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A Defense of the Darvish Offer

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#1 spycake

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 11:16 AM

If you've been reading the forums lately, you might think the title of this post and its author (me) are incompatible. And you might be right -- I have been rather prolific in my posts advocating the Twins sign Yu Darvish and, more recently, critical of the Twins offer in the wake of the Cubs deal. Here is a sampling (and feel free to post any questions or comments about these linked posts right here in this new thread too):

 

What were the odds of the Twins offer actually being successful?

http://twinsdaily.co...-22#entry712518

 

What were the risks of a larger offer, relative to the offer they made?

http://twinsdaily.co...-24#entry712798

 

Would the Cubs have simply outbid us, regardless of the size of our offer?

http://twinsdaily.co...-24#entry712806

 

But while I am disappointed in the process and the outcome, I still sought to understand it all better. Many other posters have offered explanations, some of which were probably pretty good but still left my mind unsatisfied for some reason. So I endeavored to explain it to myself. :)

 

What's the defense?

 

Interestingly, my chief defense of the Twins offer can be derived from a joke about an earlier post title -- "Twins Give Darvish a Formal Offer", where I noted that "prom proposal" could be considered a synonym for "formal offer." Consider this a variation on the theory "what if Darvish just didn't want to come here", but with a Valentine's Day twist. How does a person respond to romantic inquiries/hints/advances when they just aren't interested? They often don't sever all contact or even give a definite "no", but rather they leave more subtle hints of disinterest, likely while still trying to maintain a friendly relationship.

 

What if Darvish did that to the Twins? What if Darvish responded generically to the Twins overtures, to prop up his market with their theoretical pursuit, but at the same time not giving them any specific parameters with which to construct a deal to his liking? How would that sound? "I don't know yet, check back later." "I'm really just waiting to see how the market develops." "Don't call us, we'll call you."

 

 

While at the same time, he could be engaging in more detail with the Cubs (and Dodgers, Rangers, etc.). Even if the Twins knew from indirect sources that Darvish wanted 6 years, and wasn't backing down too far on AAV despite the slow market, it's not the same as hearing it from the source. The Twins would likely pick up on the disinterest directed toward them. But the Twins have reasons for not completely moving on, or publicly disclosing that either -- chiefly, negotiations with other players and teams (in trade).

 

And ultimately, knowing Darvish's disinterest could affect the Twins' ability and willingness to put forth a competitive offer for him. Nobody wants to be the person (I hope) to rent a skywriter for a prom proposal directed toward a known disinterested subject. Even if you commit more money/resources to your offer than others, and your offer somehow "wins", there could be the distinct feeling that it was forced upon the subject, leading to an uncomfortable relationship ahead. If Darvish simply wanted to play in Chicago for 6/126 plus incentives and an opt out, there might be some resentment toward us for "not taking the hints" and offering a marginally larger guarantee, putting Darvish in a difficult position with his union and his agent whose financial interests could then be in conflict with Darvish's personal preferences. We remember the "players don't want to come here" mantra, and Dave St. Peter's response that money is all that matters -- a seeming contradiction, but in a way, both are true and the Twins likely have to find a balance (as they sought for many years between "the Metrodome is a dump" and "come on out to watch your Twins!").

 

 

So does this absolve the Twins?

 

Not necessarily -- maybe not even close. It's quite possible that any disinterest was not pre-existing, but rather borne out of early conversations between Darvish and the club. There is certainly evidence to suggest this -- if the Twins expressed to Darvish the same reticence privately as they did publicly about the 5th/6th years or the opt out clause, and offered no indications about making up the difference with a big AAV, Darvish and his agent may have simply concluded it wasn't worth their time to engage with the Twins any further. Maybe it wasn't anything personal -- other than LA (who didn't win the bidding either), there didn't seem to be any reports about Darvish preferring any particular destination. Darvish has no notable connection to Chicago or its staff (excepting potential backup catcher Gimenez), and frankly there are more day-to-day similarities than differences between playing your home games at Target Field or at Wrigley Field, once you have reached the highest level of professional baseball. And while he may have been motivated by the Cubs' resources and willingness to deploy them, leading to greater postseason and World Series chances, it's also quite possible he simply saw them as the only realistic option for meeting his demands and prioritized his focus accordingly. And that would have been quite likely correct. Even if the Twins privately had some willingness to negotiate around a 6th year or opt out or even higher guarantees, it's not Darvish's responsibility to tease that out of them.

