Toronto Star

January 26, 2005

Jays the biggest losers in Delgado Derby

Slugger would have liked to stay in T.O.

Richard Griffin, baseball columnist


The Mets, Rangers and Orioles all lost out on making themselves legitimate post-season contenders because Carlos Delgado decided yesterday to sign with the Florida Marlins.

Pending Delgado's physical, the Marlins, who entered the bidding late, have come away with the trophy all those teams needed. They reportedly have agreed to terms with the former Blue Jays first baseman on a four-year, $52 million (all figures U.S.) contract. Patience is indeed a virtue.

Florida was one of the half-dozen teams interested in Delgado last July at the trade deadline. Ironically for the Jays, the Marlins were cited by Delgado's agent David Sloane as the reason his client would not waive his no-trade clause.

"If Carlos waives his rights and they deal him to a team that thinks it's a contender, like the Marlins," Sloane argued at the time, "what happens if they drop out of the race in August and decide to trade him somewhere else? But if he waits until free agency, he can pick his own team he knows is a contender. It's a decision that affects the rest of his career."

The Marlins organization that Sloane was describing back in July as possibly being the worst-case scenario for Delgado has all of a sudden become his best-case scenario.

Sloane played the waiting game perfectly. This guy can deal. The Jays were among many who believed, incorrectly, that Delgado, with a glut of younger sluggers on the open market, would be forced to settle for a contract of perhaps two years, with an option, for about $10 million a season. Wrong!

Sloane had set-in-stone salary parameters for Delgado and stuck to his guns throughout. He believed Carlos Beltran would set the ceiling for Delgado in terms of dollars per year and that the trio of Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson and Troy Glaus would serve as the floor. That's exactly what happened.

Beltran, Sloane willingly conceded, should earn more than Delgado, because he is younger and has extra tools (speed and defence). The centre fielder signed with the Mets for an average of $17 million a year.

Meanwhile, the top salary of the "floor" guys went to third baseman Beltre, who inked a deal with the Mariners averaging $12.7 million annually.

Delgado will now earn an average of $13 million a season in Florida until the age of 36, with an option for $12 million more in a complicated clause that can be bought out by the Marlins. Pride was a factor for Carlos and he's been vindicated after being slapped in the face by the Jays.

The losers?

The Orioles were willing to offer $48 million for four years, but had serious reservations about Delgado's patriotism because of his "God Bless America" stance (or lack of it). They are losers.

The Rangers were willing to offer $48 million for four years, but forgot to inform Delgado that they only needed him as a designated hitter. He will not DH full-time. See you later, Tom Hicks. They are losers.

The Mets had signed Pedro Martinez and Beltran and were very serious about Delgado, believing he could complete their championship puzzle. However, when they were budgeting, they underestimated what it would take. There was no way a team was going to reel him in for less than Beltre's $12.7 million salary. They are losers.

However, the biggest losers are the Jays, who so underestimated the marketplace that they were never in the running, beginning with their insulting offer of $12 million over two years. Delgado's heart and soul were in T.O. It's where he would have preferred to play.

What Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi must learn before it's too late is that there is no right and wrong when it comes to free agency, only reality. If 15 teams agree with the Jays that the market is crazy and the other 15 are bidding like maniacs, the Jays aren't right in sticking to their guns.

They are simply destined to be mediocre.

Credit: Toronto Star

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