Starling Marte Gives the Pirates a Long Term Gift

For the last few weeks, word has been circulating that the Pirates wanted to sign Starling Marte to a long term contract, but that he had rebuffed their first few offers over the off-season. Yesterday, however, the Pirates finally changed his mind, agreeing to a six year contract that raises the question: if this is all that it took to get him signed, were their initial offers that he would pay them for the right to wear the uniform?

Yes, that comment is said in jest, and yes, the $31 million guaranteed money that Marte received in this deal is hardly chump change. But let’s call a spade a spade here: Marte left a ton of money on the table, and this contract is remarkably favorable to the Pirates.

Marte’s deal has been widely reported as a six year, $31 million deal, because that’s the portion that the Pirates have guaranteed to pay going forward no matter what happens. But in reality, this is really an eight year, $55 million contract, because that’s how many years of team control that Marte gave to the Pirates and what he will receive if both of the team options are picked up. Given the low prices that are attached to those options — 2/$26M in 2020/2021 will probably buy a platoon outfielder or a mediocre fifth starter — they are very likely to be picked up, barring some kind of debilitating injury that robs him of his physical skills.

Marte sold two pre-arb years, three arbitration years, and three free agent years for a grand total payout — if everything goes well — of $55 million. Now, let’s compare Marte’s deal with one signed by a player at the same age and with the same service time last year.

Player Signing Bonus 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 Total
Starling Marte $2.0 M $.5 M $1.0 M $3.0 M $5.0 M $7.5 M $10.0 M $12.5 M $13.5 M $55.0 M
Paul Goldschmidt $.5 M $.5 M $1.0 M $3.0 M $5.8 M $8.8 M $11.0 M $14.5 M   $45.0 M

The structures of the deal are so similar that it’s very clear that this deal weighed heavily in designing the format of Marte’s contract. They will make the exact same salaries at the same age for the first three years, and then Goldschmidt makes about $1 million more in each of the subsequent guaranteed years, with his option year being worth $2 million more than Marte’s, and of course, the one fewer free agent year that he gave the D’Backs an option for. Even though Marte’s deal has a higher potential total value if both options are picked up, there’s no real way to prefer his deal as a player, because he makes less in salary through the guaranteed years and is selling that extra year of free agency at a bargain rate.

In other words, Marte took a deal in 2014 that is more team friendly than the deal signed by Goldschmidt in 2013, and the Goldschmidt deal already looks like one of the four or five most team friendly contracts on the planet. And here’s the kicker: through the point at which they signed the contract, Marte has been the better player.

Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
Starling Marte 748 0.275 0.332 0.440 0.337 116 7.4 20.7 9.4 5.7
Paul Goldschmidt 764 0.278 0.353 0.487 0.361 123 3.2 23.6 -15.4 3.4

It’s easy to look at Goldschmidt now and see him as a monster offensive first baseman, but he hadn’t really shown himself to be that when he signed his extension last March. His 2011/2012 offensive lines aren’t really that much better than Marte’s 2012/2013 performance at the plate, overall, especially once you factor in Marte’s baserunning advantage. In terms of offensive runs added per plate appearance, they were nearly equals, and then Marte clearly blows Goldschmidt out of the water in terms of defensive value.

Now, certainly Goldschmidt’s skillset pays better in arbitration than Marte’s does, and racking up a bunch of home runs and RBIs was going to help Goldschmidt command larger raises than Marte’s agent trying to get the arbiters to buy into the value of speed and defense. So, even though Marte had been more valuable at the point of signing the contract, his expected arbitration payouts were likely a little bit less than Goldschmidt’s, which is reflected in the structure of the deal.

But even adjusting for the potential arbitration preferences towards sluggers over speedsters, Marte’s contract is still pretty fantastic for the Pirates, because defensive value is still rewarded to an extent. Darwin Barney — an offensive nothing whose career WAR is basically a match for Marte’s 2013 WAR — settled for $2.3 million in his first trip through arbitration this winter. Marte could break both of his legs and still outhit Barney for the next two years, and yet he sold his first arbitration year for $3 million. That’s even less than Josh Reddick got in his first trip through arbitration, coming off a season where Reddick hit .226/.307/.379.

Essentially, Marte took the bare minimum that he could have possibly expected to get in arbitration, and then took $2 to $2.5 million raises for each subsequent year. You know what kind of players go from $3 million in arbitration year one to $5 million in arbitration year two? Guys like David Freese ($3.15M to $5.05M) who lose all their power, play terrible defense, and put up a 0.2 WAR in less playing time than they had the year before. That is the kind of performance that Marte would have needed to earn the type of raise that he just guaranteed himself.

Realistically, a reasonable forecast for Marte in arbitration probably would have been something like $4 million/$7 million/$10 million, or about $21 million in money that wasn’t quite guaranteed but also was fairly easily achieved based on what he’s already done. Instead, Marte will make $15.5 million for those three years. But, you say, he’s getting the money guaranteed, and selling all the risk that comes with going year to year.

Yes, that’s true, but as an offset for selling that risk, he’s also giving the Pirates the rights to his first three free agent years for a grand total of $36 million. In other words, Marte’s deal tells the Pirates that he’ll sell the risk of injury or performance decline in exchange for taking a 25% discount in his expected arbitration payouts and probably something closer to a 40% discount on three free agent seasons.

Not only do the Pirates save money in the short term, they also pushed back Marte’s free agent window until after his age-32 season. The trend in these long-term, early career contracts has been to get the player back on the market around age-30 so that he can attempt to land a second major deal if he stays healthy and plays well. Marte’s deal doesn’t even do that, as he’ll be a free agent at about the point at which teams start to get skittish over giving long term deals to a player due to his age.

Forget the Andrelton Simmons deal, the most recent comparison for a defense-first player with 1+ year of service time, because this deal doesn’t even stack up to the most team friendly contract signed by a 1+ year player from last year. This deal doesn’t account for any of the inflation we’ve seen in contract signings over the last 12 months. It doesn’t give Marte a chance to get back to the free agent market to land a second long term deal. He didn’t get any kind of opt-out, and he sold more years of free agency that almost all of the other contracts signed by similar players.

$31 million is a lot of money. Starling Marte signed for $85,000, and this is his first big paycheck. I understand the allure of this kind of deal to a guy who isn’t yet a millionaire, and the marginal value of getting another $10 or $15 million might not have been worth it, especially if he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh and they weren’t willing to go any higher. When it comes to deciding how many millions is enough millions, there’s certainly room for personal preference to come into play, and maybe Marte just really wanted to stick around and play with Andrew McCutchen.

