The Soriano Signing

The Cubs agreed to pay $17 million per season for a ******** eightyears to a 30-year-old who Baseball Prospectus referred to as “Probably
the single most overrated player in baseball,” back in 2005. ESPN’s
Keith Law, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, had some scathing comments
for the team and declared they paid the exorbitant sum for one win per
season. And Roto Wire’s Jeff Erickson, friend and business associate to
Baseball Prospectus, had the former second baseman projected to crash
down to a .751 OPS coming into last season.

But Soriano did not crash and was not the single most overrated
player in 2006; the move from the middle infield to the outfield was
kind defensively, and he posted a .911 OPS his highest total as a pro
setting a career mark in home runs with 46, while doubling his walk
output from the year prior with 67. Yes, his strikeout total also
increased but I’ll ignore it given his 40-40-40 status (includes

Obviously he’s not the favorite of the BP crew and friends so I have to
take Mr. Law’s comments with a grain of salt given the failures of the
other two examples heading into the season, not that any of the three
lack credibility or substance. Let’s ignore the stat-fest, the WORP,
the VORP, the failure to correctly nail Mr. Soriano the past season and
the reasons behind it. They can defend themselves with two words,
“Contract year,” which tends to be wholly uncontested although
arguable. But alas, debate is one of many pointless endeavors favored
by the truisms and fallacies of sport. Why don’t we instead chow down
on the business side…

The Soriano dollars were the highest of the Hot Stove thus far, but
not the worst. That label has to go to the Angels and Gary Matthews,
with Juan Pierre and the Dodgers a close second, Mark DeRosa and the
Cubs not far behind at a much lesser dollar but the same lack of
credibility that Matthews possesses. There is a lack of talent in this
year’s free agent crop, but with labor unrest at a recent-times low,
and a revenue sharing plan that isn’t perfect but at least working by
the standard of who has emerged in the playoff system, there are G.M.s
authorized to spend. I believe we’re at the front of another economic
upturn in baseball, one which should last 2-3 years. At some point in
the near future the Soriano signing will be long forgotten to something
far more ludicrous. At present may of the blogs are calling for the
head of Cubs general manager Jim Hendry but not only do I think the
trend is set by the market at large, not a member of middle management,
but it might even be astute.

First, I like to refer to the high end free agent system in baseball
as asset management in a futures market. While my business degree makes
me cognizant it’s not an apt literal description, I do it for the
literary advantage of comparing baseball players in the free market to
the business of oranges as a commodity. That being said, at no time do
I believe the complexities and enormous sums of money are completely in
the hands of the general managers. The news is out the Cubs are being
shopped as part of the assets owned by the Tribune, so their recent
spending junket has a readily available explanation, but the blogs are
full of “making long-term deals without the responsibility of seeing it
through,” comments. Well….isn’t that the nearest-sighted thinking to
come to the right conclusion. A quick look at the last economic boon
shows Tom Hicks of the Rangers losing at baseball’s game of musical
chairs for economists and savvy businessmen, overpaying for ARod by
some 20-plus percent over anyone else. And is he currently tied to the
10-year quarter-billion amount? Did the worst signing of that time,
Mike Hampton, ply his trade at altitude for the length of his contract?
No, and no! There will always be a price to pay for bad deals made and
economic recession, the Rockies certainly paid for their
transgressions, but the chances the Cubs will be paying Soriano when
he’s 38 are remote.

While I have no doubt that the Soriano signing went beyond reasonable
limit against player value, I think it’s safe to assume the Cubs did
not engage at a level well beyond the others. And the whole thing
becomes moot if the Cubs actually win, which sadly, is not totally
relevant to the equation. The Business of baseball…..


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