Thursday, October 14, 2004

Getting Lieber and Olerud: More Bucks than Brains

Looking through the New York Post this morning, the articles were full of praise for Brian Cashman as his "little" moves in getting Lieber and Olerud paid off big last night. Kevin Kernan made Cashman out to be the next Billy Beane. Well, let's take a closer look at these moves and see why the guy doesn't deserve any credit.

In early 2003, when the Yanks signed Lieber, they already had Clemens, Mussina, Pettitte, Wells, Contreras, Hitchcock, and Jeff Weaver as potential starters (for a total of $53 million- more than other teams' whole payrolls). So Lieber was basically a #8 starter. And even if you want to say that the Yanks knew Clemens wasn't coming back, so that makes him #7. (I don't think anyone expected Pettitte to leave at that point.) Basically, the Yankees were gambling on $3 million that the guy would pitch effectively in '04 after Tommy John surgery.

How many teams can afford to gamble on a potential #7 starter? The Royals and Brewers wish they could give that kind of money to their #3 starter, let alone a backup-backup! The A's can barely afford Hudson, Mulder, and Zito. They can't spend on an "insurance plan" like Lieber. So signing Leiber was more about Cashman having money to burn than anything else.

If anything, the fact that Leiber has gone from the #7 man to #2 just tells you how the Yanks' rotation has gone from very deep to very thin in less than two years. Nice going, Cashman.

As for Olerud, the guy rejected a chance to play for the Giants, telling them he wanted to hang it up. But when the Yankees called, he was ready to go. Kinda like Hideki Irabu all over again.

Besides, guys like Olerud and Cairo do well in the Yankee lineup because they get pitches to hit. If you walk these guys, you'll end up facing Jeter and A-Rod. When Olerud was on Seattle, who'd you have to worry about after, Bucky Jacobsen? So there you've got nothing to lose by pitching more carefully around guys like Olerud. And with more runners on base in New York and more pressure on the pitcher, Olerud does much better than he did in Seattle.

So ultimately, it's more about the big money boppers than the little guys.

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