Bargain of the decade

Mike Snow · January 8, 2010 at 11:40 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Not literally (the Evan Longoria contract and maybe a couple others would beat it out), but there’s a reason for the time interval chosen in the title. Now that the Franklin Gutierrez extension is official, let’s take a look at what it costs to sign a CF for his age 27-30 seasons and buy out one season of free agency, when the guy is all-world defensively, has a little bit of power, and is generally competent offensively, although being a righthanded hitter, Safeco Field hurts his production somewhat:

Signing bonus: $1.25 million
Age 27: $2.225 million
Age 28: $3 million
Age 29: $4.25 million
Age 30: $7 million

Total outlay for 4 years – $17.725 million. But that doesn’t quite add up, you might think, the number doesn’t match reports that Gutierrez’s new contract is for $20.5 million. That’s right, it doesn’t. We haven’t seen the exact breakdown of his extension yet. These numbers are what Mike Cameron was paid during his Mariner career, starting exactly a decade ago. (To be precise, Cameron actually signed a 3-year deal with the signing bonus after being arbitration-eligible his first year.)

Now, if you’ve spent much time here you should already know that Cameron was (and still is) seriously undervalued. Ten years later, the Mariners will be paying just 15.7% more for his equivalent. That’s in raw dollars, without adjusting for inflation of any kind. In the U.S., inflation over the past ten years comes in at 28.5%, even with a couple of stock market crashes in the interim. In major league baseball, the average salary has gone up 88% over the last ten years.

Sure, we’re going through a bit of a correction for baseball salaries, but this is still an incredible bargain. You can calculate however you like what the contract should be worth and come up with numbers like $30 million, $40 million, $60 million (as Matthew did over at Lookout Landing). You can’t come up with $20 million. This is just as good a deal as Cameron was in the first place.

All that, and I haven’t even mentioned the team option for 2014. We’ll see how good that looks depending on how Gutierrez ages, but I think we can at least hope that this time, our GM won’t get tired of our centerfielder just because he strikes out too much.

Comments

43 Responses to “Bargain of the decade”

  1. TumwaterMike on January 8th, 2010 11:57 am

    I’m glad to see Frankie’s going to be here awhile I see him batting 3rd behind Ichiro and Figgins. Bradley 4th, Lopez 5th and Kotchman or the DH 6th. Its possible with Ichiro, Figgins and Frankie ahead of him, Bradley has to be happy as everytime he comes up he may have baserunners to knock in.

  2. hejuk on January 8th, 2010 12:43 pm

    To be fair, Cameron was a significantly better hitter – around 10 runs better. Gutierrez might get there, but he’s not there yet.

  3. Mike Snow on January 8th, 2010 12:49 pm

    Yes, despite the defensive similarities, their offensive profiles are really quite different from each other in a lot of ways. But the overall point is that Gutierrez provides a similar kind of value, and if he can match how Cameron performed as a Mariner, or even come close, this contract is a steal.

  4. mironos on January 8th, 2010 12:57 pm

    It’s a good thing this got done…this past year I bought my first ever jersey…and it was Gutierrez’s. :-)

  5. behappy on January 8th, 2010 12:58 pm

    Franklin Gutierrez is one hell of player and Jack got a killer deal. I think this was the most underrated deal of the off season.

    Anyway, I was wondering how you see Gutierrez projecting into the future. I hope he will stay a 6win player but, we all know that want happen. Most of his value came from his crazy defense last season. Is it possible that he plays that awesome again on the glove side? Do you still see upside from his bat? I would also think he should get better on the basepaths as well.

    So would it be possible that he can get even better than last year?

  6. Zeke on January 8th, 2010 12:58 pm

    We often hear that players tend to peak offensively when they are 27. Does that same idea hold up for Gutierrez who gets a great deal of his value from defense? I guess the question is: Can we expect Gutierrez’s defense to remain stable over these 4 years, or improve or diminish? Love this contract though.

  7. Mike Snow on January 8th, 2010 1:11 pm

    Franklin’s 2009 defense was historic – better than anything of Cameron we have on record (new defensive metrics don’t go back to the early part of Cameron’s career). That performance is likely to regress somewhat even if he retains his ability.

