With baseball back in the swing – at least Spring Training – there are more interesting MLB-wide stories to share. So, share them I will …
- It’s been reported that Matt Garza had an offer from the Angels earlier in the offseason that was very similar to the deal he ultimately took from the Brewers. Why didn’t Garza take the deal with the (presumably) more attractive team in the (presumably) more attractive city? Well, Garza told Adam McCalvy: “[The Angels] offered, but it was more of a weird situation. I was on vacation with my wife and I didn’t want to be disturbed, and it was like, ‘Here it is, we’ll pull it in a certain amount of hours.’ I didn’t have a chance to respond, so I just said, ‘Whatever. It is what it is.’ …. It wasn’t anything big. It was an offer and I said, ‘I’m on vacation. I’m not thinking about baseball, Dude. Me and my wife are enjoying ourselves.’” I’m no baseball player, but, as a guy with young kids and a 364-days-a-year job (well, 365-days-a-year in years with Masahiro Tanaka news on Christmas), I totally understand and respect committing to a vacation with your wife. But … it’s your first, and what might be your only, big-money free agent contract on the line, and the place that you might be living for the next three, four, five years. Knowing that the offseason is feverish and fast-paced and things can turn on a dime, how in the world could you put yourself in a position where you weren’t prepared to act on an offer at a moment’s notice? Maybe the truth is that Garza felt he could do better (he ended up getting $2 million less in guaranteed money from the Brewers than the reported Angels offer), and the vacation thing was just the way it played out. Still. This is not a flattering story in my book.
- (Funny speculation: depending on how early in the offseason the offer came, maybe the Angels don’t make the Mark Trumbo trade for pitching when they did if they’ve already inked Garza. And maybe the Diamondbacks still have Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs when conversing with the Cubs about Jeff Samardzija. And maybe something happens in late December. None of that is likely, but it’s always fun to think about the butterfly’s wings.)
- Cardinals CEO Bill DeWitt, Jr. engaged in a surprisingly candid Q&A with Derrick Goold, in which he discussed, among other things, the Cardinals’ payroll situation. The Cardinals apparently take out more insurance policies than other teams do, which affords them a lot more payroll flexibility in years when they’re hit with serious injury issues (like last year). Here’s a piece of what DeWitt had to say: “We have an ever-growing insurance expense on an annual basis. I think last year it was $4 million or $5 million — in that general range. That’s not factored into (public) payroll numbers. Now, if someone is injured and we get recovery from that, well, that offsets the cost of the insurance and offsets the cost of the player. But it’s getting more expensive to insure players. And you don’t get full coverage. Generally, what we have is a 90- or 180-day deductible. That’s either missing half a season or a whole season. If someone is out six weeks, there’s no recovery. When you have long-term, high-cost contracts we think it makes sense to cover ourselves. If you lose a key player making millions of dollars and you don’t have the resources to replace him, that puts you in a tough spot.” Obviously this approach makes sense only if you have a lot of long-term, big money deals, but it’s a smart way to ensure that, if you’re a competitive team, you won’t necessarily be crushed by injuries if you need to spend in-season to pick up replacements.
- Rob Neyer is officially writing at Fox Sports now, and he takes on the many questions facing the (very expensive) Yankees this year, one season removed from finishing 12 games out in the AL East and missing the playoffs. Neyer says that the “error bar” for the Yankees is huge, given the questions surrounding an aging and unpredictable roster (is Mark Teixeira’s wrist totally effed? can Derek Jeter play one more quality season? is C.C. Sabathia going to continue declining? will Masahiro Tanaka transition well? and so on). Usually, Neyer says, the error bar for a team at the start of the season is about five wins – meaning, we can predict a team’s win total within five, in one direction or the other. If I said the Cubs would win 68 games in 2014, does that set a pretty fair range of win totals for them? 63 to 73 wins? Sounds about right to me.
- Pitcher-turned-writer Dirk Hayhurst takes on the issue of low wages for minor leaguers, which was the subject of a recently-discussed lawsuit. Hayhurst offers a very interesting perspective on life in the minor leagues, and argues that the meager pay such players receive shouldn’t be viewed as the price of “living the dream.” I still don’t know what I think about the issue. On the one hand, playing professional ball – like most jobs – is voluntary, and it’ll pay just enough to keep potential employees lined up. On the other hand, it pays very, very little, and it’s not like minor league players have a seat at the negotiating table when MLB and the MLBPA are negotiating things that directly affect those minor league players.
- Jonathan Papelbon is betting on the Phillies to go all the way this year. In related news, I am now taking all action from anyone named Jonathan Papelbon.
- The most photoshop-ready picture of a raccoon watching baseball you’ll ever see:
— Rob Tornoe (@RobTornoe) February 17, 2014