Braves Lock Up Andrelton Simmons, Keep Inflating Extensions

At this rate, every person in the metro Atlanta area will receive a long term deal from the Braves before the end of spring training. Their extension spree continued today with a seven year, $58 million deal for shortstop Andrelton Simmons that will keep him locked up through his age-30 season while also providing some new benchmarks for both inexperienced players and defensive specialists.

For the Braves, this deal is very similar to the contracts they’ve already agreed to with Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, and Craig Kimbrel. In each case, they prioritized locking up the player’s prime years for the right to not be on the hook for the age at which we expect their skills to begin to deteriorate. For reference:

Freeman: Eight years, through age 31
Teheran: Six years, through age 28, option for age 29
Kimbrel: Four years, through age 29, option for age 30
Simmons: Seven years, through age 30

While the Braves have guaranteed $267 million in future salaries to these four players, 84% of that total will be paid out while the players are still in their twenties. The Braves have almost exclusively bought the period of time in which players are most productive, and they’ve paid a higher price than prior extensions for the right to do just that. And this Simmons deal just continues that trend.

Prior to this contract, the largest guarantee for any player with just one year of service time was $45 million to Ryan Braun. Last year, with the same level of service time and proximity to free agency, Paul Goldschmidt was guaranteed $32 million for his arbitration years and first year of free agency, with the D’Backs holding an option for a second free agent year that could push the total to $46 million if it is exercised. Even if we accept that it’s a virtual lock the option will be picked up, Simmons will still get 26% more than Goldschmidt for the same period of his career, even though Goldschmidt’s dingers-and-ribbies skillset has traditionally paid a lot more than Simmons’ catch-everything-hit-on-the-ground abilities.

Now, it’s not hard to make a case that Simmons, right now, is more valuable than Goldschmidt was a year ago. At the point of the extension, Arizona’s first baseman had racked up +3.4 WAR in 764 plate appearances; Simmons is currently at +6.9 WAR in 840 PA. No matter how skeptical you are of defensive metrics and their ability to properly value guys like Simmons, that’s a huge gap, and Simmons would come out ahead no matter what kind of defensive rating you wanted to assign him.

Even regressing his defensive value for their forecasts, both ZIPS and Steamer see Simmons as a +4 WAR player for 2014, and neither Goldschmidt nor Braun were as good at the point of extension as Simmons is now. But, of course, extensions aren’t just about how good a player is, but also about the kind of leverage the team had to hold down the player’s salary and for how long; that’s why Homer Bailey gets $105 million and Madison Bumgarner gets $35 million, even though Bumgarner is pretty clearly better. And while Simmons has a strong case for his actual value matching or exceeding that of guys like Braun and Goldschmidt, it’s unlikely that his value would have been recognized to the same degree if the Braves had forced him into arbitration.

For instance, Michael Bourn is not a terribly different player from Simmons. In his final pre-arb season of 2009, he posted a 100 wRC+ (plus another win of baserunning value) and a +10 UZR as a center fielder, good for +4.6 WAR in total; he got $2.4 million to avoid arbitration for 2010. He followed it up with a +4.3 WAR season again based mostly on defensive value, and got $4.4 million. His final trip through arbitration, coming off a +3.7 WAR season, earned him $6.8 million. Over a three year period in which Bourn accumulated +12.7 WAR, he was paid a grand total of $13.6 million in salary, or basically $1 million per win.

It’s not just Bourn, either. In 2010/2011, Brett Gardner put up +10.9 WAR in his final two pre-arb seasons, and then was paid $2.8 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Because he missed almost the entire 2012 season, we can’t compare his full arbitration payouts, but he re-established himself as a quality player last year, and in his final arbitration eligible season, the Yankees are going to have to pay him $5.6 million this year.

But perhaps the best comparison is a former Braves shortstop, Elvis Andrus, who put up a +4 WAR season — driven heavily by defensive value — at age-22, and then signed away his three arbitration years for a total of $14.4 million. These are three of the best defensive players in the game today, and they basically set the arbitration market price for this kind of player at around $2.5M/$4.5M/$6.5M in their arbitration years. By comparison, Simmons is going to go $6M/$8M/$11M, and that doesn’t even account for the $5 million that he’s going to get in his final two pre-arbitration years under this new deal. Basically, Simmons is getting double what those players got by going to arbitration, and he’s getting it up front, without having to go year to year.

Now, there is a chance that Simmons will qualify as a Super Two player after this season, and would have gotten four bites at the arbitration apple, which escalates a player’s salary pretty quickly. The Braves are certainly paying a bit of a premium here because of the chance that Simmons will be a Super Two, and so buying out that possibility is a pretty valid reason for why Simmons is getting more than other defensive specialists have when going to arbitration as non-Super Two players. If Simmons qualified as a Super Two, you could make a case that he would have been in line for something like $4M/$7M/$10M/$13M, which would have set him up to make roughly $34 million before hitting free agency. Under the extension, he’ll make $30 million in what would have been his pre-arb/arb seasons, and then the Braves bought out two free agent years for $13M/$15M, which would almost certainly qualify as a bargain as long as he stays healthy.

Of course, Simmons might not be a Super Two, and if he missed the cut-off, he probably gets closer to $20 million than $30 million in his arbitration years, making the free agent years cost nearly $20 million apiece, which isn’t so much of a bargain anymore. This extension clearly prices in the fact that Simmons had a real shot at Super-Two status, and pays him as if it is more likely than not that he would have gotten four shots at arbitration. The Braves probably have a better understanding of that possibility than we do, so I’m okay deferring to them on that expectation. But it’s not a guarantee that he would have been a Super-Two player, and if he would have missed the cut, this looks really pricey relative to other extensions signed by similar players in the recent past.

But there’s also an upside play here. Going year to year to try and save $5 or $10 million comes with the risk that Simmons has a monster offensive season at some point in the next few years, turning himself from a +4 WAR player into a +5 or +6 WAR player and resetting his list of comparisons. This is the Andrew McCutchen example, essentially. If Simmons takes a massive leap forward — not completely out of the realm of possibility, given his second half power surge — then the Bourn/Gardner/Andrus comps go away, and all of the sudden he’s positioning himself against the likes of Posey and Tulowitzki, who each landed deals for over $150 million as guys who both hit well and played a premium position.

This deal pays Simmons a bit more than what we’ve seen for prior average bat/premium defense players, but it pays far, far less than what good bat/premium defense players have gotten. If the Braves had decided to let Simmons Super-Two status play out and he carried over his second half 118 wRC+ for a full year, he’d have been looking for a monstrous payday next winter, probably more than double what he just got.

You don’t want to price extensions based on the chance that a player could turn into something he’s not currently, but at the same time, Simmons has a career 94 wRC+ with a .261 BABIP. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see him posting better numbers, and any kind of significant offensive improvement would have put him in another level when it came to negotiating a long term deal next winter. This extension looks a bit expensive now, but it’s one solid offensive year away from being a huge steal.

And that’s why prices on these deals are going up. Goldschmidt is the prime example of the value of buying before the breakout. Had Arizona simply waited one more year, his price would have skyrocketed, and the entire range of comparisons would have changed. Players have been selling their breakout potential on the cheap, and teams have been coming out way ahead when guys like McCutchen and Goldschmidt turn into superstars after signing away their most productive years. Simmons didn’t sell that potential cheap. The Braves didn’t get a steal the way that the D’Backs or Pirates did. By giving a glove first player nearly a $60 million guarantee, they’re taking on some real risk in case he doesn’t develop.

But that’s how long term deals should work. Both sides should be taking risks. This is the kind of deal that good young players should be aiming for; if you’re going to sell your potential stardom, get some real guaranteed money in exchange.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

181 Responses to “Braves Lock Up Andrelton Simmons, Keep Inflating Extensions”

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  1. Dees says:

    I really think 2013 is a realistic floor for Andrelton’s offensive value. He had a terrible .247 BABIP but still managed a 91 wRC+ and 4.7 wins. Projection systems have him as about a 100 wRC+ next season: a league-average hitter who’s also maybe the best defensive player in baseball? Yeah, I’ll take that. And the nice thing is that they get all of his peak years without paying some huge contract that goes into his mid-30s.

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    • Brendan says:

      I think it’s important to note that his below average babip is at least partly due to the large amount of infield flies he hits(among the league worst). This isn’t a case where we can just point at a lower-than-normal babip and expect it to rise automatically.

