Franklin Gutierrez Locked Up

How things have changed in so short a period of time. The idea that the Mariners were this winter going to attempt to lock up Franklin Gutierrez to a contract buying out his arbitration years was known for months. However, how the news finally broke on the details of the contract speaks a lot to the information age in 2010. A Venezuelan reporter, Francisco Blavia, tweeted on the deal around noon Eastern Time. The news spread quickly, helped by the Mariners-focused presence on Twitter, and within just a couple hours we had confirmation from Ken Rosenthal. What advances await us this coming year in Twitter as a news broker?

Vague questions aside, lets look at this deal. Four years for $20.5 million, with a team option for a fifth year, is the word that came from Blavia and later confirmed.

Gutierrez obviously broke out with a 5.9 WAR season in 2009, powered by his super human exploits roving center field in Seattle. While that season was a new career mark for Franklin, Gutierrez was worth 1.8 wins over 301 PAs during 2007 and worth 2.3 wins in 440 PAs in 2008. On a per 600 PA basis, Gutierrez’s last three seasons, in order, then look like 3.6 WAR, 3.1 WAR and 5.6. Granted, just pro-rating the WARs out to full seasons isn’t exact, but just used as an example that Gutierrez’s 2009 season did not come completely out of nowhere statistically, even if PR-wise he was in Grady Sizemore‘s shadow in Cleveland.

Even entering his prime years (Franklin turns 27 in February), expecting six wins going forward would be optimistic. Given his age, numbers and track record, though, I believe four to five wins per year is entirely reasonable. I am going to stick with four WAR to try to be conservative. Wins on the open market have been going at $4.25-$4.5 million per win for the last couple years up until this winter, but have been down to about $4 million now. So roughly $17 million per season is what Gutierrez would be worth on the open market.

Franklin was entering his first arbitration year, so this deal buys out all arbitration years plus a free agency year, and likely a second year as well with the option. Four years at the standard 40%/60%/80%/100% arbitration award weighting comes out to 2.8 free agent seasons. With a 10% discount for the security that the length of the deal gives the player, at a four-win projection, Franklin Gutierrez would be a touch over $40 million for this service time span.

Interestingly enough, Grady Sizemore received about the exact same amount of money ($20.7M) for the same four service seasons, but that was signed four years ago. Curtis Granderson signed a deal two years ago that pays him about $7 million more for these same years. Both of those are good contracts for their teams and this one should be no exception. Another fabulous move for Jack Zduriencik and Seattle.

Print This Post

Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

31 Responses to “Franklin Gutierrez Locked Up”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Gonna be fun watching him out in center field for the next 4+ years.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. vivaelpujols says:

    CHONE projects him to be about 3.1 WAR per 150 games.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. MGL says:

    Right, 4 wins a year is not nearly a “conservative” projection for Franklin. It is a bad projection.

    Also, if nothing else, a player at that age gets docked .5 wins per year going forward, due to injury and aging. Without looking at my databases, I would have to also put him at 3-3.5 for 2010 and then .5 less per year after that.

    If we use Chone, which is a great projection system, and the .5 win decrease per year, we get 3.1, 2.6, 2.1, 1.6 for the next 4 years, or a total of 9.4 wins. That is 37.6 million on the FA market, but with the arb years, we have only 70% of that, which is 26.32 mil. Applying the 10% discount for the security of a multi-year contract and you get 23.7 mil as the fair value. So 20 mil is only a little bit of a good deal for the M’s.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • joelQ says:

      A good projection system? There is no such thing.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      Are you projecting Gutierrez to begin his age-related decline at 27? You just stated over at The Book: “BTW, looking at the aging patterns of players who have at least 5 years and 2000 PA in MLB by the time they are 30, I get a peak age of 28, a decline after that of around 1.5 to 2 runs per year until age 33”

      Color me confused. Gutierrez is going into his year 27 season, and going by what you say, should not be expected to suffer any age-related offense decline for a couple more years. A couple runs per year on defense of course, but that might be balanced out by a slight bit of offensive improvement. Aren’t you accelerating his decline for the next two seasons?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. MGL says:

