Monday, February 27, 2012

0 comments Columnist Believes Bud Selig Should Randomly Nix Trades

Fans, teams and players don't generally like it when a trade is nixed by the commissioner (see: nixed Chris Paul trade). Commissioner interference in two teams conducting business screams of league interference in an issue that many fans believe should stay between the teams involved in the trade. There are special circumstances when this rule doesn't apply. Richard Griffin thinks the AJ Burnett trade is an example of this. You all may have experienced your own outrage at the Yankees-Pirates trade that involved AJ Burnett. The Interwebs were abuzz with the anger from all around the league at this trade happening, with many columnists immediately suggesting Bud Selig step in and nix the trade. Various columnists like Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star and Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star said Selig needed to step in. Another columnist, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, said it was in the best interest of baseball to nix this trade. Needless to say, this was a controversial trade that shook up the very foundation of baseball and caused outrage.

Fine, I was lying. Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star is the only person who had an issue with this trade. Let's read why.

Back on June 15, 1976, as the first wave of MLB serfs-in-spikes was about to hit the open market under the original rules of free agency, a commissioner’s decision cited as “in the best interests of baseball” was made by then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

I love a good history lesson.

Dear Bud Selig,

"One time thirty-six years ago this one thing happened and so it should happen again because it happened one time before."

Richard Griffin

Those 36 years ago, cantankerous, contrarian A’s owner, Charles O. Finley had reacted pre-emptively to free agency with a fire-sale of all-stars, shipping soon-to-be-free outfielder Joe Rudi and closer Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox and lefty Vida Blue to the Yankees for cash totalling under $2 million (U.S).

So naturally, shipping off an expensive pitcher who no longer has a spot in the New York Yankees' rotation in 2012 is the same thing as a team in 1976 holding a fire sale to get rid of many of their All-Star players. Naturally. It's the same thing really.

Selig should have taken the same critical look at the Yankees deal with the Pirates,

One team needed some payroll relief and the other team needed a starting pitcher with the occasional ability to be a #2 starter. The trade is the Yankees admitting they made a mistake in signing Burnett, but there is no interest in baseball that is being hurt here. In fact, the Yankees are paying a guy $20 million who isn't even on the roster, so they really aren't winners. The Pirates have AJ Burnett pitching for them, so they really aren't winners either...and yet both teams are happy.

a trade of pinstriped convenience that sent the underachieving Burnett and a huge chunk of cash to Pittsburgh for two prospects with ceilings lower than Snow White’s eight-bedroom cottage.

Every trade is a trade of convenience. What isn't convenient is the commissioner of a sport stepping in and nixing a trade both teams have agreed upon.

Also, was that a Snow White reference? Really? Is that how they roll in Canada, making Snow White references?

The Yankees, after obtaining right-hander Michael Pineda from the Mariners, no longer needed A.J. But they do need some available cash to sign a left-handed hitting DH, like Johnny Damon or Raul Ibanez, and a utility player like Eric Chavez.

Which is exactly why they traded Burnett. First, Griffin is complaining the Yankees have too much money and now he is criticizing them for lowering their payroll. We will find out very soon that Griffin pretty much just hates anything the Yankees do.

The Yanks under the ownership of the Steinbrenner Lite brothers are trying to bring payroll down to about $189 million by the end of 2014.

Steinbrenner Lite. I am not sure I like that. The indication is the younger Steinbrenners aren't good owners of the Yankees like their father was. I thought everyone remembered George Steinbrenner wasn't always the best owner in sports. This is true, right? I feel like the Brothers Steinbrenner may actually be more emotionally stable in terms of how they run the Yankees franchise. I haven't heard of them firing and hiring the same manager a few times, hiring a private investigator to get dirt on a player or anything of the sort.

Nothing against George Steinbrenner, but his sons do seem to be more least at this point. Granted, George Steinbrenner is dead, which has greatly helped his reputation, but in calling the Brothers Steinbrenner "Steinbrenner Lite" it seems Richard Griffin is willfully forgetting Daddy Steinbrenner's actions as owner during the 1980's and early 1990's. He wasn't exactly a model owner.

But with Burnett, the Bombers needed a dance partner that has far less at stake, far more modest goals.

Not at all. The Yankees needed a trade partner willing to pay part of Burnett's salary and wanted to trade for him. There isn't some grand scheme where the Yankees sign the best players from other teams to large contracts and then a few years later sell them back to those teams for a small price. I know it seems like there is a grand scheme like this, but there isn't. Also, this would be a horrible scheme from the perspective of the Yankees to sign a player to a huge contract with the plans to trade the player three years into the contract, while still having to pay the majority of the contract.