      Of course, reducing infield flies is still an example of an area he could very believably improve at.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Right… this is a downside of his high-contact profile. He’s very good at putting bat on ball, but not very good at deciding when it’s worth it to watch a pitch go by instead of putting it in play. If you’re an optimist, that’s the kind of thing he’ll learn as he matures, especially considering he didn’t have much time in the high minors.

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        • Bronnt says:

          Really, he got in the habit of swinging for the fences last season. His swing developed more of an uppercut. It provided some value in that he did hit 17 home runs and posted a solid ISO. But the downside is that he traded a batted ball profile with a lot of groundballs for one that includes a lot of flyballs, which creates a lower BABIP. His HR/FB rate isn’t great so he would provide more value with an approach more likely to produce a high BABIP.

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        • Ned says:

          He also had a huge uppercut last year I’d never seen before. His GB/FB ratio almost cut in half from 2012.

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        • Anon21 says:

          Here’s a different optimistic take, then: without the pressure of pushing for gaudy home-run numbers to inflate his arb numbers and first free-agent payday, maybe he can be convinced to adopt a more level swing that will increase his offensive value.

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        • Debby says:

          Here’s a differant non-optimistic take, then: with his future financially secure no matter what he does, Simmons might be convinced to assume the body type of late-career Mo Vaughn and become a 91ish wRC+ 1B.

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        • Anon21 says:

          If you meant this as a sort of gibe at the optimistic takes, it was too stupid for the point to land. Sorry, try again. This contract takes him through his age-30 season, and he has every interest in ensuring that when he does hit the open market, he is still in demand.

          Moreover, there are not many MLB players, intense competitors from childhood, who simply let themselves go and stop trying when they sign their first guaranteed contract.

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        • Jon L. says:

          Anyway, Mo Vaughn hit .337 with 40 homers at the age of 30. Seems even guys who get out of shape take a while to do so.

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      • MGard says:

        While I agree even given his batted ball rates and the leagues average for batted balls his xBABIP was still around .300.

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  2. jdbolick says:

    Your narrative about inflating extensions and a new market really depends on teams other than Atlanta and their non-Braves players following suit. Until then it’s just one GM paying well above market (for players years away from free agency) in exchange for cost certainty. And I don’t think you could really argue that any of the Braves players who received extensions are taking risks at all. They would have been idiots to turn down those contracts.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      It’s silly to think that a player who could improve his performance and double this guarantee in 12 months is taking “no risk at all”. You might think that there’s no difference between $58M and $150M, because it’s all just a lot of money, but these deals absolutely are selling the potential for much larger paydays down the line.

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      • Adam M says:

        And I don’t think you could really argue that any of the Braves players who received extensions are taking risks at all.

        The premise for this line of thinking is that none of those Braves players–especially Teheran and Simmons–are capable of taking another step forward. If Simmons is a 6-win player in either 2014 or 2015, you don’t think this contract looks like a bargain for the Braves? It’s almost as if Cameron made that point above; and it’s almost as if you missed it.

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        • jdbolick says:

          Adam, taking a contract in line with the market would have meant that they were risking future earnings if they happened to improve. Getting a contract well above the current market means they’re already getting what they would with better performance, meaning that improvement is basically assumed by Atlanta.

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        • larry says:

          i think its pretty obvious from these extensions that the Braves FO is betting that these young players will continue to improve. If they dont improve, then these deals are overpays, not albatross potential but overpays none-the-less. If some, or all, are able to take a step forward, then these contracts could be quite a deal

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        • Adam M says:

          But they are risking future earnings. That’s the whole point. They’re not risking as much as Goldschmidt and Bumgarner did, but they’re risking future earnings nonetheless. The money on which those other players missed out is being priced into these contracts, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see such costs priced into future contracts of this type.

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        • jdbolick says:

          The only way these contracts become “quite a deal” is if A) the players not only improve but do so massively (since they’re already being paid substantially higher than the previous market), or B) they improve to a lesser degree and Cameron is correct that this isn’t just one team being exuberant and other teams give similar amounts to similar players.

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        • jdbolick says:

          Adam, you don’t have a point so please stop and think about what is being discussed more carefully instead of getting defensive and doggedly repeating the same incorrect notion over and over again. The Braves paid these players as if that improvement had already happened. They have given these players substantially more than similar players received recently.

          Accepting a current market contract for players their distance from free agency would have meant some risk of less than optimal future earnings for Freeman, Teheran, Kimbrel, and Simmons. But they didn’t do that. They got well above market, which is why Cameron has been pushing the “new market” narrative.

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        • Adam M says:

          The Braves paid these players as if that improvement had already happened.

          Repeating this over and over again doesn’t make it true. The Braves paid these players if some of that improvement has already happened. It is exceedingly likely, as Cameron notes, that agents of young players in similar situations will demand their teams do the same; it is also reasonable for players to be asking for some future improvement to be priced into any longterm contracts.

          That said, there is certainly room for more improvement, especially for Simmons–as others explain below. That is my point. That is Cameron’s point. Not all of the possible improvement has been priced into this contract. And despite what you may believe, there is very much a possibility that the future improvement will exceed that which the Braves are paying for right now.

          Adam, you don’t have a point

          Well, then. You’ve convinced me! Nicely argued.

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        • Dave Cameron says:

          The only way these contracts become “quite a deal” is if A) the players not only improve but do so massively (since they’re already being paid substantially higher than the previous market), or B) they improve to a lesser degree and Cameron is correct that this isn’t just one team being exuberant and other teams give similar amounts to similar players.

          There are two options on the table, basically.

          1. The Braves, the team with the very worst TV contract in baseball and an average payroll that requires them to keep their costs down, are too stupid to realize that these players would have signed for less than what they offered.

          2. The players said no thanks to deals that reflected the old market pricing and preferred to go year to year rather than sign away their prime years for deals that would have fit in with the previously established market.

          You figure out which one of those two is more likely.

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        • jdbolick says:

          Adam, when Team X pays Player A, Player B, Player C, and Player D substantially higher than other teams had recently paid other players of similar value and service time, then yes they are by definition paying as if those players were better than they are. Thus, Atlanta is already assuming the improvement and paying accordingly. We all agree that the Braves have paid substantially more, otherwise Cameron wouldn’t be using their behavior to argue that this is a new market.

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        • jdbolick says:

          Dave, it is an agent’s job to get as much money as possible for his client. With this argument you’re assuming that these contracts represented the least that the players would have signed for, which is pretty naive. And even if they did represent the least those players would have signed for, that still doesn’t make them a good deal for the Braves.

          These contracts represent the rough maximum that we would expect the players to receive through arbitration, along with market value for the first two years of free agency. I do get your point that being able to buy only the first two years of free agency instead of committing to 6+ has value. But again, given that these contracts already pay at the level of maximum arbitration along with market rate for those two post-arbitration seasons, that is a huge premium to pay.

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        • jdbolick says:

          Oh, and regarding Dave’s point #1, I will point to Exhibit Dan Uggla and Exhibit B.J. Upton.

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        • Anon21 says:

          “Exhibit B.J. Upton” is not a particularly helpful one for your point. Analysts who knew what they were talking about thought it was a fair deal at current market prices for free agents, and I guarantee you that no one anticipated what kind of year he was about to have.

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        • jdbolick says:

          Anon21, you’re repeating your exact same claim from the Freeman thread when I already gave you links showing that B.J. Upton received substantially more than he was expected to receive as a free agent.

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        • TKDC says:

          @jdbolick

          Regarding your implication that the Braves are stupid in assessing players, the Braves have 190 wins over the last 2 seasons. Please go ahead and tell me what team had more. I’ll twiddle my thumbs as I wait for your answer.

          If you think Simmons, assuming he had two more outstanding years (Gold glove seasons with a decent bat) would sign a 5 year/$53 million deal, you are crazy.

          Secondly, if you think $14 million a year is the market rate for a player like Simmons, you are crazy. You’re saying Simmons, at age 29, would get less than Johnny Peralta coming off a 50-game PED suspension at age 31 got (never mind that this is 2019, not 2014).

          You’re making yourself look like a moron.

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        • Anon21 says:

          Your “links” were the Fangraphs crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is terrible at estimating free agent contracts; the crowd thinks 90% of free agents are overpaid, which is just stupid. Again, analysts who knew what they were talking about thought it was a fair deal. And the crowd’s projected price obviously did not even slightly anticipate his 2013 performance, so your hindsight evaluation is still nonsense.

