Poll: Best and Worst 3 Year Contracts




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David Appelman is the creator of FanGraphs.

63 Responses to “Poll: Best and Worst 3 Year Contracts”

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  1. Natty Nation says:

    I know that Lyon is over paid, but based on Marlon Byrd’s home/road splits he is the most likely of the group to be a complete bust.

    Figgins deal was the best value.

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    • Yeti says:

      Except that Wrigley and Arlington’s park factor is about the same…

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      • Max says:

        And even if he busts…so what? You’re out $5-10 million most likely. That’s Aaron Miles money for the Cubs. I think Byrd will be a completely serviceable average outfielder who is getting slightly underpaid. That’s a good deal compared to the others.

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  2. CCW says:

    I’d say none of those deals was “great”.

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    • tangotiger says:

      How about “the best deal”?

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    • B N says:

      I voted, but I was thinking the same thing. No steals in this bunch. The only guys I could see significantly over-performing above their values would be Figgins and Wolf though. Though I voted Figgins since he’s likelier to earn his keep, a healthy Randy Wolf could provide surplus over his contract and he didn’t cost any draft picks to sign.

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  3. The A Team says:

    A case could be made for Bay or Lyon. Looking back we might think Wolf was the bad deal. I think Bay is the deal that hurts the most just because he’s not doing much for that roster now and he’s likely to be feeble by the time they get that rotation back to competitive. As bad as the Lyon deal was, 5 mil in sunk costs can be worked around and Lyon figures to be a decent enough closer/set up man for the life of the contract.

    Figgins is the only guy who looks like he signed below market value.

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    • aweb says:

      Unless a player left more money on the table somewhere, they all signed for market value. They were free agents signing in a free and open market, getting the best contract they could. That’s practically the definition of market value. Now, Figgins does seem to be providing the most on-field baseball worth per unit cost. On second thought, that’s pretty tortured language to go through for a nitpick.

      The longer the contract, the higher risk. I could see Lackey or Holliday actually being worth their contracts in the final years, but those seem like the best bets to be looked at in 2012 as the “what were they thinking?” contracts. 7 years for Holliday…Boras is no doubt maximizing his profits even while getting fired and losing money on other contracts.

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      • The A Team says:

        Ok let me rephrase, Figgins looks like the best player to sign at a rate somewhere near or below his fWAR estimated production. He also looks like the player who most helps his club since his positional flexibility lets Jack Z take a wide variety of approaches to filling the roster down the line.

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  4. Kevin S. says:

    Lyon might have been the dumbest contract, but I’m not sure it can be considered the worst, given how relatively small it was. I voted for Bay, but that was probably more “biggest potential albatross” than “worst expected value.”

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  5. Kevin says:

    How can you guys think that the Lyon deal is bad? Five million per year isn’t overpaid for a reliever who’s going to give you a solid 3.8 ERA. If you don’t have a good bullpen how do you expect to finish the games you’re leading?
    GO ASTROS!!!

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  6. bobo says:

    I think what would be more interesting is taking a look at 3 year + contracts that were actually signed 3 years ago, with commentary about what the public opinion was at the time. While I apprecaite the chance to fill out a little cute survey to see what the herd is thinking I’d be more interested in the outstanding analysis usually seen on fangraphs accompanied with historical data. I hope that 3 years from now David publishes a follow up to this with an article on ‘lets see how the fans did when these contracts were first signed’.

    Anyway I put Holliday as the worst, since I thought the Cards were bidding against themselves, and grudingly place Polanco as the best.

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    • tangotiger says:

      In order to analyze the deal in three years, we need to show how people felt about the deals at the time they were made, no?

      I completely agree that past deals should be revisited. Look for example at Vernon Wells. Right NOW people are saying how terrible it was AT THE TIME HE SIGNED IT! That’s revisionist. At the time he signed it, it was high, but not obscenely high. You look at the other deals at the time (Ichiro, Torii, Andruw-had-he-signed-a-year-earlier, and Vernon), and they were all fairly comparable.

      So, we need to do these surveys so that in 3 years, we can have a fair landscape to evaluate the deals.

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      • bobo says:

        Correct that is why I explicity said “I hope that 3 years from now David publishes a follow up to this with an article on ‘lets see how the fans did when these contracts were first signed’” No where did David, or anyone else, say they were going to follow up on this, if not its just a nice fluffy cute poll on group think.

