If Omar Minaya’s only good trait as a GM is throwing big-money deals around, how does he compare to another GM from a big-market club?  Here I compare his performance with big contracts to Cubs GM Jim Hendry.

Recently we had an article on the site written by Kevin Orris pointing out why he liked Omar Minaya as the general manager for the Mets. One of his many criticisms of Minaya was that his good moves amounted to just throwing money around, as if any GM for a team with the Mets’ payroll could accomplish the same thing.

Let’s see how this holds up. Viewing 2009 Opening Day payrolls, the Mets checked in with the second-highest payroll with $149.4 million, or $52 million behind the first-place Yankees. In third place were the Chicago Cubs, with a $134.8 million payroll. With a difference of less than $15 million, lets examine the big-ticket items for the Mets and Cubs since Minaya took control prior to the 2005 season.

The Cubs GM is Jim Hendry, who has held the position since being promoted from the assistant ranks in July of 2002. Here are the moves made by Hendry since the end of the 2004 season which totaled over $5 million per year. Contract figures are mostly from Cot’s. Numbers from Baseball-Reference and the AP were used where figures from Cot’s were unavailable. Numbers may not match up exactly due to signing bonuses, deferred compensation or other teams picking up some of the cost of the contract.

2009

Signed Milton Bradley to a two-year, $20 million contract (with a $12 million option that vests with 75 games played by Bradley in 2009) in January

2008

Picked up $8 million option on Rich Harden in October

Re-signed Ryan Dempster to a four-year, $52 million contract in November

2007

Avoided arbitration with Carlos Zambrano, signing him to a one-year, $12.4 million deal

Signed Carlos Zambrano to a five-year, $91.5 million extension in August.

Signed Kosuke Fukudome to a four-year, $48 million contract in December

2006

Avoided arbitration with Carlos Zambrano, signing him to a one-year, $6.5 million deal

Avoided arbitration with Juan Pierre, signing him to a one-year, $5.75 million contract

Signed Jacques Jones to three-year, $16 million contract in January

Re-signed Derrek Lee to a five-year, $65 million deal in April

Signed Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million contract in November

Signed Aramis Ramirez to a five-year, $75 million contract which replaces last year’s extension

Signed Ted Lilly to a four-year, $40 million contract in December

Signed Jason Marquis to a three-year, $21 million contract in December

2005

Avoided arbitration with Aramis Ramirez, signing him to a one-year, $8.95 million deal

Signed Jeromy Burnitz to a one-year, $5 million contract in February

Signed Aramis Ramirez to four-year, $42-million extension in April

Signed Ryan Dempster to a three-year, $15.5 million extension in September (includes $1 million signing bonus. 2006 salary less than $5 million)

2004

Re-signed Nomar Garciaparra to a one-year, $8.25 million contract in December

*****

Here are Minaya’s big deals in the same time frame:

2009

Re-signed Oliver Perez to a three-year, $36 million deal in February

2008

Lost in arbitration to Oliver Perez on a one-year $6.5 million contract

Signed Johan Santana to a six-year, $137.5 million contract in February

Exercised $12 million option on Carlos Delgado in October

Signed Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year, $37 million deal (with a vesting option based on games finished in either 2011 or 2010-2011 and a doctor saying he’s healthy) in December

Traded for J.J. Putz, who was owed $5 million in 2009 (with a team option for $8.6 million in 2010) in December

2007

Picked up option on Moises Alou for $7.5 million

Re-signed Luis Castillo to a four-year, $25 million contract in November

2006

Signed Jose Reyes to a four-year, $23.25 million extension in August

Signed David Wright to a six-year, $55 million extension in August

Re-signed Orlando Hernandez to a two-year, $12 million contract in November

Signed Moises Alou to a one-year contract (with club option) for $7.5 million in November

2005

Signed Carlos Beltran to a seven-year, $119 million contract in January

Acquired Carlos Delgado and the remaining three years and $44 million from the Marlins, who chipped in $7 million, in exchange for Mike Jacobs and Yusmeiro Petit in November.

Signed Billy Wagner to a four-year $43 million contract (w/ team option) in November

Acquired Paul Lo Duca and the remaining two-years, $12.8 million remaining on his contract for Dante Brinkley and Gaby Hernandez in December

2004

Signed Pedro Martinez to a four-year, $52 million contract in December

*****

FanGraphs lists dollars “earned” by players. We can compare these earnings to actual salary. If a player earned more than his salary, than that is a good thing. Let’s start with the Cubs

2005

Earned (Millions) Salary (Millions) Difference
Garciaparra $2.30 $8.25 -$5.95
Burnitz $6.00 $5.00 $1.00
A. Ramirez $14.30 $8.00 $6.30
TOTAL $22.60 $21.25 $1.35

2006

Earned (Millions) Salary (Millions) Difference
A. Ramirez $17.30 $10.50 $6.80
Zambrano $14.60 $6.50 $8.10
Dempster $3.80 $4.00 -$0.20
Pierre $10.70 $5.75 $4.95
J. Jones $7.00 $4.10 $2.90
D. Lee $2.50 $13.00 -$10.50
TOTAL $55.90 $43.85 $12.05

2007

Earned (Millions) Salary (Millions) Difference
A. Ramirez $20.70 $8.00 $12.70
Zambrano $11.60 $12.40 -$0.80
Dempster $1.10 $5.00 -$3.90
J. Jones $4.40 $5.63 -$1.23
D. Lee $15.80 $13.00 $2.80
Soriano $22.70 $9.00 $13.70
Lilly $15.00 $5.00 $10.00
Marquis $6.90 $4.75 $2.15
TOTAL $98.20 $61.78 $36.42

