Better Late Than Never: Over the Radar MLB Signings
I've sort of been out of commission lately, not so much because of anything serious, rather, I've just been lazy.
Thanks to whoever checks this regularly and I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy making these articles.
This weeks Under the Radar is actually going to be an Over the Radar.
The reason being, there really wasn't a signing in the last week that jumped out at me as a great value, a deal that we would look back at in August and wonder how that Front Office managed to lure said player for such a small cost or a player that was in such little demand. This week however, there really wasn't anything that did not receive a great deal of coverage, or really, the organization is going to get what everyone expects out of them-in other words, they are, what we thought they were.
The GM Dayton Moore of the Kansas City Royals signs starting pitcher Brett Tomko for $3M. I'm sorry, what? That right, the deal also included $1.5M in incentives. In other words, Tomko had a terrible 2007 and is poised to enjoy a raise in 2008. I'd like to put this into some sort of real world perspective, but I'm not sure I am capable of such analogy. Maybe after looking deeper I'll find some 'straw into gold' metaphor...
I really do not understand this deal. That is, how can a pitcher like Brett Tomko receive a guaranteed $3M from a pro ball club? In addition to this, why does a team that has a top 3 of Gil Meche, Brian Bannister and Zach Greinke feel the need to bring in a Tomko starter when the organization is already filled with end of the rotation starter? Tomko, as MLB.com reports "will compete for the last two spots with Jorge De La Rosa, Kyle Davies, Hideo Nomo, John Bale, Luke Hochevar, Luke Hudson and Brian Lawrence." Two names on that list will probably jump out to everyone, being Nomo and Lawrence. However, both are Spring Training invites, so there really isn't any harm in having them around.
So why Brett Tomko? Why guarantee this guy $3M? Well, I don't know. The guy is going to be 34 years old a week after Opening Day, so it is not as if he was signed for potential. He is coming off a marginally unlucky season, so possibly Moore figured he would get a greater return towards the mean, although sometimes you have to look at a pitchers numbers and say, he's just that bad!
In 2007 Tomko split the season between Los Angeles and San Diego in the National League where he posted an outstanding 6.14 NRA (Normalized Runs Allowed). I say outstanding, as I am puzzled how a pitcher is allowed to throw 130+ innings while piling up a 6.14 NRA, never mind that he was able to sign a $3M contract after the fact. In addition, he did this while pitching in the lesser league in two ballparks that favor pitchers. Without getting into too much detail on either front, the affect each will have on Tomko will presumably be negated by a season with league average luck. So his 6+ NRA is legit-that is, if you did not have faith in his career mark of 4.83.
Let us also remember that he threw 21 games of relief, totaling 29 2/3 innings pitched. During this stint, Tomko provided a little bit of evidence that outside of being a poor starter, he is a terrible reliever. His line as a reliever: 6.06 ERA with a 1.58 WHIP. Yes, the sample size is small as it is based on a single season of statistics, but given Tomko's career ERA of 4.62, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
So again, Why Brett Tomko? Royals Review writes that Tomko "[C]an start or relieve. He can provide veteran presence. He can provide grit." I know, 'grit'. Did we not already establish that talent trumps grit every time?
I imagine the reason Dayton Moore will tell reporters is the old adage that one can never have too much pitching. However, as the Baseball Prospectus team of writers discovered in their 2006 book Baseball Between the Numbers (Steven Goldman, 291)
Pitching is a bit like oil: Nothing happens without it, and you'd like to get as much of it as money will allow, but if you don't buy food you will have a more immediate problem than whether or not your car will run. In strictest mathematical terms, a team can only benefit by adding pitching. But in the adsence of available pitching, making other changes will work just as wellSo why Brett Tomko? I really don't know. Give him a minor league contract with a Spring Training invite and have him prove that he is superior to any young are you have in the system. Have him display the ability to be worthy of a roster spot that could otherwise be manned by a farm hand.
Which is to say that you can't have too much pitching-except when you don't have enough of everything else.
My biggest problem with this deal, outside of the fact that it does justify the ARod's of Major League Baseball making a king's ransom, is that the Royals are not going to contend in 2008. Tomko is going to have no place on this roster outside of a few garbage innings, something the $3M guaranteed essentially guarantees him. As I suggested in 2006 with the Indians, give the kids a shot, at least then, the club knows what it has when they are about to contend.
Let's also consider another factor. $3M on Opening Day is $3M. A $3M player is a $3M player. However, save that money, put it in the bank and sit on it. Let's look at this from the mid point of the baseball season. What is $3M owed to a player from the mid way point on equal too? A cumulative contract of $6M. A $6M player is a $6M player. Put this way, if Moore had the choice of Tomko or El Duqe, my money is that he would prefer the later. That said, is Tomko going to be the difference between being in the mix by the mid point in the season and being well out of contention? Presumably he will perform at well under replacement level making this, essentially $3M wasted.
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