Thursday, November 20, 2008

Roster Changes

If you've been viewing the transactions of MLB teams the past few days, you've noticed a lot of activity. Today is the deadline for setting the ML roster for purposes of the Rule V draft next month.

First, the rules (well, the shorthand version): 1) players drafted out of high school or signed internationally in the high school age group are eligible for the Rule V draft five years after being signed, and 2) players drafted out of college are eligible four years after being signed. As always, there are details that can alter the above explanation, but it's a decent guide.

If players aren't protected on the Major League 40-man roster, they can be taken in the Rule V draft. If selected, they need to remain in the Majors for the entire following season or be offered to the other clubs.

These can be tricky decisions. On the one hand, you'd like to protect as many players as possible. However, on the other hand you have to anticipate roster moves that could happen between now and Opening Day in 2009. How many spots may we need for Major League free agents? How many players could we potentially outright or non-tender? Do we want to leave some spots open for potential waiver claims?

Another part of the game is whether or not you think a certain player would, in fact, get selected in the draft AND if you think that player has the ability to stick in the Majors for the season. Sometimes teams will protect a lesser prospect simply because he has a greater chance of being taken or even because of organizational needs/depth going forward.

When weighing the risk of a player getting taken, it can be counterintuitive. It would seem logical that the best way to protect a player would be to put him on the 40-man roster. That is often, but not always, the case. Sometimes, for players who are borderline roster considerations, you may be safer by leaving him OFF the 40-man. The reason is that if he's taken in the Rule V, he has to stay in the Majors or else be offered back. However, if for some reason (add a free agent, add someone through trade, need someone during the season due to injury) you need to add a player to the 40-man at a later date, you may be forced to outright someone to make room. When you outright a first year roster player, he still has all of his minor league options, so teams can claim him and send him right into their minor league system. In short, it's much easier to lose a player trying to remove him from the 40-man than it is to lose him via the Rule V draft.

Deep breath.

As we do every year we held a series of meetings with a large group of our baseball personnel (front office, field staff, and scouts), and ultimately decided on adding the following players: Matt Bush, Cesar Carrillo, Luis Durango, Jose Lobaton, Jackson Quezada, and Cesar Ramos. That brings our roster to 37 players, so we still have a few spots remaining as we approach the beginning of the winter.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Giles and Hoffman

I apologize for the dual subjects of this post, especially given the importance of each individual one. However, both are timely, and neither should be ignored.

There were a lot of relevant comments following the Brian Giles post, so I wanted to respond. There are a lot of reasons why we chose to pick up Brian's option for the 2009 season, three of which I'll outline below. I'm not going to get into our nitty-gritty evaluation of Brian as a player. Rather, just take a look here in Baseball Prospectus where Brian ranks as one of the best offensive players in the game and as the 2nd best RF in 2008, and let's assume that he's still very productive.

Reason #1: We're always trying to win. In fact, I can't stand the term "rebuilding". The nature of MLB today is that every team is reloading all the time. That doesn't mean we aren't trying to win concurrently. Do we have different expectations from year-to-year based on personnel? Sure. Are we going to have more inexperienced players on our roster going forward than we have had over the past four years? Yes. Do we expect to lose? No.

I hate losing. Kevin Towers hates losing. Nobody in the organization enjoys it, and we know our fans don't either. That's exactly why we've tried to win at the big league level while simultaneously restocking the farm system over the past four seasons - a tenuous balancing act. We're not going to be a bunch of pollyannas running around expecting to win 115 games in 2009, but if you go into anything with the expectation of failure, then you're well on your way to fulfilling that expectation. We're not waiving the white flag in November.

Reason #2: We've already talked about this in other posts, probably ad nauseum, but Brian is precisely the type of player we want our younger guys to emulate. He never gives away an at-bat, controls the strike zone, plays every day, and was still breaking up double plays late in September when we were way out of the race. If our inexperienced players pick up any of those traits, we'll be better off both in the short-term and the long-term.

Reason #3: This is the one that has been touched on, but not fully explored. This is the raw business end of the deal. If we had not picked up Brian's option, we would have had to pay a $3 million buyout, and it would not have made sense to offer him arbitration. Therefore, declining the option would mean: $3 million and nothing in return.

By picking up the option, however, we gave ourselves the chance at upside. The 2009 season can unfold two ways, roughly speaking. The first scenario, the one everyone wants, is that we play well in the first half of next season - we get into July and we're in the race. Brian certainly gives us a better chance of that happening, and if it does happen, we'll be happy to have him.

