A good reason for Padres fans not to worry about trading Adrian Gonzalez

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Elvis Andrus.jpgFOX’s Tracy Ringolsby writes today about just how big the Mark Teixeira trade was for the Rangers. As a Braves fan it pains me to no end, but the cold hard facts of it all must be repeated whenever possible:

With Teixeira slightly more than a year from reaching free agency, the
Rangers dealt him on July 31, 2007 to Atlanta for Elvis Andrus, who has become Texas’ shortstop; right-hander Neftali Feliz, the closer; left-hander Matt Harrison who is in the rotation; catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, currently on the disabled list, and minor-league
pitcher Beau Jones, the No. 1 draft pick in 2005.

The addition of that group of players pumped life into a Rangers farm
system that was shaky at the time, and provided a foundation for a young
core for the future. Atlanta, meanwhile, kept Teixeira for 363 days and
dealt him to the Los Angeles Angels for minor-league pitcher Steve
Marek and first baseman Casey Kotchman, who in turn was dealt a year later to Boston for Adam LaRoche, who left
last fall as a free agent.

In my nearly 25 years of Braves’ fandom, this is the only trade that I truly would take back if I could. All of the others either came out in the wash or were mixed bags. This one was an unmitigated disaster and will haunt Braves’ fans for a long, long time.

But you don’t care about my team. The reason I bring it up is because later this year the Padres are going to trade Adrian Gonzalez. When they do, people will moan about big markets and small markets and all that jive.  When they do that, remember the Mark Teixeira trade, because it’s totally repeatable.

Remember: the Braves are a team that, historically speaking, appreciate the
value of young prospects and rarely if ever part with the ones who they
think are going to make something of themselves. Quick: apart from this trade, who was the last guy they traded away who really came back to bite them? Maybe Jason Schmidt, but it’s not like he was needed at the time. Jermaine Dye? Same deal.  The list is so short it’s almost not worth making a list.

But they got burnt here, partially because someone in Atlanta had a brain lock and partially because there was a sharp GM on the other end of the deal in Jon Daniels.

There’s a sharp GM in San Diego now too in Jed Hoyer. All he needs to make the Adrian Gonzalez deal pay off is for one of the 29 other GMs to have a brain lock themselves. 

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

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Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.