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  1. the problem is that a few teams would keep throwing off a study. teams like the yanks and red sox would make win now choices but keep winning for years because their payroll can absorb it. teams like the pirates keep losing for decades because they sell their producing players when they get to arbitration and don’t sign any significant free agents to replace them.

    second, the revenue from winning many times allows teams to raise payroll after a good year to keep players who performed well when they get expensive or go in on free agents that keep the team winning. the giants are doing this now, raising payroll after a winning season to keep winning. although this isn’t always the case, as the rays can attest. their farm system did lead to about 3 good seasons so far though!

    Comment by phoenix2042 — December 7, 2010 @ 6:24 pm

  2. The Brewers built from within having success developing position players such as Hardy, Hart, Weeks, Braun, and Fielder. There was a supposed window of contention when many of these guys were cost controlled (starting to end now), but only one year did they make the playoffs which needed a win now move (CC) to actually make happen. Bad decisions in the FA market (Suppan, etc) and health (Sheets, etc) helped minimize the chances to have sustained success. Rather the Brewers have settled for sustained mediocrity (which is far better than what the fans have dealt with for much of the 90s and early 00s). Anyway point being that yeah for mid and low-payroll teams, building from within makes sense but unfortunately the margin for error can be razor thin. So now they are stuck in balancing act of win now and rebuild to keep from going into a death spiral of low attendance and lower revenues

    Comment by andy b — December 7, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

  3. The clear factor that favors a strong farm system opposed to any other front office strategy comes down to one word: value.

    You could make shrewdest FA signings every off season and short of stumbling on Andres Torres every year, you’re never going to match the value of cost controlled young players. Obviously you understand this quite well, and I don’t mean to sound like this is groundbreaking. But clearly there is no amount of trading or signing on the MLB level that can replace a flow of talent upwards from within your franchise.

    It’s easy to forget that not all teams are the Yankees. Value is extremely important to winning for many ballclubs without huge budgets. The other strategy you laid out of mortgaging the future to win now – half the clubs in the league can’t even dream of employing something like that. You can only buy so many positions on the field until the money runs out. It’s a necessity to have cost controlled players.

    TEX is such a beautiful example. A great, young, cheap team spends its surplus (not exactly surplus.. but you get what I mean) on a huge FA like Cliff Lee to make a run at everything. That should really be the prototype of all the perennial struggling clubs out there. Stockpile picks and talent. Invest in your army of scouts and supplement them with basements full of statheads. Resist the urge to spend on big FAs except to keep fan loyalty in at acceptable levels. There’s no reason for some of these teams to suck so much. They must be so poorly managed, right from the top down.

    Comment by Lee — December 7, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  4. Flags fly forever. I don’t think teams get tagged with “mortgaging the future” when they win. Rather, it is when a pretender thinks they are a contender, blows up their farm system and finishes with 88 wins and 5 games out of the playoffs that they are chastised.

    If the Jays trade the farm for Greinke, that’s mortgaging the future. If the Rangers do it and win the next two World Series because of it no one will be looking down on them if Profar becomes a star.

    Comment by Blue — December 7, 2010 @ 6:49 pm

  5. I’m with Blue flags fly forever. Look at the Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez trade for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. This was a disastrous trade for the Red Sox in terms of value, but the prevailing view in Boston (with which I strongly disagree) is that winning in ’07 made it worthwhile.

    Comment by Mr Punch — December 7, 2010 @ 7:14 pm

  6. Value and the ease to switch from building from within to mortgaging the future….Texas can now mortgage; effectively using both methods. if you mortgage first, you can’t just switch to building from within.

    Comment by Norm — December 7, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

  7. If Beckett was terrible and the Red Sox never won in ’07, don’t you think people would chastize them for giving up Hanley Ramirez?

    Comment by LGM — December 7, 2010 @ 7:16 pm

  8. I would say that “mortgaging the future” is more acceptable to teams that can be most directly affected by the players they sign. The Nats won’t make the playoffs with Werth, so the effect on the future will be largely negative. A team that may only be a piece or two away from being elite, like a St. Louis or Atlanta signing a bat, or Minnesota signing an arm for a much improved chance at 2011 makes more sense. With that being said, “mortgaging the future” with huge contracts that only have a small chance of providing value is not a good idea long term for any team.

