Monday, 11 January 2021

An Ass for Every Seat

 I sold cars for a living for a couple years.  Selling cars is just like selling anything else, in that you're identifying the needs and wants of a potential buyer and overcoming any potential obstacles.  The big difference with car sales, though, is that buyers are full of shit pretty well all the time.  I'm sure that has a lot to do with the reputation that car salesmen have. It's a reputation that they've definitely earned through the years, but still, if you're selling food or clothing or some kind of service, you don't really seem to need to manage potential buyers lying to you about their intentions or their potential hangups that they have with your product/service nearly as often, it seems.

I was reminded today of a hypothetical that my sales manager explained to me one day about leverage.  Imagine you're running a used car dealership that's on a stretch of road that's 100 miles from any other civilization.  I don't know why you'd build a car dealership there, so this situation is messed at jump street, but that's fine. 

Imagine it's 5:30pm, and you close at 6.  A guy comes on to your lot pushing his vehicle.  It's an old piece of shit that, for the purposes of our story, is totally fucked and is headed to the junkyard.  He decides to ask the salesman for some help.

"What are the most important features for you on your new vehicle?" the salesman asks.  

"Well, reliability is important, and I'd like to keep the vehicle for a few years, so low mileage is important too.  Ideally I'd also have a sunroof and blindspot monitors, but those aren't deal-breakers" the customer answers.  "Oh, and it's got to be red."

The salesman has a 2018 Rav 4 XLE with 60,000KMs on the lot that checks all the boxes.  The salesman shows him a final price of $20,000.  The customer answers back "I'll give you $18,000 for it."

"Let me get this right," the salesman says. "You just pushed your old beater on to the lot, and you're an awfully long walk away from wherever it is that you were heading.  I found you the exact car that you're looking for and you're still asking for 10% off? It's gonna be $20,000."

Now, in most situations, where the customer wasn't a million miles away from civilization, he could look around online and find other similar vehicles, see what they're selling for, or maybe leverage a couple of dealerships against each other.  If we change the scenario from a single dealership to a small town with 3 or 4 dealerships, how does the situation change?

Well I've had people look at vehicles on other lots on their cell phones from my office before.  If you're looking specifically for a used 2018 Rav 4 XLE in red with 50,000km-70,000km and find one on a lot, that's probably the only one you're going to find in that particular town, even in my town where there are 25 different lots to search through.  You might find a blue one on another lot, or a different options package, or one with 150,000KM, or one a year or two newer or older, but used cars are kind of unicorns and every one has it's own story.  Hell, even if you do find another one that matches up, condition is another really important factor.

So where am I going with all this?  Well apparently DJ Lemahieu is going to re-engage other teams, since the Yankees are unwilling to meet his asking price.  In the above scenario, Lemahieu is the customer, and the Yankees are the dealership.

The more Lemahieu is willing to change the variables, the more likely he is to find the best value.  The problem, it would seem, is that Lemahieu appears to really only want that red Rav 4 that is the New York Yankees.  The Yankees are the only red Rav 4 with the desired mileage and the sun roof in town, whereas the Blue Jays are a nice one at a similar (maybe even better!) price, but it's Blue and doesn't have the sunroof.  The Dodgers have one that was an accident repair, the Cardinals have a Honda and the Red Sox have one that was smoked in so it's all stinky and has nicotine stains on all the interior surfaces.

So the customer calls around and gets some pricing at the other dealerships.  The Blue one in Toronto is offering the $2,000 discount that the customer wants, but the customer doesn't want that one because it's not New York, and New York knows it because the customer is still sitting in their office.

Lemahieu needs to fire his agent yesterday.  It's fucking January.  We're like 43 days away from P's and C's and Lemahieu's agent is ready to engage teams now?!  Lemahieu is free to ask for whatever he wants for a contract (apparently 5 years, $110MM), but the Yankees don't have any need to negotiate and up their offer when no other alternatives were even being accepted by Lemahieu's camp.  Just my speculation, but I don't think anyone is going to give Lemahieu that $110MM deal, but the best way to get the Yankees up from the $80MM area would have been to involve another dealership.  

