Saturday, April 19, 2008

$$$

Couple of interesting "money moves" came down over the last few days that are worth discussing, and not just for their fantasy implications.

Evan Longoria signed a $17.5-million, six-year deal with three additional years as options (which could ballon the total value to $44 million). When I do the math, it actually seems like $20.5 million in guaranteed money, since the Rays have to pay a $3 million buyout if they don't exercise any of the options, but I may have some of the details wrong.

This deal is remarkable on many levels. The MLB players union has fought for years for arbitration and free-agency rights. They habitually get pissed off when young players sign deals that eat into their free agent years, as it sets a bad precedent around the league and drives down arbitration and free agent prices. Longoria may very well be a pariah for the next six years. It's obvious why he took the deal: he breaks his leg or ends up being a flash in the pan, and instead of a few hundred thousand in guaranteed money, he has $17.5 million. He traded away tons of potential cash (and I mean tons -- this deal severely undervalues his arbitration and free agent years) for lifetime security. This is how teams like the Rays are going to have to do business if they want to compete.

The Rays sent Longoria back to the minors to start the year, probably to gain additional leverage. They may have implicitly threatened that they'd stick him down their all year, keeping his pay-off far away. We may see in the very near future teams refusing to promote players unless they sign deals similar to Longoria's (actually, they're sort of doing that now, by keeping them in the minors to prevent their accumulating sufficient playing time to trigger their arb clocks).

On a fantasy level, all you have to remember is this: Longoria is up in the majors to stay. No more roster shenanigans, he's a fixture at 3B for this season and the foreseeable future. I wouldn't expect much this year, but keeper leaguers should take note.

Frank Thomas had a three-game stretch where he homered each day and didn't do shit before and hasn't after. He's stinking up the place with a sub-Mendoza average. Despite the fact that he's become an offensive black hole, the Blue Jays are thrilled with this development because now they can justifiably bench him and keep him from getting the 378 plate appearances he needs to trigger a $10-million option for next year. Ten million! For Frank Thomas at that age! Wow, someone really miscaculated free agent values, because the far superior Barry Bonds could be had for a fraction of that. Then again, this is the same team that thought paying a closer (B.J. Ryan) a gazillion dollars over many years and signing David Eckstein was a good idea.

The Blue Jays can call this a baseball decision, and I suppose it is, but I can't imagine that they aren't realizing that keeping Frank Thomas on the bench is one of the best decisions they can make this year. Thomas, apparently, was extraordinarily pissed and exploded in the dugout. Good to see him show some emotion when it really counts -- when his checkbook is the issue.

I'd cut him in all but AL-only or very, very deep mixed leagues.

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