Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On Waiting, the EBay Paradox and Dominos

There's usually a lot of offseason waiting that goes on between XMas and New Year's Day, and that's a shame, because somebody is going to end up dead. Or at least that's what I could conclude based on random outbursts in the #Twins Twittersphere. Waiting might literally kill some people.

This story is why there has been so much waiting. And why we might have a lot more activity real soon.

I can understand the frustration. To be totally honest, the Twins have brought this attitude on themselves. Twins fans associate late season signings with names like Tony Batista and Sidney Ponson, and are understandably cynical about the process. And so the contrasting logic suggests that signing someone RIGHT NOW virtually assures the Twins of ending up with a very attractive player at either second or third base.

The problem is the ebay paradox. You know how you go out to ebay to buy that really slow scrolling scene Miller Lite beer sign that you spent, oh, roughly 3/4 or your college senior year staring at in the campus bar? It's there, it's for sale, the auction closes a week from Monday, and you can maybe get it for really cheap? Or, you could click on that "Buy It Now!" icon and pay roughly 50% more but be absolutely sure you get it?

Of course you do. Who hasn't tried to buy a really slow scrolling scene Miller Lite beer sign?

You have two choices in this scenario. You can either "Buy It Now!" and likely overpay. Or you can wait until 1 minute before the auction closes and put in your high bid. The one thing you don't want do is bid on it now. All that does is tell other buyers that you're out there, you're bidding, and they should probably raise their bids appropriately.

And like the really slow scrolling scene Miller Lite beer sign (And I mean REALLY SLOW. So slow you didn't even notice it was moving until your junior year.) free agents aren't cans on a shelf that Bill Smith before the blizzard hits. Most free agents don't sign until the more desirable player in front of them signs, knowing that the teams that miss out on the superior player will then enter the bidding for him. And, if you haven't noticed, the top two hitters on the market haven't signed yet.

Those guys would be Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, who reportedly have very good, but not exceptional, offers on the table from the Mets and Cardinals respectively. What neither has, but both would love, is a bidding war. And there are two very good reasons they are waiting for that.

The first reason is that there are a lot of teams that just don't have much money to spend this year. The free agents are waiting for them to find some cash, and the teams have been doing their best to oblige:

  • The Tigers traded away Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, two really good, affordable, and young players, just to reduce payroll this year.
  • The Reds just extended 33-year-old Scott Rolen's contract two years, which is odd consdering he may well need a walker by then. But by doing so, they were able to reduce his salary THIS year, reducing their payroll by a few million dollars.
  • The Dodgers traded away Juan Pierre and $10 million to the White Sox so they could save just $3 million this year.
  • And earlier this week, the Braves traded away Javier Vazquez, (and his $11.5 million salary) to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar.
  • Meanwhile, the Marlins are reportedly shopping Dan Uggla, a legitimate second base slugger, so they can reduce payroll.

So the free agents are waiting for teams to figure out a way to come up with some money so the market loosens a bit.

The second reason that the big names are waiting is because the two teams that traditionally lead the league in spending have been uncharacteristically quiet. The Red Sox made an offer to left fielder Bay early, but pulled it back when they signed Mike Cameron. However, Cameron can also play center field, and rumors abound that Red Sox center fielder Jacob Ellsbury is being shopped around for a big infield bat, like Adrian Gonzalez. If the Red Sox trade Ellsbury (or think they would), they could easily re-enter the bidding for Bay or Holliday. In fact, reports tonight suggest they might be doing just that.

And the Yankees, who traded for Granderson earlier, might also be entering the market. They traded away their left fielder Melky Cabrera in the Vazquez deal. While they are publicly saying they only have $4 million to spend on an outfielder, it would be a first if the Yankees showed any kind of restraint financially.

If either the Red Sox or Yankees get interested in Bay or Holliday, the players could see their offers increase considerably, and the dominos could start to fall. If the Yankees sign Holliday, perhaps the Cardinals make an offer to Bay. If either the Mets or Cardinals are left in the cold, then they make on offer to Mark Derosa. If Derosa goes with one of them, them maybe the Giants, who made a 2-year offer to Derosa, get involved with Felipe Lopez or Orlando Hudson.

And so while the Twins can make fair offers now to Lopez, Derosa or Hudson, it would be borderline shocking if any of them would accept an offer now. They want as many teams in on the bidding as they can get, and those teams are waiting on bigger names right now. So the Twins have a choice. They can either "Buy It Now!" and overpay, or they can wait until the player is ready to make his choice and submit their highest bid. What DOESN'T make sense is to give a fair offer now, which will just be announced to other interested parties to drive up the price.

