Monday, April 27, 2009

Too Quick to Criticize: Gil Meche

(Everyone is a pundit these days. In the baseball world, people love to judge and criticize contracts because of their value, length, or just general stupidity. But every so often, the supposedly bad contract, actually turns out OK. I'll admit that the instances are rare, but it's important to highlight that every so often, the critics are NOT 100% correct.)

The numbers were staggering.

5 years/$55 million...for Gil Meche. What the hell?

Did the Royals know who exactly Gil Meche was? Was it the same Gil Meche that the rest of baseball saw? The Gil Meche, who had a 4.65 career ERA and in 2004, was sent down to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics?

Yes, that was the same Gil Meche, who GM Dayton Moore was investing so heavily in.

And for a small market club with only a $60-$70 million dollar payroll, the move seemed like a staggering commitment to a guy, who was anything but a sure thing. The Royals had many needs, more than Gil Meche would be able to fill in a lifetime.

The deal just didn't seem to add anyone besides Moore.

Why the Royals Signed Meche:

"What's important to us is accountability," says Moore, once the Braves' highly regarded player-development and scouting director whom the Royals hired last spring to replace Allard Baird. "We have 25 guys in that clubhouse, and all we heard was, 'Go get Gil Meche.' We have our players excited. Our fans are excited. And that's who you're accountable for.

"To me, this is the perfect signing for Kansas City."

"Everybody in baseball realizes that Gil Meche has an outstanding quality to his pitches," Moore says. "You can talk to people and they'll tell that this guy should win 15-plus games a year. I see this guys entering the prime years of his career. Guys just don't break into the major leagues as a No. 1 or No. 2 starter. Look at Johan Santana, Chris Carpenter, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz. It takes time.

"And to get pitchers like that, we'd have to give up (top prospects) Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. We can't afford to give them up. We looked at the free agent market in '07 and '08. We realized that if we're going to do something, we've got to do it now."
Basically, Moore justified the move because this was THE only way the Royals would be able to acquire a pitcher of Meche's ability without giving up the farm was to pay up. Plus, Moore believed that Meche was entering his prime and would be a front of the line pitcher for the Royals.

What the critics said:

Joe Posnanski:
"Wait a minute! The Royals gave Gil Meche what? Fifty-five million? Dollars? Eleven million a year? For Gil Meche? Hello? Is this a joke? Is that American money? Does he come with a chest of doubloons? Can he at least parallel park like those new Lexuses? Is there a doctor in the house?"
Jerry Crasnick:
"There's no getting around it: The signing received worse reviews than Eddie Murphy's performance in "Norbit.'' Media critics either characterized Meche as a payroll bandit-in-waiting or torched Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore for spending so extravagantly on a starter with a 55-44 career record and a 4.65 ERA in a pitcher-friendly ballpark.
The most cutting (and humorous) assessment came from Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman, who observed that "Gil Meche" may be French for "money thrown down a toilet.''
Scott Miller:
"Oh ... my ... goodness."
Why the deal has worked (maybe):

To put it plainly, Meche has established himself as the pitcher no one other than Dayton Moore thought he could become. Before Meche came to KC, he was an average pitcher. But since becoming a Royal, Meche's performance has dramatically improved by delivering two seasons with ERAs under 4. In addition, Meche has been "Steady Eddy" at the front of the rotation, as he is yet to miss a start related to injury.

So far, Gil Meche has proven the doubters wrong with his performance. Is he an ace? No. But what Meche has proven is that he is a more than capable front of the rotation starter, who is a very valuable building block for the Royals.

I don't know if Meche will ever be able to justify the 5 year/$55 million dollar contract, but as it stands right now, Meche is probably Dayton Moore's finest move to date, which in all honesty, is not saying too much. I am still a firm believer that the Royals need to show some dramatic improvement over the next few seasons for the Royals to actually be able to justify the parameters of the contract (length, money). Hopefully, the Royals success is right around the corner.

So let's be honest folks, this deal has NOT been a train wreck for the Royals even though everyone, including myself, thought this deal was doomed from the start.



Zach Sanders said...

This signing is basically what set off the spending spree on starters if I remember right.

At the time, it was an overpay. Now, with the market for starters where it's at, it looks good.

Good anticipation by KC.

Josh said...

I wonder what Meche would have received last offseason if he was a free agent? Probably no more than $30-$40 million, I suppose.

Freakin' economy.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you look at Igwa's contract and then you can pick up Meche's contract? And if you want to post something Zach, at least do some basic homework. Meche was the last 2 to sign that off season. Jason Maquis, Ted Lilly, Jason Schmidt, Vincent Padilla all signed ahead of him with as big a contract. Only Barry Zito signed after Meche. And just name one pitcher that offseason signing that works out for their club besides Meche and Lily?