    Comment by peachesnnuts — December 7, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  9. But what if the Rangers sign Lee and have the best team in baseball the next two years, yet fail to win a championship? Will it still be accepted by the fan base?

    Comment by Danmay — December 7, 2010 @ 7:33 pm

  10. To me, the Atlanta Braves are the classic example of how to build a team. They combined young talent with quality vets and won for 13 years, while developing a TV station and consistent revenue. They always seemed to have a good young player come up every year or two that allowed them to replace a veteran with an even better veteran at a different position.

    When many teams develop their young talent, they cannot afford to keep them once they reach free agency. We often mock the Royals, but at one time their starting outfield would have been Jermaine Dye, Carlos Beltran, and Johnny Damon. I’m trying to think of another team that has developed 3 such outfielders at the same time.

    We shouldnt pretend that every team has an equal opportunity at sustained winning, and what division you are in can drastically influence your spending and/or your success.

    Anyway, I don’t think teams can bank on just getting and developing young talent and sticking with it to win. Prospects are just too erratic, and getting prospects from different draft years to “make it” at the same time has to be as much luck as skill. If it were that easy, basically every team on a 3-year losing streak would eventually be good.

    IMO, by “mortaging the future”, people are refering to a team spending a bunch of money when they are not going to be competitive anyway. So, by the time they are comeptitive, they are no longer getting their “money’s worth” on that contract, and may prohibit them from being able to acquire pieces that could help them.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — December 7, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

  11. If Hanley had flamed out, don’t you think people would chastise the marlins for giving up Beckett? Both sides take on risk, too many people forget that. The thing is, you take more risk with the prospects than the guys that are already in the MLB, who are ready to produce now, rather than later. MLB ready players have less time to fall off a cliff than prospects, but can’t improve as much as their minor league counterparts.

    Comment by AK707 — December 7, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

  12. Mortgaging Years: When is it okay? This is a great question, but I think zero value should be placed on someone saying that a team was built “the right way”.

    Let’s say there are three different points in time that a team could be labeled as being built the right way. In the first senario the team currently is in the gutter, but is building their team the right way. If someone says that they are built the right way, then they most likely are just being hopeful. They may be writing to a fan base, or simply reassuring themselves that everything will work out. I say this because anyone who has actually spent the necessary time really digging into whether or not a team is being built well wouldn’t give a blanket statement like “the right way”. “The right way” implies that there is a single way to correctly do something. Even if there is an optimal stategy, it can’t possibly work for every single team, think Moneyball and market inefficiencies (just don’t think specifically about the A’s).

    The second senario is a team on the rise that has been roughly built “the right way” that isn’t yet elite (think 2009 Rangers). The third senario is a team that is elite after being built “the right way” (think 2008 Rays). The second and third senarios are essentially the same in that the label “the right way” is being assigned only after it is relatively, or perfectly clear that the team is elite.

    Since I think my point is a little muddled I will be clear: “the right way” is judging the results, not the process. The difference between the Pirates team building strategy and the Rays is likely a lot closer than their recent success would indicate. I would attribute a ton of the difference to luck. How many draft picks worked out for the Rays that bombed for the Pirates? How many times could you get Longoria to sign that same contract? [Let me be clear that I have no idea if the Pirates process wasn't, in fact, far worse than the Rays. I am only trying to illustrate a point.]

    Comment by Danmay — December 7, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

  13. I do wonder though if teams who “build from within” have a better chance by trading those homegrown guys for a bunch of prospects and hoping a few stick when those homegrown players get expensive. If the timing is right, you have a constant stream of players coming from the minors. The Rays might be on to something like this with their apparent second wave coming in right when everybody is hitting arbitration/free agency. Or at least if feels like a second wave with all those arms.

    Comment by AK707 — December 7, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

  14. As far as I can tell, fans are pretty happy with an annual contender. That keeps them coming through the gates, even if the playoffs don’t pan out.