 

Further, even if Darvish had a pre-existing disinterest in the Twins, it's not the job of the front office to simply deliver contract offers to willing players. Part of their duties is selling, recruiting, convincing -- not just free agents, but ownership and fans too. I'm sure the new front office would say they are gradually working toward that end, although their moves to date certainly suggest a mixed bag. (And taking a too-conservative approach to negotiations with Darvish would have in itself reinforced some negative preconceptions about our commitment to winning.) Maybe they are still working under the shadow of the previous regime, although Levine's prior relationship to Darvish would suggest that he could perhaps sell a new vision for Minnesota in this situation better than most others.

 

What does this all mean?

 

All told, I'm still not pleased with the Twins here. No matter how you slice it, they seem to bear a good portion of responsibility for the outcome as it stands today -- whether it's the too-conservative terms of their approach or offer, failing to create or communicate an environment where their commitment to winning is clear and unquestionable, maybe just overselling their interest with Levine's "priority" comment back in November, or even just the lack of success so far at securing a plan B alternative. And understand I'm not a person who advocates for the Twins to pursue every top free agent, and who criticizes them every time that doesn't happen -- I understand the realities of MLB market and payroll disparities. But I do expect the Twins should be able to not only pursue an occasional top free agent, but actually land one from time to time under the right conditions -- and the conditions this offseason around Darvish were riper for that opportunity than any top FA since the opening of Target Field, and looking ahead, they might be the best for the next 5-6 years too, at least.

 

That said, I'm not giving up on them or their season. I'm committed to my Twins (perhaps for many of the same frugal financial factors which they apply to free agency -- no greater joy than taking in a ballgame from the cheap seats or on the radio!). And I hope they have a good plan B and can get it done rather quickly so it doesn't affect their spring training -- and so my mind can finally move on from all this unnecessary Darvish analysis!

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#2 jimmer

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 11:22 AM

Yeah, no matter what, they are still our team.That will never change.They are who they are.

 

I'll be there the first weekend of June, getting my Kepler bobble-head and cheering them on against the Indians.GO TWINS!!!!!

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#3 Jham

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 11:36 AM

Losing out on Darvish is perfectly defensible. It's just tough to swallow given our needs and the feasibility of the contract for once.

Another potential defense could be that the front office is sticking to it's guns and initial analysis. I think competing last year surprised the heck out of them. I think the second Garcia trade represented their gut instinct on the team more than the first one. To some extent they might feel trapped and unable to do the tear down they initially wanted. They may be looking for this team to prove it once again, or to not prove it and allow them to move on to their guys.

Edited by Jham, 14 February 2018 - 11:37 AM.


#4 Twinfan & Dad

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 11:45 AM

Either you believe in this new front office or you dont! I choose to "Be a believer and couldnt leave her if I tried". Absolutely love their first draft and have faith that they will come through in constructing a quality rotation much like the revamped bullpen. Go Twins.
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#5 ashburyjohn

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 11:51 AM

"Sometimes you can't give your money away."-- quote from a long time ago in a front office far, far away

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Why waste time learning, when ignorance is instantaneous?


#6 ashburyjohn

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 11:53 AM

I think competing last year surprised the heck out of them.

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#7 twinssporto

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 11:58 AM

Great post Spycake, glad you've moved past this.   

 

This whole Darvish drama did get me thinking about the Dodgers in all of this.  I know they are trying to stay under the payroll tax penalty this year.  However, there is a question I have about their decision to not step up and keep him:

 

1. The Dodgers are one of the most heavily favored teams to win the WS this year.  Keeping Darvish would seem like a logical step in solidifying their chances and keeping the rotation top notch.  What did they see to not go that extra step (payroll tax aside) to sign him?

On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.


#8 spycake

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 12:07 PM

 

Another potential defense could be that the front office is sticking to it's guns and initial analysis. I think competing last year surprised the heck out of them. I think the second Garcia trade represented their gut instinct on the team more than the first one. To some extent they might feel trapped and unable to do the tear down they initially wanted. They may be looking for this team to prove it once again, or to not prove it and allow them to move on to their guys.

