Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Complete and Utter Meche

The returns are in. Many a pundit has sounded off. One of the most mind-blowing free agent signings in recent memory has folks talking. Here's what some of them have to say:

"The Meche deal probably will not be remembered as the worst of this off-season, but at the moment it's the No. 1 candidate." --Rob Neyer,

"I think if you wait to get good before you add pieces like Gil Meche, you never get good." --Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals General Manager

"But they can't win if they don't try, and mostly over the last two decades, they haven't tried, haven't spent the kind of money they needed to spend to give themselves a chance. They've got the money now, in this lucrative era for baseball, and the Royals' options are to spend it or keep it. Kansas City has chosen to spend its money. The Royals have chosen to try." --Buster Olney,

"Look, we could have gone out and spent 4 to 6 million dollars on a fourth or fifth starter. That's how much those guys cost now. But we didn't want to do that. We look at Gil Meche, and we think he's a guy who could be ready to take off and become an upper-echelon pitcher. He has dominant stuff. He has tremendous makeup. And he wants to be here. To me, it was a no-brainer." --Moore

"To give a very average pitcher who has never thrown 200 innings a season $11 million a year is pure madness." --Joe Posnanski, Kansas City Star

"5.40" --Projected ERA for Gil Meche in 2007 courtesy of Nate Silver, Baseball Prospectus

"I don’t think there’s a whole lot of evidence that 'statement' signings eventually lead to enhanced credibility in dealing with future free agents." --Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus

"They've committed $55 million—a magic number in the history of Stupid Free Agent Tricks—to a pitcher with no track record of being anything better than a #4 starter, who’s never been healthy for three straight years, who has been incredibly protected pitching in Safeco Field in front of good defenses." --Sheehan


So, that's what the experts say. But what you really want to know is what some anonymous fan in Kansas City has to say. Personally, I think this is one of the worst pick-ups since Datsun was making trucks. I think this could end up as bad as the Mark Davis acquisition in 1990. Of course, Davis was the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner; Gil Meche finished with the third most walks allowed in the American League despite pitching only 186 innings.

What I can't seem to wrap my mind around is the contention that just because David Glass has loosened the purse-strings, they should start spending money like there's a tree full of it just beyond the left-field fence. There are plenty of opportunities to spend money and spend it wisely and, in fact, Dayton Moore has taken advantage of a number of those opportunities. He's added another minor league team in order to increase the odds of developing cheap, in-house talent. Only one other team in the major leagues has as many minor league affiliates. The Royals are opening an academy in the Dominican Republic in 2007 and making international scouting a larger priority. And Moore has been constantly finding ways to add young pitching prospects in hopes of bolstering a system that has produced nearly zero bonafide major league pitchers in over a decade.

I had been heartened by those moves, moves that looked to strengthen the long-term success of the franchise. But this signing does nothing but evoke the old idiom "penny wise and pound foolish". I understand the fact that Moore doesn't expect the fans to have to endure any more 100-loss seasons. I respect the fact that he wants to create a culture where top-notch free agents want to play. But I really believe that money would have been better spent on long-term contract extensions for young players in the future. Or more talented free agents who will be available in the next couple of years. Nobody expects this team to win 90 games next year or even the year after that. Why not stock-pile money and cheap young talent until the time comes when it makes sense to overspend for top-notch talent instead of mediocre, high-risk talent?

All of the folks who keep whining about how the system is unfair and that we can never compete if we don't spend money should take this as the first example in what I've been preaching for years now:


And signing an injury-prone, middle-of-the-road pitcher to a 5-year, $55 million contract does not bring to mind the wisdom of Solomon.