Table of Contents

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friday Night Links: Goodyear, Stanton, Baker, and more

I thought I'd do another Friday Night Links. Who knows, maybe this'll become a regular feature.

Reds move to Arizona in doubt?

For the first time in this process, we see reports that someone important in Goodyear is not completely on board with the plan to invest $33 million of city funds into the Reds' new spring training facility:
"The issue is the money," said Councilwoman Joanne Osborne, who opposes paying for the new facilities. "It's about priorities. We don't have a downtown. We don't have a library. We don't have the things our citizens have asked for."
"I'm for it 100 percent," Councilman Dick Sousa said. "With two teams, and the enthusiasm of two Ohio teams, I think the impact on tourism would be so great over a long haul."
Sousa is one of the three councilmen who is on board with the plan to invest in the Reds' facilities. Osborne, on the other hand, is the sole council member who has come out against the plan, but there are two others who are undecided. If both of the undecided individuals vote against the investment, the Reds' might yet end up back in Sarasota.

I talked a bit about the issue of whether investments in spring training facilities were likely to provide a good return with economist J.C. Bradbury in an interview last month. Here are some relevant sections from that interview:
Question: Sarasota county commissioners recently voted to contribute $17.6 million towards a $41 million renovation of their Florida spring training facility, Ed Smith Stadium. However, their delay in making this decision has resulted in the Reds entering an exclusive negotiation agreement with a Cactus League facility, which lasts through mid-April. Signs are that the Reds will be heading west. Again from the perspective of the cities/counties, to what degree do you think the economic benefits of building and maintaining a spring training facility for a team is worth the cost? Does the ability to attract vacationing fans make spring training facilities a more worthwhile investment?

JCB: It's not like Sarasota won't attract outsiders without spring training visitors. Florida is a nice place to be this time of year. I suspect that the hotels and restaurants will do about the same without the team. I can't imagine that the improvements in Sarasota's stadium will generate enough value in one month to justify nearly $18 million in public subsidies.

Question: Why do you think the Cactus league has been so successful in luring teams--even those not from the West Coast like the Indians and Cubs--away from their former Florida spring training homes?

JCB: I haven't looked at this, but my guess is that they have been able to offer newer and nicer facilities. I suspect that Florida residents know that the tourists will come, with or without baseball, which gives Cactus League hosts an advantage. Taxpayers in Arizona may be more willing to support public subsidies, because they aren't as certain as Florida taxpayers that visitors will come anyway.
I am sure that Sousa is correct that Goodyear would see an increase in tourism in exchange for their investment. But would the return be enough to justify a $33 million? I have to say that if I were on the council, I'd be a bit more inclined to go with the sorts of projects that Joanne Osborne cited.

The vote is set for April 7th, so we'll know by then what the verdict will be.

So Long, Stanton

The Reds have apparently decided to part ways with Mike Stanton. Shame to see the rest of career suddenly in doubt, as he always seemed like a nice guy. Baker had some positive things to say about his character earlier this week.

Still, in making this cut, the Reds opted to let ability, not pride, determine their roster. In so doing, the Reds correctly determined that the $3.5 million they owe Stanton was a sunk cost--already committed no matter what, and therefore irrelevant to the decision of whether or not to keep him o the team. It's not as big of a deal as the Diamondbacks' decision to release Russ Ortiz two years ago (with $22 million left on his contract), but it's always nice to see rational decision-making in the Reds' front office.

In the interest of accountability, this appears to be my first miss of the 2008 season (and I'm sure there'll be more). I wrote this about Stanton in the THT Season Preview 2008:
There were few players who suffered the Reds fans' wrath more than Stanton last year. When signed, there was talk that he would be the co-closer with Weathers. Ultimately, he never got a save, and frankly never seemed to even put together more than a few solid appearances in a row. His peripherals and high BABIP indicate that he was terribly unlucky last season. But he also showed a big increase in his home runs allowed rate, in part due to GABP, and an in part due to a declining GB%. I still think he can be a decent middle-inning lefthanded option, but I also think that someone like Bill Bray or Jon Coutlangus can do about the same job for much lower cost.
I noted his declining GB%, but otherwise still thought he could do the job. Apparently, the Reds disagreed, and I'm guessing that they were right.

