Saturday, June 13, 2009

Making Sense on Strasburg

From Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus:
With the draft comes never ending radio hits, many of the surprise variety when they call and want you on right then and there. When one talks about the draft on the radio with a national perspective, nearly all of the discussion revolves around Stephen Strasburg, and now that he’s been selected, all of the talk revolves around money. I’m sticking with my prediction of a $8-10 million bonus as part of a total package worth $20-30 million, and when I bring that up, hosts, listeners and others tend to just absolutely lose their mind, as if that’s the most insane thing they’ve ever heard. Yes, it’s two or three times the biggest bonus in draft history, but something changed in my mind yesterday about how much that really is, when taken into context.

Just so you know, I don’t really do other sports, especially football. I can name maybe 20 NFL players. I watch the Super Bowl, mostly for the ads, I couldn’t name the last three Super Bowl winners if my life depended on it, and I have no idea who this year’s National Champion was. But I’m watching baseball highlights on ESPN the other day and on the ticker at the bottom, it flashes that the New York Jets have signed their first-round pick to a $50 million deal, of which $28 million is guaranteed. Talking to somebody who follows the game, I learn that this guy is not the first pick in the draft, or even the first guy at his position selected this year, yet anything close to anything someone would describe as historical.

And yet, nobody blinks an eye.

Look, let’s say something weird happened over the next 72 hours, and Strasburg was found to be not a U.S. citizen but from Sweden or something, and therefore an international player and a free agent. Start the bidding . . . where do you think it ends? If you’re below $100 million, you’re nuts. What he’ll eventually sign for is a ton of money in relation to previous draft bonuses ONLY. In reality, it’s a bargain, in terms of both baseball itself and in relation to what incoming talent costs in other sports.


Rob B said...

Sign the dude.
His first start of the year will immediately start paying part of his salary from ticket sales. That game will probably have the highest attendance all year.

John O'Connor said...

Where Goldstein's analysis falls apart is that these types of bonuses are paid in the NFL every year, and not just to "special" players. But in the NFL, there is an expectation that players picked early in the draft (except maybe quarterbacks) will come right in and contribute as an above-average player right away.

Maybe the analogy works for Strasburg, if you think he can come to the majors right away and (like a rookie quarterback) struggle some in his first year (say, pitching like Zimmermann has pitched this year) and then will be off to the races in year 2.

But the analogy doesn't work at all for high school players, or even college guys who are expected to need a year or two of minor league seasoning. For example, it doesn't work for Weiters unless he's a top player in the majors THIS year.

And the football analogy might not work for anyone in baseball (includign Strasburg) because the quarterback position in football is so essential to a team's success (more so than one of five starting pitchers) that you're willing to pay big money for one year of ineffectiveness in return for four or five yars of star performance.

Simon Oliver Lockwood said...

John O'Connor hits it well. Not to mention that pro football players have already completed their 'minor league' apprenticeship. The real analogy to football draft picks is the Japanese players who get posted, in that they can only negotiate with one team.

Steven said...

No one's saying the drafts are the same, but to act like Strasburg, a collegian who has already competed in the Olympics against pros, is somehow in a totally different category as a Ryan Leaf or a Kwame Brown just doesn't make sense.

Mr. Mustache said...

Where is the Manny firing analysis FJB? Valentine/Mazzone '09!