Jose Reyes And Other Big Money Shortstops

The Marlins made the first big move of the winter meetings Sunday night, agreeing to sign Jose Reyes to a six-year contract worth $106 million. It’s obviously the largest contract in franchise history, more than doubling the four-year, $52 million pact signed by Carlos Delgado prior to the 2005 season. It’s also the second largest contract ever given to a free agent shortstop, and the fourth largest ever given to a shortstop overall.

Reyes joined some exclusive company with his contract, becoming just the fourth shortstop to secure a nine-figure contract. Two of the other three guys are first ballot Hall of Famers, and the third is one of the five best players in the world. The Marlins are hoping Reyes will live up to those standards during the next six years, as well as spark interest in Miami’s Latin American community. Here is a breakdown of how four of baseball’s wealthiest shortstops performed during the life of their contract…

Alex Rodriguez – ten years, $252 million

For all intents and purposes, A-Rod was the perfect free agent when he hit the open market after the 2000 season. He was a 25-year-old shortstop that played above-average defense and already had three 8+ WAR seasons and five 4.5+ WAR seasons to credit. Tom Hicks and the Rangers took a lot of heat for bidding against themselves and overpaying, but at least they overpaid for the right kind of player — an up-the-middle superstar in his mid-20′s.

A-Rod’s tenure with the Rangers lasted just three years, during which he played in 485 of 486 possible games, racked up 27.1 WAR, and won an MVP Award (probably should have been two). He voluntarily moved to third base to facilitate his trade to the Yankees, costing himself a handful of runs a year in positional adjustment. Rodriguez won two more MVP Awards in New York and picked up another 30 WAR over the next four seasons before opting out of the final three years of his contract. A-Rod was paid $171 million during the seven years of the contract and provided approximately $181.9 million in value with his on-field production.

Derek Jeter – ten years, $189 million

Unlike Reyes and A-Rod, Jeter was not a free agent when this deal was signed (before the 2001 season). The Yankees and their eventual captain agreed to this contract one year before he was scheduled to hit free agency, one year after they had tentatively agreed to a seven-year, $118.5 million deal. Believe it or not, George Steinbrenner did not want to set a salary record, so the seven-year agreement fell through and was replaced by a one-year, $10 million pact.

Jeter was 26 years old when he landed the contract and was coming off four straight 3.8+ WAR seasons, including 6.5 and 7.5 WAR in 1998 and 1999, respectively. As you know, Jeter’s offense was never a problem, it was his defense. He produced 246.3 runs with his bat and baserunning during the life of his contract, but gave back 59.5 runs with his glove. All told, Jeter produced 47.8 WAR during his deal, which was worth approximately $169 million in on-field value.

Troy Tulowitzki – seven years, $134 million

Depending on who you ask, Tulo signed either a seven-year, $134 million contract, or a ten-year, $157.75 million contract. I tend to fall into the former category because he was already under contract for $23.75 million from 2011-2013, but we’re arguing technicalities. The Rockies extended their franchise player three years before he was scheduled to hit free agency, and more than likely four years before he was scheduled to hit free agency thanks to the 2014 club option in the original deal.

Anyway, Tulowitzki — who wears number two because he idolized Jeter growing up; I’m sure that makes Derek feel old — had produced three 5.6+ WAR seasons in his first four years as a big leaguer at the time of the huge extension. He tacked on another 6.3 WAR in 2011. Colorado did take on serious risk with the extension, but like I said with A-Rod, a superstar up-the-middle player in his mid-20′s is a pretty good player to gamble on.

Miguel Tejada – six-years, $72 million

Jeter, A-Rod, and Nomar Garciaparra got a lot of attention as the “Big Three” shortstops in the late-90′s, but Tejeda wasn’t that far behind them. Did he deserve the 2002 MVP over A-Rod? No, almost certainly not, but produced four straight 3.2+ WAR seasons leading up to his big payday, which came from the Orioles. Tejeda was a few months short of his 30th birthday when he signed his deal, though he wasn’t great defensively and relied on power rather than on-base skills to drive his offense. He was also insanely durable, having played in at least 159 games every year from 1999-2003.

The first three years of the contract were the three best years of Tejeda’s career, valued at 6.5, 5.1, and 5.2 WAR, respectively. He played in all 162 games in each of those years, making it six consecutive seasons without missing a game. Tejeda managed to stick at shortstop during the life of the deal, producing 25.3 WAR and $94.3 million in on-field value. This contract typically gets a bad rap, but Tejeda did produce.

