You know I think the free agent market is nuts. You know I support acquiring talent via trade instead of paying these prices. You may not know that there really are good deals to be found, even in this sea of insanity. For instance, look at this comparison of left-fielders:
Player A: .287/.358/.457, 601 PA, 79 runs created, 32 years old, well above average defensively
Player B: .300/.355/.540, 624 PA, 113 runs created, 30 years old, terrible defensively
Player A is more of a line-drive gap hitter with athleticism. His defense is probably worth +5 to +10 runs a year, and even more on a team with a spacious outfield and a flyball pitching staff.
Player B is a classic slugger with power who doesn’t walk enough to be a superstar, but has enough juice in his bat to be a very effective player. His defense is a detriment, but the bat more than makes up for it.
When factoring in total value, Player B is probably 15 to 20 runs better, assuming neither undergoes drastic decline. Player B should make more money, and since he’s two years younger, should get a longer contract, but the differences shouldn’t be monumental. A few million more and an extra year, maybe two, for Player B. Given their worth relative to the ease of finding a left fielder who can hit, I’d say Player A is worth something like 2 years, $10 million and Player B is worth 3 years, $24 million. Or something like that.
Player A is Emil Brown, who the Royals can’t give away, because he’s arbitration eligible for the first time and is probably going to be awarded a salary of $3 to $4 million for 2007.
Player B is Carlos Lee, who has half the teams in baseball fighting to give him a 5 year, $75 million contract.
Major League GMs are willing to pay an extra $11 million a year for “power”, which optimistically translates to a 15-20 run advantage for Lee, and guarantee Lee all-star money through the rest of the decade. Meanwhile, Dayton Moore can’t find anyone interested in Emil Brown, who he’d like to move to create a spot for uberprospect Alex Gordon.
That doesn’t make any sense. Carlos Lee is a better player than Emil Brown, but the difference isn’t huge. The difference certainly isn’t worth an extra $11 million in 2007, much less the commitment from 2008-2011. So please, please, please stop telling us that these contracts are “market value”. They’re free agent value, but the baseball player talent industry is a much larger market than that segment of the population.