A Look Back: The Curt Schilling Thanksgiving Day Fleece

 

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what you are thankful for.  Perhaps Curt Schilling and Theo Epstein are thinking of their Thanksgiving day fleece 4 years ago that got Curt Schilling in red socks.

It was Thanksgiving day 2003, and Theo Epstein, among other Red Sox brass, had traveled to Arizona to feast with the Schillings and to convince Curt that Boston was the right place for  him.   Boston and Arizona had already agreed on the principles of the trade – Arizona would receive left handed pitcher Casey Fossum and righty Brandon Lyon – but the Red Sox had a short window to work out a contract extension with Schilling or else the deal would die.  As documented in a very interesting post on Mr. Schilling’s personal blog, negotiations were very intense, and Epstein and Schilling both left their Thanksgiving meal feeling a deal would not be worked out.   But alas, the official deal and fleece of Arizona was completed, with Schilling receiving a 2 year extension worth $25M with a 3rd year option worth $13M per year.   Lyon and Fossum have not had prestigious D’Back careers.

As we all know by now, the Schilling acquisition was a major piece that lifted the Red Sox over the proverbial hump and got them past the Yankees.   We all know the bloody sock story, when Schilling heroically lifted the Sox over the Yankees in game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, helping the Sox eventually come back from a 3 game deficit in that series.  Schilling would then help the Sox win their first World Series in 86 years that year, and of course, this year the Sox won another title, fulfilling Curt Schilling’s desire.  Schilling had said the day after Thanksgiving in 2003:  “I want to be a part of bringing the first World Series in modern history to Boston.  And hopefully more than one over the next four years.”

A Look Back: Barry Zito, Year 1

zito.jpg

Two Words: FRIGGIN FLEECE!

Last winter, Barry Zito signed a 7 year contract with the San Francisco Giants worth $126 million, with an 8th year option worth $16 million. In his first year with the Giants, he went 11-13 while posting a 4.53 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. And yes, this was in the National League. He also failed to reach the 200 inning mark, while giving up 24 long balls. As a result of this contract alone, Zito and his agent, Scott Boras, set a bench mark for premier starting pitchers. Johan Santana is going to most likely cite this contract alone in his quest to make $20 million per season as he becomes a free agent next off season.

His lack of dominance is no suprise. His lack of effectiveness, at times, was the major shocker. His primary pitch is a wicked 12-6 curveball when on..it’s a gopher ball when it’s off. He lacks a commanding fastball, clocking in at 86-88 MPH most of the time. When a pitcher relies so heavily on the curveball, it can spell elbow and shoulder issues later in their careers. With youngsters like Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum on the rise, the pressure might not be on Zito to be the “ace” of the staff. Unfortunatly for San Francisco, however, he’s being paid like one.

This pretty much sums up how Brian Sabean and the Giants organization made out in the deal…  

gatti_punch.jpg

A Look Back: Matsuzaka, Year 1

dicek.jpgWe are going to start a new feature here at MLBFleeceFactor.com called “A Look Back.”  Every now and then we’ll reflect on MLB transactions of the past and see who was actually fleeced. 

First up, Daisuke Matsuzaka.  As we all know, the Boston Red Sox paid $51.1M just to talk to the Japanese phenom, and then inked him to a 6 year, $52M deal.  It is a total commitment of $103M over 6 years.   Well, year 1 of 6 is in the books.  Is anyone getting fleeced so far?

I originally projected Matsuzaka to win about 15 games in his “rookie” year and to post an ERA of 3.41 with a WHIP of 1.27.  I figured this production would be worth an annual average value of $15M, which is close to what the Sox doled out.   Many other projections seemed to be a little more conservative, but the seemed to at least project Dice K as a solid number 2 starter.

However, despite winning 15 games, Matsuzaka’s ERA finished at 4.40 and his WHIP closed at 1.32.  Control was a problem in every one of his poor starts, and was probably the result of unfamiliarity with opposing hitters and his own catcher.   There were times when he was dominant and seemed like a legitimate ace.  But he wasn’t consistent enough.  And although he had his moments in the playoffs, Matsuzaka proved to be no more than a good 3rd starter for a competitor in year 1.  Is that worth over $15M per year?  Probably not.  

Of course, a strong argument for laying out the cash for this Japanese star was the additional revenue gained by the Red Sox in Japan.  I just don’t think that can be fully measured, however, after 1 year.  The main benefits that Boston was seeking were long term:  better player scouting, better relations with Japanese teams, and possible long term marketing alliances.  So in just purely evaluating year 1 of the Matsuzaka investment, I don’t think we can have a conclusive opinion on this “additional revenue” factor. 

So based on performance alone, I think year one belongs to Matsuzaka/Boras/Seibu.   So far, the fleece factor is on their side.  But there is still plenty of time for Daisuke to make the Red Sox look like geniuses so we’ll be revisiting this issue in time.

Update: According to Fannation, the revenue Scott Boras “promised” the Red Sox came up “well” short of expectations in year # 1 of Dice-K. The Red Sox were led to believe additional funds in the range of $5 or 6 million (as the Yankees and Mariners had seen with Ichiro and Godzilla) would be coming their way. Apparently, the lone contract earned by Boston as a result of the Dice-K signing was worth $900,000. Nice ball, Mr. Boras.