Salary Floors, Coco and Other Moves
Buster Olney of ESPN speculated that there exists an unwritten salary floor in MLB and he suspected it to be about $40M. That doesn’t surprise me and sounds completely reasonable. The problem for Oakland of course is it appears that we may be under it still, though by my estimations the Coco Crisp contract at $6M will poke us just north of the $40M mark. If it doesn’t one can suspect the A’s to make perhaps additional moves, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle said in a recent piece regarding the Crisp signing,
A quick perusing of the last few days of posts on this blog will make it abundantly clear to anyone how I feel about adding a Ludwick or a Ross. I would’ve been fine with signing a Jackson with the expectation and understanding that he’d start on the depth chart as a number four outfielder, but I don’t think that expectation would exist with the two other aforementioned players. It’s a matter of having enough plate appearances to go around and in my mind there simply aren’t enough to get our future nucleus candidates a fair and long look.
But what if we are under that supposed $40M floor? What if there are more moves to be made? What move should we make? To me the answer is really quite clear and simple. The A’s should re-sign Rich Harden.
There really is no baseball justification for a two-year contract (with a third option year!) to Coco. None. You can debate the merits of a one-year deal, I strongly disagree with it, strongly think it was a bad decision but there is a fair argument to be made there. I think the strongest case being the defensive upgrade and saving our pitchers some tedious innings argument. But a two-year deal projects defensive inadequacy farther in the future than we should care to look, and last year’s deadline (though admittedly Coco at that point was on the cusp of possibly projecting to be a Type-B free-agent and therefore one worthy of a supplemental draft pick) demonstrated Crisp doesn’t have the cache that other teams want when looking to edge their competitors in the postseason (and now with an even higher salary – last year his was $5.75M – he appears to be that much more difficult to move, particularly this deadline when one would need to sign onto Crisp’s services for the remainder of 2012 and the full season of 2013). But the reason I think Crisp was signed over all these other rumored players from the A’s standpoint (from Coco’s standpoint, he wanted to play on the West Coast and was familiar with Oakland and enjoyed it evidently) is the marketing. Coco is a popular player. He is marketable. Casual A’s fans lament that they don’t know who anyone is and in an offseason where the team’s most popular and marketable players have all been dealt or allowed to walk, Coco is a form of continuity. That is why the case can be made for Rich Harden.
Harden’s 2011 campaign was nothing to write home about. Signed for a mere $1.5M he injured himself on one of his first warmup tosses in spring training and didn’t make his A’s debut until July 1st against Arizona. Over the course of his half season in Oakland he pitched 5.12 ERA and 4.69 FIP baseball. A high 15.6% HR/FB led to a very low xFIP of 3.68 but I think that number is a bit on the low side in terms of determining actual value. Right around a 4.00 pitcher is what I see him as being. And that is fine. It suits the A’s purposes fine to throw him a few million to be that guy. The rotation, with the loss of Brett Anderson (to injury until July), Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez is thin. Dallas Braden is not a lock to be ready to go in April though all indications are he will be. If Harden doesn’t work out? So what (and I mean that in both the he is injured all year long way or the he flops way). We’ve made the MLBPA happy, we have had a “star” that is marketable to fans. Furthermore, if he is able to indeed stay off the disabled list, for the “watchability” point of view, which is a completely reasonable one, Harden electrified fans with 9.9 K/9 last season. If he does work out and pitches well (or evidently just as well as he did last season), the Red Sox were about to trade us Lars Anderson at the deadline to get him meaning he does indeed have the trade value that Crisp so clearly lacked. His signing would make baseball sense and it would make business sense and come at little to no risk. If the A’s have to make another move this is the move they ought to make.