Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ryan Zimmerman's signs $100M extension

Earlier this month, I ranked some of the highest paid players in baseball based on how much they'd be worth to their teams, relative to their contracts. With that in mind, I thought I'd take a look at how Ryan Zimmerman's extension measures up. The contract will keep him in Washington through the 2019 season, and includes a $18M team option for 2020, or a $2M buyout if that option is not exercised. In total, Zimmerman is owed $116M over the next eight years. A lot of money, yes, but is Zimmerman worth it?

My analysis says yes. Sure, Zimmerman's 2011 season, where he played only 101 games, is a concern. However, I can't think anyone would have more information on his health than the Nationals do. And since the Nats seem to have moved, in a general sense, toward knowing what they're doing, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt. In both 2009 and 2010, Zimmerman was a 5+ WAR player. That's easily worth what the Nationals are paying him.

I have Zimmerman estimated at about 31.1 WAR over the next 8 years, a number that would be worth about $156M, $40M more than he's actually scheduled to earn. That would rate him the fourth best of the megacontracts, behind only Braun, Tulowitzki and Kemp. Over the course of his contracted term with the Nationals, they're getting a great value.

Of course, Zimmerman was already under contract for the first two years, so I suppose the better question is whether he'll be worth the $100M from 2014 to 2019. My system has him worth 9 WAR over the next two years, and about 22.1 over the next six (covered by his extension). So obviously a big chunk of his value is coming now. However, think about eight years ago. Back in 2004, $20M a year was a massive contract, and $14M was considered extensive. Miguel Tejada's contract with the Orioles was 6 years, for $72M, an average annual value of only $12M - this, for a player regarded (correctly) as elite. While Zimmerman might not be worth quite the $18M he's due in 2019, at age 34, it's possible that he will. What's more likely is that he's worth so much more than the $14M he's due in most of the years before that nobody will care. Running his numbers, I estimate Zimmerman to be worth $113.3M over the six years covered by his extension - meaning the Nationals are taking a sensible gamble.

I suppose this means it's time to adjust our expectations of what a ONEHUNDREDMILLION player is. Certainly, this story got more press than it would have if Zimmerman's extension had been for merely $95M. The fact is, a non-elite-but-still-very-good player can be worth $15M-$18M a year now. With each win being worth something between four and five million, that's the new math. Be careful though - if signing non-elite players inhibits your chances to add an elite one, you've made a mistake. Bryce Harper is likely under team control until 2017, at which point the Nationals will have only two years and $34M committed to Zimmerman. A significant amount, but nothing that should smother them.

All in all, Zimmerman's contract rates as a smart risk for the Nationals.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thank you, #49

Tim Wakefield, throwing his famous knuckleball: (By Waldo Jaquith on Flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)


As you probably know by now, Tim Wakefield will announce his retirement at a news conference tonight. I've written about Wakefield a few times here, and I'm not the one to write a full retrospective, of which I'm sure we'll get several, but I wanted to just run through some interesting facts from Wakefield's career:

  • You probably know that Wakefield was drafted as a first baseman out of the Florida Institute of Technology. He was taken in the 8th round of the 1988 draft, 200th overall. The 199th pick belonged to the Red Sox, and was used on Wakefield's future teammate Tim Naehring.Wakefield is the only player from the Florida Institute of Technology to play in the major leagues.

  • Other than Naehring, players named Tim who Wakefield played with: Tim VanEgmond, Tim Harikkala, Tim Young, and Mike Timlin.

  • Wakefield was the 200th pick in the draft, and won exactly 200 games.

  • Wakefield played exactly one year each with Barry Bonds (1992), Dennis Eckersley (1998), Rickey Henderson (2002).

  • Wakefield debuted on 7/31/1992 with a 10-strikeout complete game victory against the Cardinals (box score). His first strikeout was Luis Alicea. Wakefield made his first appearance with the Red Sox on 5/27/95 (box score). Alicea was his second baseman in that game, going 3-4 with a home run and a double, helping Wakefield to a 12-1 win.Alicea was later the first base coach on Wakefield's Red Sox.