But for the right to do so, he gave the Pirates a huge bargain. Even with Marte expected to regress back to something closer to a +3 WAR player going forward, this deal is going to be one of the most team friendly contracts on the books for quite some time.




Print This Post



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


139 Responses to “Starling Marte Gives the Pirates a Long Term Gift”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. tz says:

    Could it be as simple as the signing bonus?

    Ask any 25-year old which they would choose:

    – $1.5 million today, or
    – $5.1 million spread out 3 to 6 years from now.

    This is the difference between Marte’s deal and Goldschmidt’s. I’m guessing a little extra money up front is what made the difference.

    And while I agree totally with the bottom line of the article, it’s still evident that Marte’s skill set is more likely to be undervalued in the actual FA market than Goldschmidt’s

    +17 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • chuckb says:

      Again, however, you’re comparing the Marte deal to another deal that was also, as Dave pointed out, extremely team-friendly. Marte’s agents should have used other equally balanced contracts as their baseline rather than one that was so team-friendly.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • tz says:

        I totally agree. Along with Vlad’s point below on the option years, this makes me wonder whether Marte has the same agent that Longoria did.

        Nevertheless, Marte, unlike George Springer, blinked. It could just come down to personal preference on pay me now vs. pay me more later.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Baltar says:

          As far as I’m concerned, Marte did very well for himself. $31M plus 2 buyouts presumably for a few million more is more than enough for a young man to have a very good life.
          The extra millions he might have made down the line have a marginal value to any sane person far lower than the first guaranteed $30M+.
          He made a smart move and I hope is smart enough not to spend all that money as soon as he gets it on a 100-room mansion or a 100′ yacht or something.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Again with this? says:

          ………….

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Spit Ball says:

        I’m guessing his agent likely tried that to start. You have to think about the term “market value” here. The Pirates are his only market in MLB for the next 5 years. Yes he hits arbitration in 2 years coming into his 27 year old season and free agency in 5 years at age 30. Lots of things could happen over a 2 year time period never mind 5 year time period. It’s clear the Pirates have a ceiling for this type of thing and I’m guessing Marte and not his agent came to that conclusion. Pirates drive a hard bargain and Marte ust could not say no regardless what other young stars are saying. 31 million is still life changing money and Marte decided not to risk it. No way his agent suggested this.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jamie says:

      Even without signing up for additional guaranteed millions in the deal, he could walk into any bank and borrow a much greater amount than $1.5m

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • ALEastbound says:

      I don’t think Dave is suggesting the players themselves are factoring too much risk in terms of injury. The player doesn’t negotiate the contract, his agent does, and it is the agents who are not getting enough money for their clients. Even if it is generational wealth. They aren’t properly reading the current market conditions.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Stickyweb says:

        What exactly are current market conditions? The ones the Braves use or the ones the rest of the league uses?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Typical says:

      He is paying interest on a loan basically. He needs the money now. Any other loan in the world has interest attached. So does his. Seems completely normal to me.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Vlad the Impaler says:

    I’m surprised by the 2 option years tacked on at the end. That’s the only odd part about the whole deal to me. His agent didn’t have his client’s best interest in mind on that part.

    The Pirates would have been thrilled to just buy out 2 free agent years. Getting 2 optional years means champagne for everyone in Pittsburgh’s front office.

    There are people who just don’t want the hassle of “fighting” for a contract year-to-year. I know if I was in this situation, I would have done the same thing and gone for an early extension.

    But I wouldn’t have given away 2 extra years.

    +15 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Big Mike says:

    Nice article, but I sense a problem with the analysis of these early lock-up deals. I’ve been paying attention to these since the Longoria deal piqued my interest, and it seems like the verdict is always that the team got the best of the deal by a wide margin.

    But the part that always gets pooh-poohed in these articles is the risk premium paid by the player. There are a lot of different variables attached to a young player’s expected future earnings including injury, performance, etc. This “first deal” is extremely valuable to the young player; each of these deals to buyout arbitration/free agency represents true generational wealth for players who were very recently poor. There’s a value to the player in having that financial certainty, and not just financial value. The deal effectively tells the player that he will start, that the team has future plans for him. It prevents anxiety. These issues aren’t around for the “second deal” a player will get in his 30’s, but I think they need to get worked into any analysis of these “first deals” I don’t know whether the proper approach would be found in game theory or somewhere else, but I think the models being used to analyze these deals needs to be tweaked. Just my $0.02. Thanks!

    +22 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Catoblepas says:

      My gut is that there just aren’t that many young players signed to long extensions who don’t pan out (I can’t think of any right now, but that’s probably just selection bias — I’m having shaky memories of a Blue Jay but a quick trip through their depth charts isn’t bringing up any names). I would be curious to see if that holds up to the data, but my guess is players (individuals) are much more risk-averse than teams (corporations), and so place a much higher value on locking up those years than they really need to. That could be totally off, but it’s my gut feel.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Stickyweb says:

        Nick Markakis

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Catoblepas says:

          ahhhhh yep nailed it

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • ps2014 says:

          While, as an Oriole fan, I know Markakis hasn’t lived up to his deal, it’s not been a total disaster either. Up until last season, Markakis was a serviceable guy who put around 2 WAR a year. While, again, not worth what the O’s gave him, also not an utter failure.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • maguro says:

        That Starlin Castro extension isn’t looking so hot either…

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Big Mike says:

        Jeremy Bonderman (2006) 4/$38
        Yunieski Betancourt (2007) 4/$13.5
        Ricky Romero (2010 mid-season) 5/$30

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Stickyweb says:

          Wow, I was going to dispute that Betancourt one since the $ were so low, but damn BR has him negative WAR every year since he signed it, and FG is pretty close to that. How’s a guy stay in the league for 6 years with that?

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Catoblepas says:

          All excellent examples, but the fact that they came in 2006, 2007, and 2010 kind of shows my point. Yes, selection bias, but I also think there might be a visible pattern in the data.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Stickyweb says:

          Yes we tend to forget about the ones that flame out because, well, they’re not on Sportscenter like Cutch, Goldschmidt, etc, etc. But I agree with you that since it’s so hard to come up with a handful of the flame outs, it shows that most of the extensions work our for the team, to varying degrees. But the fact that there are a handful of them shows there is some real risk for the teams.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Catoblepas says:

          I agree there’s risk, I just think the teams are valuing it more correctly than the players and using that to get huge discounts on young guys.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • nsacpi says:

          The Braves are very happy (and lucky) Francoeur didn’t take the deal (similar the one they signed McCann to) they offered him in 2007.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • boringdan says:

        You may be thinking of Ricky Romero who might be left off the depth chart because he cleared waivers and was outrighted off the 40 man and will be plying his trade, such as it is, in triple A for millions of dollars for the foreseeable future.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Sean O'Neill says:

        Aside from Markakis, Dontrelle Willis and Brandon Webb are both examples of guys who fell apart right after signing extensions.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • KS says:

          Nick Markakis is example number one of the adage that the weight of unfulfilled expectations crushes actual performance.

