Richie Sexson: Albatross
I’ve talked about this in other posts the last few months, but never laid out a complete case for it to the point where I feel people actually understand where I’m coming from. Talking with other Mariner fans, I certainly don’t get the sense that very many people agree with me on this issue, so, let me lay it out as plainly as I can and see how many of you I can convert:
Richie Sexson isn’t worth anything close to the $28 million he’s owed the next two years. His contract is an anchor that the Mariners should be actively trying to unload on someone else, and the sooner he’s removed from the roster, the better this team will be. Trading Richie Sexson for a bag of baseballs would be addition by subtraction. If you can con someone into giving you something of value for him, all the better, but just removing his contract from the roster should be a priority.
Let’s take a look at his production and what we should expect the next two years. We’ll begin with the sole strength of his game; hitting.
Sexson’s last three healthy seasons, he’s posted EqA’s of .308, .307, and .280. He turns 32 next month, so he’s likely at the end of his prime and entering the decline phase of his career. That said, his raw power is still among the best in the game, even if its only 90% of what it used to be, so we shouldn’t expect Sexson’s value to collapse over night. A reasonable projection for the next two seasons would be a .295 EqA, or something in that range. He should be better than he was in 2006, but a little worse than he was in 2005.
That kind of offensive performance is worth about 90 to 100 runs, depending on what kind of run conversion formula you want to use. We’ll go with 100 because it makes the math easier, and I always like giving the benefit of the doubt to the side I’m not on. Replacement level for a first baseman is the highest of any position in baseball, and you should be able to find a player who can create about 70 runs with his bat without too much of a problem. That makes Sexson worth something like 30 runs offensively each of the next two years. As we talked about yesterday with Beltre and Ramirez, 30 runs is a pretty valuable player.
But we’re not done with Sexson just yet. He’s about +30 offensively, but he also takes the field and runs the bases. And he does both very poorly. His UZR for 2006 was -7, and most other systems have him in the -5 to -10 range. He’s among the worst defensive first baseman in the game. And he’s also a lousy baserunner. Mitchel Lichtman’s calculations had him as costing a team two runs over the course of a season running the bases, so his defense/baserunning are probably in the -10 range, give or take a couple of runs.
That makes the total package worth about 20 runs. For the next two seasons, the Mariners are going to pay Richie Sexson something like $7 million per win. $7 million per win! That’s one of the worst values in baseball. Based on his actual run production, Sexson should be making something like $6 or $7 million next year. His salary is double what it should be.
One of the common responses to this is “who cares what he’s paid – he produces, and it’s not my money” or something to that effect. But, of course, this argument is foolish, because the Mariners operate on a budget, and every decision comes with an opportunity cost. The $14 million that Richie Sexson will earn next year is about 15% of the entire team’s payroll, and his occupation of first base fills a position where it is easy to find major league quality hitters. The opportunity cost of having Richie Sexson far outweighs his actual onfield value. It’s not even close.
The Mariners need to capitalize on this market and trade Richie Sexson. A first baseman who is worth 20 runs over the course of a season isn’t worth anything close to $14 million, and that money could be easily allocated to any number of other, better players. Take whatever you can get for him. Just trade Richie Sexson.