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        • Ned says:

          So you’re trying to use two free agent signings to prove the Braves have a stupid front office? This would be the same front office who drafted/acquired Heyward? And Kimbrel? And Freeman? And Simmons? And Teheran? And Minor? And Medlen? And Gattis?

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        • jdbolick says:

          Player development and player valuation are two incredibly different things. Why anyone would confuse the two is beyond me and yet here we have two separate people doing precisely that. I’m a Carolina Panthers fan, so thanks to the Marty Hurney era I’m a little more sensitive to GMs who aren’t bad at picking players but pays them 20% above market.

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        • jdbolick says:

          Anon21, I already pointed out that the crowd-sourced numbers were on target for other free agents. Moreover, you have yet to provide any examples of “analysts who knew what they were talking about” expecting B.J. Upton to receive $75.25 million over five seasons.

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        • Anon21 says:

          Yeah, you cherry-picked a few cases in which the crowd got the contracts right and ignored the fifty cases in which they guessed way low. As for analysts, Cameron said it was a fair deal at the time, R.J. Anderson at BPro was mixed but neutral, Syzmborski pegged him at 6/$86 million in May 2012, and Matthew Pouliot at Hardball Talk thought it was a smart signing.

          There’s just no evidence, beyond the Dumb Crowd, to support the idea that Wren misevaluated Upton in signing him at 5/$75m. Sound process, terrible result. That’s the way it goes sometimes in baseball, but it doesn’t mean you quit handing out contracts because you’re terrified of another one blowing up in your face.

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      • jdbolick says:

        Why do you always throw around absurd hyperbole when someone points out flaws in your reasoning? What kind of offensive production would Andrelton Simmons need to post in 2014 to “double” his guarantee, which would mean receiving a seven year, 116 million dollar contract next off-season? Mike Trout numbers? Miguel Cabrera numbers? The very notion is so absurd as to be worthless.

        You correctly noted in the Goldschmidt example that waiting one more season would have increased Paul’s pricetag, but given that Goldschmidt signed for much less than Simmons, doesn’t that mean his much better season only would have put him roughly on par with what Simmons got? The Braves already paid as if Andrelton had that mythical improvement. And while it’s fair for you to point out Simmons’ .247 BABIP as something that could improve substantially, the other side of the equation is that Simmons had never hit more than 6 home runs prior to 2013.

        The only risk these Atlanta players are actually taking is the small possibility of having a catastrophic injury or performance decline in the two year window between when they would have hit free agency and when they will now. These players aren’t exchanging future earnings for certainty. They’re already getting the most we would realistically expect them to make and certainty in exchange for postponing free agency by a couple of years.

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        • tz says:

          um, the word “always” may itself be a bit of hyperbole.

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        • Anon21 says:

          “What kind of offensive production would Andrelton Simmons need to post in 2014 to ‘double’ his guarantee, which would mean receiving a seven year, 116 million dollar contract next off-season? Mike Trout numbers? Miguel Cabrera numbers? The very notion is so absurd as to be worthless.”

          Given that Freddie Freeman just got more than double from a platform year in which he posted a 150 wRC+ with average defense from the lowest position on the defensive spectrum, I’m gonna go with “not Mike Trout numbers.” I would guess a 120 wRC+ would get Simmons double what he just took, and a 120 wRC+ is not out of the realm of possibility (although I would certainly take the under).

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        • Dave Cameron says:

          11 months ago, a Super-Two eligible player four years from free agency signed for $159 million over eight years; he had +13 career WAR at the point of the extension. Simmons is a +6 WAR season away from matching that total. +6 WAR for him is probably a 115 wRC+ instead of the 100 wRC+ that ZIPS/Steamer are expecting.

          If you don’t think there is a market for $100+ million extensions for players four years from free agency, you haven’t been paying attention.

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        • larry says:

          considering he had a negative Off value last season, -8.1, and still had a 4.7 win season, if he can have a positive Off value, he could easily be a 6 or 7 win player. that would make him a top 15 player in terms of WAR. This deal for Machado would be considered a steal. Simmons can move close to Machado territory with just slightly above average hitting

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        • jdbolick says:

          tz: lol, fair point.

          Dave:
          Posey was the reigning MVP and batting champion. So ok, if Andrelton Simmons wins MVP and has a wRC+ of 163 then yes he sacrificed some future earnings by settling for $58 million over 7 years.

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        • Dave Cameron says:

          If Andrelton Simmons posts a wRC+ of 163, it would have a chance to go down as one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. But since you refuse to acknowledge what is right in front of you, I’ll simply let you figure out what you’re missing as the market develops in front of you.

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        • Tim says:

          Don’t be ridiculous. If Andrelton Simmons had a wRC+ of 163, that might be the greatest season of all time. However, with a wRC+ of 115 or so, which is definitely possible, he could put up 6 WAR next season

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        • jdbolick says:

          Speaking of missing things right in front of you, Dave, I’m going to repeat this:

          Your narrative about inflating extensions and a new market really depends on teams other than Atlanta and their non-Braves players following suit. Until then it’s just one GM paying well above market (for players years away from free agency) in exchange for cost certainty.

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        • jdbolick says:

          Yes, Tim, that is the point. A 6 WAR season most certainly would not double Simmons’ contract from $58 million over 7 years to $116 million over 7 years. It would take one of the greatest seasons of all-time to create $58 million in additional value over twelve months.

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        • Tim says:

          That still isn’t so ridiculous. Let’s assume they wait another year to extend him and they still give him the same amount of years. Assuming his performance stays the same, you’d be removing next season, where he makes 1 million, and replacing it with an extra year of free agency which would be around 17 million, so thats an extra 16 million right there.
          Then, if improves offensively to roughly a 115-120 wRC+, they’ll be paying him to be around a 6 win player rather than a 4.5 win player which is what, another 8 million a season (at 5.5 million a win) and that isn’t even assuming future inflation which is ridiculous (but also helps balance out the fact that it’s an extension and he doesnt hit the open market). So if you tack on 8 million to each of what would now be three free agent years, that’s 24 million more dollars. Therefore, we’ve already found an additional 40 million and that’s assuming no inflation in the price of a win. Considering his arbitration totals would also be much higher if he’s a 115 wRC+ player, the Braves could easily see themselves paying 50 million more to sign him after next season. No that isn’t *double* the value of his current contract, but it is still quite a bit more

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        • jdbolick says:

          Tim, one “115-120 wRC+” season wouldn’t net Simmons an extra $8 million per year in those free agency seasons and the arbitration numbers have a lot less flexibility than you realize. Furthermore, when comparing what Simmons will make to what he could make by waiting a year, you have to consider what he will eventually get in the year after this extension.

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        • Tim says:

          I know those numbers are very rough and I’m sure I have some flaws in my reasoning, but it clearly isn’t that unbelievable to think that if he carries over his offensive success from the second half of last season (I know, far from a given), the Braves would have to give him an extra 40-50 million if they waited to extend him

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        • jdbolick says:

          Yes, Tim, it is unbelievable. We’re talking about adding $58 million to a contract after one season. $58 million. That would take quite a bit more than a ~120 wRC+ season. Creating $58 million in additional value over twelve months would take one of the greatest shortstop seasons of all-time.

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        • Anon21 says:

          “Creating $58 million in additional value over twelve months would take one of the greatest shortstop seasons of all-time.”

          Do you even understand what we’re talking about here? Hypothetical Simmons doesn’t need to “creat[e] $58 million in additional value” in a single season. He needs to create $58 million in anticipated future value. Because this is a seven-year contract, comparatively small changes in established performance level can create large changes in the total dollar value of the contract, as the better expected future value is attributed to each contract year.

          And yeah, I think a 120 wRC+ with the same level of defensive brilliance would have gotten him double, and your evidence-free sputtering that “no, of course it wouldn’t” isn’t convincing me otherwise.

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        • jdbolick says:

          Anon21, only a fraction of those seven years would be in free agency. The arbitration salaries have very little upward flexibility.

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        • larry says:

          i actually agree with jdbolick about this not necessarily setting a new market. all of the extensions that signal a “market correction” were all given out by the same team. we need to see other teams follow suit before you can say this is an actual market correction

          that being said, you completely missed the mark with valuation of these contracts relative player performace as stated by basically everybody

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        • jdbolick says:

          No, larry, I didn’t. If we weren’t in agreement that the Braves overpaid then there wouldn’t be a suggestion about this potentially setting a new market.