          Since he signed his deal, he’s been an above average hitter and baser runner. And despite the fact that defensive metrics dislike him, he’s won a Gold Glove and I think, having seen him play probably 90% of his games in that period, is a solidly average defender. He’s also averaged 160 games played (other than 2012, when he twice had bones broken after being hit with pitches). All this despite his poor 2013, when it seems he was still recovering from 3 surgeries in the prior 15 months.

          I hardly think an AAV of $11 M is a huge overpay for that kind of player.

          Yes, after his great season as a 24-year-old he turned into “merely” a dependable, above average MLB player. But being disappointed that he didn’t turn into the superstar everyone hoped for is a far cry from saying he “fell apart” or was a huge bust.

          And he’s got one more season on the deal. I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t put up another solid, 2-3 WAR season.

          As an Orioles fan, I’ve sometimes felt disappointed that he didn’t turn into that superstar myself. But in the sober light of day, I don’t think a real baseball fan can possibly judge him a failure.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Random Blue Jay names says:

        Kelly Gruber.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • tylersnotes says:

      I look at a deal like this and assume that Marte just really wanted something inked before opening day, and signed this against the advice of his agent.

      It’s almost certainly always in any young player’s best interest to sign a guaranteed deal. But for what the pirates are playing marte, they can afford to make him the weaker side of a platoon for the first 5 years of this contract

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dave Cameron says:

      Risk has a price. You can’t just say “risk premium” and use it to justify any signing. The price that players have been putting on their risk of injury or decline has simply been way too high.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-freddie-freeman-deal-as-a-market-correction/

      It isn’t just us saying that these deals are overwhelmingly positive for the team. They are overwhelmingly positive for the team. The success rates on these deals are insane.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Kogoruhn says:

        Back when the Braves players were signing the extensions you signaled that the market pre-arb extensions was getting more expensive for the teams. We have still yet to see any other teams follow this “new market” set by the Braves and the extensions seem to be following the earlier market prices.

        I still think you were overstating the impact that the Braves extensions would have on the market in general.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • ReuschelCakes says:

          funny… i can’t find Kogoruhn’s opinion above in the comments section of the aforementioned analysis…

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • tz says:

        You have to wonder if someone could just sell the players insurance on their future injury risk. The challenges would be tough, not the least of which being the high premium rate compared to a pre-arbitration salary.

        Still, might be worth exploring.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Richie says:

        So what is the overall success rate of these deals?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Joshua_C says:

        I don’t think saying the risk premium players are giving is ‘too high; is necessarily accurate. That assumes we know their individual utility functions, and most analysis of this issue seems to assume a linear relationship between dollars and utility, which, as others have stated, is pretty clearly false. If we model the utility players derive from earning logarithmically (and for a previously-poor player like Marte I believe this is more likely to be true), it makes it much more rational for players to accept these extensions.

        The main problem is that there isn’t really a ‘market price,’ because for extensions the market is restricted to one team.

        Do you think Marte would have been better off refusing to sign an extension? I don’t. He just set his family up for life, and the marginal difference between $30M and $40M is very likely worth less to him than the financial security he just locked down. He’s just insured himself against injury or poor performance.

        The fact that the extension was a good one from the Pirates’ perspective does not necessarily mean it was a poor one from Marte’s. If I were his agent, I wouldn’t be overjoyed with it, but it’s not unreasonable to believe that young players are acting rationally in giving large discounts for risk insurance (and when we’re discussing extensions, ‘too much’ is a difficult concept to operationalize).

        +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • szielinski says:

          Good comment!

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Utah Dave says:

          It sort of seems like the tendency is to view these deals as a zero sum game. Either the team wins and the player loses or vice versa. I think you make a great point. I believe both sides can actually win. It depends on the player’s perception of the marginal utility of financial security versus potentially not maximizing their contractual worth.

          All I can say for sure is that I am a Pirates fan and I look forward to seeing Cutch, Marte and Polanco patrolling PNC. 10 years ago it was Jayson Bay, Tike Redman and Craig Wilson. Ugh.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        On the other hand, Grady Sizemore certainly wishes he’d let the Indians significantly underpay him right now.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • szielinski says:

        The price that players have been putting on their risk of injury or decline has simply been way too high.

        Too high compared to what standard? Yesterday’s prices? Tomorrow’s prices? The circumstances imputed to a rational actor?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • matt w says:

      I think the generational wealth point is important. For the player, the first $30 million is worth a lot more than the second $30 million. I’ve never sniffed that kind of money, but it seems to me that if you aren’t into collecting art or buying political influence or dating Madonna or trying to start rickety business ventures, there’s not an awful lot you can do with $130 million that you can’t do with $30 million. So it might mean a lot more to get that sure $30 million locked in than to risk it for a bigger payday.

      For an example of one of these team-friendly extensions not working out, you might look at Jose Tabata — his deal was insanely team-friendly but he might not have wound up making that much if he hadn’t signed it. (Though maybe he would — he looks like a reasonable fourth outfielder and is getting paid like one.)

      +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        Yeah, the marginal increase in utility from $.5 million to $10 million is much higher than the one from $10 million to $50 million.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Nate says:

    In addition to wanting to stay with McCutchen, Marte’s admiration of Roberto Clemente and what it means for him to play in the same Pirates uniform has been widely publicized.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Anon21 says:

      Fair enough, but this deal is tiptoeing up to the line of “insultingly bad.” Good for the Pirates for getting it done, but Marte left a lot of money on the table.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nate says:

        Yeah. Not saying it’s not a good deal for the Pirates, just trying to think of reasons Marte may have consciously accepted a lower offer, in addition to the other factors pointed out.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. LONNIE says:

    I don’t think Marte’s agent’s did him right in this deal. The 2 option years are the deal-breaker for me. But then I suppose being guaranteed 31 million is hard to turn down when you have the chance. I think he just undersold himself bigtime in this deal. If the 2 option years were 2/32 rather than 2/26 I might feel different.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. NJ says:

    Maybe someone should be investigating their agents. Could it be that these agents are scared that if they push too hard and do not get a long term deal now that eventually a super agent like Boras or JZ will poach their client just when they are ready to pay off? And I can not wait to see what happens when a baseball player goes all NFL player/Manny on a team and holds out because they wake up 2-3 years down the road and realize that players with half their abilities are making 2-3 times as much.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Stickyweb says:

      I don’t think an agent that consistently got his clients underpaid for fear of another agent stealing those clients would stay in business too long. And I think the guaranteed nature of MLB contracts makes the holdouts unlikely. NFL players do that because they know they might not be paid next year, so they need to maximize earnings while they play.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. jdbolick says:

    This goes against the previous argument that a “new market” had been established, correct? It’s not proof that there isn’t one, but it is one piece of evidence against it, which matters given that the only evidence thus far in favor of a “new market” came over and over again solely from Frank Wren.

