Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Qs About Ls

Why is it assumed that Jacoby Ellsbury will leave the Red Sox? Can someone tell me exactly what they're basing this on? I even heard Mike Francessa casually say "we know Ellsbury won't be around afta next yeah, he's made that clear." Apparently even Jacoby himself said he'll be leaving, yet I missed it. I just don't understand--are we a team with money, or a team without money? Why is it that when one of our guys is about to reach free agency, we all turn into Marlins fans, assuming the guy will ask for "too much" and we'll literally have no means to pay him? And that therefore we should trade him ahead of time to get something while we can? Why aren't we all saying, "Oh, Ellsbury's up for free agency? I guess we'll be giving him a lot of money, then." And the weird thing is, the guy has gone through all types of seasons: good, iffy, injury-plagued, MVP-caliber...yet no matter how he's doing on any given day, every single person in the world is completely certain he'll be gone.* It's almost like if he's bad, we don't wanna be stuck with him, and if he's good, we can't afford him. With logic like that, how do we expect anybody to stick around? Are the only players a team can keep the ones who are exactly right in the middle between not good enough and too expensive?

I know I asked these same questions before Papelbon left town, and it turned out everybody was right. But what is it that makes you so sure? And don't say "I just hear everyone else saying it." Was there a conference call I missed?

*Similarly, people assumed he'd be unaffordable both before and after we dumped all that salary from the payroll last year.

Two words: Scott. Boras.

Free agency in the modern era is a virtually guaranteed overpay, more so for stars. With rare exceptions, players don't engage Boras' services unless top dollar is the primary goal. Many players have multiple goals--so players like Lester and Pedroia sign extensions, sacrificing the top dollar of free agency for earlier guaranteed money and often a measure of stability with a team. The team might overpay, the player might sacrifice some paydays, but they meet in the middle. That's not the Team Boras strategy. If Ells is good enough for the Sox to want to keep him around over the length of the contract he'd be able to sign, he'll be good enough that someone else will overpay him. And while it's always an inexact science forecasting TOO far out, Jackie Bradley Jr. is likely to be good enough to replace him.

But Papelbon doesn't have Boras and it was the same deal: "we all know Papelbon won't be around much longer...."

And again, I could see that after the MVP-ish season, but there is definitely a feeling of "he might not be all he's cracked up to be" whether it be because of injuries or whatever. Yet nobody says "Ellsbury will be gone IF he plays up to his potential." It's just "he's gone." I guess my biggest question is, What exactly has to happen for a guy like that to be considered a guy we'd sign no matter what?
I think his seemingly being dicked around by the medical staff in Ribgate will play a part. If he has a so-so 2013, then his MVP season will be seen as more of an outlier, and the Sox won't want to pay a premium price for that.
It's a very poor business strategy to ever say of any player "We'll sign him, whatever it takes." (I mean, the closest situation in baseball I could think of recently would have been Pujols in St. Louis, and that didn't even happen.) Players at that level make so much money that to come out and say "I'm going for top dollar," as Papelbon did explicitly (he even seemed to consider it his responsibility to the role of closer to get as much $$ as he could!) basically says "I'm leaving." It baffles me, to be honest--I'd like to think that if I made that much $ I'd rather pick a city where I want to be and get a no-trade clause, even if I sacrificed 25% of my income, than focus on the dollars exclusively. (And I think Pujols might agree with that too, right about now.) But at least through this point, someone has always caved and overpaid for a good player whose focus is the money.

If Ells were to come back, I think it would be in the mode of the few exceptions to that last statement--it would be because something happens again with his health next year and he becomes willing to take a one-year deal to reestablish himself before he signs for six or eight years somewhere else. But even so, by then, the Sox will have Victorino, will probably have Kalish back on track, and will very possibly have Bradley on the cusp, and they may not be interested.
The Red Sox won't sign Ellsbury because he'll be looking for a 5-7 year deal over $100M and we just had to give Adrian Gonzalez away for giving people contracts like that.

I hate the Victorino move, but at least it is only 3 years.
Didn't we give Gonzalez away so we'd have that mystical financial flexibility in order to give Ellsbury his $100 million? We sign Boras clients all the time...why not this time?
sittingstill has said it very well already, but unless your name is Jason Varitek, when you hire Scott Boras, it's primarily to maximize your earnings in the back half of your career, which almost certainly means filing for free agency and going to the highest bidder. I also agree with the comment above that the Sox are unlikely to want to pay a hefty premium for the age 30 to age 36-37 years of someone who has had one MVP level season, but who has been injured or just good but not great most of the rest of the time. Just because you can afford to pay that kind of money doesn't mean that you should; when long-term commitments like that go bad (see Crawford, Carl) they really hamstring your roster flexibilty. You can only get bailed out of crappy deals like that by Magic Johnson only once in a great while.

While, as I noted in the other post, I really hate the Victorino signing, the one thing it does is give the Sox a very solid defensive centerfield option to bridge the period until Bradley is ready to take over.

And, as for Papelbon, he might as well have had Boras as his agent. His agenda to maximize his payday in free agency was very clear for years. For all the things the front office has done wrong in recent years, the decision to not match the Phils' offer for Papelbon was very smart...would have just been another contract they would have had to give to the Dodgers.
I just don't see how everyone's so sure that Ells wants to leave and that the Red Sox don't want to pay him. The thing about the other big free agent signings we've done is that it's a guess how the guy will do in Boston, but Ells is already here. And as for him, so maybe we go and offer him a big contract but for not a lot of years since we know we've got guys in the pipeline, and maybe Ells looks at everything and just says Yes, we don't really know. It just seems like everybody's always so pissed about every single move we make, yet I don't hear those people saying We better keep Ellsbury. If we just let the guy walk and then we get some nobody the next year in CF, you think people will be HAPPY with the situation, arms crossed behind head and feet up going "ahhh, at least we don't have that contract. That we supposedly made room for by dumping all those others..." ?
Again, I think sittingstill provided an excellent response to your question. It's not so much that Ellsbury "wants to leave", it's that his choice of agent strongly suggests that his top priority is to maximize his earnings. Yes, it's true that we don't know with certainty what his intentions are, and it's possible that he could re-sign with the Sox, but that's pretty clearly the far less likely scenario if he actually puts up a big season next year.

And I can't speak for anybody else, but if Ells has a huge '13 season and can leverage that into a 6-year, $110mm contract with another team, I'll be very happy if the Sox let him walk. I hated the Crawford deal from the start, and I don't want them making long-term mega-buck commitments to anybody in their 30's from now on. The thing that made most of last season so miserable right up until the big trade wasn't just that the team was a steaming pile of shit, it was that it was a $189mm steaming pile of shit with very little hope for the immediate or medium-term future. I don't mind watching a crappy team for another couple of years if it's young and the front office has a clear, credible rebuilding plan, and the financial and roster flexibility to execute on it. That Dodger trade was a miracle.

Anyway, the point is moot now that they've signed Victorino. If they do trade Ellsbury or let him walk, it's pretty obvious that they'll move Victorino over to center and figure out another solution for RF.

Personally, I would have gone into full-bore rebuilding mode this winter. Like the Napoli deal, was neutral on the Gomes deal, but I wouldn't have given Victorino anything close to 3 years/$39mm. And I'm still really hoping that the Lester for Wil Myers trade happens.

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