Spending $130 Million Well and Less Well

On Saturday, the Rangers agreed to sign Shin-Soo Choo to a seven year, $130 million contract. With Nelson Cruz and David Murphy departing via free agency and Craig Gentry traded to Oakland, they had a gaping hole in atheir outfield, and they signed the best outfielder left on the market. Given their position on the win curve, maximizing their 2014 roster potential is an understandable strategy, even though Choo is likely to be completely dead weight by the end of this deal. As I wrote at the beginning of the off-season, nearly every long term free agent contract will be a poor investment for the team by the end, as they are designed to be a value to the team in the first few years and a value to the player in the last few.

That said, even with the Rangers having ample revenues — thanks to their television contract — and being in a prime position on the win curve, this still looks like a pretty significant overpay to me, and a contract I think Texas will regret sooner than later. In fact, depending on how much money Nelson Cruz suckers someone into paying him, this might actually end up as my least favorite contract of the entire winter. And I think this deal looks particularly mediocre when you see what the Yankees did with the same resources.

According to various reports over the off-season, the Yankees and Rangers had mutual interest in three of the best free agents on the market this winter: Choo, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran. McCann was widely predicted to go to Texas, the team that had reportedly tried to trade for him on multiple occasions during his tenure in Atlanta, and who had a pretty gaping hole at catcher. Beltran was also linked to the Rangers, as they were going to be in the market for an OF/DH type to replace Cruz. And, of course, they had considerable interest in Choo, given how much money they just gave him.

The Yankees clearly had interest in McCann and Beltran too, since both signed with New York, and last week, Jeff Passan reported that the Yankees offered Choo $140 million over seven years before signing Beltran, only moving on to Beltran when Choo turned them down. Given that McCann signed with New York three weeks ago and still pursued Choo, it’s not exactly correct to say that the Yankees chose McCann and Beltran over Choo for the same price, but the reality is that we’re pretty sure that both the Yankees and Rangers pursued all three of these free agents, and the two teams split the three free agents down the middle, with each team spending exactly $130 million in the process.

The Yankees $130 million outlay for McCann and Beltran is a bit more costly than Texas’ $130 million outlay for New York, because it’s spread over the next five years instead of the next seven, so the per year costs are higher in the short term, pushing the net present value of the expenditure a little bit higher. But the difference isn’t actually huge; if you use a 5% discount rate, the NPV of spending $130 million in a $32M-$32M-$32M-$17M-$17M fashion works out to $114 million, while spending $130 million in a $13M-$18M-$18M-$18M-$19M-$21M-$23M fashion works out to $106 million in NPV.

Toss in the luxury tax implications of the more narrow timeline that NYY signed up for, and the Yankees total cost of their $130 million in spending is probably something closer to $15-$20 million more than Texas’s cost of spending $130 million. And they gave up two draft picks to sign both players, while the Rangers just gave up one pick to sign Choo. That second pick has some value, even if it’s not nearly as much as a first round selection.

But, in reality, the differences are on the margins. The NPV and luxury tax calculations don’t change the fact that the Yankees got eight years of two players for pretty close to the same price that the Rangers got for seven years of one player. And I don’t really see any way to prefer seven years of Choo to eight years of McCann and Beltran.

For one, I think McCann is probably a more valuable player than Choo right now. Over the last three years, Choo has been worth +9.0 WAR in 1,756 PAs, while McCann has been worth +8.3 WAR in 1,416 PAs. Choo should be projected to play more than McCann going forward — a full season for a catcher still results in fewer PAs than a full season for an OF, and McCann isn’t the healthiest guy around — but even with his limited playing time over the last few years, McCann has still basically matched Choo in overall value.

And WAR probably underrates Brian McCann. Pretty much all of the studies done on catcher framing suggest that he’s one of the better receivers in the game; StatCorner’s Catcher Report puts McCann’s value at +64 runs from framing over the last three years, which would translate to an extra two win per season in value. Even if you don’t necessarily buy the spread of value among current framing estimates — I’m one who thinks the actual spread is probably smaller than these types of calculations suggest — it’s pretty likely that McCann creates some tangible amount of real value by turning balls into strikes. Even if we only give him credit for half of what StatCorner suggests and regress the rest away, we’re still looking at something like an extra win per year that WAR isn’t given him credit for.

Even if you don’t like WAR, we could paint a much simpler comparison. Here are McCann and Choo’s 2011-2013 wOBAs compared to the average for their position over the last three years:

Player wOBA Pos. Avg. Difference
Choo 0.366 0.329 0.037
McCann 0.332 0.309 0.023

Choo is a better hitter, relative to other right fielders, than McCann is relative to other catchers, but the gap isn’t actually that large. 14 points of wOBA, over a full season difference, is worth about seven runs, and if you toss in baserunning, Choo’s offensive advantage — again, relative to the average offense from their positional peers — is about 10 runs per year, or about one win. You don’t have to give McCann much credit for defensive value to think that he makes up most or all of that gap with his framing, or on the flip side, that Choo gives most of that gap back with his lack of range. It is quite possible, probably even likely, that the defensive gap more than erases the offensive gap, making McCann the better player overall.

And that’s without noting that the offensive gap is heavily driven by disparate BABIPs; Choo’s at .340 over the last three years, while McCann is at .261. Their BB/K/ISO numbers, which are much more stable and predictive of the future, don’t actually point to a large offensive advantage for Choo. Given that McCann is two years younger and Choo’s offensive advantage is built on something resembling baseball’s house of cards, I wouldn’t even be all that surprised if McCann was actually a better hitter than Choo over the life of their contracts. Toss in the fact that McCann is a plus catcher while Choo is a minus outfielder, and I’d have a pretty clear preference for McCann.

And yet, the Rangers let McCann go to New York for 5/$85M, then turned around and gave Choo 7/$130M. Even if you think defense is overrated and McCann’s eventual move to 1B/DH down the line will nullify some of the long term difference, it’s hard for me to justify a $45 million difference between the two, especially considering McCann is the younger of the two.

I didn’t love the Yankees decision to spend $45 million on Beltran, as I think he’s probably something of an average player heading towards the years where he should be expected to decline the fastest, but I think we can all agree that Beltran still has some value, especially in 2014, when he’s probably not that different from Choo as a hitter. Steamer projects Choo for a 130 wRC+ and Beltran for a 127 wRC+ next year, so the advantages in favor of Choo are basically health, defense, and baserunning. Those things are worth something, but I don’t know that we can make a case that Choo is a drastically better player than Beltran for 2014.

For $130 million, the Yankees got a catcher who is probably a better overall player than Choo and an outfielder who is likely something close to his offensive equivalent. If you want to talk about how the Rangers needed to infuse some life into an offense that underachieved last year, well, McCann and Beltran would have done that better than Choo and Geovany Soto will. Choo’s a nice player, but he’s not the kind of star that is more valuable than two quality regulars for the same price.

Yes, baseball is swimming in cash, and the Rangers are one team that has taken advantage of the television rights bubble to ensure themselves a large revenue stream for the next few decades. But just because they could afford $130 million for Shin-Soo Choo doesn’t mean that this was the best way to spend that money. If they knew they had this kind of money available for short-term upgrades to capitalize on their window to win, they should have just more aggressively pursued a McCann/Beltran combo platter rather than settling on giving it all to Choo. Or, heck, just re-sign David Murphy for cheap, keep Craig Gentry to be his platoon partner, and use the savings to sign a player better than Mitch Moreland or Alexi Ogando.