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      • Joe R says:

        To be fair, my first reaction to seeing the Vernon Wells deal when it happened was amazement.

        And I wasn’t even into sabermetrics at the time.

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  7. Jon Y says:

    [Looks up at sarcasm flying over peoples heads]

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  8. I get that it’s very vogue to pooh on the Astros’ contract with Lyon (Dave Cameron called it the worst contract at the time so it must be true, I guess is how it goes), but is a 3yr/$15 million contract really the worst of the entire offseason? What is about objectivity that disappears around this specific contract? Where is the actual risk leveraged, or hamstringing of a team’s payroll? Is it a dumb contract? Yes. It’s it a good contract? No.

    From a team perspective (i.e. how the question was phrased), though, Lyon for $5 million/yr doesn’t to a lot for the Astros, but it doesn’t do anything against them, either. These some of the other contracts have genuine potential for payroll vacuuming and severe under performance. It’s just hard for someone to under perform that much at $5 million/yr compared to $10-$17 million/yr. Or, am I missing something here?

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    • Brett says:

      I’d say a lot of people are basing this on value per dollar. That said, you can get what Lyon gives for just about league minimum wage, so, that’s pretty incredibly awful.

      I voted for Holliday, because I reckon he’ll be a sad excuse for an athlete after 4 years of that contract and be basically untradable. Untradeable. One of those two.

      Looking at the Figgins contract, I’d say he probably did leave money on the table elsewhere, or else every team in baseball who might have been able to work a 3B into their offseason plans have grossly undervalued him.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Brandon Lyon projects for around a 3.8 ERA in 65 innings or so. That’s about .7-.8 WAR, which is not production that you can replace for just about the league minimum wage.

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      • JoeyO says:

        3.49 ERA in 64 IP

        That is the average Qualified reliever in 2009. You seem oblivious to that.

        Also, 170 relievers posted an ERA under the 3.8 you are citing for Lyon. Yes, replacing that kind of production is easily done for minimum.

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    • don says:

      I agree and picked Lackey because I think his contract is the most likely to look terrible in a few years. Though, Boston has deep pockets so maybe it’s just not as important to them.

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    • Joey O says:

      A) He is about as mediocre as you can get relief pitcher wise. Guy has only had one xFIP under 4.0 his entire career and that was a 3.98 way back in 2003

      B) Mediocre relievers should not get 5 Million a year deal OR 3 year deals. But worse yet, never give them in conjunction! 1 year 5 million you can kind of excuse if the team is desperate. 3 years at a total around maybe 7-8 million you can possibly excuse. 3 years and 15 Million is a joke.

      C) The team had zero reason to make the deal. They aren’t competing so there is no stress to overpay a mediocre reliever to fill a hole. Then they made the contract so long that they are completely stuck with it, its not like a 1 year deal where they can trade him at the break for prospects. They overpaid creating a complete sunk cost on a completely unneeded commodity.

      D) Better pitchers were available and have signed for less money. This really drives home just how bad the contract is.

      It may not be an absolute crippling amount of money, but it is 100% wasted money just the same. It is a complete sunk-cost from a club not desperate for a pitcher to a guy who is at best average in the skill department when better options were readily available. The team could have instead spent 500K on a comparable pitcher and the remaining 14.5 Million on international free agents. That would have left them with a similar chance at production in the form of an actual trade-able asset plus building blocks for the future. The deal they made is inexcusable on every front with no logical explanation making it arguably the worst deal made. (although I personally voted for Bay because that deal single-handedly crippled an extremely important offseason for the Mets)

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        This is ridiculous.

        The projection systems here at FanGraphs all project him to have between 64 and 82 innings pitched, between a 3.66 and 3.99 ERA. You give him 70 innings, with a 3.8 ERA and 1.5 leverage (which is about what you’d expect using FanGraphs’ method of chaining), and that’s a little less than 1 WAR. Wins are going for about 3.5 million this year, so Lyon is being overpaid by about 2 million this year, and maybe a bit more the next couple of years. To call that the worst contract is ridiculous.

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      • JoeyO says:

        Are you just oblivious to the fact that the average reliever ERA is around 4.0? I’m guessing you must be, and are probably also oblivious to the fact that the average qualified reliever posted a 3.50 ERA with a 1.1 LI in 64 Innings last season.

        If Lyon was posting an ERA in the 3.66-4.0 range over 70 innings he would be below to well below average among the qualifying relievers; specifically ranking about 85th to 100th of 135 qualified. While most of the relievers around him will be making league minimum on a one year contract – not a 3 year deal guaranteeing him 15 million.

