Friday, December 19, 2014

That's Just Crazy, Buster

   ESPN Baseball Insider Buster Olney suggested in a blog post today that the Baltimore Orioles might be entitled to huge compensation from the Blue Jays if they are successful in hiring current O's GM Dan Duquette.
   Duquette is under contract with the Orioles until 2018.  As a courtesy, most teams will allow an employee under contract to interview for a promotion with another club.  Legally, Olney points out, O's owner Peter Angelos would be within his rights to ask for compensation if Duquette is hired by the Blue Jays.
   We are truly in an era when top baseball executives can have a significant impact on the direction and fortunes of an organization.  "Great baseball executives," writes Olney, "continue to be the most undervalued asset in an industry currently obsessed with identifying value."  He suggests that the return the Red Sox received from the Cubs for the hiring of Theo Epstein (reliever Chris "The Other One" Carpenter), was paltry when compared to the value the Cubs received in the form of Epstein. Adds Olney:

   Think about that: Epstein is regarded as one of the best and brightest minds in baseball and was being pursued for a leadership position with a billion-dollar company, and he was under contract, and all the Red Sox received was a second-tier relief pitcher.

  The history of compensation for signing major league managers and executives is sparse to begin with.  The Blue Jays received infielder Mike Aviles from the Red Sox when they hire John Farrell away from Toronto in 2013.  The Blue Jays then donated Aviles and catcher Yan Gomes to the Indians in return for pitcher Esmil Rogers. When the Cubs and Red Sox could not initially agree on compensation for the signing of Epstein, both sides submitted written proposals to Commissioner Bud Selig, before reaching an agreement in the form of Carpenter.

  Olney suggests the O's could be entitled to one of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, or Daniel Norris, or a package of top prospects Jeff Hoffman, Max Pentecost, and Richard Urena, in return for agreeing to let Duquette go.

  And with all due respect, that's ridiculous.

  Certainly, the O's should receive more compensation than a middling reliever or slightly above league average middle infielder.  The Blue Jays are a direct competitor, and Duquette not only would bring his vast baseball knowledge to Toronto, he would also be packing a depth of information about O's players both on the 40-man roster, and in their minor league organization.  And it's understandable that Baltimore would aim their sights that high: the Red Sox were reportedly asking for Matt Garza and/or Starlin Castro in return for Epstein, but settled for considerably less.  Still, if the matter of compensation between Toronto and Baltimore could not be agreed upon, the price Olney suggests is far too steep, and could severely limit the movement of executives in the future.
   Duquette would not doubt add value to the Toronto organization.  The Blue Jays players Olney mentions could add tens of millions of dollars to the club's player values.  Given the history of compensation, though, we just can't see it, and even though the Blue Jays have shown that they are not afraid to use top prospects as currency, we find it hard to believe that they would agree to the demands Olney suggests.

   Who would the O's be entitled to?  As we said, they should be compensated above the norm.  To us, though, that means a #11-20 prospect of Toronto's choosing - and even that's a huge price, given the precedent established.  With the Blue Jays on an upward swing in their competitive cycle, it will be hard to measure exactly how much value Duquette would add to the organization.  It won't be as hard to determine the value the players mentioned will have.
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