What is interesting is the Yankees actually had a trade set up with the Angels. The same Anaheim (or whatever they are called) Angels that just signed CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols to a huge contract. AJ Burnett nixed this trade. Are the Angels a team with far less at stake or modest goals? No, they are not. So Richard Griffin wants us to forget about this trade so we believe he has a point.

Round up the usual suspects.

????? (cue the drama button)

What does this mean? Have there been multiple instances over the last two or three years where the Yankees have traded a player to a small market team for payroll relief? I'm thinking of this instance and then...and then...maybe Javier Vazquez being traded to the Braves a few years ago, but I'm still not sure that counts. It isn't like big market teams are consistently selling off underachieving players to small market teams. Even if they are, how is this taking advantage of these teams?

The Yankees get two mediocre minor-leaguers and pay $20 million of the final two seasons on their own bad contract for Burnett to pitch in Pittsburgh, while the Pirates pay just $13 million.

Both sides are happy with this deal. So far, there has been a lot of summation and very little explaining why Bud Selig should nix this deal...other than for the reason Richard Griffin just doesn't seem to like AJ Burnett, a cohesive argument or the New York Yankees.
The prospects in return are right-hander Diego Moreno and outfielder Exicardo Cayones.

Is that a baseball deal?

No, it is a deal to clear cap space and get a minor league outfielder and pitcher back in return. The Pirates became a better team and the Yankees cleared out room in their rotation. It is a win-win trade that doesn't threaten the competitive balance of baseball in any fashion.

It’s great for the Pirates because they are not a real contender and now have a short-term starting ace who won’t get attached and be looking for something awkward — like, say, an extension. It’s great for the Yankees because now they can add in other areas and win it all again.

No risk for the Yankees and plenty of reward.

There is still a risk for the Yankees. They are swallowing $20 million for a pitcher who they don't currently need, but could be needed if the Yankees pitching staff suffers from injuries or ineffectiveness. The risk is they are paying for a player who isn't pitching for them and got very little in return. The reward is they won't have to pay $13 million of Burnett's salary and probably didn't need his services this year.

Something doesn’t make sense.

Bucs GM Neal Huntington obviously feels that with Burnett at the top of the rotation, pitching for his next contract, no Big Apple pressure, no longer in the uber-tough AL East and for an average of $6.5 million per season the next two years, the trade is worth it.

So Richard Griffin thinks the Yankees got a great reward with no risk and the Pirates think Burnett can be a top what doesn't make sense about this trade, again?

The irony, and the reason Selig should have stepped in, is that Burnett’s not worth the same to a contender.

I am not sure this is really ironic. So because Burnett isn't worth $6.5 million per season to a contender then the trade should be vetoed? Where was all the outrage from Richard Griffin earlier this year when Atlanta traded Derek Lowe for a minor league pitcher and only had to pay $5 million of Lowe's $10 million salary? Why wasn't there outrage from Griffin then? Probably because it didn't involve the Yankees. Simply because it was a middle market team trading a highly paid player to a lower market team, it doesn't merit outrage because the Yankees aren't involved.

Face it ... the Yankees are dealing from the strength that comes with wealth. They have always acted in the best interest of the Yankees.

Who else should they act in the best interest of?

Who can blame them, but when you are the team with the largest payroll in baseball, handing out the largest contracts, your decisions have spinoff effects that are not always in the best interest of the other 29 teams.

Again, this isn't the Yankees problem. I know it seems hard to ignore the economic disparity between MLB teams when discussing topics like this, but the Yankees shouldn't have to think about the effect a free agent signing has on the rest of the teams. Individual teams should not necessarily have to do what is in the best interest of the other 29 teams.

Such was the case with the bloated Burnett contract after he opted out from the Jays following 2008. With A.J. coming off an 18-win, 231 strikeout season, the Yanks outbid all comers.

I would say in 80% of free agency cases, the team that eventually signed the player outbid all comers. So this really isn't saying much. Burnett did have other bidders though, so it isn't like the Yankees overpaid for Burnett based on the market.

They offered an outrageous five years and $88.5 million for a guy who was barely .500

It's not outrageous if that is what Burnett is worth on the open market. Also, it was a 5 year $82.5 million contract. But what good are facts when you are trying to prove a point? Facts are secondary.