In many ways, this deal reminds me of the Prince Fielder contract from two off-seasons ago. When the Tigers — a team very much in the sweet spot of the win curve and with a significant hole at DH after Victor Martinez blew out his knee — gave Fielder $216 million, I summed up my thoughts on the deal with this paragraph:

Fielder will absolutely help the Tigers. He might even be enough to help them get to the World Series and perhaps take home a trophy. But, in reality, if the team had $214 million to spend this winter, they should have been in on Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson, who won’t make as much between them as what the team just guaranteed Fielder. As I wrote yesterday, the Tigers definitely needed to make an impact move, but because they got stuck in a position where there was only one impact bat left on the market, they found themselves having to vastly overpay in order to get that improvement.

It feels like the Rangers just did the same thing. One can try to justify $130 million for Choo by comparing it to the alternative of playing Jim Adduci in a playoff race, but there was no reason that the Rangers couldn’t have pursued other plans than this one. When you combine it with the questionable decision to take on $138 million in Prince Fielder’s contract, the Rangers have aggressively spent on two flawed, declining players who aren’t really stars. Both are good, above average players, and each projects for about +3 WAR next year, but I don’t know, I think $270 million should buy you more than an expectation of about +6 WAR and some serious decline afterwards. They both make the Rangers better, but almost any combination of $270 million in spending would have made the Rangers better, and I think there are a lot of combinations that would have been preferable to the route they ended up taking.




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


167 Responses to “Spending $130 Million Well and Less Well”

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  1. Brannon says:

    I understand your point of view from just the money spending aspect but it is hard for me to think that the Rangers would be better off right now with McCann, Murphy and Gentry. Adding Fielder solved two big on the field problems for the Rangers. It cleared the log jam in the infield and gave them a solid 1B bat that they have lacked…plus a lefty who can hit in the middle of the lineup which they really lacked.

    Choo does many things for them that I don’t think his simple signing $$ accounts for. He gives them a lead off guy and allows Martin to slide down the lineup to a more comfortable slot for such a young guy. He also allows Rios to leave next year, saving them some money. He gives Choice a needed year to develop. He adds another LH bat to balance the lineup but most importantly he maximizes the next 3-5 years of Beltre, Fielder and Darvish.

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    • Travis L says:

      How is having too many good players in the infield an actual problem? I agree that adding Fielder was an upgrade, but if they could have added Fielder and kept Kinsler, it would have been even better.

      (Yes, I know there are other factors including salary, but my point is that having too many good players for a position is simply not the problem people make it out to be.)

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      • B N says:

        Yah, I hate having value in my middle infield. Stick it at the corners where it belongs. ;)

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      • Mike says:

        The problem is resource allocation. Period. There are a finite amount of innings available. You want your best players playing as many of those innings as possible.

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      • Blockhead says:

        Last year was proof of why its a problem, are you that daft? The Rangers yanked around a 20-year-old rookie around the infield and the bench trying to get him playing time and it clearly affected his play. Great way to develop a player.

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        • nilbog44 says:

          This is a baseball blog. NOT a music blog. I’m a fan of Daft Punk too but there is no reason to bring them up on Fangraphs. Sheesh

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      • dustin says:

        > How is having too many good players in the infield an actual problem?

        It’s a problem because you’re paying them hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars every year, and if you cannot extract any value for that money, you’re throwing it away.

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        • Spit Ball says:

          This…… Robin Yount, Ernie Banks, Cal Ripken, Rod Carew, nuff said

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        • Bip says:

          So, the solution is to throw that money away by getting rid of the cheap players who are blocked and giving a huge amount of it to expensive, flawed, declining players?

          How is paying a two players to share time at a position different than paying one player way more than those two combined to play that position alone?

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    • Pat G says:

      next time just link the article you take all your points from http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/rangers-cross-off-final-to-do-by-signing-choo/

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      • Jonathan Sher says:

        (1) Several of Brannon’s point had nothing to do with the linked article, including using Choo in the leadoff spot, moving Martin down in the lineup and maximizing the investment already made on Beltre, Fielder and Darvish.

        (2) Next time, why don’t you contribute to the discussion instead of being so dismissive of someone who does?

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    • Aggie E says:

      Platoon FTW with ordinary players who had career years(Gentry) and sign 37 yr old COF who likely will fall off the cliff and a Catcher who will be a DH in 2 years

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  2. E says:

    I think it’s easy to say how a team should spend its money without factoring in that Beltran and McCann may not have wanted to play in Texas. Since choo signed after them, he could have been plan B or C for the rangers.

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    • Travis L says:

      Yes, this is a possibility. However, given the significant tax advantages of playing in Texas versus NY, I would think general goodwill / desire to play for the Yankees is a soft factor that is unlikely to have made much of a difference, especially in McCann’s place.

      Beltran clearly wanted to go to NYY, all things being equal. So I’m in agreement there — TEX would have to beat a deal that I consider an overpay (for Beltran), making him not worth pursuing.

      Somehow I don’t think good old southern mccann preferred NYY over TEX if the dollars were equal.

      But we’re just speculating here, so it’s not really worth talking about — we have no facts.

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      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        Beltran has offered the Yankees a discount every time he’s been a free agent. It’s not a matter of “all else being equal.” Beltran has wanted to wear pinstripes for years.

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      • Aggie E says:

        You dont actually know how much of a ax break Texas gives a player over NYC. Some analysts say its minimal and others say maybe 5%.

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        • SKob says:

          Well I hear things are cheap in NY too!

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        • Uncle Sam says:

          You can look it up if you wish. It appears that the New York state income tax rate is 8.82% plus a New York City rate of 3.8%. The other AL East cities are also not tax friendly. Texas has no state income tax rate and the AL West cities actually have friendly policies to commuting workers as well.

          Apparently, Boras’ team crunched the numbers and NYY would have had to offer Choo a $148 million contract to equal Texas’ $130 million contract.
          Suffice to say the tax issue is not minimal.

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        • Careless says:

          AL West cities actually have friendly policies to commuting workers as well.

          California is famous for raping athletes working in the state

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  3. Ruben Amaro Jr says:

    These were fantastic signs!! The more money you spend the better!!

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  4. Bruce says:

    Its not exactly 7 years of Choo vs 8 years of McCann and Beltran. Its only 3 years of McCann and Beltran, and then 2 years of McCann.That’s like saying you can have 25 years of the entire Marlins team for only 40mill

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    • Tim A says:

      Your argument is counterproductive to your point of view. It is better to commit less years to players because your carrying far less dead weight with the McCann Beltran deal then with Choo. This all depends on your view of Beltran aging. The point is that one bad Beltran year, and one or two average DH McCann years is better then 3-4 years of Choo over payed, and in decline. Also in year 4-5 of McCann your able to spend the extra money you have when Beltran goes off the books too add more talent to the roster. The Rangers resources are not unlimited, and the worst years of Fielder Choo will coincide with Darvish hitting FA, and the first rounder they forfeit in the Choo signing being big league ready. Lets not forget the annual Rangers need to catch Oakland prospects out the door deals, Matt Garza is awesome. I don’t really like the 3+ year outlook on what Texas has been up too. I still don’t see them as far and away favorites in the division either, they have given up a lot of talent in the past two seasons in order to play in one playoff game.

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      • Jabronies says:

        My argument was not about whats better, I would rather have the Yankees situation than the Rangers here, it was more to the way it is worded, as in you can have 7 years of Choo or 8 or McCann AND Beltran.

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        • Tim A says:

          And yet you get 8 seasons of M B 3+5=8. It is immaterial that they happen to come with some overlap, since they still add too 8.

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        • Bip says:

          I get how saying “8 years of McCann and Beltran” sounds like “8 straight years where you have both McCann and Beltran”, or 16 combined years.

          A bit trivial but I see his point.

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        • Careless says:

          @Tim except that you’re doubling up on the years closest to their current ages.

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    • Darryl says:

      My thoughts exactly. This may Dave’s most disingenuous post ever because, to be fair it’s actually $32m/yr for McCann/Beltran compared to $21.5m/yr for Choo/Soto. I would take the latter in a NY heartbeat.

