The Old Guy Discount

Earlier in the year, I did a retrospective piece on Dave Cameron’s theory that older players were becoming undervalued in the market. Here’s what Dave wrote at the time:

Abreu was a bargain on a one year, $5 million deal with the Angels, even as he proved that he didn’t really belong in the outfield anymore. Damon, though, is basically the same hitter, just with better defensive skills, and he might have to settle for less than what Abreu got? This is a market correction gone way too far.

Last time, I looked at players at the end of June. The analysis may have been a bit premature, so let’s use the entire season’s worth of data at the same group of veterans.

LF Johnny Damon
Free agent age: 36
Signed by Detroit Tigers to 1 year, $8 million deal
2009 WAR: 3.3
2010 WAR: 1.9

Damon took a huge hit in value this year by DHing a majority of the time and only playing centerfield in four games. UZR thought he was above average for the limited time he played in the outfield, but the decline in offense couldn’t be overcome. Damon went from a .376 wOBA last year to just a .340 mark this year, and a miserable August in which Johnny had a .266 wOBA was damning. Still, a 1.9 WAR translated to $7.5 million in value, so the Tigers didn’t suffer that much in the deal.

2B Orlando Hudson
Free agent age: 32
Signed by Minnesota Twins to 1 year, $5 million deal
2009 WAR: 2.9
2010 WAR: 3.1

Nobody ever believes this guy is going to be good, but the O-Dog always has the ability to put up solid numbers and play good defense. The Twins got a steal for signing Hudson to a cheap deal which he’d equal in value easily by the All-Star break. Hudson’s .320 wOBA was low for him, but UZR and DRS both loved his defense.

OF/DH Vladimir Guerrero
Free agent age: 35
Signed by Texas Rangers to 1 year, $5 million deal
2009 WAR: 0.8
2010 WAR: 2.6

If you put Vladimir Guerrero in the Ballpark in Arlington during the hot Texas summer, good things will happen. Although Vlad teetered after an insanely hot start, he still finished with a very solid .360 wOBA, primarily playing DH. His value via WAR translates to $10.3 million, so the Rangers got more than 2:1 on their money for Guerrero.

1B Aubrey Huff
Free agent age: 33
Signed by San Francisco Giants to 1 year, $3 million deal
2009 WAR: -1.3
2010 WAR: 5.7

What more can be said? A 7.1 swing in WAR from one season to another is just downright scary for a multitude of reasons. However, while Orioles and Tigers fans may be shouting ‘What gives,’ Giants fans are just happy that the rejuvenation came by the bay area. Huff put up a .388 wOBA while playing in 157 games this year, pacing the San Fran offense. Also, he had a good year defensively with a 6.7 UZR, his first year with a positive UZR since 2004.

3B Miguel Tejada
Free agent age: 36
Signed by Baltimore Orioles to 1 year deal worth $6 million
2009 WAR: 2.7 WAR
2010 WAR: 1.3 WAR

Just like with Huff it seems that only the Orioles can complain about this deal. Tejada was terrible in Baltimore, putting up a .295 wOBA and a UZR of -6.5, adding up to only -0.1 WAR thanks to the favorable positional adjustment because he’s at shortstop. However, Tejada was much better when traded to San Diego. He put up 1.4 WAR in just 59 games due to a .268/.317/.413 slash line and a UZR much closer to zero. His value for the year translated to $5.3 million, so this was another slight loss.

1B Russell Branyan
Free agent age: 34
Signed by Cleveland Indians to 1 year deal worth $2 million
2009 WAR: 2.8
2010 WAR: 2.0

It was pretty obvious that the Indians were getting a steal for signing Branyan for only $2 million after he hit thirty-one homers last season, and a steal it was. Branyan put up 1.1 WAR for Cleveland in just 52 games before Mark Shapiro was able to swap him for some Seattle prospects. Branyan hit .215/.319/.483 for the Mariners, giving the lineup some much-needed pop, but not enough on-base ability. Branyan finished at just 0.9 WAR in Seattle in 57 games.

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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat

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mickeykoke
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mickeykoke

Nice piece Pat.