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Texas-sized Extension: Smart or Idiotic?

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on March 1, 2007

The Texas Rangers announced today that they have reached agreement on a contract extension with shortstop Michael Young.  On the surface, it sounds like a smart deal.

He’s probably their best player when you consider what he does for them on the field and in the clubhouse, and he has very few weaknesses, if any at all.  So why might this be another in a long line of irresponsible contracts given out over the past five months?

First, let’s reiterate the positives, in a little bit more detail.

Young is a very good ballplayer.  He’s equally good against lefthanders and righties, runs well and is generally rated as an average to above-average defensive shortstop, though many argue that he’s a potential gold glover at his former position at second base.

He’s got a little pop, averaging around 60 extra-base hits per season since becoming a regular in 2001, and has improves his ability to make consistent contact with solid strikeout rates over the past three years.  He consistently fans less than 100 times per season, including just 89 in 2005 and 96 last season.

Although he doesn’t steal many bases, he has just 46 in 64 career attempts, he is an extremely talented baserunner, taking smart risks and almost never making a mistake on the base paths. One big-league coach called him the next Paul Molitor on the bases.

Young is also a solid run producer, tallying 476 RBI in 905 career games including just under 300 over the past three seasons, as well as an offensive asset that posts very respectable on-base percentages, even if most of those numbers are gained with his batting average which sits at exactly .300 for his career.

All in all, Young is pretty much the heart and soul of the Texas Rangers right now.

Now, that sounds like a pretty damned good ballplayer, doesn’t it?  Well, he is, and any team would be lucky to have him.

But…

The Rangers have $18 million guaranteed to Young over the next two years BEFORE his new extension even kicks into gear.  Ultimately, this contract is a seven-year pact worth $98 million.

If he was 25, this might be considered a super bargain in today’s market, but to me it looks like a Texas-sized reach.

Young turned 30 last October and his OPS took a hit in 2006, dropping 85 points from the previous season.  While he’s still slugging near .460, I’m not sure that’s enough to warrant $14 million per year until he’s 37.  And he might be starting a slow decline already.

While I’m not contending that this deal is worse than that of Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soriano, I’m finding it hard to find this to be a smart move by the Mariners’ rival – which I guess makes it a good move, at least in the long run, if you are a Mariners fan.

This may mean the end of the line for Hank Blalock with slugger Mark Teixeria due an enormous extension after this upcoming season.

I guess if Young was a plus defender and a little bit better at getting on base, I may not express any of these thoughts.  But Young, as good as he is, is just a .350 OBP, slightly above-average defensive shortstop with very good leadership skills.

I can’t imagine Young playing shortstop for more than maybe four more years, and by that time he may not be hitting enough to even play second everyday.  I guess in the end, Texas just felt he was a must-have, but I would have traded him for a pitcher or two, because that, and not offense or defense, is what Texas is missing, and has been missing for, like, ever.

When the time comes to extend an offer to Ichiro, the Seattle Mariners are probably going to hear the name Michael Young from agent Tony Attanasio.  So, $16 million a year might be a dollar amount that is considered, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility, that four or five years is requested, too.

Just a thought.

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48 Responses to “Texas-sized Extension: Smart or Idiotic?”

  1. Goose said

    Young rates as above average on defense? Really? I always thought he was below average.

    He’s never really imperssed me a whole heck of alot with the bat either. Considering it’s mostly helped out by that little league park they have in Arlington. There’s over 100 point OPS difference between his home and away(.865/.730 respectively) for his career. Though, I guess this ensures that he keeps getting helped out by that park for the rest of the decade.

    Still, 7 years and damn near $100 for a career .797 OPS player? I wouldn’t of done it.

  2. AQ said

    Yeah, I’d have to concur with your analysis on this one.

    I see no way that this deal could be spun to make it seem like a good decision. I think the Rangers need (to steal from Bill Simmons) a VP of Common Sense in their organization to veto these sorts of transactions.

    Of course, the Mariners could stand to have a similar position in their organization based on some of their decisions (*cough cough* Vidro *cough cough*).