    Comment by philosofool — December 7, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

  15. You state this article as if teams have a choice. It’s quite the opposite. You only take this strategy if you have to, which means that you are not a big spender within your division. You basically state the whole crux of the matter in this statement:

    “Often times, organizations who adopt this develop-from-within model take their lumps for a couple of years while attempting to ramp up prospect collection, trading away established veterans and taking risks on guys who contenders might shy away from”

    Key word: risk

    Aka variance in record. Regular season wins are cheap. Wins are worth a heck of a lot more if they can bring you to postseason contention. So let’s assume that you only have enough money to put together an 83 win team (mean). Would you rather have a team with 100% chance of 83 wins, or would you rather have one with a standard deviation of 20 wins? Well shucks, that’s an EASY DECISION.

    The reason why the tear down and rebuild strategy works is that prospects and rebuilding projects give you variance. Heck, even if picking up prospects lowered your average number of expected wins, there’s very little other way to get those kind of variance swings. There’s a lot less variance in the free agent market than in prospects or unproven players. And unless your scouting is a lot better than other teams, you’re not going to make off like a bandit in the trade market.

    So that’s why mortgaging years is okay. It’s necessary. You need to use your roster spots for your scratch tickets and hope that enough turn up winners at the right time for you to contend. On the converse, if you are close to contention, you want the exact opposite: reliable players with low variance to improve your team enough to reach the playoffs. In fact, it’s probably fine to even overpay a bit to ensure contention at this point. Everybody wins: team that trades away reliable player gets better long term expected value, team that gets low variance player locks in playoff berth.

    By that view, mortgaging some of your years of contention is fine as long as you were already unlikely to reach the postseason, given your current resources. Sure, sometimes it will flop, but the alternative is persistent mediocrity: see Houston Astros. Plus, teams like the Marlins show that you can in fact ALWAYS be in mortgage mode and still maintain a relatively good record if you have solid scouting and development. Then, if you see a solid collection of talent and/or a weak division you can throw some money at free agents and win 2 world series.

    The Pirates are a bit of a specious mention, since for 18 years of “rebuilding” a lot of it has in fact been signing veterans for no good reason, holding on to players too long, and cutting bait on the wrong players for years. All told, it seemed that in many of those years they were not so much “mortgaging” as they were just “getting rid of expensive players.” Note to Pirates: Mortgaging only works if you don’t consistently sell low.

    Comment by B N — December 7, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

  16. On a side note, I was pretty sure that everyone knew how this worked… am I missing something here? Are we actually trying to figure out where the tipping points are for sell, hold, or buy? Because that would seem a much more interesting issue.

    Comment by B N — December 7, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

  17. teams like the pirates keep losing for decades because they sell their producing players when they get to arbitration and don’t sign any significant free agents to replace them.

    Which players are you thinking of? Zach Duke? Nate McLouth? Who else have the Pirates sold when they reached arbitration, as opposed to when they were a year-and-a-half or less from free agency? There may be some I can’t think of, but I think you have the Pirates and Marlins mixed up.

    Comment by matt w — December 7, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

  18. This. Though one DOES have to wonder how the Red Sox would have done in 2008-2010 if they had that kind of talent at SS. But with that said, even top prospects have no guarantees and 2007 was a great time for the Red Sox to go all in.

    Comment by B N — December 7, 2010 @ 8:50 pm

  19. Aramis Ramirez was traded halfway through his first arb-eligible season.

    Comment by JH — December 7, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

  20. The Pirates are a bit of a specious mention, since for 18 years of “rebuilding” a lot of it has in fact been signing veterans for no good reason, holding on to players too long, and cutting bait on the wrong players for years. All told, it seemed that in many of those years they were not so much “mortgaging” as they were just “getting rid of expensive players.”

    Voted up. Dave Littlefield was notorious for aiming for short-term mediocrity rather than long-term success; search a Pirates blog for the “drive for 75″ sometime, meaning his constant attempts to win 75 games this year instead of contending a few years down the road. He was also notorious for cheaping out on the draft and going for college players that supposedly could help the team immediately, which is pretty much the opposite of what you have to do to build from within. Remember, the two moves that finally got him fired were trading Rajai Davis for the corpse of Matt Morris (and his contract!) and drafting Danny Moskos over Matt Wieters because Moskos would sign for slot.

