The Manny vs. Dodgers saga is getting real interesting. The cojones Manny has to turn down their 2-year, $45 million offer. But here’s the thing: the tables might actually be turning in his favor.
A few weeks ago I wrote how the Dodgers had Manny over a barrel. And they did. Manny had no other suitors and the market was crashing. Playing hardball had left Manny and agent Scott Boras without the teams to create a bidding war, and, with salaries dropping, they were out of options. Meanwhile, the Dodgers had the luxury of being Manny’s only true option, and they could have played hardball and dropped their offer below $20 million a year, or gone out and got another slugger (or two) in guys like Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu.
Fast forward a few weeks, and the Dodgers are starting to look like the desperate ones. They’ve mismanaged their Manny dealings, and now they may be forced to pay through the nose for him after all. Instead of drawing a line in the sand, giving Manny a deadline and threatening to go sign other players, the Dodgers stayed idle and watched as their other options (Dunn, Abreu) all signed elsewhere. Now they are the ones out of options.
The Dodgers didn’t NEED Manny. They fooled themselves into believing that after his performance last season, but they didn’t need him. They needed a good bat. They still need that bat, but now Manny is their only option. They must have been shocked when he turned down this latest offer.
Where things go from here is anyone’s guess. Both parties are out of options; it’s now a game of chicken. Given how weak the NL West is, the Dodgers could play hardball and stick with what they now have and be very competitive in their division. But the Dodger brass might be getting desperate to add Manny’s bat, and Manny and Boras might sense that. Don’t be surprised if the Dodgers give him a third year, possibly with a club or incentive-triggered option for a fourth.
The Scott Boras/Jason Varitek act is getting downright comical.
According to the Boston Globe’s Tony Mazzarotti, a baseball source (read: Boras) says Varitek is seriously considering sitting out the 2009 season or retiring rather than take the 2-year offer from the Red Sox.
Stop and think about that for a second. Really . . . stop and think about that. First, notice how none of his other options are accepting an offer from another team. So there’s zero incentive for the Sox to up the price. Now, does anyone really think Varitek is going to leave a guaranteed $8 million on the table (likely more) and retire from a sport he still believes he can play? Doesn’t work like that. And does he really think he could sit out of baseball for a full year and then come back when he’s even older and hasn’t seen a fastball in a full season, and have a team give him anything more than a minor league contract?
The stance Boras and Tek are now taking is so out there it is funny. And the Sox are in a win-win situation. If Tek accepts (which he will), they have a catcher for the next two seasons. And if he declines, Tek and Boras will be seen as the villains (or, at least, inept baffoons) in this saga, and the Sox get to make a break from a popular player without taking a PR hit.
BTW, a lot of the discussion about Varitek has been framed around whether he can bounce back from a .220 season, or whether he’ll be a .220 hitter from here on out. Forgotten in all this is the possibility he could deteriorate even further into the Mirabelli zone (~.198 – .205). I don’t think this will happen; I think he’ll hit better than last year. But it is possible, especially given his age and the history of catchers falling apart. Either way, the Sox need to deal for a young catcher before too long. If they don’t like the pricetags for Saltalamacchia or Montero now, don’t be surprised to see them try and make one of those moves in May, when a need arises in-season for the Rangers or D-backs.
Given baseball’s current economic woes and the lack of suitors for Jason Varitek, the reported offer by the Red Sox certainly seems more than fair. Reports have the Sox offering Tek a two-year deal, with the first year paying him $5 million, and the second season having a club option at $5 mill or a player option at $3 mill.
Let’s face it, most potential landing spots for Tek have already filled their catcher slot. And, with most teams struggling financially, it would be hard to imagine another team ponying up more than $3 million a year in a mult-year deal for Tek at this point. If the Sox wanted to play hardball, they could put a $2 or $3 million deal on the table for Tek and dare him to leave it out there. He has no other alternatives. It might not be the best business decision for the Sox in terms of saving Benjamins, but they are doing right by their team captain. Once again, Sox management is handling this brilliantly.
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Superagent Scott Boras has now botched A-Rod’s uber-contract in 2007, mishandled Manny Ramirez, cost Jason Varitek millions of dollars, and alienated the second-biggest financial institution in baseball (the Red Sox) with how he handled the Teixeira negotiations. Might we see Boras start to lose some of his shine?
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I am still wondering what is happening in Anaheim. Before their defense imploded in October, they were arguably the best team in baseball last year. Sure, they lost K-Rod. But their biggest problem in recent years has been an offense that couldn’t support and protect Vlad Guerrero. Now they lose Teixeira, and although bats like Abreu, Manny and Adam Dunn are still out there, they don’t seem to be moving at all. It baffles me. They have millions of dollars they were preparing to give Teixeira in a mult-year deal; with Vlad in decline, their window of opportunity as an elite team is closing; never before have there been so many impact free agents desperate for a deal this late in the offseason. If this was our team, Sox fans would be yanking their hair out. If the Angels don’t make a move, the AL West could be wide open next season.