  • Wakefield has more starts against the Tampa Bay Rays than any other pitcher, with 36. He finishes his career with a 21-8 record against Tampa, with a 3.71 ERA.

  • Wakefield retires with a 105 ERA+. Exactly the same as Jack Morris.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Neftali Feliz or Daniel Bard?

Yesterday at Baseball Nation, Jeff Sullivan came out with a pretty good response to a kind of silly article by Jon Heyman regarding the "cheapness" of the Boston Red Sox this offseason. Of course as most people know, the Red Sox sudden thrift has been largely overstated. Read Sullivan's article for the entire explanation, but the gist is that a lot of the players on the 2012 roster are holdovers who are getting paid more than they were last year.

However, there was one line of Sullivan's article that struck me as off:

Daniel Bard is supposed to take one of the rotation slots, and it's hard to see how he's a worse bet than Neftali Feliz.
Is Daniel Bard really as good as Neftali Feliz? And if so, does that make him as likely to succeed as a starter? My gut told me no (on both counts), but I figured it would be worth looking into. So, for the record, this is a response to a response. Considering the line (CBS -- Baseball Nation -- Me) the law of diminishing returns applies here. I'm going to guess several thousand people read Heyman's article, several hundred read Sullivan's response, and... well, if you're reading this, that means somebody read my response to the response. It's all good.

Ok, let's dive in:


YearTmWLERAGSVIPHRERHRBBSOERA+WHIPHR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
FelizTexas762.5515474162.298494611561641780.9470.63.19.12.93
BardBoston5132.881925197132716316762131541.0560.73.59.72.8

Bard and Feliz were called up within a couple months of each other in 2009, so their careers are nicely comparable. I considered taking W/L record and saves out of the stat line, because they are essentially white noise - Bard wasn't a closer, so of course he isn't going to get the same number of saves. Going straight to the other stats, Feliz has slight advantages is HR/9, BB/9 and ERA. However, considering that Arlington is a tougher place to pitch than Boston, Feliz actually has a pretty notable advantage in ERA+. Not that Bard is a slouch in any of these categories. His walk rate is high, but not exceptionally so, and  makes up for it with an extremely impressive K rate. Feliz has the slightly better numbers, but Sullivan is right - based on their careers so far, it's hard to say that Feliz has been so much better that you'd risk your Nolan Ryan rookie card on the fact he'll continue to be better.

Still, what stat tends to change the most when a pitcher moves from the rotation to the bullpen (and back again)? It's the strikeout rate. Since a pitcher knows he's only throwing for an inning or two, he tends to throw harder and hold back less than one who might have to pitch multiple innings. This isn't just conjecture, it's statistically verifiable. In 2011, American League relievers struck out 7.7 per nine innings, while starters struck out 6.6. In 2010, it was 7.4-6.6. In 2009, 7.6-6.5. Way back in 1993, it was 6.4-5.5. The trend holds. If we can expect a starting pitcher to strike out 10% fewer batters, that hurts Bard more, because his strikeout advantage will be slightly blunted, make the fact that he's done everything else slightly worse than Feliz even more notably. 

Next, the age factor. While Bard and Feliz were called up around the same time, Bard was allegedly born June 25, 1985, while Felix was allegedly born May 2, 1988. So Feliz is younger by two years, 10 months and 8 days. Feliz's 178 ERA+ through age 23, or Bard's 154, in a similar inning count, through age 26? At the very least, that should say something about Feliz's "upside," shouldn't it?

Then, there's the fatigue factor. Much was made about Feliz's slow start last season. Could it be that the 77 appearances in 2010 has tired him out? Possibly. It's also possible that it was a sample size issue. In the first half, through 34 innings pitched, Feliz had a 3.18 ERA, and even more distressingly, only 23 strikeouts to 18 walks. While that's ugly, it's important to remember that it was in only 34 innings. That's about 6 starts. Six! One bad month. In the second half, though? 28.1 innings, 31 strikeouts, only 13 walks, and a 2.22. Again, a small sample, but considering the rest of his career line, the first half last season is a bit of an outlier.If the problem was fatigue, he overcame it.