    Obviously, it’s possible he could bulk up or get fat, who knows (see Betancourt, Yuniesky), but Gutierrez should at least be a quality defender for the life of this contract. There might be some slow erosion, but he’s not exactly relying on speed as the basis for his defense in the first place. Consider that the Red Sox realized they were better off with an aging Cameron, who still has the skills, in center, and moving speed demon Jacoby Ellsbury to left.

  8. kinbote on January 8th, 2010 1:14 pm

    How about Ryan Braun’s seven year extension signed in 2008 (during his second year):

    2008–$2.3 million bonus + existing $455,000
    2009–$745,000
    2010–$1 million
    2011–$4 million
    2012–$6 million
    2013–$8.5 million
    2014–$10 million
    2015–$12 million

  9. Zero Gravitas on January 8th, 2010 2:07 pm

    When I think of Guti’s 2009, first there’s the defense but I also remember that outburst of home run hitting in San Diego and can only wonder what’s in store for him offensively over the life of this contract. Kind of surprised his agent agreed to a total that low, frankly. I hope he realizes his upside and remains happy here. Nice to see a RH hitter who wants to be here, after listening to Beltre and Theo Epstein talk about Safeco this week, and how it crushes the hopes and dreams of RH hitters. Credit Z for making him feel wanted.

  10. wschroer on January 8th, 2010 2:19 pm

    This signing was a very good move. A slick fielding CF is a very, very good thing. One who is currently holding his own and even appears to be on the upswing offensively is even better.

  11. Oolon on January 8th, 2010 2:26 pm

    It seems odd that if your estimation is correct…

    You can calculate however you like what the contract should be worth and come up with numbers like $30 million, $40 million, $60 million

    …that the Mariners and Gutierrez’s agent can end up agreeing for about half as much.

    Seems like someone’s math must be suspect or Franklin needs to find a new agent with a better calculator…

  12. CCW on January 8th, 2010 2:46 pm

    I think “worth” in that sentence does not mean what you are interpreting it to mean. What Gutierrez is “worth” on the open market (and I think this is what Dave’s talking about) is very different than what he would agree to take when he is under team control. If Gutierrez were a free agent, he would almost certainly have received a much better deal than this.

  13. Alex on January 8th, 2010 2:49 pm

    Seems like someone’s math must be suspect or Franklin needs to find a new agent with a better calculator…

    For someone who is not yet a free agent, especially one who is years away, it makes sense to take a discount in order to gain security.

  14. SCL on January 8th, 2010 3:10 pm

    For someone who is not yet a free agent, especially one who is years away, it makes sense to take a discount in order to gain security.

    I get that. But you would think that a reasonable agent would be able to get $30M, and that would still be a good deal for the M’s.

  15. diderot on January 8th, 2010 3:15 pm

    That performance is likely to regress somewhat even if he retains his ability.

    This is something that’s been mentioned before that I honestly don’t understand.

    If a batter has an inordinately high BABIP, or HR/FB, or even bunts for hits, it seems logical that his performance may drop. But for an outfielder, does this suggest that for some reason there will be fewer line drives in the gap to fly after…or fewer fly balls just over the wall that he can leap and catch?

    Can someone help explain why a regression is in order? Thanks.

  16. jld on January 8th, 2010 3:28 pm

    Even though I think this is a great deal for the Mariners, I don’t think this is such a bad deal for Gutierrez either.

    He had 3 years left in arbitration, and he signed away his first FA year. He made $500K in 2009 according to Fangraphs. Even if he could manage to triple his salary every year from now until free agency, that would mean his salary would be as follows:

    2010: $1.5M
    2011: $4.5M
    2012: $13.5M
    Total about ~$20M.
    Enters free agency:
    2013: 4 wins * $4M/y = ~$16M

    I think if he had sprinted to free agency, his 2010 and 2011 salaries would have looked something like that, and 2012 is probably too high (it would likely be ~$9-11M). Add in $16M for 2013 and the true value of his contract may be around $35M. Great deal for the Mariners.

    This basically means he has given us his first year of free agency in exchange for $20M guaranteed.

