THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 4, 2007
You have a core player nearing his first opportunity to market himself to the whole league via free agency, and his agent is Scott Boras. You have absolutely no chance to keep him, right?
The media likes to say that no Boras client ever stays put, but history disproves that. Thanks to the research of readers Todd Trice, Ben Morris, and Jim O’Connor, here’s a breakdown of the list of reasonably high-profile Boras clients over the last decade or so who have been eligible for first-time free agency, slotted in one of three categories:
PLAYERS WHO RE-SIGNED WITH THEIR EXISTING CLUBS: Carlos Baerga (Mets), Darren Dreifort (Dodgers), Andruw Jones (Atlanta), Derek Lowe (Boston), Kevin Millwood (Philadelphia), Robb Nen (San Francisco), Gary Sheffield (Florida), Jason Varitek (Boston), Bernie Williams (Yankees)
PLAYERS WHO DEPARTED WITHOUT DRAFT PICK COMPENSATION: Jim Abbott, Steve Avery, Kevin Brown, J.D. Drew, Eric Gagne, Magglio Ordonez, Jarrod Washburn
PLAYERS WHO DEPARTED WITH DRAFT PICK COMPENSATION: Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Johnny Damon, Alex Fernandez, Greg Maddux, Chan Ho Park, Alex Rodriguez, Kenny Rogers, Jeff Weaver, Barry Zito
We know that Mark Teixeira isn’t going to fit in category number two. If Teixeira is here on the final day of the 2008 season, the Rangers will obviously offer him arbitration to recoup a late first-round pick plus a supplemental first from the team that signs him (one possible exception: Baltimore is the only team that should be in the mix and might be a lower-half team in 2008, in which case the Rangers would get a supplemental first plus the Orioles’ second-round pick rather than their first).
The question, then, is whether Teixeira will be one of those who doesn’t leave. There are a dozen factors, of course, that go into the analysis of whether Teixeira stays or goes, and when, but it might be instructive to take a look at what the 10 teams who offered arbitration to their Boras clients got in return.
Also keep in mind that in a couple of those cases — Beltran and Damon — the team faced with the decision was not the team that had drafted and developed the player (Kansas City in both cases) but instead the team who got part or all of the player’s final year before free agency. The Royals traded Damon to Oakland in January of 2001, along with infielder Mark Ellis, getting reliever Roberto Hernandez from Tampa Bay and shortstop Angel Berroa and catcher A.J. Hinch from Oakland in a three-team trade. The Royals traded Beltran to Houston in late June of 2004, getting catcher John Buck from the Astros and third baseman Mark Teahen and righthander Mike Wood from the A’s in another three-team deal.
Kansas City traded Damon and Beltran because the club knew it would be unable to keep those players when they reached free agency the following winter. Were the returns the Royals got in each case better than the draft pick compensation would have been? Certainly not in one case, probably so in the other.
For the loss of Damon to Boston, Oakland was compensated with picks it used to draft outfielder-first baseman Nick Swisher (16th overall) and Teahen (29th). Those two players, along with Joe Blanton, keyed the A’s “Moneyball” draft.
For the loss of Beltran to the Mets, Houston was compensated with picks it used to draft outfielder Eli Iorg (38th) and Tommy Manzella (89th).
The rest of the draft pick returns:
For the loss of Beltre to the Mariners, the Dodgers were compensated with picks they used to draft righthander Luke Hochevar (40th) and shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr. (51st). It was the second time that Los Angeles drafted Hochevar, and the club couldn’t come to terms with him either time. Kansas City made him the first pick in the draft and signed him in 2006, the year after the Dodgers had used the compensation pick on him.
For the loss of Fernandez to the Marlins, the White Sox were compensated with picks they used to draft righthanders Kyle Kane (33rd) and Aaron Myette (43rd).
For the loss of Maddux to the Braves, the Cubs were compensated with picks they used to draft righthander Jon Ratliff (24th) and third baseman Kevin Orie (29th).
For the loss of Park to the Rangers, the Dodgers were compensated with picks they used to draft lefthander Greg Miller (31st) and righthander Zach Hammes (51st).
For the loss of A-Rod to the Rangers, Seattle was compensated with picks it used to draft infielder Michael Garciaparra (36th) and catcher Rene Rivera (49th).
For the loss of Rogers to the Yankees, Texas was compensated with picks it used to draft righthander Sam Marsonek (24th) and lefthander Corey Lee (32nd).
For the loss of Weaver to the Angels, the Dodgers were compensated with picks they used to draft righthander Bryan Morris (26th) and infielder Preston Mattingly (31st).
