Monday, December 6, 2010

Jayson Werth signs with Nationals

I’ll start this post with a retelling of an excerpt from Michael Lewis’ – the writer of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball and The Blindside, among others – newest work, The Big Short:
--- When a [super agent] helped him [to sign a free agent] that seemd perfect in every way, [Mike Rizzo] asked the [agent]. “I appreciate this, but I just want to know one thing: How are you going to fuck me?”
Heh-heh-heh, c’mon, [I’d] never do that, the trader started to say, but [Mike], though perfectly polite, was insistent… And the [agent] explained how he was going to fuck him. And [Mike signed the free agent]. ---
Now let’s be clear: Jayson Werth is an excellent player. He’s a good defender, with a good arm. He’s a good baserunner, with great instincts. He’s a very good hitter, with a great eye and the ability to work the count and get on base. While not Adam Dunnn, he also hits for power.
But, he’s not without his flaws (he strikes out more than a quarter of the time). And most importantly, he’s not getting any younger. Carl Crawford is going to be 29 in 2011, and thus should expect around a seven year deal. But Jayson Werth is going to be 32, and to make matters worse, he’s had a history of injury. He’s had both knee problems and wrist problems, which is to say, he’s not the likeliest of candidates to both age well and avoid nagging injuries as his career progresses and he reaches those ages in which players most often get hurt, i.e. their mid to upper thirties.
This contract is as ill-advised as Fredo taking a boat ride. It’s nearly impossible to arrive at a figure that justifies Jayson Werth’s contract, for 7 seasons and $126 million. To do so, you really have to paint it peachy.
As 2011 will be his age 32 season, the Nationals have expertly signed him just in time for his decline phase. Brilliant. If we average his Wins above Replacement (WAR) over the last three seasons, giving a 50/50 weighting to Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference, we can get a 2011 WAR of 4.58 for Jayson. If we assume that the dollar per win above replacement for the 2011 season is around $5 million – and so long as teams are doling out this kind of money this offsesaon, it seems a fair assumption –  and then increase that rate over the following six seasons (or the duration of his contract) at 7% per season, as well as assume he regresses at just half a win per season through age 38, we can get to $126 million. I got $127.22.
Unfortunately, it’s extremely unlikely that all of these occurences will happen in parallel. Probably the least of which is that Jayson will age at just half a win per season. If we go to a 0.7 regression in years 34-38, and a more modest $/win growth rate of 5% per season, we can get to $102.35 million. That’s still an overpay of about $25 million, and we still have not factored in the fact that a) Werth was likely helped in the past three seasons by his home ballpark, Citizens Bank Park, and b) the Nationals aren’t likely to contend in the next two seasons when Werth will almost certainly be doing his best work.
This is an ugly contract that Rizzo will almost certainly come to regret. It’s too bad he didn’t lock up Ryan Zimmerman, who looks to be a perennial MVP candidate if the Nationals can climb into relevance – though, it should be noted, Rizzo has effectively just made this much less likely to happen.
The moral of the story is this: Scott Boras does it again. It was said that the offer was so large in terms of years and dollars, Boras didn’t even bother to submit it to other teams to see if they would be willing to match it. That about sums it up. It's also worth noting the Phillies got jobbed on this: Because the Nat's were a bottom feeder in 2010, their frat round pick was protected and thus Philly will get their second rounder and a sandwich pick, which together, won't be nearly as valauable probably. Though, in a deep draft, it's not a disaster.

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