        The Lyon contract is indefensible. Just illogically horrific in every aspect, and your above post solely goes to reinforce that.

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    • Bob R. says:

      I voted for the Lyons contract as the worst not because it is an albatross or because it hamstrings the Astros or even because he may not earn the salary. He may earn it in fact if we think about it abstractly.

      I voted for his contract because it reflects that the Astros have no idea what they need at this point in their development. I don’t think it a good deal in any case for a reliever, but for a serious contender with a shaky bullpen it is defensible.

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  9. gary says:

    The FanGraph writers have a blind hatred for Wade. Call it WDS – Wade Derangement Syndrome. Child molesters get better pub here than does Wade.

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  10. tangotiger says:

    I suppose you could ask the question as: “Who’s contract is the most untradeable?”

    So, in order to trade Lyon, maybe Astros have to kick in 10MM or 12MM$ for someone else to take him. And for someone to take Bay, maybe the Mets have to kick in 8MM$ or 15MM$. And to take Holliday, the Cards have to kick in 4$ or 25MM$.

    Is the question as I posed in this comment unambiguous enough that it gets the point across this way? I don’t know.

    But, try phrasing the question in the 47 characters I had available to me, and then tell me that I’d get different results. Tough crowd!

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  11. beastwarking says:

    I chose Lackey as the worst contract because even though I feel he will perform up to his contract for the first 3 years, I don’t think that he will over the last few. Coupled with a high price and age, I think that this contract has the potential to be bad.

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    • Sandy Kazmir says:

      I chose him as well. $18M is an awful lot of money to have tied up for the next half a decade. Although, I thought the Polanco deal was the best and I’m not getting much agreement on that.

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      • tangotiger says:

        After Figgins, Polanco is the one that the fans chose, so you are getting pretty good agreement.

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      • Steven Ellingson says:

        The problem with the Polanco deal, was that a guy like Orlando Hudson, sings for a 1 year, 5 mil contract. I know Polanco is better, maybe 1 WAR better, but he’s also older, and it’s a 3 year contract.

        I like the Polanco contract, but I think they could have signed him for cheaper or for less years if they had waited. So it’s hard for me to rate that the best.

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  12. neuter_your_dogma says:

    The answer shall always be “Gary Matthews Jr.”

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  13. Nathaniel Dawson says:

    I chose Lackey, going on the principle that pitchers are inherently bigger risks than position players. That’s a lot of money to pay out for a player that presents not only risk of regression and age-related decline, but a much greater risk of a performance disabling injury.

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  14. Evan Kirkwood says:

    How could 18 people (at this time), nevermind FanGraphs readers, possibly think Brandon Lyon was not only the best deal out of those bunch, but a “great” deal? Really, how?

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    • Steven Ellingson says:

      In a random sample of 2000 people, you’d expect more than that to have an iq under 70.

      (I realize this isn’t a random sample of people. It was a joke.)

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  15. hamandcheese says:

    Bay because I feel his contract has the best chance of being an absolute burden for his team.

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  16. Daern says:

    Not only is the Lackey deal poor in a vacuum–too much money over too long to an aging pitcher–but it also effectively prices the Sox out of a re-signing of Beckett. They’ve given Lackey, who is a year older and allows more home runs and walks while striking out fewer in fewer innings a deal that sets a huge minimum for any potential Beckett deal. Argh.

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  17. TWA says:

    I hate the Phillies, but the Polanco deal is outstanding value. I’m not sure why statistically-minded people don’t give Polanco more respect.

    Figgins’ WAR over the last three years: 11.5
    Polanco’s WAR over the last three years: 11.3

    He loses value since Philadelphia is moving him to third, but he’s an exceedingly consistent and underrated performer overall. $6 million/year is a steal.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      I think you missed on a couple points here. First, moving from second to third should only decrease his WAR if we expect him to be a worse 3B than 2B. Secondly, Polanco’s five-win season was three years ago, while Figgins’ was last year. Couple that with the fact that Chone’s two years younger, and there’s plenty of reason to expect him to be better going forward.

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  18. JayCee says:

    Where is Blanton’s 3 for $24?

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  19. JayCee says:

    I also voted Figgins. At the time he signed the deal, the fact he is so versatile, adding 2B and even SS in a pinch, allowed SEA to explore other options as they built their team. In the end, they are keeping Figgins at 3B. but the optionality he gave them, and will continue to give them, is very valuable in the real game of baseball.

