05 March 2009

Think I'll Go Eat Worms

If Juan Pierre was a free agent right now, what kind of contract could he get?

A short one. Probably a half year contract, if such a thing was allowed. I guess the closest thing to that is a non-guaranteed minor league deal with an invite to spring training and a bonus if the player makes the opening day roster. Now I do think there are plenty of teams out there for which Pierre would easily make the opening day roster. There are maybe a few where he would makes sense as a starter, given the other options. But no team is going to reach out eagerly for him, thinking he is the difference-maker. No one is going to say to Pierre, "we really want you".

One year guaranteed would be Pierre's best case scenario. There just isn't any question about that, not when Orlando Hudson only gets a one year deal with half the money contingent upon playing time, not when Adam Dunn only gets two years. So when the Dodgers invite Pierre and his agent to pursue a trade of Pierre to another team, my first thought is that there is no way this can happen. Pierre has three years left on his deal. No matter how much of his contract the Dodgers consume, the team acquiring him is looking at a three year commitment. Hell, not even Manny gets three years.

I suppose that if the Dodgers devoured enough of his contract, the acquiring team could look at his acquisition as a one-year commitment. If another team is willing to pay Pierre 4 million for one year ( a high price ), then the Dodgers could make the trade if they paid all but 4 million of his remaining guaranteed money. Then the last two years of Pierre's contract would be gravy for the acquiring team --- they could either keep him for free after the first year, or just release him at no additional cost if something better came along.

That's a very high price for the Dodgers to pay just to get rid of Pierre. Though the price to keep him is even higher.

These moments must be soul-crushing for Juan Pierre. Waiting, all winter and into spring, for his final benching to come. It came yesterday when Manny was signed. He says he understands it, but does that ease the sting? And now looking for a job, looking for another team to want him. The Dodgers can't even be bothered to look for a trade partner. He has to do it himself. He has his money, but that doesn't feed the soul or make the days bright. It doesn't buy out the humiliation. But in the end he does have the money, and that's a lot more than a lot of people have right now.

Colletti made a terrible mistake two years ago, but Pierre did as well. Pierre's mistake was one almost anyone would make, but that doesn't change what it is. He could never live up to the contract. It was a lie from the beginning, two men fooling each other across the table. It was always going to end badly. There was never, ever, ever any question of that. Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt might have earned their money in the end if things had gone differently. There was potential with them for great things, even if there were also ominous warning signs. But there was never any of that potential with Pierre. His contract was a sunk cost from day one. And now he must realize it in some way. The sadness of his quotes about the situation shows that.

The contract is the part of the game I hate. I don't want to spend an offseason wondering if Manny will be back because of negotiations over his contract. I don't want to worry about Martin and Kemp and Ethier and Billingsley and Kershaw leaving years from now because the Dodgers can't offer them a large enough contract. I don't want the money they make be as important a stat as home runs or on-base percentage. The contract distorts the game. The contract invites rogues like Scott Boras into baseball. It pits fans against the players they once loved. It breaks hearts.

But there's no getting away from it. There is no professional baseball without player contracts. So we live with it. And when the games begin, when the everyday rhythm of wins and losses come again, we can almost forget it.

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