In the recent days, the Chicago Cubs new president of baseball operations Theo Epstein who delivered two World Series titles to Boston spoke with his hometown media about how his new team will be built.
To put it succinctly, draft and player development were the operative words. Quite a contrast from what is going on in the Winter Meetings this week as far as the Miami Marlins are concerned.
Quite frankly, Epstein knows what it takes to win a consistent winner in the game of baseball. Consistent being the key word. Sure you can go out and spend hundreds of millions dollars (see Miami this winter and New York Yankees in previous winters) and win one season in ten. But ultimately those deals will only stifle future progress.
How do you think the Yankees feel about still owing A.J. Burnett $33 million over the next two seasons? Or the oft-injured A-Rod another $169 million over the next six seasons?
If you don’t think it’s a serious problem, take a glance at the Mets trying to completely shed payroll and the White Sox re-tooling after a disastrous Adam Dunn signing from last winter.
The way you craft a perennial playoff and title contending ball club is to develop a corps of young and talented players through the draft and deft trading.
Now this process takes time initially, but once an organization is five years into this process, that youthful corps will have presented itself.
As long as it has been done right — forming strength in players up the middle (shortstop, centerfield, second base), a corner infield spot (either first or third) and elite pitching (two dominant starters), this team will be ready to contend in year five, if not sooner. All following seasons will only further progress the state of the organization.
The Seattle Mariners have been following this modus operendi for three full seasons under the Jack Zduriencik regime. Under Zduriencik, Seattle has built up a wealth of elite young starting pitching as well as a corps of young position players that are in the early stages of their baseball careers.
Players like Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Mike Carp, Trayvon Robinson, Kyle Seager and Casper Wells are in this early stage of their careers in which they are still growing into their bodies and learning the game at the major league level.
If you believe in that group of players, you don’t interrupt this process. It is absolutely critical in their development for very few players can come into the league and play at a high level from day 1.
If the Mariners were to sign Prince Fielder or any other free agent position player to an exorbitant deal (six years or above and $90 million or above), the move(s) will only end up hindering that progress.
“We’re not going to do anything in the short term that will hurt the long term.”
New Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Chicago Cubs, Jed Hoyer. Words that Mariners fans should take to heart this holiday season.