Sunday, October 25, 2009

JD Drew’s Value to the Red Sox

After Theo Epstein, the Red Sox's General Manager, appeared on WEEI last week defending JD Drew's performance and contract terms, the Boston sports world has had some pretty negative things to say about Drew, Epstein, and Drew's contract. Let's take a look at what Drew's contract should be.

From a skill set standpoint, Drew is one of the elite hitters in baseball. As discussed in a previous posting, Drew had one of the top 30 OPSs for 2009 (with at least 200 At Bats).

Drew has the most reasonable contract of anyone on the list that has hit free agency! Carlos Beltran who has .915 OPS to Drew's .914 will earn $18.5 million a year for the next two years. This is significantly more than Drew's $14 million a year. Looking further down the list Lance Berkman, Aramis Ramirez, Chase Utley, and Todd Helton will all make more than Drew. The only players that have lower contracts on this list are either under team control, arbitration eligible, or negotiated a contract while arbitration eligible such as Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, and Ryan Braun.

According to the Epstein interview there is much more than OPS when evaluating talent. General Managers look at overall offense including base running. So let's look at JD Drew's rank on the Red Sox roster in 2009 for EqBRR or Equivalent Base Running Runs which measures how many additional runs the player accounts for on the base paths. As you would expect Jacoby Ellsbury leads the list followed by Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay but JD Drew ranks third from the bottom only above David Ortiz and Mike Lowell.

Drew's base running performance evidently was not good in 2009. His base running is only part of his offense, however. To look comprehensively at JD Drew's offense let's look at his VORP or Value Over Replacement Player which measures the number of additional runs that a player generates over an average player at that position.

Drew ranks 65th on the VORP list for all players in baseball in 2009. The top of the list is comprised of Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, Derek Jeter, and Prince Fielder. Looking over the list matches what my eyes tell me when I'm watching a game. Red Sox players on the list include Kevin Youkilis (17th), Jason Bay (28th), Jacoby Ellsbury (38th), Dustin Pedroia (45th), and JD Drew (65th). Looking deeper down the VORP list Mike Lowell, Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, Alex Gonzales, and Julio Lugo round out the Sox's top ten.

Drew's $14 million is a little more than Lowell's $12 million and Ortiz's $12.5 million but they are in the same ballpark. Seeing what Jason Bay gets this offseason will be an interesting look. My guess is somewhere in the $16 to $18 million range a year based on the lack of impact position players for this offseason. (This number will depend on the number of years of his contract.)

Now let's take a look at Drew in the field. Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is a very complicated formula for computing how effective a player is at saving runs in a given position. Let's look at all of the qualifying Right Fielders in baseball.

We can see that Drew has the third best UZR of all 19 qualifying Right Fielders behind Nelson Cruz and Ichiro Suzuki and number 13 of all 63 qualifying outfielders.

There are other factors in determining how good a player is. Durability and number of games played matters. Drew started 124 games this season and played in another seven with one as a DH and one as a PH only. This earned him the 11th spot on the same list of 19 Right Fielders.

There are other intangibles that could be measured. If a player is a terrible teammate that would certainly be a factor. Some comment on Drew's temperament where he doesn't get excited or upset when making a bad play. I'll turn it the other way and say his lack of excitability lets him get the job done.

One of the other arguments is against paying so much money for a number eight hitter. Drew only started nine games batting 8th. When you dig into the stats, it is amazing how versatile he is in terms of where he can hit in the lineup. He started at every position in the lineup except 9th. He had 30 or more At Bats in every position except 4th and 9th. He had the most ABs in 6th followed by 5th and then 2nd spot. Drew had over a .800 OPS hitting from the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th spots. Drew's lack of excitability allows for Terry Francona, the Red Sox manager, to have Drew bat from multiple different positions in the lineup. One can imagine certain players getting bent out of shape if they were moved down in the order.

My opinion on Drew turned in game 6 of the 2007 ALCS. His mauling of the Indians with 3 hits, 2 runs, 5 RBI, and 1 HR made me forever grateful to his presence on the Sox roster.

For those that object to his contract, I wonder what they think a fair contract would be. Drew compares very favorably financially to others with similar stats. One maybe could argue that he should only be paid $12 million or so but it would be tough to argue that his contract should be substantially less.

Michael Crabtree Contract

With Michael Crabtree set to take the field with the 49ers against the Houston Texans this weekend, it is worth looking back at his contract holdout to illustrate the economics of his decision.

Crabtree was drafted 10th overall in the 2009 draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He was unhappy being slotted as the 10th best player and instead wanted 7th pick money. Oakland picked another wide receiver, Darrius Heyward-Bey, in the 7th slot. Crabtree argued because conventional wisdom said he was better than Heyward-Bey, he should be paid like Heyward-Bey. Heyward-Bey's contract is $38.25 million likely over five years with $23.5 million guaranteed.

