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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fleming: Robinson Cano to the Mariners

Interesting analysis of the value of Cano vs. Ellsbury & Beltran moving forward…

Yastrzemski in left. Posted: December 14, 2013 at 05:52 PM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: new york yankees, seattle mariners

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   1. KT's Pot Arb Posted: December 15, 2013 at 03:18 PM (#4618423)
Pretty good article pointing out how dumb low balling Cano to sign Ellsbury was.
   2. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: December 15, 2013 at 04:30 PM (#4618460)
I read the piece yesterday and was tempted to post it as well. And here is Tango's take on Fleming's analysis.
   3. BourbonSamurai Is a Lazy Nogoodnik Posted: December 15, 2013 at 06:04 PM (#4618509)
Agree, that is a good article- I almost didn't click on it because the headline made it seem like old news
   4. Publius Publicola Posted: December 15, 2013 at 07:53 PM (#4618552)
My only quibble is the supposition that the Yankees will trade Gardner because he represents redundant talent. If the Yankees have been too dumb to realize Gardner was more valuable in center up till now, I don't suppose the lightbulb has been turned on AFTER they signed Ellsbury.
   5. Robinson Cano Plate Like Home Posted: December 15, 2013 at 07:56 PM (#4618553)
I don't buy it. If you had to gamble on the following, today:

1. Beltran will be worth 1.3 WAR in his Age 37 season (2014)

or

2. Cano will be worth 1.7 WAR in his Age 37 season (2020)

You'd be nuts to take 2. "Standard aging curve"? What does that mean? Is it for all baseball players, or just those that remained MLB caliber? There is significant risk that Cano is not even an MLB player at Age 37, that just isn't there for Beltran. Is there risk for Beltran? Yes. He could flame out in 2014. But the risk for Cano (Age 37) being out of baseball simply dwarfs whatever risk Beltran is looking at, from the perspective of today, offseason 2013. He could flame out many, many times before even getting to 2020.

From where we are today, would you rather be compelled to sign Cano to a 3-year, $24 million per year contract in 2021, or would you rather have $75 million to sign whoever looks like the best use of $75 million in 2021? There's no way to look at that committed money today and have any confidence that it's a good use of money.

I'm not a big fan of the Ellsbury contract, but I think the Cano contract is a disaster, and the Yanks were right to pass.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: December 15, 2013 at 09:30 PM (#4618590)
You'd be nuts to take 2.

Agreed. But Fleming has already biased the analysis heavily towards Ellsbury/Beltran by assuming that Ellsbury's 2013 fWAR represents true value. By fWAR, in 2013 there was essentially no difference between Cano and Ellsbury and Fleming then discounts from those numbers. If that's true, then obviously you take Ellsbury at 7/$153 -- it's a no-brainer. And then, yes, you take the known Beltran at 37 over the projected Cano at 37. Small but obvious win for the Yanks by those projections.

But if you don't think Ellsbury 2013 is his true talent or if you go with bWAR over fWAR -- bWAR sees Cano as nearly 2 wins better in 2013, not .2 -- then Cano is gonna project a whole lot better than Ellsbury over those first 7 years. If Cano is 10 wins ahead after the first 7 -- I wouldn't be shocked if he was 10 wins ahead of Ellsbury after the first 3 -- there's no way Beltran can make up that ground ... and then you've got to start taking account of the extra money the Yanks would have.

However, I basically buy Fleming's projection for Cano which comes in at 27 wins -- that's consistent with my more informal analysis. Ellsbury also projected better than I expected by that informal analysis -- a number of his comps did rather well in this age range so it may primarily be a question of health.

To me the question is more Beltran's projection. By bWAR and fWAR, he just wasn't particularly good last year -- 2.4 bWAR, 2 fWAR. For the last two years, the bat has not been good enough to do more than just make up for his 2013 defense. He's probably best-suited to near full-time DH these days but a 128 OPS+ out of a full-time DH is not very exciting -- that's Billy Butler with probably less playing time due to age. Butler's totaled 7 WAR, 0 WAA over the last three years in 2000 PA -- take 15-20% off of that and you may have Beltran over the next three years. If 2013 represents Beltran's current talent level, it's hard to see how he can come close to 3/$45 unless he stays healthy, maintains and WAR is priced at $7 M per.

