Marlins Get a Potential Bargain in Jose Reyes

Before the off-season started, we asked you guys to project how much the primary free agents would sign for this winter. The FanGraphs Crowd tabbed Jose Reyes for a six year, $101 million contract. Tonight, he signed with the Marlins for six years and $106 million, so you guys can count this as a feather in your cap — the crowd figured out what the market for Reyes would be quite well.

So, now, the question is simply whether the Marlins were wise to throw $106 million at Reyes to begin with. Paul Swydan tackled how Reyes would fit into the Marlins roster a few weeks ago, and covered those issues pretty well. So instead, let’s talk about Reyes’ value as a player, and whether giving him this much guaranteed money is a good idea.

First off, I don’t think there’s any question that Jose Reyes is legitimately one of the very best players in baseball. Despite breaking into the majors in 2003 at age 20 and struggling to hit big league pitching at a point when most guys are still working their way up through the minors, he has a career 112 wRC+ while playing a quality defensive shortstop. The average wRC+ for shortstops in baseball during Reyes’ career is 87 by the way, so you can essentially say that he’s performed at an offensive level 28 percent better than his peers in his career to date. The list of players who can sustain that kind of performance over a nine-year stretch is very small.

The numbers are even more impressive if you look at his performance levels since 2006, when he learned a modicum of plate discipline and added legitimate power to his arsenal. His wRC+ over that timeframe is 120, ranking second in baseball at the position behind only now-former-shortstop Hanley Ramirez. To put that in further context, Adam Dunn‘s wRC+ since 2006 is 122. Reyes has performed at a similar offensive level to Dunn over the past six years, and he’s done it while playing shortstop.

This kind of offensive performance at a premium position is exceedingly valuable, which is why Reyes has four seasons of at least +5.8 WAR in the past six years. The devil is always in the details, though, and in Reyes’ case, the details are those other two years. It’s impossible to talk about Reyes’ value without also talking about his 2009 and 2010 seasons, where he managed just 779 total plate appearances and +3.7 WAR between both years, struggling with injuries and reduced performance even when he was on the field.

Without those injuries, Reyes could have made a case for a contract twice the size of the one he signed with Miami, but seemingly chronic hamstring problems have earned him the label of a high-risk player. The value is certainly there when he’s on the field, but his ability to stay on the field enough to justify a big contract is essentially the question that will determine whether the Marlins made the right call today. Performance isn’t the issue, as a full-throttle Jose Reyes is clearly worth in excess of $18 million per season — in his case, it’s simply a question of health.

So, how many games does Reyes need to play per season to justify his contract? To answer that, we can run a calculation based on a few assumptions. While it’s too early in the off-season to say exactly what the market price for a win is, the signings we’ve seen indicate that it’s still in the $5 million range — it’s certainly no less than $4 million, and might be as high as $6 million — but we’ll stick with $5 million for now and you can simply shift the numbers slightly in either direction if you feel that it’s closer to four or six based on your own assumptions. Inflation is harder to peg, but an assumption of 5% annual inflation over the next six years seems likely to be in the ballpark at least, and again, you can always substitute a different number if you don’t like the 5% estimate.

Here’s essentially what Reyes would need to produce to justify this contract as fair market price, based on $5 million per win and 5% annual inflation over the life of the contract:

Year WAR $/WAR Value
2012 3.53 $5.00 $17.67
2013 3.37 $5.25 $17.67
2014 3.20 $5.51 $17.67
2015 3.05 $5.79 $17.67
2016 2.91 $6.08 $17.67
2017 2.77 $6.38 $17.67

At that price, the Marlins are essentially paying for a total of +19 WAR over the next six years. What does +19 WAR from a shortstop look like over a six year period?

Well, from 2006 to 2011, it looked a lot like J.J. Hardy — another guy who produced at a good rate while spending a decent amount of time nursing injuries. Over the last six years, Hardy managed 2,813 plate appearances, or about 470 per season. That’s about as few as you can realistically expect from Reyes, even if you think his leg problems are going to continue to haunt him going forward, and yet Hardy was able to accumulate +18.5 WAR over a six year period while averaging fewer than 500 PA per season.

That’s what a 100 wRC+ and high quality defense (+50.2 UZR) at a premium position will do for a player. Most metrics don’t value Reyes’ defense quite as highly, but he should be able to clear the league-average-hitter bar fairly easily — even the broken 2010 Reyes managed a 104 wRC+ — and a healthy Reyes is capable of far, far more. So it seems pretty clear that if Reyes racks up 2,800 plate appearances over the next six years, he’ll earn the money Miami is paying him. If he gets much over 3,000 PA, he’ll start to look like a legitimate bargain.

This is a pretty low bar to clear, honestly. Reyes could miss 40 to 50 games per season and still rack up 3,000 PA over the next six years. The Marlins have essentially signed him to a contract that gives him room to spend more than a month each year on the DL while still getting what they’ve paid for. It’s possible that they’ll get exactly that, and Reyes will produce value for five months while watching on the sidelines for an extended period each year, but I don’t think anyone has figured out how to forecast injury projections so well that we should recognize that there isn’t real potential value to be had in this deal.

If Reyes manages to stay reasonably healthy for most of the next six years, the Marlins are going to get a lot of surplus value from this contract. They’ve signed an elite player who isn’t yet 30 years old and whose skillset historically ages quite well. He doesn’t have to be the next ironhorse to earn this contract — he just has to stay away from something like a skillset-altering leg injury. Essentially, if he can avoid the Grady Sizemore career path, he’s a pretty good bet to be worth this contract and then some.

The Marlins should be commended for their willingness to take a risk on Reyes. The move isn’t without its potential downfalls, but the value is certainly there, and Reyes makes them a substantially better team.