According to media reports the 49ers suspended talks after offering a $20 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. Crabtree did not sign for 71 days after the start of training camp and was not on the roster for the first four games of the season. Crabtree reportedly signed a $32 million contract with $17 million guaranteed and has a voidable last year of his contract. His contract will pay him $19 million over 1st three years, $23 million over 1st four years, 28 million over 1st five years, and $32 million over six years. There are another $8 million in incentives.

Let's take a look at some comparable contracts. Jerod Mayo who was drafted in the same 10th spot the year before signed a five year deal with $18.9 million likely with $13.8 million in guarantees. BJ Raji who signed one pick before Crabtree in the 2009 draft got a five year deal for $28.5 million with $17.7 million guaranteed. Aaron Maybin who was signed as the 11th pick in the 2009 draft after Crabtree got a 5 year deal for $24.6 million and $14.24 million guaranteed.

Virtually all of the stories I read were how irrational Crabtree was with his holdout and the circus surrounding MC Hammer and Crabtree's "cousin and advisor." My take is Crabtree may be a shrewd businessman. From a contract perspective Crabtree was not obligated to sign the contract. When an office worker gets a job offer and then "holds out" for 6.25% more in guaranteed money, his family and friends congratulate him and have no ill will for acting in his own best interest. Why should The Crabtree case be any different? Just because a 22 year old will get more money than most people do in their lifetime doesn't mean that he is obligated to concede to the team offer. Most players in Crabtree's position have one, two, or at most three such contracts in their career. They should maximize their opportunities.

What did Crabtree live on while he was holding out? Did he stock up on Ramen Noodles and packages of Mac and Cheese like many kids right after college? Did he take out a loan based on expected future earnings? According to his agent, Crabtree has deals with Subway, Jordan Brand, Topps, and Upper Deck. His deals have brought in over $750,000 which probably means that Crabtree is not feasting on Ramen Noodles regularly.

What about other ill effects of the holdout such as losing out on 4 games worth of salary, ill will by teammates and fans, and possible worse performance by not participating in training camp and learning the playbook? From a salary perspective Crabtree likely would have close to a minimum salary in 2009 in the range of $310,000 to maybe $500,000. Missing ¼ of his game checks would mean that he would lose between $77,500 and $125,000. Given his increased guaranteed money, it seems like a good investment. In terms of the fans, other players, and his development, Crabtree better make sure that he performs to ensure that he can get another big payday when his contract expires in five or six years.

The discussion around the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) renegotiation has rookie salaries as one of the top issues. The fact that a player could get more money by skipping 25% of his first season should be addressed in these negotiations.

Crabtree contract details:

Crabtree negotiation details:

Crabtree sponsorship details:

Other 2009 rookie contract details:

Mayo contract details:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Week 7 Prediction

Pats 59 Bucs 0

Just kidding...

Pats 36 Bucs 10

Not kidding. The Bucs are terrible. The Glazers have no business owning a football team. The trip to London should be worse on the "home" team than the vistors.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

NFL Salary Cap Rules Pats Decisions

When you don’t understanding personnel decisions in the NFL the answer is almost always the salary cap.

Prior to the trading deadline speculation had Joey Galloway traded to Baltimore, Adalius Thomas being sent somewhere, and Deion Branch returning from Seattle. This week saw Tully Banta-Cain and Eric Alexander cut and then resigned. Sam Aiken was given a contract extension.

Let’s break down the implications of all of these deals.

The Boston Globe Extra Points had a column headed, “Could Thomas be on his way out?” Looking at the Pats salary cap structure can illuminate the likely answer, “no.” Adalius Thomas has a prorated signing bonus remainder of $13.2 million until the completion of his contract in 2011. In the NFL you can prorate a signing bonus over the life of a contract. That would mean that cutting or trading Thomas would escalate his cap number this year by approximately $7.2 million! With a Pats salary cap of $128 million this has huge implications. The Pats probably were under the cap by $5 million or so before the trading deadline and are even closer after the Banta-Cain, Alexander, and Aiken deals. They cannot trade Thomas. Belichick’s benching of Thomas this week was likely just to send him a message. Belichick knew how bad the Titans were and figured this was the week to do it. Thomas is probably regarded by Belichick as the number two linebacker behind Jerod Mayo. Thomas has not lived up to his contract nor his status as the number three paid player on the team behind Brady and Moss but he is still a productive member of the team. Even if he is the number three or four linebacker it makes neither economic nor football sense to cut him.

There were a number of stories surrounding speculation of Deion Branch being traded to New England. Both on the football side and salary cap side this deal could have made much more sense than a Thomas trade. Since coming to Seattle Branch played 14, 11, and then 8 games over the past three years. This year he has only played four of the six games, starting once with 12 catches in 94 yards and no touchdowns for the year. Seattle should be looking for more production out of one of the top salaries on the roster. There are a number of things that made this trade difficult.

