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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Devil Rays - Signed Shields

Tampa Bay Rays - Signed P James Shields to a 7-year contract.

According to SportsTicker, 3 years, $12 million guaranteed with the rest coming in the form of options.  It’s hard to dislike this signing from either party’s perspective This is something I’ve been advocating for some time - locking up players with 1 or 2 years of service time provided that their MLB performance isn’t out of whack from their minor league performances.  Early on in the service time clock, after all, is the only opportunity you can really offer a play a drastic change in income standing.  Going from $300,000 to $4 million is huge.  The guaranteed outlay is still small on relative terms and becomes even better as long as MLB’s revenue growth dwarf’s cost-of-living growth.  $4 million for a 2008 individual is obviously less money than $4 million for a 1998 individual, but $4 million for a baseball team is a drop in a much larger bucket than it was then.

Even when these deals work out badly, when talking about the money involved, they’re still not very damaging to the bottom line.  Take the Eric Hinske.  He was signed to a 5-year, $14.75 million contract before his sophomore season.  He was disappointing offensively, injured, and his defense got worse.  But he still ended up about 5 wins better than replacement level over the course of his contract.

2008 ZiPS Projection - James Shields
—————————————————————————————————
        W   L   G GS   IP   H   ER HR BB SO   ERA ERA+ 
—————————————————————————————————
Projection   9 10 29 29 193 209   94 28 38 156 4.38 101
—————————————————————————————————
Top Comps: Dennis Eckersley, Kevin Millwood

Dan Szymborski Posted: January 23, 2008 at 06:04 PM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 23, 2008 at 06:42 PM (#2674731)
How is Dennis Eckersley a Top Comp for a guy with a 101 ERA+? Are we expecting Shields to start boozing?
   2. Charter Member of the Jesus Melendez Fanclub Posted: January 23, 2008 at 06:52 PM (#2674734)
Start?
   3. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: January 23, 2008 at 06:56 PM (#2674735)
Like the Eck, he can either start or finish a bottle.
   4. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 23, 2008 at 07:02 PM (#2674740)
How is Dennis Eckersley a Top Comp for a guy with a 101 ERA+?

That includes defense, though the Rays should improve more than typical with their changes. Eck's peripherals weren't as good as his ERA in those days, too.
   5. Bad Doctor Posted: January 23, 2008 at 07:18 PM (#2674756)
Even before his strong 2007, PECOTA's number one comp for Shields was Dan Haren. That makes sense to me, particularly after he arrived in '07. Right hander with good overall stuff, strength is an offspeed pitch (I believe ... straight change for Shields, forkball for Haren?) that leads to a reverse split, good K/BB, a few too many gopher balls to be a #1 guy.
   6. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 23, 2008 at 07:22 PM (#2674759)
Hmmm...so I did a quick and dirty (the only kind I know how to do) calculation on defense and saw that Eckersley's DERA on BB-Pro (ages 20-25) was about 2% better than his NRA during those years. Does that mean his peripherals were actually a bit better than his ERA?

By contrast Shields DERA was 6% better than NRA, so his defense really sucked.
   7. Jim Wisinski Posted: January 23, 2008 at 07:28 PM (#2674766)
Dan, it's $12 million for the first four years, not three.
   8. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 23, 2008 at 07:34 PM (#2674773)
Year ERA+ FIP+ xERA+
-----------------------------
1976 101 105 125
1977 112 98 119
1978 139 96 109
1979 150 104 120
1980 99 98 112
   9. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 23, 2008 at 07:35 PM (#2674775)
Thanks for the catch.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: January 23, 2008 at 08:26 PM (#2674820)
Even when these deals work out badly, when talking about the money involved, they're still not very damaging to the bottom line. Take the Eric Hinske. He was signed to a 5-year, $14.75 million contract before his sophomore season. He was disappointing offensively, injured, and his defense got worse. But he still ended up about 5 wins better than replacement level over the course of his contract.

Fair enough, but I think this downplays the cost. The cost is that they could have had a look at those first two years for "free." At the end of that time, they'd have realized he wasn't the player he appeared in 2002 and either would have let him go or would have gotten those other 3 years for substantially less money. At at the end of those 2 years, they'd probably gotten most of those 5 wins out of him at essentially no cost. Anyway, it was probably something close to $10 M flushed down the drain.

But reminding us of the Hinske signing sure makes the Tulo extension look better. 5 seasons later, with MLB revenues nearly doubled (?), you can buyout Tulo's arb years for about the same price as Eric Hinske's. What's not to like.

As to this signing ... does anyone know if he was going to be a super-2? Or the structure of the deal?

Assuming no super-2 status, this means they're buying out his first two arb years at about $11 M. That seems high given pitcher risk. If he was going to be super-2, then they're getting his first 3 arb years at about $11.5 M and that seems like a reasonable price.

Either way, they are getting options on his last arb year and first 2 FA years for $26-28 M (there are incentives apparently). That looks like a very nice deal right there. Even an average starter might well be expected to earn something in the $35-40 M range by that time.

So good upside on this deal for the Rays and with only $12 M guaranteed, not a major downside. Obviously if Shields flames out, they've flushed $12 M, but short of that, hard to see how they could lose more than maybe $6 M on this one.

Makes me wonder if there are some details we're not aware of yet -- like an opt-out clause or some other major escalator. Three option years on a contract is almost unheard of and there's no obvious reason Shields should have given them that. At the least, I would expect those options to be reasonably easily vested ones and/or ones the Rays have to decide to exercise very soon.
   11. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 23, 2008 at 09:18 PM (#2674852)
Dan, thanks for #8. I'm amazed FIP and DERA can lead to such different conclusions.
   12. JoakimTough Posted: January 23, 2008 at 10:40 PM (#2674919)
Maybe I'm imagining things, but why do the Royals have to spend $36 million to get a T.O.? They just signed Brett Tomko. I don't like the deal, but I'd like to see the projections.
   13. JoakimTough Posted: January 23, 2008 at 10:54 PM (#2674932)
Aren't multiple option years something the Rays have done a lot? If I recall, Crawford and Baldelli both hae multiple option years on their contract. And as you mentioned, they have to be triggered sooner than a regular option. For example, I believe Baldelli's option for 2009 has to be exercised before Opening Day this year.
   14. Mike Green Posted: January 23, 2008 at 11:29 PM (#2674956)
What Dan said.

The other point is that in the not-insignificant chance that Shields turns out to be an above-average starter through his pre-arb years, the club has themselves a bargain during the option years.

This contract approach leads to long-term competitiveness. We'll see if they do the same thing with whomever of Sonnanstine, Niemann, McGee, Davis and Price emerges as a solid major league starter. I am guessing that they will try.
   15. Diamond Research Posted: January 24, 2008 at 03:33 PM (#2675311)
If the Rays decline the option on the last 2 seasons, would they be eligible for FA Compensation?
   16. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: January 25, 2008 at 09:26 AM (#2675874)
Holy long contract, Batman!
   17. The NeverEnding Torii (oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh) Posted: January 25, 2008 at 10:30 AM (#2675877)
Top Comps: Dennis Eckersley


Ladies and gentlemen, your NESN studio analyst for 2023 - James Shields.

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