The Dodgers have hired Ned Colletti away, and I am hopping ambivalent.
If Colletti has a reputation, it's as a shrewd negotiator. He's the attack dog Brian Sabean would send in a room with an agent, told not to leave unless there was a signed deal in place. To quote Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, "The creative deals he cobbled have helped the Giants become one of baseball's most successful franchises."
How much can the average fan know about an assistant G.M.? I haven't dealt with players or agents familiar with his negotiating style, nor have I been in a war room as he offered his advice on an organizational blueprint. The only things I have to go on are his public statements, like this interview with Baseball Prospectus, and the results of his contract-fu. Based only on that, you can grab the Crayolas and start coloring me Not Impressed Pink.
I can't remember a contract where I said, "Man, how did they get the player to sign that deal? " The Jason Schmidt contract turned out to be a relative bargain, but at the time it was inked Schmidt was more question mark than All-Star, and it wasn't an especially cheap deal. The extensions to current players like J.T. Snow, Marvin Bernard, and Kirk Rueter were generous to a fault. The contracts to some of the premium free agents like Edgardo Alfonzo or Armando Benitez were notable only for being the best offer. None of this serves to dispel the notion Colletti was extremely valuable to the Giants organization, but there's certainly nothing on the contractual side that could be labeled Exhibit A in support of that same notion.
A strategy that seems common in Colletti negotiations is to offer one more year than the competition, hoping to quickly secure a deal. Omar Vizquel was wooed from the White Sox with such an offer, and I can't imagine the line of Michael Tucker suitors was filled with teams offering multi-year deals. Neifi Perez - sweet Neifi - was given a two-year deal to be a backup plan. Frankly, just in terms of negotiating veteran contracts, Colletti scared the bejeepers out of me. Every offseason was a slow-moving slasher flick, with a three-year deal to Craig Counsell creeping up as you showered.
The aforementioned interview with Baseball Prospectus was fairly illuminating, describing how Colletti evaluated players. As a Giants fan, it warms the heart to hear an incoming Dodgers G.M. saying he looks for "overachievers", and "character players who had something to prove." I'd like to think I've established a position as a fence straddling agnostic in the stats/scouts debate, acknowledging valid points from each side. But that "character players" bit is just hokum. It's not reasonable to infer too much from that one snippet of an interview, but you have to hope he approaches Dodger acquisitions by looking at "character", trying to get the guys with "something to prove", and trying to nab players like Neifi Perez because, "(Perez) knew how to play the game." Vague, meaningless aphorisms masquerading as legitimate talent evaluation? It makes me want to stare into Frank McCourt's eyes and say, "no backsies."
Again, though, this is all reviewing a movie after watching a trailer and reading an interview with the director. The most important decision for the Giants in San Francisco history came with Colletti involved, and they aced the test. Either Barry Bonds or Matt Williams had to go, and the Giants chose wisely. When Bonds hit the market as a free agent following one of the greatest seasons in baseball's history, the Giants didn't shy away, working out a fair deal for everyone. The Giants have been successful during Colletti's tenure, and while it's tempting to ignore that as he ventures to the land of the unwashed Hessians, it has to be one of the boldest points on his resume. I have no idea if this is a good or bad move for the Dodgers.
Bad luck, Ned.