The Older Guys

Back in January, Dave Cameron was discussing the lack of interest in then free agent Johnny Damon, saying:

Abreu was a bargain on a one year, $5 million deal with the Angels, even as he proved that he didn’t really belong in the outfield anymore. Damon, though, is basically the same hitter, just with better defensive skills, and he might have to settle for less than what Abreu got? This is a market correction gone way too far.

Even with the reduced costs of wins, Damon is easily worth $8 to $10 million for 2010. Just like with Abreu last year, teams will be kicking themselves in a few months if they let him sign for peanuts. There are enough clubs out there that could use a +2 to +3 win left fielder that this level of disinterest is simply a market failure.

So let’s see if teams have indeed taken advantage of these older players by looking at a few. I’m going to focus on position players who received one-year deals and had question marks surrounding them due at least partly to their age.

LF Johnny Damon
Free agent age: 36
Signed by Detroit Tigers to 1 year, $8 million deal
2009 WAR: 3.6
2010 WAR: 1.1

Damon, the centerpiece of Cameron’s commentary, finally got a nice-sized deal from Detroit. Although the lefty has gotten on base at near the same rate as last season (.365), the power has been zapped, as he’s only slugging .391, his lowest rate since 2001. However, a 113 wRC+ isn’t that bad given that Damon has a UZR/150 of 19.2 in left field. That adds up to 1.1 WAR already on the season. If Damon continues his current pace, he’ll be worth his contract.

2B Orlando Hudson
Free agent age: 32
Signed by Minnesota Twins to 1 year, $5 million deal
2009 WAR: 2.9
2010 WAR: 1.8

It’s hard to imagine why Hudson only got that $5 million after a very good year with the Dodgers in 2009. He has continued his solid offense with a .337 wOBA, but it’s been his defense that has guided him this season, as Orlando’s on pace for a 16.1 UZR/150. At 1.8 WAR, Hudson’s already been worth his contract and then some.

OF/DH Vladimir Guerrero
Free agent age: 35
Signed by Texas Rangers to 1 year, $5 million deal
2009 WAR: 0.8
2010 WAR: 2.1

Vlad in that hot, homer-happy ballpark in Arlington? It just made too much sense not to have happened. After a down season in 2009 in which he was hampered by injury, Vlad has put up a beautiful line of .327/.374/.538, solid numbers for a DH. Like Hudson, Guerrero has already been worth his contract at 2.0 WAR, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down soon.

1B Aubrey Huff
Free agent age: 33
Signed by San Francisco Giants to 1 year, $3 million deal
2009 WAR: -1.3
2010 WAR: 2.3

What a swing from last season. R.J. Anderson wrote about Huff recently, so I’ll let him explain:

The Giants signed Huff for $3 million on a one-year basis- meaning that just getting a combination of those projected figures probably would have made Huff worth it. Instead they have received one of the best hitters in baseball to date. It’s like a karmic refund for the Edgar Renteria deal turning into a mess.

3B Miguel Tejada
Free agent age: 36
Signed by Baltimore Orioles to one year deal worth $6 million
2009 WAR: 2.7 WAR
2010 WAR: 0.8 WAR

Tejada has not found much success back with the O’s this year, as the third baseman is slugging a career low .379. Add to that a .318 OBP and you have a corner infielder with an OPS under .700. Luckily for Miggy his defense has been above average this year, and if he can muster some pop in the second half of the season, he will most likely be worth his contract in terms of our Dollars metric.

1B Russell Branyan
Free agent age: 34
Signed by Cleveland Indians to 1 year deal worth $2 million
2009 WAR: 2.8
2010 WAR: 1.2

Despite losing some time due to an injury, Branyan has put up a .355 wOBA with very good defense (11.2 UZR/150) at first base. He’s already been worth more ~2.5 times his contract thus far. His initial demands this past winter may have been unreasonable, but there’s no question Branyan truly settled at just $2 million.

These are only a handful of names, and I’ll go through some more later on, but at least on a bunch of these players, Mr. Cameron seems to be on the money.

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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat

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Lucas
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Lucas

Jim Thome. Even with limit ABs, a big contributor.