Posts Tagged ‘Standoffs’

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Varitek and Boras

January 26, 2009

After leaving him (fairly deservedly) out in the cold for months, the Red Sox have decided to make Jason Varitek an unconventional offer. The deal, as reported by Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe, would pay Varitek one year at five million, with two 2010 options: a club option at five million, and a player option at three.

The idea here is probably to gradually reduce Varitek’s playing time. Peter Gammons mentioned this weekend that only six catchers have ever caught over 100 games at age 37, and the Red Sox are not the kind of team to try to make Varitek number seven. If Varitek is OK with a reduced role, he can come back with the player option. If Varitek defies his clear aging trend and decline in performance, then the Red Sox can bring him back. 

The offer smells like a sympathy/public relations move. While the Red Sox did not have terribly compelling catching options in-house between Josh Bard and George Kottaras, those two did have the virtue of being cheap. Varitek, even if he plays 2009 like the average of 2006-2008 seasons, does not figure to perform far above the level of Bard, and a return to form would be blindly optimistic.

It’s not as if Varitek has other options. Since he and Scott Boras stupidly turned down salary arbitration (which likely would have netted Varitek at least $10 million), no team has been willing to take a look at Varitek, for fear of losing their first-round draft pick as compensation. Knowing that teams were unwilling to pay for Varitek at any price, the Red Sox had no need to give Varitek more than it would take to prevent him from retiring or sitting out the season. Theo Epstein and Co. may have judged five million dollars to be a sum that will bring Varitek back and shields them from being called stingy in the media if Varitek were to refuse, but Epstein has not appeared to care much about media opinion in the past.

Boras (and Varitek) badly misread the market here. In 2004, when  Varitek posted an .872 OPS and was the toast of baseball for managing Boston’s top-flight stable of pitchers to their “curse-breaking” world championship, they had most of  the leverage. Now, after three seasons of poor play and a poor gamble, the Red Sox have all the leverage. The Sox’ deal apparently has a deadline. It would behoove Mr. Boras and Mr. Varitek to swallow their collective pride and accept before the deadline passes.

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Let’s Make a Trade

January 14, 2009

Michael Young is upset, according to his comments to the Dallas Morning News:

“I’m not playing third base, I’m pretty adamant about my stance.”

The sabermetric blogosphere (including this analysis by Dave Cameron at the always excellent FanGraphs) has been supplying the masses with analysis of Young’s reliance on contact, his poor defensive performance as measured by modern metrics, and his bloated, foolish 5-year, $80 million contract extention. Young is being dramatically overpaid: his contract is that of a franchise cornerstone, and Rangers management must have thought he was that kind of player when they made the offer, or they must have thought the market was about to be subject to rapid inflation. While I agree with most of the sabermetrically-grounded analysis I’ve read about Young’s shortcomings with both his plate discipline and his defense (outside of the double play, at which he is very good), we seem to be ignoring a fundamental aspect of the standoff between Young and Texas: Young is not under contract to be a shortstop, he is under contract to play baseball.

For their $16 million per year, the Rangers are entitled to Michael Young’s services as a baseball player. Young is under an obligation to assist the Rangers in whatever role they request within reason. If the Rangers were to ask Young to pitch, that might be unreasonable, as he’s not prepared for such activity, and could injure himself and jeopardize his career. Asking a player to shift from shortstop to third base to make room for a very talented young fielder is not unreasonable. It is not the Rangers job to make Young happy, although they may want to do so to maximize his performance. It is, however, Young’s job to play when and where the Rangers ask him to play.

In general, I’m not going to wail about player salaries here. Major League Baseball is an incredibly profitable buisness, and the players are the reason for the success. They deserve to be paid a large share of revenues. I’m not mad Michael Young is earning $80 million from 2009-2013. What irks me is when players who are under contract refuse or threaten not to provide their services (such as in Young’s case) or take out their dissatisfaction with the team by playing below their best (Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield). These players are forgetting that they signed contracts to play baseball, and as long as they are cashing pay checks, they have an obligation to do whatever they can to help their team win. Whether this means changing positions, or moving from the rotation to the bullpen, or playing in a platoon role, a contract is a contract.