      Also: Choo will be younger than Beltran is today when his contract expires yet is spoken of as if he’ll be toast by then. How does that make any sense unless toast is worth $15m in 2020?

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      • Lanideac says:

        The idea is that Choo derives a large portion of his value from his speed and defense, which tend to deteriorate much more quickly than a top-tier bat.

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        • SKob says:

          Speed and D huh? Yeah, not really. More like patience and intelligence. Things that last a while!

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        • RC says:

          Players who build all their value on walks and HRs are teh ones who decline the fastest. Choo has a pretty high average, so he doesn’t really fit, but there’s risk.

          Speed and defense players are the ones who age the best. Why do people keep repeating the opposite when there’s been plenty of research done here.

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        • DownwiththeDH says:

          RC – David Ortiz and Vince Coleman disagree with you. There’s evidence for both sides…I see the dividing factor as the players ability stay healthy and not just healthy enough to play, but to succeed… The “ability” to self-actualize. And it takes a rare set of circumstances to achieve. See – http://www.livescience.com/4685-mind-games-great-baseball-player-great.html (you’ll like how he handles the “clutch hitter” situation)

          Vision (John Olerud), hand-eye coordination (Ted Williams), intelligence (Larry Walker/ Carlos Beltran), mental toughness (Ortiz), strength (Giambi/Thome), those have more staying power[Players in () were just thoughts off the top of my head for good examples of players who have “traits of staying power”].

          Power hitters lose quickness the bat, speedsters with the feet. Power hitters who are mentally strong, smart and have good vision last. Older players who know how to read pitchers, plays, who can track the ball well, like Beltran, have staying power in base-running and defense (which some seem to translate in to speed).

          Simply being the fastest or strongest doesn’t get it done. Jeter never was exceptionally fast or strong. Yet he averaged 16 HR with 0.134 ISO and 22 SB at a 78.6% clip throughout his 19 year career.

          As they say it’s 90% mental ;)

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        • bookbook says:

          +RC – David Ortiz and Vince Coleman disagree with you. There’s evidence for both sides+

          It isn’t impossible for a slow slugger player to age better than a fast one, but the odds–given hundreds of examples rather than two–aren’t in your favor. Sadly, Mo Vaughn and Richie Sexson are more typical than David Ortiz.

          Beltran’s defense at his peak was much better than Choo’s has ever been. One shouldn’t count on Choo being worth $15 million per, when this deal is done.

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        • RC says:

          David Ortiz doesn’t fit the model I’m talking about. He’s a .300 hitter. He gets a lot of value from his power and discipline, but he also has a good hit tool.

          I’m talking about guys who specifically derive their value from Good Power, Good Walks, but a poor hit tool.

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      • chuckb says:

        Except that you failed to mention the exact thing that you were complaining about — that Beltran’s contract ends in 3 years and McCann’s ends in 5, while Choo’s ends in 7 years.

        Talk about disingenuous…

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        • Darryl says:

          I wasn’t being disingenuous, you now are. I was ‘complaining’ about using total contract value for a year to year comparison of value. That’s just dumb because no one knows how valuable or where Choo will be once the McCann/Beltran contracts stop being huge overpays to the Choo deal.

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      • DownwiththeDH says:

        woopsie, those are Jeter’s 162 game averages. but you get the point (I hope)

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  5. Kyle says:

    I think the lack of McCann interest is rooted, at least somewhat in the fact that 1) Fielder will occupy time at DH soon enough and 2) how they regard Jorge Alfaro. If Alfaro isn’t ready in 2 years, then I think we could say mistake, but I think a lot of people are expecting him to be in the mix in 2015. Simply talking money and other big league players doesn’t consider the full system… tho that’s dangerous as well.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Gary Sanchez is both a better prospect than Alfaro and closer to the major leagues. Not signing a guy like McCann because of a 20 year old who struck out 26% of the time his second time through Low-A would be unimaginably stupid, and I think that Jon Daniels is smarter than that.

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      • Dirck says:

        I very seriously doubt that Sanchez is a better catching prospect than Alfaro . Most people don’t even think Sanchez is a potential major league catcher.

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      • Kyle says:

        All I know is the reports I’ve read from people that follow the Rangers minor league system seem to suggest he could be ready by 2015. Also, my point was to say that the lack of interest in McCann (may) speaks to there regard and ETA for Alfaro. Not saying they are right/wrong in said feelings, but the larger point is while the article makes persuasive points from a financial POV, the entire system must be taken into effect.

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          I agree with your larger point, but I just don’t think Daniels is making his decisions based on the fact that a now-21 year old who just reached Hi-A could be ready to take over full time as the starter in 2015.

          Maybe he thinks that Russell Martin will be a better deal next offseason, or he wants to trade for AJ Ellis, but I highly doubt he’s making decisions based on Jorge Alfaro potentially being ready in 2 years.

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  6. Mr Punch says:

    I think this is right, but not by all that much. The “two-year” age difference between Choo and McCann is less than a year and a half, and Choo is healthier. Also, McCann, who doesn’t hit all that much better than the average catcher, is unlikely to hit well enough for 1B or DH on a contending Yankee team; whereas Choo might still be at least a platoon DH in the latter years of his contract. Old-player skills are a good thing to have when you’re an old player.

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  7. BenRevereDoesSteroids says:

    Both are good, above average players, and each projects for about +3 WAR next year

    I noticed your tweet the other day when the signing happened. You called Choo a 3 win player, and said his Oliver projections were ridiculous. The only difference between the Oliver and Steamer projections is that Olive has him as a league average defender, but Steamer has him at -16 runs. Considering that he won’t be playing CF this season, and given his history as a corner outfielder, I think that we should expect him to be alot closer to Oliver’s 4.7 than Steamer’s 2.8.

    And I know that I will get downvoted for this, but I can’t help but feel that this is anti Athletics/Rangers/Angels/Astros propaganda. I mean, one day you are giving anecdotal “evidence” as to why Kinsler will be fine going forward despite a two year downward trend. Then within a day or two, you tell us that a younger David Freese coming off one bad season is pretty much worthless and isn’t worth a guy whose career numbers are carried by his 2011 outlier season.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Oliver has him as a league average *center fielder*, which is basically indefensible, and is what’s driving his projected WAR so high. Note that the column that’s projected as +2.1 is DEF, not FLD, which means it includes the position adjustment. For his career, Choo has averaged -9.6 DEF per 600 plate appearances, and the OLIVER projection has him at +2 DEF per 600 in 2014. Given that he’s getting older and his defensive numbers are trending the wrong way, and defense peaks in a player’s 20s, projecting him for a career best DEF going forward is not something anyone should be doing.

      It’s basically just a bad projection; note that ZIPS also has Choo as a +3 WAR player for 2014. OLIVER is the outlier, because it’s simply projecting his defense incorrectly.

      And bias accusations are basically the last crutch for the crippled. If you could actually defend Choo as a $130 million player, you wouldn’t have to resort to trying to attack the credibility of the person presenting evidence.

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      • Not naive says:

        Considering he will be in LF this seems to be a much different discussion.
        Dave the money in the MLB is now about to get stupid. The local tv deals for he big market teams will be 100 Million or PLUS equity in the tv revenue.
        Lastly if a guy has 3600 PA’s and has a career 350 BABIP can’t we consider that a skill and not a house of cards? That seems like a proper sample size…

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      • B N says:

        Indeed. Do we know what is up with the Oliver defensive projections? Choo’s stuck out like a sore thumb.

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      • Darryl says:

        “If you could actually defend Choo as a $130 million player”

        Choo (32) makes $18.7m/yr, Beltran (37) makes $15m/yr. That was quite easy.

