05 December 2009

Market is looking depressed . . .

Several signings have hit the market:
Billy Wagner was inked by the Braves to be their closer on a 1/7MM (opt 1/6.5MM) deal.
Placido Polanco was convinced by the Phillies to sign a deal to switch him from second to the hot corner for 3/18MM (mutual opt 1/5.5MM, 1M bo).
Marco Scutaro will most likely be the BoSox's starting SS after agreeing to terms at 2/11MM (team opt 1/6MM, player opt 1/3MM, 1MM bo).
Finally, there is word that the Mariners and Chone Figgins have tentatively agreed on a 4/36MM deal (vesting opt 1/9MM).

The market looks depressed . . . analysis after the break.

Ouside of Valverde, Billy Wagner is probably the best closer on the market. Back in 2007, a closer of that caliber coming off an injury may have found a desperate team to throw down a hefty contract (i.e. Gagne's 1/10MM deal with the Brewers) whereas last season such a pitcher would probably expect a bit less (i.e. Hoffman's 1/6MM deal with the Brewers). It looks like teams are holding onto their resources again this year. Polanco's deal appears to be more of that sort of philosophy. He is a player with a very good glove and a bat that passes for second or third base. The weird angle on this is that he has not played third since 2005 and only had one season with any sizable amount of starts there (2002). Seems to be a risk to expect good defense there and for him to retain a passable bat that has undergone some degradation over the past couple years. To do this in spite of signing other options like Adrian Beltre or even someone just as flexible with a shorter commitment like Marco Scutaro. It seems the Phillies see the market full of marginal talent and wanted to secure something fast before everything dries up. I imagine they target him as a utility player in a couple years. In light of that, it makes the BoSox Scutaro deal look more solid as they gave one less season to a guy who has skills that are more likely to avoid a complete collapse (i.e. plate discipline).

What is most interesting to me though is the rumored Figgins deal. He has no power to speak of, but he has great on base rates, is incredibly fast, and has a great glove. What does not work well for him is that speed and defense are still largely underrated on the market. This probably puts a great deal of uncertainty in his value as opposed to the top ticket items last year in the form of Teixeira and Sabathia. Still, his performances dictate that Figgins should be putting up numbers in the 3 WAR range, which should be good for 13.75MM in 2007 offseason market dollars. Maybe you mark it down with his skills being hard to measure and maybe you see something in the 11-12MM range. For him to receive about 20-25% less than what the market would have dictated two years ago . . . it does not speak well for mid and lower tier players.

This looks like a season where several teams will be holding back on the free agent market to try to pull out some deals similar to those who waited last season. For the Orioles this could mean two things: 1) they could sign a twitchy free agent filler on the cheap or 2) they could look to sign filler after the playoff level teams clean up on who is left over. Either way, it looks like the Orioles (currently sitting at 45MM in payroll) will not be challenging their payroll from last season (67.1MM). Then again, maybe I am wrong.

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