Addison Reed Might Be First Victim of New Year’s Effect

When FanGraphs conducted its annual free-agent crowdsourcing project just after the end of the 2017 season, the results suggested that Addison Reed would receive the third-richest deal among relievers this winter.

Top Relievers per Free-Agent Crowdsourcing
Rank Player Med. Years Med AAV Med Total
12 Wade Davis 4 $15 $60
18 Greg Holland 3 $12 $36
20 Addison Reed 3 $9 $27
24 Mike Minor 3 $9 $27
29 Jake McGee 3 $8 $24
32 Bryan Shaw 3 $7 $21
37 Brandon Morrow 2 $9 $18
“Rank” denotes rank among all free agents per crowdsourced results.

If the crowd were correct, Reed was in line for something remarkably similar to Mike Minor this offseason. So when Minor landed a guaranteed three years and $28 million at the beginning of December — that is, almost precisely the same figure for which he’d been projected by the masses — it seemed that, in theory, the crowd’s estimate represented a reasonable target for Reed.

In practice, however, that appears not to be the case. Ken Rosenthal reports this afternoon that Reed has signed with the Minnesota Twins for two years and “slightly less” than $17 million.

Jon Heyman has the precise terms:

In what has otherwise been a remarkably slow offseason, a number of relievers have already found homes — many of them, as Craig Edwards noted in mid-December, for two years and roughly $15 million. But that standard reliever deal has typically been reserved for standard-type relievers — not the sort, in other words, projected to receive the third-richest contract of the winter.

Relative to best free-agent relievers, the terms for which Reed’s services have been secured are rather modest. Let’s revisit the table from above, but now with the actual contract terms added to the mix:

Top Relievers, Crowdsourced vs. Actual Deals
Rank Player cYrs cTot aYrs aTot Diff %Diff
12 Wade Davis 4 $60 3 $52.0 -$8 -13.3%
18 Greg Holland 3 $36
20 Addison Reed 3 $27 2 $16.8 -$10 -38.0%
24 Mike Minor 3 $27 3 $28.0 $1 3.7%
29 Jake McGee 3 $24 3 $27.0 $3 12.5%
32 Bryan Shaw 3 $21 3 $27.0 $6 28.6%
37 Brandon Morrow 2 $18 2 $21.0 $3 16.7%
-c- denotes crowdsourced contract figures.
-a- denotes actual contract figures.

Wade Davis technically received less than the $60 million projected by the crowd; however, he also elicited $2-plus million more in average annual value than was expected and the highest per-year salary ever for a reliever.

As for the other free-agent relievers comparable to Reed, they’ve all exceeded the crowd’s expectations. As a group, the combination of Jake McGee, Brandon Morrow, Bryan Shaw, and Minor have secured $13 million more in guaranteed salary this offseason than anticipated. Roughly 15%, in other words. Reed, meanwhile, has agreed to an amount roughly 40% less.

It’s possible that this is the product merely of a miscalculation of the market for Reed — or, alternatively, just a random outcome.

It’s also possibly due, however, to what might be called the New Year’s Effect. In a piece for Royals Review — and cited for the first time at FanGraphs by Travis Sawchik — Max Rieper found that free agents who signed before January 1st signed contracts for about 4% more than the crowd’s estimated figure. After January 1st, however, free agents received about 25% less. While the difference between Reed’s guarantee and others secured by comparable free agents is even more pronounced in terms of degree, it’s similar with respect to type.

The reasons for the New Year’s discount aren’t known, but some logical hypotheses exist. It might be a product, again, of a systemic misunderstanding of a certain player’s market. It might also be the result of anxiety: the prospect of entering February with a deal, watching as pitchers and catchers report — it might be sufficiently uncomfortable for a player to just take a more modest deal. Finally, as might be the case with Reed, it might be due to some specific constraint placed by the player himself on negotiations. Whatever the cause, it exists and teams have maybe looked to capitalize upon it or exploit it, depending on one’s point of view. And Reed might be its first victim of the offseason.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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A LH setup arm – hello, Tony Watson – is a much better fit for them, but consider me a bit surprised the Red Sox didn’t appear to seriously entertain keeping Reed. Two years at a reasonable AAV without the durability concerns of guys like Morrow and Davis would seem like a pretty good idea for a team putting a lot of stock in three RH setup arms coming off major injuries – Smith, Workman and Thornburg.