Money is Better Spent on Bonds

You can't escape the talk. And in theory, it sounds like a good idea. Dump the aging superstar, no matter the record chase or controversy, and use the money elsewhere to improve the entire team. It sounds good, until you try shopping around for who else to spend on.

It’s perhaps the most debated topic amongst Giant fans: Keep Bonds for one more year, and his record chase, or dump him and start rebuilding with the money that would be spent on him.

It’s a sound theory.  But there’s a catch.

There has to be worthwhile players to spend that money on to make it worthwhile.

So if the choice is between Bonds and his record chase for one year, or three Michael Tucker quality players signed to multiple year contracts, which would you choose?

If you think I’m exaggerating, take a look at the free agent market yourself.  This year’s market in hitters that aren’t former Giants is limited to the temperamental second baseman Alfonso Soriano and the solid but non-superstar Carlos Lee.

Want a first baseman?  How much do you want to pay for Travis Lee or Sean Casey?  The 2nd tier is Phil Nevin, and of course, Shea Hillenbrand.

Outfielders?  You could go with the 36 year old Jim Edmonds.  Or Minnesota Twins teammates Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart.  Is Jay Payton this team’s savior, or is it time to bring back Jose Cruz Jr.?

Does a team made up of any of those names scream Pennant Winner to you?

I don’t think that it’s even a debate that the best hitting third baseman on this year’s market is Pedro Feliz.  That should tell you what the market is looking like.

(And yes, I know Aramis Ramirez can opt out of his contract.  But that’s no sure thing, and if he is, he’s doing it because he can think he can get more than the otherwise guaranteed $22.5 million he’s owed the next two years.  Is Ramirez worth that much?  I suggest looking at his stats when he hasn’t played home games in Wrigley before answering.).

What the shallow level of the market also means is that the good and the mediocre hitters on the market this year will be ridiculously overpaid.  Think I’m kidding?  Let me put this in easy to understand terms: this year’s hitting market is last year’s pitching market.  Which means that the Matt Morris, Jarrod Washburn and Esteban Loiaza types of hitters will be getting $8-10 million per year.

And they will be getting multi-year contracts, make no mistake.

Meanwhile, whatever Bonds get, whether it’s $10 million or $18 million, two things are guaranteed: a ticket selling, butt-in-seat earning record chase, and more importantly, a one year deal.  And quite possibly a better performance than most of the free agent options would provide, even if it’s for 120 games instead of 140.

That is the true appeal in a Bonds deal.  Shelling out a number of contracts to the players available this offseason will tie up nearly a quarter of the payroll in said mediocrity for the next few years.  Bonds may or may not be mediocre, but he will give fans a guaranteed attraction to watch and when the year’s up, the money will be there to spend in a market that looks much more attractive.

A market that will include names like Bobby Abreu, Andruw Jones, Vernon Wells, Geoff Jenkins, Adam Dunn, Marcus Giles, Mike Lowell, Aaron Rowand, and Ichiro Suzuki.  And that’s just the top names among the hitters.

Having money is not as important an issue as spending money efficiently.

If there’s any one hitter conceivably worth the obscene amounts of money he’ll get, and that would be Soriano.  But he’s a second baseman, and that’s the ultimate rub when talking about money concerns.  Because second base is one of the few places the team has a young player conceivably ready to go: Kevin Frandsen.

Soriano could very well become baseball’s second $20 million a year player.  That’s more money than Bonds makes now.  And Soriano now, even in his career year, is not nearly as good as Bonds was from 2000-2004.  Will adding just one player with that money be enough for a pennant winner.

Now, instead of Soriano, say you get Bonds at $10 million.  Throw in Kevin Frandsen at $300,000 playing 2nd base.  You still have a little under $8 million saved for the 2007 season to spend on someone worthwhile.  Plus, playing a young player like Frandsen is an investment in the future, allowing a young player to develop into a major leaguer by playing.

Which is better for the team?

Bonds isn’t anyone’s favorite person.  And he’s not the player that he used to be by any means.  And it’s a risk that he’d be able to play up to what ability he still has.  But it’s less of a risk than spending money on more mid-level players that’ll keep this team down for years beyond 2007.

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