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1.22.2005

Overpaid-ro Pt. 2 

Steve Shelby has compiled the latest Giants payroll figures. I'll take the liberty of slightly altering the list he published Wednesday. Instead of listing salary and signing bonus separately, I'll add the figures together and subtract deferred salary to represent how much the Giants are paying each player in calendar 2005:

Starting rotation: Schmidt $8.75 M, Rueter $7 M, Tomko $2.65 M, Williams $0.4 M, Lowry $0.33 M

Bullpen: Benitez $4.1 M, Herges $1.5 M, Eyre $1.425 M, Brower $1.125 M, Christiansen $1 M, Franklin $0.38 M, Walker $0.35 M

C: Matheny $1.5 M, Torrealba $0.7 M

IF: Alfonzo $7.5 M, Durham $7.5 M, Vizquel $2.5 M, Feliz $2.45 M, Snow $2 M, Cruz $0.8 M

OF: Bonds $15 M, Alou $4.75 M, Grissom $2.5 M, Tucker $2 M, Ellison $0.31 M>

According to Steve, salaries total $77.25 M, and signing bonuses $9.25 M more. Bonds has $5 M deferred, and Alou $2.5 M. There is a also pro-rated way to figure signing bonuses as a means of calculating payroll, but because it doesn't represent actual dollars paid out in the calendar year, I'll skip it. (However, as Steve writes, "The common definition of payroll is 'salaries plus pro-rated signing bonuses,' making the Giants’ payroll about $89 M." Duly noted.)

Again, for the purposes of the following discussion, I'll use the actual dollars the player will receive in calendar 2005, because for me, what's really behind the discussion about who's underpaid or overpaid is whether the Giants are allocating their money wisely in the time frame under consideration: this year.

Let's start with the rotation. Jason Schmidt at less than $9 M is a bargain. Any arguments? Jerome Williams and Noah Lowry are making minimum or nearly so; if they improve only marginally, that's bargain basement. $2.65 M for Brett Tomko looked like a disaster back in June 2004, but with his encouraging performance in the second half and the nutty cash thrown at Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano and others this winter, it looks like a big bargain. Kirk Rueter at $7 M seems vastly overpaid, but let's look at a couple other pitchers who recently commanded contracts that average $7 M a year.

Wright: other than his excellent 2004, it's hard to argue that Wright is as good a pitcher as Rueter. It may not be his fault, as he's battled injury since his early 20s, but that's the breaks, kid. Rueter's thrown at least 184 innings six of the last seven years, he's had good years (1997, 2002) and bad years (1999, 2004). His K-to-BB ratio has slipped under 1:1 the last two years. That should matter a bit less with Vizquel at shortstop and a trimmer Alfonzo at third this year, but it's still disturbing. Is Rueter fading fast, or with a better infield D will he rebound?

Jon Lieber: Lieber is probably a better comparison point. Same age as Rueter, same career ERA, roughly the same career innings pitched (quick: guess who has more?). Lieber strikes out more batters than Rueter, as does my grandmother; and although I don't pretend to really grok the calculations, his defense-independent-ERA (dERA, as in Voros McCracken's DIPS system, which has been carried forth by folks like Jay Jaffe since McCracken went to work for The Man) is consistently *better* than his real ERA, while Rueter's is consistently worse. A lot worse. Even in his strong 2002 campaign (14-8, 3.23 ERA, 203.2 IP), Rueter's dERA is nearly 5. So the statheads don't think much of Rueter. Does that mean, if he were a free agent this winter, he'd command less than $7 M? Given he's had two straight rough seasons even by traditional measurements, I'd say yes. Verdict: Rueter is overpaid but probably not by too much.

Moving on to the bullpen: I'll limit my discussion to Armando Benitez. If Benitez pitches in 2005 as he did in 2004, I'll kick in an extra million (metaphorically). Remember, he's only making $4.1 M in 2005. For a top-line closer, that's cheap. Closers are fungible commodities, you say? The A's and Red Sox said that, too, but they've both changed their tunes. Arthur Rhodes' tune was changed all the way to Cleveland, and Boston's Song of the Bullpen-by-Committee was cut short by the arrival of Keith Foulke, who was 2004 post-season MVP in my book. Foulke's contract calls for up to $26.5 M over four years; Benitez $21.5 M over three. Not much difference there. Hopefully Benitez will be able to prove his worth in the post-season this year.

Omar Vizquel: I've addressed his pay scale here. (I've also taken a stab at calculating Edgardo Alfonzo's true worth here.)

Mike Matheny: Making only $1.5 million this year, it's not that he's overpaid but that the Giants shouldn't be paying him at all. We all agree that this was a bonehead contract and that Yorvit should be the Giants starting catcher. (By the way, did anyone notice how the Giants mouthpiece Rich Draper slagged Yorvit in his article on the team's young players and prospects? "Sporadic defensively" in 2004? "Must compete with Justin Knoedler for the No. 2 role"? Do you see how the propaganda works, my friends? Let's heave a big sigh and move on to the other big free-agent catch...

Moises Alou: Tough call. With the deferred cash, he's on the books this year for $4.75 M but eventually he'll make $7.25 M, so let's use that figure to compare him to the three other big RF signings this winter: Hidalgo, Dye and Drew. Hidalgo and Dye are making $5 M each in 2005; Drew will pull in $11 M. Here are win shares (offensive + defensive) for the past three years:

Drew 62
Alou 55
Hidalgo 34
Dye 27


Based on those numbers, the relative salaries in 2005 don't seem too out of whack. With Moises's advanced age -- he'll be 39 on July 3 -- one can argue that his potential for injury or natural decline is much higher and should be a cost factor. Fair enough -- thus the deferred salary. It doesn't take the Giants completely off the hook, but in case of injury, at least it allows them some wiggle room in the '05 budget if they need to shop for a mid-season replacement.

Moises has been a top-flight hitter for a long time. His career-high 39 homers last year is a bit deceptive, given that Wrigley was a very good hitter's park in '04, but his career OPS, relative to the rest of the league and adjusted for park factor, is 127, just a hair under J.D. Drew's 133 and well above Hidalgo's 114 and Dye's 103. Again, it seems worth paying Moises more than Dye and Hidalgo. 50% more? Tough call. But with the deferred salary, I'll say that he's not overpaid.

Which Giants do you think are overpaid? Underpaid?

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