    Comment by matt w — December 7, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

  21. As to the original question of why building from within/losing now to win later is perceived as more “the right way” than signing expensive free agents and trading away prospects for established talent, I see two reasons why fans and (especially) writers adopt that view: First, I think it speaks to the old fashioned idea of delayed gratification. Teams like the Twins (at least until this past season) and Rays are seen as the kind of people who wait until Christmas morning to open their presents. They’ve somehow earned their success more by enduring those losing seasons while building talent in the minors.

    Also, it has a lot to do with most people’s natural inclination to root for the underdog, and the need to feel like the underdog somehow holds the moral high ground. MLB hypes rivalries between big market teams, but for most fans the more important rivalries are high payroll vs. low payroll teams. Most fans of, say, the Pirates or the Reds don’t care who wins a Boston-New York series, but they were probably rooting for the Rangers and Twins to beat the Yankees in the playoffs. A lot of those fans see the Rangers’ or Twins’ path to success as a road map for their own team’s turnaround, and look at something like the Nationals signing Jayson Werth as a weak team attempting to buy a higher spot in the standings this year rather than waiting a few years for their young talent to develop.

    Comment by ralf — December 7, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

  22. Saying that Boston relies upon buying their way to success is simply inaccurate. The Red Sox drafted their first and second pitchers in the rotation, their starting center fielder, their starting second baseman, and the guy who will likely start at shortstop this coming season. The catcher they keep hanging on to, who has been given the title of Captain and who has been instrumental in Boston’s playoff successes, was acquired in a trade from Seattle before playing a game in the majors.

    If anything, Boston has relied upon growth from within, and only supplemented this approach it with signing the occasional big contract. Epstein’s front office has also developed sufficient talent to trade prospects for established stars and avoid having to shell out for free agency (see Gonzalez).

    Comment by Angry Sam — December 7, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

  23. Oh yeah, that one still stings. Apparently it was forced because the Pirates were in violation of debt requirements, though; I don’t think you can say the Pirates have habitually sold off their arb-eligible players.

    That trade’s another example of not trying to build from within, by the way; Littlefield insisted on getting major-league players back instead of prospects, so the Pirates wound up with the totally useless Jose Hernandez.

    (If you read the linked article and are confused about the Brandon Lyon trade that’s mentioned there, when Lyon turned out to be hurt the Pirates traded him back for Freddy Sanchez.)

    Comment by matt w — December 7, 2010 @ 9:04 pm

  24. I think it’s more of ‘lose for a few years and then win for many years’ then ‘win for a few years and then lose for many years’

    Comment by JoeS — December 7, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

  25. That’s why it si so hard to study it. I would think the best scenario is to build through the draft and player development. Only when you feel you are “close” do you spend assets (money or players) to acquire pieces at market rate and push you over the top into a chamiopnship. If you do it right, you have assets (again, money and players) to spend. It takes patience both form the team and fans but it is the most sustainabale model sicne you have a core of young, inexpensive players and you add to them. You can be wrong from time to time but if you are wrong with the young players you will never get to the “close” point and if you are wrong with the expensive additions, you will use resources that can’t be used on the right guys.

    As you said, teams at the top can be wrong either way since they have money to cover mistakes and teams at the bottom have to be right on the young players becauce they never have assets to spend on market rate guys. However, even teams just below the top can be crippled by bad decisions (Cubs, Mets). Even the Yankees have written some awfully bad paper. They can just absorb it and move on better than any other team.

    Comment by MikeS — December 7, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

  26. He was also notorious for cheaping out on the draft and going for college players that supposedly could help the team immediately,

    A college player that can help the ML team immediately is a helluva player.

    Look at the college players that have made it to the pros in 2 years or less. It’s basically a who’s who of prospects.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — December 7, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

  27. Any word on the new writers? Have you looked through the applications?

    Comment by Jess — December 7, 2010 @ 9:56 pm

  28. I think that a good GM sells veterans and bottoms out when he has a few high upside players already in the system. You need a deep system when your young stars arrive.

    In other words, exactly what the Dodgers didn’t do ’04-’06.

