Looking for Upside in the Tanaka Contract

I was on vacation last week, so in my absence, Jeff Sullivan handled the write-ups relating to Masahiro Tanaka signing with the Yankees. When the news broke on Wednesday, he wrote a couple of posts about it, and in typical Jeff Sullivan fashion, the second post was explicitly “not an evaluation of the Masahiro Tanaka contract.” Jeff’s takes are smart and nuanced, and you should read them, but I also think the Tanaka contract is worth an evaluation, especially because it is so different from most free agent contracts.

In general, most free agent deals are not that difficult to evaluate. The majority of free agents are already on the downside of their career, so there’s a tension in the negotiations between the player trying to get as many years as possible and the team trying to limit their obligations to an aging player who is expected to be get worse in every subsequent season. In recent years, it seems that negotiations have mostly shifted away from bidding in annual average value into almost entirely bidding on years, where the signing team is the one who guarantees one year more than the rest of the bidders. Negotiations for free agents can be pretty accurately described as a push and pull between teams and players over the number of guaranteed years the player is going to receive, with most everything else being secondary to that agreement.

Due to his age, however, Tanaka’s situation is entirely different. Because he has no Major League service time, he was automatically going to be under team control for a minimum of six years unless his agent negotiated an exception into the contract. The bidding essentially began at six years simply due to the service time requirements for free agency, as there was no reason for him to accept a shorter term contract that would still keep him under team control through 2019 without guaranteed payments for all six years. The Yankees eventually won the bidding by guaranteeing a seventh year, but they didn’t just stop there; they also gave Tanaka an opt-out after the fourth year of the contract, giving him both long term security and the flexibility to hit free agency again after his age-28 season if he so chooses.

For Tanaka, the Yankees offer was the best of both worlds. He is guaranteed $155 million in salary over the next seven years, but because of the opt-out, he can collect $88 million over the next four seasons and then hit it big again in free agency after 2017 if he proves to be as good as everyone thinks he may be. If he turns into an ace, given the inflation we’ve seen in MLB and the economic strength of the sport, it’s not hard to see his next contract pushing over $200 million over six or seven years, so the opt-out gives Tanaka a chance to end up with total earnings of between $250 and $300 million over the next decade.

So it’s not difficult to see why Tanaka is a Yankee. They beat the field in total years (and total dollars, naturally) and still gave him the opt-out clause, so it’s probably fair to say that no other team was particularly close to the Yankees offer in terms of both potential revenue and guaranteed money. As Jeff talked about, this is the kind of contract we’re used to seeing the Yankees give out, and it’s the kind of contract that can be chalked up to them being the Yankees and having more money than is necessary to build a championship club. They did this because they can, and it won’t hurt them because they’re the Yankees. If the deal goes badly, they’ll just sign someone else to replace Tanaka, because the funds are basically unlimited once they decided to not stay under the luxury tax.

There’s a problem with that line of thinking, though. Even after signing Tanaka, the funds are clearly not unlimited, and his signing hasn’t led to a wave of new spending that fixes the rest of the Yankees problems. They still have Kelly Johnson penciled in as their starting third baseman, and Brian Roberts is the favorite to play second base for a few innings on Opening Day until he gets hurt again. Derek Jeter may or may not be able to play shortstop anymore, and if he can’t, then the Yankees are counting on Brendan Ryan to be a regular. Their fifth starter is David Phelps. Either Ichiro or Alfonso Soriano are going to be in the line-up as the RF/DH on a daily basis, and both project as somewhere between replacement level and below average for next year.

This Yankees team still has some pretty serious problems, and the structure of this contract makes me wonder why the Yankees pursued this particular strategy rather than using the same amount of money to pursue a variety of players instead. Especially once the decision was made to be willing to include an opt-out in Tanaka’s contract.

The entire point of signing Tanaka instead of pursuing the veteran MLB free agents is that his youth brings the promise of both short term and long term value. This wasn’t supposed to be the kind of deal where the team gets value up front in exchange for taking on an albatross at the back. Tanaka was appealing because he can help you in 2014 and 2018, and his contract price reflects the value of his youth. But the opt-out changes that calculation, because in reality, the Yankees don’t have Tanaka for 7/$155M; they have him for 4/$108M.

That is what this contract will cost them if it works out. Tanaka will make $88 million in salary over the next four years, and the Yankees will have paid $20 million to obtain his rights, so their total cost before the opt-out is $108 million. If Tanaka pitches well and stays healthy, he’ll void the last three years of the contract and look for a big raise. The only way the Yankees get Tanaka for years five, six, and seven is if he’s either been a bust or gets injured, in which case, the Yankees probably will have to pay Tanaka $67 million for three years where he’d be expected to provide less value than what that money could have bought them in free agency. The opt-out basically kills the idea of this contract providing long term value and turns the contract into a 4/$108M deal for the Yankees, with a chance of having to fork over extra money if the deal goes south.

For $108 million over the next four years, the Yankees could theoretically have ended up as the high bidders for Matt Garza and Jhonny Peralta, who are pretty likely to outproduce in the short term and maybe even in the longer term, depending on how well they age. Or, if you don’t like that pair, Ricky Nolasco, Jason Vargas, and Omar Infante will combien to make $111 million for the next four years, and it’s going to be tough for Tanaka/Phelps/Roberts to outperform that trio in a significant way.

If you believe Tanaka is going to maintain more of his current level of performance over the next few years, then sure, maybe you’re a little bit better off with Tanaka and a couple cheap scrubs than you are with three market priced average players, but getting Tanaka for 4/$108M also required risking the extra $67 million if things go poorly. The downside to putting most of your eggs — and then a few batches of extra eggs — in the Tanaka basket is clearly greater than if the Yankees had just used the same money to sign multiple domestic free agents, but I’m not sure I see a corresponding upside to offset the risk of giving him the option on years five through seven.

The market price for wins this winter has been around $6 million apiece; to justify $108 million over the next four years, that puts Tanaka at +18 WAR from 2014 to 2017. There were exactly five pitchers in MLB who posted +18 WAR over the last four years. To come out ahead relative to what they could have gotten by just signing regular old MLB free agents, Tanaka would have to be a Cy Young contender year in and year out, and that’s just to justify the $27 million per year commitment through 2017. Toss in the extra $67 million the Yankees risked in the scenarios where things don’t go well, and the paths for this contract to hurt the Yankees seem far more reasonable and likely than the ones where this contract would look like a good idea in retrospect.

As just a straight seven year commitment, it isn’t that hard to see this deal working out for New York. With inflation, the back end of a 7 year, $175 million payout won’t be that problematic, and Tanaka would only be 31 in the last year of that deal, so he could very well be the rare free agent to be worth his salary at the beginning and end of the deal. But the opt-out changes things, and essentially eliminates the chance that the Yankees can get long term value from this contract, which was the primary selling point in signing Tanaka to begin with. And because the posting fee is paid before the opt-out, they’re actually forfeiting the right to the lowest AAV years in terms of total cost, making it even tougher for this price to be worth paying relative to just applying $108 million to alternative options.

Even if you factor in the fact that only $88 million goes to the luxury tax and the potential that they’ll be able to get a discount on Tanaka’s next deal by owning his rights before he gets to free agency, I just have a hard time seeing those small values being worth the extra risk of the $67 million they agreed to pay in years five through seven if things go south. To put up that kind of back-end payoff that only kicks in if he’s a bust, you’d expect there to be some real value to the Yankees before the opt-out to offset the risk that they’re taking in guaranteeing him seven years without getting seven guaranteed years back. And at $27 million per year in total costs, it’s hard to see the short term value in Tanaka relative to the market price of domestic players.

