Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Posts Tagged ‘contract’

Carlos Silva in 2011: A Big “So What”?

Posted by dannmckeegan on March 6, 2011

There could be a reason for a team to jettison a big, fat, bloated contract, even if there is positive value of some sort to be gained from the player’s performance. The Cubs might be in such a situation this year. They owe Carlos Silva $12 million plus a $2 million buyout (less the money Seattle threw in with the Bradley trade). And Silva was good for half a season in 2010. But the Cubs have a fairly reliable set of starting pitchers in Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano and Randy Wells. No Phillies, surely, but more than competent.

They also have a stable of youngsters seen as starters in the near future: Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman, Jay Jackson, Christopher Carpenter, Trey McNutt, James Russell, and Austin Bibens-Dirkx all are at worst Triple-A starters in 2011. More than one probably has MLB-level stuff right now.

Seven names. Five spots in Iowa’s rotation. And that doesn’t include Hung-Wen Chen and a few guys bordering on filler/fading prospect. McNutt can probably thrive for a while beating up on the Southern League. Carpenter, Jackson, Russell, and Bibens-Dirkx could all use full seasons at Triple-A as pure starters. Both Cashner (power) and Coleman (sinker) showed some flashes in the majors last year and are capable of pitching at that level, if not thriving as a starter.

So now we have Carlos Silva’s big, fat contract pushing not one, but two or maybe even three young players away from the proverbial catering table. Silva’s ceiling is what he did last year: good luck on his sinker leading to some 5-6 inning starts and some time missed due to injury. His downside, we know, is a repeat of Seattle. If we consider that one of the kids will displace him at some point anyway, simply out of basic roster need, then it doesn’t make sense to keep him on the active or 40-man roster. Even if he can reproduce his 2 WAR 2010 this year, we have to weigh that (likely in 100-130 innings) against potential harm done to prospects not being challenged.

Keeping a guy like Carlos Silva around in a situation like the Cubs currently have is akin to telling a high school sophomore with an A- average that he has to repeat geometry because a senior with a C average and a case of senioritis blew off and failed world lit and didn’t graduate. You don’t punish the sophomore. You promote him normally and figure out how to accommodate the “demote” after everything else is in place. Silva’s getting his money either way. Is his projected 2011 performance (approximated as a WAR value) actually more valuable than a lesser performance by another player this year but an improved probability of stronger production (approximated by WAR value) in future years by one or more of those prospects?

If the Cubs see all of those prospects as MLB talents, then they would be doing less than due diligence if they failed to explore every means of challenging them. It’s not just for the Cubs themselves, but also to shore up added trade value. Is Player X worth more at age 23 with a 3.5 K/BB and 2.25 ERA at Double-A or a 3.2 K/BB and 3.25 ERA at Triple-A? If a guy smokes a league he has to repeat, then the response is, “He should be doing that. He’s playing too low.” It is preferable to see struggles and adjustments at the next level. Carlos Silva might be making that more difficult for the Cubs this year.

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Soriano: Not Yet an Albatross.

Posted by dannmckeegan on March 5, 2011

A quick note on Fonzie’s crazy contract with the Cubs: So far, he’s been paid a total of $56 million, according to Cot’s ($9m in 2007, $13m in 2008, $16m in 2009, and $18m last year). In that time, he has produced a total of 14.1 fWAR, for a per-win cost of $3.97 million. Considering he produced a replacement-level performance during an injury-riddled 2009 season, that’s a pretty fair price.

Even if we add his $8 million signing bonus to the $56 million paid to date, his cost is $4.54 million per win. That price appears to be within the realm of reason.

While he is highly unlikely to maintain a $4-$4.5 million/win pace through the life of his current contract, his production has actually been less of an albatross than it’s made out to be. He is under contract through 2014 at an annual salary of $18 million ($72 million still owed). He would have to produce 16 to 18 WAR over than span to keep pace.

But let’s consider $5 million per win to be an upper threshold for the per-win average cost between 2007 and 2014 (i.e., assume that the price will continue to climb slightly). Dividing the contract’s total value by this per-win cost, we see that Soriano has to produce a total of 27 WAR over the life of the contract to hit $5 million/win. 30 WAR would place him at approximately $4.5 million/win.

So to reach this ballpark, Soriano has four years to produce between 13 and 16 WAR. While it is a safe bet that he will not be able to accumulate enough playing time (given the Cubs’ OF prospects and his own aging/injuries) or have enough defensive improvement (try, try again) to put up 4 WAR/season, a line similar to his 2010 output would likely keep him close to 3 WAR/year.

If, after the 2014 season, Soriano has produced the following annual WAR tallies:
2007 – 6.9
2008 – 4.3
2009 – 0.0
2010 – 2.9
2011 – 3
2012 – 2.7
2013 – 2.2
2014 – 2.0
he will have accumulated 24 WAR in exchange for $136 million, thus earning $5.67 million per win. A 2-win season in 2014, at age 38, would be a big surprise. But it would be equally surprising to see him either forced to the bench or retirement at that point. And once the contract is down to one or two years, an AL team in need of a power-hitting DH would possibly be interested in a discounted trade. If the Cubs have Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, and Tyler Colvin (for example) penciled into their 2014 outfield, they won’t be worrying about payroll and can pay half of his final year spent elsewhere.

Barring a complete and utter late-career collapse (unlikely), Alfonso Soriano will likely end up being a noticeable but not atrocious overpay. If managed wisely, the club’s payroll won’t be negatively effected by his presence. If he can produce a simple .250/.310/.470-(20-25 HR)-(55-75 RBI) line for the next three years, he’ll have actually been a halfway decent investment. Considering the in-house options (Matt Murton, Angel Pagan, Micah Hoffpauir, Jake Fox, Jason Dubois, Matt Camp, Bobby Scales, Brad Snyder, Jim Adduci, Sam Fuld…) of recent vintage, it seems like Soriano has filled the corner outfield power gap that many teams do nowadays struggle to fill.

Remember: the albatross is a portent for good. It wasn’t until Coleridge’s mariner killed the bird that ill luck gained sway. The albatross is only hanging from around one’s neck when it is dead. Soriano: not dead yet.

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