Monday, April 6, 2009

The Curious Case of Julius Peppers

I know this is a little off topic but it's something I believe is extremely interesting. The New England Patriots of the NFL have expressed interest and are very serious about acquiring one of the best Defensive Ends in the NFL. Julius Peppers, at 6'7, is one of the tallest players in the league. With the Panthers, Peppers played Defensive End in a 4-3 defense. This offseason Peppers has come out and said that he wants to play Outside LineBacker, in a 3-4 defense. OLB in the 3-4 is practically the equivalent of a DE in th 4-3, meaning they basically play the same roles. The issue is that you'll be hard pressed to find a 3-4 OLB not between the heights of 6'3 and 6'5. Peppers is a whopping 6'7. The OLB has to be fast, athletic and good in pass coverage as well as being a very good pass rusher. The good news for Peppers is that we know that he possesses three of these four qualities. The problem is, he is unproven in pass coverage, for he has never played a position where he's needed that skill.

So why is this story so intriguing? Because this offseason Peppers was a free agent and in the NFL teams have the option of paying a premium in order to keep their top players, this option is called a Franchise Tag. Therefore, the Panthers signed Peppers to a Franchise Tag. This tag is a one year deal where you are paid the average salary of the top five highest paid players at your position. If your salary from the previous season is higher than the average top five salaries at your position then you get a 20% raise instead. Julius Peppers this offseason was franchise tagged, and given the average pay of the top five DEs in the NFL. Thus, he is signed for the next season at the average rate. Or is he?

Julius Peppers did not want to be franchise tagged because he could get more money and security via free agency. Therefore Peppers is holding out of training camp and sending a message to the Panthers front office that he wants out. There have been rumors surrounding Peppers being traded to the Patriots for a second round draft pick. The reason being traded to the Patriots is significant is because Peppers would then get his wish of playing 3-4 OLB. What does this mean for Peppers' contract(franchise designation) if he does not sign a new pact and he's traded to the Pats? Does the Franchise Tag allow for modifications when a player switches positions? These are all unanswered questions.

Therefore if Peppers would to be traded to the Patriots, would his franchise tender act as a regular contract and thus it wouldn't matter if he switches positions, or would he have to sign a new franchise tender? Would his contract automatically terminate and the Patriots would have until a certain time to sign Peppers and if they do not he would become a free agent? Or would the Patriots have to sign him to an extension in order to complete this deal?

I do not have the answer to any of these question and are therefore wondering what would happen under such a scenario. I also wonder if the NFL has a rule regarding these types of predicaments or if something like this ever happened before. And if it has, how the NFL sorted the issue out. It is a complex situation because of all its components. A player switching positions has no obstacles standing in his way. Same as making a trade. And also for designating a player as your franchise player. An issue only arises when you combine these three elements into one compound.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Why the Oliver Perez signing was bad and it had nothing to do with this upcoming season

The Oliver Perez signing was a big and costly mistake for the Mets to make. No matter how good Ollie does this year(unless of course Scott Boras is right and he really is the next Sandy Koufax or Randy Johnson), the signing will still be deemed as a bad one in my book.

The reasons for this are very simple. The Mets could've done better. Not this season but next season. What I dislike about Omar Minaya is that he only thinks about the coming season. Especially this offseason's moves. If you take a look at the Mets farm system, you'll see that they built it in a way where as soon as Billy Wagner's contract expired(after this season) the Mets would recieve an influx of young talented pitchers to their major league bullpen. But there was one problem, Wagner didn't last until the end of his contract. This causd the Mets to freak and acquire two of the five best closers in baseball(Don't get me wrong, I still love Putz and K-Rod). If all would've gone according to plan, this year Wagner would still be closing and next year the Mets would have a combination of Eddie Kunz(AAA closer), Bobby Parnell(who'll probably get a bullpen role this year), Brant Rustich(AA closer), Michael Antonini(AA starter) and Nick Carr(A starter) and others in their pen. But since Wagner finished up a year early they went out and got themselves two of the best(Yankeesque) instead of waiting for their own homegrown prospects to develop(Red Soxesque).

