Every day, I read a blog by marketing guru / entrepreneur Seth Godin. In one of his recent posts, he stated that successful businesses cannot allow past decisions to affect future decisions, positing this example:
"You’ve paid a $10,000 deposit on a machine that makes widgets at a cost of a dollar each. And you’ve waited a year to get off the waiting list. Just before it’s delivered, a new machine comes on the market, one that’s able to make widgets for just a nickel each. The new machine will pay for itself in just a few weeks… but if you switch to the new machine, you lose every penny of the deposit you put down. What should you do?"
It’s pretty clear that the correct answer is to buy the new, more efficient widget maker. The $10,000 has already been spent, and you won’t get it back. To survive, you’ve got to move forward giving yourself the best chance for success.
Three years ago, the Padres purchased a $27 million widget maker named Carlos Quentin.
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We know a lot about Quentin. His contract has largely been a failure. He has played in fewer than half of the Padres’ games since signing that contract. He has had multiple knee surgeries that have left him unable to run like a major league outfielder needs to run. And last year, his bat, which had always been his primary asset, deserted him.
It’s time to get a new widget maker.
Quentin is still owed $11 million on his contract, $8 million this year, and a $3 million buyout for next season. He is not worth that money. But the contract is guaranteed. He will get paid whether he plays or not.
In an ideal world, the Padres would deal Quentin to an American League team in need of a power bat. This would free up a roster spot for a player more likely to contribute to this year’s Padres team. But it doesn’t appear that any team is interested in the former slugger, who hobbled his way to a .177/.284/.315 slash line with four homers and 18 RBI in 50 games last year.
The Padres situation is different now than it was when they signed the Quentin contract. They no longer have a need for a mediocre left fielder who had one star-like season in 2008, and has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order bat. They now have half a dozen potential middle-of-the-order bats, three of which will make up their starting outfield.
The need for a single power bat to try to attract a few extra fans per game is gone, with tickets sales higher than they’ve been in years.
The focus now is on winning. The Padres are one of the early National League favorites to win the pennant.
The Padres cannot allow the $27 million dollars they spent on Quentin in different circumstances to affect the decisions they make today. They must make the decisions that will give them the best chance for achieving today’s goals.
And the decision that will help achieve today’s goals is this:
Take Quentin to Spring Training. Get him some at-bats. If he produces and another team makes a reasonable offer for him, take it. If not, cut him. Send him on his way, pay him his $11 million dollars, and focus on winning the World Series.
Why not cut him today? Because there is still a bit of potential value left. If another team, most likely an American League team in a similar situation to the Padres’ situation of three years ago, sees some value there, the Padres could potentially recoup a couple of million against that $11 million payout.
So get him 60 AB during the Spring. In Spring Training games, the home team gets to decide whether or not to use the DH. So choose to use the DH a few times. Let Quentin try to show he can produce in this role. Give the Mariners, Angels, White Sox, Indians, Royals, A’s, and Rangers a close-up view. If he produces enough to get an offer, the Padres win. If not, the only cost was a few Spring at-bats.
If the Spring passes, and Quentin has not shown any value to any team, thank him for his service, release him, and fill that roster spot with the player that makes the most sense. Because almost any other player makes more sense than Quentin, whether it’s Cory Spangenberg, Rymer Liriano, Hector Olivera, or someone else GM A.J. Preller has in mind.
It will be throwing away money to simply cut Quentin, won’t it? No, it won’t. They’re going to pay him his salary whether he stays active or is released. And keeping him on the team if he cannot play will add the costs of continuing to rehabilitate him. If he’s on the 25-man roster, he’s preventing another player from contributing to the team’s chances of winning.
If he’s placed on the 60-day DL and removed from the 40-man roster, you’ve thrown away a minimum of a third of a season on him with almost no chance that he bounces back to become productive. It is simply not cost effective to keep him around.
Carlos Quentin is a decision from the past. It’s time to buy a new widget-maker.