  3. pslim said

    This brings up one of my favorite comparisons of late:

    Player A Road Stats in 2006: .290 Avg, 6 HR, .749 OPS
    Player B Road Stats in 2006: .292 Avg, 6 HR, .737 OPS

    Player A is Michael Young, Player B is Yuniesky Betancourt.

    To be fair, Young has amassed a .300, 31, .803 line on the road over the last 3 years. Of course, to also be fair, Betancourt was for all intents and purposes a rookie last year.

    And for my money, the glove on our guy makes up any lost ground.

  4. JI said

    Daniels has had a rough go a GM, this deal is silly.

    Score one for the good guys.

  5. AQ said

    Speaking of crazy signings, ESPN created “The Most Mediocre Team Money Can Buy”. Fortunately, there’s only one Mariner in the 25 man roster (Batista).

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=schoenfield/070301

  6. Yeah, other teams were even DUMBER than Seattle. Go figure.

    LOL.

  7. AQ said

    Yeah, no doubt on that. I think the Cubs drew the majority of the author’s criticism with the Aramis Ramirez, Soriano, and DeRosa signings (they signed Jason Marquis too, right?).

    What would be interesting is to construct a 25 man roster that is “The Best Team Money Can Buy”. Give yourself a cap of, say, $25 or $30 million and see what kind of roster you could construct and run it through the same simulations in Diamond Mind like they did in the ESPN article.

  8. taro said

    $16mil for Ichiro would be a rediculous bargain.

    Hes a better hitter (after adjusting for park), a better baserunner by any measure, and a FAR FAR more valuable defensive player. Young is an average SS, Ichiro is one of the best defensive CF in baseball. He may be THE best.

    Tango Tiger calculated Ichiro’s FA value at $21mil per year. This of course doesn’t count the money he rakes in with marketing.

    You ideally wouldn’t want to over 4 years with Ichiro, but your going to have to pay up in dollars per year. Course hes probably gone anyways, so all of this is moot…

  9. Goose said

    Yeah, it’s not the money I’m concerned with on Ichiro’s next contract, it’s the years.

  10. Ozzie said

    I like this signing actually. A .3oo career hitter one year removed from a .331 year and drives in runs (nearly 100 for the last three years). Plays a solid shortstop and can move to DH later in his career. Takes pitches and a well balance hitter. 52 doubles with 14 homeruns and also scores nearly 100 runs a year. Has never been injured and plays everyday. His onbase percentage the last two years is equal to Ichiros (.350 and .370) to Youngs (.385 and .356). One last stat 4 straight 200 hits seasons.

    In todays market this contract is about right.

  11. Young is about to start declining, it appears. This extension doesn’t even BEGIN until 2009 when he’s 32!

    Ichiro will a 34-year-old whose better days are undoubtedly behind him. He’s not worth 16 mil a year for his on-field contributions. Not here, not with this team.

  12. Jesse said

    Jason. Lets pretend for a moment that you were the gm for the Seattle Mariners. Would you bite the bullet, and over pay to keep ichiro in town, or would you trade him now for a group of promising/elite prospects?

  13. Lance said

    Well, I suppose they’ve got to spend their money on someone. Fans demand it because they ignorantly tie it to a team’s desire to win. Even spending it foolishly, the fans don’t care. So teams spend their money, even less intelligently than the government. And that’s hard to do.

    And as you said, Young is the heart and soul of the team. It matters little, however. I see the Rangers competing with the Royals and Rays for the worst record in the A.L. this year. Hey, three-fifths of their rotation are virtual rookies, I don’t think the new Eric Gagne will be anything like the old Eric Gagne, and that powerful offense is in decline, with Mathews, DeRosa and Lee gone. I pity Ron Washington. It won’t be his fault, but he’ll get the blame, nonetheless.

  14. marc w. said

    Goose mentioned it, but it’s worth pointing out that Young has been one of the worst defensive SS in baseball according to UZR for a few years now. That view isn’t corroborated by some of the other metrics, but no one has him as solidly above average – the range goes neutral to craptastic.

    Gotta see this move as fairly idiotic…

  15. Egaas said

    I could very much see Ichiro getting a deal from the M’s along the lines of this.

    Seeing how he had two years left this is a “dedication to the face of our franchise” and “dedication to win to our fans”, and to “keep our guy on our team for his career”.