* * *

Reyes became the fifth shortstop in baseball history to sign a huge contract last night, though I’ll happily acknowledge that the definition of “huge contract” is pretty arbitrary. We have to wait to see how Tulo’s deal turns out, but A-Rod, Jeter, and Tejeda all held up their ends of the bargain. The common link between the three? Durability. Those three combined for just one season with fewer than 140 games played since becoming full-time big leaguers and before landing their big contracts (A-Rod missed a month due to injury in 1999). Reyes, as you know, has been battling hamstring problems for years, including a pair of hammy related DL stints in 2011. The Marlins are bucking the trend a bit here, coming huge dollars to a player with a history of leg problems even though his game is based primarily on speed.




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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.


25 Responses to “Jose Reyes And Other Big Money Shortstops”

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  1. JimNYC says:

    Giving eight figure deals to position players who aren’t likely to play more than half the team’s games over the length of the contract is not the wisest move in the world. If you can basically pencil in three months worth of DL trips every year for a guy, you don’t want to be betting the farm on him.

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    • Barkey Walker says:

      You will notice A Rod was about as productive as anyone has ever been and still just barely earned his keep in that contract.

      These huge contracts rarely work out. And when they do, it is not some huge win for the team. How could it be?

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      • adohaj says:

        It isn’t a huge win for the team from a wins/dollar standpoint. BUT how many more tickets were sold because Arod was on the team? How many people bought Arod jerseys? A straight up analysis of WAR to dollars doesn’t do the situation justice.

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        Those jerseys have to be purchased in the stadium for the team to make the money, otherwise they might be better off getting the revenue share for the player being in Boston or New Yrok.

        In addition, a star may get a lot more jersey sales, but remember, it is marginal jersey sales. If a team didn’t have their #1 player who gets all the jersey sales, another player would be their #1 player and would get the jersey sales.

        This means that the value of the A Rod jersey is not just the profit form sales of that jersey but must be decreased by however much sales of all other players jerseys would increase if he were not on the team. Yes, some would just not buy one at all, but most would get some other jersey instead. I’m sure each team has an estimated covariance for each player that they develop before negotiating a contract.

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      • SKob says:

        Hey Barkey, name a player on the Orioles whose Jersey I should buy. Convince me Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, or Nick Markakis are worth dropping some coin on! Give me Fielder, Pujols, or… what the hell – Yu Darvish or Yeonis Cespedes!

        Big names draw interest and sales. Especially when, let’s say for instance, the new big name player has the same heritage as the majority of local inhabitants and your most recent stars either started falling off or post on Twitter too much.

        Be real man. No wakes up and says ‘you know what? I am buying a jersey today. Who is the top player on my team?’. Your team brings in someoen you like, so you go buy a jersey. Maybe you wait and see how he does, then you go buy the jersey. Maybe you go to an event where the guy makes a speach and your kid thinks he’s great, then you go buy a jersey.

        I’m sure you’re a good guy, but your business sense is lacking and I’m willing to bet that you don’t own a jersey!

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        @SKob,

        “name a player on the Orioles whose Jersey I should buy”

        Name a 90+ win team / DS qualifier and I will tell you who’s jersey you might want to buy.

        “No wakes up and says ‘you know what? I am buying a jersey today. Who is the top player on my team?’”

        Obviously, nobody would do this. But remember, they team only gets the money on sales at the park, so you have to be a fan of the sport and team before you buy a jersey they cash in on.

        Obviously you won’t buy a jersey if there are a bunch of 2 WAR players on the field, but when I was little, I idolized Kirby Puckett and Frank Viola in 1987 and would have loved to own either jersey. In 1988, both players turned in far better performances, but I wouldn’t have wanted their jersey much… not enough ~2 WAR performances to make it to the postseason that year… yawn.

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      • RobMer says:

        Of course, that’s only if you believe in the nonsense of assigning a specific value for each win that is equal across the board to all teams. That’s already been shown to be wrong and that the value of a win is much higher to playoff contending teams, not to mention the entire statistic is b.s. to begin with.

        I have no idea why it’s even quoted anymore.

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      • TheUncool says:

        Not sure about other franchises, but I would think the Yankees do actually get something significant for additional merchandise sales from someone like ARod here in the NYC area anyway. They do operate separate stores away from the stadium and have a website afterall. Plus there’s probably some sort of royalty fee as well (for legally produced/sold merchandises) when stuff are not sold directly by them.