    That said, I’m still not convinced that the Pirates made out like bandits. We’re talking about a long-term commitment to a player with massive platoon splits and well below average plate discipline. Maybe Starling Marte’s best case outcome is a poor man’s Adam Jones, but the unfortunate difference is that Marte kills left-handers while Jones kills right-handers.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • maguro says:

      Marte had more WAR last year than Adam Jones has ever had in one season. So saying that his best case outcome is “a poor man’s Adam Jones” is completely wrong.

      +25 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • jdbolick says:

        Which is why people distrust WAR, especially the defensive component. Would you say that you believe Starling Marte was a better baseball player than Adam Jones last season? No, and neither would anyone else.

        -14 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Catoblepas says:

          yes! yes i would! i’ll do it right now, in fact. i think starling marte had a better season than adam jones did. ever so slightly, but yeah, totally.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Joshua_C says:

          I’ll second Catoblepas . . . Marte was every bit as good as Jones last year.

          They’re pretty similar players (I think Jones would be a plus defender if moved out of CF), but Marte is also significantly ahead of where Jones was at a comparable age. I actually think that Jones represents a likely scenario for Marte’s future career.

          I’m curious which aspects of Marte’s fWAR figure you disagree with–I can see being mistrustful of the HBP figures or the BABIP moving forward, but in order to argue he was worse than Jones last year it seems as though you’d need to doubt the defensive metrics.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • szielinski says:

        Marte is underrated. If Marte ever gains command over the strike zone, he’ll be a 6-7 win player.

        everyone expects Marte’s BABIP to regress. But he’s always had a high BABIP. The open question with Marte is: What will his ‘natural’ BABIP be during his peak seasons? Assuming his strike zone command remains as it is, the answer to this question will tell us the height of his peak.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • jdbolick says:

          Being a well below average hitter against right-handed pitching is a bigger limiter on his potential than his aggressiveness at the plate.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • jdbolick says:

          Eh, I probably shouldn’t have said “well below average,” since getting hit by pitch might be considered a hitter’s skill. Just “below average,” then.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • maguro says:

          Why are his platoon splits such a matter of great concern for you? Overall production is what’s important. His career wRC+ is higher than Adam Jones and most observers would agree that he’s better defensive outfielders than Adam Jones as well.

          But for some reason, you have determined that his best case scenario is “a poor man’s Adam Jones”. Bizarre.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Joe says:

          Had a wrc+ of 104 against rhp last year, which is by definition 4% above average

          Vote -1 Vote +1

    • eltorostrikesagain says:

      4.6 WAR with “massive” platoon splits and well below average plate discipline. Plate discipline often improves with age. I’ll bet on him performing just fine.
      As for the Adam Jones comp, I don’t see it, Marte steals lots of bags AND is efficient, Jones is the opposite. Marte grades out well on defense, Jones not so much. Jones has 30 HR power, Marte will probably top out around 19-20.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • jdbolick says:

        The suggestion is that he’ll come down to earth from that 2013 performance. The BABIP will probably regress, his previous season highs in stolen bases were 33 and 26, he hits a lot of infield pop-ups for a non-slugger, and he’s extraordinarily aggressive in swinging at pitches. There are a lot of red flags in this profile.

        -5 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • novaether says:

          Marte hit the 10th lowest rate of infield pop-ups last year of all qualified hitters according to this very site. Are you even trying?

          +21 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Spit Ball says:

        41 steals, 15 caught stealing is not efficient. A net positive yes but efficient….not really. I suspect it will get better going forward and his ability to take the extra base is A+.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        Starling Marte likely isn’t better than Adam Jones defensively. He’s just “more better” than the average LF than Jones is to the average CF.

        -7 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Pirates Hurdles says:

          You haven’t watched Marte play enough. His arm is as good as any in MLB and his range/route instincts are fantastic. He would be an well above average CF, at PNC LF is essentially like playing CF.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • szielinski says:

          An Altoona pitcher used a gun to clock a Marte throw from the outfield. The velocity: 100 mph.

          Then there is this:

          http://youtu.be/kPNKr0OyaUY

          Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cato the Elder says:

      I’d warn against reading too much into player’s platoon splits when he has <1000 PA total (and <600 MLB plate appearances against RHP).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Spa City says:

    Teams like the Pirates need to take some risks in signing early-career extensions. But this deal does not seem risky to me beyond an unforeseeable severe injury.

    Hopefully the Pirates can sign Greg Polanco to a similar deal, I would offer him an identical deal today, even without any major league service time.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. me says:

    Do star players usually insure themselves against career ending injuries? It seems like that would be a better way for a player to protect himself. In addition they could take out a loan against their future earnings/insurance payout so that they would have plenty of money to spend before they sign that first big contract.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. vivalajeter says:

    Behind door number one, there’s $50MM. Behind door number two, there’s a 10% chance of having a billion dollars, or a 90% chance of nothing. You can run all the math you want, but I’m taking door number one, despite the expected value being half of the other door. Even if there was potentially two billion dollars behind door number two, or ‘only’ $40MM behind door number one, I’m going with numero uno. No questions asked.

    Obviously, there’s a tipping point between when it’s no longer worth it to choose door number one. Maybe if it’s only a million bucks, you say ‘f-ck it’ and take your chances. But I can’t fault a player for locking into a salary that should set up his family for the rest of his life, regardless of how he performs. And let’s face it, I like him as a player but he’s a 25 years old that’s put up fewer than 6 WAR in his career, with a 6:1 K:B ratio. Better players have flamed out. And if you look at the type of player who has the best chance of underperforming, I’d suspect you’d see a lot of players with a terrible K:B ratio on that list.

