STICKER SHOCK: Guessing the Numbers, Keeping Track of 51 Player Contracts

When it comes to guessing player contracts, I have sometimes been correct!

Thank you, thank you very much.

However, like Sandy Alderson, I’ve also been surprised. And I think if we balanced it on the scales of justice, I’ve probably been wrong more than I’ve been right.

Back on November 1st, Matthew Poullot at Hardball Talk wrote an ambitious piece, where he tracked baseball’s top 150 free agents and roughly guessed what the top 50 would earn.

It’s a handy reference to have, but I thought I’d make it handier. For my own purposes, and hopefully yours, I thought I’d keep track of the actual results compared to Poullot’s estimates. In some cases, Poullot did not guess a specific number, so I instead opted to include the most salient comment.

Please note that all of the below comes from the original Hardball Talk piece, and this represents a much streamlined version of Matthew’s outstanding article, with his thought process edited out. I recommend that you visit Hardball Talk frequently. Poullot and many others do great work, and his efforts here are massive, mind-boggling, and appreciated. Also keep in mind, he wrote this more than three weeks ago.

1. Robinson Cano “Cano will probably get $200 million regardless, but it’s going to take a mystery team or two to get him up to $250 million.”

2. Jacoby Ellsbury “Someone is going to give him Carl Crawford money (seven years, $142 million) and Boston isn’t likely to match.

x. Masahiro Tanaka “My guess is that the team that signs Tanaka will end up making a commitment that rivals the one Ellsbury will get. However, Tanaka himself will probably end up with just about half that money, with the rest going to his club in Japan, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He should be valued as a $20 million-per-year pitcher, though.”

3. Shin-Soo Choo “He seems destined for a nine-figure deal that would top the five-year, $90 million extension Hunter Pence agreed to with the Giants.”

4. Matt Garza “He’d seem to be a lock to get at least $80 million this winter, and $100 million may not be out of reach.”

5. Ervin Santana “$18 million per year.”

6. Ubaldo Jimenez “Jimenez will certainly be a risky signing, but he offers more upside than any other free agent starter in his age group.”

7. Brian McCann “He’s probably in line for $60 million for four years, if not something like $80 million for five.”

UPDATE: McCann signed with the Yankees @ 5/$85.

8. Curtis Granderson “Ideally, he could be had on something like a three-year, $54 million contract. At least one team will probably go to four years, though.”

9. Carlos Beltran “He’s worth $40 million for two years in this market.”

10. Hiroki Kuroda “He should be able to command the highest one-year salary of any pitcher in this year’s free agent crop if he wants to shop himself around.”

11. A.J. Burnett “If he were to play the market, he certainly shouldn’t have to settle for anything less than the $35 million for two years that Tim Lincecum just got from the Giants.”

12. Nelson Cruz “Something like three years and $45 million might fit.”

13. Mike Napoli “He shouldn’t have much trouble getting at least $39 million for three years.”

14. Tim Hudson “He’d probably get $15 million per season for one or two years.”

UPDATE: Hudson signed with the Giants @ 2/$21.

15. Stephen Drew “A three- or four-year deal appears likely.”

16. Bronson Arroyo “He’ll get at least $26 million for two years.”

17. Jarrod Saltalamacchia “He should be able to get a three-year deal somewhere, perhaps even from Boston, but not quite at that kind [$14 million per] of salary.”

18. Joe Nathan “It’ll probably take about $24 million for two years.”

19. Bartolo Colon “In this market, wouldn’t Colon be worth $20 million or more on a one-year deal? I’m not sure he’ll end up getting more than half of that, though.”

20. Ricky Nolasco “He’s not really the kind of guy a contender would want for one of the top three spots in the rotation, but since the large-market teams could look at him as a No. 4 and the small-market teams could view him as an innings-eater for the top of the rotation, he should be quite popular.”

21. Jason Vargas “He could get $30 million for three years, maybe a bit more.”

UPDATE: Vargas signed with Royals @ 4/$32.

22. Kendrys Morales “Hopes of a three-year deal in the $36 million range. He may well end up disappointed considering the lack of market for designated hitters.”

23. Brian Wilson “At least a two-year, $20 million deal.”

24. Dan Haren “Worthy of another one-year, $13 million deal.”

UPDATE: Haren signed with the Dodgers @ 1/$10.

25. Scott Kazmir “Should land a contract worth about $10 million per year.”

26. Phil Hughes “Given his youth and durability, he should have his pick of three-year offers to choose from, or he can gamble on a one-year deal with the hopes of getting a bigger payoff next winter.”

27. Jhonny Peralta “It wouldn’t be a good idea to sign him for more than two years, but he’ll probably get $9 million-$10 million per season.”

UPDATE: Peralta signed with the Cardinals @ 4/$53.

28. Grant Balfour “$24 million for three years or $18 million for two could work.”

29. Scott Feldman “Feldman took a one-year, $6 million deal from the Cubs last winter . . . and should get a raise and a multiyear deal.”