        But probably more importantly, as pointed out, a superstar type player will be substantially more valuable to a contender. And at the end of the day, you have to contend (or at least give the impression that you’re contending) in order to draw fans and reel in the $$$.

        Afterall, we’re not talking about ARod signing that deal w/ a 100-loss Royals team or the like.

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  2. Richie says:

    It’s been 18 years since I lived there, but at that time Miami’s Cuban community no way no how would’ve rooted for a Dominican. Not rooted against him, mind you. But you were either from Cuba, or from somewhere other than Cuba. Nothing else mattered. They then couldn’t have cared less about ‘Caribbean’ per se, never mind ‘Latino’.

    So unless that’s changed dramatically, Reyes’ nationality in and of itself will count for very, very little.

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  3. Greg Swanson says:

    @Barkey: When you’re talking about a somewhat replaceable 2 or 3 WAR player, then you’re right that paying market value for that production isn’t a big win for the team. You’d want your team to be able to underpay for moderate production ideally.

    But when you’re talking about getting 6-8 WAR from one player, I would say that paying market is a big win for the team. You’re not getting ripped off, and you have that kind of elite production in your lineup.

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    • Jon L. says:

      Or, in other words, the method we use to attribute dollar-value to WAR is misleading when it comes to star players. However, it’s too straightforward to stop using it now.

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    • Barkey Walker says:

      This topic comes up every now and again on FG and the conclusion is that value/WAR is linear. IS there some evidence otherwise?

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      • Nivra says:

        If I read Greg’s comment correctly, he’s not arguing about the linearity of $/WAR. He’s arguing about scarcity and roster dependability. If you can bank on getting 6-8 WAR from a single position year in and year out, then that kind of roster dependability for a scarce resource is worth it, even if you’re paying market rate for the production.

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      • Mike Axisa says:

        I haven’t seen anything on it, but I’m of the belief that $/WAR is not linear. Roster spots are finite, so one 6 WAR player is better than two 3 WAR players since you can (theoretically) do anything with that extra spot.

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      • Joe says:

        No that’s not THE conclusion… their are a ton of assumptions baked into that conclusion, so it’s A conclusion

        There are 3 major potential flaws in the linearity studies/ conclusions
        - It assumes every team values a win equally – this has to be assumed as we don’t have access to every team… but we don’t know this is indeed the case. There is a much smaller subset of teams that do the 5+ WAR Free Agent deals (and this is what is used to confirm the linearity conclusion)… if teams operating in this space operate differently than other teams, using the aggregate $/WAR metric of all teams, all deals can lead to some issues.

        - The # of free agent deals to assess the linearity is limited and context may be significant… what is the supply/demand at that position in that specific year. As an example the market for Pujols and Fielder is a bit limited this winter…. if the market was 3 years ago with NY, Boston, Chicago in the mix would that alter the contracts?

        - It assumes when making a contract every team uses similar WAR projection models and every team is using something similar to the general fangraph WAR projection models and assumptions… inflation rates, WAR/$, aging, current baseline WAR of the player

        As an example of one nuanced issue I see – folks like using a 3 year WAR average to establish a player’s baseline (to take out the year to year noise)… This make sense and if the player is in their prime it is not an issue, but if the player is past their prime the average WAR level over that period should not be used interchangeably with the WAR level of the player at the end of the period.

        As a specific example – a 33 year old who has posted 12 WAR over the last 3 years would then mean use 4 WAR + an aging effect as the baseline for the first year of the new deal? Apply a typical 0.5 WAR decline and hence he starts at 3.5 WAR next year….pretty easy and straight forward? Except while he posted that 12 WAR he was also aging so if you believe in the aging effect and want to smooth the WAR noise out , shouldn’t it be 4.5, 4, 3,5 WAR over that period (instead of 4,4,4)…. this would mean the next year would be starting at a 3.0 baseline (after aging effect) instead of 3.5.

        This seems like a small and subtle difference…. but there are a ton of things like this baked into the models which can lead to all sorts of conclusions on what the team is valuing $/WAR at…. inflation rate? bWAR vs fWAR? when looking at a contract should fWAR for a pitcher based on FIP vs xFIP? Medical info we don’t have access to? Risk? (1 WAR players don’t tend to get 6 year deals)

        The linearity conclusion (“evidence’) is based on a bunch of assumptions and we have no idea if GM’s are using similar assumptions. These models should not be confused with evidence or proof…. it’s just a model that fits/supports the linearity conclusion.