    In a comment above, Dave says “The price that players have been putting on their risk of injury or decline has simply been way too high.” That’s so easy to say when it’s not your family’s well-being on the line. But when you’re in the position, and you only have one shot at it, you may look at it differently. If you simulated his career 10 times, or 5 times, or even 2 times, I’m sure it makes sense to go year-to-year. He doesn’t have that luxury though.

    I don’t think his wife and family are pissed at him for potentially leaving money on the table. I’m sure they’re so happy, they’re doing the Dance of Joy because their future is secure.

    +26 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • szielinski says:

      A rational calculation of a payoff probability may easily appear undesirable for a flesh and blood human being who has real world responsibilities.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Stickyweb says:

      Very well said, viva

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • LHPSU says:

      When you have $3 million, $10 million is a lot of money. When you have $30 million, not quite as much.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • tz says:

      This.

      Heck, if I was offered a choice of:

      1. A 90% chance of getting $100 million, or
      2. A guarantee of Marte’s agent’s 5% cut of the $31 million

      I’d go with #2. Simply because a guarantee of $1.55 million, for someone like me who makes WAY less than that, is too good to risk even with a small probability of getting nothing.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Kris says:

      I believe Daniel Kahneman has a Nobel Prize for analyzing this irrational behavior

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Joshua_C says:

        Inability to delay gratification is different than assigning nonlinear utility to different amounts of revenue.

        It’s not necessarily ‘irrational’ to prefer a guarantee of $50M to a 70% chance of $100M.

        +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Pitnick says:

          I wouldn’t even know what to do with the second $50m.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • tz says:

          Pitnick just nailed the reason why real-life people actually show non-linear utility.

          Should be required reading for any economics class ;)

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Kris says:

          Is it delayed gratification when the pot at the end of the contract’s rainbow is two option years at less than market value?

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • matt w says:

          Heck, risk-aversion isn’t even necessarily irrational unless you assume that maximizing expected utility is the definition of rationality.

          If anyone wants to read a big philosophy paper on that subject: http://philosophy.berkeley.edu/file/754/Buchak_Risk_and_Tradeoffs.pdf

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Jon L. says:

          “It’s not necessarily ‘irrational’ to prefer a guarantee of $50M to a 70% chance of $100M.”

          It is to an economist. Half the field wouldn’t even exist if they didn’t establish absurd straw man arguments as the gold standard (like “rational behavior”) so everyone could publish “surprising” exceptions to the rule.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Joshua_C says:

          @ Jon_L

          No, it isn’t. ‘Rational’ behavior for most economists is simply behavior that maximizes one’s utility. Money is only a proxy for utility, and articles like Dave’s usually make the assumption (hence the ‘40% discount’ statement) that there is a linear relationship between the two.

          There isn’t. Let’s model this in terms of states of the world. If I’m Marte I might implicitly assign a utility of 0 to getting injured tomorrow and being out of the game (no more earnings), a utility of 9 to my $30M contract, and a utility of 10 to a hypothetical future $40M contract if I have another good season.

          The last $10M is worth much less to me than the first $30M. And there’s nothing irrational about that. If I judge the probability that I’ll flame out to be 15%, I should take the deal.

          Obviously, these numbers are gross simplifications that elide the differences between a range of outcomes, but the principle is what matters. People like Marte (and Trout) aren’t acting irrationally because they’re failing to maximize their lifetime expected income–they may still be maximizing their utility, and that’s what counts.

          Which suggests that the this may simply be a point where team’s incentives and player’s incentives line up quite well–what’s wrong with it being a good deal for both players and teams? There’s a reason we’re seeing more of them.

          If your model suggests that all of these players are selling themselves short, it might be time to consider that your model is flawed.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

    • TKDC says:

      But that is not even remotely close to the calculus here. A remotely decent actual comparison would give your comment more credibility, though perhaps fewer plus ones.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Jon L. says:

    A few thoughts on why this might have happened:

    1. The costs of moving. Players are people, and moving is unpleasant, even when it was actually your choice. If Marte feels comfortable in the city, in the clubhouse, in his home, giving a large discount may be perfectly acceptable.

    2. The literal costs of moving. I don’t really know the cost of living in Pittsburgh, but I would bet that $31 million there goes a lot further than it does in some of the larger markets. In New York, for instance, six years of rent on an average two-bedroom apartment with a full-sized fridge is approximately $31 million.

    3. Maybe Marte has financial needs in his family, or physical ailments in his past, or something similar that’s causing him to pay attention to the potential downside. What if he suffers a career-ending injury, or turns into Chone Figgins? Future production and future contracts are not guaranteed.

    4. We always talk about future baseball salaries as if they’ll uni-directionally escalate and escalate, but isn’t that probably what people thought prior to the stock market crash? Things look good for baseball, but unending financial growth is not a certainty.

    5. Marte’s agent may have serious gambling debts.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. No One Ever says:

    Still not as team-friendly as the Cano deal.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Troy says:

    makes the freeman deal look silly

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Catoblepas says:

      A little, but the pre-arb market is weird. It’s not like the Braves could’ve offered Marte this contract — the fact that you can only buy out the arb years of players you already own limits the supply pool to each team a lot. If the Braves wanted an excellent young first baseman, they don’t have a lot of choices.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. thecrow124 says:

    If I were an agent, I would almost universally advise my “star” clients to go year to year and hit free agency as soon as possible.

    For a player that is trending towards slightly above average, I would advise to take an early deal. It guarantees money for you and your family and stability, while still allowing for the chance of a better deal later.

    As a fan of the Pirates, I love the fact that they are able to get these kinds of deals. However, this deal hinges on Marte’s ability to continue to be an above average baseball player. I have no reason, outside of injury to believe that he won’t.

    He had a high BABIP, he always does, players with his speed should. Polanco, when he comes up should as well. Not saying it is sustainable, just that speed gives players the chance for this phenomenon.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      He doesn’t have a high BABIP. He has an unsustainably high BABIP.

      Ellsbury’s career BABIP is .326; Crawford’s is .328; Abreu’s is .340; there’s simply no way Marte sustains a .363 BABIP.

      If you only knock his BABIP down to .340, he’s a ~3.5 win player last year. While he might outperform that baseline, I wouldn’t -expect- him to unless he fixes his plate discipline.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

        • szielinski says:


          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • szielinski says:

          It seems the ‘a href’ tag does not work.

          Anyway, Ichiro could sustain an unsustainable BABIP. So, simply asserting that Marte’s BABIP must trend downwards is not strong enough to support a gloomy prediction about his future.