    I think this is a great move for him because he sets himself up for life financially. He could get Chavez-ed tomorrow and retire happily to his own Venezuelan island. On the flip side, if he continues to perform, he’ll probably make $100M+ in his career and losing out on the first year of free agency is not a big cost for the assurance that he’s never going to have to work again if things do go wrong.

    In my mind, the only way Franklin loses out on this deal is if his career falters in 2013, which will be his final year of this contract, but would have been the first year after locking up a 4-5 year $70M-$80M contract.

    Good move Jack. Good move Franklin.

  17. heychuck01 on January 8th, 2010 3:34 pm

    @jid, I understand your message, but it is a 4 year contract. The only way the Mariners do not take the option on the fourth year is if Franklin is injured, or something else dramatic happens. In which case, he wouldn’t ge much in free agency either.

    So he really signed away 2 years of FA.

  18. coreyjro on January 8th, 2010 3:37 pm

    @diderot

    I think it has much to do with number of chances. If Pujols has fewer PAs he going to be fewer wRAA. If we have fewer fly ball pitchers he could see fewer opportunities. That and UZR appears to be very fickle on a year to year basis. Another thing is that UZR is a comparison to other players at the same position. As CF defense gets better throughout the league(assuming the trend of teams re-emphasizing defense continues) Gutierrez isn’t going to be as good by comparison. Finally, regression toward the mean is important for extremes like Gutierrez’s season.

  19. Rck74 on January 8th, 2010 3:39 pm

    I’d love to have Braun at that contract. He’d anchor our offense. Career .308 hitter with 30+ homers and just turned 26. He’s hit 39 doubles each of the past two seasons as well.

  20. Oolon on January 8th, 2010 4:02 pm

    CCW wrote:

    What Gutierrez is “worth” on the open market (and I think this is what Dave’s talking about) is very different than what he would agree to take when he is under team control.

    Of course. That makes sense and probably a relatively fair contract for both sides with all of the risk/reward opportunities over the next few years.

    Thanks for the clarification.

  21. G-Man on January 8th, 2010 4:11 pm

    I think this is a great move for him because he sets himself up for life financially. He could get Chavez-ed tomorrow and retire happily to his own Venezuelan island.

    Exactly. Better to give up a few bucks (OK, 10-20-30 million bucks) to be 100% sure of more money than most people could ever spend than risk it simply to maximize earnings.

  22. et_blankenship on January 8th, 2010 4:23 pm

    Below are a few examples of year-to-year UZR/150 fluctuations for OF. I picked these guys at random, but it’s the same for almost every OF, good or bad. Like Carl Crawford’s 2008 season (below) it’s probably more realistic to expect Gutierrez to follow up his incredible 2009 with something in the 15-20 neighborhood, which is still insanely good, versus another 20+ season. I wouldn’t put it past him, however. Guti’s been 20+ for three seasons and counting.

    Mike Cameron (CF, 07-09):
    -10.4
    15.6
    10.3

    Carl Crawford (LF, 07-09)
    -1.4
    25.6
    17.5

    Carlos Beltran (CF, 05-08)
    -6.9
    5.7
    0.9
    8.8

  23. et_blankenship on January 8th, 2010 4:25 pm

    To clarify, the above post was in reference to diderot/coreyjro.

  24. low on January 8th, 2010 4:36 pm

    Yeah, I think this is a good deal for both sides. I think a guaranteed $20 million for one breakout season is fair.

    Plus, Seattle gave him a shot and the fans here understand the value he brings to the club with his defense.

    I just got a little happier to be an M’s fan.

  25. jld on January 8th, 2010 4:50 pm

    @jid, I understand your message, but it is a 4 year contract. The only way the Mariners do not take the option on the fourth year is if Franklin is injured, or something else dramatic happens. In which case, he wouldn’t ge much in free agency either.

    So he really signed away 2 years of FA.

    You’re right. I didn’t consider that. I can’t find the terms of the option, but assuming it’s probably around $10M, he took a $5M pay cut for his second year also. All-in-all I think my point stands. If you’re Franklin and Jack offers to write you a $20 million dollar check three years before free agency, you take it, even if it’s costing you $10M off of your ‘best-case-scenario’ salary.

