Revisiting Eric Chavez’ Extension

Eric Chavez’ career could be coming to a close soon. The list of injuries associated with Chavez is long and tiresome and this news has simply thrown gas on a debate just as silly; whether Billy Beane should have blame placed on him for the Chavez extension failing. The quick answer: no.

Chavez inked a six-year 66 million dollar extension prior to the 2004 season. The contract included a club option for 2011, raising the potential contract value to nearly 80 million. It seems like a relatively safe bet to assume that option will not be exercised in favor of a 3 million dollar buyout. Our WAR numbers only go back to 2002, meaning two seasons prior to the extension being signed, ion those Chavez posted 5.6 and 4.1 win seasons. In 2001, Chavez had about the same offensive production as 2002, a little less playing time, and who knows about defense. Even if we assume he was a league average defender you get a ~4 win player. Meaning you have three consecutive 4+ win seasons.

In 2004, Chavez would post a 5.7 win season. A year later he posted a 4.3 win season, then a 3.6 win season. From there on out, Chavez has seen his health deteriorate at a rapid piece. To date, Chavez has recorded about 9 wins under the extension, totaling 30.6 million. That leaves the A’s losing about 36 million over this and next season. Surely not what Beane imagined when he called Chavez career “[A lock]” in Moneyball, but why would Beane have imagined a ton of injuries and missed time for Chavez? Chavez had seen at least 550 plate appearances in four straight seasons and played in at least 115 game every season since being promoted for good in 1999 and at least 150 from 2000 to 2004.

There’s a risk of injury with every player, but for all purposes, Chavez was a damn good risk to take. If Chavez had lost only a half of a win every season since 2006 we would be talking about a career path lke this (extension years only):

2005 4.3 WAR ($3.4 m/win)
2006 3.6 WAR ($3.7 m/win)
2007 3.1 WAR ($4.1 m/win)
2008 2.6 WAR ($4.5 m/win)
2009 2.1 WAR (~$4.7 m/win)

That’s 62 million over the first five years with one more year and then an option year to go. A six million dollar profit. No, it’s not Evan Longoria’s deal, but it was a heck of a lot less risky. We can only project the future based on what we know at the present and from history, same with any team in the league. The key in evaluating any deal in retrospect is keeping mind what was known at the time, otherwise what’s the point if only one side has the benefit of hindsight.

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32 Responses to “Revisiting Eric Chavez’ Extension”

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  1. Joe says:

    I wrote about this same thing and came to the same conclusion. I mean I see no evidence that Beane would have had any idea that Chavez’s body would fall apart. Yet people still criticize him for locking up Chavez rather than Tejada, even though that seems to be hindsight only.

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  2. Ty says:

    Hindsight is always 20-20, and the internet makes it far too easy for uninformed/unqualified people to make uninformed/unqualified statements. It’s too bad for Chavez — I really like him as a player.

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  3. elgringo79 says:

    Wow , even Billy Beane’s mistakes get glorified around here!

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  4. elgringo79 says:

    What a puff piece. Sure, we let every superstar go but the one who can’t even take the field. Let’s talk about how good a deal it COULD’VE been. That Billy Beane is such a genius!

    I can’t wait to see the movie! Starring Billy Beane look-alike Brad Pitt and Billy Beane’s real wife Scarlet Johansen.

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    • Actually, Beane had an extension in place with Giambi but his owner backed out on him.

      But I’m sure you knew that.

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      • Blez: Do you have any regrets that you didn’t stay in Oakland?

        Giambi: No. Trust me, I wanted to stay in Oakland. We had a deal done. You can ask Billy Beane. It was my free agent year before the season started. And ownership at the time pulled the deal off the table. I had flown my parents out, my agent, everybody. A lot of people don’t know that.

        Blez: It was that close?

        Giambi: Oh I thought it was a done deal. You can ask Billy. It was a done deal and ownership pulled it back. The rest is history for when I became a free agent and then New York came after me. I mean it was what it was. I tried to stay but unfortunately it didn’t work out.

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  5. phdave says:

    If that’s how you want to excuse incompetence, then go ahead. I’m not going to argue with you.

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    • NBarnes says:

      Do you have a link to where you wrote at the time that Beane was making a huge mistake? I’m always curious to see prescience in action.

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  6. Wally says:

    “the internet makes it far too easy for uninformed/unqualified people to make uninformed/unqualified statements.”

    So true, and it didn’t even take an hour multiple posts about Beane’s incompetence, or a puff piece…..