It’s been fascinating this offseason to watch teams finally calling Scott Boras’s bluff. For years his negotiating practice has been to create phantom offers, telling teams that he had deals on the table for years and dollars beyond all reason, and sending actual teams into panic mode to sign their coveted players. Remember back in 2005, when he said he had in hand an offer for more years and roughly $20 million more for Johnny Damon then what he ultimately signed with the Yankees for? And how come Tek has yet to sign with that team that supposedly offered him three years at an annual pay raise?
Now teams are calling him on it. It’s great to see the Angels and Red Sox saying “Show us your cards.” And how nice was it to see Boras scambling this week, trying to keep the Angels as players as well as the Sox, saying his player was still interested in them, desperately hoping to salvage some kind of bidding war? But now the bidding that many thought could fly well past $200 million is dropping faster than the stock market.
Teams are now going to start being wary of Boras’s negotiating style. And in the end, it might ultimately start to cost his players some money. If teams are hesitant to bid on players, that could keep the prices down. Whereas the Sox might have been willing to approach $190 million for Tex, maybe now they knock ten to fifteen million off that price and dare Boras and Tex to get a better offer (and possibly with a doomed franchise). And maybe – just maybe – players might start being better off with other agents.
Of course, there’s always some desperate team looking to do something stupid to make a splash. The fledgling Washington franchise might just not see the wisdom in restraint and do something crazy. The Nationals are kind of like North Korea with nuclear weapons — a desperate, jittery, insecure, more-than-half-crazy entity that might try to make itself important to the baseball world by dropping a salary bomb on Tex. Then again, we’ve seen this scenario play out again and again. And if Tex signs with the Nats — preventing them from signing other significant players — he deserves his years of misery . . . and so do the Nationals.
Reports are the Sox brass are currently in Texas with Scott Boras hammering out the final details of the contract for Mark Teixeira. The announcement that Tex is a member of the Sox could come any moment.
Now what? The Sox have seen this coming for awhile, and likely already have a trading partner for Mike Lowell. Expect him to be dealt almost immediately, as much in fairness to Lowell as anything else. The sooner Lowell knows where he is going, the better for him.
Then it is on to signing another starter. Of course, the Sox could slide Masterson, Bucholz or Bowden into that open rotation spot. But expect them to bring in a veteran to fill that spot to begin the year, with the three young arms being worked in gradually throughout the season, and maybe even locking down a rotation spot or two (Wake’s?) come September.
With so many young arms on the horizon, they likely won’t look for a long term deal, so no Lowe or deal for Peavy. We’re probably looking at a Paul Byrd type for a one-year deal, maybe they can score a Brad Penny for two-years. I still maintain Ben Sheets might be best served grabbing a one-year deal and cashing in next offseason, but he might just be satisfied with a sub-par annual salary but three- to four-year deal now.
Have they played the World Series yet?
Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies on winning an utterly forgettable World Series. I think the television ratings for the series was an average of 17 people, one of whom was my brother who goes from 6 to 12 everytime somebody, somewhere, mentions Chase Utley’s name. His fantasy-baseball-spawned man-crush on Utley is so disturbing, I’m thinking of reporting him to the authorities.
At least the Devil Rays didn’t win it all. And it is kind of fitting that they lost the series to the most insignificant franchise in sports history. That isn’t sour grapes talking; the history of the Phillies backs me up on this. There’s the obvious 10,000 losses and counting to point to. There’s also their contribution — or lack there of — to baseball. I remember walking the timeline in the Baseball Hall of Fame once, and suddenly, out of nowhere, there was a mention of the Phillies in the 1950s. I said, “Whoa, where’d they come from?” Turns out they’d been around since the start of the century. They just hadn’t done anything or had any player worth a mention til then. And they wouldn’t again until 1980. It’s one thing to go 80 years without a championship. It’s a whole other exercise in insignificance to go that long without even making a ripple in the baseball world. To be fair, though, the Phillies for the most part have at least been worth keeping an eye on for the bulk of the last three decades.
Of course, this all explains clearly why nobody watched this Series. Imagine the LA Clippers against the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Finals, or the Houston Texans taking on the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl. (Actually, insert any Atlanta franchise in discussions about fans not paying attention to a series.) Thankfully, this series only went five games. And it’s the only series I can ever remember not watching more than three innings of.
But now its on to the exciting Hot Stove season. I’m liking what I hear about the Sox chasing Texeira. In my previous post I said I hoped they would go after him, but wasn’t sure that they would. Obviously, Theo looks to see what my baseball genius mind has going on. I’m also liking that they are talking about going after Saltalmacchia for a catcher. They should do this regardless of whether they bring back Varitek or not, as they need to begin grooming his successor even if they have Tek for another two years. I can’t believe anyone will pay Tek the numbers Scott Boras is throwing out. But you never know. There’s a lot of stupid people in baseball with a lot of stupid money. (See: Angels sign Gary Matthews Jr. and see Yankees sign Jorge Posada to big money, mult-year deal . . . stuuuupid.)