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  20. ToddM says:

    Polly at 6 mil isn’t overpaying, but signing PP with Utley already on board is a pretty bizarre move. Polanco has never had much pop in his bat, and he isn’t going to get on base at a great clip, either. If he hits .330, which he is/was capable of in a fortunate year, he’ll be a good 3b overall. If he hits .290, which he’s also capable of and has done more of recently, he’s going to be a below average 3b with the bat.

    Then you factor in defense — he hasn’t played third base regularly since 2002 (or at all since 2005); not coincedentally this was in his last stint with Philadelphia. By memory, he was a good third baseman, although perhaps not as good as he was at second. Having to go “by memory” into pre-UZR times is a scary prospect, though — moving back to a reflex position at age 34 could be a very bad idea. I’m sure he’ll be at least OK, but he is still a damn good second baseman, and it’s a shame to lose that.

    I don’t blame Polanco for ring-chasing with an organization he’s familiar with. Unfortunately, he’s quite possibly going to post numbers that really don’t increase Philly’s chances. A WAR of 2 wouldn’t surprise me at all — which is fine for 6 mil, but no great bargain and not likely to be a big help to the Phillies.

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    • ToddM says:

      Awesome Polly fact — Mark Reynolds has struck out more in the last two years (427 times) than Polanco has in his entire career (391 times, covering 6018 plate appearances).

      Gotta have a strong stick to be a high WAR 3b, though — Reynolds was a 3.9 WAR last year, even with his suspect glove and some time at first. Polanco was only 3.1 WAR at second, which, even if his defense holds up in the transition, would only be about 2.9 WAR over at third.

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  21. Kirk says:

    I think people are underestimating Wolf’s potential to be a bad contract. He missed time in 4 straight seasons prior to ’08. and he is merely good when healthy. Frankly I don’t see him staying healthy thru age 36.

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  22. Kyle says:

    Jason Bay isn’t even close to the worst contract here, and probably should not even be mentioned. It’s a 4 year contract for a guy who is only 31, and will be an asset to trade. And unlike Holliday, he had a career year, and only performed poorly in the field. But the Mets are a team that can handle overpaying a guy in theory(since they have no power hitters.)

    Wolf, Lyon, Holliday are all easily worse contracts. Lackey’s contract is huge for a guy who’s never been a TRUE ace, and had two injury plagued seasons in a row with mediocre stuff. He’s also 2 years older than Beckett, and will be the reason he jets. Compare their WHIP, and when Beckett gets back to the National League(dude could hit in highschool)remember this article.

    Lackey will give Boston the best rotation next season on paper(without any unforeseen injuries), but Beckett is better and will want more money.

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  23. R. Johnston says:

    Bay. Note that his deal is more properly characterized as 3/66 rather than 4/66. There’s no way that he plays out the contract in year four, allowing year five to vest. If he plays out his fourth year it’s only because he’s played little enough in years 1-3 that the fifth year won’t vest. Either way, the Mets will pay $66 million for the privilege of three years of playing time from Bay.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      It’s not quite that cut-and-dried. Those PA totals are fairly attainable, and the Players Association will have a kitten if they’re too blatant about cutting back his PT.

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      • R. Johnston says:

        The player’s union can’t complain if he’s released before the forth season gets underway. He’ll be released.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        And if he gets those PA with another team, my understanding is the vesting option still kicks in and they’d still owe him $17 million for 2014, not the $3 million buyout. It’s just like if the Yankees had released Giambi during ’06 – he’d still have exercised his ’07 PO, and they’d have had to pay it. You can’t get out of options the player can trigger by releasing him.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Err, make that ’07 and ’08 with Giambi.

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  24. Josh says:

    Chone Figgins was easily the best deal. He has everything, defense, speed, and hitting. He will only provide a .300 average at the hot corner, which hasn’t been provided by a Mariner for a long time. Playoffs? With Chone, yes. 4 years for 36 million. A steal of a deal. Oh yeah, he can steal bases. 42 last year. Expect to see the same number of stolen bases as Chone, Ichiro, Franklin, and the King sprint us to an American League Western Division Championship.

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  25. Of all the money making methods online, I prefer filling surveys. You don’t have to deal with building and promoting a website which tends to be more of a burden. It depends on how much effort you put into it you can reach a couple hundred pretty quickly.

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