    I should have added that the inflation rate typically cancels out a lot of the .5 win per year decline so that the contract is probably worth more than 23.7 mil.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Scottwood says:

    When projecting, should we always dock players .5 per year even if they are in their “prime” years? How well does that hold up for position players during their age 27-30 seasons?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Bob says:

    I know they’re going nuts over @ USS but how is this THAT great of a deal for the Mariners? Yes, this will theoretically cost the M’s less than Gutierrez would be worth on the free market, but that’s just it — he’s three years away from hitting the free agent market. The M’s bought 1 year of what would be Gutierrez’s free agent years plus a team option at what you would think are very good prices (an annual average of ~$5.1M per year). In return, though, they are overpaying for what he would receive in arbitration in guaranteed funds.

    Apparently Lookout Landing had Gutierrez penciled in for costing $2M this year through arbitration before this deal was signed. Seems pretty reasonable for a first-year arb guy who is a plus defender with an average-at-best bat (OPS+s each of the last three years are 104, 84, and 103). I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that even in this enlightened day that salary arbitrators are more easily swayed by offensive stats than defensive. If the M’s when year-to-year with Guti and the next three years played out roughly like 2007 – 2009, does anyone think it’s crazy to assume his salaries through arb would be something like $2M in 2010, $3.5M in 2011, and $5M in 2012? I think that’s being generous to Gutierrez, honestly, and that’s a total of $10.5M, with the club assuming almost all of the risk. That leaves the Ms guaranteeing to pay $10M for his 2013 season when he would be eligible for free agency. Sure that’s a good deal if he continues to be a 3+ WAR player at 30 years of age, but a lot can happen between now and then. Just ask Rocco Baldelli, Endy Chavez, Eric Chavez, Eric Hinske, and countless other players who looked like locks to be above average players to superstars how much can change in four years. Then there’s also at least some opportunity cost, as in the not-too-remote possibility that the team could fairly easily find another guy with an average bat and plus glove in four years that could essentially give them similar things for the league minimum.

    Again, the M’s seem to be taking all of the risk of guaranteeing money through Gutiarrez’s arb years for what they’re hoping is a discount in 2013. I hope it works out for them, but it won’t shock me if it doesn’t and we see a Fangraphs 2013 article stating how ‘it seemed like a steal at the time’.

    +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Bobo says:

      I kind of agree with Bob on this, that if there is one area that arbitrators are likely to undervalue it would be defense, and the Ms would have a good chance at winning some of these arb contest, coming away with some pretty lowball salary figures for a good player. However, there is little harm in trying to meet somewhere in the middle with a pretty fair contract rather than piss off a good player. I would think having the figures fixed on the payroll for the next couple of years would help from a planning perspective too. But had the Ms gone to arbitration every year with him I think they would have paid less than this contract does.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      Just to clarify something you said, if the M’s were to go year-to-year with Gutierrez during his remaining arb years, which is the baseline you’re comparing this contract to, the player would be assuming most of the risk through that period, not the team.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. maqman says:

    Well Bob now we know why Z is a GM and you’re not, but hang in there as there will no doubt be some NL openeings before the year is over.

    -20 Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. MarinersArmy says:

    I like it. It’s four (possibly five) years of not having to hassle with the arbitration discussions with Franklin; no chance of building animosity between the two groups.

    Now lets see if we can lock up Felix. I am praying…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. neuter_your_dogma says:

    Good deal for both sides.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Casadilla says:

    I’m surprised with the number of people who find this contract a bad move. But the more I consider the arguments, the more I am swayed.

    While the way skills are valued in baseball continue to evolve, it’s safe to say that defense is still not valued the way it is paid out to Gutierrez in this contract. What is more alarming, is that it seems to be based on roughly 1-2 of performance.

    So, I see a lot of risk involved for the M’s given his entire performance, age, length of the contract, and typical fluctuations in defensive stats.