I see a lot of ways this contract can go badly for New York, and very few ways in which this contract is likely to have been better than just going after a couple of the mid-tier free agents for the same total cost. The Yankees should absolutely put a high price on their own marginal wins, but in doing so, it’s hard to justify going into a season with so many weak spots when there were upgrades available that ended up in other cities. If we’re going to play the “it’s the Yankees, who cares about the money?” card, then we have to answer why they still have so many holes on their roster, and why this still doesn’t look like one of the five best teams in the American League.

From here, it looks like the best case scenario for the Yankees with the Tanaka contract is that it provides about as much value as signing any collection of domestic free agents would have, only the worst case scenarios are much, much worse. Had the Yankees not included the opt-out, this deal could have had a very good chance of working out for them. Had they structured the payments differently so that more of the guaranteed money was after the opt-out, so that they ended up with a serious bargain for the first half of the contract if things went well, then this deal probably could have worked out too. Had they simply limited it to a four year, $108 million payement in total, making Tanaka a free agent again after the 2017 season with no commitment beyond that, it would have been an expensive deal but not much more expensive than what other free agents were signing for.

But giving him the opt-out and the extra three guaranteed years seems like a mistake to me. It’s too much risk and not enough reward. For an organization that drew a line in the sand on the risk/reward proposition of Robinson Cano‘s decline phase, I don’t really see how this contract is more likely to turn out in their favor. Instead of taking a 10 year risk on an elite position player, they took a seven year risk on a questionably elite pitcher. I don’t really see too many scenarios where $240 million for Cano is insane but $175 million for Tanaka is rational. Either they’re both crazy or they’re both great, and if the Yankees really had unlimited funds, maybe they should have signed both.

But they don’t have unlimited funds, and we shouldn’t pretend that they do. In reality, the Yankees chose Tanaka over other players, and are going to go into 2014 with a flawed roster because they allocated so much of their money to outbidding everyone for Tanaka’s services. At this price, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a decision they came to regret, and maybe sooner than later.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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LOL
Guest
LOL
2 years 4 months ago

Uhm… Ichiro is going to be on the bench.. and Soriano the DH. Did you forget about Beltran?

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

Yeah, I was about to say…

Michael Law
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Michael Law
2 years 3 months ago

I am replying to the article in general and not to you directly because I didn’t see an add comment for the article at the top of the thread. One thing that I didn’t see addressed in the article or the comments really was the payroll obligations that the Yankees have on the books for 2014 versus 2018. They are past the 189 million mark and if I’m adding it up correctly it looks like they are somewhere in the 195 million dollar range right now without adding any additional pieces. And Tanaka can opt out after the World Series has concluded in 2017. But at that same time the contracts for CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira will be off of the books. Beltran as well and Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano and Hiroki Kuroda as well. At this point if Tanaka opts out the guaranteed salary commitments for the Yankees in 2018 will be about 38 million dollars. I know that they will add players between 2014 and 2017 but my point is that all a lot of money will have come off of the books by then and if Tanaka ends up being a true ace in New York they can offer him a new high dollar contract and still maintain a payroll of some kind. They will always be at or over the salary line and the line will have bumped up a few ticks between now and 2018. They will always have a few players with 20-28 million dollar yearly earnings.

Ben
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Ben
2 years 4 months ago

And if the Blue Jays find a way to sign Ervin or Ubaldo, the Yankees are probably the 4th best team in the division, as currently constructed.

LOL
Guest
LOL
2 years 4 months ago

so the Yankees somehow got worse than last year, and the Blue Jays got better? lets not get delusional here.

Anon21
Member
Anon21
2 years 4 months ago

Seems plausible that the Yankees got worse, doesn’t it? They have no Cano, zero A-Rod instead of 44 games’ worth of A-Rod, zero Granderson rather than 61 games’ worth, and Sabathia and Kuroda are both another year removed from their primes. Plus they beat their Pyth winning percentage in 2013 by a fair amount. On the other side, they added McCann, Beltran, Tanaka, and Ellsbury. I don’t know how it all washes out, but it seems plausible that they’ll be a more-talented team this year that wins fewer games.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

Ellsbury is also shifting Soriano into the Ichiro role and Ichiro/Almonte into the Wells role.

Not to mention that Beltran should more than make up for 61 games of a recovering Granderson.

The real wild card is Jeter. Yankees shortstops were worth -1.6 fWAR last year. If Jeter is really back, he and Ryan could provide a 3-5 win swing at SS.

Alan
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Alan
2 years 4 months ago

Also lost Rivera.

RC
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RC
2 years 4 months ago

The projections for Jeter all have him as about a 1WAR player over 600 PA, and that’s with slightly positive defense, which is probably ludicrously optimistic.

pft
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pft
2 years 4 months ago

You left out Teixeira and Jeter. While Jeter may be past his prime in a big way he can’t possibly be worse than the -1.5 WAR put up at SS by his replacements. Imagine a lineup with Ichiro, Wells, Overbay, Hafner, Stewart and Ryans bat not in it? Those guys were at or significantly below replacement level, especially in the 2nd half. At 1B, SS, 3B, C, DH, RF, the Yankees collectively were 0.1 WAR. Replace that with just league average at each position and they are 12 wins better.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

I think Jeter has the ability to be +10 offensively. It isn’t likely at all, the smart money is on his being -5 or so, but his +15 offensive season 2 years ago was just as unlikely.

I wouldn’t be surprised by a 1 win from Jeter, but I also wouldn’t be surprised by a 3 win season.

Hence my calling him “the real wild card.”

RC
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RC
2 years 4 months ago

I think the chances of Jeter putting up a 3 win season are about the same as the chances of the Yankees winning 100 games this year.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

I think you forget that Jeter was absolutely done in June 2011. He was cooked. He had nothing left in the tank, and then he hurt his hamstring. The Yankees were idiots for giving him so much money.

Then he came back and was Derek Jeter again for the next year and a half.

The point is, while I won’t be surprised if he ends up combining Oliver offense with Steamer playing time and FSR defense, I also won’t be surprised if he somehow hits .310 and is a top 5 offensive shortstop, like usual.

Derek Jeter is Derek Jeter.

Hold Your Horses
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Hold Your Horses
2 years 4 months ago

The Blue Jays pitching is a disaster, and their lineup has as many, if not more, holes than the Yankee one, and they have fewer impact bats than the Yankees.

In what world are the Jays close to the Yankees?

Belloc
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Belloc
2 years 4 months ago

The Fangraphs world, where half the staff, including Dave Cameron, predicted the Blue Jays would win the AL East in 2013.

Matthew
Member
Member
2 years 4 months ago

Injuries that aren’t easy to predict.

Zubaz slacks
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Zubaz slacks
2 years 4 months ago

Unlike Belloc, who posts his preseason predictions to a mass audience and which are always 100% accurate!

Jimmy Herrmann
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2 years 3 months ago

I hate to admit it, but I also thought the Jays were going to win the AL East last year.

Baron Samedi
Member
Baron Samedi
2 years 4 months ago

Um, in every projection system?

grant
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grant
2 years 4 months ago

Even without signing another pitcher – and it seems reasonably likely they will – the Jays project on Fangraphs at more WAR than the Yankees. They have one hole in lineup (2B) that’s really no worse than the Yanks 2B, and they don’t have the massive craters at 3B and perhaps SS.

Eric Feczko
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Eric Feczko
2 years 4 months ago

The world in which the Blue Jays have Ubaldo/Ervin. You do realize that their pythag win expectancy last year was nearly identical, right? Cano vs. Beltran/Ellsbury/Mccann is basically wash.

