13 February 2013

Adam Jones's Extension and Saving Some Money

Last May, the Orioles signed Adam Jones to a six-year, $85.5 million extension. The deal, which also bought out his final year of arbitration in 2013, is the largest contract in Orioles' history. That's a lot of money, and Jones arguably didn't give them much of a hometown discount (which he's not required to do). On Sunday, Jon discussed Jones and how his extension still likely saved the team future money.

At age 27 (his birthday is in August), Jones established career highs in batting average (.287), slugging percentage (.505), and wOBA (.361). For those who like counting stats, he also hit the most home runs of his career (32), scored over 100 runs (103), and stole 16 bases (also a career high). Arguably the team's best player (it's either Jones or Matt Wieters), Jones helped lead the O's to the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

So was the extension a good idea? Would it have cost a similar amount if it had been handed out this offseason? Let's take a look by comparing his deal with that of another young and talented center fielder, B.J. Upton, who received a five-year, $75.25 million contract from the Braves.

Let's look at some quick numbers on the two:

Player Age wOBA fWAR rWAR
Adam Jones
B.J. Upton

Jones is a year younger and has about 950 fewer plate appearances than Upton. Up to this point at the plate, they've had similar value. But Upton is the superior defensive center fielder (career 3.5 UZR), which bumps up his fWAR. Jones's defense hasn't rated highly on FanGraphs since 2008, and for his career he has a career -20.6 UZR. Oddly enough, Jones has won two Gold Gloves to Upton's zero, though Gold Gloves aren't an accurate indicator of true defensive value/ability (Derek Jeter has five of them, for example). Upton is also a much better baserunner and has stolen 172 more bases than Jones.

While Jones and Upton currently have similar wOBAs, there's one important difference between the two: Jones had his best season at the plate, and Upton just had his worst since 2009. Upton had his best year in 2007 and was also very good at the plate in 2008, but he's struggled since.

Source: FanGraphs -- B.J. Upton, Adam Jones

If Jones improves a little more at the plate and also plays somewhat better defense, he could be a 5.0 fWAR player next season. Such a performance would make the contract extension look even more timely for the Orioles.

Jones's extension averages about $14.25 million per season (depending on performance bonuses), while Upton's contract averages $15.05 million per season. Again, Upton is a year older, but he also has the advantage of being better defensively and on the basepaths. But Jones was very good offensively last season, primarily in the power department, and could very well do slightly better or have a repeat performance.

Jones ended up having his best season in 2012, and the O's look smart right now. If Jones had waited until the offseason, he may not have been rewarded with an extension that was significantly larger than he received, but he possibly could have gotten a deal that paid him $15 or $16 million per season.

Regardless, any money saved on future years is good for the club. So, nice work, Dan Duquette and the front office. Now maybe it's time to figure out what to do with Wieters.

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