Friday, December 7, 2007

The Dodgers Are Smart?

The Dodgers' signing of Andruw Jones is very interesting to me. This was a very unique situation, since it was a marquee player coming off a pretty atrocious (.222/.311/.413) year. This led to the unique contract, considering the current market, of two years and $36.2 million.

First of all, let's compare:
Torii Hunter, career 104 OPS+ and 14 FRAA, age 32, signs 5 yr, $90MM contract
Andruw Jones, career 113 OPS+ and 218 FRAA, age 30, signs 2 yr, $36MM contract

Without considering the circumstances, this is a fantastic deal for the Dodgers. Despite what happened last year, Jones is better than Hunter. He's also two years younger. Yet they were able to land him while committing $54MM less. I would like to take this opportunity to remind everybody the Angels will be paying Torii Hunter $18MM when he is 37.

The Dodgers' problem is that it doesn't invalidate Juan Pierre's contract. It also doesn't make him good. So he's still owed $36.5MM over the next four years, and still has had OPS+es of 84, 82, and 75 over the last three years.

This is an issue. It looks like Pierre will be moved to LF. According to this, the average left fielder hit .271/.346/.442 last year. Pierre hit .293/.331/.353 last year. Isn't it amazing how the Angels and Dodgers both signed CFs to deals that everybody agreed were stupid a year ago, and now they're both essentially admitting their mistakes and ponying up even bigger bucks to replace those guys? Isn't there something wrong with this picture?

Anyway, I thought this deal was particularly interesting from Jones' standpoint. Andruw's agent is Scott Boras. Scott Boras likes money (or so I've heard). So, in only getting a two year deal, is Boras leaving money on the table here? Sheehan thinks so, but I'm not so sure I agree.

Jones had two things going against him this offseason. First, he hit .222 last year. Second, there were two other highly sought after CF free agents.

So Jones has to "settle" for $36MM now, and will be a FA again after the '09 season, at the age of 32. This gives him more security than a one-year deal would; let's not forget that $36MM is a lot of money. Without bothering to look it up (I don't know where I would), I'm going to guess that the CF free agent class two years from now is going to be weaker than this year's version. I'm also going to assume that Jones is going to hit higher than .222 in each of the next two years, because he is.

So let's say he has two normal Andruw Jones years, hitting around .260/.345/.500/ while continuing to be an asset in center. When he's a free agent, what's going to stop some team from throwing "Torii Hunter money" at him? He'll be the same age as Hunter is now, and he'll have a more impressive resume. Maybe he won't be coming a career year like Hunter is, but the fact that he is *better* should cancel that out.

Salaries have been rising at 8% per year. So in two years, 5/90 will be 5/105. Add that to his current deal, and we're at 7/141. Not bad. It's risky, since he could get hurt, or not return to form, but the most likely scenario gives him a nice payday two years from now. (That 5/105 contract will be terrible by the way, overpaying for the downside of his career, and I'll probably just change "Hunter" in this article to "Jones"...but that's not the point.)

Let's contrast this with his other option- signing a long-term deal now. I'm gonna guess that he could have gotten 5/75 this winter, if he wanted that length. Then he'd hit the market again at age 35. There is *no way* that he'd get a contract for 2 yrs, $66MM, which is what it would take to get him up to 7/141 in total.

I think this makes sense. He's delaying his big payday for two years, while still getting an impressive annual salary in '08 and '09. This allows him to hit the market at a time that is more favorable for him, and looks like it's got a good shot of netting him more money in the long run. Boras didn't turn down extra cash, he just switched up some variables to swing the odds in his client's favor.

(Photo from Busted Play, all contract information taken from Cot's.)


  1. Very good analysis. The one thing I would add that could make this a bad deal for the Dodgers is the fact that Jones has not done very well at Chavez Ravine in his career. Sure its only 36 games and 133 AB but Jones has only hit .233 with a .735 OPS at Dodger Stadium in his career. Some players just don't play well in certain parks and there is a big risk that Dodger Stadium could be one of those places for Andruw Jones.

  2. "Without considering the circumstances, this is a fantastic deal for the Dodgers." You've made a pretty good argument that this is true relative to the Hunter signing. But that does NOT in any way prove it's still not a crappy deal in absolute terms.

  3. I agree, Matt. But it really depends on what they do with Pierre/Kemp/Ethier, so we can't say either way at this point.

  4. Great take on it. I agree completely.

  5. Funny how that turned out, huh?