    Chavez was a gold glove 3rd baseman that would post OPS+ numbers between 120-134 for four straight years between the ages of 23 and 26 (for those of you who apparently don’t care about WAR). So at the time of the signing there was a reasonable chance Chavez would even improve on that, and a relatively small chance he would decline. In short, Chavez was about the best bet a GM can make. 26 years old, a great athlete and fielder with a stable personality (no Milton Bradley type), who’s already proven he can be one of the games best players. Injuries can happen to anyone, and while Chavez had some lingering shoulder problems, I don’t think anyone could have predicted this.

    And Tejada was definitely the worse bet. He didn’t have the plate disciple Chavez did (which doesn’t bode well for aging players), he didn’t have the defensive skills Chavez did (again doesn’t bode well for aging players), and management had to know there was some uncertainty with his age. Tejada did end up signing for more as well, and the A’s had Crosby to fill his shoes. Who did have 2 season where it seemed he was on his way to doing that before hitting injury problems himself.

    A lot of people get on Beane for “moneyball” failing, but they don’t really understand how many injuries took out top players/prospects. And its pretty hard to replace your 4-5 WAR 3rd baseman and the ROY SS that several were predicting to be an MVP candidate (and in fact he was on his way to doing that in 2005 where he had 3.4 WAR through 84 games).

    Anyway, I’m gonna miss Chavez if he calls it quits (don’t blame him at all, he’s made his money, can’t really play anymore and now has family). He was a great fielder, and I always loved watching him over at the hot corner. Every time someone would hit a liner toward third, before the camera angle could even change, you just knew Chavez would make the play. It was a great thing to watch for a time. And its sad it had to end so soon.

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  7. elgringo79 says:

    “‘the internet makes it far too easy for uninformed/unqualified people to make uninformed/unqualified statements.’

    So true, and it didn’t even take an hour multiple posts about Beane’s incompetence, or a puff piece…..”

    So true…or just a preemptive shot at anyone who disagrees. I suppose using “WAR” in an article makes you informed and qualified, even if you are pulling those WARs right out of your rear end.

    Just tell me what is the point of this article is, exactly, except to lick Billy Beane-loving wounds? ‘Cuz I’m not saying Billy Beane is incompetent. Just over-rated. The amount of Billy Beane butt kissing around here is laughable… and disproportionate to his success.

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    • I’m actually pulling those WARs right off of Eric Chavez’ page.

      Nobody is arguing the merit of Billy Beane’s reputation, I am arguing that the idea of the Chavez extension being a bad move is completely unfair and taking the contract out of context. Now, you can continue pegging me with these labels and forming misconceptions about my motive, or you can take the article for what it is.

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    • Wally says:

      The point is to look at the career of a soon-to-be-retired player and an extension that has been heavily criticized by the ignorant masses.

      And, using WAR is a heck of lot better than spouting mindless drivel such as: “if you are pulling those WARs right out of your rear end.” (how exactly is that possible? Those where his WARs. So what’s you point exactly, besides an appeal to ridicule?)

      “except to lick Billy Beane-loving wounds?”
      “That Billy Beane is such a genius!”

      If you want to make an argument for why the Chavez deal was bad, go ahead. But stop with these asinine appeals to ridicule. It doesn’t further your case, and just makes Ty’s initial comment all the more true. So, well done.

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    • sleepingcobra says:

      “disproportionate to his success”


      You’re tripping. Do I have to take your hand and walk you through the Athletics’ record and payroll year by year? Beane’s one of the most successful GMs in recent history in terms of money spent per win.

      The A’s also went to a bunch of playoffs.

      But I bet you’re one of those guys who only measures a team’s success through Gritty World Championshipness and whether they had David Eckstein on the team.

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      • sleepingcobra says:

        And, sorry, if you’re into advanced metrics, maybe you use GWC+, which is park neutral and regresses Juan Pierre’s batting average to Aaron Rowand’s Win Value with the Giants, divided by league-average Grit.

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    • brian says:

      if you are anti-WAR, why do you even visit this web site?

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  8. elgringo79 says:

    Yeah. One of THOSE guys that measures success in championships. Phhhh. Elitists.

    I play in a league with financials, and I love playing with Billy Beane fans. They sell themselves short year after year after year after year.

    And I’m not ant-WAR. However, THESE WAR values are not particularly valuable to anyone who doesn’t cry themselves to sleep at night in their green and gold jammies:

    2005 4.3 WAR ($3.4 m/win)
    2006 3.6 WAR ($3.7 m/win)
    2007 3.1 WAR ($4.1 m/win)
    2008 2.6 WAR ($4.5 m/win)
    2009 2.1 WAR (~$4.7 m/win)

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    • sleepingcobra says:

      My green and gold jammies are the BEST!

