Monday, December 19, 2011

Playing Devil's Advocate On Yu Darvish


By
Image courtesy of CBC.ca
Up until yesterday, it was full speed ahead on the Yu Darvish Express. I was all for the Blue Jays signing the Japanese phenom. But then something planted a seed of doubt that sprouted some thoughts of apprehension.

It all stemmed from an article Bruce Arthur of the National Post wrote on Yu Darvish. After getting wound up in the Yu Darvish hype, I found this article to be a big reality check and really brought me back down to earth.

Essentially, Arthur said that fans should be surprised if the Blue Jays land Darvish, because it doesn't really fit in with the model that Alex Anthopoulos has been building since he took over the helm.

The main point that Arthur mentioned that really clicked with me is the Blue Jays spent $70 million dollars total on player payroll in 2011. If there's any truth the rumours, the Blue Jays could have paid $50 million plus just for the negotiating rights for one player.

If you take that payroll information into consideration, then it really puts things into perspective.

Why would AA take close to an entire year's worth of team payroll and bank it on merely a posting fee alone? Then factor in the potential contract and the price for Yu Darvish completely eclipses the entire team's payroll.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see the Blue Jays sign Yu Darvish. Judging by the buzz around the blogosphere and Twitterverse the past week, I think it's safe to say most fans feel the same way.

Nothing's even set in stone with Darvish, and yet there has been a buzz with fans that I haven't experienced since the 2006 off-season. When the Blue Jays signed A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan, and acquired Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay.

The caveat is none of this fits in with "the plan". It goes against everything Paul Beeston has ever said about the posting process, and it contradicts the model which AA has built since day one.

Alex Anthopoulos painstakingly worked to create a lean mean payroll and acquire players with high ceilings. We just witnessed him trade to get a closer in Sergio Santos with a team friendly contract, when he just as easily could've found one on the open market.

Also, this whole Yu Darvish thing doesn't jive with the recent comments about payroll parameters. If the Blue Jays are truly holding back, why would the payroll restraints suddenly become nonexistent?

As a quick aside, as @ChrisArnold33 pointed out to me on Twitter, if the Blue Jays were actually in on Mat Latos "to the end" as Peter Gammons reported, why would they bid high on Yu Darvish?

The Blue Jays would have had to send a boatload of players to San Diego in return for Mat Latos. A move like that seems much more feasible and follows the pattern of what Anthopoulos has done in the past.

Admittedly, I'm just as anxious as any of you are about the Yu Darvish news, but the unique thing about this whole situation is the Blue Jays are in a great position no matter what happens.

Either they get the rights to arguably one of the best pitchers on the market, or they put that money back in their pocket and Alex Anthopoulos sticks with the blueprint and marches forward.

Assuming the Blue Jays don't win the Yu Darvish bidding process, the first reaction might initially be a little disappointment, but that will be followed up by a huge sigh of relief.

If the Blue Jays get Darvish, it might put them over the top, but if they don't get him it's not like Toronto immediately plummets to the bottom of the AL East. This is by no means a "make or break" situation for the club.

In this whole Yu Darvish situation, it helps a little bit to play devil's advocate. On one hand, it would really send a message that the organization is willing to pony up the cash when necessary. But on the other hand, why risk that much money and deviate from the plan?
 
No matter which stance you have on this issue, I think we can all agree the framework is there for the Blue Jays to become contenders.

Getting Yu Darvish doesn't necessarily change the framework of "the plan", it just advances the timeline for when it will hopefully come to fruition.

8 comments:

  1. I'm amazed by how many people believe this deal is at odds with what the Blue Jays are doing. It isn't at all. For one, the $50 million+ posting fee does not factor into the payroll. For all intents, it's no differant than a signing bonus (though granted, a big one.) For two, if they win the bid and sign him to a long-term contract, you're talking about acquiring a 25 yr old pitching ace. The Jays are building their team around young, controllable, but extremely talented players. They try to acquire these players without giving up draft picks or giving up too much of their own young talent in return. All said, this is EXACTLY what Darvish represents. And for three, there are several reasons beyond performance. For one, attendance spikes when Japanese players come to town. Two- and this is something I can't believe hasn't been reported more as an obvious angle- but as a communications company, Rogers does alot of business in and with Japan. There is strategic business reasoning beyond the baseball asset itself to signing one of Japan's most famous athletes.

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  2. There's a risk in everything "baseball" but if the Jays are truly going to have a contending team they need to take some of these risks and also spend some money....which apparently is available! I don't think they can be content even if they successfully sign Darvish as in my opinion they must acquire another bat such as Fielder or (dreaming)Votto.

    Here's Hoping Knsgee

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  3. I don't mean to pick, but Bruce Arthur writes for the National Post, not the Globe and Mail. As for the rest of your column, I couldn't agree more.

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  4. fmradioguy, the posting fee doesn't factor into the total payroll, but if that $50+ million amount proves to be true, it really does put into perspective just how much Darvish is going to cost.

    As a player alone, Darvish fits in with the model the Blue Jays are building; young, controllable talent. But that price tag is what sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Knsgee, the Blue Jays are in a very unique position right now because the players they need are right there for the picking (Darvish, Fielder, etc). It's just with all the comments about payroll and keeping costs down, this Darvish thing suddenly doesn't fit in with what the front office has been saying. Unless they've changed their tune.

    Anon, dually noted - thanks for catching that, I've fixed it.

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  5. The only way i see this working within "the plan" is if rogers did indeed tell AA and Beeston that they could make back the posting fee over the life of the contract, ie. 10mm per year, through extra ad revenue, cell phone deals etc. I seem to remember Beeston commenting that he had made Rogers aware of Darvish in the summer. Very likely, they have put some resources into developing a marketing plan and gave AA a non"baseball" budget with which he could go over his "baseball" budget. If so, it would make total sense that AA would capitalize on that inefficiency and bid big.

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  6. My point about the $50+ million is that it's a one time business expense. The Jays don't like long-term contracts beyond 5 years because the market (revenue)- and player performance- is so volatile. The posting fee is only a one-time investment consideration for this off-season. It doesn't count towards their plans for any season ahead (as they plan long-term.) That's why it may be a concern for some fans, but it isn't a concern for Rogers.

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  7. Darvish fits into the plans if AA and Beaston were told that Rogers would eat the posting fee and would not affect the payroll.

    I can see the advantage that Rogers can get on this one, Darvish has the franchise star potential and his ethnicity would play well in Toronto with the Asian and Middle-Eastern communities. These two communities have a large segment of Toronto's middle class and are underrepresented amongst the Blue Jays fans. Through this, Rogers has unique home market sources of revenue, rather than the more nebulous Japanese market.

    If the team plays well, Rogers could see bumps where they care the most, Sportsnet ratings and Sportsnet One subscriptions.

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  8. Anon 1, I'm not sure how teams are looking at the breakdown of the contract, but I'm looking at it as if the posting fee were to be worked into the contract total.

    Anon 2, so perhaps the posting fee could be written off as something entirely? It's an intriguing possibility, and may be a way to get around things.

    Anon, I think the contract itself for Darvish would look pretty reasonable. 5 years/$65 million isn't too bad of a starting point. The cash is definitely there, the question is do they want to spend it?

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