The person I'm referring to is the one who hears about a gas station across town selling really cheap fuel. So this person drives all the way across town to fill up on this really cheap fuel.
Of course, this person doesn't drive the most fuel-efficient vehicle to begin with, so they burned a little bit of fuel going across town and back. And of course, the really cheap fuel they bought was actually only like 8 cents cheaper than the station just down the street from where they live. And of course, this person's fuel tank was only half empty, so they only saved 8 cents a gallon on half a tank.
For me, this person is my grandma. I love her dearly, but she's old and has nothing better to do with her time. If she feels like she's accomplishing something, more power to her.
However, there's another person loosely associated with my life who does this on a much larger scale. Dayton Moore. And he mostly seems to do this when it comes to shopping for pitching.
Last season Moore got suckered into trading for Wade Davis along with James Shields. I can only imagine his conversation with Andrew Friedman went something like this:
Friedman: OK, so for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and this Patrick Leonard kid, I'll send you James Shields AND I'll throw in Wade Davis for FREE.
Moore: Wait. Did you say FREE?
Friedman: Yeah. F-R-E-E.
Moore: (Be cool, Dayton. Be cool.) So you're just going to include Davis and not ask for anything else in return?
Friedman: Not only that, Dayton. I'll include a "player to be named later." I mean, it'll only turn out to be a utility infielder who won't even last the season with your team, but...
Moore: (interrupting) DONE! DONE! IT'S A DONE DEAL. I ACCEPT. YOU CAN'T BACK OUT. FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!
Whereas I'm of the mind that if something is free, there's usually a catch — or at best, it wastes space in your home — Moore strikes me as someone who can't turn down a "deal," someone prone to bargain shopping.
I mean, the only explanation for Davis' inclusion in the Shields-Myers deal is Moore had to think he was getting some kind of "buy one, get one half off" deal for starting pitching. Of course, the truth of the matter is Davis has no business being in a starting rotation. The Rays knew this and couldn't have been more pleased to unload him, especially when they were getting Odorizzi, a younger and cheaper version of Davis, in return.
Now fast-forward to this offseason.
Moore tripped over himself in his one-man mad dash to sign Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million contract in November. Why? Why exactly would someone want to be handcuffed to the 31-year-old Vargas and his career 8.3 WAR, 4.30 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 5.9 K/9 rate in eight seasons for four more years?
The only explanation I can think of is Moore looked at the numbers and couldn't get over the fact he was signing a Major League pitcher for $8 million a year. It didn't matter to him how many years he was committing to this replacement-level pitcher. All that mattered was by adding an extra year, Moore was able to get a discount over the course of those four years.
And now the Royals are stuck with a glorified fifth starter — something the roster is already fully stocked with — for the next four years.
Less than three months later, with the rotation already overrun by the likes of Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie and possibly even Davis or Luke Hochevar, Moore goes out and signs an older version of Vargas in the familiar form of Bruce Chen. And Ned Yost announces he expects Chen to hold down a rotation spot.
Of course, by this point in the offseason, the conventional wisdom was that the Royals rotation was set unless the club was willing to spring for Ervin Santana or another assumed difference-making starter. Not free agent fodder like Chen. So why did Moore torment Royals fans with such a needless signing?
Well, because Chen was willing to take such a significant discount compared to what he wanted back in November. Moore signed Chen for what amounts to a one-year deal with $4.25 million guaranteed and incentives to sweeten the deal. Originally, Chen was hoping for something between what he got and what Vargas signed for. (Monetarily. I'm not saying Chen was expecting a four-year deal.)
So there Moore went again, drooling over this great bargain he was able to find. In a vacuum, maybe these deals make some sense. Last offseason the Royals really needed pitching. Why not try to get a second arm in the Shield-Myers deal. This offseason, the Royals really needed pitching. Why not sign two reasonably useful arms to discount deals. So what if none of these three pitchers are especially good at their craft. If you're in a generous mood, you can credit Moore for filling the Royals' need for pitching.
However, when you take a step back and look at the entire baseball landscape, it seems Moore was too busy driving across town to save pennies on the dollar and forgot just how many reasonably-priced options would be available to upgrade his pitching staff if he'd been patient.
Tim Hudson 2 years, $23 million with the Giants: If there was ever a time for Moore to sign a former Brave, why not this offseason with Hudson? Seems like the kind of pitcher and personality you'd want on a team with supposed playoff aspirations.
Bartolo Colon 2 years, $20 million with the Mets: I don't care how Colon does it. I don't care how he looks while he does it. His career numbers speak for themselves and I have little doubt he has two more decent years in him.
Scott Feldman 3 years, $30 million with the Astros: Feldman is the same age as Vargas and his career numbers aren't as good, but Feldman has pitched in far more challenging ballparks compared to Vargas, compiling a 10.2 career WAR in nine seasons. And for just $2 million more a year, the Astros are committed to Feldman one fewer year.
Bronson Arroyo 2 years, $23.5 million with the Diamondbacks: Arroyo's numbers are quite similar to Vargas' and Arroyo is five years older. But the fact he would have cost the Royals two fewer years for only $8 million more is what makes him attractive to me.
Paul Maholm 1 year, $1.5 million with the Dodgers: What is it with the NL West? I guess as competitive as the division is compared to the AL Central, more is expected from the GMs out west. Another pitcher with similar career numbers to Vargas and about a year older, but his contract makes him perhaps the biggest steal of the offseason. OF COURSE DAYTON MOORE COULDN'T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MAHOLM'S DESPERATION BECAUSE HE SIGNED VARGAS IN FUCKING NOVEMBER!
The bottom line is this: If Moore had any confidence in his ability to cultivate pitching prospects, he never would have felt compelled to hand out a four-year contract to a mediocre free agent. He wouldn't have wanted a pitcher like Vargas blocking the way for Sean Manaea, Miguel Almonte, Christian Binford or Jason Adam two years from now. And he sure as hell wouldn't have signed such a nondescript pitcher in November if he had any clue how to work the free agent market.
-Fire Dayton Moore