What a player gives is what the team gets. Sure, that’s a fairly obvious statement that’s likely too broad a generalization. There is more nuance to it, both on the SABR side (marginal value of a win) and the more traditional side (chemistry, etc.), but let’s take a look at the statement at its face and boil it down to two simple things: playing time and quality of performance. You want players to do both of these things and the ones who can perform at the high ends of these respective spectra are the star payers. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. There are some who can pitch a lot of innings or go up to bat a lot, but aren’t necessarily good at it. On the flip side, there are those who posses great skill and talent, but can’t stay healthy enough to play at that high level for extended periods of time.
I’ve talked before about the “two devils” of contract negotiations–money and years–but i guess w could consider this dichotomy a third devil (bonus points if you can come up with a clever term for it). We keep hearing that the Yankees don’t like the prices out on the market, and given what we’ve heard, part of me ca’t blame them. But perhaps they don’t like any of the potential signings or trade acquisitions because they’re finding it hard to find a player who gives them the right combination of quantity and quality (at the right price).
Take Matt Garza and Edwin Jackson. Each pitcher has dynamite stuff, but only shown flashes of handling it well enough to put together high quality seasons. Both, however, have mastered the quantity question by pitching a lot of innings recently.
Roy Oswalt and Hiroki Kuroda (to a lesser extent) have the opposite problem. They’ve stablished a track record of high quality performance (again, Kuroda to a lesser extent) but due to injury and/or age, there’s concern about the quantity either pitcher can give at this point.
In a vacuum, Garza is probably the best fit in terms of finding a balance between quantity and quality for the Yankees. He’s most likely a better performance bet than Jackson is and can give just as many innings. And, given Kuroda’s age and Oswat’s injury history, he’s a safer bet than they are. But, factoring cos in swings that balance.
Does Jackson become the best fit, then? His performance isn’t as bad as many (myself included) have made it seem in the past and he’s proven himself durable over the past few seasons. again, cost becomes an issue as we’ve heard multiple sources say the Yankees would have to extend the budget to accommodate a Jackson signing. That could be posturing, though. I don’t love Jackson, but $12M AAV for him would be just fine with me.
As for Kuroda and Oswalt, the Yankees have thus far steered clear, despite their relatively low costs. Again, this could be budget posturing, or they could be “covering up” the fact that neither pitcher gives them what they want in terms of a quantity/quality balance.
When there is no balance to be found, the best thing to do may be to just wait. This is a conclusion I’ve drawn on a near weekly basis, but I can’t help but come back to it. It may not be ideal to essentially stand pat, but when there is no perfect fit–no CC Sabathia, no Cliff Lee–perhaps the best thing to do is to go with the cheapest alternative and save money for later, whenever that may be.
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