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Salary Floors, Coco and Other Moves

January 4, 2012


Buster Olney of ESPN speculated that there exists an unwritten salary floor in MLB and he suspected it to be about $40M. That doesn’t surprise me and sounds completely reasonable. The problem for Oakland of course is it appears that we may be under it still, though by my estimations the Coco Crisp contract at $6M will poke us just north of the $40M mark. If it doesn’t one can suspect the A’s to make perhaps additional moves, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle said in a recent piece regarding the Crisp signing,

“for more outfield depth, the A’s will continue to talk to other free agents, such as Ryan Ludwick, Cody Ross and Conor Jackson, according to a team source.”

A quick perusing of the last few days of posts on this blog will make it abundantly clear to anyone how I feel about adding a Ludwick or a Ross. I would’ve been fine with signing a Jackson with the expectation and understanding that he’d start on the depth chart as a number four outfielder, but I don’t think that expectation would exist with the two other aforementioned players. It’s a matter of having enough plate appearances to go around and in my mind there simply aren’t enough to get our future nucleus candidates a fair  and long look.

But what if we are under that supposed $40M floor? What if there are more moves to be made? What move should we make? To me the answer is really quite clear and simple. The A’s should re-sign Rich Harden.

There really is no baseball justification for a two-year contract (with a third option year!) to Coco. None. You can debate the merits of a one-year deal, I strongly disagree with it, strongly think it was a bad decision but there is a fair argument to be made there. I think the strongest case being the defensive upgrade and saving our pitchers some tedious innings argument. But a two-year deal projects defensive inadequacy farther in the future than we should care to look, and last year’s deadline (though admittedly Coco at that point was on the cusp of possibly projecting to be a Type-B free-agent and therefore one worthy of a supplemental draft pick) demonstrated Crisp doesn’t have the cache that other teams want when looking to edge their competitors in the postseason (and now with an even higher salary – last year his was $5.75M – he appears to be that much more difficult to move, particularly this deadline when one would need to sign onto Crisp’s services for the remainder of 2012 and the full season of 2013). But the reason I think Crisp was signed over all these other rumored players from the A’s standpoint (from Coco’s standpoint, he wanted to play on the West Coast and was familiar with Oakland and enjoyed it evidently) is the marketing. Coco is a popular player. He is marketable. Casual A’s fans lament that they don’t know who anyone is and in an offseason where the team’s most popular and marketable players have all been dealt or allowed to walk, Coco is a form of continuity. That is why the case can be made for Rich Harden.

Harden’s 2011 campaign was nothing to write home about. Signed for a mere $1.5M he injured himself on one of his first warmup tosses in spring training and didn’t make his A’s debut until July 1st against Arizona. Over the course of his half season in Oakland he pitched 5.12 ERA and 4.69 FIP baseball. A high 15.6% HR/FB led to a very low xFIP of 3.68 but I think that number is a bit on the low side in terms of determining actual value. Right around a 4.00 pitcher is what I see him as being. And that is fine. It suits the A’s purposes fine to throw him a few million to be that guy. The rotation, with the loss of Brett Anderson (to injury until July), Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez is thin. Dallas Braden is not a lock to be ready to go in April though all indications are he will be. If Harden doesn’t work out? So what (and I mean that in both the he is injured all year long way or the he flops way). We’ve made the MLBPA happy, we have had a “star” that is marketable to fans. Furthermore, if he is able to indeed stay off the disabled list, for the “watchability” point of view, which is a completely reasonable one, Harden electrified fans with 9.9 K/9 last season. If he does work out and pitches well (or evidently just as well as he did last season), the Red Sox were about to trade us Lars Anderson at the deadline to get him meaning he does indeed have the trade value that Crisp so clearly lacked. His signing would make baseball sense and it would make business sense and come at little to no risk. If the A’s have to make another move this is the move they ought to make.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. EddieVegas_NRAF permalink
    January 4, 2012 1:34 pm

    Harden might prefer to re-sign with the A’s since apparently most other teams want to use him out of the bullpen and his preference is to remain a starter.

    Excellent post, sir.

    • January 4, 2012 1:45 pm

      Yeah, Harden has liked pitching here from what I’ve read (I can’t see why any pitcher wouldn’t like pitching in Oakland either). Just don’t see it as that big a risk regardless of how he performs. Flipping him doubles the benefit.

  2. January 4, 2012 2:36 pm

    Absolutely resign Harden. If I remember right he even mentioned during the trade shenanigans that he could come back to Oakland in 2012 even if he were to be traded.

    • January 4, 2012 2:44 pm

      Yup. Don’t see any negatives to it, helps you get over the floor (if you aren’t there already). And could be worth way more to a contending team willing to unload a prospect at the deadline.

  3. Giant Torture permalink
    January 6, 2012 2:35 pm

    Came across your blog and think it’s wonderfully named, maybe the best blog name I’ve ever seen, although as a long-time Giants fan I can’t say that I feel bad for the A’s because this time span is simply payback for the Bash Brothers.

    • January 6, 2012 4:24 pm

      Thank you for the kind words. While, we’d appreciate some sympathy in the East Bay, I suppose we can take solace in the Giants having a octogenarian lineup well into the 2020’s. 😉

  4. Hungary4A'sNews permalink
    January 7, 2012 4:35 pm

    Found your blog and favorited it…I check A’s news daily on SFgate. Nico good at AthleticsNation…I love Mlbtraderumors… But I like your style…not tooo much WAR and sabershnanigans…good plain analysis and opinion! THANKS for taking the time to blog, sometimes a good A’s read makes me remember how much I love baseball. North Bay A’s fan since 1976..Mitchell Page (RIP) and Wayne Gross times ….so here’s my take:

    Whether we like it or NOT, The A’s are reliving the 1979 season…what made them exciting and in my opinion SAVED Oakland baseball = RICKEY and then Billy ball…! I was a kid and listening to Bill King and Lon describing Rickey running amuck on the bases was exciting, made pitchers change, and small ball is MY thing. I hated the Moneyball era of walk and wait for the homer. That is why I agree with the resigning of Coco with Weeks and speed..the games we play may be exciting even while losing. Your thoughts?

    • January 8, 2012 1:45 pm

      Thank you! I appreciate the kind words. I too check those sites you reference, and actually I am on Athletics Nation every Sunday. I am into sabermetrics but I try to keep things accessible for all audiences, so I hope you drop back by.

      I am fine with the running game, and while I am not crazy about watching walks happen, their happening is something really necessary to succeed for a variety of reasons. I do not however like the small ball, moving guys over approach at all. I think it is counterproductive and from an entertainment standpoint it doesn’t do much for me either. I like the speed that Coco and Weeks have to offer (Weeks needs to learn how to slide or he will not only keep oversliding the base but also will break his fingers) but Coco is not a re-signing I was at all pleased with. To me Coco has top of the order speed – as evidenced by his leading the AL – but he gets on base at an atrocious rate that counteracts that blazing speed. I don’t know where you effectively put him in the lineup to take advantage of his strength but hide his disability which to me means perhaps he is better left on another team’s roster? For winning/strategy sake I don’t like the move at all, but for entertainment value Crisp certainly has it going on. I just wish if he had to be signed, it was a one-year deal. The two just seems like even more needless overkill and I don’t think it’ll end up well for Oakland.

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