Baseball BeatJanuary 17, 2005
A Holiday on the Links
By Rich Lederer

While golf courses may be crowded around the country on this Monday holiday, the links are wide open on Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT.

  • Studes, also known to some as Dave, responded to The Art of a Bad Deal by writing a clear and concise article (Player Contract Options) on The Baseball Graphs website.

    First, Rich Lederer wrote a dead-on assessment of the opt-out part of the JD Drew contract. Essentially, JD Drew has the option to leave his contract with the Dodgers after the first two years and re-sign with another team if he wants to. It's totally up to him.

    Of course, Drew will only invoke this clause if he feels he can make more money with a new contract. In other words, he'll only do this if he has two great years, remains healthy, and figures that other major league teams will be willing to pay him more than $11 million a year.

    On the other hand, the Dodgers are on the hook to pay him $11 million a year for five years. They can't get out of this deal if Drew does poorly.

    Studes goes on and discusses the risks and rewards of long-term contracts, mentioning that "the Drew deal is different." He also refers to a related article (Option Value in the Beltran Deal) in The Sports Economist that is worth reading.

  • Rhiannon Potkey of the Ventura County Star wrote an article (Jered, still unsigned after being drafted by Angels, focuses attention on training -- registration required) on Jered Weaver. [courtesy of my son via SG in ATL from Baseball Primer]

    There are mixed signals coming out of the camps of Weaver and the Angels:

    "It's coming along. I have a good feeling about it," said Weaver about the ongoing negotiations between Boras and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

    "Scott and (Angels owner Arte) Moreno met during the winter meetings about things, and that's just one step forward in this long process," said Weaver, who does not wish to discuss financial terms.

    But Angels director of scouting Eddie Bane said the club hadn't had any recent conversations with Boras about Weaver's contract as of two weeks ago.

    "We have basically developed a no-comment situation. We haven't talked to Scott in a while about anything," said Bane. "But we still believe we are going to get Jered signed. I believe the next big date will be spring training (Feb. 20)."

    I find the final three paragraphs of the article somewhat amusing in light of previous comments coming out of the Angels' hierarchy. It's almost as if Bane is saying, "Yeah, we like everything about it -- except for those Mark Prior-like stats because they're going to cost us a lot of money."

    But Bane hopes a deal with Weaver will get done this season. He was thrilled when the Golden Spikes Award winner who led the nation in wins (15-1) and strikeouts (213) was still available when the Angels made their first selection.

    "We knew it would be a long process, and we knew all along his first year would be 2005," said Bane.

    "He is such a good kid. We hear such great things about him, and we did our research. He had a nice career at Long Beach State, but it's time to go out and play some baseball now."

    No, it's time to go out and sign him, Eddie. If you do that, then Weaver can "go out and play some baseball."

  • Jim Caple, a senior writer for, asked a thought-provoking question "Koufax or Blyleven?" in a recent Page 2 column.

    Say you are a general manager in an alternate universe and you can choose a clone of either the 19-year-old Koufax or the 19-year-old Blyleven, knowing ahead of time that both will perform exactly as they did in our major leagues. Wins, losses, ERA, innings -- all those stats on the backs of their Topps baseball cards will be exactly duplicated. The key aspect to keep in mind, however, is that free agency is still banned in this alternate universe. In other words, you'll not only get the pitcher for the start of his career, you will have lifetime rights to him (just as the Dodgers did with Koufax). He's your indentured servant for as long as his arm can still pitch.

    Who do you pick? The Hall of Fame pitcher who had three 25-win seasons, threw four no-hitters and won three Cy Young awards in a four-year span, but who only won a dozen games six times and was done by age 31? Or the non-Hall of Famer who won 20 games only once and never won a Cy Young award, but who won at least 14 games a dozen times, was still pitching at age 42 and finished with 122 more wins than Koufax?

    Well, I'm not sure you could go wrong with either. According to Bill James and Rob Neyer in The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, you would have the pitcher with the best curveball of all time (Koufax) or the one with the third best ever (Blyleven). Number two? Mordecai Brown. (Brown cheated though. He only had three fingers!)

    The book credits Koufax with having the second-best fastball from 1960-1964 and Blyleven the ninth-best fastball from 1970-1974. Sandy is also ranked fifth from 1955-1959 and 1965-1969. Koufax and Blyleven, in fact, are the only two pitchers ranked in the top ten Best Curveballs of All Time and in the top ten Best Fastballs in one of the 25 half decades listed (1880-present).

    For those Hall of Fame voters who don't think Blyleven was dominant enough, his curveball and fastball ratings are something you can hang your hat on -- if ranking fifth in strikeouts and ninth in shutouts in the history of baseball isn't already enough.

