Gary Matthews, Jr.
The Hot Stove has exploded. This is one of the most free spending off-seasons in memory, and it has only just begun. The names you see above have commanded money the likes of which the Sultan of Brunei would be envious. Let's check in with the situation:
Matsuzaka isn't even signed yet, but the Red Sox have shelled out $51.1 million to negotiate with Scott Boras. The money goes back to the Sox and Matsuzaka goes back to Seibu if nothing gets hammered out between them, but that seems highly unlikely. Matsuzaka could cost the Sox $10 million per year on the low end, based on the current market, and Boras wants a 3 or 4 year deal. That means that Matsuzaka, on the low end, would cost the red sox about $81 million over 3 years, or $91 million over 4. That's a per year expenditure of $23-27 million for a pitcher. You think the $10 million per is a stretch? Ted Lilly is seeking $9 million per. Stay away Cash Money!!!!!
Soriano cashed in on a freakishly good season by signing with the Cubs for 8 years at $136 million. That's a per year average of $17 million. I understand that the Cubs need help, and that Soriano will hit 50 home runs in Wrigley, on the high end, but $17 million is insane. He is "most similar through age 30" to Howard Johnson.
Juan Pierre is a below average player. 5 years and $45 million puts him in the same salary class as Frank Thomas, who just signed a two year $18 million deal with the Blue Jays. For the record, Pierre's career OPS+ is 86. I understand that he hits .300, steals 50 bases, and gets you 200 hits and 10-12 triples a year, but those numbers hide the fact that he also has a career OPS of .727 and the last two seasons have seen him post a .680 and .718, respectively. He is most similar through age 28 to Willie Wilson, who in turn had a "most similar career" to Brett Butler.
Gary Matthews, Jr. signed with the Angels for 5 years and $50 million. That's $10 million a season. Does anyone realize that Gary Matthews, Jr. just got the same money as Mariano Rivera? The Angels will be his 7th Major League team, and he sports a career 96 OPS+. Most of the top players in baseball are making in the $12-$15 million a season range, so you find guys like Matthews, Jr. and Edgar Renteria making $10 million per, but you still have Travis Hafner, Jermaine Dye, and Vernon Wells in single digits. Imagine what they will command in the next couple of years!!! His numbers through age 31 place him most similar to Michael Tucker.
Carlos Lee just signed with Houston for $100 million over 6 years. That's $16.5 million a season for a player who has a career similarity rating comparable to Cliff Floyd, Jermaine Dye, Mike Sweeney, Paul Konerko, Magglio Ordonez, Carl Everett, Richie Zisk, Derek Lee, Carlos Beltran, and Rondell White. At first glance, you might be willing to spend big on a guy with Dye, Lee, and Beltran upside, especially in the NL Central. On the other hand, his comparisons at age 30 are as follows: George Bell, Kent Hrbek, Raul Mondesi, Paul Konerko, Reggie Smith, Billy Williams, Derrek Lee, Dave Winfield, Jack Clark, and Greg Luzinski. Remember when comparing Carlos to Derek that Derek Lee has posted a total of ONE MVP caliber season in his career, and a collection of fair seasons the rest of the way. Lee may be good enough to justify the money, but I think the Astros just paid about $20 million too much for Lee, in terms of real value.
In fairness to the huge Yankee contracts, let's list the similarity ratings to make sure we're valuing our overpaid guys according to a more reasonable scale....
Johnny Damon = Cesar Cedeno (ROY, 4 time All-Star, 6 times in the MVP race)
Derek Jeter = Roberto Alomar (ROY, 12 time All-Star, 7 times in the MVP race)
Bobby Abreu = Bernie Williams (5 time All-Star, 6 times in the MVP race)
Alex Rodriguez = Ken Griffey, Jr. (ROY, 11 time All-Star, 10 times in the MVP race, 1MVP)
Jason Giambi = Mo Vaughn (3 time All-Star, 6 times in the MVP race, 1 MVP)
Jorge Posada = Carlton Fisk (ROY, 11 time All-Star, 7 times in the MVP race, HOFer)
Hideki Matsui = Raul Ibanez
Robinson Cano = Tony Cuccinello (4 time MVP candidate) or Tony Lazzeri (5 times)
It's clear that Damon is overpaid. Jeter, Abreu, and A-Rod are all fair value considering their comparisons. Jeter and A-Rod are comparable to Hall of Fame players, and Abreu to a guy on the fringe. Giambi and Mo Vaughn are a good comparison actually, as Vaughn also tripped over himself in New York and went out in a ball of flames. Giambi has a chance to turn it around if he can produce at close to an MVP level before it's all over, but he's way overpaid. Posada is a bargain at Carlton Fisk quality. Matsui's value would seem to be overblown, but his Japanese credentials and marketability make him worth the money. Cano is young, on a minor league contract, and draws comparisons to a Yankee Hall of Famer. He may get even better, and it's hard not to like him. As long as Cash Money stays out of this insane market, and pools his resources for Carlos Zambrano, Johan Santana, or other similarly otherworld players, the league average guys can find their way onto Other People's Payrolls. I'm not down with O.P.P., but that's just me.
Friday, November 24, 2006