Richard Herr - Updating a Quote

Updating a Quote
Way back when, in a time when they had a major league baseball team in Brooklyn, that team’s General Manager made the statement, “Always trade a player a year too soon rather than a year too late.” I’m quoting Branch Rickey.

(Note to all you other older guys out there. Be careful about making historic references. There’s a bunch of people out there who don’t understand what you’re referring to. They’re called “younger,” and the number of them seems to be increasing a whole lot. If you refer to something, and it just raises a blank stare out of these people, use the code phrase “Google it.” They seem to understand what that means.)

(Note to younger people in reference to the name Branch Rickey. Google it.)

Mr. Rickey’s quote is somewhat outdated, since he said those words back in the time before baseball players had free agency. At that time players signed consecutive one-year contracts with the only team that had his rights. Unless they were traded. Trading away a player was a good idea if it seemed that he had peaked and was headed into the twilight of his career. The Goldilocks Zone for trading a player away was to swap him right after he’d had his last good year, and just before his numbers started to fade. However, as Mr. Rickey said, it was better to trade him before that last good year rather than after he started to succumb to the drag of time.

Nowadays, unless the player is under club control, there are no more of those year-to-year decision opportunities.  If a player’s contract has lapsed, he’s a free agent.

There’s a wider range of decisions that can be made during the tenure of a long-term contract. If you feel the last year or two of the contract are a loss, you can try to trade the guy a year before his numbers go south, but moving a deal that size is pretty hard to do unless you get back a guy who is also about to give reduced numbers on a large contract. The best way to handle a too-long contract is to frontload it. The last years of reduced output is compensated with reduced remuneration. (If you don’t believe me, ask Hal Steinbrenner about A-Rod.)

(If you’re about eight years old, Google A-Rod and Hal Steinbrenner.)

Most of the contracts, particularly the Mets, are short term or arbitration years, heading into free agency. The short term contracts are easy to figure out. Management decides if they want to re-sign the player and negotiates an extension. It’s the last-year-of-arbitration players that remind one of Mr. Rickey’s quote. This is where things take on a “year too soon” quality. Players can be traded a year before--or even a half-year before--they walk to free agency.

There are some interesting examples in the case of the Mets.

The first, chronologically, is Lucas Duda. He’s a free agent at the end of this year. The heir-apparent to his job is Dominic Smith, who looks to be at least a year away. Do they let Lucas walk? Do they send him off at the trade deadline and move someone over to cover first, like Walker? What if Lucas looks like he’s having a forty-dinger year?

A year too soon, or a year too late?

The other big one is Matt Harvey. Next year is his walk year. I’m sure there’ll be some talks about a long-term contract. If that falls through, do you try to trade him in the off-season? Or do you see if you can ship him at the trade deadline next year? Or do you even kiss him off at the trade deadline this year, even though this is a win-now year?

A year too soon, or a year too late?
There’s another player who’s heading toward free agency after next season: Jeurys Familia. Nobody’s talking much about what to do with him. I have a strong feeling the club needs to start looking to extend his contract or he could walk.

A year too soon, or a year too late?

Another thing I hear Mets fans and media saying is “Trade him!” with a great sweep of the arm. Kind of like the Queen of Hearts saying, “off with their heads!” We have to remember that trading someone involves getting someone back from the other team. If all they’re offering is a bucket of balls, you don’t want to trade someone. “Trade him!” is not a sure thing.

One year too soon, or one year too late?

I wonder if that Google thing could help figure that out?

Whenever Richard Herr isn’t solving all the Mets’ problems, he spends his time writing humorous science fiction novels.

You can see his books at https://www.amazon.com/Richard-Herr/e/B00J5XBKX4.


Mack Ade said...

I see the two problems this team faces is a long range plan for C and 1B. I don't think the team has the players to solve these problems

Of course, I do not see a long term problem at third since we are going to sign Manny M in the off season.

Reese Kaplan said...

Awhile back I wrote about trading Matt Harvey once he demonstrates he's healthy and pitching at a good quality level. Steve Matz's health may have thrown a wrench in the long term plans, however. Going with Syndergaard, de Grom, Gsellman and Lugo isn't bad, but you need a 5th starter and with the prospect looming that Matz can't be counted on long term it may shift the thinking on Harvey (which is making Scott Boras get an erection, no doubt).

Duda I think is a goner regardless. His health and inconsistent production make a long term investment less than ideal. Smith underwhelmed this spring, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in Las Vegas. It will also be interesting to see if some combination of TJ Rivera and Wilmer Flores get reps at 1B in the event Duda is hurt or Smith is not quite ready.

Jeurys Familia is an interesting case. Right now Addison Reed is your highest priced reliever but I think his tenure with the club could end after this season due to that salary. That means Familia is less likely to be moved. Good clubs realize the need to spend for a shutdown reliever.

Remember, next year Curtis Granderon's salary and Jay Bruce's salary are off the books. They get minimum wage replacements in Michael Conforto and perhaps Brandon Nimmo. That means the usual miserly ways won't cut mustard.

Thomas Brennan said...

I think we need to see if Matz is a health issue or false alarm.

If the latter, strongly consider trading him in the off season as undamaged goods.

Mack's Mets © 2012