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Using Piazza Negotiations on Reyes, Feigned Interest, Balanced Managerial Style



By Mike Silva ~ September 24th, 2011. Filed under: Morning Digest.

Jose Reyes said the predictable words that you would hear from any free agent this time of the year. He told everyone how he loves New York, but that it’s a business and we will see what the future holds. That’s negotiations 101 in the agent playbook.

What I do know is the Mets are on a pretty tight budget. This isn’t because I am assuming. Anyone close to the situation that I have talked to has said that Sandy Alderson has a budget and he knows the value of the player he is negotiating with. Just like any good negotiator he will leave wiggle room, but Alderson is not someone that will bid against himself or allow someone else to drive up the price. I was told he isn’t one to make an agent’s job very easy either.

You heard earlier this month that the Mets won’t allow the Reyes negotiations to drag. This is not a situation where they will be held “hostage,” for lack of a better word, by Reyes and his team. They can’t drag this to Christmas and build a team when they already have about 80% of their budget allocated for 2012.

The Mets employed an effective strategy with Mike Piazza after the ’98 season that I believe might be something they could do again with Reyes.

During that time, you had 15 days to negotiate a contract exclusively. The Mets locked up both Piazza and Al Leiter before either hit free agency. Both became the cornerstones of a team that made back-to-back playoff appearances; including a pennant in 2000.

Basically, the Mets knew their financial threshold with Piazza. They offered the 7 year/$91 million dollar contract, which made him the richest player in baseball history at the time.

The Mets need to make their best push for Reyes in the coming weeks leading up to free agency. They need to make him wonder how negotiations will other clubs will go if the Mets are not part of that. Just like they didn’t allow Piazza to shop their $91 million dollar offer, they can’t allow Reyes to shop their best offer.

All Piazza wanted was a fair offer to stay in New York. He was comfortable with the city and team. This was especially important after he went through a messy departure in LA, and spent a crazy week as a member of the Marlins.

What does Reyes want? If the Mets offer is fair market value, does he want to stay? Does he want the bidding war that may not happen? What if the Red Sox aren’t part of that bidding war? There are so many variables that make going to free agency a risk.

Reyes will get his money regardless, but will it be in the right situation for his career going forward. Ask Carl Crawford who probably wishes he was on the West Coast now, instead of the Boston caldron.

***

Speaking of Crawford, I found it interesting that Brian Cashman spoke about his feigned interest in the outfielder during last year’s Winter Meetings.

Everyone thought it was odd that Cashman was meeting with Crawford. The easy logic was the Yankees were using him as a Plan B in the event Cliff Lee went elsewhere. That comes from the mindset of fans and media that believe you have to “make a big move” in order to create interest in New York. Winning sells in New York, not just stars.

Cashman’s moves this offseason weren’t sexy – Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Eric Chavez, Russell Martin- but they lead to a team that will finish with the best record in the American League.

The Martin move was particularly important, in my opinion, as the staff loves throwing to him. The pitching staff was supposed to be a weakness this year, but the Yanks are third in the American League in ERA. Garcia has gone on record crediting Martin with one of the righty’s better seasons in the last 5 years. Remember, this was a guy close to retirement two years ago after a terrible spring with the Mets.

With all the talk of Moneyball, the Yankees were just as value driven this offseason as anyone else.

***

Another point about the Crawford negotiations is whether this “negotiation strategy,” which was meant to drive up Crawford’s price for Boston, is ethical?

I understand that agents and players use big market teams to drive up their price. Maybe Cliff Lee even did it to the Yankees since many believe he always wanted to go back to Philadelphia.

I do question Cashman going public with that strategy. If I were an agent I would be annoyed that you wasted my time. If I were a player going forward I would be cautious about the Yankees interest if I played a position they were particularly deep at. Everyone knew that Brett Gardner was a clone to Crawford and significantly cheaper.

It’s one thing to think the Yankees or another team is feigning interest to drive up your price. It’s another to actually hear them admit it. If they are lying about that, what else are they holding back?

Again, I am not criticizing, just thinking out loud about the ethics of this. It worked in Crawford’s favor as the Sox gave him a deal (7 years/$142 million) that no one believed he would have obtained. What if it backfired? What if Anaheim and Boston pulled out and left Crawford without a seat in the game of musical chairs? Wasting time with a team that isn’t serious could potentially backfire. That is the ethical part that I guess I am questioning. Sometimes I guess business and ethics don’t miss. If you do what you believe is right, you may just lose in the long run. This could be said for either teams or players. Maybe it’s just a scummy part of the industry that comes with the millions of dollars at stake.

At the very least I don’t know if it was ethical or smart to come clean about the less than upfront tactics that are part of free agent negotiations. If you scuffed a  baseball, that’s fine, but don’t brag about it after the fact. It might hurt you at some point in the future.

