As promised, this week I will showcase some of this year’s biggest off season signings. Using my projected valuations via my WAR formula, as discussed in my post from February 1st, I will show why some teams overpaid or underpaid for their given free agents. Today, we take a look at the Top 5 Free Agents of 2011.
1. Cliff Lee: The most coveted free agent this year was lefty Cliff Lee. He has pitched for 4 teams in the past two seasons and all signs pointed to him heading to the Bronx or re-signing in Texas this offseason. He shocked many people by taking a 5-year, 120 million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. His eWAR for 2011 was calculated at 4.8 wins above replacement, valuing him at $24,000,000. This is exactly how much he will be getting paid on average over the duration of this contract. If Lee is able to stay mostly healthy over the next 5 years this contract will certainly be a great deal for both sides, as he should be able to perform at a high level in the National League and even be one of the top five pitchers in the bigs.
2. Carl Crawford: This speedster was the top position player available this offseason and finished only second to Cliff Lee among overall free agents. The Boston Red Sox were able to snatch up this blue chip outfielder in route to what was one of the best offseasons among any team in recent history. Although the seven year commitment may be a bit long but as far as our eWAR projection is concerned they may have gotten a pretty good deal. The eWAR 2011 values Crawford at 4.4 wins above replacement and $22,000,000 per year. Over the next seven years Crawford will be paid 142 million dollars(or approximately 20.3 million per year) from the Red Sox. Crawford has been on an upward trend as far as his WAR numbers have been concerned over the past 3 years progressing from 2.3 in 2008, 4.4 in 2009 and 4.8 in 2010. It is fair to assume that in the potent BoSox offense and in a hitters park like Fenway, Crawford could continue to trend upward during his peak years but trail off towards the back end of this long deal. In the end, all will likely end up balancing out value-wise and this will be another good deal for both sides.
3. Jayson Werth: Werth may be one of the more interesting cases in this analysis. According to his eWAR 2011 number he is actually projected higher than Crawford with a 4.6 wins above replacement(which would value him at around $23 million per year.) However, Werth received a 126 million dollar contract over 7 years from the Washington Nationals. This is only 18 million dollars per year but far more years than anyone would have guessed considering Werth will be 32 years old in the 2011 season. My guess was that Werth would get more per year(as the eWAR calculations would suggest) but Crawford would get more years. Both of these assessments were wrong as they both got the same number of years and Crawford over 2 million more dollars on average per season. A 3 or 4 year high money deal may have made more sense for the team who signed Werth because it will be hard for him to keep up the type of production he had as a Phillie into his late 30s. It must also be noted that he flourished in the hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park (.320/.401/.599) and was not nearly the same hitter on the road (.270/.375/.463.) Nationals Park is known to be more of a hitters park. All in all, this deal should be great for Washington from a dollars per win perspective, as long as Werth’s numbers do not tank playing away from Citizens Bank. However, in the latter part of the contract they will be regretting it.
4. Adrian Beltre: Signed only a few weeks ago, possibly to make up for missing out on Cliff Lee, Beltre got a 6-year, 96 million dollar deal from the Texas Rangers. Texas needed a big bat in the middle of their order after letting Vlad Guerrero walk and Beltre was a perfect fit. He brings a defensive upgrade to third base and a big time power bat to the table. The eWAR formula for 2011 projects Beltre at 4.3 wins above replacement and 21.5 million dollars per year. It looks as though this is a great deal for Texas who will only be paying Adrian 16 million dollars per year on average but their is reason to be skeptical. Beltre is notorious for having big walk years(as he did last year in comparison to his extremely poor 2009 and also back in 2004 which lead to a huge contract from Seattle which he never lived up to.) Beltre, should flourish in Arlington as it is a major hitters park and although it is hard to digest giving a player on the wrong side of 30 a 6 year deal I believe in the end the Rangers will have gotten their money’s worth and then some.
5a. Victor Martinez: I decided that there are two players who I wanted to highlight in rounding out this top 5 list. The first is Victor Martinez who was signed by the Detroit Tigers for 50 million dollars over 4 years. This is an absolutely stellar deal for Detroit as Victor projects 3.1 wins above replacement or 15.5 million dollars. Martinez is one of the top offensive catchers in the game today and has had tremendous success in the AL Central over the course of his career, as he is very familiar with the division from his days back in Cleveland. The other big reason I find this to be such a good deal is because V-Mart may very quickly become the full time designated hitter for the Tigers. Martinez’s defense brings his WAR numbers down because he is an extremely poor catcher, one of the worst in the league today, but his offense more than makes up for those short comings. If he does not catch than he then bring more value to the team with his bat alone, making this an even better deal than it already appears to be.
5b. Adam Dunn: The Adam Dunn deal with Chicago(4 years, 56 million) is very similar to the Victor Martinez deal discussed above. What the ChiSox get out of it will all depend on how they use Dunn. Adam Dunn has been quoted in saying that he wants to play the field but as anyone who has ever watched him rumble around out there he is dreadful between the white lines on defense. Dunn’s eWAR 2011 projection is 2.6 but this number is vastly watered down by the negative defense he has brought his team over the past few years. At 2.6 wins above replacement, Dunn would be worth about $13,000,000 per season which is just less than the 14 million dollars a year he received from Chicago. His defense is not getting any better and though his offense stands to improve playing at US Cellular Field he is still entering his 30s. However, if the White Sox only use him as a DH this will be one of the best deals made the entire off season. His WAR projects at 3.9 from an offensive-only perspective, valuing him at 19.5 million dollars per year. As just a bat, Adam Dunn is nearly a 20 million dollar ball player, so if the White Sox decide to use him that way they will have gotten a great deal.