Getty Images

Get ready for another cold offseason

25 Comments

It’s pretty early in the offseason. Teams can’t even sign free agents yet. But they are signaling to the public that, haha, no way do they plan to spend much money this winter.

First the Cardinals who, based on their far-from-impressive NLCS showing strike pretty much everyone as a club that, while good, needs to make some additions to take things to the next level. Will they be spending? From the Athletic:

The Cardinals have practically no financial flexibility, if history is a guide . . . The only way the Cardinals take on significant salary is to trade a major league player or two  — and most of their highest-paid players are virtually unmovable — or convince the owners to spend well beyond what they have spent before . . . Does that seem in character for this team? I’ll answer that. No, it does not.

The team’s owner, Bill DeWitt Jr., was asked about that, couched in a question or two about the team’s real estate development, Ballpark Village, next to Busch Stadium. As we have chronicled in the past, teams are increasingly getting into the real estate business and such developments can be pretty massive cash cows for them. The question, though, is whether the real estate money is going to be used to subsidize spending on the baseball team or, rather, if the baseball team is primarily a promotional tool — maybe even a loss leader — for the real estate development.

How’s it going in St. Louis, Bill?

“The economic benefits of that, whatever they turn out to be, they’re so long-term that others will be able to evaluate them, but not me . . . The commentary that this is a wildly profitable business is misguided and wrong.”

Got it: a billionaire made a massive investment in a real estate development but there’s not much money in it. A tale as old as time. It’s probably also worth noting that the team he bought for $150 million is now worth way, way north of a billion, but I suppose there’s no financial means whatsoever available at his disposal to increase payroll. Kind of how like someone who has massive equity in their home has no way of funding improvements to help improve its long term value. It just can’t be done! Oh well.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, where an even richer team resides, inquiring minds want to know if the Dodgers plan on making a play for top free agent Gerrit Cole, who is from Los Angeles. Thoughts?

The linked story at the L.A. Times above is about the Angels making a play for Cole, but Shaikin is plugged in with the Dodgers too. I suspect, based on that tweet and a similar aside in the Angels article, that the Dodgers are not at all interested.

And maybe that’s defensible. The Dodgers are, after all, a pretty darn good team without Gerrit Cole and they could spend money in different ways and still be a good or an even better team. But I am struck by that “business plan” comment and the idea that they don’t want to commit to a pitcher who will be 37 at the end of it. Especially when they’ve counted on Rich Hill for the past couple of years. Thirty-seven is not all that old. It’s Gerrit Cole.

Either way — be it the Cardinals, the Dodgers or any other teams sending “we’re not gonna spend money” signals — it just feels like this ruling things out by November 5 is both (a) highly questionable; and (b) is based on priorities other than winning as many baseball games as possible and trying to win a World Series.

And that’s the case even if the reasons seem like wise ones such as “wanting to ensure the success of one’s long term real estate ventures” or “not wanting to mess with what a business plan might look like circa 2028.”

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

Mary DeCicco/MLB via Getty Images
Leave a comment

At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).