are Trumbo or Bourges that good to get a Greinke type pitcher in return? I don't know them, but I'm willing to bet "no".

      Delete
    5. I would agree with Moreno in the sense that a fully healthy Hamilton has way more value than Greinke and would deserve a Pujols type contract. The thing about Hamilton is how do you quantify the risk? On the other hand, Greinke's contract with the Dodgers is quite clearly an overpay.

      Delete
  2. Would you be interested in Vernon Wells for LF if his whole salary was covered? He seems like a Sabean type reclamation project that could provide some Right handed pop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Wells' whole salary was covered, yes, I would be interested.

      Delete
    2. If the salary is covered, Angels will want something in return. Not sure I'd want to surrender much for Wells.

      Delete
    3. I am assuming that he is released and is picked up for the league minimum.

      He could still play a legit OF and i think that he would do well with a change of leagues. Plus he was always one of my white whales.

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Here's a link to that Dodgers article:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/dollars/post/_/id/2565/confusion-over-dodgers-endless-money

    ReplyDelete
  5. Kind of surprised (if the media is accurate) that players bite on a "take it or leave it now" gambit.

    I'm guessing that Hamilton was not happy in Texas. Because, if you've promised an opportunity to match, you ought to follow through. Yeah, if it costs tens of millions.

    Which, yep, is a lot of money. But, at some point, one has to be OK with $100 million and doing the right thing vs. $125 million and doing the wrong thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We actually have an example of this gambit here in the Bay Area. After 2010, both the Giants and Dodgers were bidding on Uribe. He wanted, if I recall right, 3 years and $27M from the Giants. They weren't biting on that. Both teams had gotten to 3 years and $20M, when the Dodgers basically told Uribe, we're offering 3 years and $21M, give us your answer now, else their offer is off the table (or something like that, I can't remember exact details, but I know they gave him an offer and that he had to choose without consulting the Giants). He, as we all know, agreed and ended up in Dodger Blue.

      My guess would be that Arte gave a eBay "Buy it now" offer, which might have jumped over what the other teams were offering, i.e. no pussy-footing over the amount, like offering $1M more than the other team, and gave him that choice of now or never.

      Of course, we'll probably never know where exactly the Rangers offer was. In the Uribe case, $1M was not that much, if he really wanted to return to the Giants. If the Rangers were already at $24M, he must have really didn't like playing for the Rangers. If they were at $20M, then I can see why he jumped at the Angel's offer. It would be instructive to know where the negotiations were when the Angel's came in with their offer.

      Delete