1) Cap money Seattle would have had to eat: If cut or traded after week six Seattle would have to take approximately $8.25 million in cap money. This is 6/16ths of Branch’s 2009 $4.94 million salary plus half his approximate $13 million signing bonus covering 2009, 2010, and 2011. If the Seahawks kept him they would be paying $7.5 million under the cap. So they would be increasing their cap number this year for someone not on the roster. Since they have likely not given up on this season yet at two and four it made financial sense to hold onto him.

2) Cap space the Pats would have had to clear to be able to get Branch: Pats would need $3 million or so this year and $5.47 and $5.95 million in the next two years. They would be free to cut Branch before game 1 in the next two years saving that money but this is not the sort of deal that Belichick likes. The Pats could likely take on another $3 million in salary but it might have been at the expense of the Aiken, Banta-Cain, and Alexander deals. It also gives them less flexibility for the rest of the year should they need to sign additional players due to injury.

3) What could the Pats possibly trade that the Seahawks would value enough to give a up a somewhat productive player AND take a higher cap hit? I would speculate something like a 3rd, 4th, or 5th round pick. It is unlikely Belichick would make a trade getting an aging player with big money on his contract who hasn’t played a complete season in years.

Because of the difficulty of finding common ground in this deal, it wasn’t possible to pull it off. From the Pats side, Branch could definitely help and has the experience to get on the same page as Brady.

The Pats cut Joey Galloway after shopping him before the trading deadline. This was a case of performance and no salary cap benefit. The Pats actually owe Galloway all of his salary for this year as he was on a veteran’s contract and was on the roster for game one of the season. The Pats would have been able to shed the last ten weeks of his salary (about $719K) had they been able to trade him. The Pats cut him before the trading deadline to free up a roster spot for one of the players coming off of the PUP list, practice squad, or a free agent. The transaction was done before the trading deadline as a courtesy to a veteran so he could not be claimed off of waivers. (Veterans with four or more years of experience become immediate free agents before the trading deadline but must clear waivers after the trading deadline.) A dreadful team that Galloway didn’t want to play for could claim him and his salary and he would be obligated to fulfill the contract. Now he can negotiate with any team he chooses.

The Aiken, Banta-Cain, and Alexander moves were all a result of the salary cap. The Pats had extra cap money this year, they see these player s in their medium term future and signed Aiken and Banta-Cain to three year deals and altered Alexander’s deal to allow for an extension. Because of the upcoming expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will potentially cause an uncapped year next year, the Pats are shrewdly locking up their middle class of players on the roster. A Deion Branch or Adalius Thomas type deal would have prohibited them from performing the housekeeping that the Pats feel is crucial for their success in 2010 and beyond.

The following resources were used for constructing this post…

Pats salary cap info:

Galloway info:

Branch info:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Replacing Jason Bay

The Jason Bay sweepstakes will be one of the big stories of the 2010 offseason. In trying to understand why every free agent slugger story involves Bay and Matt Holliday take a look at the 2009 OPS stats. (OPS is On base percentage Plus Slugging average.) The following spreadsheet has every player with over a 900 OPS and 200 at bats in 2009 and includes their age and contract status:

Notice that there are only 30 players in baseball with over a 900 OPS!

There are two free agents in this bunch: Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. Every team looking to spend big money on a slugger will have two choices in free agency.

Two players on the list are already on the Red Sox roster: Kevin Youkilis and JD Drew.

Looking for other options there are five players whose contracts expire after next year: Joe Mauer, Prince Fielder, Derek Lee, Manny Ramirez, and Adam Dunn. It is hard to believe that the Twins would give up Mauer who is one of the best players in the league, is a great hitting catcher, is 26 years old, and a local boy. Lee is 34 and plays for the big market Cubs so is probably not someone that is likely to change teams unless the Cubs are out of it next year right before the trading deadline. Manny is a persona non grata in Boston. That leaves Fielder who plays for Milwaukee and might not be able to be signed the following year and Adam Dunn who plays for the worst team in baseball. The Nationals may be willing to dump Dunn’s salary for the right package of prospects. The Sox passed on Dunn in the past offseason although they didn’t have a spot in the outfield for him then.

Note: All ages in this post are as of 4/1/2010.

There are six solid gold players on this list; young players that are either under team control (meaning they play for close to minimum salary and won’t be free agents for years) or are arbitration eligible whose contracts are still owned by the teams but an arbiter decides their salary each year: Joey Votto (CIN, 1B, 26), Ben Zobrist (TB, 2B, 28), Pablo Sandoval (SF, 3B, 23), Garrett Jones (PIT, OF, 28), Adam Lind (TOR, DH, 26), Kendry Morales (LAA, 1B, 26). These are the guys that small market teams work so hard to get and keep and big market teams use to balance their payroll. It would be shocking if any of these players changed teams before their last year or two of arbitration eligibility.

