21 December 2017

Adam Jones: So What Would An Extension Look Like?

Recently, Adam Jones reminded the Orioles fan base of something.
This left me with the question about what exactly would an Adam Jones deal look like and whether it would even be a good idea.  People age and all good things come to an end, but Jones still looks like a capable player.  Last year, in the second half of the season, Jones slashed 307/343/502.  That was some prime time Adam Jones action.

To try to look at the angles, I employed the newer version of BORAS to see what his 2019 contract would look like.  I also used a comp model to project his 2019-2023 seasons (ages 33-37).  With the often leaked front office perspective that Jones is a true RF now, I also modeled out what happens when a center fielder moves to right field.  Finally, I assumed that the 2018 season had already played and Jones performed on par with what ZiPS projects him to do.

As you know, the BORAS model looks at a players recent past and compares it with recent contracts to determine how many years a player will sign for as well as what yearly salary the player will take on.  For Jones' 2018 season, we will assume his ZiPS projection is accurate and go from there.  BORAS suggests his age 33 and 34 season would be covered in a 2/23 deal if he is a free agent a year from now.

Given Jones' recent contract and how a two year extension is really not all that much of an extension, I would advise him to not sign that deal if I was his agent.  It would be a shock if he was not able to secure one year deal for each of those off seasons, so I would suggest him to bet on himself and go bigger.  But, what does BORAS think the benefit or cost is to wing it on a one year basis?

Yeah, that is an ugly, bare-bones graph.  The horizontal axis is what Jones might do in 2018 using WAR as an encapsulating statistic for what goes into the model.  The left is AAV and the right is years.  Jones probably needs something north of a "3 WAR" season to get more than two years.

Comp model
We have used comp models before.  Basically what we try to do here is take a player's most recent performance and find similar players who play similar positions.  When we did this for some players, like Manny Machado, it was effectively impossible to find enough players at that age who offensively performed similarly.  For Jones, it is a bit easier, but he is such a unique centerfielder that we needed to consider corner outfielders in the methodology to have a large enough sample size.

Who is in Jones' age 33-37 comp model?
Al Martin, Rondell White, George Bell, Jose Guillen, Mike Morse, Eric Byrnes, Jacque Jones, Cody Ross, Glenallen Hill, and Nelson Cruz.

Admittedly, it is a weird group.  Nelson Cruz and Rondell White do not look like twins, but the process looking at the entire population has delivered good comps in the past.  What we find in this group (Cruz' age 37 year is projected) is that only Cruz makes it to the end.  Most of the players end their career before the midway point of their age 35 season.  To account for those lost seasons, we project their performance, but it identifies uncertainty in the population as we travel further down the path of age.

Moving From CF to RF
A second consideration that needs to be made is that based on the leaks coming out of the warehouse (it might well be the only leak) is that the club no longer views Jones as a competent centerfielder, seeing him true defensive position as a rightfielder.  The old rule of thumb was that moving from center to a corner outfield position was worth an increase of about five runs in defensive ability, which covers about half of the -10 run positional adjustment from center field to right field.

Trying to be more exact or at least more defined, I decided to run a series of regression models for arm, error, and range values.  However, none of the models came out as significant.  All hovered around the 0.1 value.  If those were useful, it would suggest that Jones, a -4 run ZIPS value in center, would translate over to a +2 run rightfielder largely on the strength of increase range performance.

I then decided to do a batch model by looking at fielders from 2015-2017 who played at least 200 innings in right field and left field in a single season.  I then batched these by Statcast sprint speed in three groups: greater than 28.5 ft/s, 27.5-28.5 ft/s, and less than 27.5. Jones would fall into the final center fielder speed category as his 27.2 mark was one of the slowest in MLB last year for that position.

Anyway, what I found is that the fast group actually sees a reduction in range value of -5 runs.  This likely has to do with reduced opportunity in right field.  If you have stellar speed and can use it to expand your range, then a tight foul territory reduces that usefulness.  That reduction though is slightly reduced from improved throwing and error prevention, which results in an overall loss of -2 runs for that speedy group when converting over to right field.

The mid-level speed and lowest speed groups both appear to benefit similarly overall.  The mid-level group sees slightly more improvement in range and slightly less improvement in arm than the slowest group.  However, they both come in around a 5 run improvement.  This would suggest that sliding Jones over to right field would make him a +1 run right fielder.  Part of me wonders if this might be an underadjustment because Jones has shown in the past that he is far batter at moving toward left field than he is at moving toward right field.  Add in that route running and you could imagine him being a +5 run, but for this exercise, we will assume he performs like the population performed and that he is a +1 RF.

All Together Now
Incorporating the conversion into the comp model, what we get below is the projection for Adam Jones' next five years assuming he logs 550 PA each year.

2019 .254 .304 .418 1.4
2020 .251 .303 .426 1.5
2021 .251 .305 .433 1.6
2022 .235 .289 .401 0.6
2023 .228 .28 .397 0.3

What it suggests is that players like Jones maintain a level of performance through their age 35 seasons and then collapse.  Of course, that collapse is largely due to the projection given to all the players whose careers ended mid age 35 season or before.

If we assume that Jones is more like the players within the group who had longer careers, then we would wind up with this projection.

2019 .281 .335 .476 3.1
2020 .272 .326 .472 2.8
2021 .269 .323 .479 2.8
2022 .250 .307 .443 1.8
2023 .232 .286 .414 0.7

Well, we still see that major drop off even when the population has more players who were able to go deeper into their careers.  That age 36 season (2022) looks like a considerable wall.

Conclusion and Comparisons
The comp model thinks Jones is worth about 2/20 or 3/32.  BORAS 2.0 thinks the extension should be 2/23.  For BORAS to think that Jones should get a three year deal, he would need to give a 3 WAR kind of season and then would be looking at a 3/41 deal.  All of that is in the neighborhood of market value and expected performance value.

For the Orioles, the issue is a bit more complicated.  The signings of Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo along with the plethora of corner outfielders in the minors makes Jones, although a franchise important figure, not exactly occupying a position of need in the future.  In terms of a team player, he still is one of the more important players in the clubhouse, so you could fathom extending him and dealing out of the club's strength or finding a new home for someone like Mark Trumbo to push Trey Mancini into a more natural position at DH and sliding Austin Hays to left field.

Could that be done?  Can you wipe Trumbo's salary off the books?  Does Jones give you a better shot of winning instead of relying on players like D.J. Stewart and Ryan Mountcastle coming through in the near term?  Does Jones relieve pressure on a hitter like Mountcastle and lets him mature a bit longer before being called up?

In the end, I could see Jones being handed a 3/36 extension and it turning out OK.  An athletic and relatively healthy player his entire career, he probably is more alike the players in the top end of the comp model.  He certainly is not a Nelson Cruz (few are), but you can see a number of attributes that will like age well and a 1.5 player over his age 33-35 season is a useful player and looks better than previous comp models on guys like Denard Span.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If DD can trade Gallardo and get Seth Smith, I don't see why he can't trade Trumbo and get some reasonably decent asset - even at the same cost.