December 22, 2003
Redman and Method Man
Here's a series of transactions you don't see everyday:
Saturday, December 20th:
- Oakland declines to tender Mark Redman a contract, making him a free agent
Sunday, December 21st:
- Oakland "re-signs" Mark Redman for three years and $11 million
For a minute there I thought Billy Beane had gone insane. Trading a perfectly decent relief pitcher and either another player or cash for a guy he went on to non-tender a couple days later. But fear not, Beane is perfectly sane. He apparently just needed a little more time to negotiate with Redman, because he worked out the three-year deal shortly after non-tendering him.
First things first, Mark Redman is a nice pitcher and $11 million for three years of him is a good price. He's not great, but he has almost always been league-average or better and his strikeout rate jumped this year, so there is reason to be optimistic for improvement.
IP ERA ERA+ SO/9
1999-2002 425 4.57 102 5.72
2003 191 3.59 112 7.12
At the same time, I'm not sure that this is a good deal specifically for the Oakland A's. On most teams, a solid starting pitcher for $3.7 million a year is a very nice pickup. For the A's though, there are two unique circumstances involved.
1) They have an incredible amount of young starting pitching. Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Rich Harden, Joe Blanton, Justin Duchscherer, Mike Wood, John Rheinecker, Shane Komine - the list goes on and on.
2) They have a very limited budget.
Putting those two things together, it would seem to me like a foolish investment to spend $3.7 million per season on a pitcher who is likely going to be nothing more than a #4 or #5 starter, particularly when you have plenty of young, cheap options throughout the organization.
As with most Beane moves, I think there may be a little something extra involved here. He has never been one to feel the need to use an "established veteran" over a promising rookie. In fact, one of the main reasons for Oakland's incredible success recently is their willingness to go with the unproven players in key roles, particularly in the starting rotation.
Because of that, signing someone like Redman for a relatively good amount of money while you have guys like Blanton and Duchscherer (among others) waiting in the wings seems like a very uncharacteristic move for Beane. I do have a few theories on why he would do that though.
1) One of The Big Three (Hudson, Mulder, Zito) is on the trading block.
They are starting to get expensive and their trade values are very high right now. If one of them goes, Redman could step into their spot and actually save the A's some money over the next three years, all while netting them what would probably be a pretty hefty return in trade.
In his ESPN.com column yesterday, Rob Neyer suggests that Barry Zito is the guy Oakland should be looking to deal. I'll let you read what Rob has to say regarding why that is the case, but I do tend to agree with him. That is, if Oakland were to deal one of The Big Three, it should probably be Zito.
By the way, here is the status of The Big Three, contractually:
2004 - $2.90 million
2005 - $5.50 million
2006 - $8.25 million (team option)
2004 - $4.40 million
2005 - $6.00 million
2006 - $7.25 million (team option)
2004 - $4.55 million
2005 - $6.00 million
It would seem, from that at least, like the time to trade Zito would be after this season. He's still very cheap for 2004 and then his salary nearly doubles for 2005.
2) Joe Blanton is on the trading block.
The same could be said about Justin Duchscherer too, although in his case it's probably more likely Beane just doesn't trust him in the rotation full-time. Blanton he has become one of the better pitching prospects in baseball and, if he follows in the footsteps of Zito and Hudson, he could be on schedule to make his MLB debut near mid-season.
With Redman now signed for three years, perhaps this is a sign that Beane isn't as high on Blanton as you would think. Maybe he doesn't trust him to become a great pitcher right away like Zito and Hudson did. Instead, he pays a small premium for Redman at the back of the rotation, instead of Blanton, and trades Blanton when his value is very high.
3) Redman is destined to be in Oakland for just one season.
This idea didn't strike me until I saw the breakdown of his contract.
2004 - 2.25 million
2005 - 4.25 million
2006 - 4.95 million team option or 4.5 million player option
Let's say Beane just needs a fourth/fifth starter for one year, until Blanton is ready to step into the rotation full-time. He signs Redman to a backloaded deal that will only pay him $1.75 million plus a $500,000 signing bonus in 2003. Then, after the season, he cashes Redman in by trading him to another team.
Redman's 2005 and 2006 salaries are still very reasonable and attractive in a trade for most teams, particularly if he has a good season in Oakland, which is a distinct possibility with their ballpark and their defense.
Right now, Oakland's 2004 starting rotation looks amazing, as Neyer discussed in his ESPN.com column yesterday.
If everyone sticks around for the length of their contracts, that would also be Oakland's rotation in 2005. In 2006, everyone but Hudson would be back.
I guess I just don't buy the idea that they will have that same rotation (minus Hudson in 2006) for the next three years. If Harden becomes the pitcher many think he can be, they would be paying Redman over four million per year to be their fifth starter in 2005 and 2006. That's a luxury the Oakland A's can't seem to afford.
Someone from that group will be gone in 2005, I would almost guarantee it.
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