The second scenario is that we don't play well, and we're out of contention. In this instance, we have the chance of trading Brian (a reader already posted a link to an article that mentions Brian's willingness to be traded under those circumstances) and getting some prospects in return. Should we trade him in the middle of July, our total payment would be about $5.25 million.

So, rather than paying $3 million for nothing, we could pay $5.25 million for 3 1/2 months of Brian's productive play, his mentoring of our younger players, and either possible contention or prospects in return. There is the possibility of injury or reduced production, but that is a risk with every player, and given Brian's track record that is a very acceptable risk given the upside potential.

On to Trevor...

This is an intensely personal situation for Trevor, the Padres, and the fans. I haven't been here that long, but even I have a connection - my oldest son's favorite player is Trevor Hoffman. Trevor is the all-time saves leader, an organizational icon, and a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. This isn't easy.

The emotion in all of this overwhelms the facts, but I'll present the facts anyway just as background.

Due to Trevor's standing in the organization, Kevin had an extended private conversation with him prior to the end of the season regarding the organization's intentions. We followed up with a contract offer in early October, at which time Kevin requested that the negotiations remain private, feeling that it was the best way for all of us to get a deal done and to do so quickly.

After a couple of weeks passed without contact, Trevor's representatives did request a meeting with Kevin, Sandy, and John Moores. Kevin responded to this request directly to Trevor saying that he and Sandy would be happy to meet with Trevor. We did not hear back regarding a possible meeting. After one month had passed, it was clear that our offer was not sufficient, so we officially withdrew it.

Again I'll say that I don't think the above facts are all that important. The reason is that there is simply no graceful way to handle this situation. Trevor has meant too much to this franchise for any kind of separation to be seamless. No matter how the situation is handled, if Trevor pitches elsewhere in 2009, it will be deemed to have been handled poorly. We know that.

These dealings blur the line between business and personal, which makes everything more delicate. In fact, when a player has been around as long as Trevor has, it is like dealing with family. It's not easy for us, it's not easy for Trevor, and we know it's not easy for the fans.
I'm not going to try to defend what we've done, how we've done or write about why this might make sense for us organizationally.

Instead, I'll share something a little more genuine - these types of decisions are pure agony.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Brian Giles

Today we exercised the option on Brian Giles.

I know there's been a lot of debate here about whether or not the Club should pick up this option. In the end, Brian's combination of offense, defense, leadership, and strong desire to remain in San Diego made the decision pretty easy. To a large degree, I think Brian's overall contribution to our team over the past few seasons has been overlooked, or at least discounted.

As I've written in this space, we're sticking with our plan of developing our own talent, but as more and more players make it to stage three (big leaguers), it is players like Brian who will help us get to stage four (championship players). Even though we're committed to going with our homegrown players moving forward, it can make a significant difference for the team to have a rock or two in the middle of the lineup that can be counted on for quality at-bat after quality at-bat.

Some readers have asked about draft pick compensation if we had declined the option. Brian is a Type A Free Agent this winter, meaning that the signing team would give either their first or second round pick to us (or their third in a rare case). If the signing team's first round selection was between picks 1 and 15, they would give us their second round pick. If the signing team was picking from 16-30, they would give us their first round pick. Additionally, we would receive a compensation pick in between the first and second round. However...

That all assumes that we would offer Brian arbitration, and that he would decline it. In this case, that was highly unlikely. Therefore, had we declined the option, we would have received no compensation for Brian.

Most importantly, however, we're happy to have him for another year.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


So, is everyone tired of the rumors, or are you hungry for more?

The off-season rumor mill has come out of the blocks with about as much force as Usain Bolt. I think I mentioned this long ago, maybe sometime before the trading deadline, but more than 90% of deals that are discussed never actually happen. Furthermore, many of the potential deals that are written about are never actually discussed.

We had many discussions over the course of the past four days at the GM's meetings, some of which have been productive and even unexpected. At this point, however, there is nothing to report. We continue to look for deals that would shore up our deficiencies, both short-term and long-term, and we've been asked about many of our players. Vague enough? I know, I know, but when there's something of substance to be written, I promise I will.

With that said, enjoy the rumors if it's a fun distraction, but don't take them too seriously... except, of course, the few that prove to be true. :)