Even without another starting pitcher, the Blue Jays have a better lineup/defense than the Yankees. In order for the yankees to be a true contender, the following would need to happen:

1) Jeter reverts to 2012
2) Texeira reverts to 2011
3) Mccann remains healthy and does not continue to decline
4) Beltran shows no age related decline
5) Soriano reverts to 2006-07 self while playing DH

Five critical position players, who are unlikely to perform well, must perform well. This is above and beyond the “ifs” all teams have (e.g. Kuroda and Sabathia reverting to career norms, and Tanaka making the transition to the MLB).

I wouldn’t be surprised if both the Blue Jays and the Yankees projections are high variance.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

What do you mean “continue to decline”? McCann was right in line with his career averages last season. His 122 wRC+ is as good as he’s been since his monster 2008.

The only “decline” to be seen with McCann is the torn labrum he played through in 2012 that cost him the first month of 2013.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

Also, Soriano only has to be his 2012-2013 self to be an average DH, and he’s likely to be above average considering that he’s also likely to play 80 games in the OF.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all by another 2.5-3 win season from Soriano, considering that he’s only been worse than that once in the past 4 years (twice in the past 8).

John W.
Member
Member
John W.
2 years 4 months ago

You just made the Cubs’ Braintrust feel so much better!

Andrew J
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Andrew J
2 years 4 months ago

Yes Theo Epstein wasn’t sure whether they were ok not signing Tanaka to a bigger contract than the Yankees until Dave Cameron said it was a bad deal

Cool WHIP
Member
Member
Cool WHIP
2 years 4 months ago

Very interesting, as usual- glad to see my thoughts confirmed here. Do you think we are starting to see a trend of players receiving opt-out clauses? Off the top of my head I believe the Dodgers gave Greinke and Kershaw an opt-out.

Alan
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Alan
2 years 4 months ago

It’ll be interesting to see, but I’d imagine it will stay with players with high leverage.

I think there could also be more of them if clubs and agents have different views of inflation.

Matthew
Member
Member
2 years 4 months ago

I think this all the time. I feel like MLB teams need a nice lesson in opportunity cost and tradeoffs. I kind of baffles me sometimes.

I really don’t get why teams with respectable players at a certain position will spend a ton of money to upgrade that position while leaving massive holes on their team. Take the Mariners. They sign Cano to a mega deal. But they have nearly replacement level players in their entire outfield. In my mind Franklin at 2nd + upgrades in the OF and pitcher + money in pocket > Cano.

Preston
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Preston
2 years 4 months ago

Sure there’s an opportunity cost. But we aren’t really in a position to judge what that cost is. Did the Mariners negotiate with Choo, Ellsbury and Beltran? We don’t know. All of them could have looked at the Mariners as a poorly run franchise that they didn’t want to be a part of. Yes in an ideal off-season the Mariners seem like they would have been better off upgrading their OF, but we don’t know if they tried to do that, or what the process was. So it’s hard to know what they gave up by signing Cano, if anything.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

I’m guessing that even Cano saw the Mariners as a poorly run franchise he didn’t want to be a part of.

That’s why he cost them $240 million.

spmccaul
Member
spmccaul
2 years 4 months ago

Unfortunately for Seattle, you’re right. Unfortunately for you, Seattle sucks.

YankeeGM
Member
YankeeGM
2 years 4 months ago

From a Yankees fan perspective the opt out is unfortunate, but I am holding hope that while we may begin the season with 2 obvious holes (2B & 3B), things change. The options for filling those holes preseason aren’t very inspiring, and one of Cashman’s few redeeming qualities has been the ability to find value during the season.

Rather than simply throw money at the Stephen Drews of the world who, while an upgrade, aren’t filling our specific hole, I am hoping Cashman will look to acquire higher-end pieces that fill our actual needs.

If he can somehow pull off a trade for Chase Headley, or even an overpaid Aramis Ramirez during the season, the result is a far better fit than what’s available now.

I thing, therefore, that the gist of this post is flawed only because it assumes the Yankees as currently constituted are a finished product.

Iron
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Iron
2 years 4 months ago

I think part of the point of this post, is this that the Yankees are currently constituted as they are because of what they did not do instead of signing Tanaka. But it’s a snapshot. If the Yankees make other moves then this signing will have changed context and some of the the points above may no longer be valid. But I defy you to evaluate a deal in the present which takes into consideration future deals which have not and may never occur.

pft
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pft
2 years 4 months ago

Yankees have a big hole in SS for their statue. Tanaka may commit seppuku over too many GB going past that statue. Drew is great insurance and crushes RHP’ers if he plays 3B until the statue is moved to where all great statues go, which will be sooner than you think

Jon L.
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Jon L.
2 years 4 months ago

I do think this may have played an important role in the Yankees’ signing of Tanaka. First of all, there are marketing and ticket-sales benefits to signing a big-name player, in this case another Japanese star, and someone people are excited to see pitch. But on the field, there are clear advantages associated with getting a star player at one position, versus average players at multiple positions. Namely, if team performance doesn’t meet expectations, it’s much easier to swing a move that significantly improves upon Tanaka-scrub-scrub than on Nolasco-Vargas-Infante.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

Wait…did I miss the part where Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson and David Phelps are going to be starting for the Yankees for the next four years? Hell, Phelps might not even start this year, if Pineda’s where they say he is.

Garza, Nolasco and Vargas each received 4 year deals. Each is on the wrong side of 30, and only Garza was a good pitcher when he was on the right side of 30. In the past 6 seasons, Nolasco has averaged 1.8 rWAR. Vargas has averaged 1.7 rWAR. Garza has averaged 2.2 rWAR while dealing with not insignificant injury issues. Each would have been a terrible investment. Of the three, only Garza has a chance of significantly outproducing Phelps/Pineda/Banuelos/Nuno over the next 4 years.

The Yankees didn’t commit to Tanaka/Phelps/Roberts for the next 4 years. They committed to Tanaka for the next 4 years. By not tying up several roster spots to approximate the value of a single player, they maintain the ability to sign a good FA next year and the year after, as well as leaving a rotation slot for their prospects and/or Pineda to take.

The Yankees have the ability to absorb bad money. That’s why it makes sense for them to bet on Tanaka being a good to very good player for the next 4 years rather than diversifying their risk among a bunch of players who have an absolute upside of “decent.”

Neil
Guest
Neil
2 years 4 months ago

Not sure why you’re using the past six years. If you look at the past 3 which is pretty standard, Garza has 2.7 WAR the past 3 years over only 73 starts. If he stays healthy, he’s a 3 WAR pitcher.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

Call me crazy, but I’m not going to bet 4 years and $50 million on Garza being healthier from age 30-33 than he was from 27-29.

Matt
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Matt
2 years 4 months ago

exactly my thoughts… signing Infante and whatever other garbage at 3B only locks them into mediocrity for 4 years at those positions. So technically, for 2014 they’d may be better off diversifying as Dave says, but for 2015-2018 they played it the right way.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 4 months ago

You’re assuming that there will be significantly better free agents in the next few years and that the Yankees want to spend loads of money on them. The best free agent second basemen available next is… Rickie Weeks? There’s a chance Hanley Ramirez makes it to free agency, but if he doesn’t then the best SS/3B options are Chase Headley, JJ Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval. Are any of those guys so much better than Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante that it’s worth punting 2-3 infield positions in 2013?

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

Yes, they are. Chase Headley, JJ Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval are each much, much better baseball players than are Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante.

Not to mention that Infante really isn’t better than Kelly Johnson.

