The Darren Oliver Dilemma
|Courtesy of Zimbio|
In a three short years, Alex Anthopoulos has inked numerous players to team-friendly contracts. More often than not, those deals have worked in favour of the Blue Jays (think Bautista, Janssen, Encarnacion), but who ever thought the day would come when signing someone to a team-friendly contract would actually work against them?
After toying with the notion of heading off into the sunset of retirement, apparently Oliver is willing to come back to the Blue Jays for the 2013 season, but only if they give him a raise from his $3 million dollar option.
I mean, I can’t really blame the guy for wanting to get paid. After all, Darren Oliver had a career best season in 2012 and was a steal at a mere $4 million dollar salary, and would be an even bigger bargain at his $3 million dollar option for 2013.
Oliver was initially brought in as a lefty specialist, but handled both left and right-handed batters equally well in 2012. Darren very quickly became a mainstay in the Blue Jays bullpen, shedding himself of the LOOGY title and reinvented himself as an all-around solid reliever.
However, the million dollar question is … does Darren Oliver deserve more money to stay in Toronto? The simple answer: no.
It’s not fair for Darren Oliver to make a ultimatum towards the Blue Jays like that. He can’t use retirement as leverage to get the money he wants from the Blue Jays, and he can’t use it end up with his swan song team, the Texas Rangers either.
Darren Oliver signed a one-year contract with a team option last year, and he should fulfill that commitment. Say Darren Oliver signed a two-year contract instead and completely faltered, could the Blue Jays renegotiate the remained of the contract to pay Oliver less money?
Of course not. Contracts just do not work that way in baseball.
At the time when he signed the contract, perhaps Darren Oliver never thought he’d have the season he did in 2012 and fully expected to retire at season’s end. But if he wanted to guarantee himself an exit strategy, he should have only signed a one-year deal or at least make the option a player option.
When players sign contracts with options near the end of their career, they have to at least entertain the possibility that option will be picked up; no matter how well or how poorly the previous season goes.
If the Blue Jays do in fact agree to pay Darren Oliver the additional money he’s looking for, think of the dangerous precedent that sets for the rest of the team. Suddenly, maybe Jose Bautista feels his $14 million per season isn’t enough money. Renegotiating with Oliver just opens the door to all kinds of problems down the road.
The other issue here is Darren Oliver has now given all the leverage to
the Texas Rangers in a potential trade. In any other instance, a team
would likely get a decent package in return for one year of a reliever
the calibre of Darren Oliver. But now, the Blue Jays hands are tied and will basically have to take whatever they can get in return.
You can now see why Alex Anthopoulos prefers to deal within his coveted cone of silence. If all this remains behind closed doors, maybe a deal gets done more amicably and Darren Oliver gets what he ultimately wants and goes to the Rangers, while the Blue Jays receive fair compensation for his services.
Now that the Darren Oliver dilemma has hit the media, it’s changed the entire dynamic of the situation and gives Oliver and the Texas Rangers all the power.
In reality, another 1 or 2 million for Darren Oliver isn’t all that much on top of what will like be around a $120 million dollar payroll for the Blue Jays. And that’s not to say Oliver isn’t worth it; if anything, I’d say he’s actually worth more than the additional one million or so he’s asking for.
If it truly is a money issue, the Blue Jays could certainly find some
extra cash under the mattress, despite how cash-strapped they are letting on
to be. I think it’s about much more than that though, and it’s really about a promise Darren Oliver made to the Blue Jays, so to speak.
There’s no question it would be great for the Blue Jays to have Darren Oliver back to shore up the back end of the bullpen for 2013. The issue here is Oliver signed a contract and he should intend on keeping that promise.
As a 19 year veteran, Darren Oliver has certainly earned the right to
call the shots close to the finish line of his career. But is this really
how Oliver wants to end his career? By giving the Blue Jays an ultimatum
to either pay him more or to trade him to his hometown Texas Rangers?
all for players having a storybook ending to their career, but there’s
something about this that just doesn’t seem right.