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      • Bip says:

        When this guy accuses you of an anti-non-Mariners-AL-West team bias, you know you’re doing your job correctly. I have seen multiple people accuse you of a pro-A’s bias. This site has been pretty positive towards Texas for a while. This site has used the Astros as an example of a team that is committing to rebuilding the right way. This site thought the Angels did well in the Trumbo trade, something that is by no means a given.

        And who could possibly look at what you’ve said about Mariners and think you have a favorable bias towards them.

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    • AK7007 says:

      Propaganda? That’s kinda outlandish. Dave doesn’t get anything by being “against” your teams.

      Maybe bias. The team he follows for fun is also in the AL West.

      But most likely? Dave’s commenting on a team that hasn’t been setting itself up for a healthy future (Rangers) – and saying bad things about the moves they are making. Which sounds fine to me.

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    • RC says:

      “Considering that he won’t be playing CF this season, and given his history as a corner outfielder, I think that we should expect him to be alot closer to Oliver’s 4.7 than Steamer’s 2.8.”

      He was a terrible RF before he was a terrible CF. Expecting his defensive value to be anything better than terribly negative is naive wishcasting.

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  8. I think there’s a really solid chance Craig Gentry could be a three win player if handed a starting job. If I were the Rangers I would have signed McCann, gone with Gentry, and been a much better team for it.

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    • Shankbone says:

      Gentry has the exact same amount of PAs against righties and lefties because of not having a starting job. 271/334/335 against righties in 381 PAs, 288/376/399 against lefties with 382 PAs. Away from Arlington: 265/344/330 versus 296/367/406 when home.

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      • 1) Those are small sample sizes.
        2) Gentry put up 3.4 WAR in 287 plate appearances last year. Even with a high BABIP and defensive ratings that are a bit on the high side, it’s pretty hard to see him not up up 3 WAR over 550 or so plate appearances. (And even with less platoon advantage, because platoon advantage doesn’t affect good defense and baserunning)

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        • Shankbone says:

          Small sample for sure. Just pointing out you don’t know how those stats would turn, and he’s been put in the best situations for him, not trusted with full time duty. Great defense for sure, and 3 WAR is a pretty good bet as long as he didn’t crater with the bat. Is he that different from what they have with Martin though?

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      • Bip says:

        None of those numbers are damning. You can find splits for many players that make them look bad, and none of those splits are awful. Plus, a fantastic center fielder can have an OPS around .700 and still be an above average player.

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        • Not naive says:

          Remember Gentry is 30, does have a history of injury already. But he will be missed, I loved watching that guy play every day…

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  9. BenRevereDoesSteroids says:

    Also, I want to say something about this high resource teams and these big contracts. I tend to be skeptical of the whole “untradable” thing and how burdensome they really are. Just look at the Michael Young contract situation that the Rangers had before last season. They were going to have to pay one of the worst players in baseball 16 million dollars last year. They ended up trading him to the Phillies for a 6th starter and ate about 10 million dollars of that contract.

    Now 5-6 years from now, will there be some team that could use a 1 WAR platoon outfielder for 7-8 million a year? Could the Rangers find someone to take Choo off their hands in exchange for a middle reliever if they agree to eat a big chunk of his salary? I don’t think that anyone would be surprised if they could. Would that be an ideal use of resources? Absolutely not. Will it cripple a team with the Rangers’ resources? I hardly think so.

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    • Park Chan-ho's beard says:

      That wasn’t the point he was making though.

      And counting on stupid/desperate teams to take on your toxic contracts doesn’t seem like a particularly sustainable strategy going forward.

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      • Darryl says:

        “Now 5-6 years from now, will there be some team that could use a 1 WAR platoon outfielder for 7-8 million a year”

        Cherington paid $5m, not 5-6 years from now but last year (before the new money), for Gomes. He’s a platoon OF and I haven’t heard of anyone referring to Ben as “stupid/desperate”.

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        • RC says:

          Gomes is a lot better player than Choo will be in 6 years. Gomes can still play not-terrible defense. Choo can’t do that right now.

          Choo in 6 years is going to be a DH. Choo should be a DH right now, but thats not going to happen in Texas.

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        • Darryl says:

          You think Gomes is a better fielder than Choo? Oh my!

          A great barometer for folk who use stats but don’t watch baseball is in their opining on Choo’s defense. You, for example, need to watch the game, RC.

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        • RC says:

          I’ve watched plenty of Choo. He’s a terrible defender.

          Also, what I said is that Gomes right now, is a lot better defender than Choo will be in the second half of this contract.

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    • MrMan says:

      I believe someone on this website (won’t mention who) wrote an article recently about the most difficult to move contracts and Prince Fielder was number two. This was about two months before this supposedly unmovable contract got moved.

      As did Josh Beckett’s and Carl Crawford’s. Heck, Ian Kinsler’s contract was considered difficult.

      The point being….massive, huge overpays in one year look like reasonable numbers just a few years later.

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      • MrMan says:

        Fact check: I was wrong…Fielder was #5.

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          I looked that article up. DC was spot on in his analysis. Here’s what he said:
          “He certainly isn’t untradeable, especially given the lack of bats on the market right now.”
          So he didn’t say unmoveable, he said difficult to move. Which, presumably, the contract was.

          But more to the point>
          Estimated Cost to Trade, according to DC’s article: $48 million

          Actual Cost to Trade: ~$30 million in cash

          I’d say Dave kinda nailed it, when you also consider that Dombrowski is widely thought to have fleeced the Rangers a little bit on the deal.

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        • DownwiththeDH says:

          Wow this is quite some BS – “I looked that article up. DC was spot on in his analysis. Here’s what he said:
          “He certainly isn’t untradeable, especially given the lack of bats on the market right now.”
          So he didn’t say unmoveable, he said difficult to move. Which, presumably, the contract was.

          But more to the point>
          Estimated Cost to Trade, according to DC’s article: $48 million

          Actual Cost to Trade: ~$30 million in cash

          I’d say Dave kinda nailed it, when you also consider that Dombrowski is widely thought to have fleeced the Rangers a little bit on the deal.”

          So 48$ million, 60% more more than 30$ mil is kinda nailing it? Show me someone who is off by 60% in projections who has a job next year. The weatherman is better than that.

          And I love the juxtaposition of “fleecing” and “a little bit”. You sound like a bad fox news personality.

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        • Darryl says:

          “when you also consider that Dombrowski is widely thought to have fleeced the Rangers a little bit on the deal.”

          0_o

          When you say ‘fleeced’ I assume you mean Dom received unexpected value in return, which is precisely what MrMan pointed out – these huge contracts maintain value. Fact: ‘Terrible, team debilitating contracts’ is fiction. Ironically, the closest scenario is Arod’s contract, and that with the richest team in the league.

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      • Jim says:

        and where would Fielder have ranked in your list of most difficult to move contracts?

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    • Jake says:

      This idea is complicated by the fact that after year 5 Choo will have 10-and-5 rights and can reject any trade. Daniels was able to take advantage of two things to move Young, the Phillies position on the win curve and Ruben Amaro putting himself in a position where the best way to improve the 3B situation was to acquire Young. If I remember correctly, Young had reportedly declined this trade initially before agreeing to go. My point is that using this trade as an example isn’t as straightforward as you put it.

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    • Leo Walter says:

      Thank you Mr. Newberg….er Ben Revere.Daniels and that orginization would NEVER make a mistake. Right ?

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  10. Noah Baron says:

    The only problem I have with this blog post is the fact that taking a 3-year sample of Shin Soo Choo is not the best way to evaluate him. Whether or not you were doing this on purpose, choosing a 3-year sample is cherry-picking. Two of Choo’s best seasons were 2009 and 2010, and choosing a 5-year sample instead of a 3-year sample increases Choo’s WAR average from 3.0 wins per season to 3.9 wins per season, while also increasing McCann’s wins per season significantly.