Preston
Guest
Preston
2 years 4 months ago

Especially when you consider the price tag. Plus Kelly Johnson is a better fit for Yankee stadium as a lefty with more pop. I’d be willing to bet that he puts up around 2 WAR as an everyday player(whether he’s playing 3b or 2b). Then they need to hope that some combination of Jeter, Roberts, Ryan, Dean Anna, Scott Sizemore and Eduardo Nunez can be useful parts. I’d rather bet on those guys than throw a lot of money at Infante.

Jay29
Member
Jay29
2 years 4 months ago

I was going to post this same general comment, too. If the WAR total is the same, better to have the one good player locked up and the replacement-level players, well, replaceable. Throw ’em to the curb when the better opportunity comes along next winter, or in July, or hell, next week.

Hank
Guest
Hank
2 years 4 months ago

It’s one of the flaws in the “spread the money around” simple logic that seems to be all the rage these days. Two to three players decline an aggregate of 1-1.5WAR(~0.5 each) each year.

While in theory Tanaka + replacement level player(s) would age similarly, replacement players don’t tend to age – when they age they get replaced. And of course in this case Tanaka is not in a regime where he should be seeing age related decline.

Then there’s also the video game conceptualization of “force sign” option turned to on. It’s nice to say they should/could have signed X,Y, and Z – but could they have? It’s the same thing with the M’z and Cano – sure it would have been nice to get a couple of OF’s instead, but haven’t they been trying to do that for a few offseasons now?

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

Exactly. For teams that can afford it, the $/WAR line should not be linear.

evo34
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evo34
2 years 4 months ago

Well said, C.L. Smooth.

Jason B
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Jason B
2 years 4 months ago

Just a quick fix:

Ninth paragraph – “Tanaka will make $88 million in salary over the next year years”

b
Guest
b
2 years 4 months ago

Why bother pointing that out? They look incompetent either way, whether it’s the body or the comment section.

Matt Bertelli
Member
Matt Bertelli
2 years 4 months ago

I wrote the following last Wednesday in Jeff’s first aticle after the news broke:

“That opt out is HUGE!

To break the contract down it is basically a 4 year deal for 88 million plus the 20 million posting fee and it’s a 4 year 108 million dollar contract or 27 million per year. If you want to add in the luxury tax hit and assume that his entire contract will hit against the contract then it can be 88 times the 50% luxury tax. So 88 X 1.5 = 132 plus 20 posting fee = 4 years 152 million dollar deal or 38 million dollars per year if he is good and opts out.

If he isn’t good then you have to add in the 3 years and 67 million. Once again if you account for the luxury tax and assume it is still 50% (which it will probably change by then) then you are looking at 67 X 1.5 = 100.5 for the last 3 years.

Thus to the yankee’s this contract will either be a 4 year 152 million dollar deal (38 per year) or a 7 year 252.5 million dollar deal (just over 36 million per year). Even if you don’t consider the luxury tax hit it is either a 4 year deal for 108 million (27 per year) or 7 years for the 175 million (25 per year).

Even if the luxury tax baseline goes up in the next collective bargaining the yankee’s will probably be paying it for the foreseeable future with this contract, Ellsbury, Beltran, Teixeria, Sabathia, McCann’s deals all being on the books for the next 3 years if not more in some cases. Plus A-Rods coming back on after this year. That is roughly 150 million between 7 players.

This deal isn’t cost effective for a guy who has never pitched in the MLB. I still like the deal for the Yankees but I just hope they don’t plan on having a budget for the next few years. They should still upgrade the bullpen and probably even add another starter to move down Pineda (threw 40.2 innings in the minors last year) and Phelps down to the 6th and 7th man to be called up when someone eventually gets hurt.”

I think what I said completely agrees with you. This move doesn’t make much sense if the yankees aren’t going to make additions elsewhere. Drew still makes sense for them as does another starter and bullpen help if there is any left.

Marc
Guest
Marc
2 years 4 months ago

Another #6org analysis. So the Yanks will be better off with Nolasco, Vargas and Infante for a guarenteed 4 years then they would Tanaka, Roberts and Phelps? I guess to make that type of analysis you would have to put the blinders on and assume that the Yanks would continue to resign Roberts and keep Phelps in the rotation (assuming he wins it in ST) over the next 3 years. In reality though, the Yanks signed the best pitching talent on the market and filled the other holes with stop gaps. So a year from now Headley, Bailey, Shield and others are free agents, they could potentially have Tanaka, Headley and Shields, which is a lot better than Nolasco, Vargas and Infante. Good Job Dave. #6org

Zubaz slacks
Guest
Zubaz slacks
2 years 4 months ago

#6org! You BURNED him dude! Just totally burned him. No one had ever brought that up before, but you WENT THERE! You shoulda told him to “talk to your hand!” Hahahaha that would have made your burn into a SICK BURN dude.

Joe
Guest
Joe
2 years 4 months ago

I love dave and appreciate his analyses, but I honestly don’t think #6org will ever stop being funny to me.

Jonathan Sher
Guest
Jonathan Sher
2 years 4 months ago

“I don’t really see too many scenarios where $240 million for Cano is insane but $175 million for Tanaka is rational. Either they’re both crazy or they’re both great, and if the Yankees really had unlimited funds, maybe they should have signed both.”

How about the scenario when the aging curve is not ignored: Tanaka is six years younger than Cano, so Tanaka will be the same age in the final year of his 7-year-deal as Cano will be in the 2nd year of a 10-year deal.

So yes, Cano has been an elite player. But the issue is not how he has performed but how he will perform over the next decade, especially the second half of that decade at an age in which performance normally drops precipitously.

And if Tanaka performs well enough to opt out of his contract with some assurance he’ll be able to earn even more, doesn’t that suggest that he also performed well enough that the Yankees earned back their investment?

The risk isn’t that he out-performs his contract and leaves after four years. The risk is that he fails to earn his contract altogether. While his lack of MLB experience no doubt adds to that risk, his relative youth reduces it. Where that balance rests, I don’t know, but its plausible to place greater value on the latter.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver
2 years 4 months ago

It’s age and proven performances vs. age and unknown performance. Cano’s decline phase is fairly predictable, Tanaka’s performances is pretty high variance.

jpg
Guest
jpg
2 years 4 months ago

^Bingo

spmccaul
Member
spmccaul
2 years 4 months ago

Oh Oliver. I love you.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

You’re right. We can be almost certain that Cano won’t be worth $24 million 4 years from now.

At that point, the Mariners will only have 6 more years to go!

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

Yeah, but in the first couple of years of Canos deal you are getting his 6 WAR for 4 million per WAR. Thats value that can offset the last years which are paid in inflated dollars (24 million AAV is down to 15 million AAV in 2014 dollars by year 10).

Also this.
Guest
Also this.
2 years 4 months ago

And you should have wrapped up with “you ARE the weakest link. Goodbye!” Hahaha that would have been so awesome and original. I mean, #6org! Hahahahaha BURRRRRRRRRRRRRNNNNNNNNN

Bart Simpson
Guest
Bart Simpson
2 years 4 months ago

Wuzzle Wozzle?

DNA+
Guest
DNA+
2 years 4 months ago

The Yankees will be thrilled if Tanaka opts out after 4 years. The Yankees are trying to win every year. If they want to resign him in four years then they will. One good player is better than two mediocre players because of the greater roster flexibility. There is no reason to think the Yankees are done yet. Your strategy of signing a bunch of mediocre talent early caps the win potential. With Tanaka, the Yankees still have flexibility to improve their club. They are doing the right thing for their situation.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 4 months ago

It worked out great for them when ARod opted out.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan
2 years 4 months ago

It did work out great for them when he opted out. The fact that they were too stupid to let him walk, and instead signed him to a monster follow-up contract was the issue.