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

124 Responses to “Marlins Get a Potential Bargain in Jose Reyes”

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  1. nik says:

    Marlins are going to have quite a nice lineup. Its too bad they didn’t hang on to Cameron Maybin. If Josh Johnson stays healthy, that’s a dangerous team.

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    • Scout Finch says:

      Yeah, but they got a couple arms for the pen in that deal and have a nice foursome in the OF with Morrison, Stanton and Coughlin/Bonifacio. Scary lineup with balance of speed/power/OB.

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    • www.thehotteststove.com says:

      The roster looks good if they can add some quality pitching at the back end of their rotation. It’s a looking a little thin right now.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      Agreed, with Heath Bell the closer and adding Reyes makes the Marlins
      a contender, which is exactly what they wanted for their new stadium.

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  2. dan says:

    Dave, how does Hanley’s likely switch to 3rd alter his value?

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    • nik says:

      I doubt it goes down that much, as his UZR at SS has been terrible.

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      • tdotsports1 says:

        Is this not a slight waste of resources?

        Why not just let Hanley continue to play SS with the likelihood he returns to form with the bat. Jeter played his entire career at SS even with questionable D, Hanley could do the same (or, you know, get in shape again and be only slightly below average).

        Reyes is a fine player but they already had presumably a top 2-3 talent at that position no?

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      • williams .482 says:

        What is the point to playing an inferior defender at SS, especially when that inferior defender has agreed to play, and looks more capable (to me) of playing, 3B.

        The Marlins are a better team with Hanley at 3B and Reyes at SS.

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    • Skeptic says:

      Personally, why not make Hanley into an outfielder? He’d be a nice fit in LF.

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      • Jayson Stark said Marlin’s FO still find’s it possible to move Hanley to CF, but he’s already agreed to move to third so a move to the outfield is pretty unlikely.

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      • Will says:

        Because they have Stanton and Morrison locked up for the foreseeable future in the corner outfield positions.

        At 3B, they have Emilio Bonifacio.

        I think that should clarify matters.

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  3. Skeptic says:

    Am I really the only one that is skeptical of Reyes’ ability to maintain a high level of play? He’s shown to be fragile in New York. Once you remove Reyes’ speed you see a player who doesn’t walk very much and has the potential to strikeout a ton.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      We’ve seen gimpy Reyes in 2009/2010, so we don’t really have to prognosticate too much on what that would look like. He was a below average defender who still managed a 106 wRC+ over those two years and averaged +2.8 WAR per 600 PA. As the chart in the post shows, he doesn’t have to be a whole heck of a lot better than that to earn this contract.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      “and has the potential to strikeout a ton.”

      Is this a joke? Aside from the Juan Pierre, Reyes has the lowest strikeout rate in baseball last year. Why would you assume he’s going to suddenly strike out a ton?

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    • JimNYC says:

      I think people are VASTLY underestimating the injury problem here. If I had to put an over/under on the number of games played by Reyes during the length of this six year contract, I’d probably go right around 500 — I can’t imagine him playing more than 120 in any given season, and I’d guess that he’d miss all or substantially all of at least two seasons. The potential for this to be a Pavano-with-the-Yankees contract is off the charts.

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  4. ImKeithHernandez says:

    Times like these make being a rational analytical baseball fan so tough. I know that this is the right move for the Mets, but I’m still bummed and angry. The part of me that reads this site understands, but every other part of me wants to call into the FAN and complain. Who would have predicted in 2006 that in 2011 the small market Mets would lose Jose Reyes to the big market Marlins?

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    • MC says:

      Not only that, but all the Mets get for Reyes is some scrubby 3rd round pick. This is just a terrible, terrible outcome for the Mets. Not trading him at the deadline, in hindsight, is simply inexcusable.

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      • MetFan says:

        Totally agree here. How Alderson wasn’t out in front of this, I can’t yet understand. It’s not like the CBA was put together overnight. He had to have known the direction of the new CBA. Given that, he’s made a big mistake in not optimizing value for Reyes. I can understand him not paying top dollar and letting him go. (Sort of.) But not getting anything in return for a top SS is, indeed, inexcusable.

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      • MH says:

        It seems a bit contradictory to say something “in hindsight was completely inexcusable”. If they had traded him, who knows, maybe they get a pitching prospect who has two tommy john surgeries in the next three years, and the idea that they’d only have gotten a third round pick wouldn’t even be in anyone’s mindset, instead it would be “completely inexcusable” in hindsight that the Mets didn’t try to resign him and cash in the draft picks if they couldn’t.

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      • Scout Finch says:

        3rd rounder and a sandwich. Yum. Ooops.

        Imagine we’ll see less of the ‘playing the draft comp game’ with impending free agents and a few more deadline trades.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        “Not trading him at the deadline, in hindsight, is simply inexcusable.”

        Didn’t he go on the DL in July? Was there really a market for him at the time, where they would have received a top prospect? Before he got hurt, they had an outside chance of contending and Mets fans would have rioted if they traded him. As they fell further from contention, he got hurt and went on the DL. Nothing Alderson could have done.

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      • Steve says:

        This has nothing to do with the new CBA though. It has everything to do with the TEAM that signed Reyes. Rules would have been the same under the old CBA, right?

        He happened to sign with a team with a protected first rounder and a team that already signed another, higher ranked Type A FA.

        This is a pretty rare combination of events, I would guess. It’s not like the Yankees signed him. How often do “bad” teams sign 2 type A’s in the same offseason??

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      • MC says:

        “in hindsight, inexcusable” – yeah I realize this is contradictory. I guess what I mean is that, at the time, it seemed like a bad, though not entirely terrible, decision.

        Now it just seems like a huge terrible mistake.

        I remember at the time Alderson was saying that he didn’t want to make it “too hard on” the Mets by trading Reyes. That’s a pretty terrible reason not to trade someone. It’s short term oriented especially because (1) get good prospects back (2) trash your record to get a higher lottery draft pick.