As for the Jays... well, there's no real need to get excited about this one.  They might give Lemahieu a bit of leverage and force the Yankees in to spending a bit more, but as much as they may be interested in signing DJLM, I have a hard time believing that it's going to happen at this point in time.

(The Jays are going to sign George Springer anyway.)

Sunday, 10 January 2021

I Don't Think the Mets are Done

 Seems like there are two schools of thought with regards to the Mets and their acquisition of Francisco Lindor; either they're shoving everything to the middle, or they're done with their big acquisitions and are just going to round out the roster, adding a potential bullpen arm and maybe some depth, maybe a 3B.  If we're to believe Andy Martino of SNY, the Mets aren't going to bypass the $210MM luxury tax threshold, and that they'd like to leave a $5-10MM buffer heading in to the season for in-season upgrades, so that would kind of indicate that they're out on Springer unless the price tag drops dramatically, right?  And GM Jared Porter was on MLB Network discussing their offseason the other day and made it seems like they weren't overly concerned about their CF situation, via Ben Nicholson-Smith.

Sounds like a decent situation for the Jays, yeah? Springer is all but signed, just let the ink dry!

But I dunno, something seems a bit fishy to me still.  Porter mentions in the above link that they were mostly concerned about run prevention coming in to the offseason.  Obviously there are a number of ways to address that.  Pitching is the main one, and acquiring a couple nice bullpen arms and Carlos Carrasco is a good start, but adding Lindor and James McCann should help too.  That lineup is still pretty suspect defensively though; I count JD Davis, Dominic Smith and Brandon Nimmo as all being out of position out there.  Smith is a first baseman playing in left due to Pete Alonso, Nimmo is a corner outfielder playing CF, not unlike Randal Grichuk.  If you wanted to argue that JD Davis isn't too bad at third, I could live, I guess.  Nimmo-Springer-Conforto would make me a whole lot more comfortable if I were a Mets fan though.  

It's tough to say exactly what happens there if the Mets do go get Springer, but the answer is almost built-in if there's going to be a DH in the NL this year (sidenote: How the fuck is that still up in the air?!?).  You can live with Nimmo in CF 30 games a year if Springer plays the rest.  You can live with Alonso at DH on occasion with Smith playing 1B the rest of the time.  It's only an issue if there's no NL DH.

And if there's no NL DH, it's not like the Mets can't find some budget space.  Cots has them at $180MM as of right now for 40-man roster commitments, so adding Springer on a $25MM AAV still leaves that $5MM buffer (Luxury tax is based on the AAV of the contract, not the yearly salary). It's tight, and it doesn't really allow for any further work to the roster, but that gets you to ~$205MM (this all assumes that the arbitration estimates are accurate/close, which after 2020's shortened season, isn't a given).

Of course, with no NL DH, you'd probably want to figure something out with the outfield.  Conforto is set to make $12MM through his final run at arbitration before free agency, so you could argue that you'd make the trade-off of 5 years of Springer for 1 of Conforto, plus whatever he'd fetch on the trade market. Maybe they could attach Steven Matz or eat some of Jeurys Familia's contract to free space, then go grab Brad Hand and George Springer.

And let's not forget that the new Mets owner is apparently the 36th richest person in the USA, and that maybe the luxury tax number doesn't actually mean jack shit, and that maybe they'll just blow right by that number.  We'll see what happens with Lindor with regards to an extension, but he, Marcus Stroman, Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Familia and Steven Matz are all set to be free agents at the end of the year, totalling for ~$79MM in salaries coming off the books (though Robinson Cano's $24MM is back on the books next year, for a net ~$54MM).  That leaves plenty of room for a Lindor extension, among other things, for next year. Going over by less than $20MM only costs money for the first year, and there's nothing stopping them from coming back under that amount after this year, especially with all that cash coming off the books.

I just have a hard time being concerned about an extra $5-10MM in space for in-season upgrades when you could just go get a 4-5 win CF and have him for the whole year.  That's not to say that you can't use the $20MM in space to go make other smaller moves or go find a pitcher if Syndergaard doesn't come back from Tommy John as hoped, or if someone gets hurt along the way or whatever... just don't think Springer is entirely out of the question for the Mets just based on the Lindor deal.