If Tanaka opts out after 4 years then the Yankees got a great deal for those 4 years, and should wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

DNA+
Guest
DNA+
2 years 4 months ago

Without Arod, they probably don’t win the WS in 2009. So, there is that. …in any case, what Arod has to do with this is anyone’s guess. …even in the Arod case, Cashman’s decision was to let him walk.

Bo Knows
Guest
Bo Knows
2 years 4 months ago

Without Arod it’s very possible they traded for Miggy Cabrera (Who Cashman himself had stated he was very interested in before being overruled, and were rumored to be the top contender to make the trade with the then Marlins 3rd baseman)

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

The opt out was great, it was signing him to another 10 years at the advice of Goldman Sachs that did them in. When an investment banker says to run hit the dirt.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

Yeah, if they walk away after the opt-out (and trade for Miggy, like they were planning to) the entire deal would have been perfect.

Frank
Guest
Frank
2 years 4 months ago

Maybe the Yankees are just taking into account their own future stupidity, so at the end of the 4 years they’ll just end up throwing another 7 year contract at him and have most of those 11 years be good, instead of 14 years, where the ending could turn quite sour. Also they got $5,000 tickets to sell.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

After 4 years they have Cc, Tex, Beltran, Kuroda, Jeter and Arod off the books so they should have plenty of money to spend

Kraemer_51
Member
Kraemer_51
2 years 4 months ago

But they’ll also have far less talent to choose from, and some revived markets to deal with. LAD is a huge contender, LAA is a monster market, and PHI will have a ridiculous TV deal that kicks in around then. If the Yankees continue to lose picks and simultaneously fail to develop quality talent, I just don’t see a situation where NYY can continue to be an elite team under this team-building philosophy. They won’t have the good fortune of A-Rod types coming off the books early.

Bo Knows
Guest
Bo Knows
2 years 4 months ago

and the Yankees own their own TV Network, even with all these new tv deals, they still have more money than any team in the league.

Also the Phillies and Angels are in far worse situations than the Yankees, neither have good farm systems and they don’t have the money to be able to ignore mistakes. Yankees at least will have essentially added 4 first rounders making their 1st full season debuts.

Brian L
Guest
Brian L
2 years 4 months ago

I wonder if the luxury tax thing is overplayed. Maybe they’re just operating with a basic payroll spending limit like any other team, and their limit is above $189mm but not unlimited. I.e. say they plan to spend $225mm a year, and after finding out A-Rod would not be on the books, that frees up $25mm to spend, and unfortunately that was after most of the other guys were gone.

Obviously the financial implications of the $189mm are pretty meaningful but I’d also suspect they operate like any other team would, not just $189 million or $100 billion

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

Basically every teams limit is expressed as a % of revenue. The MLB average is 47%. Most competitive are between 45-60%. Yankees are under 50% if you take into account the money they screen from revenue sharing at YES. Some of the smaller market teams are under 30% since revenue sharing covers a large percentage of their payroll.

Don
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Don
2 years 4 months ago

I think the contract will probably be fine for the Yankees in the way that matters most to them — Tanaka will draw fans to the park every time he pitches in a way that Garza / Nolasco etc. wouldn’t. And those fans will be buying Tanaka jerseys. And those games will make it on national television. Tanaka may not create more wins for the Yankees than those other options, but he will almost certainly create more revenue.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 4 months ago

Really? I mean, say he’s a 14-win, 3.6 ERA guy (just supposin’). Are people going to be saying, “MAN I’VE GOT TO SEE THAT GUY!!” any more than they were lining up to see Kuroda or buy his jersey?

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 4 months ago

Also, Jerseys go into shared revenue. A sold Tanaka jersey helps the Red Sox just as much as it helps the Yankees, and frankly, with the implications of being way over the cap, it probably helps everyone else more than it helps the yankees.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

Not Jerseys sold in-stadium. That’s Yankee revenue, just like jerseys sold in the Gap. All Jerseys come with license fees which are shared, but are only a fraction of the retail cost.

Jay29
Member
Jay29
2 years 4 months ago

For 2014? Yeah. After a while he’ll blend into the rotation and won’t be a must-see.

Preston
Guest
Preston
2 years 4 months ago

The infield holes are a little more complicated than you make out in this article. The Yankees fully intended to re-sign Robinson Cano, prior to the off-season and their 7/175 offer was about what we expected him to sign for. So we have to realize that the way that their off-season has unfolded was not plan A. Second, they’ve had the Alex Rodriguez fiasco playing out, and would it really have been smart to replace A-Rod with another Biogenesis guy like Peralta? Also, Derek Jeter is entrenched at SS whether the Yankees like it or not, they were rumored to have made the higher bid for Stephen Drew last off-season, yet were passed over because he thought he would be blocked at SS by Jeter. Peralta and Drew might have similar reservations this off-season, it’s hard enough trying to replace an icon like Derek Jeter, it’s even harder when he’s still on the roster. Quite frankly I think the Yankees positioned themselves nicely by getting depth early in the off-season by signing Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan and acquiring Dean Anna, prior to them even knowing for sure they had holes at either 2b or 3b. They have since added buy low candidates like Brian Roberts and Scott Sizemore. None are ideal options. But it isn’t difficult to imagine one of them having a big year and being around league average. And guys like Peralta, Drew and Infante don’t project to be much more than that, and all of them definitely have their own warts. I’m sure the Yankees are still trying to see if Drew is amenable to being flexible with his position, and searching for trades for an everyday kind of 3b/2b option. But I’m pretty certain that none of their decisions to sign or not sign a position player had anything to do with what they anticipated paying for Tanaka, especially since the parameters of how the bidding with NPB were going to be had even been set yet.

Epstein et. al.
Guest
Epstein et. al.
2 years 4 months ago

Anyone else see this contract as a win for the Cubs going forward?

DNA+
Guest
DNA+
2 years 4 months ago

I’ve never seen anything as a win for the Cubs.

DNA+
Guest
DNA+
2 years 4 months ago

…and by the way, Theo, you don’t need the period after “et”.

Mike Green
Member
Mike Green
2 years 4 months ago

I usually agree with Dave, but not on this one. There is plenty of downside for the Yankees, as Dave says, but also significant upside. If all goes right for Tanaka, he could be the best pitcher in the league over the 4 year period and provide well more than the $88m plus $20m value (because the posting fee is not counted for luxury tax purposes, it doesn’t make sense to count the two the same way).

As for the risk/reward associated with Cano and Tanaka, I’ll grant that pitchers are inherently much less predictable than position players, but the difference between a 25 year old pitcher on a 7 year contract and a 31 year old position player on a 10 year contract is much more important. Tanaka has a pretty decent chance of maintaining or even improving from his established level of performance, and then holding it for the life of the contract. Cano’s future during the life of his contract is known. He will decline to a great degree before the end of the contract and the question is whether it is in 2 years, 4 years or 6 years.

What it comes to is an evaluation of how good Tanaka now is. He had a better ERA over his last 3 years in the JPPL than Darvish did in his last 3 years, and pitched more innings. His stuff is not as good. Could he be better than Darvish? Yes. Will he be? I have no idea.

Brian
Guest
Brian
2 years 4 months ago

what are the chances he’s a 20+ WAR pitcher over the next four years? 20%? Maybe? I wouldn’t even put Kershaw over 50%. Not a lot of pitchers stay healthy and ultra-productive for four straight years.

And the Yankees only have that 7 year contract if he’s bad or hurt. I’d be fine with the deal if the opt out wasn’t there, but that kills it for me.

As for the renegotiation rights when it becomes clear he’ll opt out…. that doesn’t always work out well. $200M over 7 years in 2018 might end up in disaster.

