Length of contract was the key in the whole deal. Lee didn’t really want to play in Baltimore, and accepted a one-year contract so he could prove he was the Derrek Lee of old, not the DL of 2010, and get a better deal next year. Or get traded to a contending team in late July. Laroche wanted a three-year contract, longer than the Orioles were willing to provide. He held out, knowing the Orioles needed a first baseman with power, but McPhail did not blink. A right-handed hitting first baseman is more what the Orioles needed. Now the Nationals are in the driver’s seat; Laroche is running out of options. I bet he’ll end up taking less than the Orioles offered.
If Lee is only worth a one year deal in this market, than LaRoche should be as well. I can’t see the justification giving the inferior player a longer deal, even if he is younger.
Agree. Actually, I think there are a whole lot of “1-year contract players” in MLB.
But, we’re talking about the team that gave Jayson Werth a “Matt Holliday Contract”. I don’t think anyone would say that Lee and LaRoche are comparable players. I think you are spot on with the age thing.
The perception of Lee’s injuries and age are likely worse than his actual performance and age. I think injuring your neck sliding into second, and getting back spasms rounding first, probably make him sound more fragile than he really is.
Comment by CircleChange11 — January 4, 2011 @ 12:28 pm
Laroche is running out of options. I bet he’ll end up taking less than the Orioles offered.
I’ve seen this movie before.
Comment by CircleChange11 — January 4, 2011 @ 12:30 pm
The Nats needed to overspend for Werth; it shouldn’t be that hard to understand that. And he had a been a pretty solid player the last couple years. I’d rather have him than Jason Bay.
Perhaps Lee is also looking to rebuild some value and sign one final 2-3 year contract at higher annual rates? Generally agree that Lee is the better bet on a two year contract.
Comment by Phillies Red — January 4, 2011 @ 12:52 pm
 I don’t see where the Nats needed to do anything before 2012.
 I don’t see where the Nats needed to give him a “Matt Holiday Contract” when he’s (A) not as good and (B) older at the time the contract was given.
“Need” implies that they did not really have a choice. Why did they need to sign him now, and why did they need to overspend.
I’m open to changing my opinion.
Comment by CircleChange11 — January 4, 2011 @ 1:16 pm
The O’s made the right choice here. With the acquisitions of Reynolds and Hardy (RHB’s) added to their decent LHB returning players (Markakis, Roberts, Scott and Weiters), adding a righty bat at first was very important. And on the hook for only one year makes it even better.
As for LaRoche getting a 2-year deal (or longer, shudder), for most other teams this wouldn’t happen. Ever. But since the Nats are basically the only other team that needs a starting 1B (and one that hits lefty!), they *HAVE* to at least give LaRoche 2 years. Otherwise, what alternatives do the Nats have in 2011? Start Mike Morse (RHB) and see if his power numbers from last season carry over to a full season? Sign Russell Branyan (L)? Nick Johnson (L)? If they stick with Morse at first, then they have a very right-handed leaning lineup. The Nats need a viable lefty in the middle of their lineup to break up the Zim, Werth, Desmond, etc lineup they’ve assembled …
Your points are valid, but the Nats management envisions making a run in 2012, when Strasburg returns and potentially Harper will be playing, as well as the development of a few other young players like Derrek Norris, Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa.
That team has potential, but there’s a need for another power bat with the loss of Dunn and Willingham. So if they stood pat this year, they’d have to make a move next offseason. The only real power bats available then are Fielder, Pujols and A. Gonzalez. I’d assume that the Nats FO thought that overpaying Werth was probably better value, and most importantly, more realistic than signing one of those 3 firstbasemen.
So, yes, they did overpay for Werth, who is inferior to Holliday. But the fact is Holliday wasn’t available this offseason, and so they signed the best bat they could, who will play an important role for the Nats over the next 5+ years.
I think Lee could have gotten a multiyear contract but wanted a one year contract to rebuild his value (pulling a Beltre as you state). LaRoche, who is playing at his value, has no desire to risk a one year contract in order to get a better contract next year. Lee is worth more than LaRoche, but he chose to set the market lower for himself than he had to.
I may have missed an article on this recently, but if not, I would be grateful if one of the fangraphs authors could write an article addressing positional scarcity or lack thereof in this year’s free agent market, and how it is affecting the going rate for players at different positions.
There is an abundance of first baseman and DHs, and not enough starting jobs for all of them.
I think we’re seeing a few franchises – San Diego and Tampa Bay – recognize that the supply is greater than the demand at those spots and they are content to settle for bargain options. Meanwhile other franchises have pinpointed a specific 1b/DH that they absolutely wanted and aggressively attempted to sign that player.
Conversely, there’s a scarcity of quality up-the-middle guys, and even corner OFs, perhaps even more than ever.
I think this is worthy of a stand-alone fanpost, or hopefully at least some additional discussion within this Lee/LaRoche thread. Thank you for the insights guys.
Comment by notsellingjeans — January 4, 2011 @ 5:17 pm
My follow-up to that is, “Should positional scarcity affect the WAR values or the $4-5M cost per win on the free agent market?”
Maybe shortstops and CFs should be valued at $5M per win, and 1b/DHs should only be valued at $2-3M, simply because know that there will be a few potential 2 WAR 1b/DHs that are left without a full-time job this offseason.
That’s my hypothesis, I don’t have the skill level/knowledge to test it, would be grateful if someone else addressed it though.
Comment by notsellingjeans — January 4, 2011 @ 6:13 pm
Lee is coming off an injury, and like Pena he doesnt want one bad year to set the terms of his contract. Come on, was that difficult to figure out?
Hm. I was just asking if there were other reports out there I missed. The Nationals were the only other team I had heard that were interested.
I take it you haven’t heard of any others either?
Of course, there could be a “mystery” team as you suggested.
Guess we’ll see. If LaRoche gets 2+ years, then I think it’s fair to say that team has overpaid. No other 2-2.5 WAR 1B/DH has been able to pull in such a contract this offseason. And I’m not sure LaRoche is the one that deserves to break the mold.
Laroche’s 2 year deal is $7 million this year and 8 next year, with a 1 million buyout. There’s little doubt in my mind Lee is better, but that isn’t a bad deal for laroche. The last 5 years, he’s earned 8.4, 11.5, 7.8, 10.3 and 9.6 million. There’s abeen a tad bit of salary inflation. So he is a pretty solid bet to out-earn this contract, you get morse to keep bashing lefties as a super sub (although he even mashed righties last year) and need not rely on marrero, who isn’t ready now if ever.
But the WAR equation is driven by onfield performance, not FA value – isn’t it? I thought the positional adjustments were driven by defensive/offensive value per position, independent of cash value on the market.
WAR can be tied to actual wins generated in games or to average FA contract, but I don’t see how it can be correctly calibrated for both, because the two don’t align perfectly – as this year’s glut of 1B/DH (and near-absence of SS) indicates.
Maybe I’m thinking about it wrong. But in a market where 3 teams are chasing 2 SS, SS WAR will be overpriced, completely independent of the adjustments that tell us that, every season, SS provide inherent value relative to a 1B.