August 18, 2009

A New Method to the Madness

If someone tells you J.P. Ricciardi "completely fucked up the 2009 draft," as happened to me yesterday, please smack your friend upside his or her head, regardless of his or her - clearly - limited mental capacity.

Sea change. That's probably the best way to describe the 2009 draft for the Toronto Blue Jays. Yes, they failed to land the autographs of three of their first five picks on to contracts, but it's not all doom and gloom. (Is it ever, over here? Playoffs!1)

Some have called the happenings "another black hole" for the organization. You know I disagree. As The Southpaw points out, Toronto "went FAR over slot on three players." That's huge; "a substantial shift in philosophy."

Look, I get that the fan base, collectively, is rather pissed off. It's got a right to be. Sixteen years sans playoffs will do that. But, for the first time, the Jays drafted the best players available, regardless of their signability. And that's what they should be doing - taking the best guy. Period. Even if he is, as was the case with James Paxton, a Scott Boras client.

The Toronto Blue Jays have simply not done it this way before. Instead of drafting and signing their first five picks, all decent prospects but not the best ones available, as they have in the past, Toronto finally rolled the dice. The old strategy hasn't exactly worked. (This is where that whole "no playoffs in 16 years" thing comes into play.) I'm all for, as Will Hill wrote on what is essentially his blog over at TSN, "swinging for the fences." Go big or go home. Draft the high risk, high reward guys; the ones with higher ceilings. Even if you may not eventually get your hands on them. The old method, while it has brought results (see Hill, Aaron, and Lind, Adam), hasn't led the team to where it needs to be. (Playoffs!1)

I don't wish ill upon the three guys that got away - James Paxton, Jake Eliopoulos, and Jake Barrett. (I'll leave that to The Tao.) Supplemental draft picks are on their way. We're all good. I only hope the three are drafted again, that the baseball market continues to collapse, and that they're forced to sign for less money than they turned down (Costanza Negotiation 101). Especially the "good Canadian boys."

Chad Jenkins and Jake Marisnick, I'm all about you two. Welcome to the Toronto Blue Jays.

And welcome back, Travis Snider.

Really, I can't say enough about Sniderman. An opposite field home run, and a tribute to the departed Alex Rios in the form of a dropped fly ball in right field. That's respect. Snider gets it. He is the truth.

UPDATE: The fine folks at Batter's Box have graded the 2009 draft an immense failure. While I certainly don't subscribe to that type of negativity, they make some good points. But, in the end, drafts can't be graded until at least five years down the road. Remember when Ricky Romero was a bust?

UPDATE #2: Read this: "'I think [Paxton] wanted to sign and it was just a number that we could not bring ourselves to pay,' Beeston said earlier today. Beeston said the Jays offered money above the slot that is recommended by Major League Baseball. Beeston personally handled the negotiations with Paxton, the top Canadian selected in the draft and his agent is Scott Boras."


Michael Harrison said...

I agree that it's good to go for players that are of the best skill value, and that's one thing Boston and New York have the luxury of doing (going with high risk, high reward players because they have the cash to withstand it if they don't pan out), but with the Jays not signing 3 of their top four guys in such a tightly contested division can't be considered a good thing.

It's also pretty weird they only signed one of 9 Canadians they drafted. To me, I don't care about this as much because I'd rather have great players regardless of where they hail from, but it still looks bad on the franchise.

Moneypuck said...

I hope the money they didn't use on the picks they put towards the "legendary" 2010 budget.

bkblades said...

It's also pretty weird they only signed one of 9 Canadians they drafted. To me, I don't care about this as much because I'd rather have great players regardless of where they hail from, but it still looks bad on the franchise.

Looks bad on the franchise, according to whom? The already present JP haters or the casual Blue Jays fans who repeat ad infinitium that the Jays need more Reed Johnsons in order to win? I find the argument (if there even is one) that the Blue Jays need more Canadians on the team as lazy and illogical. While Canada's baseball system is producing better and better ballplayers every year, it's nowhere near the quality and quantity of those from the United States. To scout almost exclusively on a nation that still only produces a handful of players every year is farm system suicide. And make no mistake, a team will have to scout extensively on Canadian prospects because there are so few of them. A team can't waste a pick on the "wrong" Canadian, especially in the early rounds. Secondly, there's also been talk around the web that drafting Canadians will automatically make them easier to sign with the Blue Jays because of some hypothetical patriotism and loyalty. Unfortunately, that's not how agents operate. Scott Boras and his ilk couldn't care less about their clients being Canadian, and if anything, they'll use the same irrelevant nationality as leverage for a bigger pay. Plus, it's not like all Canadian ballplayers are Blue Jays fans anyway, so being Canadian has little to do with being easier to sign or the Jays having any sort of duty to draft Canadians as best they can in the draft. Maybe the Jays will opt for a Canadian ballplayer in the later rounds, even with lesser talent due to being a Canadian club, but as you said, the Blue Jays will draft whomever is easier to sign with the matching talent. Well, until recently that was the case.