For the loss of Zito to the Giants, Oakland was compensated with picks it used to draft first baseman Sean Doolittle (41st) and outfielder Grant Desme (74th).
It’s still early with regard to some of the above, but at this point Oakland’s Swisher/Teahen picks are the only ones that have paid off well. But recognize that the A’s had to pay about $2.5 million in bonus money to sign them, so it’s not as if you can compare those two to a couple prospects Oakland might have been able to turn Damon into.
But now you’re a step ahead of me.
The A’s couldn’t trade Damon. Not because they’d just acquired him a year earlier (and by the way, nice work by Billy Beane: moving Berroa and Hinch to get Damon and ending up not only with a year of Damon in center field but coming out the other end with Ellis, Swisher, and Teahen) — but because 2001 was a playoff season for the A’s.
And that’s why I’ve said for two months now that I think Teixeira will be traded before Opening Day. If the Rangers go into the 2008 season with him on the roster — and if they don’t believe he will sign here long-term — and the team finds itself in striking distance in July, Jon Daniels obviously can’t deal Teixeira at that point. (As I wrote on May 16: “So just trade him during the 2008 season, you say? Can’t plan on that. Think about it: If Texas is 58-45 in the last week of July, a game back of the Angels, can you imagine the message it would send to the clubhouse and the fans if the club decided it needed to trade its most productive hitter? Would never happen. And to go into the 2008 season assuming that it would be impossible to be in a contending position in July is just not something Jon Daniels would ever do.”)
If the Rangers believe Teixeira will sign somewhere else after the 2008 season, they simply have to trade him this month, or this winter.
Otherwise, they may end up spending a couple million bucks on Michael Garciaparra and Rene Rivera.
The point is this: Just because Teixeira is a Boras client doesn’t automatically mean (contrary to popular media spouting) that he’s going to leave. Maybe more Boras clients change teams than players represented by other agents, but it’s still a case-by-case basis.
Still, most think that Teixeira will test the market, whether because he ultimately wants to play in New York or Baltimore or Atlanta, or because Boras will push him to free agency (though I don’t think that will be the key factor), or because the Union will encourage him to shop himself and score the next landmark contract. And if the Rangers believe that’s where this is headed, a trade simply makes more sense than counting on two players chosen with compensatory draft picks — who will cost $2-3 million more to acquire than another team’s prospects, and who will clearly be longer shots to make it than another team’s prospects.
I’m still not convinced the trade will happen this month, and that has nothing to do with Teixeira’s health. Yes, teams may be more willing to give up significant minor league talent in July in order to have him around for two pennant races. But in the winter, more clubs might be interested (faced with their own free agent losses to address) and all interested clubs should be in a better position to give up players they might not otherwise be willing to part with while in the thick of a pennant race.
Example: the way first baseman James Loney, outfielder Matt Kemp, and righthander Chad Billingsley have responded in the last few weeks to intensified roles with the Dodgers, why would Los Angeles part with any of them in a deal to get Teixeira? That’s not to say that the Dodgers would move any of them in December, either, but unfortunately it doesn’t make sense for the club to disrupt things right now to get Teixeira, unless the names involved were instead players like Andre Ethier, Andy LaRoche, Jonathan Meloan, Hong-Chih Kuo, Tony Abreu, or Chin-Lung Hu. Maybe even Clayton Kershaw, though I’d be surprised if he were made available.
Teixeira is reportedly primed to return to the lineup on July 13, immediately following the All-Star Break. He might first go out on a brief rehab assignment to test his left quad in game conditions.
Center fielder Kenny Lofton is no longer a very good defender, but maybe his bat has heated up at the right time to make it 11 playoff seasons out of 13 for the 40-year-old. Marlon Byrd (.398/.438/.582) was certainly a deserving June Player of the Month for the organization, but Lofton hit .388/.459/.518 in June, with a phenomenal ratio of 12 walks to only four strikeouts in 85 at-bats.
Maybe most interesting is that Lofton went 8 for 16 in the Boston series over the weekend — the Red Sox might be the one contender who could use some help in center field, in case Coco Crisp’s return from a sprained thumb goes less than smoothly and the club decides Jacoby Ellsbury’s not ready for a pennant race.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Rangers’ current asking prices for Eric Gagné and Akinori Otsuka are “outrageous.”
Ken Davidoff of Newsday calls Gagné and Otsuka two of the top three available pitchers in baseball this month (along with Matt Morris), and Teixeira the number two available hitter (next to Adam Dunn).
Consider this with regard to whether Gagné would waive his no-trade clause for one of the 17 teams he can block a deal to: his contract contains significant incentives tied to games finished, so it’s not likely he’d consent to a deal to one of those 17 teams if it’s one that would use him in the eighth inning.
