Monday, November 08, 2004

How Much Is A Roster Spot Worth?

Okay. In order to make a point here, I'm going to have to sacrifice my pride upon the Altar of Geekiness and it's not going to be a pretty sight. Here goes:

I used to play Magic.

Not just play, I used to be seriously addicted and still get little twinges from time to time as I have not really found a suitable repacement for what I still think is one of best strategy games ever made (although the addiction part has been nicely satisfied by my weekly poker game).

The reason, however, I'm bringing this up is because I've often thought that assembling a 25 man roster is very similar to putting together a deck of Magic cards. In Magic, the goal is to assemble a deck of cards around a particular strategy that is exactly 60 cards, no more, no less. Now while I'm not going to go into the reasons behind this strategy, the point I'd like to make is that each and every card slot in the dack is exceedingly valuable. Hard decisions have to be made whether to include or exclude a particular card and many good cards often must be left behind when the card list is finally trimmed.

To me, putting together a 25 man roster should be treated just as you were putting together a deck of Magic cards. Having a player on your roster that does not contribute (or contributes poorly), immediately puts a team at a disadvantage since that team has less options than it's opponent. If there are no better options for filling the spot, it should then be used to give a minor league player some experience. This way, even if the player doesn't perform, the slot isn't wasted because the team gains information on how the player can perform at a major league level.

Last year, the most infuriating thing about John Franco was not that he didn't perform well but that he took up a spot all season long that could have been used to evaluate a young player. This year, the Mets have a similar decision regarding Al Leiter. While Leiter will almost certainly perform better than Franco, he still has a high risk of injury or collapse and he takes up a rotation slot that could be used to evaluate a youngster.

The other parallel Magic Decks have with baseball is the inclusion of "versatile players". The best type of cards are ones that would be useful no matter what type of deck you were facing. They played multiple roles and gave you more options with the rest of your deck.

While it's true that Joe McEwing was one of the worst players in the majors OPS-wise the past three years, his versatility does give the Mets more options with the rest of their bench. This is especially important in the DH-less NL and allows the Mets to carry players like Craig Brazell on their roster without hampering themselves. Granted there are better utility players out there than McEwing but unless you get one of them, Super Joe sadly will be needed this year.

Keeping all this in mind, the question I think most GM's should be asking themselves is how much is a roster spot worth? Is it really worth paying Mike Stanton $4 million dollars this year to perform poorly or is it better just to release him and use the spot to evaluate a youngster? While that's a lot of cash to be throwing away, it's really a win-win situation for the team. If the youngster fails, he probably won't be any worse than Stanton would have been and the Mets would a least be able to take away the information they gathered on the player. If he succeeds, then they look like geniuses. With Stanton on the roster, unless he has a spectacular bounce-back year, they get nothing.

The question is how much is it worth to evaluate a player? How high would you go to get that roster spot back? In 2003, the Tigers set the modern day record by releasing Damion Easley with two years and $14.3million left on his contract. Compared to that, Stanton is chump change.

If Omar Minaya was smart, he'd take the roster spot and run.


At 4:24 PM, Blogger Kim said...

I don't think there's anything that will ever replace magic... I've transitioned to texas hold-em poker, but even the thrill of that is not the same...

At 4:58 PM, Blogger a2d said...

I've got to admit I'm not entirely sold on your Stanton situation. I just put up an article about the bullpen over at my blog, so I was forced to take a hard look at Stanton and the bullpen options the Mets face, and I think Stanton could serve more of a purpose then to be cut and paid. Stanton's aging, but his numbers dictate that he's still got some gas in the tank. Howe simply liked to work the guy a lot, for whatever strange Art Howe reason he had -- and he had plenty. If Willie can use Stanton a lot more sparingly, and not have him in every pressure situation the Mets face, I think Stanton could be a lot better then a young arm that has a lot better chance of failing miserably.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Jay said...

You're right, Kim, there's nothing more addictive and thrilling than Magic in terms of strategy games. I still pull out my cards to look at them once in a while, then slowly walk away...shaking.

Remarkable, remarkable game -- very little comes close. It's nice to know I'm not the only recovering addict. :-)

At 1:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's amazing... I didn't know I could end my addiction known as Magic.... I'll have to look into that... ah nevermind I think I'll go build a new deck :P

At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian David-Marshall just posted a link to your site in this article '' I wonder how many extra hits your site will draw due to you including your link to the M:tG site. Oh, and he wants to pay for your next prerelease event (Unhinged is the next set to be released... I'd take him up on it, as Unhinged is the crazy casual set with kooky cards) ya' know... in case you get bored reading his article (God knows I do)
Posting As: ~Sheep

At 5:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

da me says:
heh, there's no recovering from magic. that's like saying i had a great day, but then i recovered. anyway, yeah the eval really sounds like a good idea. if i owned a team(be happy i dont-dudes in weird suits) i would definitely rather have some sux and info instead of just sux.

At 5:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...Magic. *drools* :)

Being one of the 'suitcase' players at the moment from good old Britain, I have to say it isn't geeky, it's a cult! :)

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Greg said...

The real question is: which has the longer comprehensive rulebook, baseball or Magic?

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Jay said...

I think I may end up doing an extended post on this but I think I really enjoy Magic for the same reasons I enjoy baseball. Baseball may be a sport but I'd argue it has more strategy than any of the other major sports. Football comes close but it simply doesn't have
the statistics baseball does.

And, y'know, there is really no 'recovering' from Magic. You either play it or you don't. If you have played it before, you'll always come back to it barring extenuating circumstances (such as a PhD thesis, *ahem*).

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