I’ll start off by cutting Dayton Moore some slack. No one knew, except (supposedly) a few smug I-told-you-so’s on Wall Street, just how far the economy would dive. Blaming Moore now for not predicting that Orlando Hudson—who rejected a 3 year, $24 million deal just a short time ago in hopes that he’d find something in the neighborhood of 5 years, $50 million—would be available for 1 year, $5 million, is the ultimate unfair second guess.
Dutton reports Hudson would take 1 year at $4.4 million + incentives that would raise it to $8 million. Where the hell did Dutton get such precise info? Was he drinking playing miniature golf and drinking Old Crowe with Hudson’s agent? “Alright, alright, alright. I get a hole in one in the Hippo’s mouth, you give me the exact details of Hudson’t demand... to the penny...”
If that’s the case, then 2 years, $10 million guaranteed gets it done. That’s a time capsule of a contract; you’re getting a 31-year-old Grudzielanek who walks more and hits for more power for the exact same price we paid the grizzled version. Shocking, isn’t it? Not Bobby-Abreu-for-$5-million shocking, but shocking. Still, I refuse to say Moore should have known he could afford Hudson. No one knew any of this would happen, and no one knows just how bad this economic train wreck is going to be. Greinke’s contract is looking smarter and smarter (for Greinke) every day.
Prediction: free agent classes are going to get worse because even more players are going to lock themselves into long-term,“discounted” deals. Fear of the unknown is a powerful force. Maybe we should offer Moustakas a ten year deal right now.
Kyle Farnsworth was one of the first, if not the first, free agent signed this offseason. Moore has to be cursing fate for that contract at the moment, and not for any of the reasons TDERRC (The Discerning Eye of the Royals Review Community) is criticizing it. Moore basically bought stock in Citigroup circa September 2008. A lot of it. TDERRC and the rest of the baseball loving nation never would have believed at the Farnsworth signing, even with the foreshadowing of an eerily quiet Winter Meetings, that there was about to be the ultimate blue light special on top shelf offensive players.
Let’s call December of ’08 ‘normal economic times’ just for fun. Even in normal economic times, Royals Nation gasped at the size of the Farnsworth contract. I looked around on the internet for a list of the largest non-closer relief contracts (and because of inflation, we can probably assume this to be a list of the largest non-closer relief contracts ever—IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL!!).
Finding no such list, I started looking team-by-team in USA Today’s online baseball salary database. Then I realized it was around 11:00 am and, being that I was at work and all, I umm, felt I should probably put away my salary calculator before my job’s equivalent of Dayton Moore rounded the corner of my cube. I got through around nine teams and found that a lot of teams have one highly paid middle reliever. The big market teams have two. In 2008, the Cubs, who have a lot of highly paid everything, have Scott Eyre at 3.8 mil, and Bobby Howry at 4.5. The Southsiders (yeah, I’m calling them big market, mainly because they’re in a big market) have Dotel at 5 mil, and Scott Linebrink at 4. The Red Sox have Julian Tavarez at 3.8 mil and Mike Timlin at 3. And now the Royals have Ron Mahay at 4 and Professor Farsworth, PhD., at 4.5. That’s rolling with the Cubs and Red Sox. When the hitters go out to party, the Sox and Cubs (and Jose Guillen) hang out at Scores in Las Vegas, while the Royals hang out at a dive called Scoreboard’s in Los Alamos. While the big market starting pitchers (and Gil Meche) hit Plaza III, the Royals rotation hits Chubby’s on Broadway. But when the middle relievers go out, the Royals are crowding the limo.
Actually, the Royals and Orioles have their own limo. Danys Baez received $6,166,666 last year for his services. Dollars, that is. It’s not really fair to put Baez in the middle reliever category, since he was signed originally as a closer. But...
Alright let’s talk about Danys Baez and the Orioles for a second. Baez apparently “studied physics in Cuba. He loves animals and has a boxer named Lennox in honor of professional boxer Lennox Lewis.” Okay that’s something. He started off okay with the Indians and wasn’t quite what they thought he’d be as a starter. And so they turned him into a closer. Makes sense. As a closer he had 25 saves, not bad...and 10 blown saves which tied for the league lead. Hey, he was young. He then went to Tampa where he converted 30 of 33 saves. Now we’re talking. Then he was traded to the Dodgers where he was demoted from the closer role after blowing four straight games. L.A. traded him to the Braves, where he threw a 5.4 ERA and 82 ERA+ for the remainder of the season as a setup guy to Bob Wickman. That offseason, the Orioles signed him for 3 years, $19 million.
Wooooooow. (There’s this cable commercial where I live, wherein a family is watching a new flatscreen TV that has, apparently, an incredible image because everyone is saying ‘Wooooow,’ including a flea that is sitting on the cat’s back. I’m now channeling the flea).
The whole point of this digression was to show how ludicrous the Farnsworth contract really is. But I don’t think it holds a candle to the Baez contract. The Orioles also pay Chad Bradford 3.6 mil, who might well be worth it. Regardless, the dinner tab is definitely on the Orioles’ middle relievers.
So the Royals are rolling with the big dogs when it comes to their bullpen, while the O-dog will work for food at second base. Now, I don’t want to go too crazy over O-dog here; he’s a good player, no doubt. Above average offensively, well above average defensively. He has roughly a 3:2 strikeout to walk ratio, an OPS+ that has been consistently over a hundred, roughly a .350 obp. He’ll hit you around 10 homers, 30 doubles, and he recently had two seasons in a row where he hit 9 triples. Wait a minute, maybe I should gush over him. 30 doubles (at second base)? 9 triples? Throw in around 10 stolen bases? What are the Royals thinking here?
Alright, deep breath. We didn’t know he’d be this affordable. But that’s not why I brought up Kyle Farnsworth. With the Farnsworth contract, and the Hoagy contract before him, the Royals painted themselves into a corner. Good fortune is when preparedness meets opportunity, someone’s dad likes to say. Well, we met our opportunity. And we weren’t prepared.
We might not have known Hudson would be available to us. But we did know, TDERRC knew, that that Farnsworth contract was going to come back and bite us in the *ss. It already has, and the season hasn’t even started yet.