The O-Dawg Cometh

As the separation begins between contenders and pretenders, fans and organizations alike begin to look toward the upcoming off-season, planning for what the winter might bring and which free agents might be worth pursuing. This year, of course, the big names are C.C. Sabathia, Ben Sheets, and Mark Teixeira, and it’s almost certain that they’ll command the three biggest paychecks when they sign.

However, there’s one free agent-to-be that generally doesn’t get included in the discussion of impact talents, but depending on how the bidding goes, could be the bargain of the winter. That player is Orlando Hudson.

Playing in the same league as Chase Utley and Dan Uggla has forced Hudson into a pretty large shadow, but that shouldn’t keep us from recognizing how valuable a player he is. His offensive production has been remarkably consistent since joining the D’Backs, as he’s posted seasonal OPS marks of .809, .817, and .822. The skillset has remained essentially unchaged, and at age 30, he hasn’t shown any signs of decline. With Hudson, you get a known quantity.

If we frame the conversation in terms of win values, we can break Hudson down as follows.

Offense: +0 to +5 runs above average hitter
Defense: +5 to +15 runs above average second baseman
Position Adjustment: +5 runs for playing second base

Add it all up, and you a player who is anywhere from 10 to 25 runs above an average major league player, depending on how good you think he is with the glove. Using the 10 runs per win formula, that makes Hudson worth +1 to +2.5 wins above average. Replacement level is about two wins below average, so Hudson’s somewhere between +3.0 and +4.5 wins above replacement.

Major league teams are paying almost $5 million per win on the free market, so using this analysis, we’d expect Hudson to sign for something between $15 million and $22.5 million per season. Now, when you think of Orlando Hudson’s impending free agency, are you thinking he’s going to get anywhere close to that? I’m guessing no.

Since he’s flown somewhat under the radar in Toronto and Arizona, he doesn’t possess the skills that teams usually overpay for in free agency, and the main point of his value is the thing that teams are worst at valuing, I’d expect Hudson to get a contract more along the lines of $11 to $14 million per season – my guess would be 5 years, $60-$65 million.

For Gary Matthews Jr money, you could acquire a guy who is arguably every bit as valuable as Teixeira. He might not be an ace or a middle-of-the-lineup slugger, but when it comes to guys who can add wins to a contending team in a hurry, Hudson might just be the guy to get this off-season.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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The Cardinals seem to have a 2b carousel going the last 5-7 years…and all of them have sucked. I would love for us to shell out some money for a reliable 2b like Hudson at season’s end. Anything besides an Adam Kennedy/Aaron Miles/Brendan Ryan platoon and I’ll be happy.