DECEMBER 28, 2003
How Bad Do Some Want To Try And Win?
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com
There are just about six weeks left until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training for 2004.
And, at this moment, 36-year-old Roberto Alomar and his lifetime OPS of .816 have yet to find a job for 2004. Ditto that for 34-year-old Juan Gonzalez and his lifetime OPS of .907. Ditto that for 38-year-old Greg Maddux and his lifetime 289 wins. Ditto that for 39-year-old Rafael Palmeiro and his lifetime 528 homeruns. Ditto that for 32-year-old, and recent post-season hero, Ivan Rodriguez.
In fact, with just six weeks to go until camps open, there are many other players with various past levels of success who are still Free Agents. These players include Rich Aurilia, Shawn Estes, Orlando Hernandez, Fred McGriff, Kenny Rogers, Ugueth Urbina, and Mike Williams.
Oh, yeah, and some guy named Vlad Guerrero.
Going further, there are probably at least another dozen players, still out there and looking for work, who have backs of baseball cards that many players would covet. Players like Sidney Ponson, John Burkett, Jason Johnson, Travis Lee, Raul Mondesi, etc. are all current Free Agents.
Most of these Free Agents are barely getting token offers of employment. And, whatever offers they receive are under what the player feels is his market value. At this point, you are probably expecting the dreaded “c” work to come up next – you know, “collusion.” However, fear not – as that is not where this is heading. Instead, what will be offered is a novel idea for some teams in need of a boost - and a way for these players to find jobs with the promise of substantial payday.
Today, there are a few big league clubs whose 2004 season already appears to look grim (in terms of being competitive and exciting their fans). For example: The Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, and Colorado Rockies are not being forecast as contenders next year – for many valid reasons.
The owners and general managers of these teams need to start thinking outside the box. There is a way to leverage the current supply and demand of the baseball employment market. Challenge some of these players still looking for work and waiting on a certain price, in masse, with an offer they cannot refuse. Here is an example:
New Cincinnati Reds G.M. Dan O'Brien should gather together the agents for Roberto Alomar, Rich Aurilia, Shawn Estes, Orlando Hernandez, Kenny Rogers, and Ugueth Urbina - and then tell them “Here’s the deal. If each and everyone one of you agree to sign with the Cincinnati Reds for 2004, in exchange, we will offer each of you a one year contract for this season, for the rate of $350,000 annually – with the bonus clause that follows. If the Reds win the World Series in 2004, each of you will receive a $7 million bonus - $3 million to be paid in 2004, and the remaining $4 million to be deferred, with 3% interest, over the next 4 years.”
Detroit Tigers G.M. Dave Dombrowski can make a similar offer to Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Greg Maddux, Sidney Ponson, and Rafael Palmeiro. To each player: a contract offer for the 2004 season, for the rate of $350,000 annually – with the bonus clause of $9 million if the Tigers win the World Series in 2004 - $4 million to be paid in 2004, and the remaining $5 million to be deferred, with 3% interest, over the next 5 years. Again, this is only if they all agree to come together and play for Detroit in 2004 as a package.
These are just examples. The combinations that can be used are many. The Indians, Tigers, Rangers, Reds, Brewers, and Rockies each have numerous needs for 2004 that can be addressed in this manner.
Even if a team wanted to avoid the "superstars" and wanted to aim at the next tier level of players, they could still use this type of angle. A team like the Cleveland Indians can make the offer to a group of players such as John Burkett, Jason Johnson, Travis Lee, Raul Mondesi, and Mike Williams - along the lines of a contract offer for the 2004 season, for the rate of $350,000 annually – with the bonus clause of $5 million if the Tribe wins the World Series in 2004 - $3 million to be paid in 2004, and the remaining $2 million to be deferred, with 3% interest, over the next 2 years. Only if they all agree to come together and play for the Indians in 2004 as a package.
The question that may come to the mind of some reading this, of course, is "How can teams like the Reds, Tigers, and Indians hope to sell the notion that they have even a remote chance to win the World Series to these groups of players?"
The answer to that is simple and effective. The G.M. would merely have to ask the agents and the players (which they have grouped) "In January 2002, did you think that the Anaheim Angels would win the World Series that year? This past January, did you think the Florida Marlins had a chance to win the World Series?" The last two champions will stand as testament for these general managers that a young team with some blossoming players, in the right division, can have a shot at winning with an influx of some proven and productive players inserted in critical need areas.
Come to think of it, there are even “good” teams out there who can benefit from this type of approach. How about the Oakland A’s? They have a chance to win in 2004. Imagine how much better that chance would be if they added Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Roberto Alomar, and Ugueth Urbina to their roster next year? Why not try the “sign cheap as a package and play for the big check” offer? (Oakland A’s G.M.) Billy Beane, if you are listening, there might be another book in this for you!
Granted, if a team wins a World Series with this approach, they will have to come up with some money at the end of the year. However, considering the odds of winning a World Series, even if you make the post-season, is that not a worthy risk – considering the revenue you can generate with an improved and competitive squad in 2004?
Of course, this all assumes that the players would have the pride, confidence, and courage to go for such a deal. Even more, it assumes that owners of certain teams care about trying to be competitive.
There is a way to determine the answer to both questions. Someone has to make a “sign cheap as a package and play for the big check” offer. We can only wish some G.M. and/or owner sees this suggestion and has the guts to try it. Consider it the Scrawling on the Scorecard Challenge for the moment. Are there any team out there willing to pick up this gauntlet?
Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com. Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season. Steve can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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