April Fools Comes Early

Kelvim Escobar told Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional that he will decide on April 1st whether or not to pitch in 2010 (hat tip to TheRopolitans, via MLBTR).

Does anyone else see “April 1st” as a fitting day to make such a decision?

Yes, from the beginning the Escobar signing was seen as a “risk-reward” situation. But you have to wonder if any other team was willing to risk $1.5M guaranteed on a pitcher with extensive, chronic shoulder problems, had been shut down after tossing only five innings in 2009, and would not have passed a physical.

We are going to assume that the Mets gave Escobar a “Putz Physical”, because if his arm was “weak” in February, then how could it possibly have been healthy, or “strong”, in mid-December?

The Mets’ pattern of throwing good money after bad continues, and nothing is learned by mistakes. I understand the idea of “low risk, high reward”, and often support it. But you have to examine exactly what “low risk” really means.

$1.5M doesn’t seem like a “high risk” for big-market team like the Mets — and it shouldn’t be. But when you gamble $1.5M on damaged goods, and you pencil in those goods as your setup man, how can it be defined as “low risk” ?

What makes the “low-risk” gampble more risky is inserting another “low-risk, high-reward” proposition as Plan B — a Japanese import.

We’ve beaten this horse before, but it bears repeating: the Mets overspend as a rule, and yes, it IS an issue even when it’s “only” one or two million dollars. The Mets bid against themselves in spending $3.5M on Escobar and Cora — a sum total that would have netted, say, Bobby Crosby and Bobby Howry … or, say, Felipe Lopez, Clay Condrey, and LOOGY Javier Lopez. We could play this game all day — fill in the players of your choice. Bottom line is the Mets continue to be penny-wise and pound-foolish, gamble on multiple high (not low) risks, then wonder how the second-highest payroll in MLB can result in second-to-last place finish.

One thing’s for sure: I know exactly how I’m betting if I see Omar Minaya rolling the dice at a craps table in Atlantic City.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Mr North Jersey March 13, 2010 at 4:06 pm
    Hi Joe, not necessarily disagreeing with you but with all that being said It is 1.5M.

    Hoping to compete for the setup role definitely was Minaya’s idea along with Igarashi and Parnell.

    Bobby Crosby, Bobby Howry, Felipe Lopez, Clay Condrey and Javier Lopez would the Mets go after these guys had they not signed Cora & Escobar?
    -I can’t say for certain that they would have.

    Anyway I saw the segment you did with Kerel Cooper you guys were pretty cozy in that booth. Did you get a lot of stares by the patrons?

  2. Mr North Jersey March 13, 2010 at 4:10 pm
    Dumb laptop sorry to finish up my thoughts just wanted to add Do you guys plan on doing another roundtable at the McFaddens at CitiFields this year?

    Keep up the good work.

  3. joejanish March 13, 2010 at 7:16 pm
    MNJ – Thanks! Yes it was $1.5M. Point being? Please elaborate, not sure what you’re trying to say.

    Parnell isn’t exactly a reliable option either … another gamble for a team supposedly gunning for the postseason.

    Crosby, Howry, etc. were examples … the point is that there were at least a dozen other, much better, more efficient ways to spend $3.5M.

    Yeah the booth was cozy. Most of the patrons were too busy watching a basketball game on the big screens to notice us. Yes, hoping to do another roundtable at some point — keep an eye on Kerel’s OnTheBlack.

  4. mic March 13, 2010 at 8:55 pm
    From my point of view Kelvim Escobar wasnt pencilled in as anything…nevermind set up man. That was media-pedestallling/met-PR-hype.

    Fact: Escobar was never going to be ready in April. I thought/hoped June was an option, when as we see often, the hot arms slouch and bats warm up (see Pedro Martinez). Right now that looks waay off. But hey…If he retires that CAN go somewhere else.

    If anything IS obvious its that the whole in the rotation is still there.

    I think Igrashi, takashi, Calero, Parnall, Krod, Pedro-lite and Meija are a decent pen. I think anther arm, plus a minus of Sean Green will help. A contribution out of the Pen from Nieve could also help. But WE NEED A STARTER.

    I’d rather have Tejada at short, even Fmart in CF. But Niese and Nieve have not shown enuff to offset the bipolarity of Pelfrey, Ollie and Maine.

  5. mattytunks March 14, 2010 at 11:57 am
    let me put this in perspective. the amount given to escobar is less than 1% of the payroll.
    in most years there is one or two players that are high risk high reward. kelvim escobar could be considered one of those players.
    in reality he isn’t going to ruin the mets season because of the amount of money he is paid.
  6. Mr North Jersey March 14, 2010 at 12:13 pm
    Hi again, sorry I was vague earlier what I meant to say is that 1.5M is a drop in the bucket for this organization when you consider the risk/reward that was being taken.

    Again, I am not necessarily disagreeing with you. The Mets decisions this off season in dealing with the pitching are highly questionable. They basically left the audition of the 8th inning setup role come down to a risky Escobar an unknown in Igarashi and a questionable Parnell.

    I’m just saying that spending 1.5M most likely didn’t prevent them from getting a better option for that role. They just simply for whatever reason decided there was no better option.

    Not that I agree with them on that assessment.

  7. joejanish March 14, 2010 at 2:15 pm
    MNJ – but that is exactly my point: that $1.5M is NOT a drop in the bucket, because otherwise the Mets would have given Bengie Molina the extra year and/or gone a few more dollars for Joel Pineiro, etc., etc (not saying it made sense to sign those people, but the point is they were targets of Minaya and they fell short b/c of the $). Further, when you add up all these “drops in the bucket”, it eventually fills the bucket with a significant sum of money.

