Sorry for not writing this past week. Work took me to Green Bay, WI for the first time. If you’ve never seen Lambeau up close, I highly recommend it. i
Today, I want to use the Red Sox acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez to demonstrate the value in being a well-run, disciplined organization. I italicized disciplined for a reason. Some of the fan base has been up in arms this week that the team hasn’t been more aggressive so far in free agency. In particular, losing Cy Young (I’m sorry, Hisanori Takahashi), to the Angels has been treated in some quarters like losing Mike Hampton back in 2001 – and look how well that turned out.
In case you missed it, the Padres traded their all-star first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox for prospects Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes.
The centerpiece of the deal is Kelly. The Sox took him with the 30th pick in the 2008 draft. MLB’s “slot” for the 30th pick in that draft was $1.21 million. But to convince Kelly to give up a football scholarship at Tennessee, the Sox gave him a $3 million bonus. In that same ’08 draft, the Mets had the 18th, 22nd and 33rd picks. You can’t beat the Mets up for going with Ike Davis over Kelly at #18, but I do think it’s fair to criticize the selection of Reese Havens at 22 instead of going with Kelly. Havens got a $1.5 million bonus at slot. It’s possible Havens may still turn out to be a good (maybe a very good) pro. That said, he could not front a package for a front line player like A-Gon.
Anthony Rizzo was a 2007 6th Round Pick out of high school in Florida. The Sox gave him a $325,000 signing bonus (early 3rd round money). The Mets stuck to slot in ’07 and in the 6th round drafted pitcher Guillaume Leduc (to be fair they drafted Lucas Duda in the 7th) giving him a $120,000 bonus. Rizzo is a premium power hitting prospect who the Pads clearly envision as a future replacement for Gonzalez.
Finally, there’s a name that Mets fans might be familiar with: Reymond Fuentes. Carlos Beltran’s cousin received an at slot bonus ($1,134,000) with the 28th pick in the 2009 draft. The Mets did not have a first round pick in the ’09 draft because our pick went to the Angels for the right to pay K-Rod $39 mil over 3 years (a move seemingly dictated by fans at Omar Minaya’s local bagel shop).
What’s amazing here is how little it would have cost the Mets to have all three players the Sox used to get A-gon. Putting aside whether the Mets could have identified the value of all three players, (and in the case of Kelly and Fuentes there’s every reason to think they could have as they were consensus top talents), the total cost for the three players was only $4.45 million. The Mets spent $1.6 mil (not counting the $39 mil on K-Rod) so the difference is only $2.86 million.
That’s right – for the cost of less than the Mets were paying Scott Schoenweis during this time period, they could have easily had all three players. And this isn’t some “small-market” strategy: this is the Red Sox, who almost certainly have more revenue than the Mets.
In today’s game, the draft represents a true bargain. Even expensive “above-slot” players are cheaper than average lefty-specialists. A big misconception is that “building through the draft” means that you are rebuilding. The sox are proof that by setting aside some more money in the draft you can both build for the future and enhance your current team.
I know I’ve made this point before, but to me, sabermetrics is more than using advanced statistical metrics. Instead, it’s about figuring out how to use resources in the best possible manner.
And that’s why I’m so happy to have the new regime in charge. We may not have a flashy free-agent signing to celebrate this holiday season; but we have something far better: a real plan that will lead to sustainable success going forward. If the $5 mil that went to Takahashi is invested in above-slot bonuses, it will be money (not) well spent.