Interestingly, though, both Coutlangus and Bray have both been optioned to Louisville in favor of lefties Affeldt (who hadn't signed when I wrote the above passage), Mercker (ditto), and someone named Matt Mike Lincoln...who is now on John Fay's short list to make the big league roster. Go figure.

How much is a manager worth?

Tom Tango had a small comment today on managerial salaries, based on this article in the Wall Street Journal (congrats to David Gassko for the prominent feature):
...Basically, a win is a win is a win. A free agent win is worth 4.4MM, whether that comes directly off the play of the player, or has been “performance enhanced” by his manager. If the average manager gets 2MM, then a manager that can add 1 win should get 6.4MM. Of course, if you have a below average manager, one who gets LESS out of their players than an average manager would, then pay him 1MM.
I talked about Gassko's managerial study from the Hardball Times Annual in this previous post. The surprise finding from that study (at least to me) was that Dusty's players have performed 1.65 wins above expectations per season based on Gassko's model, which included simple aging curves and regression to the mean. The effect was entirely due to his hitters--he was +3.4 wins with hitters, and -1.7 wins with pitchers. And the effect remained (though was reduced, naturally, to ~+1 wins) when Barry Bonds was removed from the dataset.

Granted, there are other aspects to being a manager--particularly strategic decisions. But I think a lot of fans discount Baker's ability to motivate players, which seems genuinely exceptional from what I've heard and seen of him. And I've yet to see a good study that assesses differences in managerial strategic skill in a rigorous way. Doesn't mean that Baker's not deficient in that area (I'm not real excited about Mr. Patterson hitting leadoff, for example), just means that I don't know how to assess this right now.

So, if we can accept that Baker's approximately a +1 to +1.5 wins manager, then we can value his performance in the current free agent market as $4.4 to $6.6 million per season. The Reds are paying him $3.5 I'd say that if he's worth half of what Gassko's study suggests he's worth, then he's being paid appropriately.

Sergio Valenzuela sold by Braves to Mexico

I think I saw this on a Braves blog originally, but forgot to save the link and now I can't find that post. But the Reds' Rule 5 draft pick, Sergio Valenzuela, was flipped to the Acereros de Monclova, a Mexican League team, for future cash considerations almost immediately after the Reds sold him back to Atlanta. You can see him listed on their roster here. I guess the Acereros were willing to pay more than the $25k the Braves had to return to the Reds to get Valenzuela?

I'm pretty sure that this is an independent triple-A team. ... which surprises me, as I didn't know that a player could be traded outside of the major & minor league system.

I have to think that the Reds could have afforded whatever the Acereros were willing to pay for Valenzuela. Which must mean that they were thoroughly unimpressed with him in spring training. "J" Harrison, who is listed as the Reds' Director of Pro Scouting, was the guy who scouted Valenzuela in the winter and came away so impressed. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for wall for some of the conversations that must have preceded the Reds decision to sell Valenzuela back...

Another Reds' Blog!

It seems like I stumble upon a new Reds blog every day. This one is the Big Red Latrine, and is written by fellow south-westerner rmul. It's clearly in the humor category, and has had some pretty fun stuff over the past week.

Also in the humor category is Reds Rocket, which was an absolutely bizarre read all last season. Tim Timmons has recently started posting again. Right now he's doing a preview of the roster, and has been having a good time with photoshop (as usual). Somehow, every time I read Tim's blog I always hear this guy in my head.

Brandon "Taco" Phillips

Finally, with a hat tip to studes, here's a great story about an interaction between Brandon Phillips and a fan. I love seeing this kind of stuff. And I continue to really like our second baseman. Hopefully he won't implode this year.