I don't think any of that applies much here. It's hard to predict team performance with too much precision -- no can really say "this isn't *quite* our year to contend yet" after last year.

 

By comparison, it is not as hard to predict the market for external upgrades. There aren't many Darvish equivalents available, and the deadline and next winter will likely bring the Yankees and Dodgers back into the bidding (not to mention the Cubs again, the Astros, the Angels, etc.).

 

Balancing those two factors into holding the line on Darvish this offseason is threading far too fine of a needle, I don't even think they would be attempting that.

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#9 dougd

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 12:16 PM

So we have learned that other teams had offers for 6 year deals similar in value to the Cubs, and the easily fulfilled escalators are worth at least $14 million, making it at least 6/140+. And the contract is front end loaded, making it even more likely to last for two years. per Chicago Sun-Times article linked in MLBTR.

All of which allowed the Cubs to avoid luxury tax.

 

I presume there are some rules that prohibit blatant manipulation of the escalators, the opt-out option, and the average contract value. Anyone know what they are?


#10 spycake

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 12:32 PM

 

1. The Dodgers are one of the most heavily favored teams to win the WS this year.  Keeping Darvish would seem like a logical step in solidifying their chances and keeping the rotation top notch.  What did they see to not go that extra step (payroll tax aside) to sign him?

It's not just a tax this year -- it's resetting it before it next year, when Kershaw is due to opt out (and Harper, Machado, etc. hit the market). The Dodgers could probably stomach a huge tax bill this year for signing Darvish, but they don't want to pay it this year AND next year (and potentially every year going forward). This was their best chance to reset the escalating penalties. And I believe the new CBA also added draft and international penalties for exceeding the luxury tax threshold by certain amounts, which could be a stronger deterrent than just the tax alone.

 

And while they always like to upgrade, the Dodgers rotation is in pretty good shape:

 

Kershaw 180 ERA+

Wood 154

Hill 126

Ryu 111

Maeda 99

 

Plus elite prospect Walker Buehler, and lesser guys like Stripling and Stewart who managed some effectiveness in 2017 in small samples.They already felt they had enough SP depth to deal Brandon McCarthy away too (and he was reasonably effective when healthy in 2017, with a 105 ERA+).

 

They also may have some flexibility to make a deadline move, and maybe even get a late season return from Urias.

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#11 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 12:32 PM

Great post Spycake, glad you've moved past this.

This whole Darvish drama did get me thinking about the Dodgers in all of this. I know they are trying to stay under the payroll tax penalty this year. However, there is a question I have about their decision to not step up and keep him:

1. The Dodgers are one of the most heavily favored teams to win the WS this year. Keeping Darvish would seem like a logical step in solidifying their chances and keeping the rotation top notch. What did they see to not go that extra step (payroll tax aside) to sign him?


But you can't just set luxury tax aside. That's the reason.
They want to reset their tax penalty so that they can be aggressive in the Harper/Machado sweepstakes next year.
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#12 Doomtints

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 12:37 PM

This is what we should have expected. No bad feelings here.

 

But if plan B is gutting the team for a statistical #3 pitcher, well ... that might be a tougher pill to swallow.

Edited by Doomtints, 14 February 2018 - 12:39 PM.

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#13 beckmt

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 12:39 PM

 

Great post Spycake, glad you've moved past this.   

 

This whole Darvish drama did get me thinking about the Dodgers in all of this.  I know they are trying to stay under the payroll tax penalty this year.  However, there is a question I have about their decision to not step up and keep him:

 

1. The Dodgers are one of the most heavily favored teams to win the WS this year.  Keeping Darvish would seem like a logical step in solidifying their chances and keeping the rotation top notch.  What did they see to not go that extra step (payroll tax aside) to sign him?

After resigning Kershaw next year, they will be in luxury tax territory and the penalties go up every year, so Dodgers needed to reset the clock.

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#14 Dman

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 12:40 PM

I wanted Darvish but my mind keeps going back to when Detroit got Sanchez.The first two years of that deal looked really good.After that not so much.It is a big gamble with pitchers into the mid and late thirties.I can see why the Twins were interested but only up to a point.5 Years was apparently as far as they were willing to go and maybe a certain AAV but I hope not.