2008

Earned (Millions) Salary (Millions) Difference

A. Ramirez

$21.10

$14.00

$7.10

Zambrano

$12.70

$15.00

-$2.30

Dempster

$22.80

$5.50

$16.30

D. Lee

$14.00

$13.00

$1.00

Soriano

$13.80

$13.00

$0.80

Lilly

$12.10

$7.00

$5.10

Marquis

$8.20

$6.38

$1.82

Fukudome

$8.20

$6.00

$2.20

TOTAL

$112.90

$79.88

$32.02

Now here’s the same info for Minaya and the Mets

2005

Earned (Millions) Salary (Millions) Difference

P. Martinez

$19.90

$10.88

$9.02

Beltran

$6.30

$10.00

-$3.70

TOTAL

$26.20

$20.88

$5.32

2006

Earned (Millions) Salary (Millions) Difference

P. Martinez

$7.90

$14.88

-$6.98

Beltran

$25.80

$12.00

$13.80

Delgado

$10.60

$12.50

-$1.90

Wagner

$7.30

$10.50

-$3.20

Lo Duca

$12.40

$6.60

$5.80

TOTAL

$64.00

$56.48

$7.52

2007

Earned (Millions) Salary (Millions) Difference

P. Martinez

$4.90

$14.00

-$9.10

Beltran

$20.10

$12.00

$8.10

Delgado

$6.10

$12.50

-$6.40

Wagner

$5.90

$10.50

-$4.60

Lo Duca

$5.40

$6.25

-$0.85

O. Hernandez

$3.50

$5.00

-$1.50

Alou

$8.60

$7.50

$1.10

TOTAL

$54.50

$67.75

-$13.25

2008

Earned (Millions) Salary (Millions) Difference

P. Martinez

$0.60

$11.81

-$11.21

Beltran

$30.10

$18.50

$11.60

Delgado

$13.30

$12.00

$1.30

Wagner

$5.40

$10.50

-$5.10

O. Hernandez

$0.00

$7.00

-$7.00

Alou

$0.90

$7.50

-$6.60

Reyes

$26.40

$4.00

$22.40

Wright

$33.30

$5.00

$28.30

Castillo

$2.60

$6.00

-$3.40

Perez

$5.80

$6.50

-$0.70

Santana

$21.40

$19.00

$2.40

TOTAL

$139.80

$107.81

$31.99

Just by raw numbers, it appears that Hendry has done a better job than Minaya on his high-dollar signings.

However, I think the jury is still out. First, I did not include either Reyes or Wright in 2007 because their salaries were so low. Originally, I planned to include all seasons for which a player’s multi-year deal averaged out to at least $5 million per season. But to avoid charges of bias, I left those out. It certainly could be worthwhile to take a look at the numbers with them included and then look at the numbers with no one (Dempster, Marquis, Reyes) who had less than $5 million. But I am comfortable with these numbers.

Another factor is that since Hendry was GM prior to the 2005 season, there were other $5 million contracts on the books for the Cubs for which he was responsible. He would get a big boost from Derrek Lee but also lose a lot on Kerry Wood.

So far our scorecard could look like this, with those not listed providing more or less their contract value:

Hendry

Wins – A. Ramirez, Pierre, Soriano, Lilly, Dempster

Losses – Garciaparra, D. Lee

Minaya

Wins – Beltran, Wright, Reyes

Losses – P. Martinez, Wagner, O. Hernandez, Alou, Castillo

*****

The Ramirez deal may not look nearly as good for Hendry by the end of his contract. His ’07 salary was very low and he’s on the books for $15+ million the next two years. The Cubs gave up Nolasco for Pierre and while Pierre provided defensive value for his salary, the Cubs would probably like that one back.

The Soriano and Dempster deals are very much in the air going forward. The length of the Soriano deal is worrisome while the jury is still out if Dempster can repeat his big 2008 season. Only the Lilly contract looks like a sure winner for Hendry for the life of the deal; although, the Harden move could also work out nicely.

Additionally, the Fukudome and Bradley deals do not look like slam-dunk winners at this point in time. Fukudome provided a lot of defensive value but how much will his bat let him play? And the Bradley deal was an overpay for the market and that player option is insane.

Three of Minaya’s bad deals are now off the books. There’s one more season of Billy Wagner and three more years of Castillo. That deal looked bad at the time and does not appear any better with one of the four years in the books. At least it is not a crippling total dollar value.

It is going to be hard for Santana to provide value above his salary. Also, it looks like the earned dollar values for FanGraphs for relief pitchers make it hard to justify most deals. It will be interesting to see if Rodriguez or Putz can provide value over the remainder of their deals. But clearly this can be a case where just matching the value of the contracts could count as a “win”.

In this attempt to measure value of big ticket signings from December 2004 to the present, it appears Hendry has done a better job than Minaya. Where Minaya got in trouble was giving long-term deals to injury-prone veterans. If we look at Minaya’s signings the past 12 months, the only player in his mid-30s to get a big contract was Delgado. However, the Mets picked up his option and are on the hook for just one season.

Of course, another way to look at it would be playoff series won and World Series appearances. Minaya’s Mets are 1-1 in the playoffs while Hendry’s Cubs are 0-2. Neither team has made the World Series. Either Hendry or Minaya would gladly “lose” a value race to the other in exchange for a World Series win.

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