  26. Coug1990 on January 8th, 2010 5:15 pm

    [off-topic]

  27. diderot on January 8th, 2010 6:14 pm

    corryjro and et blank,

    Thanks. The idea that there’s a good deal of randomness in the calculation makes a lot more sense than there’s a good deal of change year on year in batted balls to center field, or Guti’s ability to catch them.

  28. Marinersmanjk on January 8th, 2010 6:33 pm

    This shows a lot of character in Guti’s part. He had a career year last year and could have gotten a raise through arbitration. Then in he performed well again next year he could potentially be earning well over 5 million. But, he signed and showed that it’s not all about the money, he just wants a spot on the team and a chance to win.

  29. Slippery Elmer on January 8th, 2010 7:19 pm

    Regarding the ability for a fielder’s UZR to fluctuate from year to year, I’m sure the player’s health is a factor. If Gutierrez (God forbid–knock on wood!) gets some sort of leg injury in 2010, his UZR would likely suffer as a result. His 2009 season was apparently mostly injury-free, and he reaped the rewards. Hopefully Mr. Ken Griffey Jr. has made a few comments to his protege regarding the importance of stretching, etc….

  30. Rulo Montero on January 8th, 2010 8:26 pm

    This is great for Guti, the team and to us (the fans)… I personally love the deal….

  31. Kazinski on January 8th, 2010 8:29 pm

    [reply to off-topic]

  32. marcwolf on January 8th, 2010 9:16 pm

    If i remember correctly, Guti was nicked up part of the season with a bad knee. On a good knee he should be close to what he accomplished in 09. Great move, in my mind the best move Z has done so far.

  33. ClaytonMiles on January 8th, 2010 9:49 pm

    I’m curious if it comes up tomorrow about what it means for the arbitration process to never preside over valuing Guti’s incredible skills. Regardless, my only statistical question about Franklin Gutierrez is:

    How many bleacher seats does it take to spell out:D-e-a-t-h-T-o-F-l-y-i-n-g-T-h-i-n-g-s-!

    A: 20, including the (!)

    The Ms or Fans should create a special section.

  34. Adam B. on January 8th, 2010 11:04 pm

    Short of some kind of freak acquisition of a Cy Young caliber pitcher or a Felix extension, there are few transactions that could make me as happy as this.

    Certainly the Mariners are taking some risk here in having faith that Gutierrez’s offensive numbers from last year weren’t a fluke, but even with that acknowledgement, Gutierrez will earn this contract twice over with his defensive prowess.

    As for the people who were arguing that Gutierrez should be shopped around to “make room” for Ackley; “Nyah, nyah na-nyah nyah.”

    Here’s to Casey Kotchman being the next Franklyn.

  35. JMHawkins on January 8th, 2010 11:13 pm

    I’m curious if it comes up tomorrow about what it means for the arbitration process to never preside over valuing Guti’s incredible skills.

    That’s actually a great point. A huge part of Guti’s value is is glove, and I’m not sure if the arbitration process gives defense full credit. And FA hasn’t historically done so either. Hopefully that will have finished changing in another four years, but if Guti hit FA with a bunch of Gillicks and Bavasi’s manning front offices, he might be lucky to get half the $16M/yr he’ll probably be worth.

    All in all, taking the guaranteed money is a good thing. Right Felix?

  36. ClaytonMiles on January 9th, 2010 12:11 am

    That’s actually a great point.

    Thanks. I submitted the question to Dave and Derek earlier.

  37. et_blankenship on January 9th, 2010 12:25 am

    diderot,

    The rule of thumb for stabilizing and evaluating UZR is 3 seasons of defense = 1 season of PA’s, so one season’s worth of UZR is essentially the equivalent of two months at the plate. Imagine how much fluctuation there would be if we were to examine offense in two-month chunks. Also consider that prognosticators need 3 or 4 season’s worth of PA’s to create the most accurate offensive projection – that’s 9-12 seasons in UZR years. Not very comparable.