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        • larry says:

          nope, bc not everything is black and white. i agree that the extensions the Braves have given out are above what some other similar age and service time players have received, but i also think there can still be excess value in all off these contract on a $/WAR basis. I also think that had they not given out these extensions, esp Teheran and Simmons, then these guys could potential break out and force the Braves to pay significantly more than they did.

          I want to see what other teams do before I can say its a definitive market correction, but thats where our agreement stops.

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        • Tim says:

          ZiPS suggests that Simmons should’ve gotten 7/81.
          Therefore:
          1) The deal is already a positive for the Braves.
          2) If the Braves had delayed the deal one year and he put up 115 wRC+, you can pretty much guarantee that a 7 year deal would bump up over 100 mil

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        • bstar says:

          **Just for fun**

          Simmons 2013, 91 wRC+: 4.7 fWAR
          Simmons 2013, 87 OPS+: 6.8 rWAR

          approximate numbers here
          Simmons 2013 w/ 120 wRC+: 7 fWAR
          Simmons 2013 w/ 120 OPS+: 9 rWAR

          a guy can dream
          Simmons 2013 w/ 163 wRC+: 10.5 fWAR
          Simmons 2013 w/ 163 OPS+: 12.5 rWAR

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        • fjrabon says:

          You do realize that by 2021, with the normal rate of MLB salary growth that has held for a decade now (5.5%), we’re talking about a win costing 8.5 million dollars. Saying his two free agent years would be at market rates is saying you expect Simmons to be a 1.5 win player in his age 30 season.

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      • Thomas Grantham says:

        Isn’t the extension market primarily set by the player’s demand for financial security? Stating the obvious here, but if a pre-arb player has a severe injury (or just completely loses his ability) they are left with nothing. A team would be less inclined to do an extension because if things don’t work out they can always go year to year and replace the player whereas a player can’t easily replace his MLB income if it were to go away.

        Therefore, who are we to say that this market needs correcting? The market is primarily driven (collectively) by how much money players are willing to leave on the table for financial security. So, in my opinion, the Braves can only do so much to “correct” the market. It has to be the players deciding that financial security now isn’t worth leaving 10s of million on the table.

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      • Dan Ugglas Forearm says:

        Are they really risking future earnings when they will all hit free agency at or around 30? They could all stand to receive HUGE contracts if they merely remain the same players. But they are young, and there are signs of improvement. If you don’t pay for that potential upside, you end up with situations like Jason Heyward. They will have to watch him leave for huge money in free agency because they balked at paying for his upside. Even if he has spent some time out due to injuries, you don’t think the Braves are wishing they would have overpaid on his upside 2 or 3 years ago? Looking back, they’d gladly overpay by $5-10 million on an extension rather than watching him put up big numbers and pricing himself out of Atlanta.

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      • bilbovibrator says:

        I saw some of the interview of the extended young players like teheran and they are like 22 23 they all seem surprised and like it hasn’t even hit them yet. I can imagine that it must seem like a realization of a dream to them; they finally achieved what they have been working their entire life. I think their agents would want them to sign these contracts too.

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    • JMS says:

      Not to replay the narrative from every other extension thread, but the 2014 Atlanta Braves–coming off a season with the most WAR from under-25 players in 25 years, moving into a new stadium, and with a terrible TV deal–probably value cost certainty (as opposed to necessarily seeking maximal bargains) more than anyone.

      It is also worth noting that the Braves just gave extensions to 3 players (perhaps their three best) that are a closer, a glove-first shortstop, and a BABIP-driven 1B. In each case, there are arguments (perhaps compelling arguments) to be made that fWAR is not capturing the actual value of these players, which would adjust the comparisons somewhat.

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      • Bip says:

        There’s no reason Freeman and Simmons would have their value underrepresented by fWAR.

        fWAR incorporates UZR, which should give a pretty good idea of a the entire defensive contribution of a shortstop. UZR loves Simmons, to the point that it made him the most valuable player on the Braves (tied with Freeman) despite a below-average wOBA.

        As for Freeman, hitters get credit for BABIP in their WAR. It’s only for pitchers where BABIP variation is removed. If Freeman’s BABIP was just average, his WAR would decrease considerably.

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        • Anon21 says:

          Worth remembering that DRS loves Simmons even more, so there is some basis for arguing that fWAR underrates Simmons. Depends on which defensive value system you think does a better job; I don’t have a strong opinion.

          I agree that Freeman’s value is captured by fWAR—again, setting aside any quibbles about the value of his defense as measured by UZR.

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        • Bronnt says:

          I will throw in a random comment, however.

          DRS has been around for 11 seasons now. So the fact that the four highest DRS numbers ever recorded all came in 2013…that’s definitely a statistical anomaly. Correspondingly, NONE of the bottom 30 defensive seasons came last year. Was there a change in how DRS was calculated last season? Or was last year just…really wonky?

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        • Eric R says:

          I get the odds that all of the bottom 30 came from 10 of the 11 years at 1:16… odds that all of the top 4 came from a single season…? I get 1:14641.

          The odds of both being the same year would be very long.

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    • JT Grace says:

      All of the Braves players were under the age of 25 and still 2 to 3 years away from their prime years. Yes, they took a big risk signing so soon.

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      • jdbolick says:

        No, JT, they didn’t. First, some nice columns on FanGraphs already demonstrated that the old notion of players improving, peaking at 27-28, and then declining isn’t actually true. Furthermore, it wasn’t a risk for any of them precisely because they already got paid as much as they could realistically expect to receive over that period.

        Normally players will sign for less than they might get year by year so that they don’t have to take the risk of having their performance decline and receiving much less. The Braves players are already getting roughly the maximum they would get year by year, but with the sacrifice of waiting ~2 years for free agency. Again, there is a small chance that they could experience catastrophic injury or some other severe performance decline in the time between when they would have hit free agency and when they will now. But if that doesn’t happen then they’ll still be in line for a nice free agent contract at age 30-31 based on what free agents that age have been receiving recently. So it’s not as if waiting a little for free agency means they won’t cash in once they hit it.

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        • Andrew says:

          You are getting your ass handed to you today, friendo. Might be time to pack it in.

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        • fastatlast says:

          “So it’s not as if waiting a little for free agency means they won’t cash in once they hit it.”

          Yes it does, Simmons is getting 13 and 15 million for the two FA years he signed away. If he’s still a 4-5 WAR player leading up to his ages 28-29 year seasons then he would be getting ~20-23m and have the leverage to command a longer contract. Of course if he becomes even slightly above average offensively he’ll be a 5-6 WAR player and command even more.

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        • jdbolick says:

          fastatlast, me writing that “waiting a little for free agency means they won’t cash in once they hit it” is suggesting that Simmons will still be in a position to receive a considerable free agent contract at age 31.

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        • Bip says:

          You’re right that the general player development curve doesn’t peak at age 27-30, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a significant chance Simmons and Freeman will improve. That curve factors in the players who follow the curve, as well as the players who actually do peak around 27-30 (or later), as well as those that flame out before they even get to age 27.

          Aging curves tell us that expected outcome is that Freeman and Simmons stay at around the same performance level, and gradually decline starting in their late 20′s. However, there is still a significant likelihood that they improve or decline. They signed deals that give them about what they would get if they stay at their current level, so the Braves are risking the small yet significant chance that they decline, while the players are risking the similar chance that they improve.

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        • jdbolick says:

          Bip, actually the models actually suggest that Freeman will decline from his 2013 performance rather than improve. Simmons does have more potential to increase his value, but as noted, an improvement in BABIP could be off-set by regression in his ISO.

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        • Bip says:

          Bip, actually the models actually suggest that Freeman will decline from his 2013 performance rather than improve.

          Then you missed my entire point. I’m not saying Freeman should be expected to improve. I’m saying there is a legitimate chance he will improve, even if it’s not the most likely outcome.

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        • Wil says:

          Look at Freemans batted ball profile and you’ll see why it’s possible that he doesn’t suffer much regression.

          http://i.imgur.com/8xUnlaT.jpg

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      Atlanta also has a unique situation. A ton of young talent, little money for now, and not a great farm. Plus a new ballpark on the way. I think this works for the braves situation.

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      • Wil says:

        Farm is average. They have a lot of good pitching prospects, almost zero position prospects.

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        • fjrabon says:

          it is not average, or even close to average. It has a few decent arms. Overall, it’s bad, really bad. The best case scenario for the Atlanta farm is that they unlikely hit on the few legit prospects they do have (that is, their success rate at converting prospects to legit players is higher than most clubs).