        So yeah it was a bad decision at the time but with the benefit of hindsight it was just an awful decision.

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      • Robbie G. says:

        Agreed, inexcusable. Teams in all sports should be able to determine what the market is going to be for an impending free agent. If the team determines that it is willing/able to meet that market price, then you keep the guy; otherwise, you determine whether the draft pick compensation is superior to whatever compensation you’re going to receive via a trade. In this instance, the Mets should have been able to determine Reyes’ likely market value–I mean, as Mr. Cameron has pointed out above, the users of this website came very close to nailing it exactly–and proceeded to accept the best trade offer it was able to generate. The Mets were able to exact a very nice return for Carlos Beltran so I see no reason why they were not able to do the same with Reyes.

        As for the poster who pointed out that Reyes got hurt and that the injury probably derailed the plan to trade Reyes: the fact that Reyes has been such an injury-prone player over the last few years is exactly the reason why Reyes should have been moved sooner rather than later. The Mets got greedy here and were unable to make the completely rational decision to trade a player who they did not plan on re-signing to a market value contract this winter. I realize that for a team in the largest media market in the country to trade a player who was pretty clearly the best position player in the NL during the first half of the season makes for some bad publicity but sometimes you have to show some balls. Mediocre teams that auction off good veteran players in the face of public scrutiny have very frequently gotten the last laugh in recent years. Hell, the Marlins themselves famously auctioned off seemingly its entire veteran cast for prospects in the late 1990s and proceeded to win the World Series again just a few years later.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Robbie, you’re making it sound a lot easier that it was. The Mets were wild card contenders in mid-June. They were within 3-4 games of the Braves at the time. If they traded him around that time, fans would have rioted. By the time they faded in late-June and early-July, Reyes was on the DL. He came back and didn’t exact mash the ball at the end of July, and he wasn’t stealing bases at that time. There’s no reason that a team would have sent over a nice package of prospects for Reyes a week after he came back from the DL, and there’s no reason the Mets should have traded him when they had a fighting chance of making the playoffs in mid-June. To expect them to trade Reyes in the two week period from when they faded to when he got hurt…that’s just hindsight foolishness.

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      • Robbie G. says:

        My point is that a team, no matter what the circumstances, with an impending big money free agent needs to sit down, determine the likely market value, figure out whether or not they want to pay this player the kind of money that it’s going to take to re-sign him, and either a) hold on to the guy if it decides that it is willing/able to pony up the money to re-sign him during the offseason or b) trade him for the best possible package of players/prospects if it decides that it is NOT willing/able to pony up the money to re-sign him. Regardless of the sport and regardless of the circumstances. It takes balls but the front office needs to do it. Further, the winning formula in pro sports in this country is to have an owner or ownership group that hires the right management team, communicates to the management team what the budget is, and allows/expects this management team to make perfectly rational decisions, such as trading Jose Reyes to the highest bidder in June, when his value was through the roof. The losing formula, on the other hand, is for the owner to hire the wrong management team and/or to not allow its management team to make this sort of perfectly rational decision. This failure by the Mets organization is the latest example of why this organization continues to fare poorly on the field.

        Sometimes the perfectly rational decision is not going to be the most popular decision in the world but you have to be able to behave rationally in the face of public pressure to behave irrationally. If you aren’t able to do that then you are ultimately going to frustrate your fan base even more by losing even more. I do understand that all of this is easier said than done but that’s kind of the point. That’s what separates strong organizations from weak organizations.

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      • Robbie G. says:

        Plus, sports fans are sheep, man. They always keep coming back for more. Had the Mets auctioned Reyes off to the highest bidder, Mets fans, like any other pro sports fan base, would have initially thrown a fit but would ultimately talk themselves into believing that the trade was a good trade and talking up the players/prospects received in the trade. Go to some any fan message board of a lousy pro sports organization. Clippers fans have been telling themselves that “This time, it’s going to be different” and “Just wait until these young players live up to their potential” for years despite overwhelming evidence that the organization is a lousy organization that has always lost and will (under the present ownership regime) always lose.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Robbie, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. The team was a surprise contender in mid-June and there’s no way they trade their most popular home-grown talent at that time, when he was on an MVP pace. The injury really threw a monkeywrench into their plans. If he didn’t get hurt and could have netted a great package, I assume they would have pulled the trigger (the way he was playing, he should have easily surpassed Wheeler, who they got for Beltran). I can’t find any trade rumors from late-July after he got off the DL, but I can’t imagine the ‘best possible package’ would have been worthwhile at the time. They probably didn’t get offers that were better than a 1st round pick and sandwich pick. And if anybody knew a team with a protected 1st rounder would sign Reyes and a better player (according to Elias), then they should be playing the lotto.

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      • TMS says:

        If it takes hindsight to know that then it is excusable.

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    • Bigmouth says:

      “I Don’t! Want! Reyes!”

      -Jerome from Manhattan

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  5. Phils_Goodman says:

    I think your $/WAR estimates are extremely generous.

    The cost of a Win by year:

    2006 — $3.7 M
    2007 — $4.2 M
    2008 — $4.5 M
    2009 — $4.5 M
    2010 — $4.0 M
    2011 — $4.5 M

    Rates have stagnated for 5 years between $4-4.5 M per year. Why are you starting at $5 M in 2011 instead of $4.5? Why should a 5% annual increase be expected?

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    • TFINY says:

      I believe that if you go back beyond 06, there was a steady increase which was stopped with the financial crisis in the late 2000s. As the economy recovers, prices per win seem to be rising (based on what we would expect and on what has already happened).

