Jeff Passan on the Problem with Having “Favorites” and “Top Targets” in Free Agency

Jeff Passan hopped on the radio in Toronto following the Teoscar Hernández commerce, which isn’t usually one thing that might’ve gotten on my radar in such a approach that I believed it was value sharing right here. But he shared some issues about the nature of baseball offseasons that struck me as so considerate – utilized in no matter staff context you want – that I believe it is value all of us preserving in the backs of our minds over the subsequent few months.

With ah/t to the Batflip Substack, Passan was on Sportsnet 590 The Fan with JD Bunkis when the topic of “favorites” got here up (Canada) – the favourite staff to signal Player X, for instance. Passan laid down a actuality verify:

Passan: I’m going to tug again the curtain right here a little bit bit. I do not know if you happen to observe me on social media — if not, I do not blame you, as a result of social media is horrible.

JD: You’re truly fairly good at it.

Passan: Well, I admire that. And I believe individuals might share that sentiment as a result of I do not pollute their timelines, and I do not pollute their timelines as a result of I believe the favourite sport is a bunch of rubbish. I believe favorites change. I believe we’re dealing with extraordinarily fickle twenty-something-year-old males whose choices change as the wind does. And so, to counsel anybody is the favourite for Brandon Nimmo is to counsel that no one else goes to return in with a greenback extra tomorrow.

I do not know that I’ve heard an insider so plainly lay out how fickle the strategy of deciding may be. I believe we all know that gamers are human, and as not too long ago urged by David Ross, there are smooth elements that they care about. Maybe for some guys, which may make a staff the “favourite” to signal him, assuming the cash is there. But that is nonetheless the factor: in most conditions, a “favourite” is simply nearly as good as its newest provide.

In different phrases: watch out about letting your self factor, or reporting that means, a staff is the favourite to land a sure participant. That does not imply there is not a powerful connection there – it could possibly be! – however it might probably all change so shortly. Daily. And change again. So if you wish to take into consideration favorites in any respect, it is in all probability finest to maintain it extra summary: “I believe this staff might need shot at touchdown this participant for the following causes, and it would even be a greater shot than some other staff I can consider at the moment.”

Looking at it from the staff perspective, then, Passan equally squashed the thought that there’s ever only one plan in place:

JD: Do you suppose Nimmo is the Jays’ high goal then?

Passan: I believe he is a goal that they want, however I believe that offseasons are constructed round having a number of plans.

I swear I’m not making an attempt to, like, keep away from answering the query, or equivocate right here. This is simply the approach that trendy baseball offseasons work for groups. They perceive that free company is a minefield, and that alongside the approach — the Blue Jays have been extraordinarily hopeful about Justin Verlander final yr, and had a plan in place, and thought that they’d him. The Blue Jays have been extraordinarily hopeful about Noah Syndergaard final yr, and did an unimaginable job and have been spectacular in the interview course of, as they have been with Verlander. Did that get them Noah Syndergaard? Nope. So, finest laid plans, proper?

They may sit right here and say, ‘This is our primary goal, however that implies that we’re not going to have the ability to get this man, this man, and this man.’ And if you happen to put all of your eggs in one basket like this, or if you happen to put any of your eggs in one basket, another staff’s going to knock it out of your fingers, and your eggs are going to crack on the floor, and you ‘ll be unhappy that you do not get an omelette.

This is simply the way it works, and the way it’s working proper now for the Cubs. Yes, they could REALLY need a particular participant to pair with one other particular participant, however they must know that they won’t get each, and getting the first man means they can not additionally get these different two gamers they like; but when they begin with another participant, possibly the entire determination tree has to alter. And so on and so on.

And since participant decision-making processes may be fickle, it is not possible to truly have a “primary goal.” You might need an entire path that you just choose most of all, however it’s a must to by some means be concurrently working on different paths, as a result of you’ll be able to’t simply pin all of it on a “primary goal.”

Being versatile. Being nimble. Having data benefits. Quickly adjusting. All that stuff issues all through the offseason, making it a little bit reductive to say – as I admit, I generally let myself do – the Cubs need Carlos Correa and Kodai Senga as their high targets, and all the things else can observe from there. Again, that could be a path the Cubs actually need to go down, however in addition they must produce other “high” targets that give them different paths to observe, which could additionally make them completely pleased.

So, whenever you hear conflicting rumors about issues the Cubs would possibly need to do, effectively, that could possibly be as a result of they’d be pleased to do both of them. So they’re pursuing each issues directly, even when they’re totally contradictory.

And when the Cubs do not go the path you need them to go, or get the man you need them to get, it will be value asking how a lot of that’s truly on them? And how a lot is on the fickle nature of free company, and the sensible requirement to have a number of plans in place at the similar time?

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