William said...

I have never seen the merit of a drafted player turning down whatever it was that was offered to them. All they accomplish is losing service time that could be worked toward those arbitration elligable (never could spell that word) years and beyond. Now what for them? A bag full of peanuts to play for some rogue pro team somewhere while they wait for the next draft? I never blame a GM in such a situation. I blame the kid and his agent for costing them what could be the opportunity of a lifetime.

QJays said...

I was thinking along the lines of Moneypuck too - does this essentially free up any money in the short term to put free agents on the team rather than young guys in the minors, so the "building" that these unsigned kids would have done is simply put off till next year? If there's anything to it, maybe a reason to think JP's getting ready for a big night out.

Mattt said...

They receive picks next year for the ones that didn't sign so it seems to me to be a fairly low risk gamble and high reward strategy in attempting to draft the best player available. Good on the Jays for trying to build a great farm system...

Pension Plan Puppets said...

But, for the first time, the Jays drafted the best players available, regardless of their signability. And that's what they should be doing

Explain it to me like I am a dumbass because I know you'll find a way in the hell is this not a massive indictment of JP Ricciardi?

I understand that players that have Lucifer as an agent care more about one big payday than ever making the majors but...yeah, basically, turn this into a plus for Ricciardi.

Especially in light of this slotting stuff that is supposed to dictate how much a draft pick gets. If it's a money issue why not use all of your money on one or two great prospects instead of spreading it around over a number of mediocre ones?

The Ack said...

I see the draft as a failure, sorry. You can swing for the fences - absolutely - but then you need to be prepared to be judged as FAIL when you come up empty. Management's infamous "the gloves are off at the draft/fuck slot" rationale ties them to that.

But.....I don't put this on Ricciardi. How could you? Was he even involved in the negotiations? Even if he was, he's not the final sign off guy. It's on the exec and org as a whole. In my books, anyway.

Re: extra picks next year....and then what? Swing for the fences again knowing you can just roll the picks another year? At some point, you gotta cash in, dude. The AL East isn't getting weaker. Even the OriLoLes (h/t - LtB) are getting stronger as an organization, accumulating young talent.

In short, shit's depressing, yo. "We" keep slashing payroll and apparently accumulating a warchest....that has yet to be put to use. Looks like the offseason might be the most interesting yet. Could be good, could be a fucking nightmare.

Bitey said...

I think JP might deserve some of the blame for not signing the picks. I guess it depends on what ownership told him before the draft.

I don't know how it works, if they gave him a budget beforehand and told him to draft whoever he wanted and not worry about signability, or if they discuss that after the fact.

I really doubt that he didn't want to sign 3 of his top 4 picks and probably offered all that Rogers said he could. He can't just offer a player a certain amount of money and hope that ownership's okay with it.

furcifer said...

Kids, you tried and you failed. The lesson is: never try - Homer Simpson

As for the extra picks for next year what use are they if those players don't sign either?

The return to drafting signable players Will come soon.

Johnny G said...

Since if you can't sign the comp picks next year you have to play it smart at next years draft.

Use next years picks to swing for the fences again, but the comp picks you get for not signing the players this year? Use those comp picks to pick up the more traditional draftee, a safer bet to sign etc.

Mattt said...

That's how it's done. You only get two chances so why not go big on the first one? If that doesn't work, use those picks more conservatively next year. Only way to get the best players.

Woefully Irrelevant white Guy said...

Bottom line is that the Jays sign the best players out there, whether they are Canuck, Yankee or Mexicali. Did they too far over slot? Yeah, but hey a competetive team has to do just that.

eyebleaf said...

@ Michael: It's not a "good" thing, I agree with you. But it was a calculated risk, which netted the team two out of five high ceiling guys. At this stage, I'll take it. With the three supplemental picks, they can draft "signable" guys next year.

Personally, I don't give a shit whether we sign Canadians are not. At the end of the day, we offered them money, and they turned it down. I want the best baseball players. If they're Canadian, cool. If not, I don't care. Although I do want Jason Bay to sign in Toronto over the winter. Because he's Canadian.

In all seriousness, I wish the media would stop with the "they only signed 1 Canadian out of nine" stories. It's done. Old. And tired.

@ Moneypuck: I imagine there are two separate budgets for the draft and payroll. I believe in the 2010 payroll.

@ BK: Epic comment. I just don't think it should be as big a deal as people make it out to be. Good ball players first, nationality second.

@ William: It's definitely a risk for these kids to go back to College. Every athlete is one injury away. That's the power of the dollar, though. I wouldn't call it greedy, but it's a crazy industry, pro sports.

@ QJays: I don't think the non-signing of these three guys gives the Jays any extra loot in the short term. I'm guessing it carries over to next year's draft budget.

@ Mattt: I'd say it was pretty high-risk. But I'm OK with that.

