Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In December the Reds signed reliever Mike Lincoln to a two-year contract worth $4 million plus incentives. I thought this was a ridiculous idea then (although I don't think I mentioned it until I posted my season preview), and it's looking like an unrepairable disaster now.
My reasons for disliking the Lincoln deal went deeper than he was below average in 2008. Words...
Before the 2008 season the Reds signed average-at-best journeyman Josh Fogg to a one-year, $1 million contract. I hated everything about it. The Reds were a long way from winning the 85-88 games necessary to be labeled a contender, and Josh Fogg wasn't the guy who was going to put the Reds over the hump. He wasn't particularly young, he had no upside and he was only here for one season. And even a highly unlikely career year (something like 14-8, 4.20 ERA) wouldn't vault the Reds into contention.
If I knew that, I'm guessing then-Reds GM Wayne Krivsky did, as well -- so why did they flat-out waste one million American dollars on Josh Fogg? You gots me...
And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking $1 million is nothing to a professional baseball team. To that...I say...you're crazy.
Sure, Reds owner Bob Castellini will make himself plenty of dough this season, but he's still working on a budget. And until asses start planting themselves in seats with greater regularity at GABP $1 million will continue to be a lot of money.
Which explains why the Reds just spent another draft with signability being more important than overall talent.
With the eighth overall pick the Reds selected Arizona State righty Mike Leake. He put up phenomenal numbers in a highly competitive conference, and yet he's better known for his control. His control! Not exactly what you want to hear about the guy you need to become a front-of-the-rotation starter in the near future. Sure, he was thought of as a consensus first round pick, and he might end up being a solid pitcher (or better), but he wasn't the top pitching prospect available. Far from it. That designation belonged to left-handed high schooler Tyler Matzek, who the Rockies plucked eleventh overall.
The Reds never pick guys like Matzek. Ever. They can't afford it. Often times they're Scott Boras clients with outrageous salary demands. And often times they fall to the Yankees or Red Sox, teams who (a.) pick at the end of the first round and (b.) have virtually no monetary restrictions.
It would be easy to call this sort of thing unfair, and, okay, it kind of is. But that doesn't mean the Reds (and other financially-limited franchises) can't get creative to level the playing field.
Let's revisit Opening Day, 2008.
The Reds were paying Fogg $1 million, Juan Castro something similar and Ryan Freel in the $3.5 million range (I think). And now that I think of it, David Ross was due well over $2 million. Individually, not a ton of money. But collectively, that's a small fortune to be paying players who -- even if they all approached their career-best seasons -- wouldn't make a dent in the Reds' fate (good or bad). They were role-playing journeymen, and only the richest of teams can afford to overpay for humans of this ilk.
Now rewind a little bit more to the the 2007 MLB draft.
With the 15th overall pick the Reds chose HS catcher Devin Mesoraco. He was far from a sure thing and playing the most impossible position to project. To this point in his professional career he's struck out 129 times and belted only two home runs. He's only fourteen months younger than Jay Bruce, stuck in Single A Sarasota and it'd be a small miracle if he ever plays one game at GABP. More than likely, Devin Mesoraco was a wasted first round draft pick. But at least he was signable!
At the same time the Reds were reaching for a signable high school catcher a dynamic high school pitcher kept getting ignored by teams who were afraid of Scott Boras. Behind David Price, he was the No. 2 pitching prospect in the draft, and considered to be a future ace. His name is Rick Porcello, he pitches for the Detroit Tigers and he's currently having his way with American League hitters.
He's 20-years-old, and the Reds coulda had him for the price of inconsequential nothings like David Ross, Juan Castro, Ryan Freel and Josh Fogg.
And right now he'd be sandwiched between Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez to form the best collection of young pitching talent in the history of the organization.
And to think, the Tigers, who grabbed Porcello 27th overall, only had to give him four years and $7.2 million ($3.5 guaranteed) with two one-year options (bringing the total of the contract to just over $11 million). In other words, chump change for a 20-year-old ace.
So, would you rather have Rick Porcello as a cornerstone of your rotation...or would you rather have Devin Mesoraco (toiling away in the low minor leagues) and one season (or less) of Ryan Freel, Juan Castro, Josh Fogg and David Ross?
(And Corey Patterson! I forgot about Corey Patterson! Somehow. He made over $3 million in '08 -- my argument continues to gain strength.)
See what I mean? Do you see how careless the Reds are when it comes to spending money, even though it seems like their hands are tied?
Yes, I know, it's frustrating.
Which is why I hate the idea of drafting a limited-upside pitcher like Mike Leake over Tyler Matzek, the endlessly talented high schooler.
Which is why the Reds shouldn't throw money at mammals like Mike Lincoln (especially when they're coming off a shaky season). Lincoln's 2008 statistics can be replicated by any number of arms in AAA Louisville...for league minimum. And even if I'm off base by suggesting that, I'd still rather have a minimum-wage disaster in my bullpen if it meant the Reds were going to spend more money on draft picks and international players.
Gimme Porcello over Mesoraco.
Gimme Matzek over Leake.
And stop spending money on underwhelming 34-year-olds.
Talent trumps chemistry in every sport, especially baseball. I'm pretty sure everyone knows this. But talent costs money, and the Reds are wasting theirs.
-Brad Spieser (Brad@TwinKilling.com)
Posted by Twin Killing dot Com at 9:51 AM