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Friday, November 05, 2004

On Monday, I wrote about the small budget the White Sox would be carrying into the new season and the hiring of Wally Backman in Arizona. Wednesday, I wrote a piece on putting together a budget team.

It's amazing how quickly these entries can become completely irrelevant. Before I went to bed on Wednesday night, I caught a Chicago Tribune article that claimed the Sox would be opening up their pocketbook a little bit this year. And then today, the Diamondbacks have fired Wally Backman, and hired Bob Melvin. I'm beginning to feel like some of the stuff I write actually has some sort of cosmic effect on the world, and causes the powers-that-be to do the opposite.

* * * * *

Today featured one of the most bizarre off-season moves of the year to date. The Yankees declined the $8M option of Jon Lieber.

Now I have to preface the rest of what I'm about to write with a little disclaimer. I am a huge Jon Lieber fan. Not that I've followed his career very closely, but since I about the time I left high school, he's been one of my favorite pitchers, even though he spent 4 years pitching for the Cubs.

You may be skeptical about my infatuation with Lieber, but I actually drafted the guy in 3 of my 4 fantasy baseball leagues this past season. This was a guy who came off of reconstructive surgery, and didn't even play in 2003, and I'm blowing my fantasy drafts with him. He didn't tear up the league, but he certainly proved to be a much more fruitful pick than some guys I selected earlier(Dontrelle Willis, Brandon Webb, Josh Beckett).

So now that we've gotten my love-fest for Lieber out of the way, WTF was Steinbrenner thinking? I say Steinbrenner, knowing full well he's not the GM, Cashman is, but we all know who is the final decision maker in that organization. Lieber came into the Season as the Yankees #5 or #6 starter, and by the time the playoffs rolled around he was starting game #2 of the ALDS.

So why decline an option worth $8M? If it was any other team, I wouldn't really question it, but $8M for a 5th starter almost seems like the Yankees are underpaying. The Yankees now have until November 12th to sign Lieber to a deal before he can legally negotiate with other teams. But why let it come to that if you are the Yankees? You have nearly an unlimited resource of funds. The savings that you may end up with ($3M?) isn't going to make-or-break your budget. Meanwhile you run the risk of losing your second best pitcher to any one of the other 29 teams, including bitter rivals the Red Sox. Cashman better get a deal done quickly or the "Big Stein" is gonna have his butt in a sling.

I have no realistic grasp on the market for Lieber, but I would think that his stock soared in the post-season(1-1, 3.43ERA, 21IP). Only Carlos Beltran and Derek Lowe raised their stocks more with their amazing post-season performances.

I can't imagine a team in baseball who wouldn't want Lieber on their staff, and that's why it's so hard to determine what the market will price him at. He'll likely end up with a contender who has some cash to spend, i.e. Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox. The White Sox should do everything in their power to sign him by November 13th. For my money, he's a safer investment than Carl Pavano.

* * * * *

The Cubs signed Neifi Perez to a 1 year, $1M contract for 2005. Neifi has a career OPS+ of 63. He makes Timo Perez look like Barry Bonds. I can hardly contain my laughter.