Is Jose Reyes Suffering From Crawford Backlash?

Last week, the Marlins made an offer to every free agent with a pulse. At the heart of their “Sign Everyone!” plan is Jose Reyes, who reportedly received a six year, $90 million offer to move to Miami. While this was just an initial offer and Reyes will likely extract a bit more from whoever ends up signing him, it seems likely that he’s going to end up getting significantly less than Carl Crawford received from the Red Sox last winter.

That seems a little odd to me, given that they’re almost identical players.


Source: FanGraphsCarl Crawford, Jose Reyes

Both reached the Majors at age 20 and became free agents after their age 28 seasons, and both players rely on the same basic offensive skillset to provide value. Here are Crawford’s numbers from 2002 to 2010 compared with Reyes’ same numbers from 2003 to 2011.

Name PA BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR
Crawford 5395 5.40% 14.20% 0.148 0.331 0.296 0.337 0.444 0.347 113 21
Reyes 4840 6.90% 10.50% 0.149 0.314 0.292 0.341 0.441 0.346 112 18.5

Low walk, high contact, gap-hitting speedsters with nearly identical offensive results over 5,000 plate appearances. You really don’t find two more similar hitters than this very often, and for them to hit free agency at the same age in back to back years makes the comparison even easier. In reality, there are only two differences that should significantly affect their value:

1. Health. Both have had leg problems and experienced periods of down performance directly related to their inability to run at full speed, but Reyes’ injury problems lingered a bit more than Crawford’s did, causing him to spend a bit more time on the DL overall. He also had a DL stint in his walk year, which Crawford did not, so there’s a recent health issue with Reyes that Crawford didn’t have.

2. Position. While Crawford was considered an elite defensive player for his position, he was still a left fielder, and those are easier to find than shortstops. While our framework shows that they’ve accumulated similar defensive value over their careers (Reyes’ UZR+POS is +60.1 compared to Crawford’s +58.9), defensive value that comes from playing an up-the-middle spot is still more easily accepted than premium defensive performance at a corner outfield spot. You don’t have to buy into something like UZR to believe that Reyes’ defense is a significant asset, so his defensive value is perhaps a bit more of a known quantity.

Obviously, the former difference works against Reyes, while the second one works in his favor. Both essentially are tied to risk tolerance, and deal with how certain teams feel about making projections of future value due to some specific uncertainty. In Reyes’ case, the uncertainty is playing time, while in Crawford’s case, it was the predictive nature of defensive metrics. Both players essentially had established themselves as elite players, but their value came with one caveat.

In Crawford’s case, that caveat didn’t stop him from landing a seven year, $142 million contract. In Reyes’ case, it seems unlikely that he’s going to get very close to that number, and could come in with an overall guaranteed dollar figure that is just 65-70% of what Crawford got. Is the health risk with Reyes so much more of a concern than the questions surrounding Crawford’s defensive value, or perhaps more likely, is Reyes suffering from the fallout of Carl Crawford’s miserable 2011 season?

Given that there’s such a natural comparison between the two, it’s not hard to imagine that teams are re-evaluating whether or not players with this type of skillset are worth investing significant money in after Crawford’s face-plant in Boston last year. If teams see Crawford as Reyes’ most comparable player in the sport, then having just watched the worst case scenario play out in front of a national audience would understandably make them a bit gun shy. Any big contract is going to come with risk, but it’s harder to justify the risk when you’re watching the last guy who just jumped out of the same airplane still fumbling around with his parachute and hoping to God that it opens pretty soon.

It isn’t often that we see salaries for similar free agents retreat from one season to the next. Given the contract that Matt Kemp just got, as well as the spending we’ve seen on lower-tier free agents to date, it seems unlikely that we’re about to see a total market reversal from last year’s established prices. Instead, it seems that Reyes is simply not getting the same offers that rolled in a year ago because Crawford was a miserable failure in his first year in Boston.

