Anthony Rendon Deserves the Equivalent of the Bryce Harper Deal

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:

Mike Schmidt
Wade Boggs
George Brett
Alex Rodriguez
Tony Pérez
Josh Donaldson
Edgar Martinez
Scott Rolen
Matt Williams

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.

Contract Estimate — 7 years / $289.7 M
Year Age WAR $/WAR Est. Contract
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
Totals 30.1 $289.7 M

Assumptions

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.

Anthony Rendon Hitting Comps From Age 27 to Age 29
Name PA HR OBP wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
Edgar Martinez 1806 43 .402 146 -1.8 92.7 12.8 17.2
Sal Bando 1963 68 .365 136 -1.1 76.5 20.9 17.2
Pete Rose 2148 41 .402 145 -3.8 103.5 -26.8 16.6
Craig Biggio 1891 49 .395 140 5 99.4 -8.1 15.3
John Olerud 1764 62 .413 143 -0.4 96.7 -0.9 15.1
Al Kaline 1676 73 .378 142 1.4 84.9 6.7 14.6
Bernie Williams 1810 76 .406 146 0.1 108.6 -29.8 13.8
AVERAGE 1865 59 .394 143 -0.1 94.6 -3.6 15.7
Anthony Rendon 1848 83 .397 145 7 113.5 26.3 19.9
Players with similar walk, strikeout, power, and overall hitting totals since 1947 at the same age as Rendon.

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.

Anthony Rendon Hitting Comps From Age 30 to Age 32
Name PA OBP wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
Craig Biggio 2205 .402 139 13.3 123.1 19.5 20.6
Pete Rose 2188 .386 133 0.3 81.6 13.9 18.0
Al Kaline 1596 .397 160 1.9 105.8 -11.2 15.5
Bernie Williams 1946 .408 143 -2.4 107.7 -20.3 14.6
John Olerud 2085 .407 128 -0.1 76.0 -1.7 14.0
Sal Bando 1901 .341 122 2.1 46.4 13.2 13.0
Edgar Martinez 1191 .434 153 -0.3 81.7 -16.4 10.2
AVERAGE 1873 .396 140 2.1 88.9 -0.4 15.1
AVERAGE YR 624 .396 140 0.7 29.6 -0.1 5.0
Players with similar walk, strikeout, power, and overall hitting totals since 1947 at the same age as Rendon.

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.

Anthony Rendon Hitting Comps From Age 30 to Age 36
Name PA OBP wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
Pete Rose 5214 .390 132 1.0 187.6 15.0 39.8
Edgar Martinez 3787 .444 158 -2.3 289.1 -78.9 33.0
Craig Biggio 4792 .385 122 15.6 153.8 20.3 31.8
Al Kaline 3559 .389 145 -0.1 175.9 -29.6 27.6
John Olerud 4079 .392 123 -16.0 103.6 -20.1 21.7
Sal Bando 4030 .339 111 2.9 48.6 24.4 21.7
Bernie Williams 4363 .386 127 -9.6 144.1 -114.9 17.0
AVERAGE 4261 .389 131 -1.2 157.5 -26.3 27.5
Players with similar walk, strikeout, power, and overall hitting totals since 1947 at the same age as Rendon.

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.

We hoped you liked reading Anthony Rendon Deserves the Equivalent of the Bryce Harper Deal by Craig Edwards!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

26
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
newest oldest most voted
RMD4
Member
RMD4

Uhhhhh, Harper was going into his age 26 season and Rendon is going into his age 30 season. That’s a scenario with exponentially higher risk, regardless of the mean you gave for comparable players here. In terms of giving out a decade long contract, 26 and 30 is night and day. Pay the man, but don’t expect $300 million.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

I don’t think this is technically true, but the advantage of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado was always (a) that because of their age they weren’t all that likely to enter a serious decline phase immediately, and (b) they were both huge stars where if they were signed it would lead to a surge in ticket sales. Therefore, a much larger number of different teams could justify signing them. So what if the White Sox or Padres weren’t ready yet? Machado was 26, and ticket sales would jump. And that’s doubly critical for elite players, because the number of teams willing to give out $200M contracts in any given offseason is probably half the league, at most. Both of these things are less true for Rendon than for Machado and Harper.

This is a persistent problem with the “Player X deserves Y amount of money” because it ignores that what players actually get paid is not what they “deserve” (which, arguably, is considerably less than your local middle school teacher) but what teams are bidding for them. You can get a little bit more if you have a credible threat to not sign a contract at all, but you’re not going to get any GM to justify the signing or an owner to spill out that much money without another team willing to go close to those heights (at least today).

Mike NMN
Member
Mike NMN

San Diego attendance was up about 230K and the average ticket price was $44. I’m not sure what that translates to in net dollars, after you throw in parking, beer, and hot dogs, but if you put just $50 total, you could be talking about $10M or more in additional revenues. Obviously, that’s a crude way of thinking about it and doesn’t take in account other factors. Phillies attendance went up about 550K, average price $36, make it $40 net, that’s more than $20M in additional revenue.

dl80
Member
dl80

True, though Philly also got Realmuto, and he presumably deserves the credit for some of the bounce (though probably less than Harper because of lack of name).

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

$300 million isn’t some sort of cap. If Harper had played up closer to his perceived potential leading into free agency, he probably would have gotten the $400 million-plus he wanted. Harper’s contract very much does account for the realistic possibility that he is really more of a “really good” player instead of a great player. Rendon is clearly a great player right now. If Rendon were magically 26, we’d be talking about $400 million easy, not $280 million.