Mark Teixeira looks like he’s down to the wire in terms of finally inking a contract and hoping pushing the remainder of this off-season forward. With the set of bidders narrowed down and the contracts tightening up, it appears that we can hone in on an expected contract for Teixeira, something in the eight-year, $175 million range. That’s not so much an overpay in annual average value, but rather just an overpay in years.
Teixeira is probably a 4-5 win player for 2009, worth between $20 and $25 million. Taking 10% off for a long-term discount and you have a fair value price of $18 to $23 million, which Teixeira seems about to get. That’s what you would be comfortable paying him if you felt he was going to stay a 5-win player throughout the duration of the contract. What’s not being taken into account though is aging curves. While Teixeira is young, when you sign someone for eight years, you better be factoring that in and any reasonable aging projection would have Teixeira losing a considerable amount of value over the life of the contract.
Teixeira’s soon to be inked contract got me thinking again about Todd Helton and since we’ve added some new stats to FanGraphs since I last looked at Helton, I felt like a brief revisit of him was warranted. Helton had a crummy 2008, no doubt, but even in a crummy year he posted a .391 OBP. And with his BABIP under .300 despite a 23.4% LD rate, that screams for some positive regression in 2009, which would help drive his overall line up back toward his 2005-7 numbers, which average him out to be worth around 40 runs over average with the bat if he could play a full season. Park adjusting his final line (only looking at away numbers is the wrong method), moves that number to about 34 runs. How likely are either of those things to happen? Helton’s been durable throughout his career, but you always worry about injuries to aging first baseman so there’s surely a non-trivial likelihood that he will not fully require. How much you want to knock off, I’ll leave up to you the reader.
Helton’s defense according to UZR plays slightly north of neutral with just enough positive trend for me to say that his glove plus his 12.5 run penalty for playing first base would come out to a negative 10 run total. Again, over a full season. Adding those up and throwing in replacement level, we arrive at 44 runs over replacement per season for Helton, roughly mirroring Teixeira. Helton is considered an anchor with either a three-year, $57 million or a four-year, $75 million contract. Yes, there’s a six year difference in age between the two, but if Helton returns to 2005-7 form (a safe-ish bet) he just has to be able to log between 400 and 500 plate appearances to justify his contract for 2009. Seems surprising for a guy many have written off at this point.
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