    Basically, my point is that rather than this being a bad signing for the Rangers, it’s just an ok signing. If he puts up a 3.9 win season next year and then regresses accordingly, the contract should be relatively fair after taking into account inflation. Obviously, the Yankees strategy was better, as they signed McCann on a bargain relative to the rest of the market.

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    • AK7007 says:

      And if I take a 10 year sample of Barry Bonds, he averages out to 2.8 WAR, sign the man up! We have to draw the line somewhere. At a certain point, we have to decide to put more weight on recent performance. 5 years is a long time in baseball terms, and Choo is almost certainly not what he was in 2009.

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    • Shankbone says:

      3 year F/G leaderboard had Choo at -38.6 DEF, right above Dmitiri Young and Carlos Beltran and right below Nelson Cruz and Jason Kubel. His UZR/150 in CF with the Reds was -15.3, in 2012 with the Indians in RF it was -15.8. 4 years before that were a bit positive or a bit negative. He hasn’t had positive DEF ratings since 2006-7, but the last two years have been stand out below average.

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    • chuckb says:

      What does that tell you that 32 year-old Choo’s two best seasons were 4 and 5 years ago? And who’s the one cherry-picking?

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      • DownwiththeDH says:

        If you really know Choo you know why his 2011 was so bad. It wasn’t just injury, it was mental. If I’m a GM I throw that one out. The last thing this guy is going to do is go out and live a lifestyle that will get him another DUI and a season like that.

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        • Slovak Bear says:

          Hmm, the aerage DUI’er has driven drunk 92 times. But, I’m sure Choo, and his .20 BAC, don’t fit that mold.

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        • DownwiththeDH says:

          and MADD is a corporation run by a Male board with an agenda.

          Choo is an Asian that felt shame, not guilt. What that means is that he’s more likely to have an significant positive shift in behavior, which is evidenced in is production post-shame.

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        • wally says:

          new favorite acronym, PPS….

          I wonder what the Andy Pettitte PPS number is.

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    • hk says:

      I doubt that Dave cherry-picked the 3 year average WAR as, like Choo, McCann’s 2009 and 2010 seasons were also better than his 2011, 2012 and 2013 ones. McCann’s 5 year average is 3.48 WAR while his 3 year average is 2.77 WAR.

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  11. What? says:

    Dave Cameron saying nice things about the Yankees? Where am I?

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  12. dylanthom says:

    Choo prefers to be referred to as the “Choo-Choo Train” or the “Shin-Soo Knife” so please make note of this for future reference.

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  13. _David_ says:

    $270M over for 6 WAR that will quickly decline reminds me a lot of the Cano deal, except Texas is in a better position talent and money wise to do that. Not the best option, but it doesn’t seem too awful.

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  14. pft says:

    In the short term though, signing Choo was probably a smarter deal for the Yankees than Beltran. With only a 5 million AAV differential, and Beltran already as old as Choo will be at the end of his deal, Choo was the guy they should have got. And of course the Yankees thought so too because they signed Beltran only after Choo turned them down.

    Maybe the Yankees could have got Choo for Ellsbury money, but they obviously still have hope for staying under 189 and that additional 2 AAV put him out of reach. I think Choo’s OBP is more valuable in Texas since they have a better middle of the order than the Yankees have, and he should score more runs

    There is a shortage of good hitting OF’ers and not much coming on the FA market the next couple of years, so if you want a good OF and have no prospects that are MLB ready you have little choice but to overpay.

    People worry too much about the tail end of a deal. Choos 18 million AAV will be closer to 12 million AAV in 2014 dollars. So long as the Rangers farm system has some young players who help subsidize the deals for the older players, they are OK. The Yankees are in trouble with Arod primarily because of the colossal failure of the farm system to produce a couple of decent OF’ers besides Gardner and forced them to spend almost 200 million for 10 years of Ellsbury and Beltran, and has left them with an IF that could be the worst in MLB unless Tex comes back from his injury and hits close to his career averages.

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    • Lanideac says:

      If he doesn’t get extended or suffer a major injury, I wonder what kind of contract Colby Rasmus will get next offseason as a very good 28-year-old free agent outfielder.

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      • chuckb says:

        It’s yet to be established that Rasmus is very good. In between 2 good seasons, one bolstered by an unsustainable BABIP and the other bolstered by an unsustainable HR/FB, he had 2 horrendous seasons. He needs another good one this year before I’ll be convinced that the 2 awful ones were the outliers.

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    • Dirck says:

      If and when the natural inflationary effect of printing trillions of bogus dollars takes effect a dollar will be worth about 25 cents in already inflated 2013 dollars . It’s pretty hard to calculate the future value of anything when you have a government that is addicted to overspending and is dedicated to destroying the value of the dollar to get out from under massive debt .

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  15. DrBGiantsfan says:

    Whytheheck are we talking about McCann and Beltran when the Yankees also signed Ellsbury, who has a virtually identical WAR over the last 6 seasons, for 7 years/$140 M? Aren’t we cherry picking comps here?

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    • MrMan says:

      Hey, don’t go nitpicking details.

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    • Matt says:

      I thought Ellsbury’s deal was 7 years and $153 million, not $140 million (as per Cot’s).

      My feeling is that Ellsbury’s deal is, in the grand scheme of things, not really better or worse than Choo’s deal. Ellsbury might be marginally better overall, but isn’t that reflected in the extra $23 million he is to be paid over these 7 years? Meaning, there is probably no extra ‘value’ in owning one player over the other.

      I don’t have the answer here, but I wonder if Choo won’t be the healthier player over the life of these contracts. Choo has missed 116 games over the past 5 years while Ellsbury has missed 272 games over the same time. Is this at least somewhat predictive of future health?

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    • Richie says:

      “6 seasons”??? Don’t think I’d call someone else a cherry picker in the very next sentence.

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      • RC says:

        Maybe Choo is healthier going forward, but the fact that Ellsbury is a good defensive player means he’s much more likely to continue to produce value.

        He’ll be moved to LF at some point and still be a useful player. Choo will be a DH putting up a .240/.350/.400 line at some point in this contract.

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    • chuckb says:

      No. The point Dave’s making is that the Rangers could have done much better with their $130 M. It wasn’t to rehash all the stuff discussed with the Ellsbury contract nor was it to glorify the Yankees.

      Nice attempt at a red herring, though.

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    • Bob M says:

      Both teams were looking at C and OF. I suppose the comparison could have been McCann + Ellsbury against Choo + Soto. But the difference in total money is significant enough that you would naturally expect the former to outproduce the latter. McCann + Beltran is roughly equivalent to Choo + Soto, money wise.

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  16. Jack Z says:

    #6 org!

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    • MrMan says:

      Yeah. I like Dave a lot, but it does seem like he’s got blinders on when it comes to the other AL West teams. Seems like every Texas post takes a negative slant. As one poster pointed out above, Choo is not much different from Ellsbury, but got paid less. How does Ellsbury go COMPLETELY unmentioned in the 19 paragraphs on this topic?

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  17. Lanideac says:

    120M over 7 years for Matt Holliday’s age 30-36 seasons keeps looking better and better.

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    • Matt says:

      Nice point. Granted, that LF defense is getting awful, but on the whole this has been another dynamite move by STL.

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      • Dave says:

        I think that St Louis has the best front office in baseball. Matt Holiday has been worth about 4-5 WAR a season the last few years despite being a bad defender in left (defensive ratings of -11 and -11.4 the last two years)

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        • Leo Walter says:

          Mozeliak in St. Louis has a lot more room for financial error than the people in Oakland or Tampa.” The Cardinal Way ” and associated poor mouthing is getting a little tired.

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    • Shankbone says:

      Best big contract signed, a LF with RH power who can OPS 900 is a rare bird these days. They did offer 10/220MM for Albert Pujols. That would not be looking so hot, but some other team had less “restraint”.

