Most people would consider it awesome when someone gives them $12.5 million, but I wonder if David Ortiz will feel that way. We’ll know soon, because the Red Sox just picked up his option for 2011. This after comments in the press in which he made it clear that he’d prefer a multi-year deal.
Of course if you’re Boston, this makes total sense. Ortiz had a good year last year but he could crater at any moment, just like any big slugger could. And of course, he’s had long stretches of poor performance these past two seasons, which could be a harbinger of such a cratering. Why on Earth would they go longer than one year? And while $12.5 million is a bit more than the going rate for a DH these days, if they refused to exercise the option, there would likely be a ton of teams willing to take a chance on a one year deal with Big Papi, on the theory that he could be their Jim Thome. Or better.
So: Ortiz gets a bit more than he’s probably worth, and the Red Sox have one less thing they need to worry about this winter. Sounds great.
So, why then, do I think this will lead to some trouble soon?
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?