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    • Ned says:

      Starlin Castro signed a 7 year deal for 60MM. That was two years ago, after he had two years+ accrued time.

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      • Kevin says:

        Castro was coming off a .773 OPS not a .692.

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        • Dan says:

          There were also questions over whether he would stay at SS over the life of the deal, in addition to makeup questions. The .773 OPS was BABIP driven, and Castro doesn’t have a lot of power. Simmons defense more than makes up for Castro’s ability to have a high BABIP. Castro at the time was probably 10-20% more valuable than Simmons with the bat and 60-70% less valuable with the glove–and that’s being generous to Castro on both counts. So, in the context of Starlin Castro, how is the Simmons deal out of line?

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        • alp says:

          Kevin, it doesn’t matter if Castro was better offensively. Castro sucks at fielding compared to Simmons

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    • Billy says:

      I gotta give this jdbolick fella credit. I don’t know if I agree with his argument, but the man sticks to his guns in the face of the crowd. I suppose that can be a bad thing if you’re wrong, but since we’re arguing over something that’s just a game, and not something more significant, that’s not a concern and I find it refreshing.

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  3. Dan says:

    Manny Machado is in a similar position. How much more would you expect him to cost on a 7 year deal?

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  4. Plush Butt says:

    WhatAPP sold for $16,000,000,000 yesterday ($355m per employee) and Snapchat rejected a $4,000,000,000 offer earlier this year; those 2 companies combined have less revenue in their entire history than Simmons’ deal. Snapchat’s historic revenue is less than Simmons’ minor league salary.

    Crazy world is my point, just kray kray.

    My other point is that some baseball teams are owned by guys from that investment world, so overpaying some employee by 25% or 50% is just a rounding error. Yahoo’s severance package to its 8 month rental CIO is more than Simmons deal.

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    • Bip says:

      Those number are 4 billion and 16 billion. Simmons’ deal is about 60 million, so a few orders of magnitude lower.

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      • BookWorm says:

        The reference was that the companies’ revenue was less than the Simmons deal. Revenue is different than the amount for which they were acquired.

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    • Trust me, Liberty is not viewing overpayment as a “rounding error.” The team’s payroll has done nothing but go down (particularly relative to the rest of the league) since they took over.

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  5. dday0606 says:

    Does anyone think there is unrealized marketing value in guaranteeing their fan base a core for the rest of the deacade(minus Heyward of course)? While they didn’t save a ton of money, as a Braves fan I do feel reassured that I won’t be watching these guys play for other teams anytime soon.

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    • Wil says:

      If anything it does allow them to have a clearer budge picture for future deals.

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      • jcxy says:

        I can buy the argument that knowing that good, young players will be around for a while improves team marketability. However, it’s likely that these players would all be there anyway for the foreseeable future, and during their primes, which makes them pretty marketable regardless whether 1 or 2 years of FA have been bought out. So I don’t see much added value here in terms of marketing vs the status quo.

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    • Adam M says:

      Mostly it just assures me that the budget is finally going up, at least for 2015. The Braves have $73.68 million locked into eight guaranteed contracts that season – both Uptons, Uggla, Heyward, Freeman, Kimbrel, Simmons, and Teheran – and then another nine guys eligible for arbitration: Medlen, Johnson, Minor, Beachy, Walden, Venters, Schafer, Pena, and Carpenter. Even if those last four guys flame out and aren’t tendered contracts, the other five will still eat up another $25 million. That would put the Braves budget close to $100 million with only 13 guys accounted for. I’d say the budget, especially if we’re looking at the 40-man budget, is gonna be close to $120 million in 2015.

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      • larry says:

        and that $120 would be right in line with them getting an extra $25 mil from the national TV deal on top of a pretty consistent $90 – $100 mil payroll for the last decade

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        • Adam M says:

          Yes, but at least it’s going into the product on the field. I can’t speak for others, but I was certainly nervous that the extra $25 million was going to get pocketed. Now I know it won’t be. Also, if the team is serious about working out a long term deal with Heyward – I doubt they are, and it might just be mlb.com reporters running their usual spring training puff pieces – then the budget will almost certainly surpass $120 million in 2016.

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      • Wil says:

        IRRC their budget is going to increase up to 130 million a year, not only with the new TV money but they control the development rights to the area near the stadium and are expecting revenues from that.

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    • Brendan says:

      I was actually wondering if the new stadium could have factored into these deals. The Braves could have saved some money and done better from a $/WAR perspective taking everyone year to year. But they’d be watching some of these guys walk when they hit FA. Pushing their FA’s back 1-2 years means that a lot of the current young core of the Braves will be playing in Cobb County, instead of leaving just before the braves move or within the first year or two.

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      • Dan says:

        I don’t really think they could have saved money overall by taking these guys year to year. Kimbrel absolutely would have been more expensive, Simmons and Teheran could easily be more expensive with steps forward, and they might have saved a few dollars taking Freeman year to year. With Freeman, the peripherals will have to continue to improve to offset some of the BABIP loss. Also, given the overall state of the game, arbitration salaries will inflate over time too.

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        • NS says:

          Yes if you just assume they will stay the same or get better, that’s a reasonable conclusion. There’s no reason to just assume that, though. Players get injured and decline or just experience variance all the time.

          These players now assume 0 risk. The Braves assume it all. If you omit that from the analysis you miss the boat entirely.

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    • Roger says:

      Yes, I think there is. I’m a Braves fan living in what was strong Braves territory during the Big 3 era, and, while there’s still a lot of casual fans that identify themselves as Braves fans, my conversations with many of them point to waning interest caused by high roster turnover. A stable roster of recognizable players will help. Winning will help. A winning stable roster will help even more.

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    • Frank says:

      I haven’t run the numbers, but I’d bet that excited fans buy more tickets, watch more games, and bring aboard more new fans than depressed, embittered fans.

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    • Bobby says:

      They’re sending a signal that they *want* to guarantee a core, but that’s different than actually doing it. None of these players are immune to injury or performance decline, and nobody agreed to a no-trade clause.

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    • Kevin says:

      So, you’re saying they did this to make sure they actually sell out first round playoff games? #unfair #funny #stereotype

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  6. TKDC says:

    I’d bet, considering there would be at least $10 million at play, that both the Braves and Simmons put a lot of time, money, and effort into finding out the odds he would be a Super 2 player or not. The deal strikes me as an agreement by the Braves that he probably would be, with perhaps a slight discount for the off-chance that he would not.

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  7. larry says:

    didnt Andrus sign an 8 yr/$120 mil extension? I know he was closer the FA than Simmons, but I would rather have 7 years of Simmons, who is younger, for $58 mil than 8 year of Andrus at more than double.

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    • Shao says:

      you are comparing apples to oranges. Players under control are often underpaid. Players qualify FA are often overpaid. Asking someone to give up his overpaid years costs much more than asking someone to sign a contract that covers his underpaid years.

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      • larry says:

        did he sign as an FA? i thought he still had an arb year or 2 left when andrus signed

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        • Shao says:

          Andru’s 120M contract covers 15-22. They are all FA-years. The club gets some discount for lock in earlier than he actually hit the FA market. But that’s not like Simmons at all.

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    • jim says:

      It wasn’t an either/or situation

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  8. Brad says:

    Even if Simmons is Super Two and the FA years come out closer to $20mil/year, there’s tremendous value in having a 4 WAR SS for ONLY the first two FA years. That may end up being only market value and leave no room for surplus value, but good luck signing a 4 WAR SS going into his age 28 season without paying for an additional 4-5 years of decline as well when surplus value is almost certain to be negative.

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  9. Anon21 says:

    I think the most encouraging defense-first comp from the Braves’ perspective was Bourn, who won two Gold Gloves in his arb years. Simmons is probably a step beyond that: harder position, a Platinum Glove, and a mile-high stack of rapturous press clippings anointing him the best defender in baseball. Plus, I would imagine a sharp agent in 2015 would have a lot more hard data on the value of defense than an agent in 2009.

    Arbitrators aren’t great at assigning value to baseball players, but even beyond the Super Two risk, I think the Braves may have accurately perceived that Simmons’ defense has attracted enough attention that it might well get paid—probably not at its actual value, but perhaps a lot more than the skillset typically is.

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    • Dan says:

      Agreed–if I was Simmons agent, I would be making the case that his defense is historic. There are no other comps for his defense, and what other similar hitters have been paid is completely irrelevant.