Now back to Oliver Perez. He was the Mets third big move of the offseason and was also a terribly nearsighted one. If you look take a look at the current economic downfall in America and consider how much it'll influence next year's free agent class then you'll realize that even good pitchers will have to sign at a reduced price next offseason. Oliver Perez went into free agency as the fourth best starter. The Yankees quickly snatched up the top two*(Sabathia and Burnett) and signed them to mega deals leaving Derek Lowe and Perez as the best remaining options. The Mets went out and targeted Lowe, who's coming off a career year, and was the only** option available better than Perez. They failed to sign him thanks to a late signing push by Frank Wren and the Atlanta Braves. The contract the Braves signed Lowe to was utterly ridiculous. Even when the economy was afloat, a soon to be 36 year old wouldn't have received a 4 year contract especially at $15MM per year. And again, this put pressure on the Mets, for there was no one left to fill their number 3/4 spot besides Perez. And this is what caused the Mets to sign Ollie who is by the way one of the most inconsistent pitchers ever. One game he could shut out the Phillies and have seven strikeouts and the next he'll let up seven runs(against the Pirates) and get pulled after one and 2/3's innings-true story. So they signed him to a 3 year $36MM contract, the exact same one they offered to Lowe and the exact same one Lowe was about to agree to. If the Mets upped their offer to 3 years $40MM they might've gotten him, but anyone can play the what if game.
*The reason I have Burnett rated above Lowe is because Burnett has nasty stuff and he's much younger. Also what's up with the Yankees signing guys with initials as their first name, e.g. A.J., C.C. What's up with that?
**There was actually one pitcher that's better than Burnett and Lowe. His name is Ben Sheets. If he hadn't torn up his elbow, he would've gotten a contract similar to Burnett's if not more.

I proposed back in October for the Mets to sign someone similar to Brad Penny. These pitchers are low risk and high reward and this makes them very worthwhile. Someone coming off an injury but was previously a pretty good major league pitcher. The reason why these types of signings are useful are because they're cheaper and the pitchers could be just as good as non-injured pitchers. Also they are only one year deals, so if something goes wrong you're not stuck with them long term and they're also more motivated to get back to pre-injury form so they can score a long term deal the year after. The Mets tried to do this but failed. They signed pitchers that were too injured(Freddy Garcia, Tim Redding) and ones that don't have any potential(Livan Hernandez, Tim Redding).

Another reason why the Mets should've gone this route is next year's pitching crop(if they signed a guy like Brad Penny to a one year deal, they would be in the SP market again next year). Also, for the first time in a while, small market teams will be looking to dump there talented but expensive players for lesser prospect packages than before because they simply cannot afford to keep their players. Teams like the Padres, Brewers, Royals, Twins, etc. will all be looking to dump expensive players. This is great news for big market teams like the Red Sox, Yankees and Mets. For example, everyones been gauging the Jake Peavy situation in San Diego, but what about Chris Young? He's due $10.75MM over the next two seasons followed by an escalating $8.5MM club option. For a team like the Padres it might be worth it to shed his contract now, but for a team like the Mets, the contract is ridiculously team friendly. After the season John Lackey, Rich Harden, Erik Bedard, Todd Wellemeyer, Doug Davis, Justin Duchscherer, Brad Penny, Andy Pettitte and Joel Pineiro will all be free agents. There's also Josh Beckett, Brandon Webb, Tim Hudson, Cliff Lee and Kevin Millwood but they all have club friendly options that will most probably be picked up. Any of these guys would be better options than Perez. Since there are many starting pitching options, this will deflate the cost of starting pitchers and along with being a down year for MLB revenue, it'll be a lot cheaper to sign a starting pitcher next offseason.

The most intriguing option to me though isn't from free agency and isn't on a major league roster. He's the star of the NPB(Nippon Professional Baseball). His name is Yu Darvish. This guy was the number 2 starter and closer for Nippon/Japan in this years World Baseball Classic. He's supposedly better than Daisuke "Dice-K" Matsuzaka and he's only 22 years old. He's 6'5 and he's a very strong and lanky kid. Who wouldn't want a 6'5, 22 year old, half Iranian, ace pitcher on their team? Darvish throws at 93-95 MPH, he has a nasty 2-seem fastball, a terrific slider, a knuckle-curve, a devastating forkball which he throws as his changeup and like Dice-K, a lot more. This guy is just nasty. Why is he better than Matsuzaka? Darvish isn't afraid of contact and unlike Dice-K, Darvish doesn't let up walks or homers. Darvish also likes to keep the ball on the ground which is made easy by his two most wicked pitches, 2-seemer and forkball. Did I mention that he's a great fielder? Basically this guy is sick. He's a workhorse has wicked stuff and he's overpowering, the last person like that to pitch in the MLB was the young version of Pedro Martinez.

The only problem is attaining him. The Mets could either persuade the Nippon-Ham Fighters to post him(the only way to acquire an NPB player under contract) or could just wait and see if Nippon-Ham decide to post him(without any "persuasion"/money). They could technically sign Darvish to a mega deal to come over to pitch in the MLB because he's not under contract in the major leagues but this would be unethical and moreover a violation of the IBAF's(International Baseball Federation) rules. Still, he would be the perfect 1B(to Santana's 1A) and to dream of a rotation of Santana, Darvish, Pelfrey, Maine and Jonathan Niese/Brad Holt just seems unfair.

As you can see the signing of Oliver Perez has a lot more negatives than positives and therefore it was a bad signing and I'm able to come to that conclusion even before he throws his first official pitch of 2009. Just the circumstance is what deems this contract a bad one. Even if the fact that Ollie hasn't rattled off 3 quality starts in a row since 2004 wasn't true, it would still be a poor signing that I hope the Mets never make again. Here's to Darvish in 2010!