    Comment by Dean — December 7, 2010 @ 9:56 pm

  29. I agree with blue. The Sox are a playoff contender, and I don’t think they’d legitimately be accused of mortgaging the future by adding a final piece to the puzzle – Gonzalez.

    On the other hand, you look at the Mets trading Kazmir for Zambrano when they were already – what? – 6 games back at the end of July, and that’s a panic move. It’s panic moves that are mortgaging the future.

    Comment by vivalajeter — December 7, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

  30. But then what do you call a move like the Nationals signing Werth? Mortgaging the future implies they’re getting present value, which in a strict sense is true, but it’s not the kind of value that can turn them into contenders. And then they’re kind of betting that things are going to come together in 2012 or 2013, when Werth will be a somewhat older and marginally worse player. The timing of the move doesn’t make sense to me; if you’re going to mortgage the future, do it at a moment when you’re on the proverbial bubble, at least in the discussion for postseason contention.

    I get that the owner (or whoever) wants to keep people coming to games, but surely lowering ticket prices could have achieved that, while not tying up a big chunk of change for the next 7 years.

    Comment by Anon21 — December 7, 2010 @ 11:29 pm

  31. Very good point although presumably the Marlins had to give up Beckett soon since they didn’t have the money to resign him and wanted to flip him for talent. Although the Marlins are an example of not spending revenue sharing money until recently inking Josh Johnsons extension

    Comment by LGM — December 7, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

  32. One of your best thoughts to date, Mr. Dave Cameron. A very smart article.

    Comment by Oscar — December 7, 2010 @ 11:54 pm

  33. You forgot that they drafted Youkilis, one of the best hitters in the league.

    Comment by theonemephisto — December 7, 2010 @ 11:55 pm

  34. and alex gordon

    Comment by patrick — December 8, 2010 @ 12:51 am

  35. Why do I always keep thinking they traded for Youk at some point when he was coming up? Anyhow, yes… and that’s a particularly embarrassing omission on my part.

    Comment by Angry Sam — December 8, 2010 @ 1:39 am

  36. That’s a solid point. I was thinking a little more about how money makes a difference across very well-managed teams. I would guess that it’s a bigger impact when it comes to building around your stars. Monied teams can afford to bring on the guys that don’t have “future HOFer” written all over them but are still up there as far as talent, whereas even a very well-run team on a smaller budget has to fill gaps with just-above-replacement talent.

    Comment by Angry Sam — December 8, 2010 @ 1:42 am

  37. a fan of the small market Red Sox I see. one could make similar arguments about the Yankees, but personally I think it would be ridiculous, because even though Posada, Pettitte, Jeter, Rivera, Cano, Gardner, and Hughes all came up through the system, the Yankees would not be the Yankees if they didn’t have $230 million to float around, and the Sox would not be the Sox if they didn’t have their money.

    this is not to say that the Red Sox are not well run – but pretending that their repeated 90 win seasons aren’t largely because of their money is just downright foolish.

    John Lackey
    J.D. Drew
    Josh Beckett
    Mike Cameron
    Adrian Gonzalez

    it’s safe to say that all of those guys would be on different teams if the Sox had the financial resources of the Rays, for instance.

    Comment by JCP — December 8, 2010 @ 3:04 am

  38. Just to shade in the grey of this haves-havenots, Boston is my favorite example of capitalizing on the broken free agent compensation system. I apologize for not listing specific sox, but Boston has certainly flexed its financial advantage in drafting many more and with higher frequency of high upside, prospects through the draft and internationally both.

    Comment by Oddibe McBlauser — December 8, 2010 @ 4:14 am

  39. Looking at this from the perspective of what the Nationals are aiming to do is something akin to the multiplier effect, or ‘you have to spend money to make money.’

    Does Werth make them a playoff team? No. Does he make them a better team? Absolutely. You hope a Werth-led offense, coupled with the acquisition of a starter like Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke or Matt Garza, pushes your team into the 75-80 win range in 2011. You know that the shine of your spiffy ballpark has worn off, and you need to win games there to justify its existence, sell tickets, and bring in a corporate sponsor for naming rights.

