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Monday, December 14, 2020

Yankees, DJ LeMahieu are more than $25 million apart, agreement not quite imminent

As of Saturday night, the gulf between the Yankees and free agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu was wider than $25 million, a person with knowledge of the situation told NJ Advance Media. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

A report that circulated Friday night pegged the sides off by $25 million. The report said the Yankees wanted LeMahieu at four years and $75 million while LeMahieu wants five years and $100 million.

“The years are right,” the person said. “The money is wrong.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 14, 2020 at 09:18 AM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: d.j. lemahieu, yankees

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   1. JRVJ Posted: December 14, 2020 at 11:23 AM (#5994042)
Petty cash.
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 14, 2020 at 11:29 AM (#5994043)
Seems like a long deal for a 33 y.o.
   3. puck Posted: December 14, 2020 at 02:21 PM (#5994090)
I was going to say, seems like a bold move on LeMahieu's part? He'll be in his age 32 season, coming off his best two seasons, owners seeming to signal nearly across the board they are going cheap. If the Yankees did 4/80 that would seem to be great for him.
   4. Ron J Posted: December 14, 2020 at 04:26 PM (#5994144)
I have to say that if anybody comes close to meeting his demands there's a very good chance they'll regret it. Yeah he's been really good since 2019. What went before matters and he's not young.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: December 14, 2020 at 05:57 PM (#5994173)
Pre-covid (cuz who knows), nothing unusual in 5 years for a guy his age. Signing good players through age 36 has been standard procedure for a long time. Obviously if you can get him for 4 years at a lower NPV you do so but the compromise usually ends up at 5 years. The comment in the excerpt of "years are right, money is wrong" is not useful -- whose years are right, whose money is wrong. They mean 4/$80 is right or they mean 5/$90 is right. Practically the same thing anyway. Being "$25 M apart" isn't as far apart as it might seem.

As to "good since 2019" ... huh? He's averaged 4.7 WAR/650 since 2016. The only "worrying" year in the last 5 was 2.5 WAR in 2018. If there's a major concern other than age, it's that the defense might be declining -- "just" +6 DRS in 2019, 0 in 2020. I suppose it also means keeping Gleyber at SS for several years which might not be the best idea. Still a guy who can hit 300 while the rest of the league struggles to hit 250 is a valuable piece. I doubted he'd hit so well outside of Coors but he has so there's not much rationale for further discounting those Coors numbers.

Of course I don't know the post-covid market any better than anybody else does at this point so maybe nobody else will offer 5 years in which case no reason for the Yanks to overpay. I wasn't thrilled with the Cubs giving Zobrist 4/$54 (or whatever) in 2015 but then that was years 35-38 and he gave us two quite good seasons (very useful in 2016) and ended up close enough to $54 in value that I won't quibble. The other recent guy who springs to mind is Kinsler who never put up these sorts of offensive numbers and he put up 21 WAR from 32-36 and he was making $16 AAV back in 2014. LeM is probably not quite as good a hitter as Justin Turner (I never realized how often he hit 300) and from 32-35 he just put up 16 WAR, including the covid year and substantial missed time so that was 6 WAR/650.

Of course the reason I think of those guys is because they stayed good and so were still playing recently. Howie Kendrick had just one full-time year after age 31 and put up just 5 WAR through 36 and, other than age 31, he was putting up similar WAR numbers to LeM before that. They're the hot potato ages -- could go bust at 32, could still be solid at 36, you'd rather not be holding potato when that happens. But historically, teams have generally decided that the promise of ages 32-34 were worth the risk of ages 35-36.

And before we get the "but but Alomar" ... Roberto put up 13 WAR at ages 32-33, enough that it would make a 5/$100 deal here worth it (pre-covid). Sandberg put up 15 WAR for ages 32-36 and he was retired for 1.5 of them. Grich, Carew, Molitor, Whitaker, Biggio, Randolph, Utley, Kent, Kinsler, Zobrist, Phillips all good for ages 32-36. Even Polanco and Ellis (all glove) made it to 12 WAR. Kendrick, Pedroia, Knoblauch, Doran, maybe Altuve are the cautionary tales. (And obviously we aren't putting LeMahieu in the HoF class yet so thee guys plus Randolph, Kinsler, etc. might be the proper comp group.)
   6. Ron J Posted: December 14, 2020 at 06:29 PM (#5994175)
#5 Obviously we see things differently. But the way I look at it is that I simply see his offensive blip the same way I say Terry Pendleton's two years of good hitting. It happens but at his age real offensive improvement is extremely rare.

At the same time I believe his defense is in decline. In other words I'd expect around a 100 OPS+ (which underrates him slightly) with second tier defense.

If he holds that level for the duration of the contract it won't be terrible (or even close -- he'll earn his spot in the lineup) but it's a fair overpay. And I don't see much of a chance for an upside and see a very real risk of a downside.

All that to say, I'm comfortable with "very good chance they'll regret it"
   7. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: December 14, 2020 at 06:46 PM (#5994179)
At the same time I believe his defense is in decline.

LeMahieu in NY:

52% at 2B
26% at 3B
22% at 1B

Do we have any sense of whether a player's defense tends to suffer at his primary position if there's a large portion of time spent at another position/s?
   8. The Duke Posted: December 14, 2020 at 08:11 PM (#5994192)
These are effectively arguments for never signing a free agent. Virtually everyone is about to or already entering decline. Or you can sign a guy like Harper and surround him with a shitshow during his most valuables years.

At least Preller got it right
   9. Ron J Posted: December 15, 2020 at 12:14 AM (#5994226)
#8 Yeah. I did a lot of work on the financial side of free agency. Literally decades ago but from what I can tell not much has changed but the size of the numbers.