30. Corey Hart “Hart is just a year older than the new $90 million man, Pence, and he has a slightly better career OPS at .824 . . . unfortunately, he’s coming off surgery on both knees that cost him all of last season. Hart has said he’ll take less to stay with the Brewers, and they definitely have need of him at first base. However, if he chooses to explore his options, he could find suitors in Boston (if Napoli leaves) and Colorado.”

31. Josh Johnson “On something like a one-year, $10 million deal with incentives that could add $8 million, he’d be worth a try.”

UPDATE: Johnson signed with the Padres @ 1/$8.

32. Paul Maholm “He should land a substantial two- or three-year deal.”

33. James Loney “It will probably cost $8 million-$10 million per year to sign him this time around.”

34. Omar Infante “Someone will go to three years, possibly for $21 million or so.”

35. Joaquin Benoit “Shouldn’t have any trouble landing at least a two-year deal.”

36. Fernando Rodney “Given his inconsistency, he might have a tougher time getting a mulityear deal than Nathan and Balfour.”

37. Marlon Byrd “After a strong showing down the stretch with the Pirates and then some postseason heroics (.364 in six games, big homer in the wild card victory), he’s in much better position to get a two-year contract. Right-handed power just isn’t easy to come by.”

UPDATE: Byrd signed with the Phillies @ 2/$16.

38. Carlos Ruiz “Since the Phillies’ catching prospects have failed to develop, they’ll look to bring Ruiz back.”

UPDATE: Ruiz signed with the Phillies @ 3/$26.

39. Chris Young “Young should be a solid enough regular for whichever team that snares him. He’s probably looking at a one-year deal and a chance to go back out on the market.”

UPDATE: Young signed with the Mets @ 1/$7.25.

40. Suk-Min Yoon. “The guess here is that he signs for about $18 million for three years, but it only takes one team to go overboard.”

41. Roy Halladay “He should have to settle for an incentive-laden contract, but someone might guarantee him $10 million or more.”

42. Joe Smith “He seems like a shoo-in for a three-year deal, though whether it’s for $15 million or something closer to $20 million will depend on the bidders.”

UPDATE: Smith signed with Angels @ 3/$15.75.

43. Derek Jeter “The Jeter situation would be a whole lot more interesting if he didn’t possess a $9.5 million player option.”

UPDATE: Jeter signed with Yankees @ 1/$12.

44. Scott Baker “If he returns at full strength next year, he’s a $15 million pitcher. However, because of the question marks, he may not go for more than half of that.”

45. A.J. Pierzynski “$7 million-$8 million.”

46. Randy Messenger. “To lure him away [from Japan], some team may need to commit to a three-year deal.”

47. Jesse Crain “He was probably on track for a $20 million-plus contract before the injury. He still might get a multiyear deal if some team seems like gambling.”

48. Wandy Rodriguez “When Rodriguez was traded from Houston to Pittsburgh in 2012, it turned his $13 million for 2014 from a club option into a player option . . . it’s pretty much a no-brainer for him to exercise the option and stay with the Pirates.”

49. David Murphy “Murphy should be able to get a multiyear deal, maybe something in the range of $12 million for two years.”

UPDATE: Murphy signed with Indians @ 2/$12.

50. Edward Mujica “Mujica’s breakthrough year had him lined up for a big payday, probably something in the neighborhood of $24 million-$30 million for three years. Unfortunately, his shoulder started bothering him in September . . .  given that he was more solid than spectacular prior to last season, $20 million would seem to be a reach now.”

51. Kevin Youkilis “He’s definitely in line for a pay cut from the $12 million he made the last three seasons.”


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  1. Patrick Boegel says:

    It is articles like Pouliot’s, the existence of fangraphs and a calculator that makes me wonder how Sandy Alderson could feign surprise about the market.

    I tried to convey this to a plethora of people yesterday on twitter, at work, in the mall (ok maybe not the mall) – the issue with Young at $7.25MM is not that his contract was not market value. Rather given the Mets seemingly total lack of awareness of the market, plan B can’t be, sign 4-5 guys that fit your ill advised budget.

    Perhaps that speculation of direction is wrong, but I doubt it.

    I’d even fall on the side of I am not necessarily looking for the couple of big fish, but that “creativity” word keeps coming up. I have yet to see a glimpse of that from this group. Not even when Riccardi was with Toronto and Depodesta was elsewhere. It always seems especially on the latter, his creativity ends with the “calculations” not the execution.

    I hope to be very, very wrong. But I get the sense that they saw the market, wept around the fire in Jeff’s room and opted for plan B. Punting on 2014. Or perhaps better said, hoping that everything breaks right in 2014 while spending next to nothing.

    • It could be that we’re going to operate like a small-market team for years to come. Strangely, they seem to be in denial about that, and it has wasted us a lot of time and heartache.

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