Jon recently introduced the Ballplayer Observation-based Remuneration Assumption System otherwise known as BORAS to determine future free agent salaries. I believe that the best way to predict future free agent salaries is by determining the most similar former free agents and using them as predictors. This method takes into account performance metrics and age, but also strongly depends on position. It is problematic because it takes considerably longer than just using a formula and is less structured. As it takes longer and requires actual comparable players (that may or may not exist), I only looked at a few position players. Given the limited amount of free agents, it seems reasonable that an analyst for a team could spend the time necessary to implement this method for all relevant free agents even if it is difficult for me to do so.
The first player I considered was Alex Avila (29) is Jarrod Saltalamacchia (29). Salty is slightly better both offensively and defensively but not by much. Salty received a deal for 3 and 21 is part due to a strong year before entering free agency. I expect Avila will receive slightly less and therefore will receive a 2 year deal for about $12 million.
The next players I looked at were Howie Kendrick (32) and Daniel Murphy (31) and their comps are Omar Infante (32), Marco Scutaro (37) and Chase Headley (30). I’d take Kendrick and Murphy over both Infante and Scutaro. Headley is similar offensively but plays third instead of second base. If Infante and Headley can both get 4 years, then Kendrick and Murphy should get at least as many. I’m a bigger fan of Kendrick than Murphy and therefore expect Kendrick to receive 4 years and $56M while Murphy ends up with 4 years and $50M although a fifth year for both is possible.
Ian Desmond (30) has three comparable players, Peralta (32), Reyes (29) and Rollins (33). It’s hard to tell how highly Desmond should be valued due to his poor 2015. Before 2015, he compared favorably with Peralta and Rollins while he wasn’t as good as Reyes. After a poor 2015, he probably is in the same ballpark as Peralta and Rollins. All three of these players received deals until 34/35 so I’d expect Desmond to do the same. I project him to receive a deal akin to 5 years and $65M.
The comparables for Austin Jackson (29), Denard Span (32) and Dexter Fowler (30) are Bourn (30), Pagan (31) and B.J Upton (28). I consider Fowler to be better than all three of these comparables even if he’s likely to need to move to a corner in the near future. As a result, I see him receiving five years like Upton did rather than four like the other two comparables. I think he’ll get the same contract (5/75M) that Upton did because he may be better than Upton but teams pay for home runs.
I also like Denard Span more than all three of those listed but he’s recovering from an injury. The fact that he didn't receive a QO could indicate that there are questions about his health. I think he ends up with either 3 and $42M or 4 and $56M as his health questions force him to take a shorter contract than he’d like.
I think Jackson is worse than all three comparables and therefore see him getting 3 years and $27M.
The comparables I use for Alex Gordon (32) are Jayson Werth (32) and Torii Hunter (33 – 2009 deal with the Angels). I find it unlikely that Gordon will end up receiving less than Hunter outright or less than Werth given the time difference between when each signed their contract. I have Gordon at 6 years and $132M.
Justin Upton (28) appears to be much better than I thought he was. His comparables are Matt Holliday (30) and Shin-Soo Choo (31), and I believe that he’s better than Choo but worse than Holliday. This suggests he’s going to be paid and I see him receiving an 8 year deal for $150 million.
Yoenis Cespedes’s comparables are Choo and Grandy. Cespedes is better than Grandy although not as good as Choo. I see him earning 5 and $90M.
The best comparable for Rasmus is Granderson and therefore I see Rasmus earning 3 and $36M. This suggests that Rasmus would have been better off rejecting the QO but that it was close either way and wasn’t a bad decision.
Finally, I think that the best comparable for Chris Davis (30) is Josh Hamilton (32). Josh Hamilton had a longer track record when he signed his deal. However, both had their best year three years before free agency, struggled the next year and bounced back with a solid year. Both are huge power hitters and are adequate as corner outfielders. Both come with concerns, Hamilton is well-known for his personal issues while Chris Davis was suspended last year for taking Adderall. I think that Davis’s issues are less problematic than Hamilton’s and Davis is younger before entering free agency. Hamilton was able to get a contract for 5 and $125M and so I predict that Davis will receive a 7 year and $175 million deal with an outside chance of receiving 8 years and $200M.
The following chart shows a list of predicted contracts for each of the free agents discussed. After free agency, this will it possible to see whether any of the methods were accurate.
It indicates that BORAS is far more conservative than everyone else. Fangraphs had the second lowest predictions for these free agents and have claimed it should be expected because they use averages while the team willing to pay the most is the one that ultimately signs free agents. My method predicts that free agents will receive slightly less than MLBTRs predictions over two more years.