Craig Calcaterra

Money

It’s utterly meaningless to say “teams have spent $2 billion on free agents”

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I just read Jon Morosi’s latest column over at Fox. Don’t feel obligated to do so yourself, as it’s about how the Royals won because they have great chemistry and you can tell that they have great chemistry because they won. It’s Friday, man. I don’t have the energy to parse the nonsense in that and I doubt you do either.

But the lede is pretty interesting. He starts his column off with this: “Major League Baseball teams have spent more than $2 billion on free agents this winter, according to MLBTradeRumors.com.”

I’ve seen a lot of other reporters mentioning that figure, tweeting it and tracking it as the offseason has worn on. Sometimes with aggregations of years:

 

Sometimes there are only partial numbers:

 

Sometimes it’s parroted in a manner which takes the form of a compete and total non-sequitur:

I’m not sure how that last dude can say they’re “doing well.” Indeed, I can’t for the life of me figure out what these figures are supposed to tell us. Two billion is a big number, I guess, but to frame it the way it’s framed above is utterly meaningless.

The gross free agent expenditure is a numerator with no denominator, for starters. How many player contracts does that cover? It covers lots of contracts of wildly-varying lengths too, yes? Also, where does that stand historically? Is that a lot? It’s probably more than last year because salaries tend to rise, but maybe not depending on that denominator. And if more, how much more? Have raises increased or decreased? What’s the graph look like? Also: how does that $2 billion — even if it were even remotely moored to a reference point — compare to baseball revenues? Are the owners making more too? How much more? How do these free agent expenditures relate to overall expenditures?

We never get great answers to those questions and, as such, these sorts of numbers are worth nothing.

Indeed, they’re worse than nothing. They’re a form of subtle propaganda. Perhaps not intentionally so, as I don’t think the reporters cited above mean it in this way, but it certainly serves baseball owners’ interests to have that $2 billion figure out there, floating in the ether. It plays directly into “those players are FILTHY STINKIN’ RICH” sentiments which owners have always used in the grand P.R. game against the players. In less than a year the players are going to be bargaining for things like a higher minimum salary or more friendly arbitration and free agent compensation terms. As all past bargaining has gone, public sentiment will play an indirect role in things, as each side tries to sell its particular brinksmanship strategy to the fans. The owners have always cried poor and have always tried to paint the players as rich and greedy. This helps that cause.

I realize there isn’t a lot of news happening in January and that big shiny figures are fun to repeat, but this stuff is misleading in the extreme. And, like so much else related to the economic side of baseball, it is distinctly slanted against the players in such a way as to make them look like they’re spoiled rotten for making a few billion across a couple of thousand employees.

Meanwhile, precious little scrutiny is ever directed at 30 men who own baseball teams and rake in several billion more by virtue of the players’ labor.

Yoenis Cespedes’ Lamborghini spits fire

Yoenis+Cespedes+League+Championship+Series+MUfTAUN1P_ul
Associated Press
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This is must-click link material from the New York Times. The story is about Alex Vega, car customizer to the stars. The baseball stars, mostly, though he got the celebrity portion of his business through rappers first. The ballplayers, however, demand the most over-the-top and flamboyant wheels.

Juan Uribe may take the cake. The article details his stretch Mercedes van. Which, yes, is a thing Vegas makes. Think a van limo with couches and TVs in it and stuff. Urbie got one and then Hanley Ramirez did too. Mostly because Uribe and Ramirez are in a competition, apparently, to get the craziest luxury car possible. Not that they’re alone. LOTS of baseball players, starting with Alfonso Soriano several years ago and including a ton of players today, pay Vega big, big bucks to pimp their rides.

Yoenis Cespedes gets extra points for style:

After Cespedes established himself as a star, he bought a Lamborghini Aventador, a car that Vega estimated cost about $400,000. Then Cespedes asked for $75,000 in renovations. Cespedes wanted the car painted satin black with metallic blue accents. He wanted the entire interior redone, a custom wheel design, and for the exhaust to spit fire out of the back.

After he signs a deal with the Nats or the Mets, he’ll be able to move past that relatively entry-level car, one assumes.

(h/t to Lindsey Adler for the heads up)

Wilin Rosario signs with a Korean team

Wilin Rosario
Getty Images
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Wilin Rosario has signed a $1.3 million contract with the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization. The report comes from Jee-ho Yoo of Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

Rosario is no one’s idea of a perfect player.  He’s a bad defensive catcher and the Rockies’ efforts to see if he could handle first base didn’t pan out either. Still, the guy has some pop in that bat — he hit 28 home runs in 2012 and has averaged 26 home home runs for every 162 games over the course of his five-year major league career — and he mashes lefties, with a .319/.354/.604 line against southpaws.

I realize “platoon DH” is not exactly the sort of thing major leagues leave space for on rosters these days, but I would’ve figured that he’d be worth a minor league offer at least. Heck, maybe even an offer to play in Japan? Korea is sort of a last stop for baseball careers that begin in North America.*

Do your defensive drills, kids. They could end up being the difference between having a career or not.

UPDATE: After this post had been live for awhile, Twitter follower Sung Min Kim reminded me that I was off about that “last stop” thing, noting that several players, including Buddy Carlyle, Julio Franco and Dana Eveland came back to the bigs after playing in Korea. Apologies to those dudes. And to Rosario, I suppose, who could maybe one day make it back here.