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Jim Pohland (left), Owner of the Minnesota Twins and Bob Castellini (right), Owner of the Cincinnati Reds
Photo of Jim Pohland: ANTHONY SOUFFLE – MINNESOTA STAR TRIBUNE; Photo of Bob Castellini, courtesy of Major League Baseball. Combined by Michael Elizondo

It’s not my Money(ball)! - Part 3.5 - A Study in George C. Scott

Or “A quick examination of what a team can do when it tries compared to when it tries to fail.”

For those of you keeping score:

And Now...

While finalizing preparations for the first couple of trips of the upcoming season, I tried, valiantly but in vain, to not write about financial issues until later in April/early May. But as is my nature, I could not ignore what was going around me.

Someone sign this man, already! #KnuckleDown

But before getting into the earnest news of the day, I am going to take a moment to post some follow-up from the Inagural Conversation of the Road. I hadn’t heard from Mickey Jannis since prior to my sending him a rough draft of the condensed, edited interview. Apparently family was in town, so he went dark. I get it. I was worried he didn’t like the piece. Far from it and he did react accordingly:

#KnuckleDown. Darn, that is an even better hashtag than what I came up with. Can someone please sign this man? Seems to me that teams are going to need folks that can provide innings or go on multiple days. One would think you’d want an inning-eating knuckleballer, particularly as an opener. And if you didn’t want to throw that person directly in the MLB fire, one would think that is what triple-A would be for.

I will continue to bang this tiny drum until Mickey Jannis gets a job. #KnuckleDown.

The “Freeman for Jansen” Trade

Okay, before we truly get underway, it seems appropriate at the time of writing, if not publication because this essay is going to stew for a bit, to give a comment about the arrival of Freddie Freeman and the departure of Kenley Jansen.

Yes, the Dodgers signed Freddie Freeman for six years, $162 million dollars, with $57 million deferred until 2040. The contract, which looks like a bargain for the Dodgers is all well and good, but frankly, it’s annoying on a baseball economics/equity front.

I normally do not quote other members of the community in my work, but someone said something incredibly apt that bears repeating to anyone who says that the Dodgers are trying to buy another title:

Silverwidow, March 16, 2022:

Every MLB owner could afford this contract. Every single one of them.

Just needed to be said.

He’s right because as Part 2.5 clearly demonstrated, the Atlanta baseball club is making money hand over fist. And even though the team is spending those funds just as quickly, mostly on growing the neighborhood around their ballpark, the fact remains that Freeman was the face of their franchise. Corey Seager isn’t a perfect analogy, but the Dodgers made more than token overtures to resign him. Granted, I feel that the Rangers overpaid to acquire Seager, but it’s their right to do so. Besides, we aren’t talking about a Darren Driefort-level overpay that skewed the market. Heck, the Rays of all teams were in on Freddie Freeman, and I’m not entirely convinced the team isn’t made of three children in a trench coat.

But like any sudden, unexpected divorce, I’m not going to dwell or even comment on it. I do not know or care who said what or whose feelings were hurt. It’s weird seeing a not-insignificant portion of the Atlanta fanbase (or at least the portion of the Atlanta fanbase that uses the internet) turn on Freddie Freeman almost on command because he had the temerity to ask for what he considered his fair market value. I hate to break a dirty little secret to you, but the vast majority of players have the same mindset.

Kenley Jansen recently signed with Atlanta, in a move that seems surprising if you don’t know (or weren’t paying attention to) Kenley’s thought process, Personally, I thought he’d ended up in Miami because Atlanta already has an established closer in Will Smith. But if Will Smith is willing to cede the ninth to Kenley, okay - good for him. The Super Bullpen of Atlanta versus the Super Offense of Los Angeles would be entertaining, provided the Dodgers don’t go 5 for 30 with runners in scoring position...again.

But the de facto “Jansen for Freeman” trade is not why I summoned you here today.

