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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

John Hart playing hardball with Mench, Drese 

Well, it looks like all those warm fuzzies about multi-year deals for Kevin Mench and Ryan Drese being imminent have dissipated. According to the DMN, if Mench and Drese don't take the two-year contracts the Rangers have offered, their contracts will be renewed for 2005 at the same amount as they received in 2004.

Since neither Mench nor Drese are arbitration eligible, they have zero leverage in contract negotiations. The team can renew their contracts for any amount, so long as it is no less than 80% of what the player made the previous year.

Mench made $345,000 in 2004, and Drese made $370,000. Given that both players had very good seasons, it would seem reasonable to believe that they would get some sort of raise for the 2005 season, regardless of what happens. But John Hart isn't taking that position. Why? Well, he explains:

[i]"We've got a salary scale for non-arbitration players, and if we are willing to talk about a long-term contract with them, then we are willing to blow the salary scale out of proportion," GM John Hart said. "But if they reject that, they are telling us they think there will be more money available to them in arbitration and we will renew them. To do anything else just wouldn't make sense. That's our organizational philosophy." [/i]

What bothers me about this attitude is that the Rangers apparently approached both Mench and Drese about multi-year deals. Both have been offered two year deals with a third year option, and the option is supposedly the sticking point.

That's fine. If the Rangers want to hold fast on the option, that's their prerogative.

But it is pretty chickenspit to approach your non-arb-eligible players with multi-year deals, and then tell them, if you don't take this deal and give up two years of arbitration, then we're going to just renew your contract and not give you a raise...even though Mench was the Rangers' best outfielder last season, and Drese was one of the best starters in the A.L.

And this is particularly galling to me given that Hicks has raised ticket prices this season, and has slashed payroll, after lying to fans about being willing to invest the team's "financial flexibility" into the club. This is exactly the sort of penny-ante, nickel-and-diming mentality that the Pittsburghs and Tampa Bays of the world do. It isn't the way a large market team -- which is what the Rangers are, even if Hicks is insisting on a small market payroll -- should be doing business.

Basically, what Hart is trying to do is bully Mench and Drese into taking below-market deals for their first two arbitration years by telling them that, if they don't take the deals, they will be punished by getting renewed without any raise for the 2005 season. That doesn't seem real smart, if you are trying to foster a good relationship between the player and club. Particularly since this is a team that, supposedly, thinks the most important thing about a player is whether they want to be a Texas Ranger.

The only rationale I can see for this is that John Hart, as the highest paid G.M. in the game, figures he has to justify his salary somehow. He certainly hasn't earned his money through the moves his made or the teams he's put on the field in his three years here, so he has to do it by squeezing a few thousand extra bucks out of the guys who are supposed to be the future of the organization.


3 comments
Comments:
You explained Hart's method in an earlier post, "In Cleveland, John Hart pioneered the tactic of locking up young players through their arb-eligible years, getting the players signed for less than they'd likely make in arbitration and gaining cost certainty for budgetary purposes."
 
I am not a Hart fan but Hart's position in these deals makes perfect sense.

Since Drese has now signed let's look at his situation. The Rangers offered him a $6 million, two year contract with an option for a third year. They could have paid Drese $370,000, actually they could have paid him 80% of of $370,000 but that really would have been an attitude breaker. The Rangers give him $3 million per year, so what if he's paid below market value in that third year, an extra $2.7 million this year more than makes up for that.

Hart used his leverage of being able to renew the contract and Drese used his leverage of being arbitration eligible next season, that's the way it works. When players who perform like Chan Ho Park start giving back the millions they don't earn, the ballclubs should start giving young players raises just becaue it's fair.

Hey, I've got an idea. Come play for my club and after the season is over I'll pay you in accordance with how you played. No? Then take what you can get.
 
I am not a Hart fan but Hart's position in these deals makes perfect sense.

Since Drese has now signed let's look at his situation. The Rangers offered him a $6 million, two year contract with an option for a third year. They could have paid Drese $370,000, actually they could have paid him 80% of of $370,000 but that really would have been an attitude breaker. The Rangers give him $3 million per year, so what if he's paid below market value in that third year, an extra $2.7 million this year more than makes up for that.

Hart used his leverage of being able to renew the contract and Drese used his leverage of being arbitration eligible next season, that's the way it works. When players who perform like Chan Ho Park start giving back the millions they don't earn, the ballclubs should start giving young players raises just becaue it's fair.

Hey, I've got an idea. Come play for my club and after the season is over I'll pay you in accordance with how you played. No? Then take what you can get and be happy.
 
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