Poll Results: Best-to-Worst 3+ Year Free Agent Contracts for 2010

The first number (ordinal ranking) is where The Book Blog readers ranked the deals. The second number is the percentage of Fangraphs readers who think the player gave the team the best value, and the third number is for the team that signed the worst deal:

Based on 250 Book Blog readers and 3000 Fangraphs readers.

1. 58 – 03 – Figgins

3. 11 – 05 – Polanco
2. 08 – 03 – Byrd

5. 07 – 10 – Lackey
4. 04 – 09 – Wolf

6. 06 – 17 – Holliday
7. 04 – 19 – Bay
8. 01 – 34 – Lyon

We hoped you liked reading Poll Results: Best-to-Worst 3+ Year Free Agent Contracts for 2010 by Tangotiger!

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OremLK
Guest
OremLK

Bay’s deal is so, so much worse than Lyon’s, it’s not even funny. Bay is the kind of contract which hamstrings an organization for years to come, and it looks even stupider considering the kind of money guys like Damon and Branyan wound up making. It’s not just paying double market value per win, it’s doing it at an $80 million/5 year volume.

Lyon is a similar overpay per win, but look at it this way: The Mets are throwing away around $40 million. The Astros are throwing away around $8 million.

Of course, the Astros already have a similarly terrible contract on the books in Carlos Lee, but he wasn’t signed this off-season or by Ed Wade’s front office.

ATepperm
Guest

Yeah, ranking the “worst” contract was really tricky.
I think Holliday’s an amazing player and a fabulous complement to Pujols, but (after some thought) I voted his the worst contract precisely because of its cost and length.

Certainly Holliday will provide tons of value, but it’s so long – and we’ve seen so many long-term superstar contracts turn into albatrosses over the years (Zito, Wells, Soriano, etc) – I just think there’s a really good chance the Holliday contract could turn ugly.

Then again, it might turn out splendidly. I guess that’s why they play the games…

ATepperm
Guest

Oh, and the contract runs through his decline phase (he’s 30).

Al Skorupa
Member

I voted Lyon in the original piece.

For me, I can understand WHY a team might believe in Jason Bay – even though I strongly disagree with their assessment. Wrong side of 30, old player skills, components in decline, no glove, bad knees. Despite that, he does add plenty of patience and power. I feel like even a good GM could be somewhat seduced by Jason Bay.

Brandon Lyon? Absolutely no reason ANYONE should have thought he was anything near that valuable. Old school and new school GMs looked at that and said “What the hell is Ed Wade doing??”

While Bay will in all likelihood be drastically overpaid by the end of that deal he will provide some substantial production over the course of his contract. I could easily Lyon providing negative value.

Darkstar
Member
Darkstar

“Lyon is a similar overpay per win, but look at it this way: The Mets are throwing away around $40 million. The Astros are throwing away around $8 million.”

You have to put things in true context. Lyon is projected to be around a 3.80 ERA in about 65 IP. The average qualified reliever was a 3.49 ERA in 64 IP last season while the average reliever generally posts a 4.0 ERA. Lyon is average at best, and shouldnt be given but a one year contract and for anything much more league average. They basically threw away about 14 Million.

And unlike the Mets, the Astros had zero reason to vastly overpay a player. The Mets had a glaring hole and are paying the advanced cost-per-win premium for every win over average one on of only two premium players for the position. The Astros had no reason to pay even WAR cost on such a mediocre reliever that was readily available, let alone pay him almost double his projected value on a ridiculous 3 year commitment. You can look at the Mets signing and at least figure out what their thinking was – the same cant be done on the Lyon signing at all.

So because the Lyon contract just has zero logic behind it while almost the entire dollar cost is wasted money you have yourself arguably the worst contract of the off-season.

Now I personally agree the Bay deal is worse, but for a different reason. I voted that way because it tied the Mets hands all season long eventually resulting in none of their other holes being filled. Beyond the Met’s entire offseason being tied to the Bay deal though, the Lyons contract was worse.

Darkstar
Member
Darkstar

Should read “much more then league minimum” up there in the first paragraph

OremLK
Guest
OremLK

They didn’t throw away $14 million; Brandon Lyon has been worth an average of 0.9 WAR per season over the last four years. Assuming he matches that performance over the course of his contract, he would be worth almost $9 million at a market value of $3.3 million per win. Perhaps you want to say that’s optimistic and he will only be worth what he was last year, 0.7 WAR per season. That’s still about $7M of value.

It’s undeniably a bad contract, but not nearly so much as FanGraphs readers apparently believe. The Astros are paying about twice as much per win as Lyon’s actual value, on what is, in the grand scheme of things, a fairly small contract. This is not unusual for a high leverage reliever–the league as a whole overvalues them, especially non-sabermetically minded general managers. Remember, reports had it that some other teams, like the Phillies, were offering Lyon two years at the same cost per year.