      As Dave pointed out, if you believe that it is closer to $4M per win, feel free to use that number.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Baseball was seeing annual inflation of nearly 10 percent before the housing market went bust and MLB teams pulled back on off-season spending as a reaction to the economic times. While the economy still isn’t amazing, it’s clear that MLB revenues weren’t hurt that drastically by the global banking problems, and teams have returned to spending significant money on free agents.

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      • Phils_Goodman says:

        Wouldn’t your observation that Jose Reyes is getting paid to produce like J.J. Hardy lead you away from the conclusion that contract inflation is returning to early 2000′s rates?

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      • Joe says:

        Dave you were beating the same drum last offseason with your predictions of major salary inflation.

        Why not just take last year’s # and apply a normal inflation rate? Wouldn’t it be better to use conservative estimates when trying to figure what bar a player would have to clear?

        Is it that hard to make it data driven?

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      • shoewizard says:

        The Yankees are dropping their payroll to 189 million by 2014. The Mets and Dodgers are broke. The Red Sox appear to be scaling back a bit.

        Some of the top players will still get top dollar, but I don’t see any bg jump in what players will get overall.

        As for the economy….who knows what the next big shock will be. The fact is the fundamentals are so lousy that virtually any major disruption sends the country into a tailspin now. This damaging cycle will continue to repeat itself until we stop spending more than we earn and stop consuming more than we produce.

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      • Will H. says:

        re: Shoewizard,

        You seem to have forgotten to mention that the economy needs revenue raised on the rich… and, please, “trickle down” has been shown not to happen, and it’s not like someone’s going to stop working because they will net a little less.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        So, depending on the state of the economy, baseball’s salary inflation has historically be between -11% and 11%. The economic is still a mess. More than half the country’s politicians think it’s getting worse, not better. And it’s hard to argue that teams are spending more this offseason, when you just wrote an article about how one of the biggest free agents was just signed for a “bargain.”

        Seems to me that, based on all that, the safe thing to do would be to ignore inflation or to assume the same inflation rate as the whole economy (2% – 4%).

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      • AdamM says:

        “More than half the country’s politicians think it’s getting worse, not better.”

        Translation:

        All the Republicans, and a couple of Democrats

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        AdamM, that’s exactly what I meant.

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      • a seattle fan says:

        You guys are misunderstanding the economic implications of the downturn. It is win-win for MLB.

        Economy improves, people get more jobs, people have more money to spend at the ballpark.

        Economy stagnates or declines, fewer people have jobs, people have more time to watch games on TV.

        Win-Win!

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  6. West says:

    I’m going to predict an average of 120 games per season for Reyes over the course of this contract.

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    • Mike G. says:

      Good call, West. One commonality in the WAR analysis I did (see below), is that most of the players who put up comparable value to Reyes in their Age 23-28 seasons lost a significant number of plate appearances in their Age 29-34 seasons. Not including players who didn’t make it to Age 34, the average player lost almost 500 plate appearances in the second six year grouping. Reyes averaged 128 games a year during the last six seasons. If he loses 500 plate appearances over the next six years, that 120 game per year prediction might wind up being generous.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      That’s fine.

      Cameron just concluded that Reyes is being paid to produce 3.17 WAR per year. But over the past 6 seasons, he’s produced 4.41 WAR per 120 games.

      So, if he produces at the same rate, but only plays for 120 games/year, this contract is still a bargain.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        1. No way he can be projected to produce at the same rate (with sound sabermetric principles). Hence, the contract won’t be a bargain.

        2. He can produce at a declining rate and still have the contract be good for both player and team … even while playing 120 games.

        Also, people understand that WAR is a counting stat, right?

        Had he played 145 games, instead of 120 his WAR would be significantly higher.

        Same issue with Beltran. His WAR per 600 PA has been very good even in the last few years, the problem has been the PA itself.

        It’s amazing to me that JR can essentially spend a month a season on the DL, decline a bit in performance, and still “earn” a 6/106 contract without him stealing the money. That’s talent.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Circle, he doesn’t need to produce at the same rate. In fact, he can produce at only 70% of his previous rate, be injured for 42 games a year, and still earn that contract.

        And, yes, I understand that WAR is a counting stat. But 4.41 WAR per 120 games (Reyes’ production over the previous 6 years) is a rate stat, not a counting stat.

        Looks to me like this contract takes into the account the fact that a) he will be a worse player, and b) he will be injured for long stretches. If the contract didn’t account for either prediction (but instead assumed he would produce at his past rate for 155 games/year), he would’ve been paid $195M/6.

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  7. Doug says:

    Thanks for the analysis Dave. Not to be nitpicky, but wRC+ of 112 isn’t 25% better than the positional average of 87% It’s 28% better ( you need to divide 112/87). I know you know this, but on a site where so many arguments are numerical, it pays not to be sloppy with the numbers.

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    • j_ordan says:

      i think you missed the part where he said, “you can essentially say that” — it makes sense to use a rounded, slightly estimated number like 25% because wRC+ itself is not an ironclad, universal fact. saying that reyes was roughly 25% better than the average SS is likely more factually correct than saying that he was exactly 28% better.

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    • Kyle says:

      if you divide the difference by the midpoint it give you almost exactly 25%. Which is what I think he was doing.

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  8. James says:

    Still trying to understand the mechanics of WAR, so correct me if I’m wrong but to me fair market value is $2.3 mil per WAR. Consider the MLB payroll in 2011 was $93 million. A replacement level team with 25 players signed to league minimum salaries would cost $10 mil and get you 45 wins. A league average team would have 36 WAR and pay $83 mil for that, which is roughly $2.3 mil per WAR.

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    • James says:

      Consider the average MLB payroll*

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      A win is worth about $2.5 million or so in value, but the prices paid to acquire those wins comes from different markets – you can’t easily buy players like Evan Longoria who produce massive surplus value during the early years of their contracts. Quality young players produce a lot of WAR for very little money, so teams reallocate those dollars to bid on free agents – thus, the price of a FA is significantly higher than the average value of a win.

