Up next in our Pinch Hitters series is Brandon Courter, a 25-year-old who describes himself as a “Yankee fan who appreciates great intellectual conversation about baseball rather than the infamous ‘Boston sucks because we don’t like them.’” That said, Courter says, “I still dislike Boston and the Mets, quite a lot.” For his guest post, Brandon looked at this winter’s top two free agent position players and determined that the Yankees will be glad they never got seriously involved in those negotiations.
These two free agents signed some impressive contracts this off-season, starting with the albatross deal bestowed upon Jayson Werth. Werth was a late bloomer, becoming a regular with Philadelphia in 2007. Since then, his slash line is .282/.380/.506 with an OPS+ of 131. These are impressive numbers, which lead me to believe the annual value Jayson Werth received was fair. (7 yr, 126MM = 18MM/year)
The year part of the contract is where it starts to get a bit dicey. Jayson will play his age 32 season this year, the first year in his mega deal. If we dig deeper into the numbers, it turns out that players usually get worse as they get older (let’s not tell Barry Bonds this) – in fact, if you look at the single season leaders in OPS+ , the highest age in the top thirty is 38, by Ted Williams.
I’ve decided to remove Barry Bonds, as anyone can see a drug-induced superstar in their late 30’s can cause the data to skew just a bit. If we dig deeper, Babe Ruth had an amazing season at age 36, and that’s about it. While these players are far beyond what Jayson Werth can do, the point is driven home clearly: After 35, it’s a complete crap-shoot what you’re going to get.
Yankee fans, remember Bernie Williams and his drive off the cliff of productiveness?
Next example: Carl Crawford, the golden boy of the Rays, an exciting player, fast, dynamic, and… not that good.
Carl Crawford is the first player in MLB history to receive a nine-figure contract without a 20 home run season. In fact, as early as an injury filled season in 2008, he was BELOW average.
Carl Crawford may have just gotten lucky. This year he had a campaign similar to Werth in performance – OPS+ of 134, in line with what Werth has had the past few years. The problem here is that Crawford did it once – before this year, his previous best was 117, a noticeable tick below the numbers Werth displayed.
Crawford has a great glove and excellent speed, which means that he should age fairly well, which is a great sign for Boston. Even better, Crawford is only entering his age 29 season. In a worst case scenario, Boston has a player comparable to Johnny Damon in his prime – a very good player, just not one worth so much money!
Regardless, Yankee fans should rejoice. Cashman did not stomp the panic button and hurt us with bad contracts for years to come. Give it a few years, we’ll be the ones smiling in the end. Go Yanks!
Associated Press photo of Crawford