    The Mets do not have a limitless budget. Their annual strategy is to spend their “extra” dollars on many cans of bad paint (and often redundant) to throw on the wall, rather than a few good cans that are more of a sure thing.

    Last year, for example, they wasted many “drops in the bucket” on multiple lefthanded, weak-hitting outfielders. A few years before it was a pile of inadequate middle infielders. Every year it’s a pile of terrible pitchers. What that tells me is the team either doesn’t trust their scouting department, or doesn’t know how to evaluate talent. It’s inefficient, and in the end, results in overspending on mediocre talent.

  8. isuzudude March 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm
    To me, the bottom line isn’t that the $1.5 million spent on Escobar is handcuffing the Mets’ ability to sign other impact players, though I’m certainly not advocating the contract either; and it also isn’t that the Mets’ did a poor job of acquiring adequate backup in case the fragile Escobar got hurt, because the conglomeration of Igarashi, Feliciano, Parnell, and Calero should produce at least one capable 8th inning man. To me, the bottom line is that the Escobar signing made no sense to begin with, and the ridiculous comments by Omar that Escobar was the de facto setup man just made the situation that much more nonsensical. After all, here is an organization that has had some of the most pronounced bullpen problems over the past 3 years, and is coming off one of the most injury plagued seasons in all of history. Yet, Minaya courts and annoints one of the most injury prone players in all of baseball in Escobar to be the team’s new setup man. It’s like the man has no memory. With his history of arm problems, Escobar should have been one of the last people Omar should have gone after this offseason. And by announcing that Escobar is the setup man by default, despite him having only pitched in a handful of innings over the past 2 seasons, was just opening the door for Omar to once again look like a complete baseball ignoramous once Escobar inevitably got hurt. Didn’t take very long for that to play out, did it?
  9. Mr North Jersey March 14, 2010 at 4:22 pm
    I guess I just don’t agree with the idea that the 1.5M that Escobar got prevented the Mets from getting player X. To me they didn’t get Molina not because of Escobar getting 1.5M. They didn’t get Molina cause they didn’t feel like giving him what he wanted.

    Your view is they couldn’t afford to get player X due to financial reasons because of Escobar’s 1.5M.

    I simply based on just what I have seen so far do not agree. Maybe eventually you will be proven to be right I hope that is not the case but at the same time would not be surprised if it was.

  10. joejanish March 14, 2010 at 6:07 pm
    ‘dude – agreed, well explained.

    MNJ – No, it’s not as simple as that. It’s not ONLY the money given to Escobar, it’s the contracts given to Escobar + Cora + the 18 backup catchers + all the other garbage they bring in for reasons unknown. It all adds up.

    BTW there is nothing that is going to prove me right or wrong — what’s done is done. The Mets routinely overpay for free agents of all kinds and in particular overspend on what they see as “low-risk” gambles but in fact are “high risk”. It’s like buying a 1963 Corvette with no engine for $10,000 and hoping it’s going to start up. Is it a low risk because you paid way under market value for a hot car? No, it’s a bad risk because no matter how cheap it is, it’s not going to run! The only difference, of course, is that you can put a new engine in the ‘vette … you can’t put a new arm on Kelvim Escobar.

  11. James March 15, 2010 at 9:28 am
    I agree that the Mets should not have penciled Escobar into the 8th inning role, but the 1.5 mil for what he could have been was a pretty good risk reward. I mean someone is going to throw more money at Sheets who is just as much of a risk and other players like him. The problem was penciling him into the 8th inning slot.

    As for the Mets always overspending on players, I know fans like to bash management for this but I think they always have this backwards. The Mets overspend on players because they HAVE to overspend on players. Quite simply put, the Mets have to be one of the bottom 10 desirable teams to play for in baseball for 90% of players. What do you get for playing for the Mets:

    1. All the NY scrutiny
    2. All the NY cost of living
    3. Being the “second team” everywhere you go
    4. All the NY fans and their way of showing “support” to you when you hit a slump

    If a player could play out on the West Coast, or St. Louis or Chicago or most other teams for the same or similar money, get lower Taxes in most of those places and have less of the media presence, and have a fan base that is exclusively for that team, well which do you choose? So yes, we overpay for the same quality of player as the Cards, or Braves, or Twins because quite frankly we have to if we don’t want to just get the guys who couldn’t hook on anywhere else.

    Sure, the NY market can be a plus for certain potential superstar players, but for the most part, the Mets are not an appealing team to most players, and it shows in our contracts.

  12. Mr North Jersey March 15, 2010 at 1:05 pm
    I’ll respectfully disagree.

    The analogy of the vette while nice has flaws.

    1. Unlike the vette where you know it can’t run without an engine. You are already assuming that Escobar can’t pitch at the time of the contract and there was no way anyone could ascertain that at best they could draw a logical conclusion.

    2. It’s not if you are buying the car below market that is only important. It’s if you can buy the car below market and still buy any car you want after that which is important.

    We just see things differently and like you said who is right or wrong we may just never know so all we are left with is our opinions on the matter.

    It is good though that we can express our opinions in a polite matter.

    Here is hoping the Mets don’t get stuck with too many lemons.

  13. down with the metsies March 16, 2010 at 8:28 am
    pathetic….. a team in nYC…. acting like they play in Omaha… and what’s more pathetic is kkoolaide drinking bloggers who spew the small market baloney