The Mockingbird

What’s the Rush?

with 5 comments


Adam Lind came into last season with very high expectations. He had never had an average lower than .310 at any point in the minors, and hit for a rather absurd .367 average during his September audition. Scouts declared him no fluke and raved about his swing; John Sickels even predicted he would challenge for rookie of the year if he managed to get enough at-bats.

Still, at the start of 2006 he was stuck in AAA with the signing of Frank Thomas and Matt Stairs to fill the DH and outfield roles and only got major league playing time when Reed Johnson was injured. Over 300 at-bats, he struggled to lay off the high fastball and was returned to the minors with a .230 average, where he suffered a concussion and took a while to get his swing back. During his second September callup he was much more his normal self and hit .273/.298/.473 with 3 HR and 16 RBI in 16 games.

But for next season, it has again been announced that he is destined for AAA, again. Keith Law has even decided that means he doesn’t have a role or much value to the team and is on the trading block. What gives? Do we not have any faith our prospects at all? Last year wasn’t really that bad of a rookie year. The official reason for delaying Lind’s little league career was so he could work on his defense, but he hasn’t made an error in a year and a half. Offensively, lets compare him to Alex Rios:

Name Age Average OBP Slugging
Alex Rios 23 .286 .338 .383
Alex Rios 24 .262 .306 .397
Adam Lind 23 .238 .278 .400


Sure there was some worry, but was there any talk of sending Alex Rios down after his second season? Because Lind just had a very similar year: he was within 20 points in both average and OBP and outslugged Alex although a year younger. In Rios’ case, after his disappointing season the Jays showed some patience and he responded with a breakout season (despite a freak infection). So why would the Jays sign a 40 year old and a career 4th outfielder for over six million combined to block Lind when he already could probably come close to their production?

The answer is pure economics. Lind could probably do as well or maybe even better than Matt Stairs next season, but that would use up a year of his service time so we have him locked up for one less season before free agency. Would you give up a year of Lind under control when he’s 30, in his slugging prime, in exchange for a year of him finding his way in the majors next year? Even if he’s decent, if the Jays can get anywhere near the same sort of numbers out of Stairs (who is super cheap and they probably want off the bench anyway) and Johnson (who is the only player close to a leadoff guy that they have), they potentially save a hugely expensive free agent year by letting him destroy AAA for a season.

Rios’ career so far is a good example of why it doesn’t make sense to rush Lind. We put up with a couple of mediocre seasons from Alex and now it’s time to throw big bucks at him to try and give him some security in exchange for one or two of his free agent years so he doesn’t walk to the highest bidder (because he will obviously be in high demand). J.P. can’t really say this, but the reason for slowing him down isn’t because we’re scared of ruining his development, or have lost faith and want to dump him, or even that he couldn’t be an effective major leaguer. It just doesn’t make sense to start the clock on him when there’s no particular need, and if we think he’s going to have a lot of value down the road.

When you see teams like the Marlins and Devil Rays having to shop around super-elite talent like Scott Kazmir and Miguel Cabrera at the very young ages of 23-24 because they broke into the leagues at a ridiculously young age and aren’t going to be around much longer, it makes you wonder why more teams don’t delay their top prospects as long as they can. Did the Devil Rays really get a lot out of having Kazmir walking 100 batters at the precocious age of 21? I’d rather have a McGowan who takes forever to get here and then (hopefully) blows away the league for six years once he does. Just because a player can hack it in the major leagues doesn’t mean it makes sense for the team to bring him up. Unless there’s a desperate need, those option years are worth their weight in gold.

Written by halejon

November 18, 2007 at 3:49 am

5 Responses

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  1. This is one of those truths that is never really admitted, but should be followed by every team… its almost like you should try to develop the best AAA team going and then bring everyone up at the same time.

    Another truth for me is that you should always trade stars for ‘can’t miss’ prospects and spend the money saved on other stars. I never agreed with resigning Vernon Wells when we could’ve traded him to, say the Angels, for 2 big upside prospects and then signed someone like Tori Hunter this off season. It’s not exactly a fan-favourite strategy, but improves the team far more than keeping your star players… Oakland generally show how this is shoudl be done and to maximum effect.


    November 19, 2007 at 4:42 pm

  2. I’m not sure if it isn’t mentioned because fans wouldn’t like it or the union would object to holding a player back. But there are definitely situations where it would be in the team’s best interest to pull some shenanigans and not promote guys based on their readiness or obvious need on the team so their clock doesn’t run down. I wonder what the most blatant example is so far.

    Yah, Oakland is great at selling high and not biting on re-signing stars for emotional reasons or because they’re seen as an indispensable part of the team. I don’t think J.P. ever really wanted to sign Vernon, but I wonder how much they really could have gotten for him in a trade since he only had one year left. I guess it depends on whether you can get better prospects for him than you think you’re going to get out of the first round and sandwich pick you get if he walks.


    November 19, 2007 at 6:13 pm

  3. Most blatent example…?

    I think Eric Bedard will be 1 day shy of free agency at the end of this season… Now I’m not suggesting this was all part of the Orioles masterplan (I’m not sure anyone could accuse Baltimore of having a plan), but its working pretty good for them…

    According to Jeff from Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Bedard will have accumulated 5 years and 171 days of service time after next season, leaving him just one day short of qualifying for free agency.

    As for Wells, you’re right that it was a toss up for the trade or the draft picks, but what we have not is neither. We could now have in the system a potential high impact rookie/young established player (eg. Kendrick from the Angels, Millage form the Mets etc AND a star CF (Toni Hunter etc…) but we just have Wells. Now, thats not a bad thing, but it could’ve been that much better.


    November 20, 2007 at 11:08 am

  4. Wow, that’s crazy- I guess it has something to do with how much credit he gets for his injured time? I got all excited about how close they came to ruin by calling him up for 2/3’s of an inning in 2002, but then I remembered that doesn’t start the clock.

    We also still have the draft pick that we would have lost by signing Hunter. But yeah, trading a first round pick (and a year of Wells) for Milledge sounds like a hell of a good idea. It’s interesting that this idea becomes even more appealing now that they changed the rules to make signing free agents much less costly. That sounded like a minor change when it went through but really has an effect on GM strategy and player turnover. There are some pretty decent ‘B’ free agents out there (Lofton, Jones, heck- Wells) that you wouldn’t lose a pick for any more and then it really is like a free young star for nothing if you pull off a blockbuster trade.

    On the other hand, letting Wells play out the contract would have sucked because he didn’t end up being an A class FA. Man Elias is so dumb- having CF’s compete with DH’s and 1B means it’s almost impossible to get compensation for some really valuable players.


    November 20, 2007 at 8:07 pm

  5. […] (as was still planned a month ago). I think a 2009 arrival would still be premature because of the old service time argument, and that they would have to trade Lind to make room and then sign a free agent DH in 2010. […]

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