Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sloppy logic: Enough with the "if they could spend money on that player" argument

If you overspent on something that stopped running before you expected it to, do you use it as a reminder to be more careful with your money next time? Or do you say, hey, it's okay if I blow too much money on the next item, because I already spent beaucoups of money on the previous one?

That type of argument is one of the debates you hear over and over with the Derek Jeter contract negotiations.All too many people use the argument of "well, if the Yankee could spend money on A.J. Burnett and Carl Pavano and Kei Igawa and Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson and Javier Vazquez, they can spend it on Derek Jeter" to justify his contract demands.

This makes zero logical sense, for a variety of reasons:

* In very few of these cases (Javier Vazquez, Part Deux is a rare exception) it wasn't obvious that the Yankees were making a mistake at the time. Carl Pavano was the top free agent after the 2004 season. The Red Sox actually offered more money for him than the Yankees did. A.J. Burnett was the second-best pitcher on the free agent market when the Yanks desperately needed new arms; even though his 2010 was awful, he did help the Yanks win the 2009 World Series with his pitching and his own, own, intangibles. (Who wants pie?)

As for the Kei Igawa thing, that was a combination of bad scouting advice and the Yanks trying to compete with Boston picking up Dice-K. Also, keep in mind that the reason Yankees have kept him in the minors, and off the 40-man roster, instead of just dumping him is because his $4 million a year salary won't count as part of the team's MLB payroll. If they got rid of him, they would have to pay 40 percent luxury tax on that salary.

* Part of the reason free agents are able to command big money is leverage; if the Yankees don't pay Cliff Lee much more than the Rangers will, he'll stay in Texas. The only leverage Jeter has now is "pay me, I'm a Yankee legend." There isn't a single major league team that will pay Jeter, or any other 36-year-old shortstop with a .710 OPS, anything close to $15 million a year for three years. If Derek were 32 coming off a bad season, the risk would be worth it. This year, not so muh. The Yankees are already giving Jeter extra for his intangibles. Notice that at no point in any of his public utterances so far did Casey Close suggest that re-signing Jeter would help the Yankees in the best position to win. It's all about him being compensated for being a Yankee icon. Well, Yogi Berra is a Yankee icon, too, but I don't think it would do the Yanks any good to pay him $25 million a year.

* Paying legacy money can hamstring a team: Jorge Posada's terrific 2007 season, combined with interest by the Mets, got him a four-year deal from the Yankees. Keep in mind that he had never been on the disabled list his entire career up until that point. I thought four years was way too much, as history has shown us that most catchers are no longer catchers at 40. But others said at the time that since he started catching at a later age, he wouldn't be affected by that. So much for that. Now the Yankees are stuck paying $13 million through the end of 2011 for a catcher who can no longer catch.

* Where does it end? Robinson Cano will be a free agent in a few years. If the Yanks were to pay Derek Jeter $25M a year into his 40s, how much do you think Cano's agent is going to demand -- $35 million a year? How about when Phil Hughes and Brett Gardner are free agents?

This fuzzy logic isn't isolated to Yankeeland, though. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy writes a column today suggesting that the Boston Red Sox fork over $60 million over the next three seasons to sign the captain:
What’s the harm in offering Jeter $20 million a year over three years? If you can pay J.D. Drew $14 million per year . . . if you can pay a Japanese team $50 million just for the right to speak with Daisuke Matsuzaka . . . if you can buy a futbol club for $476 million, why not spend $60 million to bust pinstripe chops for all the ages?

What do you think? Tell us about it!

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