      This is why building a team entirely through free agency doesn’t really work, as you’d have to have a $250 million payroll to buy enough wins to be a contender. Drafting and developing talent internally is a far more efficient way to build a winning team.

      However, no team can produce an entirely home grown roster, so teams have to wade into the free agent and trade markets to fill holes. And to do that, they have to pay what the market determines prices for those instant-value players are worth. Right now, the market is pricing those wins at about $5 million apiece.

      All free agent contract analysis is going to be relative to the market rate. If you get a bottle of milk on sale at the grocery store for $1, that’s still a good deal even if you could have theoretically gotten milk a lot cheaper had you bought a cow three years ago. The reality is that you don’t have a cow, you need milk, and the grocery store is the only place you can get it, so you judge value by comparing it to the normal price charged. Same deal with free agents – if you can get good players in free agency for less than the market rate, you’re doing well. It doesn’t change the fact that you still can’t build a whole team that way, but free agents can help you win.

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      • James says:

        Ok fair enough. It’s just I’m coming from the Rays perspective where you need 50 WAR on your roster to compete with the Yankees and you only have $40 mil to spend. At that rate $2.5 mil per WAR already looks expensive, so Reyes at that contract would be an overpay from the Rays’ perspective, even with SS currently being a weakness on the team.

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      • a seattle fan says:

        It wouldn’t be an overpay for the Rays. They just couldn’t afford to pay the market price.

        To think up an analogy, um buying milk. Say you need to buy milk, and it costs $3. Say you only have 45 cents. Buying milk for $3 isn’t overpaying. You are just poor. Maybe it’s time for you to pull yourself up from you bootstraps.

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  9. Mike G. says:

    This is a me scribbling on a napkin, but I went and looked for 19 SSs who put up a comparable WAR to Reyes between the Ages of 23-28 to see how they did between the Ages of 29-34. Of the 19 most similar, six maintained (were within 5 WAR in either direction in their Age 29-34 seasons of what they did in their Age 23-28 seasons), three declined (dropped between 5-10), two sharply declined (dropped between 10-15) and seven dropped off a cliff (a 15 or greater drop). Reyes could certainly put up a 19+ WAR over the next six seasons. However, it isn’t a slam dunk. Shortstop is a physically demanding and challenging position. Even players with clean health histories in their 20s often start getting banged up as they enter their 30s. It’s possible that Reyes “maintains,” does what he did with the Mets, and is a bargain for the Marlins. There’s a better chance than not, though, that Reyes gets hurt and/or isn’t as effective as he was with the Mets as he moves into his 30s.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I’m guessing that many of those guys just put up ridiculous WAR in their early years, and then slowed down from the impossible to maintain pace.

      19 WAR out of Reyes over 6 seasons certainly isn’t a slam dunk as you say, but it certainly appears to be a finger roll.

      We also don’t know if the climate in Miami helps, hurts, or no effect on Reyes’s health.

      I think he’s going to need more WAR than that since I dunno if the market is really going to be 6M/WAR in 5 years. But, I credit the marlins for going for it.

      I’m not sure how much Reyes works on flexibility, endurance, conditioning, etc … but if he’s been lacking in that department (ala Griffey, mantle, etc), this would be a great time to take it seriously.

      If he stays healthy over this contract, he’s got a chance at another good money 3-4 year deal after this one.

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    • Nathan says:

      How many of those 19 players had peripherals and other true talent indicators that measured as high as Reyes in the 23 – 28 year old seasons?

      Serious question, would be curious to know. That would help refine the list. Also, how many suffered some type of acute, unexpected injury, how many stayed relatively healthy, and how many suffered from a “nagging” type of injury, as with Reyes?

      There is a lot of risk in the deal, but there is also a lot of surplus value to be had if Reyes can start 130 games. Not the best deal in the world, but as a Tigers fan, I would’ve been pretty thrilled had the Tigers signed him to this deal, or even this deal at a couple million more per season.

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      • TMS says:

        Are his peripherals really that great? He has power but his BABIP was very high last year. I don’t expect that kind of luck to continue and he was back to hacking last year. He had 1 or 2 years where he was a patient hitter drawing significant walks.

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  10. Anon says:

    Reyes has performed at a similar offensive level to Dunn over the past six years

    Extremely misleading. Dunn averaged better than 130 wRC+ for five of those years and then fell of a cliff and lost both his arms last year.

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    • Domenic says:

      I was going to point this out, as well.

      Dunn averaged a wRC+ of approximately 132 from 2006 through 2010 … a mark that Reyes has surpassed exactly once in his career. Reyes has met or surpassed the 122 wRC+ benchmark three times (including seasons of 122 and 123), whereas Dunn has done so four times in the past six years (136, 129, 142, 135).

      I would take a solid defensive shortstop with a 122 wRC+ over a lead-footed DH with a 132 wRC+, to be sure, but I still dislike the comp.

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  11. J says:

    Last paragraph: You write “it’s” but mean “its”. Just sayin’.

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    • Eric says:

      Holy nitpicking batman. These writers provide you with a ridiculous amount of well thought-out, well put-together articles, a mind blowing statistical and player database (all for free, mind you) and the only thing you feel the need to talk about is a tiny little extra apostrophe?

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      • wiggly says:

        Dave has written a well thought-out, well put-together article based on a mind-blowing statistical database and his own creative analysis. An extra apostrophe detracts from his otherwise sterling analysis. Do you tell him about it, or let it sit there?

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      • a seattle fan says:

        I agree with J. That apostrophe ruined the article for me. Now I don’t know what to think of the Reyes deal.

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    • TMS says:

      No, it was a great article but what’s with people confusing ‘its’ and ‘it’s’?

