The Mike Hampton deal gets curiouser and curiouser. Murray Chass today reports that instead of forcing the Braves to pay for his services, since they will be benefiting from them, the next three years, the deal may have the Braves paying only the last three years of his 6-year contract.
What's the difference you ask? The difference is that they can increase their deal to Tom Glavine to be competitive with the Mets and Phils. If they can re-sign Glavine, believed a remote possibility right after the deal was announced, then they can continue their dominance of the NL East. This would seem to be at cross-purposes with the Marlins' desire to attain the same crown, and yet the Marlins made the deal.
Chass also notes that the monetary machinations will need to be disentangled prior to gaining approval from the commissioner, something that Chass implies may be difficult.
"Everyone has a different view on the deal," one official said. "I don't know who's paying what. That's something that's going to have to be looked at closely. It all seems to be a muddle."
There's one last note that I found of interest. As the deal evolved from a two-team to a three-team transaction, the impression was that the Marlins were interested in acquiring Hampton to trade him. Chass implies that that was not the Marlins' intentions at all:
"Hampton was eager to leave the Rockies, but he was not prepared to waive his no-trade clause and accept a trade to the Marlins. His agent, Mark Rodgers, informed the Marlins of that stance, but he also told them Hampton would accept a trade to one of several other teams. That's what led to the trade with the Braves."
It appears that the deal was brokered to help both clubs dump salary. That would be fine if the Marlins had not turned around and traded Hampton while agreeing to pay a large portion of his salary.
I am left trying to explain to myself why the Marlins did make the deal. Could Charles Johnson's presence be that virulent? They trade Johnson, Wilson, and Darensbourg, thereby dumping $15 M in salary in 2003. OK, that makes sense. They get Juan Pierre-well that's a typical acquisition for a bad team. But the also pick up Hampton, who they know will not allow the trade to occur unless he gets traded to a team he will agree to. OK, so they trade him to division-rival Atlanta. That's suspicious enough, but then they agree to pay perhaps more than Atlanta will over the next 6 years for his services. They also get the bullpen equivalent of Pierre in the person of Tim Spooneybarger, a reliever who was often bailed out by the Braves' excellent bullpen last year and is expendable to the Braves, and a player to be named. Apparently, the Marlins will be paying more money to Hampton's non-services than they would for the three players they traded, and all they have to show for it are two marginal players.