***

Joe Maddon was on the MLB Network with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden yesterday. One of the interesting things he said was how he tries to be consistent this time of the year, and not deviate from his normal style. He believes the team will react based on how they are reading him. “Free minds, fresher bodies, less information, less urgency” is his mantra at this time of the year.

The more I hear about Maddon the more I like him. Notice I didn’t bring up any on the field moves. Ballplayers, for the most part, know what they have to do after 150+ games. Teams “are what they are,” for the most part, by the last week of the season.

I am all for intensity, preparation, and discipline. What I have learned over the years is that needs to be complemented with a calm and balanced environment. The accountability that comes with preparation and execution is established at the beginning of the season in spring training. If you have to create a heightened sense of urgency around your team now, then you didn’t do a good job establishing that culture during the spring.

Baseball isn’t like football where you get your juices going for Sunday. It’s a grind, literally, and anyone who is around it knows this. If the Rays fall short this year it will be due to the talent gap with Boston and New York. It has nothing to do with their manager.

That’s why firing Terry Francona is silly. I believe Francona is similar to Maddon in that he keeps his team balanced and focused throughout the year.  No managerial style can overcome significant talent gaps, which we see in Tampa, and due to injuries and poor performance with the starting rotation, in Boston as well.

This is something that I don’t believe Joe Girardi is capable of doing. I think Girardi gets tense when the pressure is on. I will be curious to see how he reacts this coming Friday at the Stadium. The players will sense when a manager is tight. I agree with Maddon that a team will read the manager’s energy and react to it.

***

I am sure Art How is a nice man, but I really think Chris Russo went soft on him during his interview on Sirius/XM yesterday. Howe told Russo that he gave “his heart and soul to the organization for 7 years” and its “disappointing to hear what your boss thinks of you.”

No disrespect to Howe, but he created that situation due to his bland personality. I was told he was so bad with the media during his Mets tenure the organization had members of the coaching staff deal with the beat writers daily. If you can’t communicate your position effectively, how do you expect others to portray you?

Russo told Howe that he always liked him and that “he was good to him and Mike in New York.” So because he was accessible, you go soft on  an interview? Howe did a terrible job in New York. The Mets were in transition, but Howe didn’t exactly maximize whatever talent that was there. The team lacked discipline as well. The fact he needed help dealing with the media is downright embarrassing. I don’t know what is worse; Howe’s inability to communicate, or Fred Wilpon telling everyone he “lit up the room” during his interview. Knowing Fred’s choice of investors we can deduce that judgment of one’s character is not his strong suit.

I will be dedicating Sunday’s show to “Moneyball,” as former Oakland pitching coach Rick Peterson will join me to discuss his time working for Billy Beane.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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3 Responses to Using Piazza Negotiations on Reyes, Feigned Interest, Balanced Managerial Style

  1. Badgerbc

    Two points:

    Cashman was on Kay’s show yesterday and said he didn’t pay for the meal and also replied “No comment” when Kay asked whether Genske knew about the Yanks’ intent. I don’t see why any agent would mind the Yanks driving up the price. Second, as Cashman repeatedly said in the past, agents will “leak” that the Yanks are inquiring about their clients when that weren’t the case.

    Second, Scott Boras uses “incomplete information” of the market expertly. Since teams cannot/will not communicate with each other regarding their price points, Boras can use fear and worst case scenarios to drive up the price. That’s why I suspect Cashman has been very up front whenever someone like Holliday was linked to the Yanks by Heyman (you can guess who fed him that one). Cashman categorically denied it.

    In the case of Crawford as Curry pointed out when it did take place, I think it was quid pro quo for Theo screwing around with Mariano as well as Cliff Lee. When both the Yanks and the Sox play this game, they both lose (It’s a classic prisoners dilemma game). I suspect it was Cashman’s way of reminding Theo that the Yanks can also play this as well if not better than Boston because they have more financial resources. However for whomever that wins this game, it’ll be a Pyrrhic victory. Both will pay more which increases the risk of failure IMHO.

  2. chakrabs

    I doubt that Piazza strategy would work this time around. Why? Because the Mets take it or leave it offer to Piazza was still the richest contract in baseball at the time. There’s no way the Mets can offer Reyes anything close to that this time around. Ergo, I believe that he’s gone.

  3. Brien Jackson

    If you’re an agent and you get annoyed that a GM is helping you drive up the price of your client (which also gets you a bigger commission, FWIW), then you’re not doing a very good job in the best case, and don’t take your ethical obligations seriously in the worst case.

    As for managers, I guess it’s sort of unsatisfying to look at it this way, but I think every team needs something different. Do the Red Sox need Francona to scream at them in the clubhouse before the game? Probably not. What they really need is to not have so many injuries and for John Lackey to not suck so bad. Similarly the Yankees are a mostly veteran team with a lot of big game experience between everyone on the roster. I don’t think they really need much in the way of guidance from a manager.

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