Of course, yes, it's even less likely that Cano will be worth 3/$72 over his last three years unless maybe WAR is up to $10 per by then (not impossible) and even then he's probably got more downside risk.

Now here's an interesting comp:

Cano, 24-30: 307/358/508, 127 OPS+, 41.1 WAR
Beltran, 24-30: 281/362/515, 124 OPS+, 39.7 WAR

Cano was 5 wins better from 28-30 although a chunk of that was Beltran's odd first year in NY ... just as Beltran makes up that ground thanks to Cano's bizarre 2008.

From 31-36, Beltran put up 22 WAR despite missing essentially one full season of playing time ... so still a 4.5 WAR quality player. If Cano can stay healthier, he could reach that 27 WAR projection by age 36 by being Beltran. Given Cano at 31 is probably better than Beltran was, that's not overly optimistic.

I must admit that everytime I look at it, I get more optimistic about Cano's future. 8/$200 is starting to look kinda reasonable to me. (10/$240 still has a ways to go.)
   7. Mayor Blomberg Posted: December 15, 2013 at 09:46 PM (#4618594)
Projecting Cano forward, what happens to the discussions earlier in the year about second-basemen's aging curves?
   8. KT's Pot Arb Posted: December 15, 2013 at 10:41 PM (#4618608)
I'm not a big fan of the Ellsbury contract, but I think the Cano contract is a disaster, and the Yanks were right to pass.


This is a straw man argument, it's not whether the Yankees should have offered $240m, it's whether they should have offered more than $175m.

Cano is a virtual lock to be worth at least $30m than Ellsbury over the next 7 years, yet the Yankees refused to offer even $25m more to Cano than they gave Jacoby. In fact Cano is likely to be worth $30m more than Jacoby in the next 4 years alone. Cano is the greatest Yankee 2b ever, and on a HOF career path, and the Yankees best player.

The Yankees could have offered 8 years/$200M, and had an excellent chance of re-signing him. Even with the tax advantages of WA the marginal utility of that extra money can't nearly compensate for moving to Seattle instead of staying in NYC and likely spending many years on crappy teams playing for a bad ownership group, forgoing becoming an all time Yankee legend for your many post retirement years.

Cano likely just wanted the Yankees to make an offer acknowledging his value and they lowballed him.

Instead they

Gave nearly as much money AND gave up a draft pick to sign a less valuable free agent. Even worse, Ellsbury adds only incremental value over Gardner in center field while the Yankees lose far more with a huge hole at second with Cano gone. The difference between Elksbury & Cano in the yanks current roster might be 3-4 wins a year in Canos favor. Assume Gardner was a full time 3 WAR player, Ellsbury a 5 WAR player, and Cano a 6 WAR player, with Cano/Gardner you get 9 WAR out of 2 positions, with Jacoby/2b Scrubs/ part time Gardner the yanks might only get 7-8 WAR.

Sure it's possible Fardner can be flipped for equally valuable player who is a perfect fit I the 2014 roster to be maximally utilized, but unlikely. Gardner has one year left, and before it's end another homegrown and undervalued Yank will be shipped out.

If Ellsbury was the beet they could do after Cano turned down $200m/8 years it would be fine. But instead they refused to even come close to his market value and now will also likely be forced to lose even more value shipping out Gardner.

The Yankees botched this offseason horribly.

   9. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: December 15, 2013 at 10:53 PM (#4618612)
This man calls Dave Cameron "always excellent", which is the exact opposite of the truth. I have a hard time taking anything else he says seriously.
   10. PreservedFish Posted: December 15, 2013 at 11:13 PM (#4618616)
Even worse, Ellsbury adds only incremental value over Gardner in center field ... now [the Yankees] will also likely be forced to lose even more value shipping out Gardner.

Why can't they just play Gardner in leftfield? Gardner's big WAR years came as a leftfielder.

