Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jason Bay and the baseball market - brief thoughts

In response to the allegation, made elsewhere, that the Red Sox "messed up by not signing Bay already."

The Sox messed up by not signing Bay already.

When? And for how much? And how many years? I'm sure he'd have signed for $100 million guaranteed over 5 years - have they "messed up" by not offering him that contract? If not, where do you draw the line?

It takes two sides to make a deal. By all accounts, the team and the player negotiated during the spring, and were unable to come to agreement on what a reasonable contract would be. No one knows what the market will look like next winter. I'm sure that they COULD have offered him a contract he'd have signed, but it would have been a bad contract. Whether they COULD have found a contract that both sides liked that wouldn't have been a bad contract - well, both sides tried, and they couldn't agree. The idea that this somehow represents "mess[ing] up" is just silly.

Is it conceivable that they "messed up," conceivable that Bay was willing to take something that would unquestionably be a fair contract for the team? I suppose so. In the absence of compelling evidence to suggest that was the case, and there's no evidence whatsoever, never mind compelling evidence, then it's unfair to the team to assume that that was the case.

His value is going through the roof and by the end of the season they will be in a bidding war with the Yankees that they will not be able to win.

Well, his value has certainly gone up thus far this year. But he'll also turn 31 before the season ends, has never had a year anywhere near this good before, and isn't a very good outfielder. He's currently on a pace to finish at .289/.418/.616/1.035 with 47 home runs. Anyone want to bet that he finishes with a SLG > .600? More than 45 HR? I don't.

Yeah, he's had a great start to the season, and is a big part of the reason that they're in first place and that they've overperformed their pythagorean. I'm glad that he's on the team now. But he's already signed for this year. The next contract covers him from age 31-35 or 31-36. Is his age 31 season going to be more like his age 26 season (.306/.402/.559/.961 with 32 home runs) or his age 28 season (.247/.327/.418/.746 with 21 home runs)? How about his age 32 season? His age 33 season?

What is a reasonable fair-market approximation for his yearly value over the next four or five? Is it closer to the $5 million that Bobby Abreu's getting paid this year, or the $20 million that Manny's getting? Let's suppose that we know (which we don't and can't) that he's going to average .283/.377/.522/.899 and 30 home runs (about his average for his career) over the next 30 years, playing in 155 games per year. What's the Net Present Value of that performance in today's market? What's the Net Present Value of that performance in the market as it will exist in November 2009? What's the Net Present Value of that performance in the market as it will exist in November 2010?

The fact is, if you can't come up with reasonable answers to all of those questions, answers that both sides agree are not only possible but likely, then you can't make a deal. If you think that they "messed up," give us details. What is the length of the contract and the average annual value that would have gotten the deal done without severely hurting the team?

It is certainly reasonable to say, "I'd like to have Bay on a long-term contract." It's reasonable to say, "I wish that the team had extended him in spring training." It's even reasonable to say that, "I think they could have signed him to a better contract before the season than they'll be able to sign him to after the season." But to say that they "messed up" assumes a whole lot of facts which are not in evidence, and cannot be known.

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