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  10. JT Grace says:

    I love what the Braves are doing. They are taking care of their young, home grown players in their prime years rather than overpaying for players in their decline phase.

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  11. melotticus says:

    Having John Hart come in and work with the front office was one of the best decisions they made this year. What Frank Wren is doing now is strikingly similar to Hart and the Indians in the 90′s.

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  12. The Troutman says:

    Don’t forget that Simmons defense could actually be superior to UZR’s rating. DRS rated him much higher. bWAR scored him at 6 WAR last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Simmons and his agent used this higher WAR score in addition to lower scores (like those that fWAR gives).

    Then again… defensive stats need large sample sizes so its probably smarter to wait a few years before we declare that Simmons is the Ozzie Smith 2.0. For now we can only say that Simmons is an elite defender, and a worthy Gold Glove/Fielding Bible winner for 2013.

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  13. Zach says:

    It’s a little ironic to me that the Braves seem to be betting on salaries inflating over the next several years yet they are the team that is signing the contracts that will begin that inflation.

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    • TKDC says:

      If the Braves deals are silly, they will have no affect on inflation. It’s not like when the Raiders started taking whoever the fastest player in the draft was in the first round every other team just followed suit. Copy-catting is only done when the original is sound.

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    • Anon21 says:

      If Dave is right, if it wasn’t them it would be some other team. He’s positing a market correction responding to the widespread and accurate perception that young star like McCutchen and Goldschmidt are underpaid. To the extent that that’s what driving this, it should have young players on every team thinking about their market value in a different light, having seen that those guys left a lot of money on the table by signing early and cheap. Granted, we do need some non-Braves data points to test Dave’s theory, but on his account it’s not accurate that the Braves are singlehandedly driving this inflation.

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    • Frank says:

      They’re paying Simmons a little over $8 million when the going rate for one win is between $6-7 million. I’m not sure how this is inflation. Seems more like simply rethinking the way they want to sign players, given that the current way of waiting until they hit free agent years and paying them massive bucks to decline is somewhat stupid.

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      • fastatlast says:

        The going rate for free agent wins is 6-7m, you have to factor in Simmons arb salaries that have been bought out. But yes, if Simmons maintains a 4WAR production level, the 13 and 15m free agent years are going to be a deal.

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      • Zach says:

        I was mostly being tongue-in-cheek, but it seems like they realized that pre-arb contracts were due for a market correction so they decided to set new precedents at every position.

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      • NS says:

        “the going rate for one win is between $6-7 million”

        Sigh. Was Simmons a free agent?

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  14. Ned says:

    The Nationals also have a couple Scott Boras clients due for extensions in the next couple years. I’m sure the Braves didn’t mind inflating their prices up a bit, either.

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    • Wil says:

      You don’t need to blame the Braves for inflating prices on Boras clients. Boras will do that all by himself.

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    • cass says:

      The Nats couldn’t even extend Desmond and Zimmermann this year, despite saying they were focused on that when asked about Tanaka.

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      • Kevin says:

        That’s if you believe that line of thinking. Maybe they were.

        Or maybe they weren’t especially interested in signing Tanaka at his price, and didn’t want to say it that way to fans.

        And the cynical version of the second thought is…they also wanted to leverage Tanaka-spree 2014 into focusing fan pressure on Desmond and Zimmerman to sign one of those extensions. And/or if Tanaka didn’t sign, and the extentions didn’t happen fans (as fans often do) would blame the players…not the FO (Who turns down $4 million a year to play baseball…derp).

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  15. Bob says:

    Doesn’t defensive ability peak at age 24, then decline pretty rapidly (>0.5 WAR per season)? If so, wouldn’t that mean if you’re faced with the choice of two players with the same expected WAR, the higher defensive value player should get a smaller contract than the higher offensive value player?

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    • Tim says:

      Yeah defensive ability does peak around then and decrease after but a fair amount of that is due to speed decreasing around that age. Simmons doesn’t rely on great speed, but rather great instincts and a fantastic arm. That isn’t to say that his defense won’t decrease (it has nowhere else to go), but hopefully it won’t be as sharp of a decline as it would be if he were great due to his speed

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    • bstar says:

      Shortstops aren’t as dependent on raw speed as outfielders.

      And the greatest of the great shortstops can often sustain a defensive prime well into their 30s. Ozzie Smith, Mark Belanger, and Cal Ripken all didn’t see a significant drop in their defensive numbers until past age 35.

      Is Simmons that good? I think so.

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  16. Kevin says:

    Give me Goldschmidt and any no hit, good glove shortstop rather than Simmons and an average first baseman. Any stat like WAR that says Simmons is as valuable as Goldschmidt is off. I don’t get how every page explaining the components of WAR says they’re not that accurate (especially the defensive and baserunning components) and then you add up all those inaccurate components and use that number to form all these arguments. Good glove shortstops that have an OBP of .296 aren’t that hard to come by.

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    • Anon21 says:

      A 90 wRC+ isn’t “no hit,” and Simmons’ defense is historically good.

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    • Frank says:

      Don’t downvote Kevin. If only you knew how inaccurate fWAR was for fielding and pitching your jaws would fall off your faces. It’s a legitimate take.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Do you know how inaccurate it is? If so, please tell us.

        I don’t take the advanced defensive metrics as gospel, but is there anyone who has bothered to look into it who doubts that Simmons is an incredible defensive talent?

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        • Kevin says:

          6 times better than Andrus?

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        • Frank says:

          Yeah well whatever you do, don’t ever be worried about getting it right, just worry about being right Nony.

          “I don’t take defensive metrics as gospel… but the cumulative metrics laid out for me by the internet are all I know and argue with anyone on the internet who knows more than I do.”

          Cool, piece.

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        • Anon21 says:

          “I don’t take defensive metrics as gospel… but the cumulative metrics laid out for me by the internet are all I know and argue with anyone on the internet who knows more than I do.”

          So what is it that you know, Frank? We’re all dying to hear your deep wisdom about defensive evaluation. Seriously, why won’t you share it with us?

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    • batpig says:

      Well, to be fair, last year Goldschmidt was considerably better than Simmons by WAR. Goldschmidt put up 6.4 fWAR and Simmons put up 4.7, which is a pretty sizable gap.

      What Dave wrote was comparing Simmons right now to Goldschmidt a YEAR AGO at the time the extension was signed. He didn’t say Simmons is better NOW. It would take considerable offensive improvement to get Simmons to that 6 WAR level.

      A year ago, Goldschmidt was coming off a solid 2.9 WAR season with an .850 OPS, basically a good-but-not-great first baseman with meh defense. I think it’s reasonable that an average hitting SS with spectacular fielding could be at least as valuable as that.

      If Goldschmidt continues to be a .950 OPS 6 WAR beast then, yeah, it will be hard for Simmons to be as valuable. But you are comparing apples to oranges. WAR doesn’t say “Simmons is as valuable as Goldschmidt” as you claim, unless you look at future projections… which assumes (reasonably) that Goldy will regress slightly from a monstrous season, and that Simmons (reasonably considering his .246 BABIP) will improve his offense a bit.

      Another way to look at it — last year Goldy created 128 runs with the bat (wRC), and Simmons created 67. That’s a 61 run gap which, rightly, Simmons wasn’t able to overcome due to positional, baserunning and defense superiority (thus the gap in WAR in favor of Goldy). But if Goldy regresses a bit to 110 wRC, and Simmons inches forward a bit offensively to 75-80 wRC, that’s only a 40 run gap from the bat. And I think that’s a gap that can be reasonable covered by world class defense at a premium position compared to averageish defense at the easiest position.

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    • nilbog44 says:

      I wouldn’t agree with everything you said but I will agree that if I was owner of a team I would much rather have goldschmidt than simmons

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      • Anon21 says:

        I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t. That’s not to run down Goldschmidt in any way, it’s just that having someone as talented as Simmons at shortstop gives you some valuable flexibility on the rest of your infield roster—that is, you can punt defense at third and to a lesser extent second. It opens up options in a way that having an outstanding offensive player like Goldschmidt doesn’t.

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        • larry says:

          the flip side to that tho is that having an bat like Goldy in the middle of your lineup allows for offensive flexibility. ie you could have a defense first 3B or RF bc you Goldy can help make up some of the offensive production that they would be lacking.

