Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Deal or No Deal

Over at the Bleacher Bums, which is one of the many blogs I should really stop by more, David Zingler wrote up a piece called "Nathan Contract Doesn't Make Sense". His basic argument is that after the Twins didn't pay Johan Santana $137M, they certainly shouldn't pay Joe Nathan $47M.

His basic point is right on, which is that if the Twins can stretch and accept the risks inherent with Nathan, they should have been able to accept the risks inherent with the best left-handed pitcher of this millenium. I made a similar point in the days after he was traded. But there is a key difference for the Twins, and when I started to write it up, I realized I might well crash their comment posting system, so let's go over it here. (Hope you see this David.)

Tuesday night, The Voice of Reason was watching Deal or No Deal, which has become her latest innocent addiction. The contenstant was a young, recently engaged woman who had three cases left - $1,000,000, $500,000 and $25. She could either accept the offer from The Banker for $404,000 or choose to open a case. She would NOT get whatever amount was in that case, and The Banker would then give her another offer.

With two big amounts left on the board, she chose to open a case. In her mind, she had a 2/3 chance of making more money than was being offered. But, in fact, the opposite was true, and that became very apparent within the next five minutes.

Because the case that was opened was the $500,000 case, meaning she was going to end up with either $25 or $1,000,000. Or whatever The Banker offered her. What would you do?

It's obvious, right? You MUST take the banker's offer at that point. And in this case, he made it none too easy, lowballing her with a $340,000 offer. But as she's trying to get up the guts to stick it to The Banker and go for it, her fiance is saying "Be smart. Be Smart." He didn't even need to say what option was the "smart" one. She knew. We all knew. And of course she took the offer.

That's why, when she rejected the $404,000 offer, there was really a 2/3 chance of her leaving with less money than that. Despite 2/3 of the cases being worth more than that. It was going to be impossible for her to swallow that risk. A kid playing with imaginary money can take that risk. A millionaire who already has financial security can take that risk. But with a $25 stink bomb still in play, she was never going to be able to take that risk.

That's the difference between the Nathan deal the Twins signed and the Santana deal they didn't even offer. They can gamble on paying $11.25M four years from now. They couldn't gamble on paying $25 million seven (incuding the option) years from now. The money was too much. The length was too long. The risk was too great. As much as they wanted to, you know someone was whispering to them "Be smart. Be smart."

Which isn't to say that they shouldn't have, because sometimes it pays to take the risk. That's a lesson the contenstant now knows well. The case in her hand, the one she sold for $340,000 (because it was the smart thing to do), held $1,000,000.


Speaking of blogs I should stop by more often, Judd Spicer has taken over the role that Pete Schilling Jr. had as the baseball guy at City Pages Balls Blog. Judd has written for GameDay on a number of occasions, usually something offbeat and entertaining, like when he tried to convince Joe Mauer to get a haircut at his girlfriend's salon. As soon as I can figure out how to get just th MLB posts to come over to the MNGameDay.com feed, I'll include it. In the meantime, check it out.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weekend Notes

Lotsa little things to talk about, but nothing major. Let's start reporting and see where this goes...

Joe Nathan Signing is Imminent
ESPN, TwinsBaseball.com and Star-Tribune are all reporting that the Twins and Joe Nathan are very close to a deal, and that deal is a four year contract for $11-12M per year. Beyond that we don't know any details.

There is really only one I care about: is there a no-trade clause? I outlined the parameters of a possible deal about a month ago, and this looks like it's going to exceed that by a million or so per year. That's fine - that's what a team should do for a premier player - but the deal cannot include a no-trade clause.

Why? Because if it doesn't have a no-trade clause, it's a movable contract if one assume Nathan stays effective and healthy. That means it's an asset to the organization.

You can argue that the Twins shouldn't be paying much over $42M. Nathan was going to hit the market next year and get either a three-year deal for $14M per year or a four-year deal at slightly less. A three year deal for $14 million is $42 million. If you add the $6M the Twins are paying this year, that's $48 million. So the Twins could have essentially let him walk as a free agent (or traded him at the deadline) and still been suitors for him next year at that kind of money. To give him that guarantee a year early requires a discount.

Contract talks have traditionally not been one of this organiztions strengths. There have been signs lately that has changed, and that there is some more creativity in place under Bill Smith than there had been under Terry Ryan. This contract is the first realy test Smith faces on that front. If there isn't a no-trade clause, it will be interesting to see the details. If there is, it might well be sickening to see the details.

Center Field Decision Today
Speaking of interesting decisions, Monday is the day we'll supposedly see Carlos Gomez or Denard Span win the center field job for Opening Day. On his radio show today, Ron Gardenhire indicated as much, and the Pioneer Press reported the same thing.

I'm not sure I have a dog in this fight, but from a distance of 1500 miles, I'd probaby choose Denard Span. Gomez seems like a potential superstar, but also doesn't seem ripe yet. Span might not be either, but there's more downside if he's mishandled, and he seems to a little more ready than Gomez. If he has the newfound plate discipline he seems to have shown, he also might be a better fit for the leadoff spot, a lineup spot the Twins are struggling to fill.

Note that I'm not saying the Twins will keep Denard Span. Ron Gardenhire tries so hard not to tip his hand today that I wondered if he really knew himself. He gushed about Gomez's game on Saturday, and Sunday Span again went 0 for 4, though he again added to his walk total. And the whole staff seems to go a little gaga when they talk about Gomez, in a way that makes me a little uncomfortable. I'd probably give slightly better odds that Span is the odd man out tomorrow.