It seems like mid-and-lower revenue teams are doing a better job locking up their young talent through arbitration, and sometimes into free agency. Do you think that mitigates some of the larger-revenue (read: New York, Boston, Detriot, Los Angeles) team's financial advtanges?
The ability to control the rights of players during their first few years in the league is quite helpful to teams of all revenue streams. Locking players into long-term deals when they are willing to trade income for financial security is a good idea. I'm not sure it small and mid-market teams are any better at it than big-market teams, but it is a good strategy, especially if you don't want to buy talent on the free agent market.
Last year, the Red Sox were in a strange position with Mike Lowell. He had just won the World Series MVP, he was a fan favorite, and he was coming off one of the better seasons of his career, and they signed him through his age 36 year for $37.5 million, even though they had cheaper options in house. What would you have done given this set of circumstances?
I think Lowell is a pretty good deal for the Sox. I have him worth about $15 million/year over the three seasons of this deal. While the Sox could have gone with Youkilis or Lowrie (or maybe someone else I'm not aware of) at third, they would have missed out on the surplus value that Lowell was willing to surrender to the Red Sox. Young guys, like Lowrie, are much more valuable than their salaries. If the team had dumped Lowell, the team couldn't afford to move Lowrie to another team or it might cost the team service time. So, I think the Sox did the right thing by signing him.
With Jason Varitek being a free agent this upcoming offseason, what do you think the Red Sox will do? What should they do?
Well, it depends on what he's asking. Catchers are a bit difficult to value, but I could see the Sox signing him for a three-year $15-million deal. Maybe he would take less than that to stay in Boston. The question is, will some other organization want to hire him for his star power, beyond what his talent is worth on the field? If so, the Sox might lose him on the open market .
Moving away from the Sox slightly, how do you see the American League East developing over the next 3 seasons?
I've got to admit that I'm not that knowledgeable of the division, so this is based on my general impressions. Boston and New York both appear poised to keep good teams on the field. Baltimore is hopeless. Tampa Bay looks to be on the rise, and I don't know what to think of Toronto. I thought the dumping of Frank Thomas over the weekend was a really bad move---the type of move that smart clubs don't make. The BJ Ryan deal was dumb too. Eh, who am I kidding? I'm not high on the Jays either.
When do you think the chasm in talent between the American League and National League will disappear?
I don't know of any structural cause, so I assume will just even out when it does. It takes time to recover from bad decisions, and I guess that NL teams have made more mistakes then AL teams in the past few years. Whether those mistakes were the product of bad luck or bad decisions is difficult to answer. The luck will even out, and management will improve in the NL.
Being a Braves fan, how does it feel being a part of the only fan base that doesn't hate JD Drew? Also, is it ok for me to like him now, or should I continue to hate him?
I like Drew, but a lot of people in Atlanta do hate J.D. When he bolted to LA, many fans couldn't understand why he wouldn't play for the Braves for less. Just this past weekend with Andruw Jones returned, many fans booed him. Can you believe that? He spent 12 years with the team. He had one stinker of a season and the Braves front office wouldn't even consider taking him back at a discount. Somehow fans thought that was worthy of a booing. But you don't have any fans like that in Boston, do you? ;-)
Finally, what do you think is going be the next big undervauled skillset that can be exposed by the Billy Beane's of the world?
I don't know of any undervalued skills, but I think closers are getting paid way too much money. They just don't play very much, and you can always grab of group of mediocre pitchers and find one or two at the top of their game that you can milk before they stink again, then repeat the process. I can't believe the Reds are paying Francisco Cordero $11.5 million/year. I have him valued at about 40% of that. So, if I were a GM looking to improve my team, I might look at trying to develop a young reliever with the intention of using him in a trade.