There's always next year.

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Friday Baseball Blogging: The Value of Offseason Money

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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I finally subscribed to Joe Sheehan’s excellent newsletter and I highly recommend it. Joe is one of my very favorite baseball analysts, along with fellow former Baseball Prospectus alum Christina Kahrl (disclosure: I've written a few pieces for Baseball Prospectus and Sheehan edited at least one of them). Sheehan and Kahrl are always up-to-date on the latest sabermetric findings, and both of them have always taken a whole-team approach to baseball analysis.

Last year, Sheehan said, roughly, that the money doesn’t matter in the offseason; teams are so wealthy that there’s almost no effect of a bad contract on future spending. I think that is the most important thing about evaluating offseason moves. The only thing that matters is whether a signing improves the team on the field.

I suppose that’s not always true. The big exception would be the luxury tax. Assuming a team wants to avoid it, signing a big contract could mean that a team wouldn’t be able to afford another.

I think Sheehan’s right, though. That's why I thought overpaying Tim Lincecum last winter was fine for the Giants as long as he could perform well as starter (which I, mistakenly, thought he could).

I'm not talking about any particular signing or speculation. I just wanted to pass that along before things heat up. A free-agent signing is probably good for a team if that player is better than the realistic alternatives, even if the price seems inflated. We can't go back to totally ignoring the money, since knowing the realistic alternatives means (among other things) knowing the likely price tags of other free agents or trade targets. But for whatever it’s worth, we’re a little closer to that prelapsarian situation than we have been for a long time.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

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Jonathan Bernstein at

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