Mark Teahen’s Curious Deal

Since a promising 2006 season, Mark Teahen‘s career has been on a downhill slide. Perhaps this off season will mark a turning point for him professionally. Traded away from Kansas City to the White Sox right after the conclusion of the World Series, Teahen today signed a lucrative three year contract with Chicago.

Teahen was entering his fifth year of club control, meaning 2010 and 2011 would have been arbitration years, and 2012 his first year of free agency. Using the standard 40%/60%/80% of free market value for arbitration estimates, the White Sox would be expected to dole out 2.4 years worth of Mark Teahen‘s expected value in this contract.

The next step then would be to formulate a projection for Mark Teahen. He clearly has the talent to be an above average player, his 2006 and 2007 seasons speak to that. Since then Teahen’s bat has stagnated and his fielding numbers have taken a turn for the worse. Seasons of 0.1 and 0.2 WAR ensued. Teahen’s walk rate fell to its lowest mark of his career in 2009, at least partly as a result of a three-point increase in his swinging percentage. Most projections are going to regress the walks back up slightly, and in turn, an overall average package of hitting stats seems where most projections are clocking in.

Projecting defense is a bit tougher, but when you factor in position adjustments, Teahen was average for two years followed by two years of -12 runs, so even giving him some credit for re-adjusting to third base (if that is indeed where he ends up) and some credit for regression yields no better than an overall -5 run or so projection. Add it all up and 1 to 1.5 WAR is where I’d feel comfortable tabbing Teahen. Fair value then for the next three seasons would be about $13 million, a touch under the actual value of this contract (reported for $14.4 million).

However, the above paragraph assumes some free market principles not in play here, mainly because of the backwardness of how arbitration salaries are usually awarded. Teahen made $3.575 million last season and players rarely get paycuts going to arbitration so even though fair market for Teahen next year would be about $2.5 million, there is no chance that is what he actually would have made. By dint of how the process works, Teahen was essentially guaranteed about $9 million over the next two years regardless, and that’s if he didn’t bounce back this upcoming season. If the White Sox factored the likely arbitration awards into their cost estimates, then the price they just paid for that 2012 season comes down into a very reasonable range.

All in all, this deal makes sense for Teahen, who gets financial security after laying two goose egg seasons. It also makes some sense for the White Sox. Their risk is not really in overpaying, but rather guaranteeing money to a player who they had under control anyways and who they might not want to have around two years from now. The reward is if Teahen returns either his prior hitting or fielding skills, then the White Sox have a cheap asset on their hands.

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

12 Responses to “Mark Teahen’s Curious Deal”

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  1. Nats Fan says:

    I am rooting for Teahan, but he is going nowhere near my fantasy squad.

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    • the breeze says:

      Why? He looks like a nice post-hype player with eligibility at potentially 3 positions. Low risk/high reward candidate if you get him on the cheap.

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      • travolta19 says:

        Unless your fantasy league is 14 teams+ deep, he really doesn’t have any value in 5×5 formats.

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      • DWrek says:

        “High Reward”. What exactly would be a high reward for Teahan that is fantasy relevant though? 15 home tuns? Thats not a gret reward for a corner player.
        I see no way he re-approaches a +200 ISO after 3 years of -150.

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      • alskor says:

        I could see it.

        Teahen, if you’ll recall, was the subject of much discussion as a prospect and rookie b/c he had a distinctly inside out swing. It was extremely strange looking. He’s corrected it some, but the Royals coaching is… well… less than optimal, and they’ve messed around with him some (not to mention constantly switching his position – Hell, he started last year at 2B! He’s played 3B-1B-RF-LF-2B-3B… Certainly didn’t help). New environment and straighten him out and it could happen. He has natural power and a very good approach at the plate. Im not expecting him to start hitting many more home runs and XBH, but its quite possible.

        Seems like his swing will be well suited to the Cell, too.

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  2. John Franco says:

    Isn’t this remarkably similar to the deal they gave Swisher? Which they were then very eager to escape?

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  3. dan woytek says:

    Ken Williams will be offering this deal to Jeremy Brown next off season and then work further down the list of A’s 2002 draft picks in subsequent years

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  4. MikeS says:

    I’m a White Sox fan, but not a big Teahen fan. At 3B he accentuates their defensive problems without really bringing a big bat. I think they were high on him because he hit well against them. Still, this deal doesn’t seem so bad. It’s only a little over market value. With inflation, if he has one good year or a good start to the third year, he can potentially be moved at the trade deadline. If they find a 3B who’s better, I like him off the bench. Overall, not a lot of risk for the Sox it seems.

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    • alskor says:

      He’s shown the ability to be an average to plus defender at a few different positions (though never did well at 3B). He also has the tools for it. Good range, strong arm. His UZR ratings have been all over the place and I think we have to assume a lot of it is how often theyve been moving him around.

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  5. Steve says:

    not going to kill them, but a little pointless and why now??

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