Contract Crowdsourcing Results: First Baseman

Well, you guys certainly don’t see much of a difference between the second tier free agent first baseman. The results of our afternoon crowdsourcing:

Average length:

Paul Konerko: 2.43 years
Carlos Pena: 2.25 years
Aubrey Huff: 2.20 years
Lance Berkman: 1.68 years
Lyle Overbay: 1.44 years

Average salary:

Konerko: $10.96 million
Pena: $8.94 million
Huff: $8.80 million
Berkman: $7.70 million
Overbay: $4.80 million

Median contract:

Konerko: 2 years, $20 million
Pena: 2 years, $16 million
Huff: 2 years, $16 million
Berkman: 2 years, $16 million
Overbay: 1 year, $5 million

Standard deviations:

Konerko: 0.90 years, $3.73 million
Pena: 1.00 years, $3.44 million
Huff: 0.76 years, $2.88 million
Berkman: 0.69 years, $2.85 million
Overbay: 0.70 years, $2.24 million

The Berkman result is, to me, the most surprising one yet. I’ll take the under by a good margin on his deal, as I think he ends up settling for something like 1 year, $5 million. I’ll take the under on Huff as well, though I could see the Giants rewarding him for a good 2010 season after getting the World Series. If they let him test his market value as a free agent, though, I don’t think he’ll get 2/16, given his history of inconsistency. I’ll take the over on Konerko’s average salary, though I agree that two years is probably all he’ll get. Pena and Overbay sound about right.

Add in the availability of Adam Dunn, along with guys we didn’t project like Derrek Lee, Adam LaRoche, Nick Johnson, and Russell Branyan, and the market for first baseman is going to be very crowded this winter. I don’t think anyone’s going to land a big deal as teams will have too many other options to get tied into overpaying any one player.




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


30 Responses to “Contract Crowdsourcing Results: First Baseman”

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  1. Jeremy says:

    For the Cubs I’d so much rather have Berkman at 1/$5 than Dunn at 3/$36.

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    • Bad Bill says:

      I agree: I’d a lot rather the Cubs had Berkman at 1/$5 than Dunn at 3/$36.

      Then again, I’m a Cardinals fan …

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      • Alireza says:

        Um, except that Berkman is not a defensive butcher (excellent at 1B, far better than Dunn in the OF) and is coming off a year where his BABIP was 35 points lower than his career average.

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      • Lintyfresh says:

        Alireza,

        Mind telling me how Dunn did at 1B in 2010, the first year he played the position exclusively?

        Butcher is a bit drastic, no?

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  2. RMR says:

    I had each of those guys at 1 year except for Konerko. There seems to be quite the glut of 1B on the downside of their careers or with big red flags.

    How many GMs are going to give multiple years to a guy with a batting average that starts with a 1. We all know Pena will regress (in a positive way), but I think we’re going to see tons of downward pressure, especially if Dunn takes his time signing.

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  3. Boomer says:

    Think I had:
    Konerko 3, $36
    Berkman, 1, $6
    Pena, 1, $5
    Huff, 2, $14
    Overbay, 1, $5

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  4. Jacob Jackson says:

    I think the Red Sox will let Beltre walk, collect the two high picks, push Youkilis back over to third, and sign one of these first basemen to a one-year deal. That positions them to sign A-Gon or Pujols to a massive deal after the 2011 season.

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  5. B N says:

    I’m not quite sure why Berkman would only be due 5m, personally. The guy showed plus defensive skills this year, even at his advanced age, and while having an injury-limited year he was still put up a WAR over 2. By comparison, Overbay had a WAR of 1.5 and has less upside and he’s listed as being worth about 1 year, 5m.

    Given that Berkman had a 2 WAR season last year, his worst season, and had two much better seasons prior- is there any particular reason he should settle for a make-good contract? He’s still walking at a 16% rate and had a bad BABIP, which would both seem to indicate next year being a better season than 2010. And his defensive metrics indicate that he’s probably as good or better defensively than any of the other guys listed.

    Other than his age, no metric I can see says that Berkman is likely to be worse than the other guys listed. Saying he’s only worth 5m seems to be an overcorrection based upon him previously being overpaid over the last couple years. I can’t imagine that Berkman is projected for less than 2.5 WAR next year, so a 1 year 5m seems like an awfully big steal for any team.

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    • B N says:

      And, for everyone’s information- Berkman is the same age as Konerko. So I’m even more perplexed why people seem to think that 2.5 years at 10m+ makes any sense. So… Berkman has been better over the last 3 years (though 1.5 WAR worse last year), they’re the same age, and suddenly Konerko is worth 10m over 2 or 3, while Berkman is worth 1 at 5m? Recency bias maybe?

      FYI people, Konerko hit 40pts higher than his career BABIP this year and had a 3% higher HR/FB rate, so he’s due for some regression next year probably. I’m just at a loss as to how the valuations of these guys should be so far afield. My prediction would be that next year they have a WAR within 0.5 of each other.

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    • Hank says:

      I agree with most of that and I do think it will come down to perception and recency as opposed to regression.

      I think there will be a natural tendency to overweight Konerko’s past year as well as overweight Berkman’s last year (wasn’t he still recovering from knee surgery early on?). I think there’s a pretty good chance that barring injury, Berkman will surprise next year relative to what he likely gets paid.