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  12. DrBGiantsfan says:

    Between Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and LoMo, the Marlins are going have either a great team or a train wreck.

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  13. DrBGiantsfan says:

    I’ll add that of the “Big Three” free agents, Pujols, Fielder and Reyes, I think Reyes has the best chance of delivering the value of his contract or better over the full contract. Positional scarcity and his ability to stay at that position has a lot to do with it. I know he’s had a couple of injury plagued seasons but I don’t see any reason to think he’s a higher injury risk than the average player at this point. Good signing by Miami.

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    • Nathan says:

      This is a great point. The positional and defensive value of Reyes is so much higher than Fielder and Pujols, and both those 1B are likely to get money and term that extend well beyond how their skill set typically ages (especially Fielder).

      Reyes is the higher risk, but also pretty clearly the higher reward in the sense of surplus value.

      It is hard to bet on Pujols not at least achieving full value on whatever contract he signs… he is just that freaking good.

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    • Richie says:

      ‘No reason to think he’s a higher injury risk than the average player’????

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  14. Bodhizefa says:

    So… why didn’t the Mets trade Reyes at the deadline again? It seemed silly then, and it appears downright stupid now.

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    • ImKeithHernandez says:

      He missed most of July. Then played at the end of the month, but still wasn’t healthy, and missed time in August.

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      • Domenic says:

        Even so, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest they could have received more value than a supplemental pick and either a second or third-rounder … the latter of which appears to be the case, as Bell carries the higher Type A ranking.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        In July, there was no reason to think that he’d only net a sandwich pick and a third rounder. It was a possibility, but not the type of thing that makes you trade him at the deadline. And considering he was injured in July, I don’t see teams lining up to give elite prospects for the guy.

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      • Joe says:

        So now an arbitrary $/WAR value is being justified by making up two other arbitrary values 4mil and 6mil and saying well 5 mil is right in between so it makes sense? I’d expect better from a SABR savy site.

        On what planet are wins going to be possibly 6mil next year? (which would be 33% inflation) Is this a 3 sigma # estimate? A 10sigma #estimate?

        Are 4 mil and 6mil equally likely outcomes in your view? (which is what you seem to be implying by taking a midpoint) Or did you simply use those #’s to justify the 5mil that you had pre-determined?

        Where did your 11% inflation rate assumption come from? (simply because baseball was at 10% in much better economic times does not seem to be sound reasoning in this economic environment)… And if this does make sense, why then cut it down to 5% every year thereafter?

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      • Joe says:

        sorry mistaken reply… please ignore the above comment

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    • Who? says:

      two words: delusional ownership

      the Wilpons have drastically reduced the projected 2012 payroll figure from 150M to under 100M over the past year because of their increasing financial troubles. They backed out on a deal for a minority owner because they didn’t want to risk losing the team. Alderson didn’t trade Reyes because he thought he’d have the money to keep Reyes, but that money was never there.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • TMS says:

      They thought they had a chance to sign him. It’s that simple.

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  15. CircleChange11 says:

    Word in in Chicagoland is that Miami is very close to signing Buehrle as well.

    I guess next year the Dolphins are going to sign 3+ major FA to keep up with the Miami or “South Beach” trend.

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    • Joe says:

      They’re going to sign big free agents this off-season and trade them next off-season, like they always do when they sign anyone.

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  16. Emilio Bonifacio says:

    So where do I end up playing this year, CF ?

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    • SteveL says:

      Yes, probably CF. The bigger question is where he bats in the lineup. I’m guessing second, behind Reyes, and it could adversely affect his SB’s (for fantasy players).

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      • delv says:

        He’ll also be the backup in case either Hanley or Reyes go down for a long period of time. He’s an excellent insurance policy

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  17. Ryan says:

    ‘If Josh Johnson stays healthy, that’s a dangerous team.’

    So, not a dangerous team them?

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      Should add “if Reyes stays healthy and Heath Bell doesn’t decline like most guys in their mid 30s do” along with that.

      I’m more afraid of the Nationals if they get someone like Holes or Fielder. Especially looking foreward. I think the Reyes deal is going to cripple the Fish.

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  18. Joe says:

    I love how the media, when reporting this signing, made it clear that the Marlins did NOT include a no-trade clause in the contract. Can’t wait for the infamous fire sale in 12 months!

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  19. rotofan says:

    Reyes has averaged 4.7 WAR since finding some plate discipline in 2006. How far might he fall from age 28 to 34? Consider the performance of other short-stops deemed most similar to Reyes by Baseball Reference and their average WAR before age 28 (starting from when they reached their basic skill set) and the six years after with the percentage drop in parentheses:

    Jimmy Rollins: Before – 5.3 WAR After – 4.05 WAR (-24%)
    Rafael Furcal: Before – 4.9 WAR After – 2.4 WAR (-51%)
    Allen Trammel: Before – 5.7 WAR After – 4.5 WAR (-21%)
    Gary Templeton: Before – 2.8 WAR After – 1.1 War (-61%)

    Assuming Cameron’s WAR calculations are fair, if Reyes average WAR the next six years declines by 34%, he will be roughly worth his new contract. A steeper drop such as that suffered by Furcal and Templeton would mean he was being overpaid. A shallower drop such as that by Rollins and Trammel would mean the Marlins got a bargain.

    While I don’t think the signing by the Marlins is a bad deal, I think there is somewhat more downside risk than what Cameron suggests. It’s not only that Reyes will miss a month a year (he’s averaged missing 38 games a year, pro-rating his first year), It’s also that most players decline from age 28 to 34 independent of injury. They may also be more injury prone – in fact, that would almost seem certainly the case.

    So the question of value becomes, what happens if Reyes misses more than 38 games a year and his performance when playing diminishes over time. On that latter point, age 28 performance is negligbly worse than age 27, but that decline become clear, if hardly steep, at age 29 and that the slope increase around age 32 (though more precipitous drops start closer to age 34).

