#BlueJays signed 1B Daric Barton per team. Minor league deal.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) December 16, 2014
It’s never a good idea to take the public utterances of a baseball executive — or any executive, really, or a politician, or… just about anybody with an agenda — at face value, so I don’t know if it’s healthy to read too much into comments from White Sox G.M. Rick Hahn about his conversations with ownership as ticket sales were spiking in the wake of their splashy additions of Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche, etc. But holy hell, whereas in this city we get executives paying hollow, sycophantic lip service to the supposed benevolence of the Corporation whenever the idea of raising the budget is broached, did the Chicago White Sox ever just demonstrate — or claim to — a dynamic between ownership and ballclub that actually works.
Or at the very least an owner that actually gets it, as opposed to one that just pretends to get it and treats fans like a bunch of rubes who won’t see through the transparent facade.
“The ATM was empty and the White Sox offseason spending spree was over,” explains the Chicago Tribune. “That was the message general manager Rick Hahn delivered last Thursday at the winter meetings in San Diego, capping a nice winter renovation.” But apparently things quickly changed:
“Hahn said ‘the response we’ve received from Sox fans so far this year, in response to our moves’ led to a ticket sales increase that convinced Reinsdorf to go for it.
“‘As we sit here today, we’re beyond where we expected to go in terms of 2015 payroll,’ Hahn said. ‘And that is a direct result of Jerry saying he saw a fit, he understood what we wanted to do, and in the end gave us the flexibility to convert on the deal.'”
“I know that as of our conversations Saturday afternoon with Jerry, he felt good about the sales numbers we had been receiving all offseason. I think the last week there’s certainly been a significant uptick, given our activity (in San Diego),” Hahn adds. “But really, throughout this entire offseason, we’ve felt and seen in our fans a level of excitement and optimism that’s helped me us feel more confident about what we can handle from a payroll standpoint.”
I’d supect that there are White Sox fans who’d find it pretty amusing to see Reinsdorf held up as a model owner. But here we are.
Of course, I think that, given the history, Jays fans can be forgiven for not rushing out and throwing down their money on tickets the way that White Sox fans did, and maybe the takeaway here is that it’s on fans to drive spending and not ownership at all.
But no. It’s not The takeaway is that it must be seriously fucking nice having an owner who is responsive to team needs, and that understands the huge importance of spending dollars at the top of the budget threshold to add the kinds of pieces that can take a team projected to win 86-89 games to the crucial 90+ win projection mark and beyond. Yes, he wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t tied to ticket sales, but still. Cute as it is to be able to say that your club has a “top ten payroll,” or whatever it is, it’s the dollars that get spent to push the boundaries of what’s possible that usually end up being hugely important. Good on the White Sox for seeing it.
Image via the internet
Brandon Morrow has followed in the illustrious footsteps of former teammate Josh Johnson and, according to a tweet from MLB.com’s Corey Brock, signed a one-year deal with the San Diego Padres.
It’s a deal that makes complete sense, in that this is exactly the kind of thing that pitchers trying to rebuild some value do — even if, y’know, these pillow deals never seem to work out, and even if they do, it’s not like clubs aren’t going to look at any success he might have in spacious Petco Park as somewhat suspicious.
The Padres had opportunity to offer him. They could also offer the chance to live in San Diego and pitch a whole lot (provided he is actually able to stay on the field) in some really friendly environments. Perhaps most crucially, according to a follow-up tweet from Brock, it’s an incentive-laden deal — something the Blue Jays don’t do, as noted by Jeff Blair here.
Brock tells us that Morrow will make a base salary of $2.5-million, with incentives that could add another $5-million if he starts, or another $1-million if he ends up in the bullpen, which means San Diego has a nice little low-risk, high-reward contract on its hands (though the fact that the contract is low risk doesn’t mean there isn’t still genuine risk that he gives them nothing).
The Canadian dollar closed the day on Monday at 85.8 cents US. “CIBC economists, in a new currency outlook,” according to a Globe and Mail piece last week, “forecast that the loonie will sink to about 85.5 cents by early next year, then edge lower in the second quarter and then close in on the 81-cent level by the third quarter.”
Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays continued to sit on their hands as other MLB jump full-on into the free agent market.
Chase Headley signed with the Yankees for four years and $52-million. Jed Lowrie returned to Houston for three years and $23-million. Jason Motte went to the Chicago Cubs on a $4.5-million one-year deal with incentives. Brett Anderson signed an incentive-laden one-year deal with the Dodgers with a base salary of $10-million. Alex Rios has signed with the Royals for one year and $11-million.
And, of course, over the weekend, Melky Cabrera signed with the Chiago White Sox for three years and $42-million.
Taken individually, that the Jays passed on all of these players at these prices — or whatever extra we might think it would have taken to get them to Toronto — is pretty defensible. But taken in concert, all of the above facts, along with ownership’s history of dispassionately slashing or freezing payroll at the expense of their own product, and fans start to worry.
Add it to rumblings from someone like Bob McCown that “the team lost a fair bit of money last year, and Rogers wasn’t thrilled” — for whatever little those are worth, given that less than three weeks before he was saying there may not be a real limit to payroll, and that Rogers’ aim was to use their ownership of the club to help burnish their reviled brand — and machinations behind the possible ouster of Paul Beeston as team president, and you get where the fan vitriol that again seems to be strongly pushing through the surface of the conversation about the club is coming from.
What role any of this stuff has in the Jays quiet few weeks is hard to pinpoint. The idea that the team is losing money is, of course, preposterous, unless one isn’t factoring in the TV rights fees Rogers doesn’t have to pay to itself. Any time the dollar is mentioned someone will be quick to point out that a big company like Rogers will be hedged against currency fluctuations, but to what extent that will help spare them… nobody seems to have any idea. Alex Anthopoulos could very well be slow-playing the market, especially when it comes to pitching. He could also be be losing out on guys who’d rather be in other situations — Lowrie, if the Jays even wanted him, staying near his Houston home and taking advantage of Texas’s lack of a state income tax and Motte choosing the Cubs — or to teams with less margin for error, as in the Dodgers and Anderson (whose $10-million salary means a whole lot less on their books than it would tied to Alex’s neck).
It may be the San Diego Padres who end up winning the mini-sweepstakes to land Japanese infielder Takashi Toritani. That’s just a guess, mind you, but it’s one based on the fact that a report from Sanspo, via Yahoo! Japan, says that the San Diego Padres would be looking to bring Toritani to North America to play his natural position, shortstop.
The Jays, of course, only have interest in him as a second baseman.
Sure, money ultimately could change his mind — and you don’t hire Scott Boras as your agent if you’re not thinking of money first and foremost — but at the moment that doesn’t necessarily bode well for the Jays either. And… well… add that to the fact that the west coast would likely be preferable to a player from San Diego, as well as that… y’know… it’s San Diego, and suddenly you maybe don’t like Alex Anthopoulos’s chances so much.
But again, the fact that he’s with Boras suggests that those peripheral factors may not exactly be paramount, and maybe he’s not as bothered by the idea of a position switch as I’m guessing. We shall see, I suppose — and perhaps soon, as earlier on Monday I passed along reports that a decision on where Toritani will play could come as soon as this week.
Here are some relevant passages from the Sanspo report, awesomely translated by Google, which of course also bring up the damn turf issue:
Padres is I was found to be presenting the “best conditions” for Toritani. I just found that we have been negotiating with Blue Jays, but was revealed comprehensively the story of the US baseball official, it’s the content. Rather than a second baseman, towards the major contract in the shortstop of the professional, and that are discussing.
. . .
Jed Jako infielder of the season from 6-year contract to second base (26), but the third base there are promising strain as Yanherubisu-Sorate infielder (27), hole of guerrilla vacant To gaping. So, I mean Toritani emerged.
Home Petco Park is also the burden to the foot small in natural grass. San Diego’s climate also livable in Japanese also warm and safe urban. Studied to Iguchi (now Lotte) is also a baseball team was a member of the 2008.
So… there’s that.
Crotch grab in the direction of Gideon Turk for passing along the article via Twitter.
Image via Wikimedia Commons