Pedro and Sexson
Since we’re sort of commenting on the FA season as it develops… Pedro’s 4y-$48m is crazy. The Red Sox had sentimental reasons to pay him more and for longer than anyone else, and if press reports are to be believed, even those in the front office that argued in favor of making their last rich offer to him were reluctant and admitted they might be better off in the long term if he turned them down.
Here’s the thing, as I see it (and how it applies to Sexson).
A team will make a guess at a player’s value — Pedro is worth four wins a season over our other options. Then, based on the team’s individual situation (see “Knapsack Problem“) and whether that player will push them into the playoffs (where the team makes a lot more money), they’ll make some other decisions about how much those four wins are worth.
Now, in the valuation process (he’s worth four wins a season) and during the other discussions (how much would a replacement cost?) the issue of injury risk has to come out.
So let’s say you look at Beltre. You figure he’s worth four wins a year, and you really need a star there for a number of reasons (no 3B talent in the system, crowded OF/1B/DH situation, fans massing outside offices with torches and pitchforks), and your alternative is Spiezio, who’s already under contract… you come up with a figure of $10m/year. If he performs like you think he will, he’ll be worth it.
What if Beltre, instead of having some random injuries and a brush with death unrelated to his on-the-field health, had bum knees? Like Mo Vaughn bad. 25% chance his career ends in two years, 25% chance he’s a DH in three. You chop the offer, because his expected contribution’s much lower.
Or, better yet — how much is a lottery ticket worth? If you’re a strict odds person, it’s payoff/chances of winning. There are circumstances that might make that value higher (I have $5 I don’t need, but a relative needs an experimental kidney transplant that I could only afford if I won the lottery), but in general, the more you pay for the same ticket, the more money you’re losing needlessly.
So it is with baseball players. The chances Pedro’s going to contribute $12m a year worth of pitching to the Mets over the next four years are slim. The Mets bought every ticket for the cakewalk at $50/piece. They paid $4 for a $1 lottery ticket with an expected return of 50c.
This is why the Sexson deal makes me blanch. Like Raul’s deal, like Spiezio’s deal, it’s paying a player handsomely to play at a level they’re unlikely to play at, with the added problem that with Sexson we get the added uncertainty of a nasty shoulder injury. Sure, he’ll have passed the medical exam, but we’re not going to know if he re-injures that labrum until it happens or he finishes out the contract. And no matter what chance you put on it (10%, as the Diamondbacks are rumored to have guessed?), it looks like the team didn’t factor that into his offer.
Beltre or bust. Beltre or bust.