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    • MC says:

      I agree the deal is somewhat rich-or maybe it isn’t- but the real story here, or the real issue, in my opinion, is the Mets utter failure to maximize their return from Reyes.

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    • Richie says:

      Thanks very much for this quick study. :-)

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    • Dave G says:

      Some other shortstops that had outstanding/MVP like seasons after age 31 or 32 include Barry Larkin, Cal Ripken, and Jeter. The fact that this contract ends before age 35 is going to be good for the Marlins.

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    • Alan Trammell says:

      Who’s this Allen Trammell guy? I was pretty good, but I’ve never heard of this other dude.

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  20. razor says:

    According to B-Ref Yunel Escobar has 17.3 WAR in 2703 PA’s thru his age 28 season. Jose Reyes has 29.3 WAR in 4840 PA’s thru his age 28 season.

    Yunel will be getting paid $5 million in 2012 & 2013, with a club option for the same amount in 2014/2015. Maybe the Reyes deal will work out to be a bargain, but my money would be on Escobar’s deal for Toronto. That seems like stealing in comparison.

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    • The Real Neal says:

      Escobar wasn’t a free agent when he signed that deal. You may as well talk about how smart the Cubs are to get Starlin Castro for the next three years at $9 million.

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      • razor says:

        Toronto bought out two arb years and potentially the first two free agent years for Yunel with the two club option years in 2014/2015. My point was obviously more slanted towards Yunel and Jose being basically the same age and what their teams were paying relative to total worth, at least based on career WAR rate totals.

        Pretty sure most who visit this site are capable of comprehending a comparison of two 28 year old shortstops, and yes, I’m pretty sure we all get that Jose’s free agent years started a few years earlier than Yunel’s did, but thanks so much for the clarification. We all bow to your superior intellect.

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    • Surrealistic Pillow says:

      The ability of Jays fans to drool over Yunel regardless of the topic of a given post never ceases to impress me.

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  21. st says:

    what exactly did the Mets receive for letting Reyes walk?

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  22. Paul says:

    Whether or not he signed for a number close to what was projected, don’t the reports from the two other teams involved make it clear that the Marlins bid against themselves and drove up the value of the contract by about $2m per year? I suppose it fits that a team so many were skeptical of signing anybody they said they would, chose to overpay two free agents now. Man, apparently that whole no income tax and beautiful women wearing very few clothes all year long stuff has negative value. This pretty much ends the argument for me that baseball labor works just like the real world.

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    • Richie says:

      Once a 20-something gets to his 2nd million, he can buy as many ‘beautiful women wearing very few clothes all year long’ as he wants regardless of where he’s earning his millions. And yes, I lived in Miami for 5 years.

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  23. shthar says:

    How does it affect the numbers if Reyes switches to 2b in 3 years, or lf?

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    • haha says:

      2B would still give him a positive position adjustment (in terms of WAR). LF has a negative position adjustment, so he’d have to play excellent defense to make up for not having a typical corner OF bat.

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  24. Jeff says:

    While this analysis correctly suggests that Reyes is a good player likely to return good value on the deal, we should remember that this deal doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Even if the Marlins go to a $120 million payroll, Hanley, Reyes, Heath Bell, and Josh Johnson now add up to about $53 million, which means almost half the payroll on four guys. And in another high-priced signing…..
    The Marlins are betting on their ability to keep churning out cheap talent. The Mets were hamstrung by the presence of too many $15+ million dollar guys on the roster, and hence they couldn’t go after Reyes. Granted, the money invested in Johnson and Hanley is a lot smarter than the $$ in Bay and an old Santana, but we ought to remember that most of these contracts become albatrosses at a certain point, simply because they take up such a large percentage of payroll. I may beunderestimating how high Miami can go, of course.

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    • razor says:

      This is a great point…and exactly what I was getting at with my Yunel Escobar comment above. Value is always relative.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      which means almost half the payroll on four guys.

      Same deal as StL. You’d think that losing just one of those guys would crush the team, but 2011 shows that you can and still be successful.

      IMO, there is cheap talent to be had, but it’s not going to be with mega prospects … you’ll need to find those non-traditional age guys that can fill a role, such as a Jon jay, an Allen Craig, a David Freese, a Ryan Ludwick, etc. There are likely more “Garret Jones Types” around, and they can probably be had for cheap because they are no longer “prospect age”. IMO, this is the next market inefficiency. Guys that are producing in the minors but aren’t going to get a legit shot at ML because they are no longer a “prospect” but merely a guy that might have 1-3 good years. If you’re going to spend in FA, these guys that could put up 4 WAR over 2 seasons for 1M bucks are gold.

      I think this is a good time to talk about Logan Morrisson. IMHO, that’s why the marlins were so hard on him last year. They don’t need him to show up and keep being this little talented smart-ass guy that puts up >2 WAR. They need him to be a 4 WAR player that he might be able to be so that his value allows the team to spend in FA for other value that significantly improves the team.

      There’s cheap talent to be had, IMO. Just not in the traditional sense.

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      • Anon says:

        Guys that are producing in the minors but aren’t going to get a legit shot at ML because they are no longer a “prospect”

        Determining which of these guys can be productive in the majors for a couple years is the key. Many people who fall into this class have a weakness that they overcome in the minors but cripples them in the majors.

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  25. Eric says:

    I think the biggest question with regard to 6 years of Reyes isn’t if he will spend time on the DL (he will) or necessarily how long that time will be (1 month per year avg is probably reasonable estimate). The question is how much potential is there for his value to significantly decrease because of further injury problems. As it what happens if/when he can’t steal bases and his range at SS is severely decreased. Does he shift to 2B and become a slap hitter with no power and not a whole lot of on base potential that doesn’t steal many bases?