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  18. Dave says:

    The premise of $130million being equal no matter the context doesn’t make sense for me. McCann will cost $17million this year and Beltran will cost $15million. That’s $32million in added payroll, when Choo will cost $18.6million. If you argue that the Rangers added that much payroll by trading for Fielder, Kinsler would have cost us $17million anyway, while Fielder is essentially making about $19.6million a year with the Rangers. That’s only an extra $2.6million per year they took on (at least until kinslers contract runs out). That is an expenditure of about $22.2 million a year for the next few years, whereas the Yankees will be spending $32million for the next 3 years.. $10million is a lot of money, especially considering that the Rangers new TV contract does not kick in till 2015.. If they wanted to spend $10million more dollars, they could have kept Nathan, or signed Napoli in addition to what they did.. So I don’t think you can simply say that the Rangers could have spent $130million this other way instead..

    Lastly, while this contract may be an overpay, it is clear that other teams were willing to pay the same or more for this player, and so I don’t know if you can call it an overpay based on the market price for the player. It is an overpay if you pay more for a player than anyone else is willing to or come close to paying.. Since we know that the Yankees offered $140million for the same player, I don’t think the Rangers necessarily overpaid, but paid the market price for this player. Now if you want to go into weather the market price is actually a good value, that is a different question and maybe they did overvalue him. But the way I see it, Choo posted 5.2 WAR last year according FA and that included a UZR of -15.5. Let’s say that the estimates are right, and even though he will be playing in LF, he still only is worth 3 WAR next year and for the next few years.. at $5.5million per win, that is worth $16.5million, and at $6million a win that is worth $18million, when the Rangers are paying $18.6million.. That is not a HUGE gap in value.. the question is how long can he sustain a 3WAR a season pace, and even if he does it for 3-4 years, I don’t see how that can be considered the worse contract of this offseason.. Are you forgetting what Tim Lincecum got paid, or how old Cano is (31 also) and signed a 10 year deal.. He may average 5 WAR in Seattle for the first 3-4 seasons, but he plays a harder defensive position than Choo, and cannot be reasonably expected to continue to put up those numbers after he turns 35, after which point he will still have 6 years and $144million left on his deal. After Choo turns 35, he will only have 3 years and $55.8million left on his deal.. Even if you are more optimistic of how Cano will age compared to Choo, I still don’t understand how this is a blatantly glaring overpay compared to others this offseason.. I think everyone who expects Cano to continue putting up 7-8 WAR a season in Seattle in that park and with that lineup and team is somewhat delusional.. The same writers who saw and noted the effect that Safeco Park had on Adrian Beltre’s numbers and production are now acting as if playing at Safeco won’t affect Cano’s numbers and production.. Anyways, I’m not saying Choo will be worth this contract, but I am saying that it is hard for me to see how this is a massively bad deal compared to the deals to Lincecum or Elsbury or Cano.. I also don’t think that the term overpay applies to situations where teams pay the amount that other teams are willing to pay for a player.

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    • DownwiththeDH says:

      I like most of what you’re saying, except: SAFECO is a different park now and Cano is a different hitter than Beltre.

      Would you not agree Cano has more bat control to all fields and relies more on gap placement than the home run? Big gaps in Seattle.

      “With the exception of the right center field measurement, Safeco’s alterations draw it into eerily similar comparisons with U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, and Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds, two of the most homer-friendly ballparks in all of baseball. While that provides no promise of converting Safeco into a homer heaven — personnel, climate, wind and playing surface also contribute — there’s a very real possibility that Safeco is the one of the two that will exhibit the larger statistical shift.” – http://espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/story/_/page/mlbdk2k13_ballparks/changes-safeco-field-petco-park-affect-prospects-seattle-mariners-san-diego-padres-players

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      • DownwiththeDH says:

        … The effect in a small sample size was bumping from 29th to 15th in park factor.

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        • Marcus A. says:

          Serious problem with using the park factors is that they’re regressed 90% to the league average. Given that, of course Safeco is going to come out near league average, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is league average. Check back in two years when they have a big enough sample size to not regress the number so much.

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  19. elijah says:

    I’ll be looking forward to the “Spending $240M well and less well” article. The Rangers added $269M to their payroll by acquiring Fielder and Choo for the next 7 years while the Mariners will commit $240M on Cano over the next 10 years. The Rangers were a 91 win team (despite the anemic offense and injury plagued starting rotation) before they added Prince and Choo while the Mariners are probably somewhere around an 80 win team even after adding Cano. I’d like to see take on these player transactions, and what they mean and how they make sense for the their respective clubs.

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    • Paul says:

      The Rangers didn’t add $269 million with Fielder and Choo. When you factor in the money they got back from the Tigers and the money they’re saving by dumping Kinsler’s contract, adding Fielder added only $70 million to the payroll.

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  20. GilaMonster says:

    Another thing I like a about the McCann signing: he can move to 1st eventually. McCann can probably continue catching everyday for 2-3 years. But when Texeria’s contract is up, McCann can probably replacement him as good 1st basemen.

    Guys like Choo are already bad defensively and have nowhere other than the Beltran route.

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  21. Tim says:

    Could the Rangers be expounding their Asian market by signing Choo? Could the “overpay” be in regards to opening different revune streams in different markets and marketabilty along with liking the player? Could this be factored in to a players value?

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  22. Dr Morris says:

    As was noted somewhere in coverage of the signing, Dallas/Ft. Worth has got one of the largest Korean communities in the US, and might well have been a factor in the Rangers’ interest (and a tough factor to quantify from a pure baseball-ops context).

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    • Not naive says:

      Does that large Korean population love baseball? Do they buy tickets the rangers are already over 3 million fans back to back seasons.. already signed their TV deal, where else would they get revenue from?
      Its tough to not sound sarcastic over text, when I read that back to myself I should like an A*hole I don’t mean it that way I just honestly don’t see another huge revenue stream

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      • DownwiththeDH says:

        It they do love it, then you’re probably changing loyalty from one team to theirs, quite valuable. If they weren’t a fan now you’ve giving them a reason to be. It’s a growth economy and business. Just like WAR, every bit counts.

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  23. BLUE85 says:

    I don’t often post negative comments, but I just lost a lot of respect for Dave/ the site. I used to appreciate the innovative ways fg evaluated baseball, but dave, come on. You’re really arguing for two .330’s OBP guys over a player who competes for leading the league. Dave may have a point with this article, but it was terribly argued.
    Personally, I’d rather have Choo, but the real the question that wasn’t adequately articulated was: Is Choo plus a $13M catcher better than McCann and Beltran? The answer is yes, yes, yes. Making an argument that McCann’s defense is under weighted by WAR is absurd. He’s valued nearly as much as Yadi Molina and Salvi Perez, anyone who has ever watched these three knows which one doesn’t belong. Relying on raw .BABIP numbers is lazy. Choo should be expected to have a much higher .BABIP because of his career numbers and because he’s faster and hits the ball with more authority than the Yanks.
    Not that this necessarily matters at all, but the Rangers brass knows a LOT more about spending wisely than the yankees in recent years. Beltre, Darvish vs. Jeter, Teix, R. Soriano

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    • Ns says:

      Why in the world would that be “the real question”? That’s a terrible question.

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    • Jason B says:

      “I just lost a lot of respect for Dave/ the site”

      If your opinion can be that swayed by a single article (opinion piece at that!) then it was quite precarious and fragile to begin with, no? C’mon, we’re living in a world where reasonable opinions may differ.

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      • RC says:

        When statisticians post articles that strongly suggest they don’t understand the statistics they’re talking about, that should sway one’s opinions on all their articles.

        It’s kind of line an astronomer saying the world is flat.