Hanley Ramirez will be paid $7 million in 2010 with his contract escalating to $11 million in 2011 and then $15 million in 2012. The Marlins will not want to move him this year without a big package of prospects. In 2011 and 2012 they may consider getting rid of Ramirez and his salary which could account for 25% of their payroll.

Other small market players who have very reasonable contracts and thus will require Theo to give up the farm are Ryan Braun (MIL, OF, 26, $1 million), Troy Tulowitzki (COL, SS, 25, $3.5 million), Jason Kubel (MIN, DH, 27, $4.1 million), Brad Hawpe (COL, OF, 30, $7.5 million)

We can probably ignore the rest of players on the list - good and great players on large market teams. The only exception might be Miguel Cabrera who seems to be talented at getting into the news for off the field incidents. Would Detroit be willing to trade his antics and $20 million salary? Maybe a better question is would Theo and Tito be willing to put up with those same antics and how would he fare with the Boston press?

Who is better for the Red Sox, Bay or Holliday?

While conventional wisdom has Holliday as the better fielder and he may be, statistically Bay has a small advantage. Bay has a career .988 fielding percentage and a 2.04 range factor. Bay’s 2009 stats are a 1.000 fielding percentage and a 2.29 range factor. Holliday has a career .980 fielding percentage and a 1.91 range factor. Holliday’s 2009 stats are .983 fielding percentage and 1.88 range factor.

Range factor is a Bill James statistic adding putouts and assists multiplying by 9 innings and dividing by number of innings played. A higher number is better. The last full year Manny Ramirez was in Boston (2007) his range factor was 1.72. MLB league leaders for the past five years in left field range factor are Adam Dunn’s 1.97 in 2008, Geoff Jenkins’s 2.30 in 2007, Alfonso Soriano’s 2.28 in 2006, Cliff Floyd’s 2.12 in 2005, and Jason Bay’s 1.97 in 2004 according to Wikipedia:

There are a number of other considerations for Bay fitting in well in Boston. He does not shrink in the limelight, hits well against American League pitching, and has had some of his best games against the New York Yankees. In Bay’s 14 games against the Yankees in 2009 he hit .392 with 13 RBI and 3 HR.

Holliday has a smaller sample size in the American League but had a relative unsuccessful few months in Oakland before going back the National League and feasting on National League pitching.

The bottom line is that Bay is the superior choice for the Red Sox. There are few good choices if they don’t resign him. The Yankees will likely make a run at him to replace the aging Matsui and to run up the Sox payroll.

The Red Sox free agency strategy should be to sign Bay. If that fails they should go after Holliday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Week 6 Prediction

Pats 30 Titans 17

New England is too good coming off of a loss at home. They'll put it together this weekend despite the bad weather.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Red Sox 2010 Salary Status

The Red Sox will have one of their more challenging offseasons in recent history. Their lineup has aged while their long term contract obligations have not.

David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, and Julio Lugo are all under contract for a total of $34.75 million next year. Jason Varitek has a $3 million player option which he will likely exercise. The Red Sox will be paying approximately $37.75 million (roughly the Florida Marlin’s 2009 salary) for maybe $17 million worth of output - $8, $8, $0, $1 million respectively.

Salaries are based on Cot’s Baseball Contracts and Son of Sam Horn:

Theo has some easier decisions regarding team options. He will almost certainly exercise Victor Martinez’s and Tim Wakefield’s options as he has said as much. He might keep Alex Gonzales depending on how the rest of the offseason goes regarding shortstops. He will likely not exercise Jason Varitek’s option but Tek has a player option discussed above. Saito’s $3.5 million team option is a little pricey for his performance.

On the arbitration front both Jonathan Papelbon and Hideki Okajima are arbitration eligible. My guess is that Papelbon will get in the $8 million range in arbitration and Okajima will receive $2 million.

Assuming the Sox sign Jason Bay for $16 million, a number of other free agents for $8 million, and fill out the rest of their 40-man roster with near minimum salaries, the Sox are looking at a $150 million payroll which is about $24 million more what their 40-man roster payroll was in 2009.

This increase is due to the fact that the Sox will be paying millions more for Beckett, Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis, Pedroia, and Lester. The Sox will potentially be paying more for Gonzo, Papelbon, and Okajima. If Jason Bay is signed, his salary will probably double from $7.75 million.

Something will have to give. Either the Sox will cut payroll with a less competitive team or will be operating from a higher salary basis.

Calculations for next year's salary structure:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hub Money

Welcome to Hub Money! This blog is exclusively focused on financial issues surrounding baseball and football with an emphasis on the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots.

The next several posts will take a look at Red Sox off season decisions.