Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Great Cabrera Contract of 2014

How much do you value a great talent like Miguel Cabrera.  Do you pay for past performance? Do you pay for name recognition and fan interest?  The logical answer is no, but obviously the Tigers don't need to use any logic.

In a move that not only annoyed front office members for it's length and astounding size.  It also spurred up plenty of response on twitter.  The contract as understood at the time of writing would not change the two remaining years and $44M owed to Cabrera.  It would then start at 8 years and $248M giving him $31M per year on average.

That alone is staggering and pays a player at 40 years old $31M for that season.  The crazy doesn't end there though.  The deal has two vesting options each for $30M and this is my assumption, but they are probably based on games played in previous seasons.  The Tigers are looking at $352M locked to one player who at 31 is already entering his decline years.

Thanks to Fangraphs we can see what OLIVER says Cabrera will age quickly in the next 5 seasons.  Here is what his 2014-2018 seasons look like:

I wouldn't mind having that on my team and the Tigers are getting a steal in 2014 and 2015.  He's projected to total 12.5 WAR in that time at a value of $75M while getting paid $44.  I would like to repeat what I said earlier though.  Don't pay future contract dollars for past performance.

Looking ahead at current free agency dollars the contract will be worth at least the $31M/season he is getting for the first two seasons (2016-2017).  Then it becomes iffy with his 2018 projected to be worth $27.6M on the high end.  Only three years into an 8 year contract and you're already falling behind.  It's always possible Cabrera ages better than most, but as a player who has struggled with weight and had off the field issues including a DUI it's safe to stick to the projected decline.

If we continue the trend he'll lose about 0.5 WAR a season making the 8 year deal projected to total 31.2 WAR using that quick math.  If that is the case and you go to the high end of the current market at $6M per WAR then Cabrera should be looking at a deal of $187M for the contract.  The Tigers are putting a lot of risk in him staying healthy for ten years and even if he's healthy he's being overpaid by nearly $60M.

The worst part of paying him this much was there was no reason to rush.  The Tigers still had two years of contract left and could have at least waited until next offseason to start talking.  If they put this much at risk you would have thought they would have at least got some "discount" from Cabrera.

How the Tigers are willing to do this and not sign a more qualified short stop to replace the injured Jose Iglesias as well as extend Max Scherzer is a big question.  I can't see the logic in doing a deal like this even if it works out and Cabrera is a 5-6 WAR player for the next 12 years, which of course is a near impossibility.

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

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