First off, I just want to say that I’m a big believer in the path the FO has taken up to now and won’t be disappointed if they don’t really spend this offseason except tinkering around the margins. I’m fully prepared to wait this rebuild out as long as it takes.
That said, I do feel they misled fans a bit with the "dual tracks" meme that Theo put out and I also believe there is a lot of room in the tank for spending now. Elgato had a solid post awhile back about their 2014 commitments which came in I believe around $75-$80 mil. I think this team (with people in the seats) could easily afford to double that and even approach the luxury tax in future years with or without the renovations.
Obviously Tanaka has been a target and I trust they will be in solidly on the bidding but there are no guarantees. At this point there aren’t even any guarantees that he’ll be posted.
But we all know that Tanaka isn’t enough to make this team contenders in 2014 without additional additions. That’s why I think they should chase Tanaka, Robinson Cano and possibly other major free agent acquisitions. I’ll detail the advantages to taking this approach at the end.
It’s been said that those who advocate spending only advocate spending indiscriminately and that doing so would tie up too many resources long term. I don’t think that’s entirely necessary and I think this off-season is a great time to strike for a variety of reasons.
So without putting too many specific dollar figures on some players, here’s the plan:
1. Bid heavily for Tanaka, price be damned. Estimated cost: $130/mil over 6 years or $22 mil for 2014. I’m sure they could find some way to amortize the posting fee over those 6 years. Truthfully, $22 mil. for a guy who’s never thrown a pitch state-side is a little scary
But according to most reports, he’s the best starter available and still young.
1a. Keep Shark (for now). If you’re going to win now, you need him.
2. Go with a high AAV for Cano on a shorter term. Recent reports indicate the Yankees aren’t willing to go over $200 million and are sticking to a 7 yr. $168 mil. offer. With the Tigers cutting payroll and having acquired Ian Kinsler, sleeper teams for Cano are quickly disappearing. I’d think the Mariners, Nationals, Mets and Cubs are his remaining options with the Mariners not sexy enough for Jay-Z and the Mets not wanting to spend that much on one player. The Nats have Anthony Rendon who has big upside so they don’t have a huge need. Teams finally seem to be wising up to the mistakes of 8,9 and 10 year deals so I don’t think that’s necessary here.
My offer: 6 years, $180 million. This blows away the record for AAV for a player but avoids those extra years where the value is massively diminished. Maybe this gets it done, maybe it doesn’t, but I think it’s worth a shot. Estimated cost: $30 mil.
3. Try to get a good CF option with upside on the cheap like Franklin Gutierrez or Grady Sizemore. I don’t know what these guys are looking for but as a wild guess I’d say you could get one on a 1 yr. pillow contract at an estimated cost of $4 mil.
4. Find a closer on the FA market or trade market. Personally, I’d use Nate Shierholtz and maybe Alcantara as trade bait and try to get a guy like Sergio Santos from the Blue Jays, but if that can’t be done then there seem to be plenty of options on the FA market. Estimated cost: $6 mil.
I’ll stop there, leaving an estimated 2014 payroll around $135 mil. Depending on how high you want to go, I’d also consider a 3 yr. 45 mil. deal for Curtis Granderson. He could start in left and move to CF if the Gutierrez/Sizemore experiment doesn’t work and one of the big prospects is ready. That would take them to $150 mil. and still leave them without a true ACE, but puts spending on a par with teams like the Rangers and Phillies. Those are teams I see as peers and think we can afford a comparable budget. It also leaves them with room to spend a little more as the home grown players hit their arb years.
Finally, the case to spend now has a ton of advantages:
1. It doesn’t give up a 1st round pick to sign big time free agents. Signing the best player on the board only costs a 2nd round pick now, but with an improved bullpen, that option is likely to be off the table in the future. Plus, you still have the #4 pick in the draft. Last I heard there were four potential college pitchers with TOR potential. Do we want to give up the #12 pick in the draft next year to sign a TOR starter? Unlikely.
2. It avoids rushing top prospects. A lot of you would argue that signing Cano would block our top prospects. That’s true to an extent, but not really. It only blocks them from 2b. Castro doesn’t bounce back? SS is available. Olt doesn’t recover? 3b is available. Plus the outfield is still pretty wide open. This way Baez, Bryant and Alcantara can get a full season in Iowa unless they’re absolutely tearing it up. It creates a situation where we’re calling them up as reinforcements and not out of need.
3. It creates depth to make a trade. Still want that ACE for the rotation? You have to like the depth this creates in infield position players.
4. It keeps long term payroll flexibility. Ok, maybe you can’t get Cano without guaranteeing that 7th or 8th year, in which case my case is blown to bits. But in reality, all these top prospects aren’t going to be making big bucks for the next 7 years anyway. The longer you wait to sign a big free agent, the longer those dollars are going to be tied up and possibly prevent them from keeping the guys they develop.
5. It will put people in the seats. Just a rough estimate, but my guess is that this plan would sell to those single game ticket buyers that have gone away. Maybe enough to move the attendance needle from 2.5, 2.75 up over 3 million and approaching 3.5 mil. That may be enough to pay for the Cano contract alone.
So that’s the case. I don’t think it’s going to happen but it sure would be fun to watch them blow us away.