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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Henning:  Despite warning, expect Tigers to extend Miguel Cabrera’s deal at a premium

This is a great article by a writer that I think is open to admitting what he doesn’t know, and finding the answers.

And a Szym sighting!

TDF didn't lie, he just didn't remember Posted: January 29, 2014 at 08:52 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: tigers

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   1. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 29, 2014 at 11:50 AM (#4647978)
Cabrera's next contract is likely to be a Hindenburg level disaster. Oh the humanity!
   2. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: January 29, 2014 at 12:18 PM (#4647998)
A complication to the Tigers trading Cabrera that the article fails to note is that Cabrera has 10/5 rights to veto any trade. It's an extremely unlikely option, but one that would require three parties to agree on compensation and Cabrera has tremendous leverage if he wishes to secure an extension at that point rather than go on the open market.

Of course, trading Cabrera is not at all likely given where the Tigers figure to be in the success cycle in 2014-15 and the fact that they would net a draft pick by extending a QO after the 2015 season. In other words, the haul would have to be an epic overpay and the receiving team would have to offer something to Cabrera. Maybe if Adrian Gonzalez gets hurt and Ned Colleti is still GM of the Dodgers...?
   3. Steve N Posted: January 29, 2014 at 12:18 PM (#4647999)
10 years would be pretty clearly a mistake. 5 would be pretty safe. Someone will probably offer 10 and get him.
   4. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: January 29, 2014 at 12:55 PM (#4648027)
Cabrera has the kind of body that does not usually last well in the upper 30s and he's already had issues with nagging injuries last year (though moving off 3rd base should help). I'd expect something arounf 8 years $260m with an opt out that would make it 5/160.
   5. Nasty Nate Posted: January 29, 2014 at 12:56 PM (#4648028)
I think now would be a poor time for the Tigers to undergo negotiations for an extension. It would be very hard for his price to go higher than it is now, unless Cabrera really values the stability (financially and otherwise) that an extension would guarantee. I.E. I don't think a feasible price negotiated as the exclusive buyer coming off a triple crown season preceded by several excellent and healthy seasons is likely to be lower than the price a year from now negotiated as the exclusive buyer or in 2 years negotiated against other bidders.
   6. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 29, 2014 at 01:22 PM (#4648044)
I'd expect something arounf 8 years $260m with an opt out that would make it 5/160.

Why would he want an option to forgo 3 years/$100M to opt out at age 38? My guess if there is an option it would be after year 3, but that doesn't make much sense for the Tigers either. An 8 year $260m with a 3 year opt out is $260m if he's disappointing, and 3 years/$100m only if he's stellar.

Obviously 8 years/$260m will be a disaster, probably after the first 3 years of the deal. Consider what $33M a year will buy the Tigers when Miggy is ages 36-40. Likely a lot more value than Miggy will be providing.

The Tigers have him through his age 32 season. That's a great time to have a going away party, but if they feel compelled to keep him around they should not go past 8 years at $23M a year (6 years obviously better). That gives Miggy a small bump in AAV for his decline years and security of a long term deal. He should give the team a discount now because if he's hurt/declines in the next 2 years his free agent value will take a big hit (he was never as good as Pujols and how good is that deal that started 2 years younger?). For the Tigers, as price per WAR increases the back end won't be too much of an overpay, and likely he's good enough the front end makes it worthwhile.

   7. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: January 29, 2014 at 01:44 PM (#4648066)
Oh yeah, I wasn't really thinking. 8/260 is about what I'd expect if he was a free agent today, but I'd put his projected value around $40m/yr. for the next two years and tailing off fairly rapidly after that.
   8. TDF didn't lie, he just didn't remember Posted: January 29, 2014 at 02:01 PM (#4648078)
First, it's wrong to compare this to the Fielder contract. Anyone could see that that was a disaster waiting to happen - at that point, he'd had 2 seasons (out of 6, each with 650+ PA; IOW he was getting plenty of playing time) of 4+ WAR (with 2 below 2 WAR and 1 below replacement level); $24M/yr was insane even on a 3 year contract, let alone 9.

But I agree that it in a vacuum it would be a mistake to sign Cabrera for any longer than 5 years (actually, after looking at some awesome hitting 30 year olds, I would much rather give him 3 years). But baseball isn't played in a vacuum; the owner and GM have to also soothe the feelings of the ticket-buying public and it wouldn't be very soothing to trade the best player on a playoff-caliber team.
   9. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 29, 2014 at 07:35 PM (#4648330)
But baseball isn't played in a vacuum; the owner and GM have to also soothe the feelings of the ticket-buying public and it wouldn't be very soothing to trade the best player on a playoff-caliber team

It is pretty soothing if you maintain the "playoff-caliber" part of the team. Somehow the Cardinals didn't think about soothing the feelings of their fans when they let Pujols walk and it worked out far better for them.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: January 29, 2014 at 07:57 PM (#4648342)
"Great" hitters through age 30, requiring at least 4000 PA and OPS+ > 145.

I looked at similar stuff back when Pujols was an FA. "Truly great" hitters tend not to decline as hitters very badly -- they decline but they decline to, at worst, Frank Thomas levels. Of course, so far, Pujols is threatening a new low. The main problem with such players was not decline in their production rate but decline in playing time (and defensive value but that's a different question).

But that threshold for "truly great" seemed to be somewhere around a 150ish OPS+ through age 30 -- i.e. if you were clearly above that, you continued to hit well. Cabrera has been a "truly great" hitter in his prime but, to this point in his career, sits at 154. As you go down that list, it's guys who were pretty damned impressive in their 30s until you get to about the 155 region when you start to see a good representation of cliff-divers -- Kiner, Klein, Sisler, McGriff, Vlad. As you pass the 150 barrier you pick up some more. Many of these guys still productive in their 30s but clearly not star-level.

