Thursday, November 12, 2015

By Jason Sinner, Contributor - 

What the hell was I thinking?  

So I wanted to create a chart of the last several years’ free agents.  I started this a few days ago thinking that I would import data into excel and just sort it as need be.  ‘Yeah right,’ said Noah’s wife.  

Anyway, here it is in all its glory.  186 entries starting in 2007 including the unsigned 2016 free agent class.  

Before I delve into dissecting the data, there are a few things to know about the chart.  (quite a few actually)

It’s sortable.   It’s in filter mode so you should be able to pick and choose how to view by any of the headers.

It generally contains players that signed or likely will sign a deal of 3 years or longer with a few of less than that thrown in out of interest. 

It includes season signed, general position category (IF, OF, P), position, age at start, # of years, $$, AAV, War to date, Avg WAR to date, $/WAR, Previous 3 years of total WAR and then AVG, $AAV/AVG WAR (ie how much paid per year base on previous 3 yr avg.), Risk Score (more about this later), $/WAR cost of free agents (ballpark), Net Value to date vs. $/WAR cost, Contract value in $ to date, yrs left, and WAR deficit/surplus.

About the Risk Score Calculations:

I’m not an excel guy so I had to figure it out, but I thought it was pretty cool.  Basically, in compiling the data I noticed that the $AAV/AVG WAR (ie how much paid per year base on previous 3 yr avg.) gave a general idea how much you were potentially paying on a $/WAR basis relative to their previous performance.  Yet it didn’t take into account the age at the start of the contract or the number of years of the contract.  The above formula is meant to do that and I think it does a pretty good job.  The higher the score, the more risk.  

$$ are in millions

It’s not perfect.  There are some mistakes that I didn’t feel like correcting.  Most of which has to do with the fact that when a player is below replacement and had a negative WAR value, the formulas got jacked.  From that we can assume that the deal sucked or the future deal would suck (ahemIanKennendyahem).  

So my fear was that I would get through imputing all he info and be left with nothing but the fact that the free agent market sucks and that teams should stay away from it.  

Yet I think there are some interesting things to observe and some decent takeaways.  

It really is a horrible investment.  There is a ton of red ink in the Net Value column.  But it got better over time as the cost of free agents went up.  Wait.  WTF?  Yep, the ability to find value improved as the $/WAR cost rose.  The most expensive free agents got more expensive.  The mid range guys got a bit more expensive, and the low end guys stayed about the same with perhaps a slight increase.  If continuity weren’t an issue, the most cost effective way to handle the market would be to turn over your free agents every 1-2 years.  Think about that for a second.  You are likely to get more production from 9 different guys signing 9 different 10mil/yr contracts over a 3 year period than you would if you signed 3 guys to 3yr/30mil contracts.  

Stay away from mid level starting pitching.  Oddly enough, the higher end guys have been pretty decent at coming close to their pay.  The mid range guys have almost universally sucked.  So all those guys that will be paid anywhere from 30-80mil?  Just walk away Billy.  Just walk away.  

Relievers have fared pretty well recently.  With the cost per war affecting mostly the upper tier players coupled with the fact that ‘closers’ aren’t getting as much money, they been relatively productive so to speak.  So much for the notion that you shouldn’t pay for a bullpen.  

Don’t pay for speed and defense in the outfield.  Players who derive a good deal of their value from such are bad bets.  As an example, there has been one CFer over the last 10 years to be worth what they were paid (our man Torii).  

Power hitting first baseman aren’t worth it. Pretty much ever.  But of course, there is a difference between absolute and relative production.  As an example, Teix has produced 21.1 WAR over the 7 years of his 180 mil contract (1-yr left).  If the Yankees had gone cheaper, would they have been able to make up that production somewhere else?  They may have been able to spend less, but they probably wouldn’t have.  

Middle infield and 3b is kind of all over the map.  (btw, did you know that Placido Polanco amassed 41.3 WAR over his career?  I was surprised by that).  Although SS and high end 3bman have faired pretty well.  

Paying for a corner outfielder has almost universally sucked.  

Catcher have done decently in a small sample.  Especially those that are good defensively.  
High end Asian Players seem to have a solid track record as well.

Overall, the free agent market is a pretty bad bet, but it can’t be viewed in a vacuum.  Granted, it makes sense that teams are looking to invest in club controlled players and for good reason.  But as any season approaches, you have to deal with the here and now.  Sometimes you don’t have a club controlled player to fill a spot and you might not for some time.  Because your opportunity to obtain also has to come into play.  Do you have high draft picks?  What options do you have in foreign markets?  What difference will a mediocre player make to the current club?  It’s about the balance between mitigating risk and seizing opportunity.  

So how does all of this relate the our beloved Halos?

Before writing this article, I had my preferences as to who I’d like to see the Halos pursue.  That list included Zobrist, Heyward, Upton, Cespedes, and maybe a reliever or two.  Also on the radar were guys like Davis and Gordon.


Zobrist is still on there.  Especially if it’s 3 years.  But I would stay the hell away from all of the high end free agent bats mentioned above.  The only one I would consider is Heyward in that he’s a bit of an anomaly in that he’s the youngest non-foreign position player to reach free agency in the last ten years (the next closest is Prince Fielder).  

I would stock the hell out of the pen.  Make it full beefcake.  BEEFCAKE!  I would go after Maeda or Cueto.  Both front line starters without a pick attached.  I am not a believer in Price.  Greinke would be next in line or possibly Zimm but I don’t like giving up the pick.  If I couldn’t get either of those guys, I would sign one Latos or Fister on 1yr deals.  I would consider doing this regardless to make more pitching available in trade.

If I was going to go after a free agent outfielder outside of Heyward, it would be Parra.  

I would stop gap 3B or try to get Freese at a discount or I would consider Ian Desmond although I am not sure he could play there.  Murphy would be an outside option.  Both would cost a pick which I wouldn’t be thrilled about.  I’d rather have Desmond in that he could shift to SS next year if we can extend Aybar.  

I would trade for an outfielder or third baseman depending on what I couldn’t fill via free agency.  

I would consider Wieters before any of the other OFers.  

I would stay far away from Samardzija, Leake, Kazmir, Kennedy, Gallardo, Lackey, Iwakuma, Happ, Estrada etc.

Ideally, it would look like the following:

Parra or Either for Wilson
Prado (Santiago trade) or Freese if you can get a discount
Trade Shoe for a reliever
Steve Pearce (util IF/OF)

The pen would be ridiculous.  The lineup and starting pitching would be solid to good.  I would probably add a LHed hitting catcher and veteran IFer to backup SS as well a speedster as a 4th/5th OFer.  Not someone with some speed, but a real burner.  There would be some speed top to bottom.  

Some solid OBP, the ability to actually hit, and excellent defense as well as an improved bench to the tune of about 60mil in additional payroll.  Easy peasy.
Love to hear what you think!

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