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        • Anon21 says:

          Fair point. My counterargument would be that Simmons’ defense alone can make you “good enough” in terms of left-side-of-the-infield defense. There’s not really a “good enough” level of run scoring in baseball, because there’s no upper bound on offense. (There is a lower bound on defense, and while the Braves aren’t converting all ground balls to the left side into outs, I believe they were second in baseball on ground ball BABIP to the left last season while running out mostly Chris Johnson at third.)

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  17. Phantom Stranger says:

    I think this was by far the most critical extension in the Braves’ wave of signings. You can construct a World Series-winning team around his defense at SS and they now have him locked up for years. His presence allows the Braves to put mediocre defenders at 3B and 2B, hoping to get more offense out of those positions.

    I think there is some upside left in his bat, he’s got the raw talent to eventually be a 120 OPS+ hitter with some small changes to his swing.

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    • NS says:

      “and they now have him locked up for years.”

      Unlike before, when they were on the verge of losing him…five years from now.

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  18. Shao says:

    I think using WAR to measure is not quite right. Arb is not quite determined by WAR, and I think it tends to undervalue defense value.

    Taking two example, Aybar and JJ Hardy, both have good reputation in defense, which is more likely to be considered in arbitration. Both got around 10M in their first 3 arb-years. Hardy is worth roughly 4 WAR more than Aybar in their first six years, but that doesn’t make much difference.

    I would say Simmons probably will get a little bit more than Hardy because of inflation if he hits something around 100 WRC+, AND, stays healthy. Hard to image if he can get more than 15M in his first 6 years. Now he has 30M, a guaranteed 30M.

    Even if he develops all his potential ability and hits like Hanley Ramirez, Hanley only got around 25M in his first 6 years. At the time Hanley got his first extension, he has proven he can hit 20%-40% better than average players. Even Simmons qualifies super 2, it’s not very likely to me he can get more than 25M if he would have to negotiate year by year.

    Now Simmons hasn’t proven he can hit like Hanley has. But he’s already guaranteed the money that Hanley got.

    To me this deal is totally overpaid. Not only overpays the money, but also the risk.

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    • Cold Day in Hell says:

      Dave set forth the likely arb salaries for Simmons in his article above, and the Braves FO does firmly believe he will qualify as a Super Two— meaning your figures are insanely off.

      This may be the best extension this offseason – come a winter or two from now, Simmons may be one of the top 5 most valuable players in MLB due to this contract.

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    • Barrett says:

      First off, I’m with Dave and the guy that initially commented on your assessment, I can’t imagine the Atlanta FO failed to do their due diligence in regards to his arbitration status and conclude that Andrelton will likely be a Super 2 player. It’s not a lock and if he doesn’t qualify it certainly does negate some of the value of this deal.

      Despite that, there’s ample reason to do this deal now and take the small risk that he’s not a Super 2. At the plate, Andrelton would almost certainly have a more productive 2014 than 2013 just with some BABIP regression – .247 last year vs. an xBAPIP that was right around league average. 2013 with a .300 BABIP looks something like .300/.345/.450, and those numbers will get him paid in arbitration. They’ll get him paid even more as a Super 2.

      And even though his defense won’t be considered as heavily in the process, it does factor significantly into his value once he hits free agency. I’m well aware of the vagaries of defensive numbers, particularly over the rather small sample we have in this case, but if you have any doubt about his defensive prowess I would suggest you watch the man play. He’s got the best infield arm in the game, his first step is quick and accurate, he can get to his feet ready to throw quicker than anyone I’ve seen perhaps in my entire life. He could regress pretty significantly and still be the best infield defender in baseball today and I see little reason, barring significant injury, to expect that skill to simply vanish.

      So while there is risk, the upside here is significant. Low revenue teams like the Braves are going to have to take chances on players either via extensions like this or free agency to keep a winning product on the field. Big picture, if they don’t sign the Freeman and Simmons extensions now there’s a significant chance that they cannot afford both, or perhaps cannot afford both in addition to extending one of their other talented young players. I love this deal for Atlanta, easily the best of the four extensions they signed this offseason.

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      • NS says:

        “His BABIP was anomalously bad. It will get better.”

        “His ISO was anomalously good. It will get…better.”

        - Braves fans

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        • Anon21 says:

          I think most Braves fans see his power—at least in terms of raw home run totals—taking a step back in 2014. I think the reasonable optimistic take is that he can produce a better overall line by trading fly ball tendencies and a good chunk of his 17 home runs for a more level swing that produces a higher batting average. Or the neutral case is that he’ll keep his 2013 hitting approach, which is hardly a disaster—as we saw, a 90 wRC+ with outstanding defense adds up to a very good year.

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    • pft says:

      “I think using WAR to measure is not quite right. Arb is not quite determined by WAR, and I think it tends to undervalue defense value.”

      You are right. MLB teams do not pay the same for offense and defense. They pay far more for offense because it is a commodity in shorter supply. Replacement players play league average defense. Replacement players hit well below league average.

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  19. GoodasGoldy says:

    I’m sure the Braves recognize that this is an overpay on Simmons based on how the arbitration process (and current market in general) under values exceptional defense. To me the contract says the Braves think his defense is worth this kind of money and they just wanted to eliminate any chance that an offensive breakout would price Simmons’ late arb/early FA years out of their constrained budget.

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  20. jim fetterolf says:

    Is this an example of a paradigm shift from paying established players for past performance to paying young players for expected performance? Both are risks and perhaps history can be analyzed to see which is likely the better path for a smallish payroll team.

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  21. jdbolick says:

    For all the sycophants rushing to defend Cameron by bombarding me with minuses, the fact is that Dave couldn’t suggest that these contracts represent a new market if we didn’t all agree that they exceeded the existing market. Thus, yes, they are all by definition over-payments. The theoretical possibility of these players becoming vastly better and justifying the over-payments doesn’t change the fact that they are over-payments at this particular moment. If we didn’t all agree that they were, the narrative would be about locking in so much of the team rather than a “new market.”

    And as correctly noted in my initial response to this column, currently this is one GM going bananas. Until other teams and their players follow suit, this can’t accurately be called a new market.

    Any football fans here will better be able to understand where I’m coming from on this, as earlier I alluded to being a Carolina Panthers fan. Following the 2010 NFL season, the Panthers had abundant cap space. Marty Hurney, the organization’s general manager at that time, chose to hand out one huge long-term contract after another to lock up players already on the roster. Many of these were good players, but every single one of those contracts was an over-payment. Some columnists speculated at the time that it represented a “new market,” but now years removed that has not turned out to be the case and in fact serves as a cautionary tale of what not to do. Marty Hurney has since been fired for it.

    Clearly major league baseball doesn’t have a fixed salary cap that penalizes over-payments as definitively as the NFL, and yet we all agree that the Braves are an organization with significant budget constraints that are likely to persist. And here’s the really, really important point. Overpaying one player is not a big deal, and even overpaying two is not necessarily crippling. What makes this truly noteworthy is that four players in the same organization received deals that exceeded the accepted market. Again, we all agree that these deals exceed the current market or Dave wouldn’t be writing columns at all about this proving the existence of a new market. It is the cumulative effect that matters. If Simmons somehow makes a huge leap offensively and therefore justifies his contract, how much does that help Atlanta if Freeman, Teheran, and Kimbrel all fail to justify theirs?

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    • TKDC says:

      I’ve never seen someone on Fangraphs try so hard to convince people he is so damn stupid.

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      • jdbolick says:

        Being part of the mindless herd is easy for you. Articulating why you think I’m wrong is evidently far too difficult.

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        • alp says:

          You must be either a huge dumbass or a troll. Either way, I think your “analysis” would be better off in the comments of Jim Bowden’s articles

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    • fastatlast says:

      what are you doing?

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      • jdbolick says:

        Pointing out that Dave’s very premise assumes these contracts are all over-payments based on the current market. If they weren’t, he wouldn’t be using them to argue a market shift.

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    • Thomas says:

      Very convincing argument. I now see your side of things, and you’ve changed my opinion. You are factually right about your opinion.

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    • Andrew says:

      You know, they say if you run into an ahole in the morning, you ran into an ahole. But if you run into aholes all day? You’re the ahole.

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      • jdbolick says:

        Call me anything you like. I only care if I’m right, and pejoratives don’t really do anything to dissuade me. Yet again, the very premise of the columns Dave has been writing require these contracts to be over-payments according to the established market. So anyone who disagrees with me about that is also disagreeing with him. If the Braves haven’t been over-paying by recent standards then there is no new market to suggest.