So a few takes. That list from 31 on (no Cabrera, no Braun) by Rbat. Cabrera's OPS+ put him just over halfway down the first list but with the early start he was also 8th in PA on that list so he's probably under-rated relative to the others so we can consider him at least median. Median on the 2nd list is Mantle-Reggie at 170 Rbat. But contemporary guys -- Manny, Thome, Bagwell, Thomas and even Giambi -- are well above that. We might guesstimate Cabrera as a pretty good bet for around 200-250 Rbat from 31 on. That's 3-4 years at his current level or 4-5 years at his average career level. With some injuries and reduced playing time, those PA might be spread over, say, 7 seasons.

Now by oWAR to make some adjustment for position and playing time. Taking the same 5 comps:

Manny 37
Thome 34
Bagwell 29
Giambi 26
Thomas 24

That's a pretty wide range. Bagwell's WAR suggests he's got around $200 M worth of value left -- FWIW, Giambi/Bagwell is my rough guesstimate for Cano's remaining WAR. But even the pessimistic Thomas projection puts it around $150.

Even the downside doesn't look too scary. Among the more modern players, even Belle made it to 13 WAR, Griffey/Helton/Vlad to 15 and Berkman/McGriff to 19. I think Cabrera is a better _hitter_ than any of those guys. That's obviously not something you want to pay $150-200 M for but as "disasters" go that's not crippling.

If we go by WAR, things don't really change much -- Manny loses a ton (down to 28) but the range is now 22 WAR to 33 WAR. We can shave $10-15 M off the earlier numbers.

The original selection was by OPS+ so here's the age 31+ by OPS+. This is the original source of my optimism about such hitters. The median OPS+ through age 30 for this group was about 155; from 31 on it's about 142 -- decline, sure, but not massively so. The risk of course is playing time -- Albert Belle had just 2000 more PA in his career. Again looking at modern guys, other than Belle, the worst were Berkman, Vlad, Griffey (and Piazza) in the 3500-4000 range so that's still 5 full seasons worth. Others tended to make it to about 4500 (7 seasons) with Thome and McGriff topping 5000.

So I'll peg him at about $175 M for the rest of his career, roughly the range of 25-30 WAR. But he's not an FA and the Tigers have him for 2/$44 and he's probably going to produce 10-15 of those WAR over the next 2 years (depending on health mostly). So no we're talking about 15 marginal WAR which should be priced at about $100 M and will probably be spread out over 5-7 seasons (say 3000-3500 PA). Throw in some "franchise icon" bonus if you want but I can't see signing him now to an extension of more than about 5/$100 or 6/$120 (with some vesting options or bumping the next 2 years up to $25 per if that will make people happier).

He might pass on that of course in which case I'd wait at least one year. If he churns out another 1-2 seasons like the last few then he's established himself as "truly great" and maybe my 33+ projection would shift up enough to increase the offer -- but I tend to doubt it. He might still project to 3500-4000 more PA at that point but I don't think you can predict who's going to make it into the 4500-5500 range. Of the modern comps we've been using, Thome and Manny are the best at about 20 WAR from 33 on. That would add about $30 M to the earlier numbers. Realistic upsides might be F Robinson or Schmidt (without the defensive bonuses) at about 25 WAR.

I guess that's where I might have to cut bait with my own "truly great" theory. There's a big gap after Schmidt to (essentially) Musial at 38 WAR and Williams at 39 WAR (in just 3350 PA!) and then you're really talking somebody like Aaron at 47 WAR (for a Cabrera-type player). A repeat at 31-32 would suggest Cabrera is in the "truly great" class above the 150ish "maybe not quite great enough" class. But I won't make the leap of faith that can get me from 25ish WAR from 33 on (as upside) to 40+.

(Note, I'm thinking guys like Boggs, Collins, Speaker, Cobb, Mays are just lousy comps for Cabrera -- much greater defensive value younger and continuing on into their 30s plus Boggs is a lousy hitting comp for Cabrera and 3 of the others are from a wee while ago. Mays is not a bad hitting comp though and from 33 on he had 290 Rbat and might have had something like 35-40 WAR as an average 1B. I kept Schmidt but roughly adjusted him to be an average 1B just to have at least 2 guys to consider as upside.)
   11. Zonk is a cagey fellow Posted: January 29, 2014 at 08:26 PM (#4648360)
I thought the dude was too fat to age well to this point... and I also didn't want anything to do with a deal the likes of what Pujols signed back when he signed it.

But I think I would pay up for Cabrera.
   12. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: January 29, 2014 at 08:33 PM (#4648362)
Of course, so far, Pujols is threatening a new low

Does Jimmie Foxx not count as a truly great hitter?
   13. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: March 28, 2014 at 02:15 AM (#4678071)
The Tigers have him through his age 32 season. That's a great time to have a going away party, but if they feel compelled to keep him around they should not go past 8 years at $23M a year (6 years obviously better)

How about 8 years at $31M per year?
   14. Dog on the sidewalk Posted: March 28, 2014 at 04:14 AM (#4678080)
Maybe Ilitch is just disregarding payroll (particularly payroll years down the road) in an effort to get the team a championship while he can still witness it. This contract certainly doesn't make sense from an economic standpoint, but I won't fault Ilitch for wanting it.
   15. Dr. Vaux Posted: March 28, 2014 at 01:24 PM (#4678284)
But then why not give Scherzer the one more year he wanted, and why trae Fister?

Here I was feeling relieved that they apparently weren't going to get involved in any more potentially disastrous contracts . . .

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