So the good news is that the Twins are likely playing this the right way. The bad news is that they aren't guaranteed to get anyone. And in fact, they might not really be interested in getting anyone. With as close as Smith plays things to the vest, he certainly hasn't indicated that another decent signing is on the way. Of course, he also hasn't announced that the Twins are done, either.

Either way, it's starting to feel like the big money is making a decision and the dominos are starting to fall. The results might not ultimately be what we want, but at least the waiting shouldn't kill anyone.

7 comments:

Topper said...

Thanks for the perspective, John! Makes absolute sense when anything is related to eBay -- it all becomes so much clearer!

And you're right, the Twins aren't in danger of losing all their options right now just because Polanco and Iwamura are gone. Patience is key!

Jack Steal said...

John,

What happens if there are no good players left on the market because the Twins waited too long!! This is exactly what has happened with third base. The only good players available right now at this position are Mark DeRosa and Adrian Beltre. DeRosa is talking to the Giants and Beltre with the A's. The Twins could have traded for Kevin Kouzmanoff at the winter meetings but word out of San Diego is they want to keep him now. Another bridge burned by GM Smith. We will settle for Crede because nobody else wants him.

Second base has a few remaining options as well with Lopez, Hudson, Johnson, and Cabrera. I would be fine with bringing back Orlando Cabrera but once again the team has given no indication they are even interested in upgrading at this position. So we get another year of Nick (.210) Punto. I'm alright with trying to save money but at some point you need to change your approach to compete with the big boys (Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Phillies). The front office seems fascinated with mediocrity. Oh and let's not forget how much more money it will cost the team for waiting to sign Joe Mauer. That is of course if they get a deal done with him. There are no gurantees he will stay!!

writerjoel said...

I was hoping that this season, of all seasons, the Twins were looking beyond the division and making the push to be competitive in the post-season.

To do that, you need not just Pavano, but another good vet starter. You need Punto on the bench, so an upgrade at both second and third. You need to rethink the bench. Are there replacement players on the bench or a phone call away in Rochester (where are the minor league signees).

You can wait, Get washed-up Washburn, maybe Crede if he doesn't get jerked around too much by the Twins, maybe trade for Kouz...but stay on top and why not Perkins and a second player...Tolleson, Hughes, Singleton, Dinkelman...hey, Toby Gardenhire. Or even Matt Tolbert.

You shake things up, make things happen via trades or signings. The Hardy move was great. But look at how the Yankees have even shaked things up...getting an outfielder, a pitcher. Saying goodbye to a couple of overpriced vets. Moving around bench/bullpen pieces. And they still aren't done.

I think back of how Atlanta and Oakland, usually in the running, would shake up their rosters and not stand pat. Players age. New players need to be worked in. Promising players are available. Old vets for a cup-of-coffee can always get an invite (which is basically where Crede stands...you can do better for a few million more and still have tradebait down the line, perhaps). Last season, would've been great to trade Crede in the stretch, but couldn't because he wasn't playing.

Like eBay, I'm hoping the Twins are monitoring possibilities. In eBay land, too often, you avoid biding and just hope that something similar in quality will show up at a later date at your price. But too often it is of lesser quality (albeit cheaper) or higher quality (and still can't/won't afford it).

Anonymous said...

There are more decent players on the market at 2nd and 3rd then there are teams looking for upgrades. We will get an upgrade cheap if we want it, so even though it sucks, waiting it out isn't a bad idea.

I'm not quite sure what Smith is willing to spend, that would be the key in determining what we have left, but I'm pretty convinced we have options. Perkins is gone, which likely means bringing in Kouz, Brandon Phillips, or Dan Uggla, all of whom would be very nice additions and fairly sizable upgrades. If cash is the issue at this point, they could still go out and sign Crede and Kelly Johnson for dirt cheap and keep Perkins as the 5th starter, both of whom would be reasonable upgrades over what we presently have and could end up being huge upgrades if they bounce back...

Jack Steal said...

John,

Obviously Mark DeRosa had no trouble accepting a two-year $12 million dollar offer. This offer was considered very low compared to his three-year $27 million asking price.

Most players want to get signed by January so they can get ready for the upcoming season. You have to make a contract offer when a player is on the market that interests you. The problem with the Twins is they are satisfied with signing Crede and having Punto at second base for 2010. Despite all the talk they have no interest in upgrading!!

tborg said...

I just want to know whether you got the sign or not.

StreetGirl said...

Great post! Nicely done.