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The cost of letting Octavio Dotel go

Earlier, I wondered aloud how different the record of the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals in close games would have been had they kept reliever Octavio Dotel.

This time, let’s look at the situation from financial perspective.

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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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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29 Responses to “The cost of letting Octavio Dotel go”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    If we had kept Octavio, we might have suffered the “curse” of Dotel
    Unless Octavio’s triumph over the Rangers revealed the curse to be a farce.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Coming into 2012, Mo hoped McClellan would be ok, returned to reliever. He added Linebrink for depth. It was not unreasonable to hope Cleto or Sanchez would step up. With all these possibilities, Dotel seemed redundant and it was better to collect a draft pick.
    Then, in reality, McClellan and Lindbrink were injured, Sanchez had problems, and Cleto was not ready, despite a big arm. But the decision to pass on Dotel was fine, even though I value the 38 year old journeyman.
    It seems premature to label Wisdom a “moderate ceiling” athlete. Allen Craig hit about .250 during his entry into pro ball in the NYPa league. Very unexciting at the time as I recall, but Craig has since emerged to be a terrific ML hitter. Wisdom probably has the defensive tools to stick at 3B, unlike Craig. He is hitting better than Craig did at the same level, though with a year less college experience. Wisdom looks like a nice prospect, at this point in time.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    I like seeing Furcal batting 8th. Lets keep him there, moving forward. Jay and Carpenter have done well today, at the top of the lineup.
    Rzepcynski needs to throw more strikes. When we are up by three, make the other team hit three homeruns, don’t walk people. Jeesh.

  4. blingboy says:

    It should be mentioned that the Cards didn’t know what was going to happen with Albert or an offensive replacement for him. I don’t remember them throwing money at people until that situation resolved.

    Also, Dotel had an uncharacteristically good year in 2011. His stats spiked. Given his age, it would have been reasonable to doubt that he would do it two years in a row.

  5. blingboy says:

    I was at work and missed the game. I’m wondering why Lance was pinch hit for after 5 innings. 85 pitches, tie game, one out and bases empty when pinch hit for. Any info or thoughts?

  6. JumboShrimp says:

    Westbrook has 12 wins and about another 9 starts. If he wins another 5 games, ending with 17, he might decline his side of a mutual option for 2013, because he is en route to a strong season. His 2013 market value might grow to be north of $8.5MM.

    • blingboy says:

      Colorado would be happy to pony up.

    • crdswmn says:

      Well, he might. Except for that part where he publicly stated he intends to exercise it. Then again, he could just be a liar, liar, pants on fire.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        It is appropriate for Westbrook to say how much he loves it here and would like to exercise the option to return. But if he drives his market value up to say $12MM, then it would seem wrong to renew at $8.5MM.
        I wonder how often mutual options are mutually exercised. Not frequently, I guess.

        • Brian Walton says:

          It would be just as proper to say he would wait until after the season to decide. Maybe he is the rare bird who values comfort more than every last cent. Or maybe not. We will find out this fall.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            The concept of a mutual option is an oxymoron.

            If a guy is worth $12MM, the fraternity of players and agents has to prefer that he not accept $8.5MM. There must be peer pressure, for the greater good of the members of the Union, to choose market value.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Just one other data point, but I read that Ryan Ludwick and the Reds have a mutual option for next season. One of their beatwriters believes both sides will execute it.

  7. crdswmn says:

    It’s a bummer about Matt Adams, but probably best to get the problem taken care of now rather than let it fester and get worse. Hopefully he will be back and ready to go by Spring Training.

  8. crdswmn says:

    Jose Canseco ‏@JoseCanseco
    Yes time travel is possible. Will explain later.

    Let this be lesson, to stay away from steroids.

  9. blingboy says:

    I was counting on Adams/Berkman for a DH/bat off the bench in October.

  10. blingboy says:

    A Jeff Luhnow quip from a Jeff Gordon article a few days ago:

    “When your backup at shortstop is Brett Wallace, you’ve got to think of other options,. . . ”

  11. blingboy says:

    Taking up the Westbrook thread from above, I’m having a hard time envisioning a 2013 rotation that would include him. The possible exception being if Garcia is not sound when he comes back this last part of the season.

    There will be Carp and Wainy. Lynn is a minimum wage lock. I believe Miller has a spot unless he blows it in ST. Then there is Garcia. There is also minimum wage Mighty Joe. That is six, and there may be another couple trying to break in next year at some point.

    • Nutlaw says:

      And that’s assuming that Lohse isn’t back either.

    • crdswmn says:

      I’d rather have Westbrook than Lohse, not because he is better but because he is cheaper.

      Carp and Garcia are iffy, though frankly I have more confidence in getting Carp back. At least Carp’s problem was fixed by surgery. Whether he can be effective is another issue. Garcia I’m afraid may have a recurrence.

      I don’t agree that Miller has a spot, at least not at first. The rush to get him up just puzzles me. Why not wait until he has prolonged success at Memphis? He has struggled for most of the season and has just recently had success in his last few starts. The Memphis season is almost over and I don’t believe this short spurt of success proves he is ready.

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