    Then you have the 2011-12 offseason, when you will have major hype around the team without signing or trading for any big names simply due to the impending arrival of Bryce Harper and the return of Strasberg. Fans, encouraged by your uptick in wins and the exciting prospects on the horizon, start snapping up season tickets: 20k, 25k. You’ve been spending big in the draft for years, and several other exciting prospects are matriculating to the high minors, ready to contribute soon.

    Now your revenue streams are opening up. Sponsors sign on. Maybe you can sell naming rights. Enough season tickets are sold to justify another big name signing or trade acquisition.

    2012 and 2013 bring continued growth in the win column, as the team breaks .500 and pushes for a wild card berth both years (albeit unsuccessfully). The season ticket base is now over 30k, and sellouts are becoming frequent. Strasberg, Harper and Zim jersey shirts are flying off the shelves. The script ‘W’ hat is the only hat you’ll find the boys from Landon and Georgetown Prep in.

    Now it’s 2014, and you have an absolute stable of homegrown studs that your fanbase adores. You have Jayson Werth, not hitting 35+ bombs for you but still a quality player. You have a veteran top of the rotation starter to send out to the hill every five days, and you’re payroll is rocketing past $100 million…

    Back to reality. Did the Nats mortgage future years by signing Werth? Not really. They’ve had the money to spend for a while, and they’re betting that he will sell a few tickets, establish to the fans that the team is serious about putting a winner out there, and then be a productive piece of the squad when the future arrives.

    Comment by Governator — December 8, 2010 @ 4:27 am

  40. As an aside, I think the ‘lose now to win later,’ strategy is viewed as ‘better’ by teams and fans alike because except for a select few franchises with deep pockets (earned by winning before) all teams have to build this way, to some degree.

    I think the Phillies are really the model for how to go from bottom to top. Build the ballpark, move in with a fancy free agent signing, graduate studs from the minors to the major league team, win with consistency, create a fanbase, get to the point where you can spend to bring in talent and develop new talent.

    Comment by Governator — December 8, 2010 @ 4:30 am

  41. As many above have pointed out, how a team goes about winning depends upon its situation – market size, competition, urgency, etc. There is no one “right way to win,” and in fact there is no one definition of “win.” The Red Sox, for instance, had to win the Series (in ’04, not ’07), while for Pittsburgh 82-80 would be a triumph now.

    I do think there’s a “wrong way” – Florida – but I guess they were trying to establish a fan base.

    Basically people are unhappy about free agency and the way it favors big-market teams, but the other way of looking at that is that maybe every fan – not every team – should have an equal chance of winning. While folks were worrying about the small-market teams, we had all these big-market teams that never won (because they didn’t have to). Chicago went 88 years without a Series victory, Boston 86; the Phillies won once in that span (the A’s, I know!); San Francisco finally made it after, what, 53? That’s the big change in this decade – more teams are actually trying to win.

    Comment by Mr Punch — December 8, 2010 @ 6:19 am

  42. Well the key word is “supposedly.” He wasn’t very good at it. From 2002-7 he drafted four college pitchers out of six first-rounders; only Paul Maholm has wound up making a significant impact on the roster (and he did make it to the bigs in two years, although he hasn’t been anything special).

    His other two picks were Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker — two high-school picks who wound up helping the big-league team after Littlefield was fired. So maybe he knew that planning for the long term wouldn’t help him.

    Comment by matt w — December 8, 2010 @ 7:26 am

  43. I think the article sets up a straw man argument, i.e., that there is only one “right way” to building a winning team. As most people have said, the best strategy depends on a lot of circumtances. Some fans may blindly ignore that the strategy depends on the circumstances and claim that there is only one laudable approach to building teams. But GMs and front offices can’t build a team based on bromides.

    I think the market size of the franchise is a key factor in determining the right strategy. Small market teams probably have only one feasible strategic option. Middle market teams can blend strategies to a certain degree. And big market teams have all options available to the team.

