The winter meetings have come to a close. That's not to say there won't be big deals flying around in its wake, but the frozen-concentrated version of GM dealings is a thing of the past. Some people think it's a pain in the ass, and others think it's outlived its usefulness, but for many of us who follow the sport closely, it's a way to enjoy some Vegas-like news cycles during the off months. Seriously, doesn't the whole thing feel like pulling the lever on the slot machine when you click refresh? If you're a Royals' fan, you probably feel like you've just come up lemons.
Gil Meche for 5 years??!!! 5 years, folks. 5 years. Oh, and he'll be paid an average of 11 million during each of those years. Staggering.
Right now Meche is 28 years old. He has a career 96 ERA+, which puts him right at league average for a starting pitcher. In 5 years Meche will be 33 years old. With the Royals offense behind him, if he does what he did last season, or even slightly better over those 5 years, he will average 10-12 wins a year against 8-10 losses. I found that by first using my head, and then checking it by using pythagorean win formula. That's not the most important thing though.
With the Tigers young pitching staff and good lineup, a Chicago-market driven team in the White Sox, and a Twins team that has great young players and pitchers as well a better plan, how on Earth are the Royals going to compete? The answer is, they're not. You've spent 11 million of your annual budget on a .500 pitcher. That 11 million represents about a fifth of your projected 2007 payroll. We're talking about Gil Meche.......
The Royals are spending $50 million of their 2007 budget right now on the following players:
Gil Meche ($7 million, career 96 ERA+)
Mike Sweeney ($11 million, career 120 OPS+)
Odalis Perez ($8 million, career 96 ERA+)
Jason LaRue ($5 million, career 90 OPS+)
Reggie Sanders ($5 million, career 115 OPS+)
Scott Elarton ($4 million, career 89 ERA+)
Mark Grudzielanek ($4 million, career 89 OPS+)
Angel Berroa ($3.25 million, career 78 OPS+)
David DeJesus ($2 million, career 107 OPS+)
The Royals problem is not that they can't compete with the Yankees for players. The Royals problem is that they spend money on guys that can't play baseball well. Gil Meche would be unecessary if you could develop a good young starter like, say, Phil Hughes or Francisco Liriano. Mike Sweeney is a fine player, but he's mainly a DH these days and it makes no sense to spend a quarter of your payroll on a DH. If you spend big on a guy with a 120 OPS+, he ought to play a hard to find position. The Royals problem is a fundamental lack of understanding of the modern game and the way a team can be constructed to win in a small market. Someone buy a copy of "Moneyball" for Dayton Moore, and tell him to put Meche's money into the minor league scouting and development system.
To put a cap on today's post, Brian "Ca$h Money" Cashman, aka Keyser Soze, had a brilliant winter meetings. He watched Ted Lilly get 4 years at $10 million from the Cubs (all 10 million taxable), while he was content to take on Igawa at the same money, of which only about 4-5 million will be taxable. He got a backup catcher on the cheap, for what that's worth, and used the Rule V Draft to snag a decent 1st base prospect to push Phillips in Spring Training. Pettitte is probably on the way, and he had dinner with the most powerful agent in the sport. C.R.E.A.M.
UPDATE: The Royals also go out and sign Octavio Dotel for a one year, $5 million deal with incentives. Why? It's great for Dotel. He can be a FA again after the year and latch on with a contender. He gets to work his way back against Major Leaguers without a whole lot of pressure. For the Royals, why do they think they need a player of Dotel's caliber closing games for them? Shouldn't they be spending all this money on developing players that will actually be around when they aren't guaranteed to finish last, behind Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago, and Detroit? Thank God for the dim-witted.