Let's think back to 2003, when a guy dressed a business book as a baseball book. The book spoke of new and exciting measures of a baseball players worth, mostly as they related to inequities in the baseball marketplace. Unless you're were an old BBWAA hat, who decried Moneyball as deeply encrypted Taliban missives on the destruction of Western civilization. The early Moneyballers found high OBP & SLG guys with "bad bodies" to be both overlooked and underpriced, making them key to low budget success.
Fast forward to the winter of 2008, when high OPS (we're so civilized now) guys are everywhere and commanding huge salaries. As of today, patient sluggers like Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Milton Bradley, Jason Giambi, Pat Burrell and Manny Ramirez are unemployed and sitting by the phone, waiting for their $20 million dollar per year phone call. Meanwhile, guys like Adam Everett, Franklin Gutierrez, and Endy Chavez have all been either signed or traded for. Why? They all offer the same thing: cheap run prevention.
The Rays entire team seems based on this philosophy. Trading away can't miss, big bat-no glove prospect Delmon Young for Matt Garza and team MVP (ugh) Jason Bartlett's defense helped turn the Rays into one of the top defensive teams in baseball in 2008 after being the worst in 2007. The very same Rays who will be the subject a book on their Wall Street ways.
It's no coincidence that good teams have good defensive records, while bad teams do not. When money is no object you can afford to load up on offense and free agent pitching, but those on a budget can improve their overall fortunes quickly and cheaply by simply improving their defense. The Mariners acquiring Franklin Gutierrez while letting Raul Ibanez walk away saves them about $10 million dollars and nearly 50 outs in the field. The budget conscious/steady Moneyballin A's are always among the top defensive teams, and even the big bat, big budget, big loss total Tigers realized the preventing runs is as valuable as creating them by signing Adam Everett.
It would seem the fat, patient worm has turned. The order of the day are toolsy guys that like Nick Markakis, Troy Tulowitzki, Alex Rios and Evan Longoria. They won't put up gaudy Manny numbers, but when you factor his defensive shortcomings and the run savings in the field, their productivity is almost the same. Surely not by coincidence, all these players (save Markakis) have been locked up with extensions long before they reach arbitration. It's all about value, and some misguided fools will throw a bunch of money at Dunn and his ilk, but the smart money is on the guys that prevent as many runs as they score.