Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Add Ons

Can you feel it? Yes, we are still two months away from the trading deadline, but the buzz is beginning to build. Everyday, it seems, there is a new rumor or idea being proposed as injuries begin to mount and team's weaknesses become more defined. All the focus in the coming weeks will be on which contenders are able to pull off the big move as they stride towards the playoffs.

But what I never understood about the trading deadline is why the sellers seemingly ALWAYS go for prospects. Yeah, I know, it always looks good to get something back, but at certain points, wouldn't it better to try and focus on moving terrible contracts? Obviously, there is no salary cap in the MLB, which makes "salary dump" trades far less likely, but I, for one, would love to see teams use their valuable trade chip to try and get rid of the absurd salary of a far lesser player.

For example:

-Mariners: If teams want to make a move for Erik Bedard or Russell Branyan, then the Mariners should insist that teams take on Kenji Johjima, who is owed $16 million over the next two seasons. I doubt any team would be willing to take on the entire salary, but attaching Johjima to Bedard might be the best opportunity for the Mariners to shed Johjima's extension and a majority of the money owed to him. Teams are that desperate for front line starting pitching.

-Rockies: If teams want to make a move for Brad Hawpe and/or Jason Marquis, then the Rockies should attempt to deal Todd Helton as well in the same deal. Both Marquis and Hawpe are valuable trade chips because of their contract status, but Todd Helton is still owed over $35 million over the next two years. The Rockies main goal during the deadline should be to find a trading partner to take on some of Helton's salary because that's the only way the Rockies will be able to compete in the near future.

-Diamondbacks: If teams make a push to acquire Doug Davis, then GM Josh Byrnes should try to include Eric Byrnes and the nearly $10 million owed to him as well. Once again, starting pitching is a hot, hot commodity in baseball right now and if teams are serious about upgrading their staff with Davis, then they will have to take on at least some of Byrnes's contract. Byrnes can still be an effective fourth OF, while the Diamondbacks would clear up a roster spot for a young guy or even a free agent.

Perhaps this whole idea is just a pipe dream and is not possible in theory. But who knows?

All three of the teams I mentioned above could gain some VALUABLE financial flexibility to go after proven commodities in the offseason that could enhance their ability to be contenders in 2010 and beyond. When it comes down to it, having payroll flexibility is extremely valuable and more of a guarantee than any prospect.

Sellers in the marketplace need to take advantage of the remaining leverage that they do have. Prospects and young players are all the rage, and rightfully so, but before teams simply go ahead and move their top talent for young guys and unknowns, they should try their damnedest to move the worst contracts they have.


tHeMARksMiTh said...

Interesting ideas. However, I'm not sure that's a good idea. Especially in the case of a Bedard, you really need good prospects, and I fear that attaching Johjima would hurt the return. I don't think you want to do that when rebuilding. If you're rebuilding, then your team will be cheaper, allowing for some bad contracts. The Mariners have a couple more seasons to hope for a hot streak to get something back for Johjima. Don't give up possible talent when you're rebuilding.

As for the Diamondbacks, they aren't really rebuilding, and they could use the extra money. I'm not convinced that they should spend it on the young players they have, but it might be a good idea to attach Byrnes.

Mike said...

I like the idea, but it will never fly...the players' union would never go for it, because it inches closer to ideas used in salary capped leagues.

Ben said...

This already happens in some other cases, like when the Marlins made the Sox take Mike Lowell along with Josh Beckett. That worked out alright for the Sox (not saying we'd see the same from Johjima or Byrnes, though). The Marlins had made Lowell a ride-along on proposed deadline deals earlier that year, and hadn't found any takers, though, so maybe it isn't a great idea.

Anonymous said...

This is how the Red Sox got Lowell. The Marlins would only trade Beckett if Lowell was also involved. He was considered to be at the end of his career at the time of the trade too.

Matthew said...

or the alternative is to ask for a few million along with prospects. the idea is the same. In the books, just put that money that goes towards the salary of some of those bad contracts - gives them financial flexibility.

The only cash deals we see now are for minor leaguers, usually for 100k or less. Well, actually, you could also say that the whole japanese posting system is a similar concept, except it's to a team outside of MLB.

perhaps someone can trade our contemporary babe ruth for a many many millions and start a new curse....

Tony at WHS said...

This is actually an excellent idea. Responding to some of the comments, teams would probably not ask for a salary to be taken on AND prospects, so it would be up to the mean to decide which is the better route for their particular team. Also, I'm not sure that the union would have anything to say about this because, essentially, it is just a tradse; even if the receiving team cuts the player, he is still being paid. This would be a smarter alternative for crappy teams with money; dump the payroll and try again in the free agent market next year. Kudos.

eric said...

You are definitely on to something. In one instance I have off the top of my head, when the Red Sox traded prospects Anibal Sanchez, Hanley Ramirez, and others to Florida to get Josh Beckett, the Red Sox were "lured" into taking Mike Lowell with Beckett. At that point Lowell's production had disappeared completely and his contract was viewed as pretty bad--but it worked wonders for the Red Sox!

jorgesaysno said...

Make no mistake here people, I'm not saying that teams should trade players only for salary relief....what I'm saying here is that when teams have valuable assets that other teams covet, they should try to unload burdensome contracts in the process.

The Mike Lowell trade is a great example.