(Big ups to easyrichboy for the header)
Bluebird Banter: The game appears to be flush with money, thus inflating the free agent market and organizational budgets. To what extent should our perceptions of free agent contracts adapt to this?
Furthermore, now that budgets are on the rise and plenty of teams are willing to take on large contracts in lopsided trades (i.e. last season's Bobby Abreu deal), is it now much more difficult for GMs to handcuff their team's long-term potential with overpriced contracts?
bigearcreations: Greatly. There is no reason why owners who are making money should not be paying the players who are making them this money appropriately. You would expect nothing less from your employer. They just happen to be in a very profitable industry. I lament the fact that we know so much about this process as it can taint people's view of the game, just as it can taint player's passion for genuine competition. Personally, a couple of years ago, I decided to stop caring what people made and simply sit back and enjoy watching a beautiful game I love. It makes a world of different in my enjoyment level.
(In response to the second part of the question) Very much so. Three words. "Opt out clause". How many times have we heard that built into contracts this off season. Teams have budgets (save a few) that they must find a way to stay within. But for most owners of , they are sports fans that want to win. It MAKES them money AND it's fun. Taking on contracts when there's a shot a title is now feasible for teams like the Jays and CAN payoff in numbers of different ways for owners with some foresifranchisesght like Uncle Teddy. Keep buying those bundles and he'll keep it up.
easyrichboy: Stay out of the free agent market. Simple. Build from within. Buy low, sell high.
hugo: Well, I disagree with the sentiment that one must adapt himself to the market realities in the sense that I don't think one should simply accept something along the lines of "well, $55 million seems like a lot, but that is what free agent pitchers cost and we need pitching so that's what we should do." I think that there will always be market inefficiencies where certain abilities or qualities are undervalued and it is the job of a good GM to exploit that. The adaptation should be on the part of the GM to figure out which way the wind is blowing and exploiting the inefficiency/undervaluing of certain aspects to gain the biggest advantage.
An example: I know JP went for Meche, but put that aside. Would you rather sign Meche to a 5/$55 deal, or would you rather take 3-4 1 year flyers on Okha/Thomson type guys and see what happens? I know how I answer that question, I think Okha and Thomson were undervalued this season because of injuries, I know they might both stink, but Meche could very well stink too.
I think a team should sign core-players long term and try to fill the gaps by getting the best value - not just chase the market based on what free-agent pitchers cost. I think a good GM's job is to be able to beat the market by exploiting areas of undervalued-ness/inefficiency, not going along with the market. That said, I try not to get too caught up in the economics of the game (I don't want to be one of those fans who criticize every deal in which money is spent).
Allan: To not see 5 million or 6 million as big money anymore or even 10 million soon will probably look like nothing. The NBA has a lot of average players receiving 10 million after their already 4 million dollar rookie contracts. Soon, 10 million may be the standard to what an average player gets and eventually we've got to stop complaining as all it matters is wins and losses when the season starts.
Money buys everything, from the farm team to the salary budget on the major league team. For those teams flush with money, they can take on overpriced contracts and still have money left over to buy guys in South America and Asia. (It's not fair)
Bluebird Banter: Which Blue Jay is due for a breakout season? Which Blue Jay is due for a significant decline?
Alpheus: Last year, I was one of the few that predicted Alex Rios' breakout, so I am going to go a step further and say this year he will outperform Vernon Wells both offensively and defensively. A.J. Burnett will stay healthy and win 17 games. Dustin McGowan will be a mainstay in our rotation by June. On the other hand, I feel like Troy Glaus might be heading towards a sharp decline. Watching him hit in the second half of last season was painful, his production won't completely drop off the table, but he will become even more of a all or nothing type of hitter, I don't think he will top 30 HRs this upcoming year. Also, Reed Johnson is not over the hill, but he was playing over his head last year. He is still a good player, but will not top .300 this year in BA, I predict an OPS just south of .800.
Allan: Which Blue Jay didn't have a nice season last year? I expect Brandon League to put up solid numbers for the entire year (does that count as a break out?). Gregg Zaun or Reed Johnson I expect them to have declined statistics as they are going from platoons to most of the time starter. Zaun I expect to have a poor year becoming our starting catcher again.
hugo: Great question. I am not sure any Jay is due for a breakout season like Rios' first half last year, but I do think Rios and League are good bets to produce well over the full year. I also think Lind will validate a lot of people's high expectations of him and produce well in a part-time role. I also think Adams could show himself to be a productive regular this year if given the chance, but that is not really a breakout, and I don't think he will be given the opportunity anyway. The Jays are put together such that they are not really expecting a breakout season, but expecting/hoping for healthy and productive seasons from a wide spectrum of players. A breakout year by McGowan would be nice, but I don't see much evidence that his control is improving. Finally, I do think Frasor will be given more of a role this season, and I think he will produce, but not exactly "break out."
In terms of decline, I would target Johnson, I think. I should qualify that by saying that I think he is a good player and a significant asset, but his numbers against righties in his career were never very good until last season. He may struggle in an everyday role. I would like to see him get a new platoon partner, but since no one has jumped on my suggestion of trading McDonald (who Cleveland seems to really covet) and a pitcher for Shin-Soo Choo (who has been basically made expendable by Cleveland and who I think would be a great 4th OF and platoon partner for Reed), I am hoping it will be Lind. That is perhaps for the best anyway, with Overbay now locked in at 1b and Thomas manning the DH spot. So long as the Hurt stays healthy...
It is also hard not to be a little wary of Zaun, but hopefully he and Phillips can hold out for the season until Thigpen arrives, hopefully, next year. I will say I am not as down on Chacin as most, I know his peripherals are not encouraging, but I think he is a type who has deceptive movement on his fastball who can consistently give his team a chance to win and, for the most part, limit HRs and serious damage. Not to mention, he is still relatively young and could still improve his control and/or secondary pitches.
easyrichboy: Due? How about A.J.? And now Wells (with all that money). Oh and due for decline? Same guys.
bigearcreations: Breakout: AJ Burnett. Call me crazy, but those unhittable curves are making me salivate. I'm going to step out in faith and say that he's not going to be injured this season and he's going to be what everyone always thought he should be.
Decline: I hate saying this... but Glaus. Those creaky knees and his total lack of bending ability make me a wee bit nervous. And don't be shocked when Zaun's numbers plummet after the All Star break again... he's a back up... just so you know.