Free Agent Values: Mark Teixeira

Like we did this afternoon with CC Sabathia, let’s take a look at what we think Mark Teixeira should sign for this winter if the market is somewhat rational. The first step in ascertaining a player’s worth in dollars is figuring out his worth in wins, so let’s take a look at Teixeira’s on field value.

While he’s had some ridiculously hot stetches of hitting, in the aggregate, Teixeira has been quite consistent the last two years: .306/.400/.563 in 2007 and .308/.410/.552 in 2008. As a 28-year-old in his prime, he’s established a level of performance that clearly reflects his abilities, and we shouldn’t expect him to either improve or decline significantly from these marks. This is what Teixeira is – a .300 hitter with power and walks, and one of the game’s best switch hitters.

We see that he racked up 6.46 WPA/LI over the last two seasons, for a 150 game average of about +3 wins compared to a league average hitter. That’s impressive. We can dock him one win for the position adjustment, since first baseman hit quite a bit better than the league average as a group, put that still makes him +2 wins compared to an average offensive first baseman.

Teixeira’s not just a hitter, though – he’s also a pretty good defensive first baseman. How good is up for debate – the +/- system had him at +24 in 2008, but -4 in 2007, while other systems have him as somewhere between above average and very good. I’m comfortable calling him a +10 defensive first baseman. That adds a win right back to his total.

He’s at +3 wins compared to average, and adding in a +2 win adjustment for replacement level, Teixeira comes out as a +5 win first baseman. That’s a true all-star. He’s not Albert Pujols, but he’s clearly in the next tier of players.

If Teixeira is a +5 win player, and we use the $5.5 million per win projection for off-season spending, that gives us a $27.5 million figure for 2009. Again, we’ll factor in a 10% discount off of his current value for the safety of a long term deal, and that gives us something like $24.5 million for Teixeira. Teams are more comfortable giving longer deals to hitters than pitchers, so let’s pencil him in for a 7 year, $171 million contract.

Now, with the Yankees acquiring Nick Swisher yesterday, that might take one big bidder out of the market. Will Arte Moreno have to go this high to keep T-Rex if the Yankees aren’t trying to lure him away? I doubt it, so my guess is he’ll sign for something more like 6/150. But if the Yankees get back involved, don’t be surprised if he ends up closer to our original figure – 28 year old, +5 win position players don’t hit the market every year.




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


13 Responses to “Free Agent Values: Mark Teixeira”

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  1. acblue says:

    Dave-

    It is a commonly held opinion that long-term, big-money contracts for 1B/DH types are almost never a wise investment. Is there any reason to think Teixeira could be an exception to this?

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  2. Jim says:

    Teix isn’t a 1b/DH type. He is a very good defensive 1st baseman.

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  3. Marc says:

    Teixeira is a badass with the leather.

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  4. Sky says:

    Not only is Teixeira a great fielder, he’s awesome with the bat, and not merely very good. I’ve got him as the seventh most productive player last year, sandwiched between Lance Berkman and Alex Rodriguez. And my own projection puts him as worth $25MM, so we’re in exact agreement.

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  5. acblue says:

    I guess I should clarify; I’m not trying to suggest that Teixeira is not currently an excellent player. That would be crazy, as he’s obviously tremendously valuable.

    My question is this; is Teixeira going to remain valuable enough to justify a $25MM (and likely more towards the end of his contract, since it’s likely to be back loaded) yearly salary? His (tremendous, it must be noted) value as a hitter is attained through old player skills. If his current true talent level defensively at 1B is +10, how long before he becomes neutral defensively, shaving a win off of his value? He’s likely out of his defensive prime, or at least close to seeing some drop-off as a defender.

    Given what is known about player aging curves, I think it’s hard to deny that hitters with old player skills are likely to decline earlier (and have a higher potential for total collapse) than other players. Big sluggers also see their defensive value decline much earlier (and to a more extreme degree) than other players. Teixeira is a big slugger with old player skills. So what makes him different? Is there something that makes him different that I’m just missing?

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  6. CaR says:

    acblue- What exactly is known about player aging curves? I have seen some theories, backed up with corresponding “locks” for failure. I have also seen the rise of shaky defensive metrics converted into win values, calculated at the same levels of importance as the offensive numbers. These two items have coincedentally met at the apex of analysis for a certain lf of the Mariners, who apparently didn’t get the memo about sucking for the last 4 years, due to his “old-player skills.”

    If one doesn’t have to leave his own backyard to find a glaring flaw in an analytical “tool”, it just might be time to question its validity to begin with.

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  7. acblue says:

    CaR-

    There are certainly exceptions to every rule, and offensively at least Ibanez has proven to be one. I would argue that Ibanez’s failure to decline at the plate has been more than offset by the collapse of his already suspect defensive abilities, but that’s neither here nor there. My larger point is that if you’re going to use one exception as proof that the analysis is flawed, then we have wildy different ideas about the purpose of metric analysis.

    think you’d be hard pressed to make a case that players like Ibanez are anything other than a divergence from what should be expected. It’s possible that there’s another element to skillset analysis and aging curves that we’re missing that would explain anomalies like Ibanez; I’d go so far as to say it’s probable. That’s part of the reason I’m wondering about Teixeira in the first place.

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  8. CaR says:

    I have read the lecture on probobility that you seem to be referring to. I made the point above that if one finds a player from the team that he follows closely, without going through the rest of the league, it presents a problem. The flaw that I see in the probobilty “laws’ that you cite is that they are much more applicable in an environment with larger samples. Since there are a very finite number of MLB players, and even less at a particular position or type, having at least several anomolies renders the analysis IMO somewhat useless.

    As a practical matter, for this theory to have value, it must have a pretty high success rate, otherwise it falls closer to the coincedental realm. In this case, and widening its scope, my thoughts are that having a scouts view, or observing a particular hitter, would be much more beneficial. Its possible to watch a guys’ approach at the plate, see if he cheats on cripple pitches, see if he gets beat by fb’s early in the count etc. and decide whether he is an aging hitter, or a seasoned one.

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  9. Dave Cameron says:

    You mean like the way the Dodgers scouts realized that Andruw Jones wasn’t an aging hitter, just a seasoned one?

    Pointing to one outlier isn’t analysis. The evidence in favor of the reliability of WAR ratings is long and well detailed. You’ve offered… cynicism?

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  10. CaR says:

    Dave, now I need some Latin parable to show how lousy that response was. I’m not the one on record claiming that what, the last 2 Ibanez contracts were gross overpays, ? you are. Instead of admitting a flaw in whatever system that you have used to declare one particular player to be an awful contract for those 4 years, you have instead reached out as far as you can so not to I presume, admit that perhaps you don’t quite have the handle on projection that you claim. Again, smallish numbers of a subset require more accuracy on your part then to be brushed aside as an outlier.

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  11. FlimtotheFlam says:

    $5.5 mil seems awfully high per Win. I thought it was $4.4 mil per Win. I am curious where did $5.5 come from? I got mine from Tango

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  12. Terry says:

    CaR,

    You’ve obviously done a great deal of research on the issue of WAR given your deeply felt beliefs on the subject. You’ve pointed to Ibanez as an example where offensive projections missed. You’ve argued that scouting is much more trustworthy. Could you please share with us the data you’ve collected that have led your conclusions?

    Thanks!
    I

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  13. Nick says:

    Hello guys, this is my first post on here but I was wondering what you guys thought of Boston going after him. I thought the sox were set on lars anderson being their first baseman next season? any chance he signs with the nats?

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