An account of baseball in general and the Los Angeles Dodgers in particular.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Brief Notes From Arbitration Deadline Day
$25 million spent on bringing Jaret Wright to an organization with the anti-Mazzone and praying Tony Womack repears his career year is pretty good evidence that the Yankess aren't going to start being very prudent in the near future. This doesn't improve them at second base, which makes the Carlos Beltran signing just a little more inevitable and probably means that Boras can extort even more from the Yankees in their desperation to improve.
The Cubs did a good job bringing back their middle infield at a reasonable price, but the Henry Blanco deal is sure to leave some Northside heads raw from scratching. Blanco certainly has a lot of defensive value, which actually is enough to compensate for his sub-replacement level offense. I think it's unlikely to expect him to repeat his stellar defense from 2004, but let's try to see what value he is. Over his career, Blanco has been worth 14.1 Wins Above Replacement using Baseball Prospectus' WARP1 over 458.7 adjusted games at catcher, meaning he's worth one win for every 32.5 9-inning games he plays. In 2004 data, that figure is 36.8, so let's make that figure 37 games since he's already 33. I think a good short-hand for whether a deal is reasonable is if the deal can yield an expected marginal dollars per marginal win (MDMW, or salary above the minimum divided by wins above replacement) of $1.5 million, which is slightly better than average. He's being paid $2.1 million above the minimum for two seasons, so if he keeps producing at his career rate he'd need to log about 466 innings over two years for this deal to make sense. Paul Bako has played almost twice that much over the past two years, so this is not a terrible deal. I think it's easy to have a knee jerk reaction against any deal with a per annum value above a million, but I wouldn't really be concerned about deals of this magnitude. The big value mistakes tend to be in contracts worth between $3 million and $7 million, where very marginal differences in value garner several million dollars worth in expenses, rather than in deals that sign backups for a little over a million, which isn't too bad of an investment in situations where there's reason to expect the backup to play often. Now, if you're the Twins and you already have Punto but you spend for Castro, that's a different story.
Dodger fan favorites disappear, and with good cause. There's simply no way Jose Lima would be worth what he'd make in arbitration. No way. And there's a good chance Steve Finley would accept arbitration; players with his service time, one-year home run totals, and "Gold Glove" awards are good shots to win their arbitration claims, and the Dodgers don't really have a place to put him without benching or trading Werth or Choi (and if you think they'd ever get fair value in a trade for Milton Bradley, you probably haven't put much thought into the issue). Even though there are whispers about Finley getting multiyear offers, that sounds like bluster to me, pretty much a Detroit-San Francisco "we have incentive to overpay for 2005 performance and aren't afraid to go into debt after that" bidding war at a time when both are nearing their spending threshold. And if it was Detroit or San Francisco, the draft pick compensation would be in the third round, if my recollection of the intricacies of the CBA is correct, due to the Percival, Benitez, and Vizquel signings. Jose Hernandez? Probably not worth the $3-4 million he'd get in arbitration, and the Dodgers do have useful replacement middle infielders on hand.