"All men commend patience, although few are willing to practice it." - Thomas Fuller
So during this winter storm, I got a couple of books on Amazon, one being The Extra 2%. I'm pretty sure most people here know what that book is about, so I won't bore everyone by going into the details.
What I thought while reading it is that there are things in the book that I think apply to the Mariners. And perhaps brings up certain subjects that I normally would dismiss, but now I might have to take a look at again.
Before I begin, I apologize if the article doesn't flow well, I tend to be a bit jumbled when writing something for the first time.
Perhaps the biggest thing that I always rolled my eyes about was the argument as long as the How-Chuck monster at the top remains, the team will remain a loser. I dismissed it thinking that if they let Z do his job, it wouldn't matter.
However, in reading the book, if the owners and the FO aren't on the same page, chances are things will not go as smoothly as hoped. So even if Zduriencik has the best plan, if How-Chuck has the employees on pins and needles, or they won't give him the resources (whether it be time, money, or the like) it won't matter.
So there is something to be said after all about how the owners are running (or how they are letting others) run the organization.
Another example of the similarities between the Rays and the M's was the fact that they mentioned that one mistake could cost an organization time in rebuilding. The book talked about Pat Burrell. Perhaps a move that has cost the M's is the signing of Chone Figgins. If we hadn't signed him, perhaps the money could have gone to Fielder (if we were/are/you get the point going after him). Burrell's contract was just 2 years, Figgins' is much longer.
The last question is regarding the dreaded word - payroll *gasp*. Yes, I said it.
The argument always goes that our market is bigger than down in St. Pete, so we shouldn't have to "stoop down" to their tactics to build a good team.
If it works though, and it doesn't take up resources, why not do it?
Well in taking the Rays' tack, you have to be better at evaluating talent than your competition. Because your payroll is less, a signing like the aforementioned Burrell can set back an organization years. You also have to be able to find what is undervalued. As my friend says, Moneyball isn't about things like OBP and sabermetrics, it's about finding undervalued assets and taking advantage of what The Extra 2% called arbitrage.
But with the talk surrounding the Millwood signing, it appears that our bloggers here think the M's aren't doing enough to justify the Montero trade - and that a declining payroll will not be tolerated by the fanbase.
Which is true. But like we've argued earlier against Baker's article, there's no reason to spend money just to spend money. So if we're just filling out the roster now waiting for the young players to develop, then is there a reason to? Especially if a bad 2-year deal could set us back? And then what good FA would want to sign here for just 1 year? You can argue if Eckstein is a good player or not, but it's a recent example (that I recall) of a FA refusing to play in Seattle.
Put it together, and I wonder now if we actually are like the Rays' and we're overstating the capabilities of the organization at this time (yes, I know we spent $100 million at one point).
If that is the case, then we must turn towards our minors and how we've drafted. Thing is, we know it generally takes several years for players to work their way up the minors. To that end, I've created a spreadsheet that shows the 3 drafts Z has been involved in as well as the signings/trades he's made. The sheet can be found here.
To summarize though in the 2009 draft, the players filtered as follows (anyone who didn't have any stats in 2011 was considered released and minor league rosters on MLB.com as of 01.21.2012 were used):
- Major League - 2 (Ackley, Seager)
- AAA - 1
- AA - 9
- A+ - 8
- A - 3
- Released - 12
Of the 2010 draftees:
- AAA - 2
- AA - 2
- A+ - 6
- A - 9
- A- - 7
- Rk+ - 5
- Rk - 4
- Released - 6
And of this past year's:
- Unknown - 1 (Hultzen)
- A+ - 3
- A - 5
- A- - 10
- Rk+ - 10
- Rk - 11
So even with 2+ years in the organization, most of the draftees from 2009 are sitting in AA or A+, the 2010 draftees are sitting somewhere in the A level, while players from this past draft sit in A- or Rookie ball. You also start to see the attrition rates as the years pass.
Now, we know we aren't expecting every draft pick to become a hit, but if you look at the progression of players as each year passes, it may still be a while before we see the heart of the draft picks coming up.
And if that's the case, there isn't any reason to throw money out there if what the book says is true. And the transactions seem to suggest that the FA signings were to try and field a major league roster while not allocating resources long-term, trades were to either restock the minors or rebuild the major league rosters while we wait for the draftees to rise up the ranks.
But if the M's are indeed playing the Rays' game, you have to be willing to open the purse strings again when the time comes though, else it may undermine the good work put in earlier.
Does that make the Montero trade bad if the M's don't do anything else like everyone else claims? I'm not so sure. It could be a case of arbitrage that we're not seeing - and I don't claim to be able to know if that is the case or not. But looking at the team in this manner, and if we're comparing where we are to the Rays' process in the book, we may still be a year or two behind the curve.