Dodgers Add O-Dawg

Chalk up another free agent who finally cashed in his chips, thanks to a lousy economy and Type A free agent status, and settled for a fraction of his actual value. The Dodgers have reportedly signed Orlando Hudson to a one year contract with $3.4 million guaranteed, though incentives could push his total payout to $8 million.

Before the economy went south and free agents became beggers, Hudson looked to be in line for something like the 4 year, $40 million contract that Brian Roberts just got from the Orioles. After all, Hudson’s averaged 2.5 wins per year for the last four years. Even factoring in age, it’s hard to expect him to be worth less than two wins above a replacement level player for 2009, and wins were going for between $4 and $5 million apiece last year.

However, with the economy struggling, MLB teams not named the Yankees have drastically pulled back on spending, and so Hudson settles for a contract that pays him as if he’s a +1 win player. Even if you’re pessimistic about Hudson’s future (30+ year old second baseman don’t age very well, so there’s some concern here), this deal is still a huge bargain on the old dollar per win scale.

The question we have to ask ourselves, though, is what is a win going to be worth in 2009? If MLB teams are correctly assessing that people will be cutting their discretionary spending on MLB games, and revenue for the league is going to shrink in the upcoming year, then the value generated from adding wins on the field will be diminished as well. And, when we reach a point like this, we just kind of have to throw our hands up in the air and say “who knows?”, because nobody really has the economic future of the U.S. in the next 6 months figured out, and our assumptions of the value of wins are based upon models that don’t work for this climate.

So, what can we say about this signing, if we don’t really have an ability to forecast the dollar value of a win in 2009? That it makes the Dodgers better by about +1 to +1.5 wins (depending on what they do with DeWitt and Blake to make room for Hudson), that it cost them the #17 pick in the draft, and that if this move is coupled with re-signing Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers will have nine major league starters for eight positions.

It’s hard to not like this deal for the Dodgers, but like every signing this winter, that’s based on an assumption that MLB revenues aren’t about to go in the tank. If they do, everything looks a lot different.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Considering the economic climate, true, it is hard to be certain that this is a bargain, but can’t you look at relative spending and consider the deal in those terms? For instance, calculate dollar per win so far this off season, rather than the past season?