Cool Papa Bell, as you would expect him to, makes just about the best argument against Stars & Scrubs that I can imagine:
The last point seems to be conflating two separate issues: a team's overall payroll and how that payroll is distributed. If the M's increased their payroll by $20 million then they clearly could sign an additional player for $20 million without hindering the rest of the roster. Whether or not it is wise to spend $20 million dollars on one player rather than two or three is a totally different issue. I have shown that Dipoto's willingness to sign "stars" is perfectly inline with the rest of the league, and I have explained why we should not presume that signing a larger proportion of stars would be better (https://seattlesportsinsider.com/?q=blogs/is-min-maxing-optimal).
Then again, I may be completely misunderstanding what the argument is.
The link goes to his June article here, which says in part
Let's think this through. If Stars and Scrubs is inherently optimal, then every team should pursue it, right? But what would happen if that were the case? The result would be that the cost of stars would go way UP, the cost of scrubs would go way UP, and the cost of Civics would go way DOWN. The problem should be abundantly clear. Acquiring stars or scrubs would be horribly inefficient, while Civics would be a bargain. Therefore, going after Civics would be optimal. That means the optimal strategy is going to depend on the specific market conditions at the moment. And in a rational market, an equibilrium will be reached which will make either strategy about equally valid. Therefore, "Stars and Scrubs" can not possibly be inherently optimal.
And then Papa goes on to count up the stars on each team, noting that the M's do have 3-4 stars and concluding that the Mariners are typical of major league teams in their current philosophy.
Firstly, thanks for a very fine argument.
In reply to your last paragraph listed: Stars & Scrubs is a type of third-order thinking that transcends $/WAR which has a complete stranglehold on the free agent market. I firmly insist that the 30 major league GM's lack a solid understanding of the concept, as do 95% of rotisserie players and sabermetricians.
Maybe the best way to understand the problem with extreme "Civics" teams is to watch a Pat Gillick team decay and collapse for years or decades after he's done with it. The 2002 M's team was packed with mid-salary Civics like Dan Wilson C, John Olerud 1B, Bret Boone 2B, Carlos Guillen SS, Mike Cameron CF, Edgar Martinez DH, Moyer, Garcia, etc. You are not going to swap Olerud and Martinez out in an agile manner if they start playing badly. Extreme Civics teams become OSSIFIED.
Right now the Mariners have only 3 of 25 positions ossified: 3B, SS, and whatever Robinson Cano plays.
Of course, after you set aside your Scrubs positions --- > the positions which can be swapped out if poor performance occurs, AND THE POSITIONS WHICH CAN REASONABLY OUTPERFORM THEIR CONTRACTS --- > then you lock in a few guaranteed performers like Cano and Cruz, and of course some Civics are necessary to round out the roster. If you think about it then you will find it obvious that a free agent Civic is not going to outperform his contract. Ergo you ain't getting any 2013 Seahawks rosters together that way. ;- )
Stars & Scrubs (and Billy Beane) has nothing against a 4 x $8M contract. What it resists is ten or twelve such contracts, the Gillick model.
Minor note: the M's do have four players paid like stars, but two of course (Cano and Felix) were decisions pre-Dipoto, and Leake's salary is patially paid by St. Louis. Seager's the other guy making big money.
I love the way that when I'm away from the keyboard, then --- > guys use the most recent article stubs to create fascinating debates. :- )