On the other hand, Bard's splits were in the other direction. In 26 appearances from May 27th to July 31st, he gave up zero runs. Zip. Zilch. At the end of July, Bard had compiled 51 innings pitched, giving up 29 hits, only 10 earned runs (a 1.76 ERA), 13 walks, and 49 strikeouts. On August 1, it all fell apart, giving up 3 runs in the 8th inning in a loss to Cleveland. From then on, Bard pitched 22 innings, and gave up 17 earned runs (a 6.95 ERA), walking 11, and striking out 25. The strikeout rate remained high, but everything else went in the wrong direction.

Of course, that's also a small sample size issue. Still, we're talking about which of the two is more likely to make the transition to starting pitcher. With that in mind, wouldn't you bet on the guy who pitched less well at the beginning of the year, rather than the guy who imploded after 51 innings? Particularly since this was the second year in a row where Bard's walk rate increased significantly in the second half. On the other hand, Bard had several more appearances in 2011 of over 1 inning, and he was extremely effective in them. Feliz had only one save where he retired more than three batters. In-game, Bard did not show any signs of fatigue that would lead you to believe that he necessarily couldn't handle a longer role.

So, we've gone through past performance, age and fatigue, and find that Feliz looks better than Bard. All this without getting into the most important distinction - Feliz was made a reliever because the Rangers needed a reliever, while Bard was made a reliever because he was so bad as a starter in 2007 in Single-A that the Red Sox never used him to start another game.

I don't have the starter/reliever splits, but take a look at the minor league numbers of Feliz: he made 53 starts from the time he signed with the Braves in 2006 until he was converted to the bullpen in 2009 (plus one more start on rehab in 2011 where he pitched only the first inning). In 2008, as a 20-year old, Feliz pitched 127.1 innings, with a 2.69 ERA, 153 strikeouts, 51 walks, and only three home runs allowed. This made him Baseball America's #10 prospect in all of baseball going into the 2009 season. The pitchers ahead of him were David Price, Tommy Hanson, Brett Anderson and Madison Bumgarner. He followed that with another dominant season in 2009 between Triple-A and the majors (not quite exhausting rookie status), and Baseball America made him their #9 prospect. He then won the 2010 Rookie of the Year award, as a closer.

Now take a look at Bard's minor league numbers. After being taken 28th overall in the 2006 draft out of North Carolina (where he was the #2 starter behind future Red Sox teammate Andrew Miller), the Red Sox challenged him with an aggressive placement in High A. He made five very poor starts, and they moved him down to the South Atlantic League, where things continued to go badly. How badly? In 22 starts across the two levels, he managed only 75 innings. He walked 78 and struck out just 47. His ERA ended up at 7.08. Fearful they'd drafted a bust, the Red Sox moved him into the bullpen in 2008, with outstanding results, and he's been in the pen ever since.

I don't think 22 bad starts in 2007 mean Bard will fail as a starter. In fact, I think the opposite - he's been a very good pitcher in the bullpen, and very good pitchers in the bullpen tend to be able to convert to starters or at least an acceptable level. Not always, but usually. Plus, Bard wants to start - the worst case scenario here is that he ends up going back to the bullpen. After working out as a starter, that should at least work to counteract those possible fatigue issues.

But as for the assertion that Bard is as likely to succeed as Feliz? Feliz is three years younger, has been a slightly better reliever in the majors, and was an extremely successful starter in the minors, which Bard was definitely not. Which one would you rather bet on?