Burnett was 87-76 in his career until the point he signed with the Yankees. That's a 0.533 winning percentage and I don't know if I would qualify that as "barely" .500, especially over 163 games. I do get Griffin's point that this team seems like a lot of money for Burnett.

Of course, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Burnett to a 5 year $55 million contract when he was 49-50 for his career in 2005. I'm not so good at math, but that's $11 million per year for a pitcher who was below .500 for his career at that point. So it is a bit hypocritical to criticize the Yankees for giving $5.5 million per year more in 2008 for Burnett when Griffin's local team signed Burnett to a large contract in 2005 when Burnett had a losing record for his career at that point.

and has always required the presence of better pitchers on his own staff to be most effective.

This makes absolutely no sense. A pitcher's performance is not dependent on how other pitchers on the staff perform. Burnett can pitch well or terribly independent of how other pitchers on the staff pitch. This is a really stupid comment.

The commissioner’s office should consider how that bad Burnett contract impacted other similar free agents in the winter of 2008-09 and the next off-season and how it had a negative trickle down effect that hurt small market teams like Pittsburgh.

So Bud Selig should nix this trade because the original signing of Burnett by the Yankees three years ago hurt small market teams? Does Richard Griffin realize how illogical it is to nix a trade between two teams because one of the players involved in the trade was a bad free agent signing three years ago?

Now, the Yankees are cavalierly buying their way out of trouble, refinancing happiness, manipulating the long-suffering Pirates’ fans and the baseball system that permits big mistakes to become smaller mistakes,

No one forced the Pirates to trade for Burnett. If they didn't want him, they would not have traded for him.

maxing out on the money-back they can save on the final two years of a bad-for-baseball deal, while accepting two less-than-mediocre prospects they don’t want and don’t need just so Selig would approve it as a baseball-first deal.

The one thing we all learned from the nixed Chris Paul-to-the-Lakers trade is that a commissioner doesn't need to get in the middle of two teams making a trade. Who cares if the Yankees are dumping Burnett for two crappy prospects? The Pirates are getting a fairly good deal on Burnett and if he plays well enough perhaps they can trade him for better prospects at the trade deadline this year or next. I bet Richard Griffin never thought about that possibly occurring. So I fail to see how this trade was not in the best interests of baseball.
The Bucs weren’t the only suitors for Burnett this winter.

Knowing this only further serves to submarine Griffin's point. If it was such a terrible trade and the Yankees were taking advantage of a small market team, then why were multiple teams interested in Burnett?

The World Series contending Angels also inquired, but Burnett nixed those talks, preferring to go to the least successful franchise in baseball for the last 20 years.

I am supposed to believe this was a terrible trade where the Yankees were taking advantage of a small market team, yet a large market team was also in talks to trade for Burnett? How am I supposed to believe the Yankees are ripping off small market teams and the trade should be nixed because of this, while also knowing large market teams were interested in Burnett? Isn't this proof the Yankees weren't merely picking on small market teams? The proof being the Yankees were completely willing to trade Burnett to the Angels?

He’s now a big fish in baseball’s smallest pond.

For those like Richard Griffin who seem to believe Burnett only went to Pittsburgh to take pressure off himself, Burnett has a history of choosing to play close to where his wife lives. From this article:

"All I will say is that we made a very competitive offer," said Braves general manager Frank Wren, while only confirming that Burnett wouldn't be coming to Atlanta. "I would say geography was a primary factor."

One thing the Braves couldn't offer was a geographical overhaul that might have made Atlanta more appealing to Burnett's wife, Karen, who chooses not to fly. "We knew we couldn't move Maryland closer to Atlanta," Wren said. "We were swimming upstream all along."

Burnett has been pretty consistent about wanting to play close to Maryland. So it isn't as if Burnett didn't want pressure on him or wanted to be a big fish in a little pond. Nor does the trade have anything to do with the Yankees picking on the Pirates.

The Jays thought they created something special when they paired Burnett and Roy Halladay at the top of the rotation in 2006. They got less than expected.

Therein lies Richard Griffin's bitterness and astounding insistence Bud Selig veto a trade in 2012 because of a bad free agent signing in 2008.

At least the Yankees won a World Series in A.J.’s first season, but the fact is for three years of electric stuff and erratic command, they will have paid $75.5 million

Actually, they will have paid $69.5 million. I'm not sure how this trade is a huge positive for the Yankees. Nor do I see how a large free agent contract given to Burnett and his eventual trade to the Pirates isn't in the best interests of baseball.