Archive for December, 2009

Happy Christmas

Santa Economist

Nats Sign Capps

According to ESPNChicago, the Nationals have agreed to a one-year deal with Matt Capps for $3.5 million. I’ve been critical of the Nats for their free-agent strategy—and I don’t think a 100-loss team should bother signing a closer—but, they got a good deal with Capps. I have him valued at about $5.5 million.

I have a few observations. First, it appears that Capps ended up getting close to what he would have gotten in arbitration with the Pirates—maybe he would have gotten a little more—which explains why the non-contender Pirates did not tender him a contract. Second, what were the Angels thinking signing Fernando Rodney to a two-year, $11 million deal? Capps is a far better pitcher and was available for much less. Maybe Capps wasn’t willing to go to the Angels, but I have to believe the Douglasville product could have tolerated a two-year stint in LA for an additional $7 million.

Crisp and Rodney

— The A’s have signed Coco Crisp to one-year deal that guarantees him $5.25 million, and also includes a team option for $5.75 million in 2011. The option has a $500,000 buyout adding to the $4.75 million he’ll get in 2010. I have him valued at about $6 million per year for the next two seasons, so this deal seems about right.

— The Angels have signed Fernando Rodney to a two-year $11 million deal. I have him valued at $5.5 million—half of what he got. Not a good deal for the Angels.

Vazquez for Cabrera

So, after hurting Derek “there wasn’t anybody holding a gun to their heads” Lowe’s precious feelings by openly shopping him (I guess you can’t really control leaks from other teams) the Braves traded Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to the New York Yankees for [holds nose] Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, and Arodys Vizcaino. As a Braves fan, I say “yuck” even though the deal isn’t really that bad. I liked Vazquez and I don’t care for Cabrera. But, when it comes down to it, this is a financial transaction, which I think signals that the Braves plan to sign a major free agent.

Here’s the deal. Vazquez is owed $11.5 million for 2010, and then he’s a free agent. I estimate that his performance will be worth about $12.5 million to an average team. Because the Braves and Yankees project to be above average teams, he’s actually a little more valuable. Even then, he’s not worth a great deal beyond his salary.

Cabrera is a poor man’s Jeff Francoeur. He’ll earn somewhere close to $3 million in arbitration, and put up some mediocre numbers off the bench. If he’s used properly—please, Bobby, use him off the bench only—that’s about what he’ll be worth. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him non-tendered after the season. Dunn and Logan are similar. Vizcaino rates high on many prospect lists, but he’s a long way off. Basically, this comes down to a swap of Vazquez’s surplus value for Vizcaino’s discounted expected future value.

The moral of the story is that when you’re paying a guy close to what he’s worth, you’re not going to get back much in a trade, even if he’s quite good.

The Braves just got a lot worse for next year as a team, but they also just shed a lot of payroll. The Braves aren’t expecting Cabrera to be the bat they need. To me this signals that the Braves are going after Bay or Holliday as a free agent, or they can take on a hitter with a big salary in a trade. Given the Braves problems with attracting fans at the ballpark, I think it’s important for the organization to build on last year’s momentum. Dumping Vazquez with no other corresponding moves doesn’t seem like the plan.

Nats Sign Marquis

The Nationals signed Jason Marquis to a two-year $15 million contract. Marquis is not a good pitcher, but he’s not awful. I know there is a tendency to hate guys like Marquis, but he’s better than many other options. I estimate the Marquis is worth about $13.5 million over the contract term.

This is a bad deal for the Nationals, but not because they payed him more than I estimate they should. The Nationals are terrible, and paying market price on the free-agent market for the likes of Marquis, Ivan Rodriguez, and possibly Matt Capps are finishing touches that good teams make to solidify themselves for a playoff run. Looks like the team is trying to solidify short-term mediocrity for long-run success.

Bradley for Silva

The Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners agreed to swap their overpaid players Milton Bradley and Carlos Silva. Now, Silva is the bigger albatross, which is why the Mariners threw in $9 million to make the deal happen. Silva has two years and $25 million left on his contract, when I estimate he’ll be worth around $11.5 million—an asset that will lose $13.5 million. Bradley is owed $21 million over the next two seasons, when I estimate he’ll be worth approximately $17.5 million—an asset that will lose $3.5 million.

Thus, the Cubs will be taking on a player worth -$4.5 million (-$13.5 million + $9 million) in return for giving up a player who expects to cost them -$3.5 million. The Mariners trade $4.5 million in losses for -$3.5 million. On the balance sheet, the Mariners come out ahead, but not by much. It just goes to show that Milton Bradley really is a million dollar pain in the ass.

Apparently, Bradley is owed $22 million, not $21 million. So, the deal comes out to be about even.

Tiger Woods and HGH

Now that Tiger Woods’s doctor has been caught with growth hormone (more commonly known as HGH), I think it’s a good time for a reminder that the scientific consensus is that growth hormone does not improve athletic performance.

Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at the Boston University of Medicine in his testimony before Congress.

“There is no credible scientific evidence that growth hormone substantively increases muscle strength or aerobic exercise capacity in normal individuals.”

You can read summaries of academic studies on the subject here and here.

If you think HGH is a PED, then you have no right to laugh at global warming skeptics or proponents of stadiums as engines of economic growth.

O’s Sign Mike Gonzalez

Tim Brown reports that Mike Gonzalez and the Orioles have agreed on a two-year, $12 million contract. Incentives may push the total compensation up to $16 million.

Given Gonzalez’s recent injury, it’s difficult to know exactly what kind of pitcher he really is. But, if he’s the guy who pitched in 2010, then I have him valued at around $13 million for the contract term. I have to admit that Gonzalez looked awfully strong in 2009, but I do worry about any history of injury.

Addendum: For some reason, I was thinking that Gonzalez was a Type B free agent. He’s Type A and the O’s pick is protected, so they will give up their second round pick instead of their first. Well, Gonzo didn’t join up with Scott Boras to take a discount.

The Yankees-Tigers-Diamondbacks Deal

A reader requested that I break down the three-way deal between the Yankees, Tigers, and Diamondbacks like I did the Halladay-Lee-prospects deal. Numbers in parentheses are millions of dollars.

Team		In			Out
Yankees		Granderson (12)		A. Jackson (3.33)
					Coke (3.33)
					Kennedy (3.33)
	Total	12			10

Tigers		A. Jackson (3.33)	E. Jackson (10)
		Scherzer (16)		Granderson (12)
		Schlereth (2.33)
		Coke (3.33)
	Total	25			22

Diamondbacks	E. Jackson (10)		Scherzer (16)
		Kennedy (3.33)		Schlereth (2.33)
	Total	13.33			18.33

Grand Total	50.33			50.33

I agree with other commentators that the Yankees and Tigers came out well in the deal, while the Diamondbacks didn’t do so well. Maybe the D-backs know things about Scherzer and Schlereth that we don’t. Also, keep in mind that these are crude estimates. Basically, I project the expected career performance based on minor-league performance and account for risk. I wish I could explain more about the prospect valuations, but the method requires a long and complicated explanation, and I devote a chapter to it in my book.

Merry Christmas, Mets!

Jeffy Claus

Why is this in theAJC?