      You popped off at the mouth about Beane being an overrated GM. Maybe he’s overrated in your wizard mind where all of your magic GMs get gobs of talent for zero dollars.

      In reality, Beane has gotten a lot more bang for his buck than a lot of other GMs. There’s nothing overrated about that. In fact, that’s actually just about the clearest, most powerful lens you can use to evaluate GMs.

      Try again.

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  9. fanOFdefenseAGAIN says:

    Clearly a troll.

    Fangraphs, you know that you have officially arrived when you have your first obnoxious idiot on board.

    Congrats, keep up the good work.

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  10. elgringo79 says:

    What started in jest at the obvious fanboy nature of this article now has the caped Beane defenders all riled up.

    Injuries as an excuse? Punt.

    Money? Bang for the buck? Do I need to list the small market teams with league championships IN BEANE’S TIME?

    And yes, making up WARs for the last 4 years equals pulling them out of your bee hive.

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    • Wally says:

      Thinking injuries can’t effect the overall success of a team during a 2-3 year span? Foolish.
      Measuring success only by WS titles or appearances? Idiotic.
      Believing WARs get pulled from thin air? Certifiably retarded.

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    • Stop being stupid, stop being stupid right now.

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  11. elgringo79 says:

    Wally, here are your made up WARs. I quote:

    “If Chavez had lost only a half of a win every season since 2006 we would be talking about a career path lke this (extension years only):

    2005 4.3 WAR ($3.4 m/win)
    2006 3.6 WAR ($3.7 m/win)
    2007 3.1 WAR ($4.1 m/win)
    2008 2.6 WAR ($4.5 m/win)
    2009 2.1 WAR (~$4.7 m/win)”

    You don’t get to evaluate signings that way. You just don’t.

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    • Curtis says:

      You’re right. The signs that Chavez would break down before his 30th birthday were everywhere. Epic fail for Beane.

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    • Wally says:

      That is just used as an example of how valuable Chavez was, and what an early decline would have looked like. Instead, thanks to injuries, it was:


      That isn’t the typical age 27-31 career path for a player that had put up 3 4-6 WAR seasons before that, and probably two others in 2000 and 2001, with Chavez’s skill set.

      The whole point was don’t look at the end results to evaluate the signing, look at what was LIKELY to happen at the moment of the signing. And even 5 years later, after all the knowledge we’ve gain about the sport, the 2004 version of Eric Chavez looked like a great bet to continue being the player he had been for ~6 years.

      Think about it. Would you pay 66 million dollars (in 2005 dollars, or about 75M today) over 6 years to a 26 year old player that is coming off of maybe 5 4-6 WAR seasons? A current example of a player like that would be Jose Reyes, or very nearly Sizemore. Players like that are rare. And at 12.5M/season you get a great discount if the player can average 5 WAR, which is worth about 22 million according to this site. Heck they could average roughly career worsts, 4 WAR (16M/season), and still come out ahead.

      The Chavez signing was a very good deal. It just turned out badly thanks to injuries, which is just bad luck, nothing more.

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    • NBarnes says:

      How do you propose that you evaluate them?

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  12. Andrew says:

    All you Billy Beane haters out there, i got a stat for you, Oaklands average rank in terms of payroll in his first 11 years as gm(98-08) : 23.9. Oaklands average rank in terms of wins: 9.7 The last two years have been down ones in oakland and if you want to talk about his first 9 years those numbers become 24.2 and 7.7 respectively. Thats a playoff team with the 24th payroll in baseball. This guy has NEVER had a payroll in the top HALF of teams. yet they’ve had winning seasons in 8 of his eleven years and made the playoffs 5 times. Here’s the list of teams who made the playoffs 5 times between 98-08 and their total salaries, NYY-1.621B, BOS-1.105B, ATL-965M, ANA-858M, STL-853M, HOU-764M, OAK-505M. Find me a GM with a record anywhere close to this.

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    • Curtis says:

      Yeah, I scribbled some stuff down the other day. Only the Yankees (~$1.15 billion payroll) and Braves (~$715 million) had more victories from 1999 to 2006 than the Athletics (~$355 million).

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  13. DL80 says:

    Just to throw some fuel on an already kindled fire, what are the odds that Chavez’s career suffered because he didn’t use steroids/HGH/etc.? I don’t know anything about any possible rumors, but as a non-A’s fan and a non-Chavez owner in my dynasty league, I can’t recall him ever being thrown out there as a possible user. Basically, Tejada and Giambi’s careers may have turned out better in hindsight because of the fact they DID use. Is Chavez an example of a guy who (probably) didn’t use, but should have (in the context of the era, ignoring all the health ramifications)?

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