A Study in George C. Scott

When I think of pesky murders, I think not of Sherlock Holmes, but rather of George C. Scott, talking on Johnny Carson. The venerable actor was reciting some language from a play he did from years prior that never left him. I stumbled upon this clip some years ago, and it is from two days before my baby brother was born:

This essay is going to focus on the Minnesota Twins and the Cincinnati Reds, the teams that were respectively 16th and 17th in team payroll last season, because I noticed something interesting so far in this truncated offseason. These two teams had comparable payrolls in 2021 but had drastically different results last year. Let’s bring up the chart from last time, focusing on the bottom-15 team payrolls in baseball in 2021 as a refresher:

Values in Relation to the Median

Team Made Playoffs Date Eliminated Total Difference to Median by Dollars Difference to Median by Percentage
Team Made Playoffs Date Eliminated Total Difference to Median by Dollars Difference to Median by Percentage
CBT Threshold $210,000,000.00 $54,411,554.00 34.97%
Median $155,588,446.00 $0.00 0.00%
Dodgers X October 23 $285,599,944.00 $130,011,498.00 83.56%
Braves X Champion $172,630,704.00 $17,042,258.00 10.95%
Twins September 14 $145,511,247.00 -$10,077,199.00 -6.48%
Reds September 28 $144,248,891.00 -$11,339,555.00 -7.29%
Brewers X October 12 $131,990,136.00 -$23,598,310.00 -15.17%
Rockies September 24 $117,210,393.00 -$38,378,053.00 -24.67%
Rangers September 1 $111,309,808.00 -$44,278,638.00 -28.46%
Diamondbacks September 1 $109,387,132.00 -$46,201,314.00 -29.69%
Royals September 16 $108,026,769.00 -$47,561,677.00 -30.57%
Tigers September 19 $103,879,667.00 -$51,708,779.00 -33.23%
Mariners October 3 $102,679,174.00 -$52,909,272.00 -34.01%
Athletics September 27 $102,225,663.00 -$53,362,783.00 -34.30%
Rays X October 12 $89,833,652.00 -$65,754,794.00 -42.26%
Marlins September 19 $82,332,229.00 -$73,256,217.00 -47.08%
Orioles August 28 $76,348,834.00 -$79,239,612.00 -50.93%
Guardians September 23 $62,212,834.00 -$93,375,612.00 -60.01%
Pirates September 5 $61,812,141.00 -$93,776,305.00 -60.27%
Wow - the Pirates payroll looks somehow worse when you grade it on a curve. Michael Elizondo

Would I ever pass up an opportunity to dunk on Bob Nutting? Probably not. Anyway, for those of you not paying attention to other teams besides the Dodgers, here’s a brief recap of what happened to both the Twins and the Reds last year.

The Twins in 2021: Everything that could go wrong, pretty much did go wrong.

Considering that the Twins were two-time AL Central Division champions, which amounted to a hill of beans as they continued their continental-worst playoff losing streak in 2020 - win a playoff game Twins and the mockery will stop, the expectation was that the Twins and the White Sox would be in a dogfight throughout the year.

That scenario did not happen as the Twins fell flat on their faces to start the year 9-15. Things only got worse from there as the Twins were basically done for the year by the All-Star Break, not posting a winning record until August. By this point, the Twins had traded their ace, Jose Berríos, to Toronto for a decent haul. Old friend Kenta Maeda was injured and required Tommy John surgery. The Twins ended the year 73-89, which was good enough for last in the division, one game behind the rebuilding Kansas City Royals. The Twins were officially eliminated from playoff contention on September 14.

The Reds in 2021: Missed it by that much or The Unlucky Recipients of a St. Louis beating.

No one was really sure what to expect from the Reds in 2021. They just lost their best pitcher in 2020, who managed to win the Cy Young while somehow not managing to make a distraction of himself until the end, of course. To be fair, going 0 for a playoff series will do that, but I could watch the following reaction all day, which I’ve queued up for you. (You can stop when the GoPro makes an appearance.)

I wish I could feel morally superior, but the Dodgers went and signed the idiot. Remember, he was this close to being a Met, which shows why we don’t have nice things.

Anyway, the Reds were in the hunt for the NL’s second Wild Card for most of the year, putting themselves in a position to take advantage of a certain collapsing, choking dog team that “won the offseason” but folded faster than Superman on laundry day (warning, auto-tuned white guy rapping). Then the Reds lost a series to St. Louis, who had just split a four-game series with the Dodgers with a certain de facto Traveling Correspondent in attendance. Then, the Cardinals didn’t lose for over two and a half weeks and that was basically that.

The Reds finished 83-79, good enough for third in the NL Central, and were officially eliminated on September 28, 2021.

