Revisiting Eric Chavez’ Extension

Eric Chavez’ career could be coming to a close soon. The list of injuries associated with Chavez is long and tiresome and this news has simply thrown gas on a debate just as silly; whether Billy Beane should have blame placed on him for the Chavez extension failing. The quick answer: no.

Chavez inked a six-year 66 million dollar extension prior to the 2004 season. The contract included a club option for 2011, raising the potential contract value to nearly 80 million. It seems like a relatively safe bet to assume that option will not be exercised in favor of a 3 million dollar buyout. Our WAR numbers only go back to 2002, meaning two seasons prior to the extension being signed, ion those Chavez posted 5.6 and 4.1 win seasons. In 2001, Chavez had about the same offensive production as 2002, a little less playing time, and who knows about defense. Even if we assume he was a league average defender you get a ~4 win player. Meaning you have three consecutive 4+ win seasons.

In 2004, Chavez would post a 5.7 win season. A year later he posted a 4.3 win season, then a 3.6 win season. From there on out, Chavez has seen his health deteriorate at a rapid piece. To date, Chavez has recorded about 9 wins under the extension, totaling 30.6 million. That leaves the A’s losing about 36 million over this and next season. Surely not what Beane imagined when he called Chavez career “[A lock]” in Moneyball, but why would Beane have imagined a ton of injuries and missed time for Chavez? Chavez had seen at least 550 plate appearances in four straight seasons and played in at least 115 game every season since being promoted for good in 1999 and at least 150 from 2000 to 2004.

There’s a risk of injury with every player, but for all purposes, Chavez was a damn good risk to take. If Chavez had lost only a half of a win every season since 2006 we would be talking about a career path lke this (extension years only):

2005 4.3 WAR ($3.4 m/win)
2006 3.6 WAR ($3.7 m/win)
2007 3.1 WAR ($4.1 m/win)
2008 2.6 WAR ($4.5 m/win)
2009 2.1 WAR (~$4.7 m/win)

That’s 62 million over the first five years with one more year and then an option year to go. A six million dollar profit. No, it’s not Evan Longoria’s deal, but it was a heck of a lot less risky. We can only project the future based on what we know at the present and from history, same with any team in the league. The key in evaluating any deal in retrospect is keeping mind what was known at the time, otherwise what’s the point if only one side has the benefit of hindsight.

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I wrote about this same thing and came to the same conclusion. I mean I see no evidence that Beane would have had any idea that Chavez’s body would fall apart. Yet people still criticize him for locking up Chavez rather than Tejada, even though that seems to be hindsight only.