Posted by Steve
Despite our lull at BBKTUTH, there’s actually plenty to talk about. I’m planning on more posts this week, but for now, I might as well discuss the news of the day that everyone had been waiting for. Yep, they finally released Jeff Suppan.
Suppan should not have started the year in the rotation, and he should not have remained on the team nearly as long as he did. Both appear to be the product of Doug Melvin and the Brewers refusing to admit a mistake. Ironically, this decision only compounded that mistake. Suppan was already a sunk cost, and keeping him on the roster hurt the team even further. We’re seeing firsthand the talent the Brewers kept off the roster in order to keep Suppan (namely Axford and Braddock), but none of that talent made 12 million bucks this season.
Things got ugly, too. Suppan didn’t deserve a spot on the team, but that doesn’t mean he deserved the boos he got at Miller Park. I’ll never understand why people boo someone who’s trying his best, but that’s for a different conversation. The point is, this was a necessary move for more than one reason.
I was sort of rubbed the wrong way by some of Melvin’s comments on the move. From Adam McCalvy’s article at brewers.com:
“Have any of you done your homework to determine who the free agent players were that year?” Melvin asked reporters. “We could have signed Jason Schmidt. He signed for three years and $47 million. Barry Zito was seven years and $126 [million]. Gil Meche was five years and $55 [million]. Miguel Batista, three years and $25 [million]. Jason Marquis, three and $25 [million]. Vicente Padilla, two and $20 [million]. Ted Lilly, at four years and $40 [million], was probably the pitcher who performed the best out of that group. …
“When you enter into free agent contracts, it’s one of the riskiest things to do. I know in the off-season, media, fans, myself included, we all get excited about the free agent people who are out there. But there are not a lot of free agent contracts with pitchers where you get the full [value].”
Now, he does have a point–signings that season were pretty crazy–but this response reminds me of when I’d get in trouble as a kid and expect to get out of it by pointing out that my brother did it too. What did he do, come out armed with the exact contract figures of those pitchers because he knew he’d be criticized? Additionally, the fact that Ted Lilly has been very good and got less than Suppan doesn’t help Melvin’s case either. Melvin also called the Suppan debacle “a learning experience,” but how much could he have learned? He just gave Randy Wolf a pretty huge contract.
This just reinforces the fact that free agency remains by far the riskiest method of acquiring players, particularly for smaller markets like Milwaukee. The most crucial one happens to be what I’ll be discussing next, which is the draft. The Brewers have failed to develop enough impact pitching in their system, but at least they are finally starting to accumulate some arms with potential.
To honor the disaster that was the Jeff Suppan Era, let’s look at something terribly depressing. The Brewers’ Opening Day payroll was $90.4 million. That’s a pretty great number; they’ve never had a payroll that high. After a closer look, however, things aren’t so pretty. Let’s look at some of the contracts they’re paying.
Bill Hall: $7.15 million
Jeff Suppan: $12.75 million
Braden Looper: $1 million
Trevor Hoffman: $7.5 million
David Riske: $4.5 million
Dave Bush: $4.215 million
LaTroy Hawkins: $3.25 million
Claudio Vargas: $900k
David Weathers: $400k
That’s 41.665 million dollars to players who have A: not even been on the team this year or B: had negative value. 42 million dollars! That’s 46% of their payroll providing negative value! It’s just astonishing, and it tells you all you need to know about why the team is bad.