Here's an interesting article about investing in your own talent early.
In the last few weeks, the economics of Major League Baseball (MLB) has been rewritten in a way that would make Money Ball’s Billy Beane proud. MLB has seen an influx of very talented, very young players (under 27) - and general managers are forced to ask themselves whether to lock them up to big contracts now… or have them hit the open market and potentially sign far bigger deals. The players are forced to ask themselves whether to sign long-term contracts now or continue earning minimum level salaries ($100,000s / yr) until they hit the open market.
Now, the Padres have obviously done this. There have been some recent deals that have ensured that the Padres make the most of guys like Jake, Adrian and Khalil. The problem I see is that they couple this (good) strategy with a bad one.
Even big-market teams like the Red Sox, Mets, Yankees, Tigers, etc understand that you’d rather gamble on upside than on downside… especially when signing people on the downturn of their career can be more expensive.
Jim Edmonds, Tony Clark, Mark Prior, Randy Wolf, Shawn Estes, Jim Edmonds... Obviously it sometimes works and it sometimes doesn't. It's a decent strategy to compliment the first strategy of growing and investing your own talent. The Padres are also really good at getting a hold of unproven talent and extracting value (See every middle reliever in the past 10 years).
The one thing they don't seem to go for is proven talent with upside on the free agent market. It's obviously the most expensive type of player, but is it really so much more expensive than some of the veteran contracts we go for? I don't want to load the team with these guys and carry a gigantic payroll, but one or two at a time to top things off would be great, a la Kevin Brown in '98. I'm also not saying that the Padres should abandon the way they've done things, I'd just like to diversify into a few blue chips while we're at it.