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Bill James: "I think Dwight Evans is a Hall of Famer"

I wanted to link to yesterday's article at Grantland where Bill James advocated putting Dwight Evans in the Hall of Fame. Evans was my favorite players as a child, so the pro-Evans appreciations in recent years are pretty enjoyable for me. Unlike a lot of James's contributions "Win Shares" have not really caught on, for a variety of reasons, and the article is a bit verbose (as James has a tendency to be), but the argument is strong, I think. Pretty amazing to think that Evans, who fell off the ballot in his second year, could now be thought of as a Hall of Fame candidate, but that's why there are rules in place to enable us to re-evaluate players. Guys whose value came in things other than the standard Triple Crown stats can take awhile to be appreciated. That's why it took so long to get Ron Santo in the Hall.

A couple more thoughts:

1. I have trouble believing Evans will get to the Hall anytime soon. However, the Red Sox really should retire his number. You can make a fairly strong case that Evans is the third greatest player in Red Sox history, behind Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. Let's get his #24 up in right field.

2. I hope James follows up his Evans piece on an even more neglected player, who, like Evans, was a star in the 80's who got underappreciated because his value wasn't in home runs and batting average. Lou Whitaker only hit .300 twice and never once drove in 100 runs. However, he retired with a career WAR close to 70 on the strength of a high OBP and great defense. By scoring and preventing runs, Whitaker played a big role in making Jack Morris a Hall of Fame candidate.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Jeremy Guthrie not a good fit in Colorado

Ever since the Colorado Rockies have come into existence, there has been a discussion about what "type" of pitcher would succeed there. Going into what will be the Rockies' twentieth year of existence, the simplest answer to me seems to be "the good type," though it is a little more complicated than that. Talk that pitchers in Colorado should strike batters out and keep the ball on the ground is almost too basic - that's a recipe for success everywhere, not just in the Rocky Mountains. What needs to be clarified is that fly ball pitchers with middling strikeout rates won't necessarily fail everywhere, but Colorado is an especially bad fit.

Colorado, meet Jeremy Guthrie.

This is a rough break for Guthrie, who has actually been a better pitcher than I realized. In 2011, he lost 17 games for the second time in three years, but he was a solid rotation guy, compiling over 200 innings of averageness in a division where that's tough to do. In all five years with the Orioles, he had an ERA+ over 90, and pitched 175 innings. Three times he managed a 110 ERA+. In 2011, he had his third straight year over 200 innings. All this, despite never striking out more than 5.7 per nine innings, and a GB/FB ratio right around 1/1. It would be reasonable to think that moving out of the AL East would lead to an improvement in his win-loss record (47-65 in five years with a crummy Orioles team) and a bit more recognition.

What's important to note is, while Guthrie has been unlucky regarding his W/L record, he's been fairly lucky on balls in play and in keeping his fly balls in the park. His highest BABIP was the Orioles was .286, and less than 10% of his fly balls left the park. This is unlikely to hold up in Colorado. While you know about how the ball carries, an offshoot of that is that outfielders tend to play deeper, allowing more singles to fall in front of them. In 2011, a slightly down year for offense, Rocky pitchers had a .298 BABIP and allowed 11.6% of the fly balls to go out of the park. 

So, while it's normal to expect any pitcher to have his numbers hurt moving to Colorado, Guthrie, who strikes out a below average number (and therefore allows more pitches to be hit) and has a below average ground ball rate (therefore meaning that more of those pitches that are hit go up in the air), is probably more susceptible to the dangers of Coors Field than most pitchers. \

Guthrie turns 33 the first week of the season, so it's unlikely his pitching is going to fundamentally change. He should strike out some more guys, because he'll be facing NL West pitchers instead of AL East designated hitters. (Coors field may be intimidating, but I think he'll prefer pitching to Tim Lincecum there to David Ortiz in Camden Yards. Having to bat against Tim Lincecum, on the other hand...) Still, even with a slightly improved strikeout rate, his fly ball tendencies and low K rate will probably mean a higher ERA. A little bad luck could make for a very ugly stat line.

