Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were the two best position players in free agency last year and each received contracts of at least $300 million. Anthony Rendon is better than Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. He was better last season and the year before that. Rendon’s 19.9 WAR over the last three years is fourth in baseball and more than any three-season stretch Harper and Machado have ever had. But nobody expects Rendon to get $300 million despite better play due to Rendon’s age. Harper and Machado were entering their age-26 seasons while Rendon will be 30 years old for most of next season. Rendon also doesn’t need to hit $300 million to get a contract just as good as Harper or Machado.
In our list of Top 50 Free Agents, both Kiley McDaniel and the crowd expected Rendon would receive right around seven years and $30 million per season. That’s clearly not in the stratosphere of Harper and Machado, but the average annual value is equivalent to Machado’s deal and higher than Harper’s. If we were to look at the present-day value of these contracts with an 8% discount annually, Rendon’s deal is the equivalent of about $233 million spread over 10 years while Harper’s is more like $305 million. To get Rendon equivalent money on a seven-year deal, he would need to receive $270 million distributed evenly over the next seven years. Rendon probably won’t get that, but his value might be pretty close.
Over at MLB.com, Mike Petriello looked at Rendon by age, position, defense, and offensive performance to find similar players.
Right away, we can see something special happening here: There just aren’t that many players like this. Aside from Rendon, there are only nine players to meet these qualifications over the past 50 years. Five of them are Hall of Famers, and three of the remaining four may yet find their way to Cooperstown. (We could add another Hall of Famer if we relaxed the defensive requirement, which would push Chipper Jones onto the list.)
The nine qualifying names are pretty impressive:
The post continues to discuss how well the players performed into their 30s, and their records were very impressive. I removed Donaldson from the group and looked at the remaining eight players who have played through their age-36 seasons. On average, that group produced 30 wins over their first seven seasons in their 30s. Every player but Williams averaged at least three wins per season, with five of the eight averaging at least four wins per season and Mike Schmidt pacing the group with 49 wins. Even if we throw Schmidt and Williams out, we still end up right around 30 WAR.
Here’s what that might look like value-wise over the next seven seasons.
|2020||30||5.8||$9.0 M||$52.2 M|
|2021||31||5.3||$9.3 M||$49.1 M|
|2022||32||4.8||$9.5 M||$45.8 M|
|2023||33||4.3||$9.8 M||$42.3 M|
|2024||34||3.8||$10.1 M||$38.5 M|
|2025||35||3.3||$10.1 M||$33.4 M|
|2026||36||2.8||$10.1 M||$28.4 M|
Value: $9M/WAR with 3.0% inflation (for first 5 years)
Aging Curve: +0.25 WAR/yr (18-24), 0 WAR/yr (25-30),-0.5 WAR/yr (31-37),-0.75 WAR/yr (> 37)
Notice the assumptions, as there is a conservative expectation of 3% inflation for the first few years and none at the end of the deal. The $9 million per win is also fairly conservative. A year ago it spit out about 36 wins Harper when trying to find some comps, and using the same methods as above, provided a $350 million deal over 13 years, roughly 6% higher than the deal he eventually received. If we take the numbers above and discount it by the same 6%, we end up right around the $270 million mark that would provide Rendon an equivalent contract to Harper.
Because I can’t let Petriello have all the fun with comps, I explored a different route. I examined Rendon by the type of hitter he is using our + Stats. Over the last three years, Rendon’s BB+ is 133, so he is much better than average at drawing walks. His K+ of 63 is similarly much better than league average. His wRC+ of 145 and ISO+ of 140 round out his capabilities as a hitter. To find similarly talented players, I went back to 1947 and looked for hitters with at least 1,400 plate appearances from ages 27 through 29 and within 20 points of Rendon’s K+, BB+, wRC+, and ISO+. Further, I required the players to be within 30 points of Rendon’s 154 wRC+ from this past season in their age-29 campaign and have qualified for the batting title in that season. I also removed catchers. Here’s what that list looks like from age 27 through age 29.
The first thing that should jump out is that Rendon is a much better player than everyone else on this list. Over the three seasons, he’s just about a win better at the plate with defense and baserunning adding another three wins. I’ll also note that Anthony Rizzo also met the requirements of the players on this list, but he and Rendon are the same age. So we have similar hitters, but without the defensive requirements, we get slightly worse overall players. From the list Petriello created, only Edgar Martinez crosses over. Now here’s how those players performed over their next three seasons.
So this group that Rendon is better than averaged five wins per season in their first three years in their 30s. If you want to credit Rendon with an extra win per year in baserunning and defense, but assume similar offense, Rendon looks even better. If we extend this group to their age-36 seasons, here’s how the numbers come out.
Even with an almost completely different set of comps, this list comes out at roughly the same value as Petriello’s. If you want to zero out defense and baserunning and assume Rendon will be average, we get to that same 30 wins as the other group. Generally speaking, players who play like Rendon age well and hitters who hit like Rendon age well. If we want to compare Rendon’s comps with Harper’s comps, we end up at almost the exact same place value-wise, just spread out over different years. Rendon might very well end up with the $210 million expected by Kiley McDaniel and the crowd, but by value and using Bryce Harper and Manny Machado as examples, $270 million spread over seven years would be a reasonable deal for the best player on the market.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.