  • Comments

    I'm not sure I understand why the Angels, or Eddie Bane, are the "bad guys" in this contract play. Boras wants Weaver to get paid as though he were Mark Prior, and Bane is playing hardball right back.

    Much ado about nothing? My guess is that we're overreacting to Bane's dismissal of college stats used to equate a 2nd year pro with an unsigned college pitcher. The Sabre community will do much better when the inferiority complex is finally dead.

    Who is the second year pro? Mark Prior? If so, not to nitpick but he completed his third pro season in 2004. He signed in August 2001 but didn't pitch that year. He went to spring training with the Cubs in 2002, was sent to the minors for a month-and-a-half and has been in the majors ever since.

    In any event, I'm not comparing Weaver to a second or third year pro. I'm comparing Weaver to Prior when he was also "an unsigned college pitcher." The fact that Prior is now a third year pro is neither here nor there. You could even argue the fact that he has pitched well has nothing to do with Weaver either although, if anything, it would be a point in Jered's favor.

    I am comparing apples to apples, folks. Weaver's college stats vs. Prior's. For those who think Jered's stats aren't comparable, give me one good reason why.

    If you want to argue mechanics, stuff, and what not, fine. I can only wonder if you would be willing to pay Weaver Prior-like money if he had the equivalent mechanics, stuff, etc. but not the equivalent stats?

    I'm a Cubs fan so I should be pretty aware of when Prior was drafted, but I guess by 2nd year pro I meant he only had 2 years of MLB experience. My bad.

    Regarding the compasion, do you think Boras would be trying to make the comparison if Prior was a bust and not a perennial Cy Young contender? I really doubt it. He's only making the comparison to try and get as much money for his client as he can, which is his job. Bane is contesting the importance of a comparison based on college stats because he doesn't want to pay that much money to sign Weaver...that's his job. I think you're creating a sabre/scouts fight where there really isn't one.

    *warning, digression*

    If this is an "EITHER / OR" issue to you, I'll bow out now. I don't think that this scenario or any other is actually STATS OR SKILLS, that's nonsense and I doubt anyone in an executive position in baseball sees things that plainly.

    The elements of sabre that are beneficial will be adopted by everyone sooner or later. Baseball has its stodgy luddites, but they're not always the ones making the decisions. The ones making the decisions want to win, and anything that helps them will be taken into consideration. So let's relax with the righteousness, it's making us look bad.

    Prior has 3 years of MLB experience! 2004 is over!

    I'm still trying to forget the Cubs' 2004 season ever happened, so I apologize.

    I never said it was an "either/or" issue or "stats vs. skills." I have compared their stats and skills. Weaver's three-year college totals are superior to Prior's, their junior years are incredibly similar, and Prior undoubtedly has better mechanics, throws a tad harder, and has better stuff.

    Weaver, however, does not take a back seat to Prior in the areas of command or control. He is a very polished pitcher and is as close to being major-league ready as any amateur has been since Prior.

    I have studied their stats, have seen them both pitch countless times, and believe that it is not unreasonable to compare the two. If I was Boras, I would be asking for Prior-type money. If I was in charge of the Angels draft, I would not have selected Weaver in the first round unless the team was willing to meet their demands.

    Had every team passed on Weaver in the first round, I believe it would have sent a clear message that his asking price was too high. The Angels were apparently delighted that Weaver was still available when their pick came up (12th overall) and they chose him.

    All I am saying is that the Angels knew what it would take to sign Weaver and should be willing to pay the freight. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Weaver's draft position slipped out of the top 2 or 3 because of "signability" concerns. To play devil's advocate one last time, I'll say that the Angels are likely approaching Weaver with a sense of leverage, given that 11 teams decided dealing with him was not worth his considerable promise. I think a comparison to Prior is Weaver's ceiling in terms of future production/ability, and I don't think the Angels are obligated to pay him this simply because "they knew what they were getting into." Their approach is likely that Weaver slipped to #12 because he lost value, even though he's probably a top 5 talent. Boras is obviously going to insist otherwise and want a contract based on Weaver's perceived value, (which he perceives is the same as Prior's a few years ago).

    The Angels are not in need of a savior, they're a contending club already with strong fan support. They do not HAVE to have the #12 draft pick under contract. I think that's why they're not giving in to Boras.

    In any event, the whole thing makes the NFL's draft slotting system look very nice. With all the talk about free agency making it impossible for small market teams to contend, we may have overlooked how it affects the draft.

    Re: The Drew Clause, I don't know if this has been brought up or not, but the one way this thing *might* be clever is if you wanted to create the motivation of a "walk year" in the middle of a long-term contract. Which might make sense if your player was A) injury-prone, and B) had his best & most injury-free season in a walk year.

    Just a theory; I thought Beltre-for-Drew, plus that contract, was a bad swap.