It appears as though my time as a member of Omar’s Honor Guard may be drawing to an end. Being a defender of his actions has long been a dicey proposition, and unfortunately, it’s getting more untenable by the day. While many people viewed the Wagner trade as a fiasco, a missed opportunity to gain two draft picks, I felt as though it was too large of a gamble to keep Billy; 3.5 million is a lot to risk on a post-TJ closer. Wagner would have to pitch so well that there would be no question that a team out there would sacrifice a first/second round draft pick to sign a 39 year old closer coming off a major injury.
Right now, there is a nice little test out there for how competent Omar is. While the move won’t be the difference between contending and struggling, and doesn’t involve a superstar player, it succinctly encapsulates several of the most important functions of a General Manager, most notably player evaluation and resource allocation.
Yesterday Matt Murton was designated for assignment, meaning that any team in baseball could claim him. Murton was a former top prospect who always had sterling minor league numbers, but was usually blocked by other players. His minor league numbers have always been great and he’s no worse than an average defender. Additionally, when he has been given playing time in the majors, he’s done fairly well, hitting a respectable .287/.353/.438. Perhaps nothing to write home about, but definitely above average. Considering he’s done this with inconsistent playing time and bearing in mind his minor league numbers and pedigree, he’d represent a smart buy for most teams.
While picking up Murton would be a savvy move, failing to do so would also be understandable. You could say that you want more flexibility or defense from a bench outfielder, or that you feel he doesn’t have enough pop to play full time, or maybe you’re confident in your younger players to do what he does. All of that is well and good, and would be enough of an excuse for passing on him. Where Omar’s competency would be called in question is what he does with Jeff Francoeur.
Compared side to side, here are their major league numbers:
To begin with, Murton is just better than Francoeur. He has 1,000 MLB at-bats, which is more than enough of a sample size to cement the legitimacy of his numbers. He also costs a fraction of what Francoeur will cost next year: Murton will probably be in a range of .5 to 1 million, while Francoeur will cost 4 to 5 million.
If Omar passes on Murton and then brings Francoeur back, he will be essentially saying, “I would like to have a worse player on my team and then pay him much more money.” The same reasoning Omar would provide for not signing Matt Murton would also eliminate Francoeur, so it’s not like Francoeur does something that Murton doesn’t.
During the controversy that arose when Bank of America absorbed Merrill Lynch, and whether or not Ben Bernanke threatened to fire Ken Lewis if Lewis pulled out of the deal, Henry Paulson was quoted as saying that backing out was “unthinkable” and that it would be a, “destructive action for which there was no reasonable legal basis and which would show a lack of judgment.”
Essentially, Paulson was saying, “You’re damn right Bernanke should’ve fired Lewis if Lewis backed out, because if he backed out he’d be a moron unfit to run a company.”
If Omar passes on Matt Murton and brings Jeff Francoeur back next year, he has to be fired. Not because the difference between the players is so great, or that Murton is a star, but because it would show a remarkable lack of understanding of how to evaluate talent and allocate resources, or in other words, that Omar has no idea what he’s doing.
*I wrote this at my blog, firejerrymanuel.wordpress.org, but I don't really care about traffic so much as people congratulating me for how awesome I am.