    And even so, they both won’t be worth it.

  16. You need a comment thread for your sidebar discussions, so sorry to add it here…

    FREE AUSTIN!!!!

    Now back to your regularly scheduled discussion on the massive piles of money that the Texas Rangers will end up spending on their SS position. Sorta like the M’s problems with the DH. And third base…

  17. …but, actually, doing it over again, I’d still give Beltre the exact same contract Bavasi gave him. So, not a good representation of the Texas SS problem…

  18. I dunno. There are more Michael Youngs than there are Ichiro Suzukis in baseball. I’d actually say that Ichiro is a much bigger superstar than Young. I also wouldn’t be surprised for Ichiro to get A-Rod type money…

  19. And before people rake into me — Ichiro would get A-Rod type money, but for fewer years. If I had to guess what Ichiro would get on the FA market after 2007, my line would be 5/$100. Too much, perhaps, but I’m sure there’s someone who’d pay that much.

  20. JasonAChurchill said

    For just in-field contributions, Ichiro isn’t worth anywhere near 5/100, though I would not doubt he’d get that from someone (Boston, LAD).

    I agree that Ichiro is a much more special player than Young and even with the age diff, I’d rather give Ichiro 5/80 than Michael Young.

    Ichiro is more likely to maintain his skills into his late 30s than Young is even into his mid 30s.

  21. Lance,

    I know where you are coming from, and yes, I just meant for this piece to spark the debate of whether it makes sense to think about doing it now versus mid-season or NEVER.

    I agree that the M’s aren’t likely to do anything until June or July, and I would debate that they won’t trade him period.

  22. Lance said

    I’ve said it for a year, and I’ll say it again. It’s Ichiro’s call. Come June or July, or even thereafer (though I doubt they could ever get waivers on him) if he says trade me, they will. If he doesn’t they won’t. And, I would agree with that position.

    If Ichiro doesn’t call for a trade that’ll be as strong an indication as anything that Ichiro really wants to say in Seattle. Aside from the losing, Ichiro loves Seattle and continues to love playing for Mr. Yamauchi. I’m sure staying in Seattle would make Ichiro happier than anybody. I’m confident they can sign him long before he actually files for free agency. And, only the excited prospect droolers will be disappointed.

  23. Ron Hagerty said

    At what point do we realize that even if Ichiro wants to re-sign, is he really worth the 5 year commitment at 15 million plus…

  24. Goose said

    Seems this isn’t so much a 5 year extension as it is a 7 year deal that replaces his current contract. Or at least, that is what Rotoworld is claiming.

    “Rangers signed shortstop Michael Young to a seven-year contract through 2013.
    The Rangers said the contract supersedes Young’s previous deal, which would have seen him earn $9 million over the next two years. When the deal was leaked Thursday, it was understood that Young would earn $80 million over the following five seasons. We believe it’s a bad signing, but the Rangers are looking to make Young the face of the team and if they didn’t give him this kind of money, someone else would have when he became a free agent after 2008. Young’s consistency and durability are plenty valuable right now, but there’s a good chance that he’ll spend at least the last two years of the deal as a mediocre left fielder.”

  25. Young was already guaranteed 9 mil in 2007, and had an option for 2008 at 9 mil. Part of this deal was that the club would pick up that option and tack the new deal onto the end of it.

    It’s not the worst deal ever, but I wouldn’t have done it.

    Regarding Ichiro… On the field, he might be worth 3/36. Considering his marketing power, which other players get to count as well, I’d go 3/40.

    The M’s will give in on a fourth year, I’m sure.

  26. Josh said

    I don’t like the comparison of someone’s stats on the road vs. someone else’s stats on the road. I’m the last one to be a Young fan, I’m sure, but I think it’s a poor way to judge players, even him.

    Aside from worsening the sample size by ~50%, if you take his stats on the road vs. Yuni’s on the road, that means the difference between their circumstances is Yuni gets some helpful ABs in Arlington, and Young has to endure some at Safeco. Now, I could be dense, but to me that sounds to be having the same [lesser] effect, in the opposite direction.

    In any regard, Texas will be weeping around the same time the Cubs are over Soriano, give or take a year. Of course, maybe neither one will for a while, as long as Young keeps hitting in a bandbox and Soriano gives some decent fantasy lines. That seems to be what they want, after all.

