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Monday, May 05, 2008

Streeter-Wise? On The Relative Merits Of Bad Contracts

I recollect some talk over the weekend at DT about Kurt Streeter's Sunday column, which is beginning to reflect the one-size-fits-all wisdom that the Angels are playing the free agency game smarter than the Dodgers. An anti-McCourt bias being one of this blog's hallmarks, I hereby reply to this in the following manner:
  1. The name Gary Matthews, Jr. never appears therein. GMJ is probably as big a mistake contract as Juan Pierre's, though I will observe that GMJ last year racked up 15 win shares while Pierre wasn't far behind with 13, with virtually the entire difference explicable by Matthews' slightly higher SLG and better fielding. (Incredibly, Pierre, who gets the hate around here for his crappy OBP, was still better than Little Sarge, .331 vs. .323, though the difference requires a microscope to detect.) The Angels have their flaws, and yet Streeter misses this big honker of an "oops".
  2. Just wait until 2010-2011. The one saving grace of the awful Jones deal is its brevity; signed to only two years, Jones will be an albatross, albeit an expensive one, through 2009; the Angels are betting on at least three years of solid play from Hunter in an already geriatric outfield, and it's pretty clear that he can't make up for a declining Garret Anderson (who's showing signs this year that he's done with his awful start) and Vlad Guerrero. Moreover, Hunter's skill set, which is not a little dependent on speed, is liable to decline in a hurry. In centerfield, a guy who can hit 20-25 homers annually is a real rarity; but that's at his peak, and by the time he gets relegated to one of the corner spots with rotations through DH as Scioscia is wont, the cost of that deal will be really apparent. (The Angels haven't had a real dedicated DH who can actually hit since Brad Fullmer.) That is, Hunter was a deal for a team that can afford to squander pelf on free agents they perfectly well know won't be viable three years into a five year deal.
Buying into the Angels-GM-smarter-than-Dodgers-GM trope requires selective memory. Both GMs are making different but equally lousy deals; how bad the Hunter deal is depends on how soon Father Time starts knocking on his locker.

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The thing about Hunter is that, supposedly, he has value beyond what he contributes on the field in terms of performance. It's hard to put a dollar figure on his willingness to talk to the media and to represent the franchise. As great a player as he is, Vlad has shied away from being the focal point of any kind of marketing campaign, or the guy who'll take the time to answer all of the questions even after an ignominious loss. His willingness to take on that role relieves others who are more reticent. That alone is not worth $90 million, but it's worth something.
Rob, good points you make.

But.... 1) i'd still argue GMJ was a better signing, and 2) both you and Streeter offer an incomplete GM comparison this decade for FAs and overall trades. Off the top of my head, the Angels got Vlad, Escobar, and Bartlolo (who did offer some value for a while), and one solid year for J. Guillen (who in turn brought Rivera and Izturis). Angel management has mostly gotten their releases right too (Glaus/Percival would be nice to have but $$ have to be considered, Kennedy/Eckstein were good decisions as well as discarding the Molinas). And after a month, the Garland trade looks solid, considering Aybar's play and the lack of Lackey/Escy so far.

i can't speak knowledgably about the Dodgers moves this decade, but Street highlighted more of their poor signings.

btw, i think Streeter is an awesome writer - he does some excellent work.
jjack -- I was thinking from almost day one that Hunter really takes on the mantle of Public Face Of The Team that Tim Salmon used to have, and Vlad has uneasily worn since the former's exit.

Brian -- I agree, this isn't the subject for just a single comparison, but that's the disadvantage of Streeter's approach. Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts ran a piece shortly after Ned Colletti took over in Chavez Ravine comparing the two GM's philosophical similarities. There's a really good follow-up piece waiting to be written on that subject.
... uh, the two GM's in question being the deposed Paul DePodesta and Ned Colletti.

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