The following graph showing predicted performance measure for both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder with an additional projection of Prince Fielder with consideration for his body shape (from the FanGraphs post mentioned above). Roughly put, players tend to peak around age 28 in their performance and plateau with a slight downward direction until about age 32. Around age 32, they tend to decrease about 0.5 WAR per year until about 38 where the decrease is more like 1 WAR per year decrease. There are certainly exceptions, but the population of players tends to go in that direction. The FanGraphs body type prediction puts Fielder in a more extreme decline where he starts seeing a 1 WAR decline per year about 7 years earlier than the general population. It should also be mentioned that, rather arguably, I have decided to ignore defensive performance at first base. It could be argued that Pujols is worth about 5 to 10 runs more each year than Fielder. However, I think the difference will be smaller with aging. I think in about 5 years, neither will be suitable for the field.
- After ten years, Albert Pujols cumulative production appears equivalent to an average aging Prince Fielder. Keep in mind, Pujols is five years older and is not seen as being able to play in the Majors ten years from now.
- The body shape dependent aging Prince Fielder is done after eight seasons with a eighth one being a 1 WAR season. He likely will be in the majors the following year (year nine), but should not be useful.
- Again, differences in fielding are not taken into consideration here. You could argue that there would actually be a 5-8 WAR difference between the two at the end of the contract. It depends how you perceive their defense and how they will age affect their performance in the field.
In the following graph, I have taken the performance detailed in the section above and compared it with predicted contract inflation. In other words, how much would it take a team to purchase the level of production Pujols or Fielder would provide if said team had to buy it each year in the free agent market. I am assuming that a win is worth 5 MM this off season and that contracts will inflate 5% each year.
A couple points to take from this graph:
- Pujols will be worth 200 MM over nine years and then be at or below replacement level. An average aging Fielder will be worth 205 MM.
- Over ten years, Fielders and Pujols production may have been predicted as equal, but Fielder is producing in the final year with a higher cost per win. For this reason, he winds up with a greater overall predicted monetary value.
- Fielder's accelerated aging curve flat lines him at 170 MM from eight years out onward.
Assuming that the previous few years contracts hold true in a 24% devaluing of weighted WAR production from the previous three seasons, we are looking at Fielder being worth about 18.8 MM per year and Albert Pujols worth 24.9 MM per year. This yields the following graph on Cost Savings.
- Albert Pujols at 25 MM would make sense through seven years.
- An average aging Prince Fielder would make sense at 18.8 MM through ten years and would wind up breaking even after eleven years.
- An advanced-aging Prince Fielder would make sense at 18.8 MM through nine years.
The three scenarios I look at for Albert Pujols were his 25 MM predicted value, a 27.5 MM value (equivalent to Alex Rodriguez), and him hitting the 30 MM mark.
The three scenarios I chose for Prince are 20 MM (simply because it is a benchmark numbers and 18.8 is not), 22.5 MM (it surpasses what Adrian Gonzalez is making and is equal to Mark Teixeira), and 25 MM (it is equal to Ryan Howard's silly contract extension).
- 8 years, 160 MM with a buyout of 10 MM on a 2 years, 60 MM extension,
- 7 years, 160 MM with a buyout of 10 MM on a 2 years, 60 MM extension, or
- 6 years, 150 MM with a buyout of 10 MM on a 2 years, 60 MM extension.
If the Orioles are trying to win now, I could see it making sense to sign either Pujols or Fielder. If the answer is right this very minute then Pujols makes sense, but if the win now window is over the next five years then Fielder makes more sense. I do think the difference between the two is not as great over the long run as people think because of the significant age difference between the two. When it is all said and done, Pujols will have the much better career, but they look somewhat similar in terms of production over the next ten years.
I think it is almost interesting to keep in mind the contract projection of 8 years and 200 MM for Pujols and 8 years and 150 MM for Fielder. If those hold true, Fielder will be save his team 20-30 MM in terms of production while Pujols will cost his team 6 MM. The resulting question is how much does that 26-36 MM difference mean to wins and losses. From a free agent point of view, that might mean five wins total over those eight years. If that money is instead used for signing amateur talent, it might be worth about ten to fifteen wins over those eight years.