Ellsbury doesn't displace Gardner, he displaces Ichiro or Vernon Wells.

You get into these moods where you take a position on a transaction - a reasonable and defensible position - but then you just steamroll your argument straight through facts and common sense.
   11. The Yankee Clapper Posted: December 15, 2013 at 11:45 PM (#4618635)
The Yankees could have offered 8 years/$200M, and had an excellent chance of re-signing him. Even with the tax advantages of WA the marginal utility of that extra money can't nearly compensate for moving to Seattle instead of staying in NYC and likely spending many years on crappy teams playing for a bad ownership group, forgoing becoming an all time Yankee legend for your many post retirement years.

Lots of conjecture there. Even a $200M offer was 20% less than what Seattle offered - not to mention the impact of NYS + NYC income taxes. That's a lot of money to leave on the table for the honor of being a Yankee. MLB is a business.
   12. KT's Pot Arb Posted: December 16, 2013 at 03:45 AM (#4618683)
Why can't they just play Gardner in leftfield? Gardner's big WAR years came as a leftfielder.

Ellsbury doesn't displace Gardner, he displaces Ichiro or Vernon Wells.

You get into these moods where you take a position on a transaction - a reasonable and defensible position - but then you just steamroll your argument straight through facts and common sense


Sometimes it takes a steamroller to clear out enough shrubbery to make the point plain.

Your comments are correct, but I think the same negative effect occurs if they keep Gardner, it's just more subtle. The Yankees have a few more options in the outfield than at 2nd, so the downgrade at 2nd is going to be greater than the upgrade in the outfield. Cano's value over Yankees 2b replacements is greater than Ellsbury's value over Yankees OF replacements.

To put it most succiently, the Yankees chose to spend almost as much on Ellsbury as they offered Cano, yet Cano should be the substantially more valuable player over the next 7 years, and provide significantly more additional valuable on the Yankees roster than Ellsbury can.

Lots of conjecture there. Even a $200M offer was 20% less than what Seattle offered - not to mention the impact of NYS + NYC income taxes. That's a lot of money to leave on the table for the honor of being a Yankee. MLB is a business


The conjecture is whether he would have taken it. There is no conjecture on whether he should have been offered it. If Ellsbury is worth anywhere near $153M to the Yankees, Cano was certainly worth $200M to them. Again, if he turns it down then the Yankees did all they could. But as it stands they blew it.
   13. Robinson Cano Plate Like Home Posted: December 16, 2013 at 07:44 AM (#4618688)
Cano is gonna project a whole lot better than Ellsbury over those first 7 years



I think this is right, although my confidence in Cano > Ellsbury declines as the years pass, not because of any faith I have in Ellsbury, but because of how much changes in 5 years, to say nothing of 10. How good would we have done allocating money for 2013 in 2008? What about in 2003? Bad and terrible, I say. Forget even predicting WAR--are we even that good at knowing who's still a starter? Or still in baseball?

If you could have had Cano for Ellsbury's contract, of course you do it. You even pay a premium, which I think $175 million fairly is. But there comes a time during the Decade of Cano when you'd rather have $24 million than the ballplayer. That's not really uncertain. That's essentially a known. What's unknown is the date. And the downside that can't be ignored is the chance that the tipping point is in, say, the next 3 years. Or 5. Unlikely, perhaps, but devastating if it happens. Cano's contract is a black swan. As is Ellsbury's, to a lesser degree.

You can't straight up compare the 10 years for Cano with the 7 for Ellsbury + 3 for Beltran, because you know something about age 37 Beltran you don't about age 37 Cano, which is that he is a MLB quality player. No amount of "standard aging curves," whatever that is, makes that uncertainty go away. That's a huge, undervalued risk. The Yanks committed 10 years to age 30+ baseball players, but they know a lot more about those 10 years, because 60% of them come in the next 3 seasons.

I think 7 years for Ellsbury is foolish, but I think 10 for Cano is madness. In 3 years and in 7 years, the Yanks have contracts coming off the books: money available for the class of 2016 and 2020 free agents. The Mariners have already spent their 2016 and 2020 money on Cano, and paid a premium.

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