          All swans are white. Except when they are black.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Ichiro didn’t have a high BABiP because of his speed. He had a high BABiP because of his absurd bat control. Same with Derek Jeter.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • szielinski says:

          So, your claim is:

          Ihiro’s speed did not matter and, because it did not matter, his BABIP would not change if he were as fast as, say, Sean Casey.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          Ichiro’s career BABIP is .344, obviously higher if you just count his Mariner years, but something else to consider is that while it is possible, it is not necessarily probable: Ichiro is, in term of BABIP skills, probably in the 1% of the 1% of players. We’re talking hall of famer, breaking hit records type. He should have high BABIP though, just not .363 high…which is what you said to begin with.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          …are you doing a bit? Is this some sort of performance art in which you put the stupidest possible spin on what I said?

          Ichiro’s speed supplemented his naturally high BABIP. Joe Mauer and Wade Boggs’ BABIPs are also absurdly high, is that because of their speed?

          Speed means that a player should be expected to maintain a ~.320-.330 BABIP. It does not mean that they should be expected to maintain a .340+ BABIP. That requires a level of hitting skill that no one with a career K rate of over 20% has ever possessed.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Bob says:

        Marte’s career BABIP including the minors is .356. He has always had a high BABIP. Last year’s in the pros was… .363. That’s not of concern. It’s getting his walk rate up.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • szielinski says:

          Getting his Bb-rate up and his K-rate down. His speed doesn’t help him much whenever he has to return to the dugout with his bat in his hand.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          Oh, so his MiLB BABIP is only a little lower than Jay Bruce’s? Well, we know that won’t regress!

          Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. 6er says:

    Since most of us don’t see the everyday poverty of places like the Dominican Republic and Haiti maybe the $2 million upfront gives him a chance to help his family immediately if he is in such a situation. And far as long term maybe he wants to be a Pirate forever or perhaps he just isn’t a greedy person. I hope he had decent representation though because I wouldn’t trust any of these teams not taking tremendous advantage of a young foreign player if they can get away with it.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. jiveballer says:

    My biggest criticism of the deal is that the bough-out FA years are for less than the FA QO amount <>! I don’t know if it is allowable by the CBA but I would want to be at least tied to the QO for those years.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      The Pirates could of course if they wanted, decline either of those options and give him a Qualifying Offer instead. But why would they want to do that? If he’s worth the QO (which could be in the neighborhood of ~&18MM, assuming it exists at that time) then he’s certainly worth 13 million.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Starling says:

    It’s a Marte-Partay!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Tim says:

    I guess I just don’t see why anyone would sell free agent years to the Pirates at market price. If you want to play there you’re going to want them to be able to put good players around you. If you want to get the most money you’re going to want to go to a team that can afford to pay market for a bunch of guys.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Utah Dave says:

      Assuming that he won’t have a quality supporting cast is just that…an assumption.

      Is it possible that not every player’s goal is to maximize their potential earnings? Perhaps there are other factors that motivate some players. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with wanting to make as much as you can. But this isn’t necessarily everyone’s goal. And I hope it never is.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Tim says:

        Thus the “If you want to play there you’re going to want them to be able to put good players around you” part.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Yeah, this is true.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. frozen says:

    Dave, Marte has a career 25.1% Strikeout rate, a career 4.4% walk rate, and a K/BB ratio of 5.7 K/1 BB. He has a career 5.0% walk rate in the minors, and is a roughly-average defensive player in the corner. Hell, even Jeff Francouer has a career 5.0% walk rate, and a K/BB of 3.66 K/ 1 BB. Marte had a .363 BABIP last year, leading to a 121 wRC+. The year before, he had a .333 BABIP with a higher ISO, the same walk rate, and had a wRC+ of 99.

    The strength of his game is certainly on his speed, but is that a good bet going into his late twenties/early thirties? I think the Pirates are betting he maintains his current performance, but isn’t it fair to say that he’s not going to regress to 3.0 WAR, but rather in the 1.5 to 2.0 region given his completely terrible plate discipline? I’d love to see Jeff Sullivan or someone do a post looking at similar batters through age 26 and give us comparisons.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Joshua_C says:

      I’m skeptical of Marte replicating his 4.6 fWAR 2013 consistently–there are legitimate concerns about his aggressiveness at the plate–but I think you’re veering too far in the opposite direction.

      First of all, I’m not sure how you concluded Marte is an average defender–he was +4.9 runs last year even after accounting for the LF positional adjustment. He’s basically a center fielder playing LF–arguably among the best defensive corner outfielders in the game. He’s also a plus baserunner. In general, his player type tends to age well, and even if he doesn’t, the Pirates haven’t actually guaranteed him money past age thirty.

      Even if his BABIP completely regresses and he never improves his plate discipline at all, he’ll still be a perfectly decent player because he’s so good at the other components of the game. And it’s not clear how much we should actually expect his BABIP to regress, given his excellent speed.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • frozen says:

        I say ‘roughly average’ because, looking forward, he isn’t going to become a better fielder. Fielding ability, it seems, peaks at age 22-24. (http://www.hardballtimes.com/fielding-aging-curves/). It should be expected that he’s going to continue being a +5 fielder. He’ll decline, and come close to +1 or +2, making him roughly average.

        Similarly, baserunning peaks at 23 and then continues to decline (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=7058). We shouldn’t expect him to continue being such a good baserunner; nor should we really expect him to improve at this point. Similarly, the most important components of WAR value in terms of difference between good/bad players are walk rate and hitting ability (http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2010/06/war_aging_curve.php).

        I agree with you that he’s probably going to be a good to very good player for the foreseeable future. I’ve really liked him since he signed with the Pirates in 2007; he’s overcome a lot in his life to get to where he is. I’ll be cheering for his success.

        However, I think there is an understated potential for a ‘crash and burn’ sort of player with Marte.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Joshua_C says:

          Here: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=lf&stats=fld&lg=all&qual=500&type=1&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=24,d

          . . . is the leaderboard of all LF who played at least 500 innings last year. Marte was the best in the league in UZR/150, and third to David Murphy and Andy Dirks in overall Def. He’s arguably the best defensive LF in the game. It’s also worth noting that the +5 def figure incorporates positional adjustments, which means that Marte is actually something like a +12 defender in LF. So he’d have to regress quite a bit to be ‘roughly average.’

