This winter is approaching a season when no one knows how many fans will be allowed to compete in games or when a second tier and legion of third tier free agents might sign cheaply or retire. But if you were hot for 60 games, checkbooks came out. And we’re seeing again why fewer titles are bought in winter than fans believe on the day spring training begins.
Don’t spill your coffee. Don’t ruin Dodger’s President Stan Kasten’s day by reading this column to him. Here are the players whose stats are most similar to Bauers up to the age of 29: ex-Baltimore Oriole Big Ben McDonald, Julio Tehran, Ken Hill and Ubaldo Jiménez. Would you have given one of them $ 40 million a year?
The Philadelphia Phillies have just signed all-star catcher JT Realmuto for $ 115.5 million for five years. Not one person in MLB has said an unkind word, and I’ve written that I grabbed this deal. The players who are most similar up to the age of 29 are Jonathan Lucroy and Matt Wieters. Somehow makes you tremble.
The New York Yankees gave DJ LeMahieu $ 90 million. Do you know that it is most like Placido Polanco?
The off-season’s most expensive player, George Springer, received $ 150 million for six years. The 10 players most similar to Springer won an average of just 1.6 wins over substitutes per year over the next six years – the level of a useful, nondescript player. The only man out of those 10 who would have been worth the Springer deal was Jim Edmunds.
How can that be? And how do so many such deals happen almost every winter? Many swing out for a year or two and then turn into team anchors.
For example, Bauer 2020 had a fabulous 11 start season with an ERA of 1.73. But you can find a hot streak of 11 games hidden in the middle of the season of many good pitchers who never sniff a salary record.
In the six seasons that Bauer made more than 25 starts, his ERA was 4.18 or higher five times. In 2019 he was 11-13 with an ERA of 4.48 despite 253 strikes. He had years of control problems and once led the American League for walks. He’s had homer-prone years. In the postseason he was indifferent (16 runs in 33 innings). He’s smart, but a disgusting teammate at times.
But the Dodgers, who took a chance at two back-to-back titles and one of them in a 162-game season, got into a bidding war with the New York Mets this month when both decided they only had to have pawns to build one unbeatable rotation.
I got hooked on this method of “career comparison” in 1999 when Kevin Brown signed a seven-year $ 105 million contract with the Dodgers, a record at the time for a pitcher because he matched my gut-level rule of thumb, you break the bank only for a free agent who will be in the Hall of Fame – or at least will do the voting.
From his year in Baltimore, I knew Brown as a shrewd, prickly character with colorful stuff – all peasant qualities. Thanks to baseball-reference.com, I knew the 10 pitchers who were comparable to his career. Taken together, these 10 pitchers averaged only 11 wins in the seven years after their 34th birthday.
“The Dodgers just signed the stupidest $ 100 million deal in professional sport,” I wrote at the time.
At age 34, Brown won 18 games in his first year of seven-year contract, but averaged just 10.3 wins per season for the entire contract. The Dodgers never made the playoffs with him and eventually traded him.
Even then, the risk of long-term contracts, especially for pitchers, is enormous. Stephen Strasburg had one of the most dominant October of all time in 2019. When the Washington Nationals extended it for $ 245 million for seven years, I understood and agreed.
But I also knew that Jered Weaver, who struggled with injuries after his 30 year season, fought between 37 and 38 and then retired, was his closest career comp. Last season, Strasburg had surgery on his wrist after only two starts. He is expected to be full force again this season. That’s probably right. Probably.
It’s amazing how quickly big business can go bad. Just two years ago, the Colorado Rockies gave third baseman Nolan Arenado an eight-year extension of $ 260 million. By that month, the relationship had grown so sour that the Rockies had to pay the St. Louis Cardinals millions of Arenado’s future salaries to make an ugly deal.
Which fan communities should be enthusiastic and which should be a little skeptical of their new stars? The Mets have been traded for Francisco Lindor, who offensively comes closest to Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Vern Stephens (159 RBI in 1949), Cal Ripken Jr., Ernie Banks and Derek Jeter. Be happy, be very happy.
The Mets also added Carlos Carrasco as a third starter. That’s okay, but curb your enthusiasm a little (Clay Buchholz, Tanner Roark, Shane Reynolds).
The San Diego Padres are head over heels after adding Yu Darvish and Blake Snell to their rotation. Pennant time? Darvish is most similar to Pascual Perez, Danny Cox, and Shaun Marcum at the age of 33. By the age of 27, Snell is most similar to… Darvish, whose prime was before he was 27.
Just one more example of why Analytics keeps screaming, “Appreciate the young!” And don’t pay for the old.
In Washington, one of the hottest topics of the future will be how quickly and how much money can be thrown at domestic stars Trea Turner and Juan Soto in the long term.
Almost all of Turner’s “similarities” played a lot in midfield, including outstanding players like Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, Michael Young (2,375 hits), four-time all-star Ian Kinsler, Tim Anderson and Alfonso Soriano, who brought his speed and strength to the outfield . But are names like Marcus Giles, Jeff Blauser, and Scooter Gennett holding your checkbook back just a little?
Perhaps the Nats’ greatest boon – and headache too – over the next few years is the price they would have to pay to keep Soto in DC if he continued to resemble most of the same megastars as he does now.
Yes, the Hall of Famers are Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda, Eddie Mathews and Ken Griffey Jr., and the special case Tony Conigliaro (eye injury). Of the current players, only two come to him: Mike Trout and Ronald Acuña Jr. and Acuña may play a 21st-century version of Stan Musial for Soto’s Ted Williams by around 2040.
The Lerner family may need to monetize half of Northern Virginia commercial real estate to keep him. The story goes that unlike the world’s first $ 40 million mug, Soto has a good chance of being worth it.