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        • Jason B says:

          You’re right of course. Dave was ultra-genius and with this one article it all came crashing down. He’s soooo stoopid. *Rolls eyes*

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  24. triple_r says:

    Given that McCann signed with New York three weeks ago and still pursued Choo,

    Why would McCann pursue Choo if he had already signed with New York? Truly baffling.

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  25. TBone says:

    Guys with high walk rates fade particularly quickly (http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2010/06/war_aging_curve.php). This is also true for poor defenders. And Choo’s BABIP will regress in a big way (if you think his .340 BABIP is sustainable, you should leave this site).

    Comparing Ellsbury and Choo is comparing apples and oranges. In this case, the apple will still be playing adequate LF defense in 6 years, and the orange will either be bleeding more runs than he creates in RF, or will be a particularly expensive and light-hitting DH.

    The Rangers have made plenty of moves worthy of praise. This just isn’t one of them. Get over it.

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    • Not naive says:

      340 BABIP has been sustainable for his first 3600 At bats… some guys hit more line drives that is their skill. What is unsustainable are spikes in BABIP. Sometimes numbers need context…

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      • TBone says:

        It takes 820 BIP to understand only half of what’s going on with BABIP (http://www.fangraphs.com/library/principles/sample-size/). 2000 BIP is not sturdy enough to fully credit Choo for his .340 BABIP. His line drive rate is just 57th best in 2011-13. Solid — but not exceptional, and I don’t think a special case can be made for him to carry a .340 clip through his 31-37 seasons.

        But the point is: Choo does not offer insurance in other characteristics. If you can field, if you can run the bases, if you can frame pitches, and if you can be reasonably expected to do these things over the course of a long-term deal — your floor is considerably higher.

        If, instead, you are gambling $130 Million on 34% of a player’s BIP eluding fielders — with really no other traits to save you if that doesn’t happen — you may be in trouble.

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        • RC says:

          you keep repeating this despite the stats saying the opposite of what you’re trying to say.

          BABIP stabilizes in the 800 BIP range. Choo has over 2500 BIP at a .350 BABIP. It has stabilized. We know what he is.

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        • Michigan4435 says:

          But hitting skills get worse as time goes on, and Choo doesnt have other skills to support his value, like TBone mentioned above. So while his BABIP may have stabilized at 340, eventually that will go down as his skills diminish withage

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        • Not naive says:

          yes but its the rate of decline that is important. I would not disagree that there will be a decline. All the things that you are worried about now are already existing. So as a LF his defense is going to get worse? I mean a -16 run RF moving to center wouldn’t you expect worse in CF?
          If you look up what makes up that -16 run rating almost all of it is in range not in errors or arm. So you put him in LF next to one of the best def CF’s in baseball does that mitigate that?
          Are there any numbers of range poor CF’s moving to LF where their arm actually would make a more positive impact above average to mitigate range? As most LF’s don’t have as great of arms?

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        • TBone says:

          Yeah, no, you guys are right. He will be forever blessed, his BABIP will be .340+ and pitchers will continue to walk and fear his powerless, speedless self for the next seven years. Y’all win.

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  26. RC says:

    “And that’s without noting that the offensive gap is heavily driven by disparate BABIPs. Choo’s at .340 over the last three years, while McCann is at .261. Their BB/K/ISO numbers”

    This just highlights a fundamental lack of understanding. Choo’s CAREER BABIP is over .350. It’s what he is. When you regress him, you should be regressing to .350, his talent level, not the league average.

    The idea that his BABIP is going to ‘normalize’ to league average at some point is patently absurd.

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  27. TBone says:

    It takes 820 BIP to understand only half of what’s going on with BABIP (http://www.fangraphs.com/library/principles/sample-size/). 2000 BIP is not sturdy enough to fully credit Choo for his .340 BABIP. His line drive rate is just 57th best in 2011-13. Solid — but not exceptional, and I don’t think a special case can be made for him to carry a .340 clip through his 31-37 seasons.

    But the point is: Choo does not offer insurance in other characteristics. If you can field, if you can run the bases, if you can frame pitches, and if you can be reasonably expected to do these things over the course of a long-term deal — your floor is considerably higher.

    If, instead, you are gambling $130 Million on 34% of a player’s BIP eluding fielders — with really no other traits to save you if that doesn’t happen — you may be in trouble.

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    • RC says:

      2500 BIP isn’t enough to conclusively say that .350 is his natural BABIP, but it is enough to say that the chances of him not having above average BABIP skill are incredibly small.

      IE there’s no reason to expect his BABIP to decline as regression.
      There is some reason to expect age related decline, and that combined with a player who is a terrible defender is a bad combo.

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      • Not naive says:

        Or atleast decline at a catastrophic rate. It is reasonable that maybe in the next 7 years his BABIP is 320. If he still has great discipline his offensive production can be close to the same level. It seems like the implication is that next year Choo is going ot regress to a .295 BABIP player.
        BABIP has to be one of the major things advanced front offices understand at a greater rate than the public

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        • TBone says:

          BABIP is more luck-fueled than anything else. Even a guy particularly suited to post an above average BABIP (like Choo) would have to be lucky to do so in the future. This is not so of other traits (fielding, baserunning, power, etc). You CANNOT count on luck. That’s the point.

          If I’m handing out $130 M and 7 years, I am not trusting it with a guy who has built his value on walks (fade quickly) and BABIP (paying for future luck). But that is just me. We’ll talk again in 7 years I guess.

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        • RC says:

          This is absolutely not true. Choo’s true BABIP skill is atleast .330+. We shouldn’t expect him to have a BABIP lower than that at his current skill level.

          Now, its completely expected that his SKILL will decline over the next 7 years, but that’s not regression, and that’s not luck.

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    • DownwiththeDH says:

      Wait, Choo isn’t a good baserunner? He has at least average baserunning skills.

      Anyway, the skills you’re talking about are for Skip Schumaker type guys, not guys who get big deals. Choo is more of a producer than a role player.

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  28. Hurtlockertwo says:

    The Hunter Pence signing looks a lot better now.

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    • DBagGiantsFan says:

      PREACH IT BROTHER!!

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    • chuckb says:

      It’s too bad for the Giants that it took the Rangers’ egregious overpay to make the Giants’ overpay look not horrible.

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      • Not naive says:

        Overpays are only over pays if the market dictates that they are. Rangers, Yankees, Dodgers, Mariners, Angels, and Giants represent a large portion of that market. Its not an over pay if that is the market price.

        Wins are a scarce resource. Just because you choose not to “overpay” for it does not mean you will get it elsewhere. Teams “overpay” for these players because they see that is the best way to get that win in the relative view of their whole team and pay roll.
        If you have Perez, Darvish, Holland, Harrison, Andrus, Martin, Scheppers, Ogando, Beltre all under market value then your goal isn’t to get all your other wins under market value it is to use that advantage you have to get as many wins as possible to put your team in the best position to win a title.
        Flags Fly Forever. That is why we do this…

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        • DownwiththeDH says:

          Not Native pumping the economic perspective. I likey.

          I don’t think enough people have enough understanding on the actual value of these contracts moving forward. Inflation in a luxury market is exponentially more than in the markets the vast majority of us live in daily.

          All you have to do is look at some criticized “big” deal a B-grade player signed before A-Rod signed one of his Albatross’s and then look at it a few year later. Mountain now relegated to molehill because ARod’s deal effected all the others after it so much.

          I remember a very similar situation with Manny’s huge contract and SEVERAL deals that were analyzed pre and post.

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  29. John C says:

    I think you are seriously overrating McCann going forward. McCann already is getting injured and missing a lot of playing time, and he’s already in decline as a hitter. All of his numbers are down across the board in the past two seasons, and he’s missed 101 games to boot.