          If you had said ‘Marte’s excellent defense and baserunning are could decline, and his offense is worrisome,’ I’d agree. But I think you can build in some regression from ‘excellent’ to ‘solid,’ project some decline in his hitting due to BABIP regression and poor K/BB rates, and he’s still a pretty useful guy.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          Not now that Gardner’s back.

          That might actually decrease Marte’s UZR, since he won’t be the only CF playing LF anymore.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • frozen says:

          If Fielding was all UZR or UZR/150, I’d agree with you. Click that button to the right called ‘Def’ in your link. Marte gives back runs on his ERR and ARM ratings. The median defense in LF is -3.0 runs. If Marte regresses to +1/+2, he’d be within a few runs of the median, which would be my definition of roughly average.

          He isn’t a bad fielder, and I’m not going to make an argument that’s he’ll be below average through this contract. But he isn’t a guy that’s ever going to save 15 extra runs/year in the field in any of the upcoming seasons. The difference between a good and average LF isn’t too much nowadays.

          In the end, we’re splitting hairs over what probably amounts to 5 runs. It’s not going to make or break him over the next few years. The bad plate discipline might, though.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • matt w says:

          ERR and ARM are part of UZR. (Also the idea that Marte’s ARM is going to stay below average seems kind of farfetched, if you’ve seen him play.)

          Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. elsicilian says:

    Anyone familiar with the Pirates organization knows that long term deals for young players simply aren’t part of their standard business model. Typically, they develop prospects, squeeze as much as possible from them while they are cheap, then trade them away before they get expensive, thus acquiring more young prospects.

    The Pirates were almost certainly unwilling to even consider a long term deal for Marte unless it was extraordinarily team-friendly; and as others have mentioned, there are probably circumstances in Marte’s life that made an immediate guaranteed $55 million more intrinsically valuable than a bigger payday several years down the road.

    Accordingly, I think it’s absurd to suggest that Marte’s agent wasn’t doing his job, or was bad at negotiating, or was just stupid simply because of the terms of the final deal. They had no leverage in this negotiation, and it’s likely that Marte himself pushed for the deal against his agent’s advice (because as much as this deal might possibly serve the player’s broader interests, the agent is certainly losing money on it).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Utah Dave says:

      When can we stop with the “Pirates trade away prospects before they get expensive” stuff? This isn’t your father’s Pittsburgh Pirates. No more Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez, Derek Bell, Jeromy Burnitz, Matt Morris…

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • elsicilian says:

        Seriously? The Pirates’ projected Opening Day payroll of just over $78 million will rank 27th out of 30 MLB teams, and 2013 was the first time they finished over .500 after twenty consecutive losing seasons (the longest such streak in North American professional sports history).

        It seems your father has a remarkably short memory …

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Bob says:

          Then please, by all means, name the last Pirate traded away that their front office sold early on before he got too expensive under Neal Huntington?

          Jason Bay maybe? He had one more good year in him, Freddy Sanchez? 6 months. Both those guys were long gone from the league before the Pirates put together this core.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • elsicilian says:

          In just the last few years? How about Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte, Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Sean Burnett, Adam LaRoche, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, or Joel Hanhrahan?

          Obviously the Pirates haven’t yet bailed on this current core (why would they? those guys are still young, cheap and just starting to win some games). But it’s only a matter of time before they liquidate and start over. It’s how small market teams usually operate, since they don’t have the lucrative revenue streams (particularly TV deals) of a LA Dodgers or New York Yankees.

          I guess it’s *possible* that the Pirates have suddenly changed their stripes (sorry for the mixed metaphor), but I am not as blindly optimistic as Bob and Dave, so it’s going to take a little while before I am convinced (and suggesting that it’s been generations since the Pirates traded blue chips for prospects is simply preposterous).

          A couple of seasons just isn’t a very long time compared with decades of tightfisted futility. Pedro Alvarez batted .309 in June, but that didn’t mean he had suddenly become a .300 hitter. Similarly, one winning season out of twenty doesn’t get this moribund franchise out of the doghouse (however forgiving the generally good-natured North Shore faithful are feeling after tasting the playoffs for the first time in what must seem like forever).

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Cato the Elder says:

          The Pirates payroll is so low, because the have promoted/retained their talented young prospects instead of trading them away. This deal is a perfect example, instead of using the “new TV revenue” to sign Kendry Morales, Nelson Cruz, or resign an aging AJ Burnette, they spent that money locking up a young player to a long term deal. The fact that their strategy is cost effective shouldn’t be held as a knock against them.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Burt says:

          How many of the guys in your list were actual Pirates prospects? Using the “last twenty years” argument helps you too, but it also blows off that they were competitive for a great deal of the year for 2011 and 2012.

          The fact is that they have been building to have a young core around McCutchen for some time. The fact that they traded guys who would never be part of that core is not an argument about “how they do business.”

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Cato the Elder says:

          @elsicilian your skepticism is warranted, but trading away a 30 year old Jason Bay et al is not particularly relevant to “long term deals for young players.” McCutchen/Tabata/Marte suggest otherwise

          Look, you are correct that given their limited revenue streams, the Pirates will have to stay ahead of he curve w/r/t their increasingly expensive star players. E.g. I can very easily foresee the Pirates trading Alverez as he apporaches free agency. But as long as they have young cost controlled players (whether they are pre-arb, arb, or signed to team friendly extensions) there is no reason they should have to “liquidate and start over.” McCutchen is signed through ’18, Marte now ’20, Polanco will have 6 years of control starting next year, Cole 6 years of control, Taillon and a whole bevy of other prospects whose clocks haven’t even started yet. The Rays have shown how it is possible for a small market team to stay competitive without subscribing to a “window.” So while you are right – 1 year does not erase the previous 20 – those who have been paying attention can attest to the fact that this process has been underway for 6 years. Getting rid of the players you mentioned was merely a step in that process.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • elsicilian says:

          @Cato – we are not really disagreeing. My point is that the organization’s reputation for thriftiness (hard won and well earned) gave them most of the leverage in their negotiations with Marte, and we should not just assume that his agent was incompetent.

          Even McCutchen (six years, $51.5 million) and Tabata (seven years, $37.25 million) signed very team-friendly deals, and they were presumably given the same choice as Marte: sign a below market deal, or languish for a few years then get traded for prospects.