    The term “mortgaging the future” is not only a loaded term, it probably means different things to different people. I usually think of the term as describing the practice of trading prospects for win-now players. This is definitely a decision that must be well timed in the success cycle, and depends on the depth of the farm system. Signing free agents, in itself, doesn’t mean that a team is mortgaging the future. A contract with a length that exceeds the player’s likely usefulness may seem like mortgaging the future–or it may just be a bad decision. Signing free agents on a short term basis as “fill ins” to keep the team competitive and maintain fans’ interest is not mortgaging the future.

    I think Dave makes a good point about the potential “death spiral” for a team which continually rebuilds. Baseball is a business, and sometimes teams can’t adhere to a pure rebuilding mode. I sometimes hear, “what use is it to spend money to achieve 85 wins.” That kind of “competitive” mode has value from a business standpoint. It’s probable that the team will loosely be in contention for some period during the season, which increases fan interest. This is important to maintaining the team’s value. If the team is headed toward a 65 or 70 win season, attendance plummets, broadcast ratings decline, and the team loses relevance in its local competition with other sports.

    Comment by CJ — December 8, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  44. I can not recommend this comment enough.

    B N – whether everyone knew how this worked or not, this summary is clear and just awesome.

    Comment by Danmay — December 8, 2010 @ 11:06 am

  45. “Flags fly forever. I don’t think teams get tagged with “mortgaging the future” when they win.”

    I think this is what chagrins people so much about the Marlins win-and-dismantle program that they worked to perfection in capturing two WS titles in the past 15 years. It’s not that they blew the team apart and started over afterwards; it’s that they did it so *perfectly* and made no bones about what they were doing before or after.

    It kind of rubbed other team’s faces in it by effectively saying “oh you’re building from within? Hey, good for you Jack. We got our title, thanks…but good luck with whatever it is you’re doing.” Parts of us hate when other team’s successes make our own organizations look kind of lame by comparison.

    Comment by Jason B — December 8, 2010 @ 11:51 am

  46. The idea that Boston is winning through the FA market is ridiculous.

    Next year, it looks like Boston’s starting 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, C, CF, #1,2,3 Starters, Closer, Set up guy, are all either home grown, or the product of trading prospects for proven talent.

    Youk, Pedroia, Lowrie, Ellsbury, Lester, Buchholz all home grown, Gonzalez, and Beckett are products of trading prospects for talent, and Salty is either the latter, or a scrap heap pickup.

    Pretty much the only free agent starters are Lackey, Drew, and Cameron,(and arguably Daisuke) and thats only if one of Drew or Cameron doesn’t lose his job to Kalish. Cameron and Drew are both on their last contract years, and Daisuke has 2 left.

    As to Boston’s financial might, they’ve consistently (barring last year), been about 6th in MLB in salary (Behind NYA, NYB, PHI, DET, CHIA, and in the same group as CHIB, LAA).

    Comment by Rich — December 8, 2010 @ 11:53 am

  47. ““the right way” is judging the results, not the process.”

    Unfortunately, that’s how things get judged. I make a bad call in poker and suck out to win a big pot?!? Man I’m brilliant!!

    Most things in life (sports and otherwise) would be judged on making good, informed decisions based on the information available at the time…do that consistently enough and results will come. But people are short-sighted, win-now, and don’t want to hear all that.

    It gets thrown up a lot at Beane and the A’s of the early 2000′s – “if his system was so brilliant why didn’t they win more titles?” You can just hear the knuckles dragging…

    Comment by Jason B — December 8, 2010 @ 11:55 am

  48. Jason Bay, Brian Giles, Jason Schmidt, Jose Guillen, Nady, kendall, LaRoche.

    Maybe not the list the Marlins can put together, but decent enough talent.

    Comment by BigHurt — December 8, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

  49. On what planet do Red Sox fans live?? As if no other team builds from within or flexes its muscle financially in the draft? Just because you have a total of two starting pitchers and a couple infielders from your farm doesn’t mean much. A team with the Red Sox resources should be able have impact players come up through their system.

