Q: That was a decade and a half ago, really. Fifteen years. Do you think people, the general populace still judges in those terms?
A: I think it frames that very guttural reaction, like, "Hey, if you win it's already been shown people will come." That's what you hear all the time.
Q: Do you believe that?
A: I think more people will come. But the challenge is 2.2 million instead of 1.6 million doesn't change the way we operate. Even that extra 500,000, 600,000 people, even if that's $10-to-15 more million in revenue a year . . . one win in free agency is $9 million. So you're not going to change the context. Again, I don't think people want to intellectualize baseball, and I don't believe you should have to intellectualize baseball . . . and we've made a conscious decision in most of our interviews not to get into these topics and just stay positive and talk about what our aspirations are.
But that revenue swing between 1.5 million in attendance and 2.2 million in attendance . . . meaningful dollars but not dollars that will have us plan dramatically different.
A: It would change the amount of spent to 15 million dollars a year. What does that buy you in free agency? Very little. One and a half wins.
Q: How is that figure determined?
A: Our analysts can put a value on what it costs in free agency to sign a player and what that means in Wins Above Replacement and what those players end up costing in free agency and that changes every year. They measure all the players signed in free agency and what their history has been and what they offer going forward and they place a value. The challenge in free agency is you're often paying for that in the first year of a contract, and in the out years of a contract the players WAR usually goes down because he's usually past his prime. So it becomes a less efficient contract over time. That's why free agency is never the best way to build. It's a good way to supplement but not build.
A: Yeah, he had the best year of his career, so he over-performed what anyone expected him to do this year (2012).
Q: You couldn't know because it was a unique year, but had you guessed that would you have been more willing to . . .
A: Well we offered him more than he signed for. We just didn't offer three years.
Q: And what was the thinking in not offering the three years?
A: Just our adversity to risk, probably. Our understanding of what a poor performing contract can do to our ability to operate and maneuver.
A: We're not going to be able to sign these guys to extensions. We're not trying to hide from that. That creates circumstances where we have to make decisions about when the right juncture is to either let them walk away or to trade them. It doesn't mean we won't continue to try to sign guys. Periodically it doesn't mean that occasionally we won't be able to do it. It's going to take always some sharing of the risk and some desire for a guy to want to be here and placing a premium on that. If a guy places a premium on wanting to be here and we feel it's the right kind of guy, it's still a possibility. But as a general premise when guys reach free agent years it's going to be a challenge. We're not running from that. We're going to have him for six years at a minimum, maybe longer, and we have to have more talent coming up.
A: You know, the context for evaluating those things is very difficult. It's very hard to do in one moment in time. You've almost got to take a business look. And you can't ask that question so broadly.
For example, I think the last three years, our drafts based on the expected value of our picks have been very good. The prior five to six years before that, certainly we did not have good drafts. And we're suffering for that now to some extent.
Yet you evaluate our trades compared to other trades, we were very successful in our trades. Among the more successful teams. Internationally we've done well.
We need to do very well on every side of player acquisition. We can't do well in two out of three.
I think we've made adjustments to the way we draft, the way we strategize. And I think we've had more successful drafts the last three years. If our drafts continue to be as successful and productive and we get players from those drafts playing in the big leagues as quick as the guys we have right now contributing, and we continue to do that, then we'll be in much better shape going forward.