John Buck was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays immediately after he was non-tendered by the Kansas City Royals. Yesterday, the other shoe dropped. Miguel Olivo agreed to a 1-year $2.5 million contract with a club option for 2011.
As Royals fans we now know what both of our 2009 catchers will be making in 2010. We know that both Miguel Olivo and John Buck will make less in their deals with their new teams than the Royals will be paying Jason Kendall. We are now fully aware of how badly Dayton Moore whiffed in his assessment of the market.
For me, Olivo’s sigining drives home the final nail in Dayton Moore’s inability to properly evaluate talent and the free market as a whole. He once again has failed the organization by acting too quickly. Instead of letting the process* play out in the offseason, he jumped to overpay one of the oldest and least valuable players available.
*I’m talking about a real process. I’m talking about the free agent process. I’m not talking about Dayton’s mystical and undefined process which is, according to him, too complex for any of us to understand.
I say least valuable in terms of where the Kansas City Royals are heading in the 2010 season. They are at a place where they should be targeting young, cheap talent with upside. Instead they added Jason Kendall who will turn 36 this summer, has a declining skill set, and his most valuable asset (defense) is the hardest to quantify and evaluate. Whatever defensive value he adds is more than offset by the offensive value he subtracts. Any mention of his ability to mentor young catchers or work with pitchers is merely an effort to ignore the obvious. It’s like telling your friend that a girl you are setting him up with is nice* when he asks if she’s cute.
*My comparison fails because the girl may actually be nice so you aren’t lying to your friend. In Kendall’s case there is no way to evaluate if Kendall is even capable of mentoring young players or helping pitchers get better results when he is behind the plate.
Jason Kendall (35) will make $2.25 million in 2010, and $3.75 million in 2011 for a total of $6 million over the next two years. The Royals are on the hook for that full amount. There are no options and no buyouts. Kendall will also be able to earn an additional $250,000 in performance bonuses each year of his contract which are likely tied to games played and plate appearances. Since Trey Hillman is clearly adverse to playing Brayan Pena at catcher, and Dayton Moore’s comments have made it clear that he was signed to be the everday catcher, we can safely assume that Kendall will earn his bonus money if he stays healthy. Thus, he will be making $2.5 million 2010 and $4 million in 2011. He agreed to his deal on December 11th.
John Buck (29) agreed to a 1-year $2 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays within 24 hours of being non-tendered by the Kansas City Royals. His deal was officially signed and finalized 5 days from the time he was non-tendered. There are no strings to his deal. It’s one year with no options, no bonuses, just $2 million.
Miguel Olivo (31) agreed to a 1-year $2 million contract with the Rockies. His contract has a team option for 2011 at a salary of $2.5 million with a $500,000 buyout. His option can morph into a mutual one if he plays in enough games, but that seems unlikely to happen. After all, he was signed to be the backup to Chris Iannetta who just signed a 3-year $8.3 million contract with a $5 million club option for 2013. Unless Iannetta gets hurt, Olivo will be entirely at the mercy of the Rockies when it comes to his 2011 option.
Maximum Team Committments:
Jason Kendall: 2 years and $6.5 million
Miguel Olivo: 2 years and $4.5 million
John Buck: 1 year and $2 million
Minimum Team Committments:
Jason Kendall: 2 years and $6 million
Miguel Olivo: 1 year and $2.5 million
John Buck: 1 year and $2 million
Even if Kendall, Olivo, and Buck were all the same age, equivalent in terms of ability, signed on the same day, and were the last 3 catchers available on the market, the Royals still made a egregious mistake. The fact that Kendall is the oldest, least talented, and was signed first just compounds the mistake. Of course, in traditional Dayton Moore fashion, Kendall signed to the most expensive deal in terms of dollars and years while being the contract with the least amount of team flexibility.
People in Dayton’s corner, if there are any left, will suggest that Buck and Olivo didn’t want to remain with the Royals.
In Buck’s case, it’s immaterial. The team controlled his fate up until the point he was non-tendered. Before the end of the playoffs, I was estimating he would get in excess of $4 million if he went through the arbitration process. The way things were already playing out in the market, it became clear an arbitration award of $3.5 million was probably going to be the ceiling. Since most players avoid arbitration and come to terms ahead of time, a reasonable salary expectation for Buck would have been in the neighborhood $3.2 million. I’d much rather have John Buck as the Royals primary catcher in 2010 at $3.2 million than Jason Kendall at $2.25-$2.5 million.
There is no doubt that Olivo wanted to test the market so even if the team picked up their end of the option, Miguel was going to decline. Still, if Dayton hadn’t been so hasty to sign Jason Kendall, logic dictates that Olivo would have been open to returning to the Royals. The Rockies signed him for $2 million to be their backup catcher. Kansas City could have offered him a job as the starting catcher and could have paid him $2.5-$3 million. If they needed to throw in an option year they certainly could have done that too. After all, the guaranteed Kendall a second year. A 2-year deal for Olivo makes far more sense than a 2-year deal for Kendall. With a little patience a 2-year $5 million contract probably would have been more than enough to bring Miguel back once he had time to evaluate his prospects on the open market. Under that scenario, the team would have saved $1-$1.5 million on top of having a younger more gifted player who is more likely to ascend or maintain his recent level of performance than he is to decline.
The organization was apparently dead set on walking away from both Buck and Olivo, but even so Yorvit Torrealba is going to sign with a team for less than 2-years and $6 million and he is just one of several better options.
Dayton has done some great things in adding talent to the minor league organization via the draft and by way of international scouting. On the other hand, his performance when it comes to adding talent to the major league roster through free agency and trades has been unacceptable. Dayton’s weakness is clearly far greater than his strength and that is a huge problem for this organization. This problem is magnified by the fact that he was unnecessarily given a contract extension to be the team’s GM through the 2014 season at the end of August.
Dayton’s math: Kendall < Olivo < Buck
My math: Dayton Moore < Dean Taylor < Mike Arbuckle