    And the last I checked, Marco Scutaro (a free agent) was your starting shortstop, and Mike Cameron (a free agent) was your starting CF because the player the Red Sox developed wasn’t good enough to play CF and they moved him off the position. The last time I checked the Red Sox were the team that had a deal in place to acquire Alex Rodriguez, they were minutes away from signing Mark Teixeira before the Yankees took him from under their noses, they’re going to have to pay Gonzalez ~ $140MM, and it won’t surprise me when they give Crawford a similar big money deal. But we’ll have to check back on that one…

    The team the Red Sox actually, you know, won something with was the David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Daisuke Matsuzaka team. Those were the cornerstones of the Red Sox and NONE of them were drafted by the organization.

    Stop acting as if the Red Sox are some small-market, “build from within” team because it’s nothing but total bullshit. The Yankees list of players acquired through the draft or via trade includes their ENTIRE outfield, half their infield, two starting pitchers, and thier starting catcher; regardless of who wins the job. I guess the Yankees are a “build from within” team too?

    Comment by Frank — December 8, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

  50. Okay, so people are pointing out that his college plsayer drafts have not worked as well as expected, but his high school picks have worked out better.

    However the comment of “college players” and “could help the team immediately” are two separate issues.

    Teams don’t draft college players because they can “help the team immediately”. They draft college player because they have a better view of their skills against higher competition.

    My comment was in regards to players that were BOTH [1] drafted out of college and [2] helped the team immediately.

    But, being drafted out of college does not inherently mean that you are expected to help the team immediately.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — December 8, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  51. *facepalm*

    Jason Bay: Year-and-a-half from free agency.
    Xavier Nady: Ditto. Also didn’t do much after he was traded.
    Jose Guillen: By the end of his sixth year, when he’d have been eligible for free agency if the Rays hadn’t cut him, Guillen had accumulated 4.8 wins below replacement. Doesn’t count as a “producing player.”
    Giles: Pirates extended him, he played I think three years on the extension before they traded him.
    Kendall: Pirates also extended him and traded him four years into the extension. The knock is that they held on to him too long and wound up trading him for f*&$ing Arthur Rhodes and Mark Redman.
    Jason Schmidt: traded in his free agent walk year.
    Adam LaRoche: Also traded in his free agent walk year.

    So the only one of these guys that even possibly fits the bill of “traded him when he reached arbitration” is Guillen, and they traded him because he sucked — and continued to suck through what would’ve been his arbitration years. Is anyone seriously going to suggest that the Pirates would’ve done better to hold on to these guys till free agency? Except for Nady and Giles the trade returns could’ve been better, but the problem is not that the Pirates didn’t keep them.

    Comment by matt w — December 8, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

  52. Teams don’t draft college players because they can “help the team immediately”. They draft college player because they have a better view of their skills against higher competition.

    That’s probably true of most teams, but I don’t think it was true of Littlefield. Littlefield wanted guys who would sign cheap and who would, he thought, be able to make the major leagues in a short time. Hence the obsession with apparently safe college pitchers who didn’t even turn out to be safe, but who certainly weren’t the highest-ceilinged players in the draft.

    I should definitely have emphasized “cheap” over “reaching the majors quickly,” though; that was the big flaw, and the big sin against the strategy of building from within.

    Comment by matt w — December 8, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

  53. the real bleeping irony of this is that one day later, they sign arguably the best free agent available. how does your foot taste?

    Comment by JCP — December 9, 2010 @ 12:28 am

  54. Oh man, blast from the past! I REMEMBER when they picked up Morris. That was incredible. Like… literally, I didn’t believe the initial report. I suppose this means that not everybody gets the basic concepts I was talking about. Littlefield clearly did not. Either that, or Morris was some form of desperate “trade and flip” job-saving gambit that went horribly awry (which it was almost certain to do from the start).

    Comment by B N — December 9, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

  55. Maybe. Though teams like the Marlins and Tampa basically have to make the tickets free in order to get butts in the seats… sometimes, it’s not about price elasticity.

    Comment by B N — December 9, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

  56. I’m neither a Yankees nor Red Sox fan (Orioles if you must know) but neither of those teams succeed with money alone. Both seem to be able to identify and develop quality players in spite of losing their first draft position most of the time due to signing free agents. Look at their prospect lists. They deal prospects for impact players yet always seem to have a lot more on the farm. I only wish a certain other team, which has had high draft picks for the last decade, were half as efficient.

    Comment by DonM — December 9, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

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