Who Can Afford Vlad and Do They Have the Right "Necessities"?
Assuming his contract will range in value from $15-$20M over the term of the contract and that the top player of any team will take no more than 20% of payroll, then Vlad can only join those teams with a payroll of over $80M. That leaves 12 teams according to figures from Peter Gammons (I threw in the Cubs as they are close in salary.)
12. Chicago Cubs, $71M. Intense fan and media scrutiny should scare off Vlad, though Dusty is a well respected manager and can speak Spanish. Also, their owner is a media giant which is probably feeling the pinch from the deep drop in spending on advertising so they may pull hard on the purse strings next off season.
11. Anaheim Angels, $79M. Not going after big free agents plus there was a big jump just to keep current players. However, new owner is Latino and may decide to pull a Magowan and bid for Vlad. However, it is in a big media market with huge Latino scrutiny, which will surely scare off Vlad. Plus his mom nixed L.A. and I would include Anaheim as part of L.A.
10. Arizona Diamondbacks, $82M. They have been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and this figure probably does not include the extensions that they had signed Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez to. Doubtful that they can pull it off financially and probably he would get too much fame there because of the large Spanish speaking population there. Plus scrutiny is higher as there is nothing else there.
9. San Francisco Giants, $82M. I discussed why there is a huge comfort and loyalty angle in part 1. Financially, they are losing big contracts in Snow, Benard, Aurilia, and possibly Cruz so they can play around with the composition of their roster like they did last off season. However, they have large increases from other players and that will force the team to make difficult decisions.
8. St. Louis Cardinals, $85M. They are maxed out on their current players plus there is huge fan scrutiny and hero worship there that should scare Vlad away. However, LaRussa is a well respected manager who can speak Spanish.
7. Seattle Mariners, $85M. They are also maxed out on their stars and are not losing any big free agents in 2004. Plus they are not interested in pursuing free agents, which is one reason why Pinella, who did speak Spanish, left the team.
6. Atlanta Braves, $87M. AOL Warner's financial problems should put a muzzle on their spending. If they couldn't afford Millwood, how can they afford Vlad?
5. Boston Red Sox, $99M. Can afford Vlad with their new owner plus they have Pedro Martinez, whom Vlad has said has been like a father to him, so the loyalty and comfort factor would kick in here.
4. Texas Rangers, $99M. Maxed out on free agent failures plus still paying for them. Not likely to shell out another $15-20M after A-Rod.
3. L.A. Dodgers, $107M. Probably can afford Vlad but the intense fan and media scrutiny, especially from the large Spanish speaking population there (shades of Fernando-mania!), plus national notoriety should scare Vlad away.
2. N.Y. Mets, $121M. Can afford Vlad but the intense fan and media scrutiny, plus national notoriety should scare Vlad away.
1. N.Y. Yankees, $138M. Can afford 2 or 3 Vlads, as big as their cash flow is, but the intense scrutiny from Steinbrenner alone should scare off Vlad, let alone the intense fan and media scrutiny and national and international notoriety. Plus I don't think Vlad would like to hear from The Boss Steinbrenner the first time he goes 0 for 4.
And the Finalists Are...
So that leaves three teams that I believe have a realistic chance of signing Vlad because they each have a connection and comfort zone, as well as the money, for Vlad: Boston, Montreal, and San Francisco, respectively in order of what I think their chances are, from worse to best.
3. Boston Despite the deep feelings Vlad holds for Pedro, who, as we noted above, he has called "father," I think that the intense fan and media scrutiny should kill Beantown's chances, though I am sure he would consider them because of the Pedro factor and the close feelings he has for Pedro. However, Pedro himself is not too happy about Boston nowadays anyhow.
2. Montreal Feels great debt to the team because they were the ones to sign him plus he is relatively anonymous there. Probably willing to give them a steep hometown discount without deferment but not until its future is clear. But even if no discount, if there was a new owner, he or she probably already figured in a dollar amount necessary to sign Vlad. However, Montreal's chances are fading with each day there's no new owner as he will not sign without new ownership. They would be first in Vlad's heart if they can get an ownership going that will keep them in Montreal; on the other hand, I don't think he would be as willing if they moved to Washington D.C. But I would rate their chances above Boston's.
1. Giants The Giants have a number of factors favoring them in the Vlad sweepstakes. To recap, first and foremost, Felipe Alou and Luis Pujols are on our team and Vlad feels a strong debt to them and feelings for them. Here in the Bay Area, he can be anonymous both nationally and locally as people here don't really badger their sports hero.
And the media pressure, despite Dusty's distaste for it, is not really that strong, certainly not as strong as most other major league cities where their sports teams are the only things going in their area in terms of social events. Again, I think Jeff Kent, being as media savvy as he is, didn't get half the press he would have elsewhere with the numbers he put up.
Lastly, there is a small but significant Spanish speaking population here in the Bay Area. Thus, if he wants to enjoy that culture, he can get it nearby. However, he can also live far enough from it so that he wouldn't become a focal point of it as well.
And We Have a Winner!
In conclusion, the Giants have a number of pluses going for them and currently do not have anything negative that I've been able to uncover or deduce in the Sign Vlad sweepstakes. I believe the obstacles the other clubs have are insurmountable in Vlad's heart because he is not thinking in dollars and cents.
The financial end is a lot more trickier. There will be hard decisions to be made and getting Vlad will probably require losing players who have been fan favorities and good contributors, as well as sacrifices by ownership. This will all be covered in the last part of this series.
Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fan's View' for SFDugout.com when the mood and muse strikes him. He has been a Giants fanatic since 1971 when he got his first glove from his dad (a catchers mitt that his dad immediately had to return for an outfielders mitt). He will believe to his dying days that Bobby Bonds was robbed of being the first 40-40 player. He is GoGiants on the Giants discussion board. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to reach him.