As for Bay? At the market value of $3.3 million per win, he has been worth an average of $10 million per year. He will be paid an average of $18.5 million per year on a contract that runs into his declining seasons. Furthermore, he is moving from an exceptionally hitter (and outfielder) friendly ballpark to one that is the exact opposite. Couple that with his injury concerns and the fact that he cannot play DH in the NL, and you have one godawful, franchise-crippling contract.

The Astros? Sure, they’re out $7-8 million over value on a stopgap reliever, and that was stupid of them. But Lyon’s contract does not cripple their franchise, and that alone makes it less bad.

Darkstar
Member
Darkstar

OremLK,

Relievers dont get WAR value off the free agent market. Relievers in the range of Lyon’s production are readily available and costing somewhere in the range of minimum to 1 million on a one year deal – 14 million less then they paid. 14 million is basically thrown away.

“This is not unusual for a high leverage reliever”

Lyon has never been a high leverage reliever and has generally been in the ballpark of average.

“Remember, reports had it that some other teams, like the Phillies, were offering Lyon two years at the same cost per year.”

The Phillies are in a situation like the Mets where they are pressured to pay above cost for minor upgrades. The Astros have zero reason to vastly overpay for any contribution, and especially giving a contract that is so long it can only become a sunk cost. BUT, the Phillies were also not “willing to pay the price for” Lyon when he was asking for 2 years and 9 Million.

“As for Bay? At the market value of $3.3 million per win, he has been worth an average of $10 million per year.”

You are heavily relying on WAR to Cost values without the context they must be given. There are premiums for position, for team situation, and for market depth among other aspects. A mediocre reliever is about as plentiful as you can get in this market, a middle of the order LF isnt. A club with no chance of winning shouldnt even be contemplating a premium price on a heavily available commodity while a competing team in dire need of a scarce commodity should be expected to pay a premium.

OremLK
Guest
OremLK

JoeyO,

Lyon has been an 8th inning “setup” reliever and occasionally a closer for years. Whether you like it or not, that’s high leverage, and the market pays more for that regardless of true ability.

“The Astros have zero reason to vastly overpay for any contribution…”

In your opinion. Some projections, like PECOTA, have Houston right in the middle of things in the NL Central. Clearly, the front office thinks they can at least remain competitive, which drives up ticket sales and increases revenue.

“You are heavily relying on WAR to Cost values without the context they must be given. There are premiums for position, for team situation, and for market depth among other aspects. A mediocre reliever is about as plentiful as you can get in this market, a middle of the order LF isnt. A club with no chance of winning shouldnt even be contemplating a premium price on a heavily available commodity while a competing team in dire need of a scarce commodity should be expected to pay a premium.”

Actually, I wasn’t relying just on WAR. As I pointed out, Johnny Damon and Russell Branyan both just signed far more reasonable contracts–both can play LF, and with only a small drop in production compared to Bay. No, this was a simple case of awful market timing and terrible decisionmaking on the part of the Mets. There is a good chance that they will overpay more in pure dollar value in 2010 alone on Bay than the Astros will on Lyon over the entire course of the reliever’s entire contract.

Darkstar
Member
Darkstar

“Lyon has been an 8th inning “setup” reliever and occasionally a closer for years. Whether you like it or not, that’s high leverage, and the market pays more for that regardless of true ability.”

No he hasn’t. He was tried in the setup and closer roles randomly throughout the last couple years, but more then half of his appearances have been low to medium leverage. This market was flooded with mediocre relievers with real fulltime setup and closer jobs the last few years – relievers who were only bringing about 3 million home themselves.

“In your opinion. Some projections, like PECOTA, have Houston right in the middle of things in the NL Central.”

Right in the middle of the NLC doesn’t mean competing. But even if it were true that the team just feels they might compete, then why waste the money on Lyon when they could have been filling other much bigger holes and use the 1.65 million closer they traded for in that spot instead? A mediocre reliever who they hope might somehow produce for them is the least likely way to help bridge a gap in a division. When they ha better alternatives at a fraction of the cost to said mediocre reliever, its 100% wasted money. Wasting money doesn’t help you win; in fact it’s the reason teams lose.

“Actually, I wasn’t relying just on WAR. As I pointed out, Johnny Damon and Russell Branyan both just signed far more reasonable contracts–both can play LF, and with only a small drop in production compared to Bay.”

I hope youre kidding. Branyan is a DH with major back issues who provides absolutely HR or nothing production, meaning completely streaky with almost no help provided to the club when not hitting a HR. Damon is a 36 year old off questionable production the last three season who had dramatic home road splits last year which point to him being no where near as productive at the plate. There was only one comparable player to Bay on the market – Holliday. The Mets overpaid, but you cant sign the best of the market without overpaying to at least some extent. Lyon isn’t even close to the best on the market but was paid like it by a club that didn’t need him one single bit.

JoeR43
Member
JoeR43

It’s semantics, really.

What’s worse, a massive, top 20 (top 10?) contract for a good player, or a mid-level contract for a useless one?