In return, the Orioles received Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. I'm not sure Guthrie is all that likely to outperform Hammel (though Guthrie's durability has value), and Lindstrom had a nice year out of the Coloardo bullpen. Guthrie will make $8.2M in 2012, Hammel and Lindstrom about $8.3M combined. In 2011, baseball-reference had Hammel and Lindstrom worth a combine 5.2 WAR, while Guthrie was 4.5 WAR.

Hammel was once a pretty big prospect in the Tampa Bay system. In 2006, Baseball America had him rated #79 in baseball. This was just before the real influx of talent two years later. Traded to the Rockies after the 2008 season, he's had three straight years in Colorado with ERAs in the mid 4's and 170+ innings. His strikeout ratio plummeted from 7.1 in 2010 to 5.0 in 2011, so that's the main thing to keep an eye on. He's only 29, so a rebound in his strikeout rate could lead to him outperforming Guthrie.

Lindstrom spent a chunk of 2010 as Houston's closer, saving 23 games, but he was much better with Colorado in 2010, cutting his ERA by a run and a half, based largely on lowering his walk and home run rates. He'll be in the Oriole bullpen, and he'll probably be just fine.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Ranking the mega-contracts


Over at the Huffington Post, ScottCampbell takes a crack at naming the 10 worst contracts in baseball right now. It’s a valiant effort – there are a lot of bad contracts out there – though at points it lacks some real analysis. See this quote on Albert Pujols:

“Pujols may go down as the greatest right-handed hitter ever, but that still doesn't mean this contract won't end up looking dreadful halfway through.”

First of all, in order to go down as the greatest right-handed hitter ever, Pujols will still need to be producing at age 35, so that sentence contradicts itselfa little bit. Secondly, Campbell is making the common mistake of rating Pujols contract by the fact that he won’t be worth the money on the back end. Isn’t it possible, though, that he’ll be so good at the front end that it will even out? In 2016, we can try to figure out whether he’ll be worth the remaining amount on his contract, but in 2012, we should be evaluating Pujols' contract based on the whole thing, right?

Anyway, Campbell’s list seems solid on its face. It's not like he ranked Pujols' contract as the worst, he had him 8th. I wanted to dig a bit deeper to see if I agree.

I’m taking the 22 mega-contracts, and comparing the amount a player is likely to produce with the amount he’s likely to be worth over that time. I’m defining "mega-contracts: as those with $20M in Average Annual Value remaining, or contracts worth over $100M total. This leaves off Alfonso Soriano and John Lackey, among others. Very simple, really. Some things to consider.

-Past value, under the current contract, is not considered. Mark Teixiera’s excellent 2009 season isn’t relevant to us, only whether he’ll be worth the $112.5M over the next five years.
-A team’s ability to pay a contract will not be considered. We’re considering whether a player is worth that money in a vacuum. It’s a valuable measure, I think – maybe the Red Sox can afford to pay Carl Crawford what he’s making, but is they’re unlikely to be able to trade him. That limits their flexibility.
-It’s important to remember that remaining length is an important consideration. Sure, Vernon Wells won’t be worth $63M over the next three years – but would you rather have Vernon Wells, plus another $53M to spend between 2015-2017, or Jayson Werth?
-These values will change. Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki have backloaded contract extentions that are very team friendly right now. If we do this analysis again in five years, when they’re making huge money in their thirties, maybe they’ll be untradeable albatrosses. This value is about the present, though.
-I’m not a statistician. My attempts to figure how valuable a player will be and how much money that will be worth, in future years, are pretty broad. That said, predicting Troy Tulowitzki’s 2020 season is pretty much a shot in the dark anyway, no matter how advanced a statistical model you’ll be using.

So, with that in mind, here are the 22 MEGA contracts, ranked from best to worst.

1. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers. 9 years, $131.5M
Expected WAR, 2012-2020: 46.4. Expected value: $234.69M. Value of contract +$103.19 total, +$11.47M annually.

Braun, going into his age 28 season, has averaged 6.1 WAR over his past three years. He’s locked up for the rest of the decade, running through his age-36 season. Testosterone levels aside, my valuation has Braun worth over $140M in the first five years alone. In free agency, he’d have gotten $200M, easily. Great contract for the Brewers.

2. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies. 9 years, $152.25M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2020: 49.0. Expected value: $248.32. Value of contract +$96.07M total, +$10.67M annually.

Tulowitzki is by far the best shortstop in baseball right now. Over the total length of his contract, he’s expected to be worth more than any other player. Since he’s making a couple million more annually than Braun, he’s not quite as underpaid, over the length of his contract, but I think the Rockies will take it. Everyone in Denver gets to continue to be a Tulowitness to a future Hall of Famer.

3. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers, 8 years, $160M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2019: 46.5. Expected value: $232.75M. Value of contract +$72.75M total, +$9.09M annually.

Kemp, like Tulowitzki, is just heading into his age-27 season. While he hasn’t been quite as consistent as the first two on this list, his 10.0 WAR in 2011 shows what his upside is. His average expected WAR is actually higher than both Braun and Tulowitzki. He’s getting paid quite a bit more than those two, though, so he’s not quite the “steal.” Still, a good bet to be a very team-friendly contract.

4. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, 7 years, $152M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2018: 37.5. Expected value: $186.23M. Value of contract +$34.32M total, +$4.89M annually.

It’s a pretty big dropoff from Kemp to Gonzalez, who is three years older and is paid $1.7M more annually. The Red Sox won’t be complaining, as Gonzalez’s high level of production will continue. Even at the back end of the deal, Gonzalez should still be worth $20M+ per year. With all the criticism of the Red Sox spending spree last winter, locking up Gonzalez to a relatively team friendly contract extension through his prime, rather than letting him hit the open market, was a great move.

5. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers, 4 years, $86M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2015: 23.0. Expected value: $111.59. Value of contract +$25.59M total, +$6.40M annually.

The main difference between Gonzalez’s contract and Cabrera’s is that the my matrix has Gonzalez continuing to produce above his average contract value beyond 2015. Think about it – at first look, you’d probably rather have Cabrera plus the 3 years and $66M to spend after the 2015 season. However, my matrix has Gonzalez being worth about $71M in those three years. Cabrera, if he’s still producing at something close to his current level, will command more than a 3 year, $66M contract - even going into his age-33 season. So, while Cabrera looks to be a slightly better value annually over the length of his contract, the Red Sox having Gonzalez locked up in future productive years makes his deal more valuable to him.

6. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers. 3 years, $60M
Expected WAR, 2012-2014: 17.6. Expected value: $84.19M. Value of contract +$24.19M total, +$8.06M annually.

Verlander could blow this projection away, or get hurt. Barring injury, Verlander will either get a massive extension, or sign the biggest ever contract ever for a pitcher after the 2014 season.

7. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies. 2 years, $40M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2013: 11.9. Expected value: $56.41M. Value of contract +$16.41M total, +$8.2M annually.

Halladay also has a possible $20M vesting option for 2014, which he will probably also be worth. As a 35-year old pitcher, the possible that he’ll run out of gas is there. As the best pitcher alive, the possibility is that it won’t.

8. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants. 2 years, $40M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2013: 9.5. Expected value: $45.28M. Value of contract +$5.28M total, +$2.64M annually.

A couple weeks ago, when Lincecum signed his extension, I saw the numbers and thought to myself “that seems about right.” Lincecum is not the pitcher of his 2008-2009 peak, but he’s still very, very good. This deal seems sensible for both player and team.

9. C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees. 5 years, $122M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2016: 22.8. Expected value: $111.13M. Value of contract -$10.88M total, -$2.18M annually.

Sabathia has the biggest contract of any pitcher in baseball, and the highest annual value of any pitcher in the American League. He’s also been remarkably consistent, and usually good. So while he might be slightly overpaid, if you asked Brian Cashman or any Yankees fan “You’re paying Sabathia $24.4M over the next five years – will you be upset if he’s actually worth only about $22.2 annually?” they’ll probably giggle. Of all the big, long-term contracts in baseball, this one is probably the most spot on. Team and player will both probably be happy with the results.

10. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins. 7 years, $161M
Expected WAR, 2012-2018: 29.5. Expected value: $146.57M. Value of contract -$14.43M total, -$2.06M annually.

And here is the problem with statistical analysis. My computer doesn’t know that Joe Mauer might be broken. In fairness, Joe Mauer probably wouldn’t know if my computer might be broken. Anyhow, this could easily be a franchise crippling disaster of a contract. Here’s hoping he gets healthy and resumes his Hall of Fame-level production, even if he needs to move to 3B or RF in order to do it.

11. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels. 10 years, $240M
Expected WAR, 2012-2021: 43.3. Expected value: $217M. Value of contract -$22.83M total, -$2.28M annually.

Would you pay Albert Pujols $2M more than he’s worth annually, over the next 10 years, in order to have him on your team for the next 5? Think of it this way – my model has him worth about $150M over the next five years. He’s one of the greatest players ever, and he’s still near his prime. Sometimes, in order to get the best player in baseball, you need to promise to pay him for when he’ll no longer be the best player in baseball. The Angels were willing to take that risk, to say “to hell with 2020, we want to be a championship level team for the next five years,” and are paying the greatest player alive accordingly.

12. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies. 4 years, $109M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2015: 16.2. Expected value: $85.06M. Value of contract -$22.94M total, -$5.99M annually.

Cliff Lee is great, but his postseason performances have somewhat inflated his stock. He’s averaged 5.4 WAR over the last three seasons, and he’s going into his age-33 season. And he’s making a LOT of money – over $27.5M annually. Lee’s good enough that this isn’t a bad contract, but it’s not exactly a steal for the Phillies

Ok, now onto the 10 worst of the mega-contracts!

13. Johan Santana, New York Mets. 2 years, $55M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2013: 4.6. Expected value: $21.76M. Value of contract -$33.23M total, -$16.62M annually.

Ladies and gentlemen, your New York Mets! Santana was better than you remember from 2008 through 2010, and will be unfairly remembered for how much the Mets overpaid for him. Pitching is at a premium, so Santana is likely to be worth something -- just not anything near what the Mets are paying him. Santana will be 33 on opening day, and would need an extremely unlikely career revival to have much of a Hall of Fame case. Still, he should get credit for a fantastic peak. From 2002 through 2010, his lowest ERA+ was 129. His career 142 ERA+ is 11th all time, ahead of Halladay and Lincecum.

14. Jose Reyes, Miami Marlins. 6 years, $106M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2017: 13.9. Expected value: $68.12M. Value of contract -$37.88M total, -$6.31M annually.

So Reyes, on and off of the disabled list the last three years, is suddenly going to be healthy in his 30’s? I know he’s a dynamic, exciting player, but that’s a lot of money to spend. Reyes has one of the highest variations of anyone on this list. He could be worth his contract with ease, and he could be a 100 game-a-year player. He’s not a great risk at that money, though.

15. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees. 5 years, $112.5M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2017: 14.8. Expected value: $71.78M. Value of contract -$40.73M total, -$8.15M annually.

Joe Posnanski termed it Tex-pensive – a ridiculous contract for a very good player. What’s funny, though, is that being overpaid will bring most players an unfair amount of criticism – think Barry Zito, Jason Giambi or Darren Dreifort. After all, it wasn’t their choice to be overpaid by foolish bosses. Teixeira, on the other hand, seems to be given credit BECAUSE he is the overpaid Yankees first basemen. "Of course he’s awesome, he got a $180M contract!" The fact that he started well in New York, with a big year in a World Series season, certainly helped his reputation. Sure, the Yankees can afford it, but they’re overpaying a good player, and it inhibits their chances of getting a better one. He’s a $14-18M player, but getting paid over $22M. When Joey Votto becomes a free agent, remember that the Yankees instead are overpaying a first basemen who, in 2011, wasn't as good as Casey Kotchman.

16. Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants. 2 years, $46M
Expected WAR, 2012-2013: 0.7. Expected value: $3.21M. Value of contract -$42.79M total, -$21.4M annually.

It’s almost over. Per year, he’s the most overpaid player in baseball. He just has the advantage that he’s only getting overpaid over the next two years. By percentage of remaining contract expected to be earned, Zito rankes dead last on this list, at less than 7%. Oof.

17. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers. 9 years, $214M
Expected WAR, 2012-2020: 33.5. Expected value: $168.9M. Value of contract -$45.10M total, -$5.01M annually.

Like Teixeira, Fielder is a very good player getting paid like a franchise-changing one. He’s younger than Pujols and Gonzalez, yes, but he’s just not as good. I don’t know how his body will age, and the computer doesn’t seem to want to speculate on it. What it does tell us is that a 7 year, $145M contract would’ve been totally reasonable. Overpaying Fielder, on its own, isn’t so bad. Overpaying him at the expense of being able to resign Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander could be. We’ll see how this plays out.

18. Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels. 3 years, $63M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2013: 2.0. Expected value: $9.5M. Value of contract -$53.5M total, -$17.83M annually.

Like Zito, the only thing keeping this from being lower on the list is that it will end sort of soon. This contract is a disaster, and taking it on probably got Tony Reagins fired. 

19. Carl Crawford, Boston Red Sox. 6 years, $128M.
 Expected WAR, 2012-2017: 14.9. Expected value: $72.95M. Value of contract -$55.06M total, -$9.18M annually.

You could easily argue that this contract is much better than Wells’s. Sure, Crawford is more overpaid, but looks likely to give some production for his overpayment – Crawford looks to earn about 56% of his contract, Wells only about 15% of his. Still, in sheer amount, Crawford looks to be more overpaid over the next six years than Wells will be over the next three.

20. Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals. 6 years, $116M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2017: 10.6. Expected value: $51.04M. Value of contract -$64.97M total, -$10.83M annually.

Whenever Nick Cafardo tells us that the Red Sox should’ve signed Werth rather than Crawford, and you shake your head, this is why. Fortunately, Werth’s contract will come off the books before Bryce Harper becomes a free agent.

21. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies. 5 years, $125M.
Expected WAR, 2012-2016: 10.0. Expected value: $51.04M. Value of contract -$48.09M total, -$15.38M annually.

Howard has averaged 3.0 WAR between his  from ages 29-31. What will a player like that be worth from 32-36? This doesn’t even recognize Howard’s knee injury. This will, of course, make any Phillies fan who reads this want to punch me in the face, because I’m obviously a jerk who doesn’t care about intangibles. Oh well. The difference between Howard’s value, even healthy, and Carlos Pena’s, is almost negligible.

22, and the worst contract in baseball. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees. 6 years, $143.
Expected WAR, 2012-2017: 3.3. Expected value: $14.78M. Value of contract -$128.23M total, -$21.37M annually.

You would think that, as a Red Sox fan, writing that would make me giddy. It does. Rodriguez stats are so low because he’s getting paid through his age 41 season, where he’s projected to be a good bit below replacement level. If he’s, say, released after the 2015 season, he’ll actually hurt the Yankees less. You’ll see a lot of commentators talking about how Rodriguez is “in the best shape of his life” and is primed for a comeback season. When you see that, remember that his last great season was 2007, which is the same year that Barry Bonds had his last great season. Rodriguez will probably be worth more than 3.3 wins for the rest of his contract – my formula is probably too hard on him. He’s also not going to be worth the 27 wins he’d need to be to earn his contract.Of course, THIS is what people like Campbell worry about when they see Pujols' contract. He should fear not. Pujols has played a less demanding defensive position than Rodriguez did, and, for elite hitters in their 30's, Rodriguez's drop-off is more sudden that other all-time greats like Mays, Aaron and Williams. A-Rod simply isn't a fair comparison for Pujols.