@ PPP: But, for the first time, the Jays drafted the best players available, regardless of their signability. And that's what they should be doing. Ricciardi's drafted pretty well. Especially on the pitching side. The fact that he's done it having to draft players who he believes have talent, and who he believes he can sign, means he deserves even more props, doesn't it? Over the years, he probably had to pass on certain guys b/c he knew he wouldn't be able to sign them. Yet he's still been able to find Major League talent.

For a team in the AL East that isn't able to spend alongside the Red Sox and Yankees, I think over the long term it was probably the right decision to stockpile as many picks as the team could; the more guys you draft (meaning they're more signable), the fewer holes you have. If you go all aggressive, and shit doesn't work out, then you're left with even more holes to spend, with money already an issue. Perhaps the Jays can do this, be aggressive, and go over slot aggressively, for 3-5 years.

@ The Ack: I told DownGoesBrown the same over Twitter; no draft can be determined a success or a failure in the same year it took place. I maintain that we'll judge this draft like any other draft, 4 to 5 years down the road, regardless of the fact that we weren't able to sign three of the first five.

As for J.P., from what I read, it seemed like he wasn't heavily involved. Another sign that he's getting ready to leave us?

And, yes, they have to cash in those three picks next year. By drafting signable guys. It was a one year gamble on those three picks, that's for sure.

And you're right about OioLOLs; Drew's a fucking genius. And I'm looking forward to the off-season. It's going to be epic. Mark my words.

@ Bitey: Did you read the Globe on Baseball post? Beeston was dealing with Boras on his own; J.P. wasn't even in on the talks. So, I can't blame him.

@ Furcifer: I think the return to drafting signable players will HAVE TO return eventually. I'm all good with opening the window for a short while, and then shutting it again.

@ Johnny: You and I are on the exact same page. And well done with that flow chart over at BlueBird Banter. That shit is gold.

@ Mattt: TIS BETTER TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST THAN TO HAVE NEVER LOVED AT ALL. Something like that, in terms of the draft. Yes.

@ Woefully: Quite the relevant comment. It's about fucking time the Jays went over slot.

Johnny G said...

Thanks for the props on the flowchart... I really need to start doing work while I am at work, but when something like that pops into my head I have to work on it or else Im useless for the rest of the day.

SP said...

eyebleaf, you've been making the point that they still get to keep the picks for next year. But consider what I said over at DJF yesterday. I'll just copy-paste..

Why is it that signing this year's guys and still setting up the franchise for a transition to a new President and GM are mutually exclusive; why can't they both happen? Wouldn't setting up the next GM with a better farm system (most likely in-house, so he won't object to the players) be "more desirable" for them? And if it's not just a new President and GM, but a new ownership altogether, doesn't signing them and improving the farm system raise the team's value?

This is further supported by Law today estimating that the difference in getting them and not was about 600k, even less than I originally though. How the hell can people make the "saving money for the future" argument over a trivial amount like that? How can anyone make the "it ruins their leverage for next year" argument over a trivial amount like that? As Law and other scouts have said, they had the right guys picked and just didn't follow through on their commitment--from February when they said they'd pay over slot, and in June when they drafted them.

SP said...

Also, why are you OK with a strict "signable players only" policy and treating this year like a one-time effort? Why not a hybrid strategy going forward?

eyebleaf said...

@ SP: The Jays went over slot, and drew their own line in the sand. Regardless of what the dollar amount is, I have no problem with those guys going back to the draft. If they drafted unsignable guys, and threw bullshit money at them (under slot), then I'd have a problem. I'm not saying it saves money for the future; it is what it is. But I can't say that the Jays didn't follow through on their commitment. The commitment was going over slot. If these kids were asking for insane money, why is it a right that they should get it from Toronto, a middle of the pack ball club in terms of payroll, anyway?

And sorry if I was unclear, but a hybrid strategy is exactly what I want going forward. Be aggressive for a few years; then go back to the signable guys strategy, and switch. Pick your spots. Go over slot where you can. I think a hybrid is ideal for the Jays.

And I still have a hard time taking Keith Law seriously; it's just way too much of a conflict of interest, don't you think?

SP said...

That's the thing though, were they really asking for "insane money"? All the indications so far are that the Jays were suddenly not interested (Barrett's arm) or not willing to budge on close negotiations (Paxton and Eliopoulous) over small amounts--to show how small, the total was likely a fraction of J-Mac's salary. Anyway, it sucks that I now have to root for those guys to fail. I feel like a fucking Republican.

And about the hybrid strategy, I'm saying why not use it within individual drafts? Why go back and forth every few seasons between signability and value as a strategy for entire drafts?

Johnny G said...

600K given the sizes of these contracts is a rather large amount though. When contracts range from 600K to 2Mil that is a rather sizeable chunk.

And the Hybrid isn't for the entire draft. Its a Hybrid within each draft. Next year using the comp picks you get from this years non signing you have to play safe and pick signable guys. Because otherwise you lose the picks completely. But next years picks you swing for the fences again, so within the same draft you are rolling the dice and picking safe depending on the pick (whether it is a comp from a previous year).

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