The Trendlines at the start of the Offseason

If trendlines were a thing, or if you hadn’t been paying attention, you’d think that the Twins would be settling into a tank/rebuilding period and that the Reds would be gearing up.

However, in Part 3, after noticing some unusual cost-cutting prior to the lockout, I made the following observation:

TrueBlueLA, Michael Elizondo, March 11, 2022:

Of course, the Reds have to get cheaper, they have been spending on a level akin to someone with three times the financial resources of their owner. As a result, that financial check is coming due soon. Cincinnati is a decent baseball town and their ballpark is alright. It’s not Pittsburgh, but under the right circumstances, yeah, I’d go back.

The financial pinch coming is the only way to explain why the Reds are entertaining trades for pieces that you would normally build around. Castellanos hasn’t said why he left, but I’d be shocked if he didn’t opt out because he was oblivious to the financial trends coming to a head in Cincinnati.

As such, the (Reds’) Emperor has no clothes and people (most notably, their fans /waves to the Reds’ community) are starting to notice. Moreover, their owner is one of the four owners who allegedly would have voted against any bump to the CBT threshold prior to the commissioner canceling the first week of the season. These owners’ position doesn’t make any sense because apart from Arte Moreno in Anaheim, none of these owners were spending anywhere close to the CBT threshold in 2021! Granted, the Reds were on the high-side of the bottom-15, which is likely to change if Reds’ owner Bob Castellini has his way in cutting costs.

And cut costs, he did. But a funny thing happened after Part 3, which is worth discussing.

The Immolation of the 2022 Cincinnati Reds and the Rise of the 2022 Minnesota Twins

If you told me at the beginning of the 2022 offseason that the Reds were going to tank and the Twins were going to actually try, I would have been skeptical. But then I did the work researching for Part 3. I learned the following fact that I am asking you to remember now: almost to a man, most of the owners are comfortably billionaires. However, Bob Castellini is an exception to this observation as shown below.

The Hypocrisy Chart of Baseball

Team Total Owner Net Worth Purchase Price Year Purchased Current Franchise Valuation
Team Total Owner Net Worth Purchase Price Year Purchased Current Franchise Valuation
CBT Threshold $210,000,000
Dodgers $285,599,944 $3,400,000,000 $2,150,000,000 2012 $3,600,000,000
Padres $216,467,391 $3,000,000,000 $800,000,000 2012 $1,760,000,000
Phillies $209,370,501 $3,300,000,000 $30,000,000 1981 $2,100,000,000
Yankees $208,418,540 $3,800,000,000 $8,800,000 1973 $5,250,000,000
Mets $207,728,776 $16,000,000,000 $2,400,000,000 2020 $2,500,000,000
Red Sox $207,640,471 $2,600,000,000 $380,000,000 2002 $3,400,000,000
Astros $206,641,209 $1,300,000,000 $465,000,000 2011 $1,870,000,000
Angels $198,984,916 $3,300,000,000 $183,500,000 2003 $2,030,000,000
Cardinals $198,350,234 $4,000,000,000 $150,000,000 1995 $2,200,000,000
White Sox $177,837,827 $1,500,000,000 $20,000,000 1981 $1,690,000,000
Nationals $174,582,117 $4,500,000,000 $450,000,000 2006 $1,900,000,000
Giants $173,481,453 $4,400,000,000 $100,000,000 1993 $3,200,000,000
Braves $172,630,704 $6,600,000,000 $450,000,000 2007 $1,880,000,000
Blue Jays $166,054,167 $9,029,581,500 $165,000,000 2000 $1,680,000,000
Cubs $165,665,645 $1,800,000,000 $700,000,000 2009 $3,400,000,000
Twins $145,511,247 $3,800,000,000 $44,000,000 1984 $1,330,000,000
Reds $144,248,891 $400,000,000 $270,000,000 2006 $1,080,000,000
Brewers $131,990,136 $700,000,000 $223,000,000 2005 $1,200,000,000
Rockies $117,210,393 $700,000,000 $190,000,000 1993 $1,300,000,000
Rangers $111,309,808 $2,000,000,000 $593,000,000 2010 $1,790,000,000
Diamondbacks $109,387,132 $600,000,000 $238,000,000 2004 $1,320,000,000
Royals $108,026,769 $1,250,000,000 $1,000,000,000 2019 $1,060,000,000
Tigers $103,879,667 $3,800,000,000 $82,000,000 1992 $1,260,000,000
Mariners $102,679,174 $1,100,000,000 $1,200,000,000 2016 $1,630,000,000
Athletics $102,225,663 $2,200,000,000 $180,000,000 2005 $1,130,000,000
Rays $89,833,652 $800,000,000 $200,000,000 2004 $1,060,000,000
Marlins $82,332,229 $500,000,000 $1,200,000,000 2020 $990,000,000
Orioles $76,348,834 $2,000,000,000 $173,000,000 1993 $1,400,000,000
Guardians $62,212,834 $4,600,000,000 $323,000,000 2000 $1,160,000,000
Pirates $61,812,141 $1,100,000,000 $92,000,000 1996 $1,290,000,000
Bet you didn’t realize the vast majority of owners were rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Michael Elizondo

