Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thoughts as I Simmer

So, after wrestling with a spreadsheet for a couple of hours that disected the free agent market, I discovered I massacred the damn thing beyond repair about an hour-and-a-half ago.

.....Simmer.....

The Bonnes household will be watching the MLB postseason with a rooting interest after all. The Philadelphia Phillies finally lived up to their "Fighting" monikor and found their way into the postseason today. In case you don't know, The Voice of Reason is a native Philadelphian, and I courted her for several years in that fair city. In fact, we had season tickets to the Phils the last time they made the postseason, in 1993.

(In fact, that banner picture of me screaming was taken at one of those postseason games. It was snapped from the upper deck of Veteran's Stadium minutes after the Phils eliminated the Braves in the NLCS. If you look really closely, you can see the "P" on the hat.)

Most of the coverage will likely center around the collapse of the New York Mets, and strangely enough, that's probably fine with Philly fans. I'm not sure which they enjoy more: the Phils' incredible finish or the Mets' historic collapse. For Phils fans, it's the sports equivalent of a menage a trois with two supermodels. One is unbelievable. Two is - well - where does one go for unbelievable squared?

But I think it's worth noting that this was one hell of a clutch performance, especially for a franchise traditionally know for their futility. The Phils won 13 of their last 17 games, and needed every damn one. They also played the Mets seven times in August and September and won every one of those games, too.

If you've seen any tapes of their games, you can see that Philadelphia has rallied around this team like very few other Phils teams, and there is no doubt that is partly based on some of the personalities involved, particularly Jimmy Rollins. But mostly it's because this team earned that playoff spot. And in doing so, they also earned a spot in a great sports town's hearts.

.....Simmer.....

In my search for info on the free agents, I came across a pretty good site that some of you might find interesting. MLB4U.com has several tools for analyzing the free agent market, including a complete list of possible free agents and a list of the top free agents available, including predictions on where they'll end up.

It's by no means perfect. First of all, it looks like most of the overviews haven't been updated in a month of so, and that leads to some questionable predictions, such as suggesting Eric Gagne will receive a 3-year, $36 million deal. But a lot of their predictions look like they're in the right ballpark, and Twins fans might find the sixth name on the list especially interesting.

It's Carlos Silva. Yeah, OUR Carlos Silva. The same one. Their prediction on Silva is that he'll sign a 3-year, $35 million deal. (They predict the Dodgers.)

The brutal truth is that the free agent starting pitching market is razor thin, and while one could argue whether or not Silva is the best free agent pitcher likely to be available, it's hard to argue that he's not one of the best free agent pitchers available. He looks like a legitimate #2 or #3 starter, and he's just 28 years old, and those guys get three year contracts for $10 million per year in this market.

It also brings home a couple of other brutal truths. First, any announcers or scribes who wasted their breath or ink this month suggesting that the Twins might re-sign Silva needs to take a look at how they do their jobs. There is no chance. There hasn't been any chance since, ironically, Silva showed that he didn't suck. This should put that crap to bed once and for all.

And while we're wishing things nighty-night, can we also break out the bedtime stories for talk about how not signing Silva could reduce the Twins chance of signing Johan Santana? Yeah, I'm sure Santana will be bitter about his good friend signing a deal for $35 million. And he'll be particularly furious about their part in converting Silva from a swingman with the Phils into one of the wealthiest men in Venezuela. Johan will just be spitting about it.

The second, much more brutal truth, is that it shows how the Twins really, really, REALLY screwed up at the trade deadline this year. It's one thing to think a team has a chance when they don't - that's an easy mistake to make. It's almost forgivable, because the Twins really were only a handful of games back at the time.

But if that's where Ryan's head was at, he can't trade Castillo unless it's for a super-prospect or significant help next year or payroll room to add help this past year. And if he's going to trade Castillo, why the hell isn't he shopping the two more valuable free agents on the roster?

And as unforgivable as it was to not use the deadline as a decision point for Hunter, it was even more unforgivable to not leverage Silva's value. Look, Silva was both more valuable to the league AND more replacable for the Twins than Castillo. So even if you do subscribe to the middle-of-the-road path the Twins tried to walk, Silva needs to be moved too.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time defending moves the Twins have made over the last year or so, in part because I think the criticism often has more to do with advancing an agenda than with anaylsis. But the more we look at the Twins moves (and lack thereof) around the trade deadline, the more I think the Twins have gotten off easy. This offseason is poised to show exactly how flawed their decision-making was. Silva's free agent value might just be the first very bad sign.

