As it stands now, looks like the third highest paid player by the Blue Jays in 2012 is going to be the Washington Nationals’ Mark Teahen. Regardless of whether the Canadian (only two years removed from a .271/12/50 season) makes the Nats out of spring training or not, the Jays will have to be paying him over $5 million out of his approximately $5.5 million left on his contract originally signed by the White Sox.
It’s amazing. As the Jays were hyping young Brett Lawrie to the hilt and marketing his Canadianism like a sham-wow, they did nothing at all to use or promote Teahen, a veteran and versatile Canadian third baseman. To argue that Teahen is over-paid and perhaps under-skilled is irrelevant; Alex Anthopolous took him on willingly and then released him outright just as willingly. All this while the team has taken on a new (well, more aptly revived their long standing old ) policy of extreme financial prudence. They prefer to chance Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek in the rotation again this season rather than go after say Javier Vasquez or Roy Oswalt because it will save the team a few million dollars. But they can afford to pay a Canadian millions to play for another team. The costs of the ill-advised Colby Rasmus trade continue to add up.
Some have commented on my decided preference for veteran players over young hot prospects. I’ve made no attempt to hide my lack of confidence in some “can’t miss” Jays prospects such as the aforementioned Drabek , as well as Travis Snider, Anthony Gose and on and on. I’ve probably noted before that I’d rather go for a pretty sure 11 or 12 wins and 180+ innings from a Vasquez than roll the dice on Drabek. I’d happily trade Rasmus and Gose to get one outfielder who has proven he can hit .275 with 20 homers each year.
Anyway, to give you a bit more reason as to why I feel that way (besides reminding Toronto fans of the names Russ Adams and Kevin Ahrens (first round, “can’t miss” draft picks both), I looked through the list of top picks by every team in 2005 and 2006. Then I classified the 59 into four groups. (It’s 59 not 60 as Luke Hochevar was picked both years, after not signing on with Dodgers, was picked again the next year by KC). Although arbitrary and open for debate, I split the class into “stars”, “regular solid players”, “marginally made majors” and “flops”.
Out of the 59, I came up with 12 players who’ve become “stars”: Jacoby Ellsbury, Evan Longoria, Ricky Romero, Matt Garza, Trevor Cahill, Ryan Zimmerman, Jay Bruce, Ryan Braun of both ’11 MVP AND pending 50-game suspension fame, Justin Upton, troy Tulowitzki, Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum. Certainly a distinguished lineup.
Furthermore, another 16 classified in my books as solid, if unspectacular, regular players. Included here were the likes of pitcher Lance Broadway, infielder Alex Gordon and , grudgingly, the Jays own Travis Snider.
However, 15 of the 59 could best be described as “marginal” career-wise. Jeff Clement, Kevin Mulvey and the over-mentioned Drabek fit here.
Worse yet, a full 16 are essentially total flops- players who never even got to the Big Leagues. Billy Rowell (Baltimore’s top pick in ’06) or Kasey Kiker (Rangers ’06 draft ace-in-the-making who ended up making the team seem the joker instead) anyone?
The point is , even with all the advance scouting and saybermatics clubs have a less than 50-50 chance of picking a winner when they draft young players. For every Tim Lincecum seen and signed as a teenager there’s a Mike Pawelek, not to mention a couple of David Huffs and Andrew Millers.
While it’s true that for the most part every Roy Halladay and Matt Kemp were once star minor league prospects, it pays to remind oneself that not every star minor league prospect will become the next Halladay or Kemp.