I’d argue this probably isn’t fair to Reyes, and may actually be serving to make him something of a bargain relative to other free agents. After all, at $90 million over six years, the Marlins are essentially valuing Reyes as about a +4 win player going forward. Given that he was a +6 win player in 126 games last year, that kind of contract would allow Reyes to earn the money even if he experienced significant regression and continued to miss a decent amount of time.

It’s understandable why teams would hold Crawford’s 2011 failures against a nearly identical free agent a year later, but it’s hard for me to see how Reyes’ market value could actually be $50 million below what Crawford was worth just 12 months ago. Crawford’s failures might highlight the possible downside of signing Reyes, but his collapse doesn’t mean that Reyes is going to follow in his footsteps.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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mister_rob
Guest
mister_rob

I didnt get the Crawford deal from the get-go. Never could have predicted such a dropoff, but it still didnt make sense on a long term basis

Game-changing speed is not something that ages well. Take away the speed and in both cases here you are left with guys with pretty blah OPS’s and diminishing defensive value

Tim Raines and Ricky Henderson forged on for years after their breakaway speed diminished because they were still very good at other things (namely getting on base). Guys such as Eric Young faded away because they didnt have enough other skills to overcome the loss of the blazing speed

Carl Crawford is one blown quad away from becoming Marlon Byrd
Jose Reyes is one blown quad away from becoming a less powerful Michael Young

RC
Guest
RC

Game changing speed is exactly what ages well.

Plate discipline tends to get better as players get older, as does power, while contact ability and speed get worse.

Guys who are already marginal in contact ability and speed tend to fall off a cliff. Guys who are great with those things get worse with them, but it tends to be more than offset by the increases in power and discipline.

IsoP is largely multiplicative (not additive, like people assume).

So, when your .250/.350/.500 hitter drops to .200, he turns into something like .200/.290/.400

Guys who rely entirely on power are the guys who age poorest.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas

I agree with OBP, but how much is power really going to increase after age 27?

Greg H
Guest
Greg H

I disagree with your assertion that speed doesn’t age well because the numbers prove you wrong. But I thought it was a bad deal for Boston at the time because Crawford wasn’t a good fit. I know I wasn’t alone. As Dave points out, Crawford’s value was tied up in his ability to run and play defense in LF. And the effects of Fenway Park diminish the value of those skills. If Boston had been able to get a leftfielder with Carl Crawford’s skill set for a bargain, then fine. But sinking $142 million and the attached opportunity cost on a guy who will play deep shortstop 81 games a year and in all probabilty won’t be given the green light to steal bases like he did in Tampa made no sense to me. And I came to this conclusion with the assumption that Carl Crawford would continue to play like Carl Crawford instead of turning into Doug Glanville.

sheath1976
Member
sheath1976

I’ll tell you what would make Crawford age better after watching him for a full 162 last year. Fix his swing. The man strides directly torward first base with his right foot when swinging the bat. The man is big, strong, fast and has remained remarkably healthy over the course of his career. Whatever the statistics say these things should allow him to age well if he works on some basic fundamentals. He never has had great hitters hands and never will yet his approaach could be greatly improved upon. I also think Fenway plays different than most ballparks and although his arm is not elite he should be roaming the vastness of right field at Fenway even if a few extra runners go first to third. Especially if the other corner outfielder for the Sox ends up with a strong arm. Strong arms in Left at the Fens can turn doubles into singles or outs. Keeping men off second base obviously keeps double plys in order. Crawford has a chance to age well if he is willing to change his identity at the plate. He has the body to age well. Does he have the drive and the mind to make it happen?

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter

He had that swing when they gave him the contract. He had the swing when he was putting up great numbers in Tampa. If the swing is his problem, then it should have come to fruition before 2011.

Walter Guest
Guest
Walter Guest

I didn’t see much of Crawford but when I did, the swing surprised me. It did look kinda weird. Of course, as the man said, that’s what got him here. If the swing is the problem then it’s a big, big problem.

Try telling a guy who’s been ultra successful that he has to change something.

Won’t happen.

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