    It’s fun to see other teams’ FOs make stupid mistakes. Especially in the AL West. 🙂

  27. taro said

    Ichiro, just on the field, is worth roughly $21mil per year over the next 3-4 years in the current free agent market according to Tango Tiger. 3/36 might have been a realistic number if Ichiro were just becoming arb-eligable… Even then though, its pretty low.

  28. Tango is good for a lot of things, but if Ichiro is worth 21 mil ON THE FIELD, than there are 30 others in baseball worth 21+.

    And I don’t buy either for a second.

  29. taro said

    I’d say there are roughly 15-20 others in baseball worth $20mil+, but the vast majority of them aren’t going to hit the FA market next year. The FA market isn’t cheap.

    For instance, if Pujols were a FA he’d be worth over $30mil a year. His contract is probably the biggest bargain in baseball.

    This is why I think the M’s would be idiotic not to give Felix a longterm deal NOW. Lock him up for the next 8 years ASAP. His value is never going to be lower. Give Felix what he wants. Its best for both sides.

  30. Ozzie said

    In my opinion I believe there are only four players that I would consider giving 21+ to. Miguel Cabera, Siezmore, Reyes, and Puljois. Thats it. They are young and have 5 tool talent. Some are close like Vlad, Wright, and Howard but these players are not at the level of the others I mentioned.

  31. Based on what, Taro? NONE of these players are worth 20 million, EXCEPT MAYBE Pujols and Johan Santana.

    Ichiro at 28 is worth 20 a year for more than 3 years. Ichiro at 34 isn’t worth anywhere near that for anything more than two.

    I agree on Felix, and they are working on it.

  32. Jason, Tango bases his numbers on wins added times value of a win added as a Free Agent. Since their are usually only a few FA that can add 5 or more wins availabe in a year their value is inflated by the lack of options.

    That means that if only 3 guys are available, say Ichiro, Pujols and Santana it would be likely that Ichiro got the third highest contract but due to the market would be in the 18+M dollar range. Pujols as a FA is worth boatloads. So would Santana, the thing is that very few of the top 25 players in the game actually reach FA in a given year.

    FA = 4.1M$ or so per win added
    Arbie = 2.2M$ roughly per win added
    CC = .5M$ per win added.

    Maximization of those values increases a club’s flexibility. Long deals that buy-out arbie when CC (say Felix at 4/12M$ or so so rough I hesitate to say), or arbie deals that buy-out FA (The Pujols example) get guys locked into their team. This is essential to generate the ability to react to market conditions, and is the power that a team with a player under contract has.

    Ichiro could likely be had for an extension at 4/64, but as a FA would demand more than the 5/80 that Young got.

    Think it through with a guy like Felix? If he were a FA what would his value be? But extended with the Ms?

  33. So, even according to Tango’s formula, 20+ mil isn’t what Ichiro is WORTH, it’s his market value.

    There’s a big difference between the two.

  34. taro said

    What Tango means is that wins cost a LOT more in Free Agency.

    Ichiro’s FA market value is $21.5mil per year. Thats what he’d be worth as a FA. If he were just becoming arbitration eligible he’d be right around the $11.5mil a year you were suggesting.

    Just sort of helps to emphasize how important it is to lock up your players long-term before they hit arbitration.

    The more years the Ms lock up Felix to, the better.

  35. Like i said, MARKET VALUE is vastly different than actual WORTH.

  36. And while I agree in general, Taro, I think the club has to be sure that it’s a guy they want LONG TERM for pretty decent money.

    The Mariners should not be giving Jose Lopez bigtime cash right now. A decent deal for 2-3 years? Sure. But locking him for 5 years would not be wise unless it’s certain to save the team cash, which is tough to do past his arby years when you don’t know what kind of player he’s really going to be.

    Felix? I’d take the small risk that he doesn’t turn into an ace and hand him 5 and 30 – TODAY. If he wants more, he’ll have to sign a LONGER deal. 7 and 50?

  37. How in a free market is Value not equal to Worth?

  38. taro said

    Worth depends on context. If the M’s are going to spend those FA dollars anyway, they might as well spend it on a superstar. $19mil to Ichiro is FAR FAR prefferable to Batista and Weaver.

