Doumit Signs With Minnesota
This afternoon, Ryan Doumit – part of my Off-season Plan B – signed a one year, $3 million deal with the Twins. First off, I wouldn’t suggest losing much sleep over this, as Doumit was more of an example of a low cost, average-to-just-above average hitter who could bat from the left side and share some time at 1B/LF/DH with Smoak, Carp, and Wells. It’s not that Doumit is any kind of great player or that not signing him was a big miss by the team – there are a decent amount of guys out there with a similar skillset that the team could pursue. So, there’s no reason to be all that upset that he signed with the Twins – he could have been a decent fit here, but he’s not the only option from that pool of players.
But, since he did sign for $3 million, I figured I’d use him as a stand-in to make one last point about the relative value of signing Fielder versus pursuing a more balanced approach to this winter.
If you look at the career offensive numbers for Doumit and Fielder side by side, you’ll see that Fielder has posted a wOBA of .391 compared to Doumit’s .336 mark. Because of how wOBA was designed, converting it to runs per plate appearance is actually quite easy (it’s just ((.391-.336)/1.2), which shows us that Fielder’s career offensive advantage has been worth an additional .045 runs per trip to the plate. Multiplied out over a full-season (600 PA), the gap is 27.5 runs – this is essentially how many more runs you’d expect Fielder to produce at the plate than Doumit given the same number of opportunities.
Now, you could argue that career numbers understate the difference a bit since Fielder is three years younger and has been substantially better recently than he was earlier in his career, but it’s even adjusting for age, the gap isn’t going to be more than about 30-35 runs over 600 plate appearances. Over the course of a year, a team will gain one win for about every 10 runs they add, so the offensive difference is between +3 and +3.5 wins.
Now, Doumit signed for $3 million plus incentives, but it’s fair to assume that he’ll hit every trigger in the contract if he actually gets 600 PA next year. So, let’s assume he negotiated in $2 million worth of incentives, and say his expected contract for 2012 is $5 million if he stays healthy and plays everyday. If his injuries limited him to less playing time, you’d have to weight the difference in expected performance by shifting some of those PA to a guy like Casper Wells, but you’d also save on the incentives not kicking in, so the two outcomes are pretty close to a wash – we’ll just compare using a healthy Doumit for ease of math, but realize that an injured/cheaper Doumit (with playing time being distributed elsewhere) isn’t that much worse of an option, really.
If Fielder signs for something in the $25 million per year range, that means that the marginal cost of adding Fielder just in 2012 salary (and not accounting for the extra risk associated with a long term contract) is $20 million, or right around $6-$7 million per extra win added. Besides the Yankees, there’s not a team in baseball that can afford to use a significant part of their budget to pay $6 to $7 million per marginal win.
Doumit wasn’t any kind of savior, but his contract shows exactly why the team can do better by pursuing value at the lower end of the talent spectrum than they can by throwing money at Fielder. Not just in terms of long term risk, but in making the 2012 team better. If Fielder is only +3 to +4 wins better than guys who you could get for $5 million or less, then it just wouldn’t be hard to come up with two or three players that would provide equal value to acquiring just Fielder by himself.
Once you factor in the long term risk, the risk/reward scales tip far in favor of the spread-it-around theory. Fielder just doesn’t provide anywhere near enough value over what the team could get by signing a Doumit-type of player and upgrading other places on the roster as well to justify the risks associated with giving him a huge contract.