    It’s definitely a win for Gutierrez, but could become bad quickly for the M’s.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Steve says:

      i don’t think the money is high enough where this would ever become “bad” for a team with the M’s payroll. the salary is modest enough that it shouldn’t handicap the team in any way.

      i think it’s a solid deal for both sides, slightly team friendly. which is usually what these pre-FA deals usually are. the player gets financial security for the rest of his life, the team gets a “discount” for taking on all of the injury risk and guaranteeing money before they had to.

      the discount seems significant enough where i’d call it a win for the Mariners, but this isn’t Longoria’s contract or anything.

      it’s a very nice deal, well done. but not everything the Mariners do has to be some masterstroke of staggering brilliance.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. MC says:

    Personally I think the arguments that are along the lines of: “Well, we know FG is worth $X per year, but arbitrators/other GM’s probably think he is only worth $Y per year, therefore, let’s try to push $Y per year on him” aren’t that appealing.

    I applaud Z for not trying to play that game. It’s hard enough trying to figure out what a player is worth, let alone trying to figure out what OTHER people may THINK that player is worth and then giving him a contract based on that.

    The fact is, FG is an excellent center fielder, he takes runs away from the other team, he takes outs away, he turns hits into outs, he saves that pitching staff runs, he prolongs that staff’s innings pitched. There are tremendous benefits to that alone.

    Injuries are always a risk but arguably less so when the player is entering his prime years, i.e. 27-31.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • todmod says:

      Sorry, but I don’t get this reasoning at all. Isn’t it always said that teams shouldn’t bid against themselves? There’s no reason to give players extra money just for “good will.” There was plenty of analysis on this exact subject during the Ryan Howard arb hearings.

      I agree that this won’t be a bad contract for the Mariners – they’re getting a great player at a good price. But analysis of how much money he would actually make isn’t “a game”, it’s essential.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • MC says:

        No I never said that they should big against themselves – that implies overbidding; overbidding to me, would be if FG was worth $X, and the Mariners were afraid that other teams thought he was worth $X + $Y, so the Mariners would offer FG $X+$Y or even $X+$Y+$Z.

        If the M’s think FG is good enough to add, say 3 wins, and those 3 wins would bring in however many more fans, thus bringing in however much more revenue, it makes sense to pay him whatever is in line with that additional revenue. It makes no sense, IMO, to say, FG is worth 3 wins, so we’ll lowball him because we think that other people think something else.

        They are not bidding against themselves, to the contrary they are probably offering him below fair value, even if that fair value may be more than his market value (because teams just don’t value defense). Otherwise, you are taking the risk that you are misreading other teams’ valuation of FG, or their future evaluation of FG. IMO, Z’s in the “player evaluation game”, not the “evaluation of other teams’ player evaluation” game.

        To put it in other terms, I am basically saying the M’s shouldn’t take part in a Keynesian beauty contest, which it seems to me they’re not.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Steve says:

        Not sure what this rant is trying to say. FG is NOT a free agent. He cannot go to any other team for the next 3 seasons.

        Therefore, the Mariners should base his salary on a reasonable estimate of what he should be expected to get during the next 3 years under the rules of arbitration. That includes estimating what they believe they could offer to win a hearing and estimating what they believe FG would ask for at a hearing. Then, if you don’t want to “lowball” him, you would try to reach a compromise somewhere between those two numbers, which should also entice him to “sell” one of his FA years at a discount.

        That is all.

        The Mariners should NOT be looking at how much additional revenue he brings in and paying him accordingly. That may be how you would value a player on the free market, but the rules of the CBA mean that FG is not a player on the free market. All of these points you are making about how “other teams” value FG are basically irrelevant.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • MC says:

        Well, Steve, they don’t just pick the arbitration salary numbers out of a hat, do they?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Steve says:

        Your post still makes no sense.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Steve says:

        OK, backing up, what exactly are you “applauding” Jack Z for doing or not doing?

        I guarantee you that the Mariners laid out their best estimate of what FG would stand to earn in arbitration over the next 3 years, and made an offer in line with that.

        You make it sound like they did not do that, and we should celebrate that for some reason.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Jeff says:

    I understand that run prevention is just as important as run prodution, and that Franklin Gut’s run prevention is worth just as much as runs scored by a guy like Jason Bay, but to me finding someone who can hit like Bay is much harder than finding a good fielder..