Through basically half a season, Gagné has finished 22 games. If he were to replicate that number the rest of the way, he will have earned $2.25 million in incentives. And he’s spent 26 days on the disabled list, so if he’s healthy for the second half, he would be on pace to finish maybe another 10 games, which would mean an additional $1.25 million. If he gets to 56 games finished, which is certainly conceivable if he stays away from the DL, he maxes out on appearance-based incentives and would pull in a total of $4 million on top of his $6 million base.
So yeah, he’s going to be a little disinclined to waive his limited no-trade to go to a team that isn’t going to unseat its current closer.
As for Gagné’s comments this week that he loves it in Texas and would like to stay for a few years? Nothing wrong with trading him now for a blue-chip prospect and then signing him in the winter. I gladly forfeit a second-round pick to do that — the player you should be able to get for him now is going to be more valuable an asset than a second-round pick, even setting aside the million bucks the draft choice would cost to sign.
Texas may keep Otsuka out of action through next week’s All-Star Break, though he reportedly won’t undergo an MRI on his right forearm, in which he experienced tightness during Sunday appearance in Boston.
Oklahoma shortstop Joaquin Arias has been shut down and will have season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. He got into just three games with the RedHawks after appearing in two Arizona League contests on a rehab assignment.
Oklahoma righthander Mike Wood was named a Pacific Coast League All-Star. Outfielder Jason Botts was not. Maybe those voting thought that surely he’d been summoned to the big leagues some time ago.
Another home run for Botts last night, along with a single.
If you’re on the mailing list, you caught Scott Lucas’s great note in yesterday’s Farm Report that the only professional baseball player with more doubles than Botts’s 32 going into last night’s games was Magglio Ordonez, and the only three with more than Botts’s 60 walks were Barry Bonds, Todd Helton, and Oakland AA outfielder-third baseman Luke Appert.
Wins don’t matter a whole lot on the farm, but maybe they aren’t the worst thing in the world for Edinson Volquez, whose retooling involves more than just his mechanics. He’s now 7-0, 3.77 in nine Frisco starts, and even on nights when he hasn’t been at his most effective, he’s clearly kept his team in the game.
Frisco outfielder Brandon Boggs is up to .299/.407/.576, his highest numbers since the season’s second week. Boggs has hit for a higher batting average and higher slugging percentage in each of his four pro seasons, a significant accomplishment considering the pitching obviously gets better at each level.
Bakersfield third baseman Chris Davis extended his hit streak to 23 games last night.
Arizona League catcher Cristian Santana fractured his thumb and will miss four to six weeks. The 18-year-old prospect missed the 2006 season due to shoulder surgery.
When Texas Rule 5’d lefthander John Koronka in December 2002 and returned him to the Reds before spring training ended, it did produce an outright, which means if he clears waivers this week and the Rangers outright his contract to the minor leagues, he will have the right to decline the assignment and take immediate free agency.
Koronka will be out of options when this season ends, and since it was unlikely that he would have made the Opening Day staff in 2008, his designation for assignment shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. As for this year, he was certainly behind Wood and Willie Eyre and probably John Rheinecker on the rotation depth chart, not to mention Vicente Padilla upon his return.
According to Baseball America, Texas released righthander Tony Pluta and infielder Johany Abreu, and signed undrafted Pepperdine outfielder Luke Salas, a four-year starter and career .305 hitter for the Waves. Salas was assigned to Spokane.
Rangers first-round righthanders Blake Beavan and Michael Main are both first-teamers on Baseball America’s High School All-America team, Beavan as one of five pitchers and Main as the utility player for his stellar work both on the mound and at the plate. Righthander Neil Ramirez (supplemental first round) and outfielder Garrett Nash (fourth round) are second-team honorees.
Third-rounder Evan Reed, a reliever from Cal Poly, has reportedly signed, as have Arizona State outfielder Tim Smith (seventh round), Texas Lutheran University shortstop Jacob Kaase (23rd round), and Oregon State lefthander Anton Maxwell (31st round).
Pittsburgh released righthander Matt Lorenzo. Washington released righthander Shane Funk.
Along with manager Jerry Narron, Cincinnati fired bench coach Bucky Dent, and roving outfield instructor Ed Napoleon resigned.
Florida signed lefthander Erasmo Ramirez to a AAA contract and has already brought him up to the big club.
The Sussex SkyHawks of the independent Can-Am League released righthander Fernando Rijo.
Tomorrow’s “Swapping Stories” trade retrospective will be about the 2003 trade that sent Ugueth Urbina to Florida for a package including Adrian Gonzalez.
See about 300 of you at Newberg Report Night on Friday.
In the meantime, Happy Fourth.