        Most of the quibblers are stuck on the question of whether or not these players could end up being worth the money, which is entirely beside the point. Every player in Dave’s “worst transactions” column could hypothetically end up being worth what their team paid for them, but hypotheticals don’t make those moves wise.

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    • chuckb says:

      I wish you’d have combined all your hard-headed bluster into this one post so that I, too, wouldn’t have had to bombard you with so many minuses. I could have just done it once.

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    • Dan says:

      Kimbrel was likely to make at least $30 million in arbitration with 2 more healthy seasons. An additional $12 million for one FA season is a reduced price, even if it isn’t an optimal allocation of resources. While all closers are health risks, the 4th season ends with his age 30 season. The Braves are likely to come out better than breakeven over the arb years (if only by a couple million), and take on more risk than I would like with the 4th year. However, they mitigate some risk of crazy high arb awards.

      With the other guys in mind–how many extensions have been signed this offseason? The only two that are relevant to the Freeman/Teheran/Simmons discussion are Michael Brantley and Martin Perez. Perez was early this offseason, and was based on fairly recent comps, unlike the Braves extensions (his K rate is also not particularly good, portending a useful, but back-end kind of starter with potential for more). Brantley, on the other hand is a useful player, but he got “hidden inflation” if you’re comping him to Cameron Maybin. Brantley’s a nice player, but his extension would seem to be a data point in Dave’s favor.

      The lake of other extensions could be a signal that other young players around baseball are being advised not to sign long extensions so early in their careers. The counterpoint of course is that absence of evidence is not evidence.

      Personally, I’d be willing to bet that the market is shifting. The Braves deals may look like overpays right now, but I think the Braves benefit by getting out in front of this changing market rather waiting. Baseball salaries are on an upward trajectory, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Eventually that trickles down to the arb-eligible guys too.

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      • jdbolick says:

        Dan, there really isn’t any risk of “crazy high arb awards,” or at least no more than you’re already assuming given that Kimbrel would need to break records for closers to cost as much as you’re suggesting during those seasons. I happen to agree with your assumption that he would break those records, but the history of arbitration suggests that he wouldn’t do so by huge amounts. And wouldn’t you agree that lately teams haven’t been inclined to give closers long deals once they do hit free agency, especially given how the Papelbon contract is viewed?

        So while buying one or two years of Kimbrel’s free agency at $13 million each is reasonable if he maintains his current performance level for that long (which would be unprecedented for a reliever), it wouldn’t appear to be a huge savings. Even Dave wrote as much, saying he is “not entirely sure that the upside of potentially having him around for one or two extra seasons at $13 million per year is worth the extra money they guaranteed him going forward.”

        Furthermore, the argument that the Braves benefit by getting out in front of a new market is questionable. For Atlanta to “benefit” from this, not only would this need to be a genuine market change instead of one GM overspending (of which we have plenty of examples across professional sports), but the market would then need to continue beyond the rise already enacted by the Braves. That’s why it has historically been a bad idea to be the team pushing salaries upward. If other teams don’t follow suit then you’ve handicapped yourself, and even if they do the only way you benefit is if contracts in the near-future continue to rise even higher. That is possible, but the risk of assuming as much is enormous and Atlanta doesn’t have the financial resources to overcome being wrong.

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        • Dan says:

          Regarding Kimbrel–there was a 40+% chance that Kimbrel would win his arb case this year. If he wins, he is in line for at least $13mm next year, and probably $16-18mm the 3rd year. That is what I am defining as “crazy high.” It’s probably worse than a coin flip that he got there, but there was a real possibility. If the Braves go to arb with him this year and lose, arbitration ends up paying him more on a 1 yr deal than he would get as a FA possibly as soon as 2015. That’s ridiculous, but was a real possibility with Kimbrel because he blows the nearest comps out of the water. I don’t necessarily agree with the extension, but if Kimbrel were to go to arb and win this year, he has much lower trade value, and he takes up an increasingly large portion of the Braves payroll.

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        • Dan says:

          “For Atlanta to “benefit” from this, not only would this need to be a genuine market change instead of one GM overspending (of which we have plenty of examples across professional sports), but the market would then need to continue beyond the rise already enacted by the Braves.”

          I don’t disagree with you in principle, but if you’re Mike Stanton, would you be willing to sign an extension for less than Freeman money? If he goes year to year, he is virtually guaranteed to be paid 25-40% more than Freeman over the same period. We can agree that Stanton is better on a per/AB basis, but there is value in Freeman’s greater durability. For another example, consider Jason Heyward; if he has two seasons of average Jason Heyward performance with no additional growth, he is likely to get 7 years at $150-170 million. Going year to year is clearly more lucrative for him, barring continuing nagging injuries. Other guys are going to look at Heyward and Freeman and decide that the Heyward path is more lucrative unless you can get a Freeman type deal with 3+ yrs service or Simmons deal with 1+ service.

          It’s something of a chicken or the egg argument here, but given the Simmons and Freeman extensions, you have to believe this changes the extension market for the truly elite 1-3 yr service guys. Simmons and Freeman are very good, but not yet elite young players. If you’re Miguel Sano or Bryce Harper or Byron Buxton 1-3 years from now, there is no way you’re expecting anything less than these contracts. From that perspective these deals are the minimum to even begin discussions on an extension.

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        • Anon21 says:

          “Furthermore, the argument that the Braves benefit by getting out in front of a new market is questionable. For Atlanta to “benefit” from this, not only would this need to be a genuine market change instead of one GM overspending (of which we have plenty of examples across professional sports), but the market would then need to continue beyond the rise already enacted by the Braves.”

          That’s wrong. Their benefit in the latter scenario is a) they control the rights to a bunch of talented young players and b) they are not paying those players the even higher salaries and/or additional years that they would have needed to if they waited until next offseason, when the market may have become clearer but when each player is a year closer to free agency.

          So yes, I agree with you that the worth of these signings is contingent on a new market for pre-arb players developing. But it’s not contingent on anything else; if the new market Dave posits is real, the Braves made a bunch of smart moves even if all the deals were merely “fair” under the new market valuations.

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  22. Matthew Murphy says:

    JJ Hardy is a good comp because he qualified for super-two status entering his age-25 season, as Simmons likely would have.

    JJ Hardy – Ages 22-24 – 310 G, 1204 PA – 40 HR, 144 RBI, .263 Avg – 6.3 WAR
    Simmons – 22-24 (proj) – 352 G, 1465 PA – 33 HR, 140 RBI, .261 Avg – 11 WAR

    Assuming Simmons stays healthy, he’ll have the edge in games played but not as many homers. Simmons extra value comes from his defense, but it’s difficult to predict how much that effects arbitration numbers. He already has one gold (and platinum) glove and is a safe bet to pick up a few more if he stays healthy. He’ll also probably make a few all-star games, but Hardy also made an all-star game as a 24-year old before his super-two arbitration year.

    Hardy went on to make 2.65 / 4.65 / 5.1 / 5.85, for a total of $18.25M. However, his last two seasons raises were minimal after getting demoted to triple-A in 2009 when he posted a .229 avg, and then followed it up with just 6 homers in 101 games in 2010. I think it would be fair to project Simmons to something like 0.5 / 3 / 5.5 / 8 / 10.5 for a total of 27.5M. They’ll be paying him $30M for that same time instead. While they’re guaranteeing him quite a bit of money, it’s pretty close to what he’d be expected to make, and they’re also protecting against a breakout. For that risk, they get a couple relatively cheap FA years. Think it’s a smart move for the Braves.

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  23. pft says:

    Braves spending a lot of money but are not really improving the team in the short term. These extensions may or may not pay off in the future, but they do add some risk and limit the amount that can be spent in the short term on filling holes via free agency

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  24. CJohnson says:

    The skepticism I have of this contract is that defensive value may not have the staying power of offense. For a player like Simmons who has so much of his value tied up in defense, that creates real potential for overvaluation. All of the studies I have read on the subject conclude that defensive performance peaks earlier than offensive performance. There may be a more rapid age-related decline in defensive value than we assume in the calculations.

    I think that’s why Bourn didn’t attract the free agent deals that WAR might have suggested: GMs feared that a relatively small loss of speed would cause his defensive value to decline rapidly as he aged. If Simmons is just somewhat above average defensively as an age 29 shortstop, his WAR declines by almost 3 wins.

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  25. Slee says:

    talk talk talk…all i know is I’m happy that i’ll be watching Simba, Freddie, Julio, & Kimbrel in ATL unis for years to come.

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