    Couldnt teams find guys in AAA for the leauge minimum that cant hit but field as good as Franklin??? Finding above replacement hitters is harder…

    So I cant understand why paying Franklin G for his defense is such a bargin, when you might find someone for the league minimum who could produce a close result…

    Basically I dont think runs above replacment that come from defense should be monitarily valued as much as runs above replacement for hitting…

    Sure they are both equal when it comes to helping your team win, but $$$ wise they should NOT be valued the same IMO!!!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Felonius_Monk says:

      Gutierrez is also somewhere in the ballpark of a league average hitter. There are probably a handful of outfielders with similar defense to Gutierrez knocking around for the league minimum, but most of these guys are probably replacement-level or worse with the bat (someone like Endy Chavez and his career .300 wOBA is probably a good example).

      Just because a “defense-first” guy has most of his value tied up in his glove, doesn’t make his hitting irrelevant. They have to be able to wield a stick vaguely competently at major league level to be worth much, even if they field a very difficult position very well. Likewise, even a very good hitter who is “all-bat and no glove” needs at least a “crappy” rather than “historically appalling” glove to be worth much – see Dunn, Adam.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. bballer319 says:

    I would say that runs above replacement for defense are just as valuable as hitting (but agree that they should not be valued the same).

    The value paid should also be reflective of availability to replace and I do believe it is far easier to replace good defense than is with good offense or so I’m lead to believe. The value received however is fairly equivalent (although I don’t fully understand the specific details of how the values are created). Because not only is there run prevention with defense (as was said above), good defense also prolongs the pitcher’s outings which in turn may prevent a lot of injuries and wear for younger pitchers toward the end of a season. How exactly one could value those items is beyond me, but it seems the package of benefits from good defense is just as valuable as offense. The actual value will vary per team based on the age, durability, etc of their pitching staff.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Suumike says:

    The moverepresents a signal on the part of the “Zenius”, that players who show up, work hard, are positive in the club house and give him quantifiable assets toward team success, they will be rewarded. Clearly FG and his agent look at the contrat the same way as those of you who see he could have made more dollars in ytoy arbitration.

    Jack Zduriencik had to clean up the Bavasi mess, which included a bad clubhouse. While this contract can be viewed as good or questionable depending on how you look at it, there may have been qualiative reasons that don’t make as much sense on such a quantitative discussion board.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Suumike says:

    BTW FG and Felix are best friends on the club and from the same country.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Jim says:

    Comparing the arbitration-eligible years of the contract to an estimate of the three would-be arbitration awards is self-consistent, but only because it ignores the way arbitration is actually used. While it’s theoretically possible to keep a player through their entire arbitration-eligible period by going back to arbitration each year, it never happens that way. Players and their agents want to sign contracts, or be traded to a team that will, and GMs want to fix the value of their assets and liabilities, or trade them for fixable ones. That leaves plenty of time to work something out, so the overwhelming majority of players who gain eligibility never go before an arbitrator.

    The arbitration process brings extra costs for the GM, like uncertainty about the outcome, negative perceptions about the team by players and their agents throughout professional baseball, and a possibly disgruntled player if the team “wins” the case. For the potential rewards to overcome all of that, the agent’s demands must be so unreasonable that the team would rather trade the player than negotiate. The threat of eventual arbitration doesn’t give the GM leverage against a player that other teams want, and can even erode leverage by driving the player to request a trade.

    Basing an offer on the idea that a series of three arbitration settlements is one of the realistic outcomes would be ignorant and would tell all the agents, especially the ones representing amateur talent, that no one is minding the store. The GM would probably be fired before they could force arbitration for the second time. So arbitration can be ignored, and the real comparison is between the actual deal, some hypothetical short-term deal, and the hypothetical proceeds of trading Gutierrez before the season. It’s possible that freak events, gross incompetence and/or arbitration could lead to something else, but those were highly unlikely.

    Vote -1 Vote +1