    He’s caught 1,046 games in his career already. Most catchers start to hit the wall at about 1,200 to 1,300. He might be the exception to that rule, but since he’s already injury-prone, I wouldn’t want to be betting on that. Plus, while he can move to first or DH, his hitting at this moment is not championship-caliber production at those positions. If he keeps declining as a hitter, that’s simply not an option at all.

    There’s a very good chance that the last two years of McCann’s contract will make him the highest-paid backup catcher in the history of baseball. Or worse, a $17 million replacement-level regular.

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  30. Paul says:

    Anyone suggesting that the Rangers would’ve been better off with Gentry and Murphy probably hasn’t watched Gentry and Murphy play much, or considered the amount of money that Murphy got.

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    • Not naive says:

      As a rangers fan I think I would have been happy to roll with a Murphy Gentry platoon. Murphy had an all time low year for him. 6 million per year is pretty reasonable. I think an 800 OPS vs RHPs next year is valuable. He was over exposed.

      I do think they sold high on Gentry, I like that. I would have preferred 5 for 100 for Choo but I do not know the rangers budget. The opportunity cost of having to trade young players in terms of wins lost to get the equivalent of Choo. So you keep young cheap labor and spend on the specific older FA while an over pay keeps your average WAR/$ in line.

      Maybe we should not view money spent on Choo in a vacuum.

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  31. ankle explosion hr celebration says:

    I agree with Not Naive’s comment above.

    The thing which is being missed in the above article is that both Beltran and McCann are higher-risk performers, because of age (Beltran) and health (Beltran and McCann). Choo is a fairly good bet to be worth fairly high positive WAR next year and probably the year after.

    I don’t think the same is necessarily true of Beltran or McCann. Either player has a decent chance to break down. Although McCann could play 1B or DH, he gets a lot of his value from being a catcher. He becomes an average or worse player if he goes to 1B/DH.

    In summary, Choo offers a more certain high WAR projection than either of the two alternate players, and that’s especially important to the Rangers, because they are contenders NOW. They won’t necessarily be contenders in 3 or 4 years, when Choo falls apart. Risk management is more important to them than to the Yankees.

    To connect to Not Naive’s comment, this is all related to the different contexts that the Yankees and Rangers find themselves in. The Yankees probably aren’t contenders now, so they can afford higher risk performers who may be worth more WAR/dollar (also they’re rich).

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    • DownwiththeDH says:

      To me Beltran is one of the greatest players of all-time. At this age, his ability to play enough productive games in the regular season and concentrate his output in the post season is legendary. The guy plays at 80-90% most of the regular season and has a year like that. Then he turns it up a notch and has said postseason.

      If anyone is going to age well it’s Beltran. Now that he can DH his offensive output can grow and remain relatively consistent through his contract. Spot-start some outfield appearances and you’ve got a really valuable old guy.

      For me each team did what was best for them. Saberheads will try to kick up some dust to have something to talk about- they’ve been deprived since the Angels bad moves and further back, the Yankees.

      If we’re going to talk so much about these big deals, why aren’t we talking about bigger impact players who might be harder to project? i.e. Tulo and Cargo

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  32. Joel says:

    Apropos of nothing; one thing I like about MARCEL forecasts is that they have a reliability number, presumably to account for variance in the forecast. PECOTA has this as well, in their tiered forecast system, but you have to pay for that, so fuggetaboutit.

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  33. Rickettsia says:

    I think the Rangers came out alright. Choo’s no star, but he’s a strong player who fits a need for a contending team looking to squeeze in a few more wins. There’s always going to be diminishing returns on money spent when teams with high win totals try to incrementally improve.

    If we’re talking about inefficient spending, I’m surprised FanGraphs hasn’t made fun of San Francisco yet. They were quietly the third biggest spenders in 2014 but are going into the new season with a worse team than 2013.

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  34. DownwiththeDH says:

    Cameron making a mountain out of a molehill, a Vernon Wells out of a Choo.

    And it’s doubtful a big contract in a risky situation on an older player dooms a team: 2013 Chris Carpenter 10.5 mil, 2012 Barry Zito 19 mil, 2011 Kyle Loshe (good regular season, terrible post) 12.2 mil and Jake Westbrook 8 mil, 2010 Barry Zito 18.5 mil and of course several Yankee teams. Yes all of them won championships with “dud” contracts on older players. Maybe smart teams are better at taking risks on older guys and when looked at in a Macro perspective have completely different value.

    What I see in the long run is a team that had the foresight to essentially trade more quickly degrading skills of Josh Hamilton for a bit more staying power in Choo.

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  35. Dave P says:

    All this talk about Choo’s platoon split, and no mention that both McCann and Beltran are switch-hitters. Their every AB will have a more consistent outcome than Choo’s.

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  36. pft says:

    Its dangerous to look at position adjusted stats when comparing players of different positions. Offensively Choo has been almost 100 runs better than McCann the past 3 seasons using wRC. If they have a better option at C than they did at RF then Choo was the way to go.

    Fielder was 77 runs better than Beltran. So put together the Rangers are over 50 runs better offensively in 2014 than if they went with McCann and Beltran, assuming they get league average production at C. There are other variables as well but I am keeping it simple.

    Obviously, McCann adds something defensively if he stays healthy, but I doubt its 50 runs, and Beltran at age 38 is an injury waiting to happen, so in the short term I am liking Fielder and Choo better than Beltran and McCann.

    While the latter years of Choo and Fielder are probably going to be a dog, Dave should reread his own article on that

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/accepting-dead-money-in-free-agent-contracts/#more-140297

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      But there is a much, much bigger difference between McCann and Stewart/Cervelli than there is between Choo and Beltran.

      Also, you can’t just remove position adjustments when you’re comparing an RF to a catcher.

      The actual gap between Choo and McCann over the past three years (McCann played through a torn labrum in 2012, Choo missed 6 weeks with a broken thumb and 2 weeks with back pains in 2011) is about 45 runs before you look at any defensive stats.

      By all accounts, McCann is a very good to elite defensive catcher. Choo is an average to below average RF and a terrible CF. If you say that McCann was only a +5 catcher over the last three years and that Choo was a -5 OF, then the gap over three years narrows to 15 runs produced, and that’s a conservative estimate of each’s defensive value.

      Choo, who is a year and a half older, got 2 years and $45 million more than McCann because of 15 runs a year, at best.

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  37. Gyre says:

    Ah somebody was up late snipping.

    Reason for Choo to turn down more money as a Yankee, no state income tax in Texas.

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  38. hk says:

    Instead of comparing 8 combined years of McCann and Beltran to 7 years of Choo, why not compare 8 combined years of McCann and Beltran to 8 years of Choo and Soto? While adding Soto to the mix takes the actual dollars that Texas will pay from $130M to $133M, the NPV of Texas’s commitments is still lower than the NPV of New York’s commitments. Is it really that much of a certainty that NY will get more production from McCann and Beltran than Texas will get from Choo plus one year of Soto?

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    • Professor Ross Eforp says:

      I was just getting ready to post the same thing. I hate this line of thinking. There is a difference between concurrent and consecutive years, yet he treats the dollar amounts and years as equivalents. The NPV may be the same, but one is for 7 years and one is for 5. That’s a pretty big difference.

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  39. Luke says:

    This article and comment section reminds me of this:

    http://youtu.be/OPHcyRmQRbo

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  40. MirroR says:

    Dave, I wanna know if you still keep your idea about Choo and McCann’s contract. I know it is too early to talk about the success or failure of the contracts, but you should’ve know Brian is not so young as a catcher with his previous injuries even though he is still younger than Choo by 2 years.

    If he proved he is healthy and can hit like before, he might have obtained the bigger contract, so the 85mil/5y contract includes some risks you didn’t consider. Left handed Brian’s hitting stats in Yankee stadium so far is so disappointing.

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