July 23, 2008

C'Mere An' Let Me 'Splain You Sumthin'

Summer vacation be damned. Ring the bell, school's back in session. The approved texts for this course are Cot's Baseball Contracts and Baseball Reference (though The Baseball Cube is an acceptable alternative, if you prefer.)

Today's Lesson: Cristian Guzman's Market-Value Deal

If you can stand between second base and third base holding a glove, you will be overpaid. Cristian Guzman will earn $16M dollars over the next two years, $8M per season. His career line is a thoroughly mediocre .267/.305/.382 good for an OPS+ of 78 (100 being theoretically average for an MLB player.) That sounds bad, and it is, but it's also in the neighborhood of a bunch of other major league shortstops. For example:

  • Dodgers SS Rafael Furcal is in the final year of a 3 yr/$39M contract, and is having a career season, except for the fact that he's only played half of it. Still, his next contract figures to improve on the $13M per season he's making now. His career OPS+ of 96 makes him the cream of the FA crop.
  • Khalil Greene of the Padres will make $6.5M next season, a good value for his 95 OPS+, and he's twice the fielder Guzman is, but his OBP makes Cristian look like Luis Castillo. He'd be an upgrade, notwithstanding we have nothing the Padres want.
  • The Red Sox are probably regretting Julio Lugo's $9M per season contract, given his career 88 OPS+ and the two years remaining on the deal. If John Henry wants to eat $18M, there's always Jed Lowrie.
  • Former Expo Orlando Cabrera is making $9M this season in his one (and likely only) year with the White Sox. With an 86 career OPS+ he's no Furcal, but he'll be the second best FA shortstop on the market this winter and it's hard to see him getting a total contract that's less than Guzie's $16M.
  • Finally, Jack Wilson of the Pittsburgh P-Rats is the proud owner of a career OPS+ of 79, and a $7.25M salary in '09 (with an $8.4M club option for 2010.) Apparently, Picksburg is a good town in which to be a scrappy middle infielder. There's no chance in hell the Buccos exercise that option though, setting up Cap'n Jack to be the class of the 2010 SS free agent class.

Several of these fellas ace Guzie with the glove, but this isn't what you'd call a roster of perennial All-Stars. These are pretty solidly middle-of-the-pack veteran shortstops. And Cristian's contract slots right in. No hometown discount, perhaps, but nothing to place it in the Barry Zito/Andruw Jones pantheon o' terrible deals either. Two years and $16M buys time for Smiley Gonzalez or _______________ fill-in-the blank (students answering Ian Desmond will be sent back to remedial prospect evaluation) to develop, without becoming an impediment.

There's been some chatter from the back of the class that Guzman is "injury prone" and inevitably into his post-age 30 decline phase. The injury prone label comes from having missed all of 2006 following shoulder surgery and just over half of 2007 courtesy of Josh Barfield's stupid, oversized head. But there's some contradictory logic at work here. Neither of Guzie's injuries is chronic or prone to recurrence, and his rehab time actually subtracts from the everyday grind of being a major leaguer.

The 2006 shoulder repair (coupled with post-2005 laser eye surgery) fixed an existing condition and probably made Cristian a better hitter and fielder. (If it didn't, why would he do it?) The torn thumb ligaments in 2007 are just an occupational hazard of applying the tag to the helmet of a man whose head is like an orange on a toothpick. Apart from that, Guzman has averaged 140 games per full season, and has played in 97 of 100 games this year. Not exactly a JD Drew-type. As for being in the traditional "decline period", well Cristian's got a year and a half less wear-and-tear than your average thirty year old MLB shortstop, so he should probably hold up well enough for two more seasons.

Your homework, should you choose to accept it: You don't like the Guzman contract? Fine, do it better. Assume Cristian leaves in 2008, either via trade or free agency. Unleash your inner GM and pick a replacement shortstop. Keep in mind that your choice must be A) Available (no Jeter or Hanley Ramirez), B) Better (Show your work! Otherwise, what's the point?) and C) Cheaper (Or at least in the ballpark. Even inner GMs have to work with their real ownership.) No copying off your neighbor, and no skimming bonus money from Dominican rookies. Any deals submitted in the comments or via email may be publicly graded in the next edition of Ask An Idiot Blogger.


Sittin' in 117 said...

This is precisely the point. There isn't much better out there, $8 M has been misspent in far worse ways at this position, and -- and this wasn't mentioned -- Bowden bought Guzman's likely two best years -- a young 31 and 32 and a guy with his head screwed on right -- without having to get into a 4 or 5 year deal that buys a Posada- or Pedro-like decline. Plus, he's there to teach the Show to Bonifacio. The deal is very good for the Nats -- it's possible Guzman might have done better in the market!

If the reality that Guzman has had the best year on this team hasn't struck you -- or that he was a consistently good player in Minnesota -- you've been replaying 2005 too often. I did, too -- I found myself thinking THIS CAN'T BE far too often. Well, it can't, and wasn't.

Two good moves by Sunny Jim. I can almost forgive LoDuca.

Nate said...

I can almost forgive LoDuca.

Whoa, let's not get crazy, 117.