And another reason to simmer.

8 comments:

David Wintheiser said...

And if he's going to trade Castillo, why the hell isn't he shopping the two more valuable free agents on the roster?

Because, I'd guess, other GMs aren't idiots.

By means of contrast, note that the Red traded Kyle Lohse to the Phillies at the deadline this year. Lohse, like Silva, is going to be a free agent at the end of the year.

What did the Reds get for Lohse? A 23-year old left-hander at AA whose projected upside is as a big-league #4 starter, Matt Maloney. (http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2007/07/phillies-acqu-1.html) Could the Twins have gotten more than that from Philadelphia for Silva? Unlikely, given that Silva was a Phillie at one time.

The Twins very likely did shop Silva and Hunter before the deadline -- I'd be shocked if they weren't shopped. And given what the Twins got for Castillo, from a team that was up-against-the-wall desperate for a second baseman, I have little doubt but that whatever offers were out there for Hunter and Silva were likewise fairly slim pickings -- again, look at what the Phillies gave up for Lohse.

The Twins' brain-trust has been praised, and in some sense rightly so, for signing players to short, market-appropriate contracts so as to avoid exposing the team to a costly drag on the budget if the player busts, is injured, etc. The flip-side of that coin, however, is that the Twins have very seldom found themselves in possession of a young, talented player locked into a long-term contract that has obviously become below-market, along the lines of what the A's did with Barry Zito back in 2002 through 2005.

I think that would make interesting off-season discussion fodder.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the real answer to the question of why Castillo and not Silva that the Twins didn't need Castillo to be competitive. But they did need Silva. They probably will need him next year too, but it is doubtful they can afford him.

As for Hunter, I think its pretty clear the Twins still hope to sign him. They weren't about to send him off to some other team.

Anonymous said...

I agree... not moving Silva was a stupid mistake. At least there's draft pick compensation coming for Hunter, but I don't believe that Silva will provide any compensation... I could be wrong about that. If that's the case, something > nothing.

I find it a little funny that the Twins can't get anything for above average pending free agents (Hunter and Silva) AND can't seem to flip a low minors prospect for a bat at the deadline.

-SBG

Nick N. said...

Tell TVOR I said the Phils will bow out in 3 :)

John said...

David,

I'm as sensitive to the whole "they shoulds done something" argument when it doesn't make sense, but I'm not sold on your comparison.

Lohse isn't Silva. I don't think the Phillies would've given up much, but Seattle was desperate for a solid starter too. But I'll agree it's hard to come up with an accurate read given how few starting pitchers were traded.

And Castillo was another goofy situation. Castillo was the best of the bunch that were available, but there were a bunch of second basemen available, even after Ta-DA was moved. I'm sure I wrote about this.

Finally, I agree with your last point. Not enough attention is being paid to the way salaries are climbing and how attractive that makes long-term contracts to teams. Just three years ago, it would have been inconceivable that ARod would opt out of his contract this year. Now it's a no-brainer.

Anon - Silva was absolutely less indispensable than Castillo. This should have been obvious then, and it's certainly obvious now. And Silva is absolutely dispensable for 2008.

SBG - Beautiful point. And the Twins were in a position where they could either be buyers or sellers, whichever way the market was swinging, and they managed to do neither. Either we are overvaluing their free agents and their prospects, or they just didn't show the effort/deciciveness neceesary to get things done.

Nick - TVOR says you can go to hell. No more Red Bull and vodkas for you. (How's that for a threat?)

Jack Ungerleider said...

Thanks for bringing up the Mets collapse. :-(

Of course now I'm left with no rooting interest in the playoffs. (My brother would want me to root for the Yankess. I'm not sure I can.)

If the Phillies get the wild card winner I'd be concerned if I were you . :-)

Anonymous said...

Silva was absolutely less indispensable than Castillo. This should have been obvious then, and it's certainly obvious now. And Silva is absolutely dispensable for 2008.

The Twins young pitchers have struggled with 5+ ERA's and 5 inning performances. Trading Silva and shuffling them in and out of the rotation would have been a clear white flag.

Castillo, by contrast, had two potential replacements. And frankly he is no longer all that good a player anyway.

hrunting said...

This is an honest question, not an argument. Is it possible that having Silva around was good for any of the other pitchers -- helped save young arms, or bullpen arms, or anything like that? And if so, was that benefit worth losing what we would have gotten in a mid-season trade?