In reality, the cost of acquiring Dotel in the first place was an unidentifiable percentage of Colby Rasmus, shipped off to Toronto. The cost to keep him in 2012 would have been no more than the $3.5 million he received from Detroit, which represents a modest increase from his $3 million salary in 2011.
In fact, earlier in the off-season, the Cardinals walked away from what appeared to be the same basic deal. They declined a $3.5 million team option on Dotel’s services for 2012, instead paying him $750,000 to buy out the option.
For letting Dotel depart, the Cardinals received a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds of the 2012 draft. Dotel was a special case, one of a group of relievers moved from Type A to Type B free agents as a one-time-only tweak in the new labor agreement. As a result, the Cardinals were awarded the comp pick without having to offer him arbitration.
St. Louis used that selection, 52nd overall, on third baseman Patrick Wisdom, a moderate-ceiling college player who has begun well, having just named an All-Star in the New York-Penn League. Wisdom came to terms for a below-pick signing bonus reported to be $693,000.
To acquire Edward Mujica – the pitcher I feel has been added to try to address the immediate void Dotel had filled previously – the organization gave up Zack Cox. Back in 2010, the Triple-A third baseman received a major league contract and a four-year, $3.2 million commitment.
The amount due Cox in 2012 appears to be $750,000 – $400,000 in bonus and $350,000 in salary. Though it is unclear what amounts the Cardinals and Marlins are responsible for respectively, let’s assume each paid half.
Mujica’s salary for the remainder of 2012 is roughly a third of $1.625 million or about $550,000. We will estimate that the Cardinals are paying for what they use.
Putting this all together:
|Keeping Dotel cost||Losing Dotel cost|
|$3,500,000 2012 salary||$750,000 to buy out Dotel’s 2012 option|
|2/3 season of $480,000 MLB minimum salary for replacement ($320,000)|
|$550,000 salary for Mujica for final 1/3 season|
|Team control of Mujica in 2013 via arbitration|
|Future loss of Patrick Wisdom||$693,000 bonus paid for Wisdom|
|Keep Zack Cox||Partial 2012 loss of Zack Cox ($ savings estimated at $375,000)|
|Future loss of Cox – MLB benefit – unknown and unquantified|
|$3.5 million cash||$1.94 million cash|
|Dotel in 2012 pen||Minimum salary reliever for 2/3 season|
|Mujica for 1/3 season + 2013 control|
|Cox over Wisdom going forward||Wisdom over Cox going forward|
|A better 2012 record?||A poorer 2012 record?|
My conclusion is that for $3.5 million, the Cards could have had Dotel all season long and the wins that should come from a more stable relief staff. They would have kept Cox and been unable to draft Wisdom in this scenario.
Though not directly a part of the numbers, we should note that while Cox is closer to the majors, the financial commitment in future years to him is higher. Whether either he or Wisdom has a productive major league career is still to be determined.
On the other side of the ledger, my estimate is that the Cardinals may have spent a total of between $1.9 and $2 million. Well over one-third of that was needed up front to buy out Dotel. I assumed a minimum salaried reliever until Mujica joined. They paid Wisdom’s bonus but perhaps saved a bit less money than that on Cox this year by trading him.
Over the longer haul, the Cards can keep Mujica next season, though his 2013 salary may be defined through arbitration. They also have Wisdom, who is expected to require more development time than Cox.
Of course, the most valuable variable is the one that cannot be quantified. How much different would the 2012 team’s overall record – and specifically their now-18-30 mark in one- and two-run games – be in the one scenario versus the other?
We will never know if it would have been worth $1.5 million to find out.
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