Mike Green
Member
Mike Green
2 years 4 months ago

20% is in the ballpark. The great majority of modern day pitchers who go on to great careers do not post more than 20 WAR during their age 25-28 seasons. Roy Halladay had 22.5, and Greg Maddux had 27 but those would be the exceptions. Many, many modern pitchers had 18-20 WAR in a variety of configurations (such as the on-off pattern of Bret Saberhagen or the basically steady pattern of Mike Mussina).

The thing is that 20 WAR for $88 plus $20 is significantly over the typical $/WAR figure in this market.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

It really isn’t, though. That’s less than $6M/WAR, which is probably the lower limit on market value. He “only” has to be worth 18 wins for the Yanks to break even.

When you account for the fact that the Yankees are in a position where the marginal value of additional wins is exceptionally high, they’ll probably be quite happy if Tanaka produces 16 WAR over the next 4 years.

Simon
Guest
Simon
2 years 4 months ago

Given his stuff, 20% seems way optimistic. There’s little to suggest that he’ll be a genuine ace. Probably a very solid middle of the rotation arm or a bit more, but that’s not going to get close to 20 WAR.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

People don’t think he’s a “solid middle of the rotation arm.”

He’s considered a true #2 starter. That means 15-20 WAR should be expected.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 4 months ago

“he could be the best pitcher in the league over the 4 year period”

Sure he *could*. Odds are quite low of that happening though. I mean, Brandon Morrow *could* too; I just wouldn’t bet ($175MM) on it.

Matthew
Member
Member
2 years 4 months ago

I think there a few possibilities.

A) Tanaka is able to be a top 10ish pitcher for 4 year. In this case his deal is a a double-edge sword. You obviously get a great pitcher, but the $108M/4 $27M/year is still a lot of be paying anyone not name Clayton Kershaw. It wouldn’t a bad deal, but not a great one.

B) Tanaka is great pitcher but not elite. Good enough to be worth it for the Yankees, but not good enough to break his contract. To the point where he would stay with the Yankees to build the value in his contract at the back end.

C)Tanaka is awful/gets injuried…etc.

Nivra
Member
Nivra
2 years 4 months ago

So I have some serious problems with the math in this article.
“The market price for wins this winter has been around $6 million apiece; to justify $108 million over the next four years, that puts Tanaka at +18 WAR from 2014 to 2017. ”
When has Fangraphs ever used such a simple model for contract evaluation. Most Fangraphs models I’ve seen have adjusted for player aging as well as $/WAR inflation. So let’s do that:
Assume Tanaka starts at 3 fWAR next year, and gains 0.5 fWAR per year until age 27 then starts dropping off at 0.5 fWAR per year. Assume $/WAR inflates at 5% per year, starting at $6M in 2014.

Tanaka accrues 15 fWAR over the first 4 years of the contract and that is equivalent to $98M in value.

Secondly, assume that the Yankees aren’t getting under the salary cap in the next 4 years and continue to pay 50% tax on any contract. The Tanaka contract costs them $20M + $88*1.5 = $152M. To sign domestic players and end up paying out the same amount of money, they could only sign $101M.

$101M and $98M is close enough that this becomes basically a wash. In that case, why not consolidate value into one player?

There are 16 players who have accrued 15 fWAR over the past 4 years, so essentially if he’s a top16 pitcher, the Yankees win on this deal. The top16 pitchers over the past 4 years averaged 18.6 fWAR. The top36 pitchers in 4 year accrued fWAR have averaged 15 fWAR.

Essentially the Yankees are betting he’ll perform like the 16th best pitcher in MLB or perform to the average of the top36 pitchers in MLB. I’d say it’s a pretty good bet he’ll be somewhere within the top36, and there’s a chance he makes the top16.

Mike Green
Member
Mike Green
2 years 4 months ago

The luxury tax calculation is probably more complicated than that. It depends on how much over the threshhold the Yankees are in each year. If they are at the threshhold before the Tanaka/alternative signing, the math is right. If they are $10 million below/annum before Tanaka (say), it is different.

But, yes, the point is right. Tanaka will provide significant upside if he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball over the next 4 years, and he will be earn his contract if he performs as James Shields has over the last 4 years.

Wally
Guest
Wally
2 years 4 months ago

But pitchers don’t get better. They stay roughly flat if healthy, but on average missed playing time due to injuries drag them down every year, even if you’re 21. Basically WAR/162 stays pretty flat for pitchers, but their substantial injury risk leads to decreasing projections in total yearly WAR right from day one.

This is why the $108/4 years pretty much has to mean he’s an ace every year. Assuming $6M/WAR +5% a year (so it ranges from $6M-7M by the 4th year), you’re basically saying you need 3.8-4.5WAR per year to make it worth it, or basically about 17 WAR over those 4 years. Eight pitchers have done that, 12 have been over 16. I don’t think its a realistic projection to assume Tanaka will be one of the top ~10 pitchers in the game when he hasn’t even pitched in America yet.

He may be very good, but for this contract to be worth it, he has to basically be the ace of aces once you consider the down side risk. And that’s Dave’s point. If he doesn’t hit that ~4WAR/year, or does much worse even, you’re suck with him for 3 more years. It doesn’t just end after that 4th year. So you might get ~5WAR for 4 years and its worth it, if you’re lucky, but then he walks. But on the other side, maybe he has a couple good years, but nothing great, gets injured and you’re paying $20+M/year to see personal trainers and doctors until 2020.

The downside to this deal is just >>>> than the upside. There is just no way Tanaka earns enough surplus value in those first 4 years to offset the risk the full seven year deal if flames out.

Wally
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

Sorry, should say 8 pitchers have done that (17WAR) over the last 4 years, not ever.

Nivra
Member
Nivra
2 years 4 months ago

You flat out ignore the fact that the $20M posting fee doesn’t get taxxed. Which makes the equivalent salary for domestic players $101/4 years, lowering his break-even performance to 15.6 fWAR/4 years. There were 15 pitchers who accrued that over the past 4 years, so once again, you’re looking at him being the 15th best pitcher. The 11th-20th pitchers in fWAR over the past 4 years include: Lester, Greinke, Fister, Wainwright, CJ Wilson, James Shields, Latos, Gio Gonzalez.

While that’s elite, it’s not unthinkable for him to reach that level of performance. Especially since he only has to be 20% worse than Darvish to reach that same performance level.

On top of that, there’s the whole issue of adding an elite level player in one single roster spot without having to give up a draft pick/prospects. In today’s free agent market, there’s a huge scarcity factor when it comes to ~4 fWAR/yr free agents. There are none.

Wally
Guest
Wally
2 years 4 months ago

“You flat out ignore the fact that the $20M posting fee doesn’t get taxxed. “

I didn’t ignore it. I refused to assume the taxing. If it happens, fine, but in honesty the extra ~2 wins over 4 years isn’t going to make or break this. If you want to talk about ignoring something, please address the downside of 155/7 at least a little.

“The 11th-20th pitchers in fWAR over the past 4 years include: Lester, Greinke, Fister, Wainwright, CJ Wilson, James Shields, Latos, Gio Gonzalez.

While that’s elite, it’s not unthinkable for him to reach that level of performance. Especially since he only has to be 20% worse than Darvish to reach that same performance level.”

I find it hard to put an “only” in front of “20% worse than Darvish”. Being in the the 11th-20th best pitchers over 4 years still makes you probably the best pitcher on your team. I don’t know why listing some names that I guess is supposed to not strike fear (or something) should be taken of evidence of how its not hard to imagine Tanaka doing that well.

Frankly, to me, its pretty hard to image him doing anywhere near that well considering he hasn’t pitched a game in MLB yet. His numbers in Japan are impressive, but you can’t ignore how hit or miss Japanese pitching imports have been, no matter how great their Japanese number were.

