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Save the Small Market Teams from Themselves!
Posted by Derek VanRiper at 12/7/2006 2:00:00 PM
View more posts by this author


I can only feel bad when a team like the Royals, set on turning their dreadful past 10-plus seasons of existence into something more promising and meaningful, finally get a chance to open their pocketbook only to sign...Gil Meche. Five years, $55 million. A rebuilding franchise could spend that amount of money in an infinite number of ways.

I'm not exactly splitting the atom when I point out that this year's free-agent market is very weak. However, there needs to be some kind of safeguard against these sort of mishaps. The government does this with seatbelt laws, age limits on purchasing and enjoying booze and smokes, needs to have a system of rules in place to protect the league's "children" from themselves as well. When you look at the big picture, the Royals are essentially the league's 16-year-old kid who just got his driver's license (the Yankees, if you must know, are the retired old man, looking for the nose-hair trimmer before racing to Country Kitchen for the early-bird special). Meche has a 55-44 career record with a 4.65 ERA in 147 games. Sure, Ted Lilly got $40 million over four years from the Cubs, but it's the Cubs (and as a Brewers' fan I'm just excited about having a soft-tossing lefty on board for Prince Fielder to pound into the Miller Lite Beer Pen).

The point is this. Gramps enjoys his biscuits and gravy and saves a few bucks in the process (that good 401k helps too), allowing him to pay guys like Carl Pavano at the end of the day. He can afford it, and nobody needs to feel sorry for him. But did someone put LSD in owner David Glass' milkshake? We're talking about a man who pinched pennies at Wal-Mart back when pennies were made of copper. What the heck is he doing spending like this, when he could get a serviceable arm like John Thompson out of the $5.50 DVD bin? It is as if the kid just got his first paycheck, and it's burning a hole in his pocket.


Derek - While I agree to a point, at least the Royals are finally addressing a real need with someone other than a Scott Erickson or Aaron Sele type. Meche has always had very good upside and was reportedly hitting 98 late in the year. He's also just 28. The usual injury caveats apply, but he could really solidify that rotation. I'd much rather see them spend big on one guy than bring in more veterans like Reggie Sanders, guys on the downsides of their careers. Face it - Zito, Schmidt, et al weren't coming to KC, so if they had to "overpay", then so be it.

The argument that they should have spent the money elsewhere is somewhat flawed in my opinion. Who were they going to bring in for $11 million a year? Soriano? Carlos Lee? Those guys wouldn't play for the Royals. Ted Lilly? How much more than $40 million would he have cost to bring him to KC instead of the Cubs? Who knows.

So, while the odds are slim that the Royals will get $55 million "worth" of production from Meche, at least they're players. Combine Meche with Bannister, Greinke, Hochevar and someone else and at least Royals fans have some hope. Beats running the likes of Jeremy Affeldt and the recently-released Runelvys Hernandez out there.

Combine that with an impressive group of up-and-coming young hitters, mix in some vets, and who knows.
Posted by vtadave at 12/7/2006 3:40:00 PM
I definitely wasn't aiming for the "they should've got someone better" angle. I was thinking more along the lines of not spending here could save them later when they've got to start paying the youngsters. I don't know any KC fans, but the fact that they're spending money is at least somewhat promising.
Posted by dvr9484 at 12/7/2006 4:12:00 PM
Five years, $55 million... why does that contract sound so familiar...
Posted by ESiegrist at 12/7/2006 4:27:00 PM
The Pirates pulled some 78 singles off the bargain bin when they picked up Burnitz and Randa last year. Perhaps a Jason Bay extension is in the offing, but I doubt it. That's what I'd do. What stinks with small-market free agents is that teams have to overpay to get mediocre players because the better ones usually want a real shot at winning. At least that's what I tell myself when good players pass on Pittsburgh. The Pirates need a Pudge-like signing to break their free-agent stigma, but even Pudge was on the wrong side of 30 when he signed with Detroit.
Posted by jtopper at 12/7/2006 5:10:00 PM
"Meche has always had very good upside"

That's the problem. At some point you actually have to reach your potential. The note Siegrist referenced sums it up best:

"Dreifort's five-year, $55 million contract stands as the primary example of the risk of signing promising pitchers to long-term deals without a proven track record."

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 12/7/2006 5:16:00 PM
In all fairness to Dreifort, it wasn't his unproven track record that necessarily derailed him, it was the plethora of injuries he suffered. A better analogy would be something like the Yankees' signing of Jaret Wright, though it wasn't nearly as debilitating.
Posted by bscwik at 12/7/2006 8:48:00 PM
There's a new, well-respected regime in KC, so let's give them the benefit of the doubt.
Posted by vtadave at 12/8/2006 8:31:00 AM

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