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      • Greg Swanson says:

        I think Nivra has my comment pegged pretty well.

        I don’t mean that there’s a non-linear association between dollar-value and WAR. What I’m concerned with is instead the judgment of whether a team has gotten a “good deal” by paying market-value or not.

        If a team pays 5 million for a 1 WAR player, this IS market value. However, the team perhaps could have gotten similar production from a rookie or a platoon of cost-controlled internal options for less than 5 million. Thus, my tendency is to say that paying market value for moderate production, while fine, is not a “good deal” because the presumption is the team could have gotten the same production from a better (cheaper) deal.

        On the other hand, when it comes to consisten 6-8 WAR production, there is no assumption that a team can simply pull this player out of the minors or assemble such production from their bench. Thus, paying 30 million for 6 WAR (still market value) should be interpreted as a much better deal because there was no “better deal” to be had by signing or producing other comparable players.

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        @Greg Swanson, what you can pull out of thin air is a 0 WAR player, that is the definition of a 0 WAR player. If you sign a guy who is expected to get 1 WAR for $5M, you might get what you paid for, you might get less, you might get more. Well, you might get a lot more. You can “win” the contract if this player has a career year. You cannot win a massive contract, only lose or hope to break even.

        BTW, 1 player with 6 WAR/year is more likely to drop off the face of the planet than w players with 3 WAR/year–their injuries/problems are not correlated. Diversifying increases the value of them. Plus, you get shorter contracts so you have less insurance that you are providing.

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      • TheUncool says:

        Except you can’t just fill up your lineup card w/ a bunch of 3-WAR 1B some of which may actually be less-than-3-WAR DHs in disguise.

        Since you *should* actually have a farm system for some homegrown talent, you’re more likely to find some low-WAR help there so you can afford the bigger contracts needed to pay that 6-plus-WAR superstar — and we’re not even talking about clearly bad deals in this article anyway.

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      • TheUncool says:

        Forgot to add that we’re also not talking about 1-hit wonders either, so the argument about a 6-plus-WAR guy having good likelihood to drop off is a poor point.

        There’s obviously some variability in actual production from year to year (or month to month for that matter), but to suggest teams should simply steer away from paying anyone the big $$$ is just being lazy, IMHO. Do some homework — that’s what the front office is paid to do — and spend the $$$ where it makes sense.

        Sometimes, that means paying the big $$$ to a reliable superstar. Sometimes, that means avoiding the 1-hit wonder or the smoke-and-mirror type star, and so on…

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    • Joe says:

      I agree…. everything is now judged in a vacuum as WAR/$ and surplus value.

      At some point you usually need some high end players – that can either be homegrown talent that you are fortunate to be able to underpay in pre-arbitration and arbitration years or someone on the open market.

      I think for players of that stature on the open market getting fair value out of the contract is a win for the club. I don’t have the exact data but it seems like there are so many more bad contracts than good ones that breaking even on a contract for a supertstar is a good thing.

      Was the Jeter contract not a “win” for the Yankees? Some will say he slightly underperformed the contract value so it’s not, but the Yankees got a cornerstone piece at pretty much fair value for the money spent.

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  4. Hurtlockertwo says:

    They really should pay Reyes millions of dollars just to wear those ugly new uniforms.

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  5. Anon says:

    You didn’t even touch on the fact that he is being paid based on one fluky BABIP-fueled career year that he will never replicate.

    Consider that prior to their contracts, here were their OPS+ at the time:
    Reyes 106
    AROd 137
    Jeter 122
    Tulo 118
    Tejada 106

    and then consider that before last year’s fluke season, Reyes’ OPS+ was a barely-above-league-average 101(slightly below league average OBP and just slightly above league average SLG)

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    • Counter-Point says:

      You should look up the OPS+ of starting shortstops around the league, both now and 10 years ago. It is not a pretty sight.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      Anon, he’s being paid based on several phenomenal years. He was one of the best players in the game before getting hurt in 2009/2010, and he was one of the best players in the game in 2011. No reason to act as if his 2011 season is the only gold star on his resume.

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      • TheUncool says:

        Reyes is definitely worth that contract (and quite likely more) if he can stay healthy. Health is most definitely the big question mark there.

        And he does seem to drop off the face of the earth whenever he hurts his legs — and at least in his case, such injuries do seem to nag him for extended periods of time.

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