FanGraphs released their top 82 free agents today, ranked by crowd sourced contracts. The exercise is entertaining at the start of each off-season, giving a consensus opinion on what each player might receive on the open market in terms of years and dollars. Obviously these figures shouldn’t be taken as hard numbers for each player. In fact, the article notes that they tend to be a bit low, so the prices could be even higher than expected here. It’s a fun process at this point in the off-season, giving some idea of how things will go down, a month before most of the big moves are actually made. Click the link above for the full list. Here is a breakdown of the Pirates’ free agents.
J.A. Happ – The Pirates helped to turn Happ around at the end of the year, and it looks like he’s going to get paid well for it, if the FanGraphs crowd is correct. The prediction is 3 years, $33 M total. My prediction is closer to the Edinson Volquez deal, which was two years, $20 M, with an option for a third year that would bring the total contract value to $27 M. So the total value here isn’t far off what Volquez could receive in terms of max value.
I’d actually be surprised if Happ gets three years guaranteed, although the dollar amount doesn’t surprise me. Sure, it was a small sample size in the second half, but Happ’s total numbers (3.61 ERA/3.69 xFIP) aren’t totally out of line with his career best. Two of his previous three seasons saw an xFIP in the 3.95 range, and his ERA from 2008-2010 (285 IP) was 3.16. Granted, the ERA and xFIP have never lined up in any given year like this, but the individual numbers are among his career best. The idea that he won’t repeat his performance with the Pirates is reasonable. The idea that he won’t repeat his season-long performance isn’t so certain. He could definitely be worth $10 M a year on the open market, with the chance for some big value if he does trend closer to his late season success.
Antonio Bastardo – The Pirates are probably going to need another left-handed reliever, and Bastardo’s crowd sourced price seems reasonable. He’s getting two years and $8 M total in the projections, which isn’t much for his production. A win on the open market costs about $6 M. Bastardo has averaged 0.7 WAR per year over the last six seasons. That would be worth $8.4 M on the open market, so this contract seems right in line with his value. He’d be a big addition if the Pirates traded Mark Melancon and went with Tony Watson as the closer. If they kept both pitchers, he’d be a great second lefty again, helping to make up a strong bullpen once again.
Joakim Soria – Soria was a decent addition to the bullpen at the end of the year. He didn’t play up to his old closing days, but gave the Pirates another good late-inning arm. That said, I don’t think he’s worth $7 M a year for two years, which is his projection. He’d be the third best reliever on the team if Melancon stayed, and the second best reliever if Melancon was traded, while being the top paid reliever. If the Pirates wanted to keep Watson out of the closer’s role, and wanted to go with Soria, it might make a bit more sense. But Soria, at this point in his career, doesn’t look like a guy you want to trust in the final two innings as anything more than a depth option.
Joe Blanton – Blanton was fantastic this year, and was great with the Pirates. But his projected salary is $4 M for one year, and I don’t think the Pirates really need him. He wouldn’t really break the bank, but adding a good middle reliever would be much easier than other positions, and could come at a much cheaper cost.
To get some perspective on how accurate the crowd sourced contracts are, let’s take a look at last year’s results. The article said that the trends seem to be a bit low, and these Pirates-related examples confirm that.
Russell Martin – 4 years, $56 M prediction / 5 years, $82 M actual / One extra year and $3.5 M per year extra
Francisco Liriano – 3 years, $36 M prediction / 3 years, $39 M actual / Pretty close here, just $1 M per year off
Edinson Volquez – 2 years, $16 M prediction / 2 years, $20 M + Option year actual / Low by $2 M per year, and missing the option year
Michael Morse – 1 year, $7 M prediction / 2 years, $16 M actual / Off by $1 M, and the contract length was doubled to two years
Those deals were either right on, or a bit low. After just a casual scan through the list, I didn’t see many deals that were inflated versus what the player received, except for some special circumstances (Aramis Ramirez getting one year instead of two in his final year, and A.J. Burnett taking less to play for the Pirates were two examples that stuck out). So it seems that the prices above could be used as a loose guide for what to expect, although not something set in stone, for obvious reasons.