As said by another poster above, this is a very high variance projection we’re trying to make here. Considering that to break even he needs to be ~top 15 in baseball for 4 years, I’m extremely skeptical this deal will work out. And that’s COMPLETELY ignoring the downside isn’t $108/4 or $101/4 of dud, its $155/7 of a dud.

walt526
Member
walt526
2 years 4 months ago

“But pitchers don’t get better. They stay roughly flat if healthy, but on average missed playing time due to injuries drag them down every year, even if you’re 21. Basically WAR/162 stays pretty flat for pitchers, but their substantial injury risk leads to decreasing projections in total yearly WAR right from day one.”

Noting that the WAR/162 is flat in the aggregate is not equivalent to “pitchers don’t get better.” Also, you have a huge selection bias in the WAR/162 trend to which you’re referring.

I have serious reservations that Tanaka will actually be the 16th best MLB pitcher in 2014, but for the sake of argument let’s assume the previous poster’s claim is true. The probability mass that he’ll be worse than 16th best is far greater than that he’ll be better than 16th best, but the latter still exists. Moreover, using pretty much any distributional assumption that probability mass is almost certainly non-trivial (unless you are very, very certain that he is exactly the 16th best pitcher, which seems quite silly). That out-performing a projection is possible necessarily implies the potential that Tanaka (or any pitcher, actually) can improve with age at any time.

Wally
Guest
Wally
2 years 4 months ago

“Noting that the WAR/162 is flat in the aggregate is not equivalent to “pitchers don’t get better.” Also, you have a huge selection bias in the WAR/162 trend to which you’re referring.”

Yes, you’re selecting for pitchers that were still good enough to keep pitching the next year. So, it makes the WAR/162 look better, not worse, thereby strengthening my point.

“That out-performing a projection is possible necessarily implies the potential that Tanaka (or any pitcher, actually) can improve with age at any time.”

Of course any individual pitcher can improve. I would never dispute that when looking at averages of hundreds of players. The point I’m making is that you shouldn’t project a pitcher to get better, because pitchers (you know all of them in general) don’t get better as they age. There never was a peak pitching age as we used to see with hitters (but don’t anymore). They always just got worse, mostly due to lost playing time. So it makes zero sense to start at 3 WAR and add .5/WAR through age 27.

ankle explosion hr celebration
Guest
ankle explosion hr celebration
2 years 4 months ago

“They always just got worse, mostly due to lost playing time.”

Also, importantly, lost fastball velocity. Pitchers almost never gain velocity, only lose it. And Tanaka isn’t starting out with super-great velocity.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

Tanaka sits 92-93 and can hit 96. He has very good velocity, and his fastball is probably his worst pitch.

Also, Japanese pitchers are usually better in their second year, once they adjust to the major leagues.

I like Szymborski’s rate stats projections, personally, although the counting stats are affected by very pessimistic IP projections.

ankle explosion hr celebration
Guest
ankle explosion hr celebration
2 years 4 months ago

CLS, I dunno where you’re getting your information, and certainly NPB data is sparse, so I could be wrong. However, NPB tracker has Tanaka’s fastball as averaging ~90.5 and touching 94, which would not be very good for an MLB pitcher.

I’m not saying he’s doomed to failure; there are pitchers with 90mph fastballs who do fine. Just that there’s not much room for error or aging loss with a 90mph fastball. For comparison, the same site has Darvish at an average speed of 92.7 mph.

Source:
http://www.npbtracker.com/data/player.php?p_id=252
http://www.npbtracker.com/data/player.php?p_id=242

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

I’m just going off the scouting reports I’ve read that have him low-90s with the ability to dial it up to 95-96. I interpreted that to mean 92-93, but I suppose it could just as easily mean 89-91.

He’s supposed to be a control artist, though, so I think he’ll be fine. The splitter is apparently excellent, and he’s been earning Haren and Kuroda comps.

Kuroda’s probably a better fit, because they’re about the same height, and seeing as how consistently very good Kuroda’s been from age 33-38, I’m really excited to see what Tanaka can do coming over in his prime.

evo34
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

There’s also a possibility that the different balls used can have an effect on velocity…

ankle explosion hr celebration
Guest
ankle explosion hr celebration
2 years 4 months ago

thanks evo, good to know.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

The issue is that Dave didn’t actually feel like analyzing anything. He just made a bunch of incorrect assumptions, and then continued his proof from there.

I can do it to:

Hypothesis: 1+1+1=4
Given: 1+1=3

1+1=3
3+1=4
Therefore, 1+1+1=4
QED.

Easy Peasy.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 4 months ago

“But the opt-out changes that calculation, because in reality, the Yankees don’t have Tanaka for 7/$155M; they have him for 4/$108M.”

No, no no no no no.

They have him for 4/108 if hes good, and really 4/155 if hes bad. The opt-out does not help them in any way.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 4 months ago

No, no no no no no.

They still have him for those last three years if he’s bad; he’s not going to opt out, but the Yankees are sure not going to cut him loose after throwing that kind of money at him. It’s 4/108 or 7/155 as Dave said.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 4 months ago

But you’re right in that the opt-out helps only Tanaka and not the Yankees; that’s been covered extensively ’round here and everyone is in wide agreement on that.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 4 months ago

Yes, they still have him, but if hes not providing value, that’s irrelevant.

Let’s say he’s Daisuke:

2007 : 3.8 WAR
2008 : 3.4 WAR
2009 : .6 WAR
2010 : 2.5 WAR
2011 : .3 WAR
2012 : -.2 WAR
2013 : .3 WAR

Does the fact that he’s still on your roster from 2011-2013 help you? He’s no longer an asset at that point.

Wally
Guest
Wally
2 years 4 months ago

I think we get your point. The only issue is that he’s still worth having on your roster if he’s getting 1-3WAR a year, even if he’s not earning his contract.

Nivra
Member
Nivra
2 years 4 months ago

He may only give you 0.5 fWAR per season in those last 3 years, but he could pitch and win a critical game 1 against Verlander in the World Series, y’know.

Wally
Guest
Wally
2 years 4 months ago

So you’re telling me the A’s should have signed him 2 years ago.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 4 months ago

“The only issue is that he’s still worth having on your roster if he’s getting 1-3WAR a year”

There’s a very real chance that he won’t be doing that. THere’s a very real chances hes replacement level, like Daisuke was.

The option removes any upside for the Yankees in the deal, and removes any risk for Tanaka. It’s a terrible idea for the yankees.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

If those are his numbers, he’ll likely opt out after his 4th year, so I don’t see your point…

John C
Guest
John C
2 years 4 months ago

I agree about Peralta…why the Yanks didn’t jump in early for him is a head scratcher. That one move would have covered much of their IF woes. Further, losing Cano was a huge mistake. Imagine how the Yanks would like right now with Cano in the lineup?
I think Tanaka was a desperation move to make up for losing Cano. Like Mike Green said above, Tanaka may be really good, or he may not. Who knows? We do know that over the same 4 yr span, Garza will be decent. If Tanaka pitches only as well, then the Yanks signed a bad deal.
Anyway, we all know the Yankees operate at their own level. They don’t just seek talent, they seek marquis players. Garza isn’t. Tanaka, despite never throwing an inning in MLB, is.
Given their dire IF situation, though, I don’t see the Yanks as more than a 85-90 win team.

walt526
Member
walt526
2 years 4 months ago

Is there any chance that the Yankees could work out some sort of media deal to broadcast more games in Japan than the already are? If so, is that a potential new revenue stream? With three of the highest profile Japanese players in the majors right now, there would seem to be a market with a high level of disposable income. I have no idea how international broadcasting rights work so maybe they’re already broadcasting in Japan. But if not and the Tanaka signing creates (or enhances) the ability of the Yankees to sign an out-of-market broadcasting deal than we’re probably grossly underestimating the marginal value of Tanaka to the team.

