Earlier this week, both Dave and I discussed the importance of adding context to free agent and trade analyses. Baseball does not take place in a vacuum, where everything is equal, so a signing might make a lot of sense to one team while making little sense to another. Dave whipped out a neat spreadsheet that showed the average dollars per win a team could spend based on its payroll and desire to win 40 games above replacement level. The idea is that anybody could win 50 games at $12 mil with a team consisting of replacement players, so the ultimate goal would be to win 40 more games with (2009 payroll – $12 mil).
Following that, I put the context-analysis to work by evaluating how much money Ben Sheets would cost, at fair market value, and how that relates to the Brewers available funds and strategy. Updating that work, the Brewers, prior to today, would enter 2009 with $62,699,000 committed to players who combine for 35 WAR. Now, the projected Brewers payroll was initially considered to be $85 mil; however, factoring in their $20 mil/yr offer to CC Sabathia, the figure is probably closer to $90 mil. For the sake of this post and any Brewers signings moving forward, we will put them at $90 mil for 2009, meaning that, prior to today, they had $27.3 mil to spend in order to add five or more wins.
The Brewers just signed Jorge Julio to a 1-yr deal, so how does he fit into this mold? Well, the base salary for Julio is rumored to be $950,000, with another $950,000 available in incentives based on appearances and how many games he finishes. Based on his past, I will say that the $600k incentive will kick in but not the $350k. Therefore, Julio would likely be paid $1.55 mil in 2009. How much is he worth?
Marcel projects him to pitch 46 innings at a 4.27 FIP. That comes out to 22 runs allowed. A replacement level reliever would pitch 46 innings at a 4.75 FIP, for 24 runs. Essentially, with nothing else taken into account, Julio is worth +2 run above replacement, or +0.2 wins. Normally, we would add a few runs to factor in the leverage of the reliever’s appearances, but it isn’t likely that Julio will be called upon too often in a pinch. I’ll add another run, making him +0.3 wins above replacement for 2009. If wins cost around $5 mil right now, then the fair market value for Julio would be $1.5 mil. The Brewers are paying just slightly over that figure.
This would give the Brewers 35.3 WAR as opposed to 35.0, with $25.75 mil left to spend to amass those remaining 4.7 wins. This deal isn’t going to kill the Brewers, unless Julio vastly defies his true talent level, or he is used in the wrong situations, and it could prove to be a nice reclamation project of sorts. If the payroll is upwards of $90 mil, they could still sign Sheets to his fair market value of $14.7 mil, adding 3.2 wins in the process. This would put them 1.5 WAR away from the goal of 90 wins, with $11 mil leftover. What they will do remains to be seen, but Julio looks like a pretty good signing relative to his projected contribution, base salary, and the incentive likely to kick in.