          I think we agree that the Pirates appear to be on the right path at the moment (and as a former Pittsburgh resident I am certainly rooting for them), but if you think they won’t turn around and blow this thing up at the fist sign of trouble, then you simply haven’t been paying attention.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • elsicilian says:

          @Burt – Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Sean Burnett, Nyjer Morgan, and Nate McLouth all came up or played their first full seasons with the Pirates (not that it’s really essential to the argument). The fact is, all those guys previously mentioned were once the “young core” that was cannibalized to produce the guys who became today’s young core. And that cycle will be repeated, because it’s the only way small market teams can really hope to compete.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • elsicilian says:

        @Cato – (sorry I am answering the replies in reverse order) – it’s not a knock against the Pirates that their strategy is cost-effective; however, it is a two-part strategy and a surprising number of you guys seem totally oblivious to the presumptive second act.

        Trading away blue chips doesn’t just save money on those individual players – it returns prospects, a few of whom will become the next generation of underpaid blue chips that keep the cycle going. They are the lifeblood of a small-market organization, and the Pirates have embraced this philosophy for decades.

        McCutchen, Tabata, and now Marte all received team-friendly extensions, but tellingly none of those contracts features a no-trade clause. How long do you think it will be until the team decides it’s gone as far as it can with this core, and begins selling those below-market contracts for barrels of fresh young prospects? At that point, the duration and relative cheapness of the contracts will only make them more valuable as trade bait … it will not induce the team to hang on to them one minute longer.

        “But this time it’s different,” you say? Sounds like a whole lot of wishful thinking to me, and most of you guys seem smart enough to know better.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. Damirio says:

    Too much abstraction and not much reality in Dave’s piece today.
    Marte comes from the Dominican Republic, he has managed to survive the international market trials exposed in the documentary ”Pelotero” – Marte has made it into the Big Leagues and if he will stay healthy at 32 he will have in his pockets 0,001% of his country’s GDP, to get that percentage of his country’s GDP an American player should sign for 17 billions, that’s the kind of money Marte has signed for this week. By the way, the star of ”Pelotero”was Miguel Sano, I guess he would be very happy to have the chance to sign a deal like Marte’s.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. walt526 says:

    When a social science observes actors acting “irrationally” according to your model, it’s prudent to question the assumptions the model/modeler is making. Or at least that’s what I was taught in grad school.

    I agree that it seems to be way too high a risk premium for injury risk alone. But what if there are other sources of risks that we’re not considering? When we focus on microeconomic evaluations of contracts, there are macroeconomic necessary macroeconomic assumptions that must be made.

    For example, maybe agents are concerned that the influx of TV money are not sustainable. We literally assume a (often constant rate of) salary inflation in our evaluations of contracts, but is continuation of growth of revenues/salaries a valid assumption? Perhaps the agents have a better idea of what the financial landscape will look in 5-10 years to the extent that they’re pricing the risk of salary “deflation” into the extensions that they’re negotiating for their clients today.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Frank Angelino says:

    The Angels should offer Trout $100 mil for 20 years

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. GH says:

    This piece falls way short. Clearly players and their agents have strong incentives to get the most money they can, while taking on the least risk. The fact that young players are repeatedly signing these deals while wholly ignoring the value you are placing on their performance suggests that you are not in fact valuing things correctly. This story would be better approached either as a behavioral economics piece or a human interest story. Either of those would more accurately captured the obvious point about generational wealth, which others have made better than I could.

    Sure, the pirates are cracking open the bubbly and saying they got a good player at a great price. Marte is cracking it open and saying that this is the last job he, his parents, or his children will ever need to have.

    +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. Cool Lester Smooth says:

    What GH said.

    Marte doesn’t give a shit about hypotheticals. He just guaranteed himself 30 million dollars over the next 6 years. Just because it’s a great deal for the Pirates doesn’t mean it isn’t a great one for him. Just ask Grady Sizemore or Rocco Baldelli if they wish they’d let their teams underpay them throughout their primes.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cato the Elder says:

      The other thing to consider is that Sizemore and Baldelli signed for ~$2 million out of highschool, Marte signed for $85,000. That initial money is a great leverage tool – it is much easier to bet on yourself when you have already banked $2 million. This is why Polanco would be the Pirate’s next candidate for a team friendly extension and not say (Alverez or Cole).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. LRG says:

    Totally agree that the deal is extremely team friendly but I could see why he would want to have some security. He is set for life regardless of what happens thru 2021 and he gets to live a little more comfortably in the mean time.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. tz says:

    Maybe when he turns 30 the Pirates will rip up the last two years and give him a 10-year, $294 million extension ;)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  28. Darkstone42 says:

    Money now is more valuable than money later. Sure, Marte will likely find himself in a position in which he could have both money now and money later, but Marte comes from a place where just about no one has money now or later. Any money now, even at the expense of money later, probably seems pretty appealing to him.

    I understand that we can assign certain values to certain players, attributing them dollar amounts and talking about how contracts will continue to inflate, and that the market is such and such dollars for so and so player, but human people do not always (read: rather seldom) follow the logical paths outlined by overarching assumptions.

    I’m sure the MLBPA would love for every player to sign for market value or higher (and increase the market value for everyone else), but everyone is different, values things differently, and makes different decisions based on what they think is best for them. Marte’s decision falls outside the realm of what our math expects, but that does not make this contract a poor decision for him. In fact, I’m certain he thinks, right now, that he made a great decision. And there’s a chance he never regrets it.

    We are described by equations, that is true, but we don’t act like we are.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. bpdelia says:

    I’m so pleased with the way the comments have gone in here today. I want to thank everyone for commenting on the fact that the notion of the “rational actor” is a theoretical abstraction. It’s possible that the science of economics lays on the shakiest foundation of any of the other major disciplines.

    Quick case in point. I’m a working class fellow. My wife and I are right around the median income. I was recently offered a position that would have increased our income by around 11%. Taking that position was obviously the rational move.

    But there is no way to attach a value to how much I love my home. To the fact that my kids have friends they adore. That I have a band I enjoy and a community I treasure. That I truly get a massive amount of value from going with my wife to a spot we love and drinking beer until the sun sets.

    The money could not possibly be more valuable.

    So ask yourself how much money would it take to over value these non valued states.

    Frankly for me nothing. There is no amount of money. Because I have almost no desire for objects.

    That’s not a crazy point of view. Lots of people feel that way but don’t realize it.

    The utility of money gets almost worthless to me at levels above “I can afford two weeks vacation and if I lost my job I’ve got a couple years before I’m stealing beans.”

    And Matte just got a few centuries until bean stealing.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  30. Jackson says:

    So far it’s looking like the Pirates gave a long term gift.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. Travis says:

    Clearly the Pirates got the better end of the deal here, Jackson. Marte was the best player in baseball the second half of last season, and is hitting .378 thus far in Spring Training.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>