Chipper Locked Up

The Atlanta Braves and Chipper Jones agreed to a three year contract extension today, virtually assuring that Jones will retire as a Brave. The details on this contract are a little extensive so bear with me here. Jones will get a base salary of $13 million for 2010-2. In addition, he will receive bonuses of $750,000 each if he passes the 135 and 140 games played milestones. Those are curiously close together. Of course, Jones hasn’t tallied 140 games since 2003 and hasn’t reached 135 since 2004.

When 2013 rolls around, Jones has a vesting option of $9 million with the same pair of $750K bonuses. The option vests if Jones manages to appear in at least 123 games during the 2012 season or if he averages at least 127 games in 2011 and 2012. The base salary increases by $1 million at each of the following levels: 128, 133, 138, 140 games in 2012 or averages of 132, 137, 138, 140 games in 2011-2.

Got all that? Great. For purposes of evaluation, we’re going to keep it simple and evaluate it at three years and $42 million, his base salaries. We’ll assume that if he plays enough to reach his various bonuses, that he’ll be worth them. Now, on the face of it, it seems like a lot of money to guarantee a player for his age 37-9 seasons. However, according to our values, Chipper was worth $34 million last year alone!

It’s pretty unlikely for Jones to repeat his high level of performance from the past few seasons both because of expected regression and advancing age, but all five projection systems listed here expect him to post a wOBA of at least .405 this coming year. The Braves will be paying Jones at about a 3 to 3.5 win level, a level Jones has met or greatly exceeded in every season we record.

Given his decent defensive numbers, Jones’ offense could fall back to 2004-level, when he was the victim of some really harsh BABIP, and he would still be worth his salary. Throw in the sentimental value in keeping Chipper Jones in a Braves uniform and this looks like a risk worth taking for the Braves.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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You forgot to mention he’ll have a Braves cap on his plaque.