As a group, free agent eligible players are paid ~30% more than their contribution to marginal revenue and a very low percentage are objectively very good financially. The only way any given signing is a good bet is if that player is the difference between missing and making the playoffs.

Of course at the time of signing the best you can do is an estimate of how close a team is to the sweet spot where marginal wins are more valuable.

But since almost all people making these decision are kind of forced to be optimistic, even if they buy this line of logic they can logically justify their decision. That and the nature of secret auctions (so that only the player's side has full information) it's completely predictable that:

1. Free agents will continue to be signed.
2. As a group they'll continue to be paid more than they're objectively worth financially.
   10. Mayor Blomberg Posted: December 15, 2020 at 12:21 PM (#5994288)
Reading TFA (unfashionable I know), it seems quite possible, even likely, that "The years are right the money is wrong" means that the report of the number of years each side seeks is correct, but the amount of money attributed to each side is incorrect.

The person with knowledge is not the source of the report.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: December 15, 2020 at 05:31 PM (#5994363)
Do we have any sense of whether a player's defense tends to suffer at his primary position if there's a large portion of time spent at another position/s?

Szym (I think, maybe Tango) did some related work. If I recall it looked at players that shifted position full-time then shifted back and found that, after about a year away, their skills at the old position declined substantially. Probably not a very big sample size of guys who switched then switched back but I'd think that sample was probably selected for their defensive ability ... but I suppose might include guys like Pedro Guerrero. Not exactly what you were looking for but it would imply that spending substantial time at other positions tends to hurt your skills at your main position.

#6 ... you've completely discounted 2016 when he was an excellent hitter, even for Coors. And as I said, we all thought his numbers were solely because of Coors but looks like they weren't. There wasn't any reason to expect this big jump in power but he wouldn't be the first guy to add power at 30. At this point, to become an average overall hitter, he needs a big drop in both BA and ISO and it seems unlikely they'll both go in short order. True enough, that pattern roughly fits Pendleton. Of course it also roughly fits Jeff Kent and Ken Caminiti (who may have benefited from PEDs).

I did try to account for that possibility in my brief tour of comps. Mark Ellis put up a 88 OPS+ and 12 WAR 32-36 based on excellent defense. Polanco got there the same way on a 91 OPS+. Neither of those is great but solid downsides. Phillips had 22 oWAR playing all over the place so LeMahieu wouldn't have to hit that well to be worth the contract. But sure, if he's gonna hit like Polanco/Ellis while playing average or worse defense, then it will be a lousy contract at 4/$75 much less 5/$100. I'll agree that LeMahieu is a tough guy to project at this point.
   12. Ron J Posted: December 15, 2020 at 09:28 PM (#5994412)
#11 No. I included 2016. If I hadn't the projection would be for a much worse player.
   13. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: December 15, 2020 at 10:00 PM (#5994414)
Thank you, Walt.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: December 16, 2020 at 05:03 PM (#5994556)
#12: Apologies. Your original comment was "he's been really good since 2019" which I took as ignoring being really good in 2016.
   15. Ron J Posted: December 16, 2020 at 06:49 PM (#5994571)
#14 No worries. I'm always up for a good faith disagreement with something I have posted. My feeling is that if somebody is arguing in good faith and doesn't understand my position or arguments then I probably haven't done a good job of explaining myself.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: December 17, 2020 at 04:43 PM (#5994743)
FWIW, I'm not necessarily in favor of a big-money 5-year contract for LeMahieu ... not that even 5/$100 is that big anymore. But signing through 36 was de rigeur in the day and still seems common. I'd also want better info on his defense before making the decision. If I was confident he was still a good defender at 2B (or 3B for that matter), then I'd be a lot more comfortable.

Way back when Jason Kendall got traded from Pitt to Oak, I did a lot of comp-digging on Kendall. It popped up a pattern for Cs of his ilk that has popped up pretty regularly for other positions since then. There is nearly always some age-related decline but a common pattern for very good to star-level players was that about 1/4 of the time the quality (with some decline) and the durability remained (say a 4-WAR player becomes a 3-WAR player); about 1/4 of the time, the quality remained but the durability dropped (i.e. played like a 3-WAR player when healthy but durability drops to 2), about 1/4 the quality dropped but the durability remained and they were a 2-WAR player and about 1/4 they both cratered.

In Kendall's case, obviously the quality dropped substantially and immediately but the durability didn't. b-r rates him dead-average for 31-36 although there are some crazy-good DRS numbers in some years so he might have been a bit below.

When a player has a good bat and good defense, I'd think that gives them a bit of extra protection in the quality side. Polanco's bat was always a bit inconsistent but above-average overall and dropped badly in his ealy 30s. But the defensive numbers remained consistently good, he even won GG at 33 and 35 and that allowed him to hang on as average overall. We can't put LeMahieu's bat in Molitor's class yet but Molitor went from a solid 2B/3B at 32 to spending 1/3 of his time at 1B at 33 to a full-time DH/1B from age 34 on but of course kept hitting (and excelent durability which is not what we expected from Molitor's 20s).

2B/3B always in a tough spot. Middle of the defensive spectrum but usually middle of the offensive spectrum too. If the defense fades, they usually can't hit well enough for 1B/LF/DH; if the offense fades, they might hang on with good defense but the team's gonna be happy to look elsewhere. Assuming the reason they're at 2B/3B is because they couldn't handle SS in their 20s much less their 30s, they have limited value as a bench player. It's not like C where teams need/want a veteran backup 2B. SS can at least sometimes hang on for a while as a glove-first utility IF.

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