    But ya, Lopez I’d lock up at five years for a $2-3mil average or so. At the very least he’ll turn into an extremely valuable bench player.

    7 and 50 with Felix… man that is a dream. You could end up paying him four to five times less than his open market value on a year by year basis. I wouldn’t even mind 8 or 9 years.

  39. Lopez would be dumb to sign a 5/15 year deal. He’d pass that average as an arbie guy.

    I thinkIchiro should be had NOW for the Young deal. Jason will disagree. But I don’t see how the team will be better next year without him, unless the club deals for a handful of MLR talent.

    I stop at 5 years for any player. I don’t know of any seven year deals in which the player has ended that deal with the club. Someone could probably find one, but it is rare when the last year of a seven year deal the player is still useful.

  40. “Might as well” is not a good place to start that thought, Taro.

    Of course anyone would rather spend 18 on Ichiro instead of 9 on Wash and 8+ on Batista, but that’s doesn’t mean that the food is any good, if ya catch my drift.

    Market value does not equal actual value. That is why so many contracts are shredded and rightfully so, such as Gil Meche’s 5/55, and Soriano’s ridiculous contract. Neither are WORTH that kind of money, but their market value was obviously there, because they did get it.

    I’m not arguing that Ichiro WON’T or CAN’T get 18+ for 3+ years on the open market. I’m arguing that he’s not WORTH it.

    Just like I argued that Michael Young is not worth 7/95.

  41. Bedir,

    You think the Mariners should offer Ichiro 5/80? At 34 years old? Yeah, yer right, I do disagree. I’m still waiting for him to show us why he’s worth 16 per for 1 year, let alone five.

    Re: Lopez

    The Mariners tried that already. They originally talked about 4/12.5 with Jose, and his agent asked for three year offers in the same neighborhood instead.

    Seems that Felix is closer to getting a multiyear deal than Lopez.

  42. Jason based on wins added, Ichiro in CF is worth over 20M$ for 2007. That’s more than 16.

    But you know me I would rather trusting aging HoF talent than prospects.

  43. Fact: Nobody knows how productive Ichiro will be in any year of the future.
    Fact: He’s 34 and relies a lot on speed, a physical attribute that will undeniably decline.
    Fact: Even though he’s Ichiro, super hero who is in the best shape of any player EVER, he is human and cannot avoid a decline. We’re starting to see it already.

    Putting a dollar value on Ichiro, especially as a CF where he’s played less than a half-season in 10 years, is impossible. If ya wanna ballpark it, it’s still nowhere near 20 mil.

    Market value? Sure.

    Actual worth? Not a chance.

    Funny how only the Ichiro “apologists” have an issue with my views on this subject. None of the neutrals or even the Ichiro fans who like him but don’t LOVE him, are anywhere trying to prove he’s worth 20 mil.

  44. jp17 said

    I like Ichiro, but I wouldn’t want to pay 20 million for him at this stage of his career, not on this team.

  45. Edgar said

    If we gave him 20 mil, he better start freaking diving for some balls. I’d try to run through a fence for $100.

    Plus 20 mil is a lot of money. Don’t think about how much he is “worth”. Think how much it would cost to replace his productivity. I think that is much more applicable. I’m pretty sure it isn’t 20 mil. I don’t think there are many people not named Pujols or Johan who are worth that much.

  46. Ozzie said

    Even on the open market Ichiro isn’t worth 20 million. Soriano and Lee who are of equal talent didn’t get 20 million per year, so why would Ichiro who will be older than both? You try to get a deal done near 3/33-36 and if he wants more years or money then you trade him where there will be a market for him for a team looking to make a playoff push.

  47. Goose said

    It was just a matter of time before we saw the “ICHIRO HURTS THIS TEAM BY NOT DIVING FOR BALLS!!!11ELVENTY!!ONE!” cliche.

    Do I think Ichiro could get $20M in this market? Oh yeah, easily.

    Do I want the Mariners shelling out that much for a 34 year old centerfielder who is gonna start losing a step soon? Not if he wants it for more than 3 years.

  48. Edgar said

    I was joking but it had to be said.

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