In addition, there’s another ancillary benefit in that by signing Tanaka the Yankees may make themselves more appealing to future Japanese stars. Ceteris paribus, a Japanese star would probably prefer going to a team with other Japanese players. Due to the new posting system where Japanese players are essentially unrestricted free agents among any team that posts $20M (or whatever the highest bid is), that potential advantage in attracting future Japanese free agents adds further value to Tanaka (along with Kuroda and Ichiro).

I agree with the premise that Tanaka is likely to provide a poor ROI strictly from a $/WAR perspective. But it seems to me that there are off-field ways in which he could be of tremendous benefit to the Yankees–especially if it increases the marketability of media rights in Japan.

Belloc
Guest
Belloc
2 years 4 months ago

Yes. Rupert Murdoch just upped his stake in the YES network from 49% to 80%. Murdoch already has exclusive soccer broadcasting rights in Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia. I suspect Yankee games will be an integral part of his empire.

Nathaniel Dawson
Guest
Nathaniel Dawson
2 years 4 months ago

Unless I’m mistaken, all international MLB broadcasts are shared equally by all teams, just as merchandise sales (other than on-site) and national TV broadcasts are.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

That’s true but the in stadium advertisements in Japanese become pretty valuable due to the Japanese TV exposure

ankle explosion hr celebration
Guest
ankle explosion hr celebration
2 years 4 months ago

say what?

So the Yankees are going to put up in-stadium ads in Japanese–thus inaccessible to the ~300 million-strong American audience–in order to appeal to the ~90 million Japanese who may or may not be watching? Maybe you’re right but this sounds economically unlikely.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

Did it when Matsui was there. Most just show the brand and name, and even if the name is in English most of the Japanese audience understands. Some were in Japanese.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

This evaluation falls short in a big way.

First off, if the Yankees are competitive this year and make the playoffs, which would not be possible without Tanaka, they could reverse the 58 million dollar revenue drop from last year, and prevent a much larger revenue drop this year. Put simply, the incremental value of Tanaka;s wins, to the Yankees, dwarfs the 6 million per win for an average team. Smashes it into a million pieces. Tanaka is perhaps worth 20 million a win to them this year, and while his value drops off in 2015, it’s still much higher than average

Second, the Yankees are in a position to exploit Tanakas revenue potential like no other MLB team, including the Dodgers (due to higher ticket prices). At 85 dollars a seat for tickets, putting an extra 8,000 fans in the seats during his starts, many of them Japanese, is worth 10 million. Add in in stadium concession sales, Japanese advertisements and corporate sponsorships and the Yankees could approach 20 million in Tanaka revenues, which largely offsets his salary. This effect may slack off in subsequent years, especially if he does not live up to the hype, but it will still be significant.

Third, the Tanaka signing may possibly have accelerated the timetable for 21st Century Fox to exercise its option for controlling interest in Yes. That deal added almost 200 million to the Yankees pockets plus increased its TV rights from 85 million to 150 million. We can’t know for sure that it did, but the timing is curious. That option maybe gets exercised eventually, but time value of money being what it is, lets call it 10 million for getting it 1 yr in advance.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 4 months ago

The Yankees didn’t have a 50M revenue drop because they lost games. They had a 50M revenue drop because its clear to the fans that they’re not going to be competitive for a while because they’re poorly run, have a shitty farm system, and keep pumping huge amounts of cash into older players who aren’t great.

Tanaka may not be old, but hes a whole lot of risk for a whole lot of money, and it looks like they gave him the same sort of ridiciulously friendly deal they’re famous for.

IE, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

I don’t expect to see any positive viewership numbers for the yankees.

Kinanik
Guest
Kinanik
2 years 4 months ago

Is it possible that the opt out doesn’t nullify club control? So that Tanaka has the option of either going to arbitration for the last two years or getting leverage for a long-term deal with the Yankees? I mean, if a drafted player signs a 6y/$$ contract out of the draft and spends two years in the minors, the deal can expire and the team still retains control until 6 years of ML service-time is done. Do we have access to the actual language of the contract? I can imagine the deal making sense if there’s an opt-out of the current contract but the Yankees retaining team control… and I tend to want confirmation before I believe that a team has made an enormous blunder.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

Thats what I thought but supposedly the language would relinquish the Yankees team control somehow, otherwise, whats the point of it for the player.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

If it was the only way to get him, then it wasn’t an enormous blunder.

The Yanks clearly think that Tanaka is what it takes to put them over the top if not this year, then in the next few years.

They also don’t need to get good value on every deal. It’s certainly nice to get value, but it’s not necessary.

Nathaniel Dawson
Guest
Nathaniel Dawson
2 years 4 months ago

Why would Tanaka want an opt-out clause in his contract so he could end up in arbitration? There’s scant chance that he could make more in arbitration than he would make by fulfilling the rest of the contract. He desired the opt-out so he could go after free agent money, so there has to be language in the contract that precludes arbitration.

Simon
Guest
Simon
2 years 4 months ago

Eh, no. He’s not going to go to arbitration when he would otherwise have a salary of $25 million or thereabouts.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 4 months ago

Arbitration almost always leads to more money. If he’s making $22/yr we may see arb values at 25,29,35 for the last 3.

That being said, I doubt he asked for an opt-out without one that actually makes him an FA.

MrKnowNothing
Guest
MrKnowNothing
2 years 3 months ago

I do believe this is correct. Dave even notes this in the article – then completely ignore it in a failed attempt to be the smartest guy in the room.

He’s under control for 6 tears. That’s it. After 4, he’d opt out and go to arbitration. He may do so bc his arbitration baseline would essentially be set by his then current salary.

Green Mountain Boy
Guest
Green Mountain Boy
2 years 4 months ago

Has anyone actually looked at Tanaka’s stats the last 4 years? His K/9 have been plummeting, which raises HUGE red flags to me given his age, and he doesn’t throw all that hard in the first place. His overuse is well-documented. How’d that college overuse work out for Matt Harvey, who is a better pitcher with better mechanics than Tanaka will ever dream of being? Project this K/9 trend to 2014, make some allowance for MLB being tougher than NPBL, and I can see Tanaka being a 7 K/9 guy this year, and who knows what in 2015 and beyond. That, my friends, is Ervin Santana territory, with way more injury risk.

Am I the only one who sees this guy as Dice-K, best-case scenario?

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

Yes, you are, because they’re completely different pitchers. They aren’t particularly close in terms of performance from 18-24, either. They have similar K numbers, but Tanaka didn’t walk anybody.

Tanaka has had two professional seasons with a BB/9 over 2. His first and his second.

Daisuke, meanwhile, had just two NPB seasons with a BB/9 under 2: his fourth one and his eighth (and final) one.

Also, they just have very, very different repertoires.

Justin
Guest
Justin
2 years 4 months ago

Oh C’mon Dave, you completely ignore the benefit of the Yankees having exclusive negotiation rights with Tanaka at the end of the 4th season, If he’s performing they give him a couple million bucks more per year or extend him for another 3 years.

Yes
Guest
Yes
2 years 4 months ago

If Tanaka is performing it will take a lot more than a 3 year extension.

evo34
Guest
evo34
2 years 4 months ago

Can someone please point me to the last Dave Cameron article that was remotely insightful?

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 4 months ago

A lot of his stuff on the Kershaw contract was great…

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 4 months ago

No, it really wasn’t.

He actually argued that the opt-out was good for the dodgers.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

It is if they walk away.

The issue is that they won’t.

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