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12.02.2005

Now I Got Worrell 

Generally I'm pleased with the Tim Worrell signing. He turns 39 next July, so the chances of physical breakdown or decline are higher, but at $2 M a year, he's making well below market value. The salary seems to be a reasonable risk. Could the Giants have signed him for less? The comments in today's reports make it sound like he really really really really really wanted to re-sign with the Giants. I assume that if a $500 Tower Records gift certificate and a pat on the tuschie was acceptable recompense for Worrell, Sabean would have sussed that out. That's his job, after all.

The sussing, I mean. Not the pat on the tuschie. But you never know.

As others have pointed out, signing free-agent Worrell before Dec. 7 means the Giants surrender yet another high draft pick, a "strategy" Brian Sabean has used intentionally to avoid the signing-bonus payouts that high draft picks command. (As noted here, the Giants cannot surrender next year's first-round pick, so the Worrell signing forces them to give up their second-round pick.)

On this matter, my panties do not bunch up as much as other people's. There are interesting arguments both for and against Sabean's practice.

The other main question is, did the Giants overpay Worrell, just as they have overpaid Michael Tucker, Neifi Perez and other players with useful but limited skill sets in the past?

According to the Giants, the contract calls for $1.5 M in '06, $2 M in '07, and a $500K signing bonus. I assume the bonus goes on the books for '05. Let's compare to other relievers who have signed this winter. Worrell will make less than Scott Eyre (3 yrs/$11 M). Less than Bobby Howry (3 yrs/$12 M). A lot less than Kyle Farnsworth and Tom Gordon (both around 3 yrs/$18 M).

Gordon is on an excellent three-year run with a WHIP right around 1.0 and about one K per IP. He is going to be Philly's new closer. He and Worrell are about the same age. Gordon is more a "proven closer," but Worrell has ably filled that role as well. Gordon has been a better pitcher recently, but by $4m a year?

From 2000 through 2004, Tim Worrell accumulated 90 VORP points, or 18 a year. I'm throwing out 2005, which was skewed by his leave of absence and emotional distress.

From 2001 to 2005, Gordon accumulated 105 VORP points, or 21 per season. Since I ignored Worrell's worst year (2005), I'll toss out Gordon's low point -- 6 VORP points in 2002 -- and substitute his stellar 1998 year as Boston's closer. That gives him 130 VORP points over a discontiguous 5-year period, or 26 per year.

OK, Gordon's best 5 recent years are noticeably better than Worrell's. But it's hard to argue he'll be $4 million better -- in effect, worth three times as much as Worrell -- in '06 and '07.

How about the others? They're younger than Worrell, yes, but without his track record of success. Scott Eyre, as noted before, was rewarded for essentially one stellar year. Bobby Howry has put together two consecutive excellent years. Kyle Farnsworth has never had two straight good years, although when he's good, he's a monster.

I'm not arguing that Worrell will be as good as any of these guys next year or in 2007. What's likely is that he'll be nearly as good for a lot less money. And if he flames out due to age, injury, recurring emotional distress, alien brain implants (hey, it happens), then the Giants have only thrown a few million down the toilet instead of $12 or $18 million.

I also think signing Worrell gives Sabean the flexibility to trade LaTroy Hawkins and his nearly $5 million salary. It seemed untradeable just a few months ago, but if Kyle Freakin' Farnsworth can make $6 mil a year, it's not a stretch to think a non-penny-pinching, bullpen-depleted club would bite on a year of Hawkins -- who after his DL stint last summer proved himself healthy and reliable, except for a wee mental block when facing his former Cubs teammates. The trade could come once the season starts and injuries kick in -- as happened to the Giants in '05.

Welcome back, Tim. Don't pull a Herges on us.

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