Keeping this fact in mind, it’s not surprising that the Reds are putting the torch to anyone worth more than a plugged nickel. But even I had no idea that the Reds were going to strip themselves for parts in a manner of efficiency that would make even Bernie Madoff blush if he were still alive.

The nadir (so far) was the following trade, made on March 14, 2022:

Cincinnati Reds trade OF Jesse Winker, 3B Eugenio Suárez to Seattle Mariners for RHP Justin Dunn, OF Jake Fraley, LHP Brandon Williamson and a player to be named later.

To recap, in order for the Reds to clear the now-Cody Bellinger-esque contract on their books (Bellinger is making $17 million this year to hit like a pitcher so far, and Suarez is set to make $11 million to do the same), the Reds gave away an actual All-Star to clear that Suarez’s entire contract off their books. Oh, and if you watched the Bauer clip, Suarez was the hitter who didn’t have the RBI hit, presumably because Joey Votto was the lead runner...or something. No idea.

If I were a Reds fan, I would revolt and not spend a dime until the bad man was gone, a la Frank McCourt (but even he’s not really gone per se - spoiler alert for an upcoming essay).

But how can the Dodgers profit from this baseball malpractice masquerading as a major league team? Well, the Dodgers should clearly re-enact the Homer Bailey trade and take Joey Votto off the Reds' hands for the sole purpose of obtaining a Luis Castillo or Tyler Mahle. Except for the fact, Joey Votto has a full no-trade clause and he has previously stated that he doesn’t want to be traded. Maybe he likes cinnamon and cloves in his chili, who knows. And the Reds just named Tyler Mahle as the Opening Day starter. They wouldn’t trade their Opening Day starter, would they?

However, the Reds do have one other albatross contract on their books: Mike Moustakas. I normally do not suggest trades, but in this case, I will break my own rule, because I see the con now and I figure it is only money.

  • Reds trade 3B Mike Moustakas, RHP Luis Castillo
  • Dodgers trade OF Jeren Kendall, 1B/DH Matt Beaty, RHP Michael Grove, UTIL Zach McKinstry, and a PTBNL

No rational team should make this trade. A competent GM should bust into tears laughing and then tell me to f— off before hanging up on me. But the Reds have been anything but competent this offseason.

So naturally, if trends hold, I should be ripping into the Twins, right? About that...

The Minnesota Twins are actually trying and are making some actual baseball moves! Most notably:

Yes, Captain Trashcan can opt out of his contract after any of the seasons, but say the Twins repeat their awful first half of last year: they can get something for Correa and try again next year. Do I think the addition of Correa makes the Twins as good as the White Sox? Absolutely not. But if the White Sox regress or maybe they have a shot at the second Wild Card if everything goes right. They still have to win an actual postseason baseball game, but one step at a time folks.

Oh, and one last note regarding the Twins. Their fanbase has noticed the team actually trying to do something and has responded in kind:

At least, I’ll have the chance to boo Correa in person, but that’s a story for another day. But oh wow, a team that is actually trying. I should not have to applaud the bare minimum of effort but considering the state of the league, I will take what minor victories I can get. Apart from the literal cold, the Twin Cities can be a pretty chill, hip place to be. And on that pun, which was fully intended, we wrap up this mini-installment about other people’s money.

Commentary

Money(ball)! / Law Talk Crossover: Funicular Fight, Part 2

Player Profiles

2022 Dodgers players season reviews

Old Friends

Tommy Kahnle signs with Yankees, per reports