    So I guess my point is, as much we love UZR, RZR, etc., we are left to decide for ourselves whether one or two season’s worth of data tells the whole story about an individual player. This also means that what the experts see and interpret with their eyes when evaluating future defensive performance, and the ability to do so effectively, is an invaluable skill. Good thing we have some of the best eyes in the business. The Kotchman acquisition will continue to be one of the M’s least popular moves heading into the regular season, but the fact GMZ targeted him specifically says a lot about his potential going forward. We all know Kotch is a smooth cat around the bag, but when he validates his glove with range and begins posting UZR numbers that rank among the position’s elite, we shouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

  38. Carson on January 9th, 2010 6:12 pm

    I think 500 people agreed today at the event. Quite the well deserved applause for Jack and the boys over locking up Gutierrez.

    Thanks for the event, guys.

  39. lokiforever on January 9th, 2010 8:12 pm

    Did the mention of FG garner another ovation? I’m hoping we’ll get a post, a summary of the event today.

  40. MKT on January 9th, 2010 10:50 pm

    corryjro and et blank,

    Thanks. The idea that there’s a good deal of randomness in the calculation makes a lot more sense than there’s a good deal of change year on year in batted balls to center field, or Guti’s ability to catch them.

    It’s not (just) the randomness in the calculation, it’s also the randomness in EVERYTHING, including balls to CF and Gutierrez’s ability.

    That’s in the nature of all random events. A batter might have a 27% probability of getting a hit in an average at bat (varies of course from batter to batter, and depends on the pitcher too). A centerfielder might have a 70% chance of catching balls hit to CF (again, the actual probability will of course vary from one play to the next).

    If you see a batter who’s hitting .420 two months into the season, it’s a virtual guarantee that his hitting probability for the rest of the season will be less than 42%. Or if he hits .406 for the entire season, it’s a virtual guarantee that he will hit less than .406 next season.

    Same for fielders. If someone posts unworldly defensive stats (doesn’t matter what stat: UZR, outs made, whatever), it’s a virtual guarantee that next season his stats will be not as good as that otherwordly level. They’ll likely be well above average, but they will almost certainly regress toward the mean.

    The universality of regression to the mean BTW is one of the reasons for not focusing too much on outcomes, or “ex post” rather than “ex ante”. Or in the words of the posters here, “results based analysis”.

    P.S. Hey, editing is back! Hurrah. So I’ll take advantage of editing to add this PS: I echo the requests for reports on the USSMariner Meetup with the front office.

  41. joser on January 10th, 2010 11:08 am

    The above is also why there often seems to be something to the “curse” of the “sophomore slump” or “jinx” — when somebody comes out of nowhere and has a great first year (or a great first album, or debut film, or whatever) it’s possible that represents their true talent level, but it’s also possible they’re overachieving (which may be the only way they got the chance to make that debut, and may be the only difference between them and any number of their peers that just didn’t overachieve at just the right time). Those subsequent seasons/albums/films may be perfectly adequate, and some of them may be great, and even the worst of them may not be enough to knock them out of the profession, but they always suffer in comparison to that first impression.

    The following may get modded if it crosses the line, but….

    Did the mention of FG garner another ovation?

    The mention of his contract got an ovation. So (of course) did the mention of Cliff Lee. So did the mention that Carlos Silva is no longer on the team (to be fair, that was kind of a prompted ovation). There were a few others, like when the Milton Bradley trade was summarized as “Who would you rather have, Milton Bradley or Carlos Silva?”

    And then there were the ovations the FO folks got for just being there. And for just, you know, being the M’s FO.

    There was a lot of applause.

    Bonus highlight at the end when Jack shook the hands of everybody in the front row, and then hugged the guy who was there in a Zduriencik M’s jersey (#1). I didn’t notice any flashes, but gawd, I hope somebody got a picture of that.

  42. Toddk on January 11th, 2010 9:44 am

    So we got a Gucci center fielder for a Sears price? Nice!

  43. Mike Snow on January 27th, 2010 1:14 pm

    And now that the breakdown of the Gutierrez contract is available, it’s interesting just how closely it matches up with Cameron’s salary numbers. Same signing bonus, same salary in year 4, only $225,000 difference in year 1 (in which Gutierrez actually will make less than Cameron did). Gutierrez does pick up $1 million more in year 2 and $1.25 million extra in year 3. And the option year is only slightly more expensive than the free agent year that they bought out, at $7.5 million with a $500,000 buyout.

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