WTNYFebruary 23, 2004
Beane's Choice
By Bryan Smith

After beginning my dive into what will be the 2004-2005 offseason, more news/rumors opened my eyes this weekend. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote an article about Eric Chavez nearly being signed, a story that fellow All-Baseball writer Will Carroll rehashes. On Friday I wrote that Chavez was very likely to stay an A, and Billy Beane doesn’t look to be falling into the same mistake that cost him Jason Giambi by waiting too long.

The Chronice story reads, “In order to retain Chavez, Oakland probably will have to offer a minimum of five years and $50-60M.” Carroll also rumors that the deal is five years, so I’m going to assume as much. I think the largest question this signing will raise is how it affects the big three.

Steve Schott, the tight-fisted Oakland owner, has been getting more gracious each year, raising team payroll in each of the last five seasons. In fact, thanks to Doug Pappas, this is about what the Associated Press has reported the team figures to be each of the last four seasons:

2000: $31.971M
2001: $33.810M
2002: $39.680M
2003: $50.361M

Oakland’s payroll took a 22% increase last season, harboring huge salaries like Jermaine Dye. That problem still exists this season, although the Oakland payroll will likely be below last year’s figure. If Eric Chavez is set to make $11M through the next five seasons, how many more large salaries can Billy Beane afford?

One. Assuming each of the Big Three signs comparable deals to Vazquez, Millwood, and Halladay, the A’s aces will be demanding about twelve million dollars per year soon. Taking Chavez’s contract into account, signing two pitchers would mean that Schott would be asking Beane to sign 22 more players for about $15M, or just over $675,000 per player. That would be nearly impossible. If only one of the Big Three returns, Beane will be forced to sign 23 players using $27M, or $1.17M per player, much closer to the average Major League salary.

Tim Hudson is the first of the group to be up for free agency, which will be after the 2005 season. Zito and Mulder both have options for 2006, and if the A’s continue to do what they did with Hudson, both will remain in the Bay area. So, it’s a good bet to say that these players will be under contract in 2006:

Eric Chavez- $11,000,000
Barry Zito- $8,250,000
Mark Mulder- Between 7.25M and 8.5M
Mark Kotsay- $5,500,000
Arthur Rhodes- $3,100,000
TOTAL- about $35,600,000

Without taking arbitration-eligible or auto-renewable players into account, Oakland is likely already on the hook for $35.6 million for five players. Signing Hudson would put the payroll at about forty-seven million for the cost of six players, exactly the kind of numbers that Billy Beane can’t afford. So, I find that it is logically impossible for the A’s to re-sign Tim Hudson unless Mark Mulder or Barry Zito don’t warrant their options being picked up for 2006.

That leaves the debate to just Mulder and Zito. Looking at rate statistics from 2003, surprisingly Mulder has the clear edge. While Zito has a better H/9 (7.23 to 8.68), Mulder ranks better in K/9, BB/9, K/BB, and ERA. In fact, Zito’s K/9 reached a career low 5.67 last year, dropping for the third straight season. Mulder has excellent control, but a hip problem that ended his 2003 season early poses a big question mark. Between Zito’s dropping strikeout rate and Mulder’s bad hip, it’s too early to tell which player Beane should lock up.


Also, a reader pointed me to a Boston Globe article about Derek Lowe accepting he won’t be pitching in Beantown in 2005. I touched on this Friday, not knowing that Theo Epstein had just made comments that the Red Sox could not possibly retain all six of their big free agents after this season. Two is more likely, and my guess is that Nomar Garciaparra and David Ortiz get the call. Kelly Shoppach and Kevin Youkilis make Jason Varitek and Bill Mueller easy choices. I also think that Pedro and Lowe will both leave, one spot will become occupied by Bronson Arroyo, while the other will be acquired next winter. I’ll touch more on which kind of players will be available next winter tomorrow...


Probably useless because I can't remember where the info came from... but I do remember reading somewhere that the A's payroll is supposed to jump to near 60 million starting 2005.

I expect Beane to trade Zito either this season or next, especially if he manages to keep a low ERA with a mediocre K/9.