Free Agent infielders: How much should they get?
For this post I'm using Tango Tiger's salary scale as a reference. It assumes that a player is worth 4.4 million per win on the free agent market, a 10% increase from last year, and that players will decline by 0.5 wins per year. The second assumption makes sense as long as the free agent is older than 27, which is almost always the case. This is true for the players I'm looking at, who range in age from 28 (Corey Patterson, Juan Uribe) to 79 (Julio Franco, give or take 30 years)
To get win values I'm using the initial projections from the CHONE system, my defensive projections, and a position adjustment, which is -10 for 1b, -15 for dh, -5 for corner outfielders, 0 for 2b and 3b, +5 for center field, +9 for shortstop, and +13 for catchers.
This is a pretty bad group, and most teams could probably find better players on their bench or in their minor league system.
Sean Casey projects as a league average hitter, which is below average for first, and a decent (+2) glove. He's worth about a 1 year, 3 million dollar deal. Doug M and Mike Sweeney are just under him, around 2 million.
There aren't any stars but a few more decent players. The top one, which you probably won't believe, is D'Angelo Jimenez. Last year he got just over 100 at bats for washington, and took 21 walks for a .379 OBA. His defensive metrics show him as an average 2B or a below average shortstop. I don't know why everyone in baseball dislikes him so much, he sure has bounced around a lot lately. In 2004 he hit .270 with 12 homers and 82 walks for the Reds, and the next year they banished him to the minors for having a poor start. The last 3 years he's drawn a ton of walks everywhere in the minors he's played, including a 368/461/591 line this past year in 50 games for Columbus. CHONE says he could hit 267/368/405 in the majors next year, and he'd be useful for somebody who needs a second baseman. Salary deserved: 6 million for one year or 14 for 3, he will not actually get that much, making him a potential bargain.
Tadahito Iguchi is worth similar money, and he'll probably get it since he's actually played regularly in the majors the last few years.
Luis Castillo is third, and the only one worth a multiyear deal. He's about +1 wins, so thats 4.4 for one year or 6.8 for 2. Next best are some more former Mets in Jose Valentin and Kaz Matsui. Once a star, Marcus Giles is worth no more than 1 year and a million. He's getting dangerously close to replacement level if he's not already there.
David Eckstein is the best, as he's the one who is most useful as a hitter. His projected line is 286/348/369, a +3 at shortstop, and a contract for 3 years and 21 million.
Juan Uribe has power but no onbase average. His defensive projection is still good, +7, though his conditioning has not been good and that number may be too generous. CHONE says 16 runs over replacement and a 7 million dollar deal, he resigned with the Sox for 4.5, a good move for them.
Omar Vizquel's bat is dead. He projects to hit 255/319/336 and 24 runs below average. His glove is still great though, +10 runs. The numbers say 1 year 5-5.5 million, and rumor has it that he'll sign with the Giants for exactly that.
Mike Lowell never hit .320 before. He never hit .300 before, and he's 34 years old. CHONE has him hitting .282 next year (context neutral, a bit better if he resigns with the Red Sox). He's a good defender too. Total is 27 runs over replacement, worth about 12 million on a one year deal. At 4 years, the length he'll probably get, he's worth around 45 million. He'll probably get a bit more, especially if the Yankees and Red Sox get in a bidding war over him.
Pedro Feliz is a certified outmaker, but at least he makes a lot of outs on defense too. He might be the best defensive third baseman in the game right now. -17 runs hitting, +16 in the field makes him an average player. Try 3 years and 14 million.
Am I forgetting somebody? Oh yeah, A-Rod.
CHONE has his projected batting line at 302/418/586 and 48 runs above average. Last year he was +69, but you'd be a fool to pay for that, in 2006 he was only +30 (according to baseball-reference). In fact, over the last 4 years he has been +194 runs above average, or 48.5 per year. He also projects at -5 runs on defense, mostly due to a bad 2006. Over a 10 year contract it comes out to 236 million. Over 8 years its 201 million, which is less than the Yankees offered and A-Rod scoffed at.
Either A-Rod and Boras are going to be real disappointed, or some team is going to pay him a lot more than he's worth. If a team gives him 300 or 350 million they won't get anything close to their money's worth. He's 33 now. While he's a great player, its extremely likely that we've already seen the best of A-Rod. Somebody is going to regret overpaying for his declining years.