 

My guess is the Cubs get two to three good years out of Darvish and then hope he remain at least a worthy number 5 starter after that.  

 

I still hate that we missed out on him but all I can hope now is that the Twins find a better way to spend that money.


#15 spycake

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 12:46 PM

 

I presume there are some rules that prohibit blatant manipulation of the escalators, the opt-out option, and the average contract value. Anyone know what they are?

Payroll for luxury tax purposes is calculated based on the AAV of the whole deal and ignores the opt out. So the Cubs get no tax benefit from their mild front-loading. I think earned incentives can retroactively affect the tax too, so there is no benefit in using them to offset lower initial guarantees either.

 

The opt out has value to the player that isn't reflected in luxury tax calculations, so that's a small manipulation. I've seen estimates that the opt out could have a present-day value of about ~$15 mil for Darvish, but averaged over the 6 years of the deal, it wouldn't be terribly significant.


#16 Platoon

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 12:46 PM

Words for all Twins fans to keep handy at all times! :)
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#17 spycake

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 12:56 PM

 

So we have learned that other teams had offers for 6 year deals similar in value to the Cubs

I just saw that too:

 

https://www.mlbtrade...oltynewicz.html

 

But I suspect those could be referring to the rumored Dodgers and Yankees "offers" which seemed contingent on those clubs moving Kemp and Ellsbury, respectively.

 

The Twins will have plenty of opportunity to correct the record as it relates to their reported offer of "5/100+" presumably without an opt out. Although I understand if they don't want to do that immediately if they are still in negotiation with other FAs.


#18 Jham

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 12:59 PM

I don't think any of that applies much here. It's hard to predict team performance with too much precision -- no can really say "this isn't *quite* our year to contend yet" after last year.

By comparison, it is not as hard to predict the market for external upgrades. There aren't many Darvish equivalents available, and the deadline and next winter will likely bring the Yankees and Dodgers back into the bidding (not to mention the Cubs again, the Astros, the Angels, etc.).

Balancing those two factors into holding the line on Darvish this offseason is threading far too fine of a needle, I don't even think they would be attempting that.


I'm not so sure. The original plan may have been to replace Molly, trade Dozier, trade Erv, get Mauer off the books, and reload. We could be greying caught in a half-in half-out phase that makes things tough as a GM. Are we buyers? Evidently not. Are we then sellers? Evidently not also. If this team isn't good enough on its own, do we have a plan to get good enough? If not, should we at least consider selling?

I just don't think we can easily discount the idea that an expedited tear down and rebuild was the plan. There has to be a limit for how far falvine cam allow things to go off course.

Btw, I do not agree with a tear down strategy, but the teams that were popular at the time followed that model. And I believe that was the initial plan. Eventually, if you're going to make a decision that might risk you're career, it has to further your plan and not someone else's. Right now, we have tons of flexibility going into next season. That probably feels pretty good in the FO.

#19 spycake

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 01:05 PM

 

I'm not so sure. The original plan may have been to replace Molly, trade Dozier, trade Erv, get Mauer off the books, and reload. We could be greying caught in a half-in half-out phase that makes things tough as a GM. Are we buyers? Evidently not. Are we then sellers? Evidently not also. If this team isn't good enough on its own, do we have a plan to get good enough? If not, should we at least consider selling?

I just don't think we can easily discount the idea that an expedited tear down and rebuild was the plan. There has to be a limit for how far falvine cam allow things to go off course.

Btw, I do not agree with a tear down strategy, but the teams that were popular at the time followed that model. And I believe that was the initial plan. Eventually, if you're going to make a decision that might risk you're career, it has to further your plan and not someone else's. Right now, we have tons of flexibility going into next season. That probably feels pretty good in the FO.

Despite the 103 loss season, I don't think the Twins circa October 2016 were a good target for a tear-down at all. With Buxton, Sano, Berrios, etc.? True, they shopped Dozier that winter, and had an interesting trade deadline in 2017, but I don't think that's enough evidence to suggest the new FO had/have any intentions of tearing down what they inherited. At least not enough to discount their probability of contention in 2018.

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#20 USAFChief

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 01:30 PM

Booooooooooooo.

Do NOT mellow my harsh.
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