    A healthy Reyes is definitely worth the money. A Reyes that spends 15 days here or there on the DL with no real detriment on his skill level is still worth the money. A Reyes that suffers a signficant setback to his intrinsic skills because of repeated injuries (hello hamstring) might not be worth it. I think that’s the downside to giving him 6 years.

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    • Richie says:

      Rotofan up above has me convinced that ’1 month per year’ is definitely optimistic. Not WAY! optimistic, but definitely some.

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    • TMS says:

      I think he can transition to a power hitter if his speed falls off. He could hit 25hr right now if he tried to. With a few adjustments and some bulking up he could be a power hitter.

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  26. bookbook says:

    Every longterm deal is a gamble. Depending on how much extra weight you give to the threat that Reyes injures himself so badly he loses his abilities, the Marlins seem to have made a better gamble than most $100+ million contracts.

    Especially given the legitimate questions about the Marlins’ organization, this was a rather impressive get.

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  27. jesse says:

    I definitely agree with your analysis overall. Anytime you can get a deal that very clearly includes a huge adjustment for the obvious risk with a player, but still one that has great upside, thats a great price. Reyes fits that mold.

    However, my big concern is that if you look at reyes last three seasons, you see huge injury problems (duh, everyone knows this). But more importantly, with 106 million in the bank, how motivated will jose be to fight back quickly through those inevitable leg tweaks. In 09 and 10 there were clearly problems in the execution of his rehab in a timely manner, and in 11 he was definitely fighting hard to get back to retain his shot at getting this 100+ contract. Reyes for better or for worse has been hard to handle.

    For the marlins, I don’t really think this is the right deal. Pujols and fielder are more certain assets, and don’t require moving hanram or making hanram angry.
    Honestly i’m quite perplexed by this teams strategy. Yeah they didn’t have big future contracts built in, but their cost controlled core is probably not that great after 2013 as their farm system kind of sucks. So yeah, you want to up the wins now, get the new revenue flows from the stadium. I would still call them long shots to be real contenders in 2012 or 2013 unless pujols or fielder come on board; so why would you invest long term in reyes (still really just a big risk) and a closer (a big risk cause really what do you need one for unless you are definitely a playoff contender).

    If they haven’t established themselves as a big payroll team by 2013, this reyes contract will come back to bite them in the ass. Its like jayson werth and the nats, with the exception that the nats have a highly superior built in club (interestingly, without the werth signing, you can bet that reyes would have ended up on the nats).
    If you have strasburg, harper, zimmermans, that awesome bullpen, ect, thats a core that needs the upside of reyes. Johnson nolasco, hanram and stanton really have a very short shelf life as a core left.

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  28. Dave G says:

    Well stated by DC, it does seem like a fair/possible bargain contract. I can’t believe the Mets couldn’t match this, but will be paying Bay nearly the same amount for the next 2 years. Plus, this contract only takes Reyes through his age 33/34 season. That’s not exactly ancient. It’s not an A-Rod type commitment.

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  29. Antonio Bananas says:

    You can’t assume the same $/WAR for every team. I don’t think this is a good deal. Reyes’ prime is behind him, plus he has a history of injuries, plus after the new stadium smell wears off, the Fish won’t be drawing or making making big bucks.

    Bad deal. Jimmy Rollins and Carl Crawford looked pretty good at 28 too.

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    • Dave G says:

      Rollins had about 1, maybe 2 really good years. Pretty average other than that. Reyes’ best stretch lasted from ’05 to ’08 and then throw in ’11 and you have Hall of Fame pace type numbers.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        I used Rollins because on B-R he was listed as similar. Similar production because Reyes was always injured. Fact is, after 27 most player decline. This isn’t the steroid era where they find the fountain of youth at 34 and start mashing again.

        Reyes’ injury histroy plus the natural decline players face combined with the uncertainty of how serious the Marlins are (and how big of a chunk he’s going to be) make this seem like a bad deal to me. You can say “he’s cheap” and then look at the average $/WAR. However, if you told me that a Ferrari was “cheap for a Ferrari” I still wouldn’t want to buy it. I’m the marlins, I don’t have a history of having money. Then again, maybe like me (hopefully) this event (for me, getting my MBA) will change that perception.

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  30. philosofool says:

    The WAR estimates here look pretty generous to me. Since 1961, (by B-Ref.) only 8 SS have managed 18+ WAR from ages 29-34 with an ISO below .160. (Reyes’s career is .150 and that’s probably not going up as he ages.) I think we need to do more than look at his WAR thus far to project his future; we need to regress that performance to the mean, and performance of short stops at a similar age is relevant to that choice of mean. Also, those guys average 145 games per season while doing this work.

    Also, injuries don’t just affect play time, they affect performance. We shouldn’t expect oft-injured players to decline at the same rate as the population as a whole.

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  31. a seattle fan says:

    I’m glad the Marlins signed Reyes. He has a lot less power than Pujols and Fielder. What an atrocity that home run feature is at that ballpark.

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  32. Joe says:

    So now an arbitrary $/WAR value is being justified by making up two other arbitrary values 4mil and 6mil and saying well 5 mil is right in between so it makes sense? I’d expect better from a SABR savy site.

    On what planet are wins going to be possibly 6mil next year? (which would be 33% inflation) Is this a 3 sigma # estimate? A 10sigma #estimate?

    Are 4 mil and 6mil equally likely outcomes in your view? (which is what you seem to be implying by taking a midpoint) Or did you simply use those #’s to justify the 5mil that you had pre-determined?

    Where did your 11% inflation rate assumption come from? (simply because baseball was at 10% in much better economic times does not seem to be sound reasoning in this economic environment)… And if this does make sense, why then cut it down to 5% every year thereafter?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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