Friday, June 25, 2010

Rizzo's Biggest Mistake

This past offseason, it was pretty obvious that Mike Rizzo was going to add at least one groundballing veteran innings-eater. It made sense: the team's pitching was terrible, and they needed to do something to reduce the number of times that Stephen Strasburg pitched with a fried bullpen.

And there were several reasonably priced choices available: Jason Marquis, Jon Garland, Braden Looper, Joel Piniero, Brett Myers, Jarrod Washburn, and Brad Penny were the top names, after the true headliners, John Lackey and Randy Wolf.

Well, we all know what happened. Rizzo went aggressively after Marquis gave him two years and $15 million as one of the earliest big free agent signings of the off-season. And after 8.1 innings and 19 earned runs, Marquis went to the DL.

In the meantime, several of the guys Rizzo passed over have done much better, and some for much less:
  • Garland (1 year/$5.3M): 91 IP, 3.26 ERA in San Diego
  • Myers (1 year/$5.1M): 101.1 IP, 3.20 ERA in Houston
  • Piniero: (2 years/$16M): 98.1 IP, 4.21 ERA in Anaheim
  • Penny (1 year/$7.5M): 55.2 IP, 3.23 ERA in St. Louis
Hindsight, as ever, is 20/20, and injuries are part of life. But on the other hand, even if Marquis had been totally healthy it's hard to imagine him providing enough value to justify passing over someone like Jon Garland.

For a team desperately in need of a starting pitcher as they go through a classic June swoon, Rizzo's decision to go after Jason Marquis stands as one of the biggest mistakes of his young regime.


Kevin Reiss said...

Garland had a strong interest in being on the West Coast. Penny is a Dave Duncan special, as is Piniero. And while I generally disdain Rizzo for his aura-based decisions, Brett Myers is an asshole.

It's fine if you want to call Marquis a mistake, but at least be fair in your post hoc analysis.

Steven said...

First, if you have evidence that Rizzo offered Garland 2 years and $15 million and he turned it down, then you have a point there.

Joel Piniero pitches for the Angels, and Dave Duncan is the pitching coach for the Cardinals. How Duncan gets credit for Piniero's peformance 2 time zones away is beyond me.

Brad Penny was a good pitcher for a long time before he got to St. Louis.

And it's true Brett Myers is an asshole. You're saying it's better to spend on a nice guy who gives you nothing than a jerk who pitches great?

And this isn't a post about how smart I was, but since you accused me of "post hoc," you can read me making the same recommendation pre-hoc here:

MikeHarris said...

FJB - do we know any of those guys had interest in the Nats, that the Nats passed on them? Both sides have to have interest.

Will said...

Wouldn't it have been in the Nats interest to publicize any such offers?

Let's say they did offer Garland 2/15, and he insists on staying on the west coast. Too bad. The management can point to the publicity and say "See? We tried, but it didn't work out. We can't help it if players take a paycut to play somewhere else." Along the lines of what they did with Teixeira. There are still fans that use the Teixeira offer as evidence that the Nats are willing to spend lots of money. Wouldn't other instances strengthen Kasten/Rizzo/Lerners case that they aren't cheap and truly committed to putting together a quality team?

If they don't publicize them, then they can only later make vague references to making offers on quality pitchers. Rizzo can insist he tried, but Steven still has ammo against him because there's no evidence to support such claims, but substantial evidence that the Nats made offers on players that they were genuinely interested in (Tex, Hudson, etc).

Will said...

By the way, that extra $1-2mil extra that Hudson wanted is looking like pocket change with each day that goes by that Cristian Guzman trots out to 2B.

It's ridiculous that such a relatively small amount of money prevented them from getting a player substantially better than any alternatives available to the Nats.

Steven said...

This hardly even seems worth saying, but generally, professional athletes take the contract that offers them the most money. When there are exceptions, the agent for the player almost without exception will widely publicize the player's decision to reject the larger contract and play for "the love of the game," or the local team. That's because the player's PR value and endorsement potential is increased by the perception that they don't care as much about money as the local team.

So the idea that somehow Jon Garland was offered ten million dollars by the Nationals, rejected it, and didn't tell anyone, is quite far-fetched.

The idea that four guys all did this, is really outside the realm of even the most extreme definition of plausible.

In this case, add to that the fact that Marquis was signed very early in the process, before any of the other pitchers in question had been on the market more than a couple weeks.

Unless you're just a Rizzo fan, trying to defend him against all logic, there isn't any real point in arguing that every free agent pitcher in baseball other than Jason Marquis perhaps rejected the Nationals, leaving Rizzo no choice by to sign Marquis.

Kevin Trainor said...

Seems to me grumbling about Jason Marquis during the current unpleasantness is like writing about the crappy wallpaper while the house is burning, to steal a line from Bill James about the equally sucky Twins back in the early 80s.

Still, linked at Beltway Baseball.

Nate said...

That Garland took a lesser contract to sign with a West Coast team was widely reported at the time. There's no reason to think that he didn't get the same 2 yr/$15M offer Marquis got. Penny and Piniero signed with better teams. Maybe Rizzo should've offered a premium, but maybe 2 yrs/$15M was his budget, it's impossible to know from the outside. As for Myers, I'm with Kevin. I don't want even a little of that rubbing off on Strasburg or Zimmermann.

Steven said...

There's no reason to think that he didn't get the same 2 yr/$15M offer Marquis got.

I don't believe he got anywhere near that kind of offer from the Nationals, if he got an offer at all.

Will said...

Back to my original point. What is the value in the Nationals not publicizing their offer, especially if they knew it was going to be turned down or the player would take less money?

I can count several reasons why they should, but I can't some up with a single reason why they would not.

Harper said...

This is totally a hindsight call. You can argue that it was a little much, and that there may have been a couple pitchers out there a little better but in general it was a decent move that didn't work out. Like the inverse of the Pudge move (a terrible deal that did work out... so far)

BTW - Garland's ERA is around 4.00 away from Petco. Better than MIA sure, but he's not an All-Star outside that place.