      I also wonder if GM’s are valuing defense correctly…. I think there may be some position bias and I wonder if there is a tendency to value the good and bad defenders differently than the the folks “in between”. In other words would a GM value the difference between a player with a UZR or +12 vs one with a +5, the same as a player as with a +5 vs one with a -2? In theory, both scenarios have the same UZR gap, but I wonder if some GM’s resort to an elite, good, bad and “everyone else” classification system. (where everyone else in approx the +7 to -3 range is lumped together)

      And I have mentioned this before as have others… Is UZR measuring the 1B position well? I have doubts (based on absolutely no data!) about the range component and to a lesser extent the double play component.

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      • B N says:

        I agree with that analysis. Also, I have my doubts about UZR and 1B also but feel that it’s capturing quite a bit of the variance at least. Even though it doesn’t seem to account for scoops or vertical range, it still gives a decent estimate usually. Having seen Konerko and Berkman play this year, I could believe that Berkman is still as good or better in the field. With that said, very few teams are grabbing 1B options based upon 2-3 runs in defensive value anyways it seems.

        I tend to wonder how teams judge defense too. It seems to vary a lot by the team. I’d also tend to think that a decent number of clubs must be using some in-house metrics. I mean, if you’re going to sign players worth 100 million dollars- wouldn’t it behoove you to spend 80k on a good analyst or two to work on defensive measures so you get the right guys? On the other hand, clubs like the Royals seem to gauge defensive ability by throwing darts or something, so mileage may vary…

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  6. Anon says:

    The plural of man is men.

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  8. Mike K says:

    I think I may have contributed to screwing up Berkman’s numbers. I didn’t read closely enough and I think I picked 2/20 for him, when I should have picked 2/10 – the question was $ per year not total contract. If a lot of people voted for Berkman it won’t matter much but if only a few did I could have skewed his result by a million $$ or so.

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  9. Matt says:

    I could see Berkman having a Vlad-like offensive resurgence this upcoming season, if reasonably healthy. I think it would behoove the Cubs to look at him on a 1yr deal, as opposed to getting locked into Dunn for a few seasons. That move would allow the Cubs to keep their powder dry and compete for AGON & Fielder next offseason.

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  10. guest says:

    Matt, I don’t think that participating in the Fielder’s sweepstakes is something clubs want to do…

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  11. Virgil Pryor says:

    I agree the Cubs should seriously consider Berkman on short-term deal, but honestly, I’m not really sure I understand all the anti-Dunn sentiment among Cub fans. I understand 2010 was a disaster, but I don’t see any reason why they can’t contend next year. I don’t think there is any feasible scenario where you would call them “favorites,” but that doesn’t mean they have a 0% chance at making the postseason. It might require a bit of luck for them to sneak into the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean that they should completely freeze their spending and punt next year.

    The bottom line is, signing Dunn wouldn’t take away any ABs from a younger player with upside, and as long as he can be had at a reasonable deal (he’d be bargain at 3/$30M), there’s really no reason why the Cubs shouldn’t consider him a viable option. Unless they’re convinced they have no chance of contending in the next 2-3 years, then there’s no reason they shouldn’t pursue affordable players at positions of need who make them better for years to come.

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    • Virgil Pryor says:

      I understand the general wariness towards investing in 1B , but the main premise behind signing Dunn is that he can be had at a reasonable deal. Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez and the like– they would require breaking the bank, which is something the Cubs are very unlikely to do.

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      • Virgil Pryor says:

        And as Dave mentioned, the market for 1B will be so crowded that it has to effect everyone, even Dunn at the top. Maybe he gets closer to $12M annually, but I could also see him settling for closer to $10M. And at $10M Dunn is something of a bargain.

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    • CFIC says:

      as a Cardinals fan, I will be very unhappy if the Cubs sign Dunn… but it’s comforting to know that they will probably F it up and not sign him.

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  12. CFIC says:

    Berkman is the best first baseman on that list… wtf

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  13. Darren says:

    Agree, Berkman was a 7 WAR player 3 years ago. I would go as high as $50M over 4.

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    • phoenix says:

      i dont think 4 years, because he has to get old sometime. he still looks pretty good minus some bad luck. but otherwise i agree he is deserving of at least 10 to 15 over a year or two. but unfortunately teams has a mortal fear of age, regardless of production…

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    • Jason B says:

      $50M over 4!! Holy smokes, Omar Minaya has a FanGraphs account!

      I kid, I kid. But that would be just a *horrid* signing for someone obviously settling into a decline phase and beginning to have more health issues. His “earn” on that may be fifty cents on the dollar.

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      • B N says:

        Haha, yah. I have trouble seeing anybody signing most of these guys for more than 2 years. I mean… Carlos Pena is the only one under 34! Seriously. I think all of these guys have a productive year or two in them, but putting down 3+ guaranteed for any of them seems kind of crazy to me.

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      • B N says:

        Correction. Overbay is also under 34, at a sprightly 33. But he kind of sucks, unless you really like a platoon at 1B. Not to say I don’t like him, but nobody is giving that guy a multi-year deal unless it’s a great value.

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  14. Mr Punch says:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve read that Konerko is planning his retirement and is looking for dollars not years. That suggests 2 years at $20m+; I could see the Bosox jumping at that (along the lines of JJ’s speculation).

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