The Red Sox continue to avoid arbitration like the plague as Theo Epstein has added Kevin Youkilis to his list of arbitration-eligible players signed to long-term contracts. Apparently the deal is still unofficial at time of writing, but the details have sufficiently leaked to give us a good idea of the clauses. It’s going to be something around a four-year, $40-million deal with a fifth year option valued at $14 million with a $1.25 million buyout. Pursuant to tradition, we will evaluate the contract on the basis of the minimum guaranteed amount, that is four years and $41.25 million.
Youkilis may have only been a 2nd year arbitration player, but he was already heading into his age 30 season so this contract covers at least his age 30-33 years. That’s still a period where we’d expect Youkilis to remain effective, especially given his slew of good skills, but it is near the edge of danger and he certainly wouldn’t be expected to get any better. Furthermore, we have to account for a 2008 season that was far and above his previously established level of performance and a home park in Fenway that can vastly skew the numbers for right-handed hitters.
Dealing with projection first, we can note that in a rare case of agreement, all three of Bill James, Marcel and CHONE peg Youkilis as posting a wOBA in the .370-.382 range in 2009, pretty much dead on with what he did in 2007 (.373). Those figures are not park-adjusted, so we need to figure out what effect Fenway has. As a primarily doubles hitter, Youkilis has ample opportunity to exploit the green monster in left field and as such, controlling for his home park necessitates reducing his wOBA by about 2%, much in the same way we had to do with Jim Rice earlier.
That means that we’d project Youkilis to post a park-neutral wOBA in the .363-73 range next season, worth about 20 runs above average. Youkilis now has a sufficient amount of time logged at first base and with consistent UZR results in all three seasons, it’s good enough to go with his average performance there, worth six runs above average. 20 runs of offense plus six runs of defense and 20 runs for replacement (he’s projected to be right around that 600 PA mark) net Youkilis with 46 runs over average. He loses 12.5 for playing first base however, leaving him with a grand total projection of 33.5, or between 3 and 3.5 wins.
That would be worth between $12 and $16 million on today’s free market, but Youkilis was not eligible for that yet, still having two years of arbitration left to serve. Past history shows that arbitration awards tend to be worth 60% of market value in their 2nd year and 80% in the 3rd and final year. Throw in the 10% discount for security and expected aging and that means a fair contract for four years would have fallen between $37 and $48 million. The actual contract falls just about right in the middle of that, suggesting that the Red Sox signed a perfectly legitimate contract with Youkilis. It’s not really a win (nor a loss) for either side from a value standpoint. Frankly, I think the projection is a little on the conservative side and that the Red Sox made out well here, but it’s nothing crazy.
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