Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Did The Red Sox Even Want Roger?

Buried in the last paragraph of the first page of Gordon Edes' column in today's Boston Globe is the following tidbit:
The talent, depth, and health of the Sox' starting rotation is an obvious reason for the team's fast start, and the reason they weren't going to match the Yankees's prorated $28.022 million deal for Clemens. The prorated $18 million they offered Clemens last week was less than the prorated $22 million the Astros gave him last summer. That would suggest the ardor with which the Sox pursued the Rocket had cooled since last year, but was enough -- agent Randy Hendricks text-messaged Yankees general manager Brian Cashman last week that he was in Boston -- that the Yankees had to pay top dollar. [emphasis mine]
After reading that, I asked myself the following questions:
  • Why would the Red Sox offer Clemens less money than he made last year?
  • Why would they propose a drop in pay for Clemens when they know the Yankees are desperate for starting pitching and are likely to throw the sink at Clemens?
When you carry this out to its logical conclusion, there can be only answer. Theo Epstein isn't stupid. OK, he signed Edgar Renteria, but other than that. Epstein is eminently capable of reading a market, and clearly he had to know exactly what Clemens would want to return to Boston. He also knew that the Red Sox, with Lester in the wings, didn't really need Clemens. So, rather than say he wasn't interested, he severely underbid.

But, mattymatty, you say, the Red Sox bid $18Million for Roger's services! How can that possibly be underbidding, let alone severely underbidding? The answer is it is severely underbidding because Epstein and Lucchino and Werner and Henry and anyone with a working brain in their head could have told you that if Clemens made $22 Million (pro-rated) last season, he was going to demand more this season. Yet, despite that bit of obviousness, the Red Sox bid less not more. The Red Sox brain trust couldn't have possibly thought that they would obtain Clemens for less money than he made last season.

Which leads me to the second part of Edes' paragraph. Clemens agent Randy Hendricks text messaged Yankees GM Brian Cashman that he was in Boston. Why would he do that? Well, for obvious reasons, like to let the Yankee know that Boston is in this and if you really want Roger, which they did, then they'd better offer everything they have. This is starting to look a bit orchestrated.

Heres what I think: The Red Sox would have taken Clemens back, but only at their price. Mostly they weren't interested in the services of the soon to be 45 year old. They were interested, however, in the Yankees paying top dollar for Clemens, and the $28Million the Yankees paid Clemens (pro-rated, of course) is the highest amount any player has ever made for a single season's work. Higher than Giambi, higher than Jeter, and yes, higher than A-Rod. All for a guy who doesn't have to be there when he isn't starting. Starting to get the picture now?

Everyone says the Yankees print their own money. But thats not really true in any sense. Remember when Carlos Beltran signed with the Mets? He offered himself to the Yankees at a reduced price at the time, but GM Brian Cashman said no because the team would have taken a huge luxury tax hit in addition to Beltran's salary, and the Yankees couldn't afford it.
Even the Yankees have their price ceiling.

The Yankees just spent their whole wad on Clemens. Maybe he'll come through for them and cap an amazing career by leading them to the World Series. But, more likely, he'll collect a ton of money, whatever the Yankees had in the wings for in-season improvements, and then pitch well, but not amazingly. In doing so, he'll also prevent the Yankees from making other trades to fill other glaring holes in the roster, such as the Bobby Abreu trade last season.

With Clemens now in the fold, and the payroll now well over $200 Million, the team you see here is the team the Yankees will likely have at the end of the season. This is it. This better work. In the meantime, the Red Sox have a 6 game lead and financial room to maneuver. That $18 Million the Red Sox didn't add to the payroll now can be added later, in the form of a Torii Hunter, Andrew Jones, or Roy Oswalt.

[Edited. Earlier I misidentified Gordon Edes as Nick Carfardo. Apologies. The mistake was mine.)

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