The A-Rod Obsession Revisited 

Now that the playoffs are down to four teams, with the big bad $200 million Yankees bounced and waiting for the next Steinbrenner fecal tempest to rain down upon them, let us commence the comparing of the payrolls. It's become known as the MasterCard assessment, always ending with some little piece of Schadenfreude ("Watching George Steinbrenner dump a box of giant Madagascar hissing roaches into A-Rod's locker") rung up as "priceless."

Try putting that in your little brown Bloomie's bag, baby.

As the A's finally extend their season past what Oaktowners had tabbed the "Boo-Yah!" round, this year's Most Valuable Coupon-Clipper award once again goes to Billy Beane, who's already out scouting for next year's Frank Thomas (Hint: It's probably not Frank Thomas).

Because the A's haven't choked on their Jeremy Slide sundaes, they can be officially anointed the anti-Yanks, perhaps even the True Anti-Yankees®, by getting the most from so little. In yesterday's edition, Baseball Prospectus writer Maury Brown breaks down each major league team's payroll efficiency, and it's no surprise the A's are the best among the remaining contenders. (Of all this year's playoff teams, Minnesota was just a smidge better than Oakland.)

The hands-down efficiency champs -- in BP-speak "Cost per marginal win" -- were the Florida Marlins, who spent a measly $199,000 for each win above what a theoretical team full of replacement-level players would have won. The least efficient were the Cubs: 96 losses, a $94 million payroll, and a staggering $4.9 million per marginal win.

The Giants were at the bad end of the scale. With $2.9 million spent per marginal win, they ranked 5th behind the Cubs, Yankees, Boston and Baltimore. This is no surprise. Even those allergic to number crunching could see the Giants got very little for the money they spent this year.

Which leads me to reassess my own recent obsession with an A-Rod acquisition. By paying A-Rod $15 million a year (the Rangers are paying part of his salary, perhaps the Yankees will be willing to do the same), do the Giants get enough bang for their buck?

The short answer: not if he hits like he did this year.

A longer answer: Let's assume for a moment that Pedro Feliz doesn't take a pay cut. He earned $4.1 million this year, so dig if you will a picture of P-Happy getting $10 million over two years from someone this winter. According to BP, Feliz this year contributed to the Giants' cause nearly 5 wins more than a warm body would have done (the stat is called "WARP" or "Wins above replacement player"). The Giants paid Feliz $800,000 for each win over replacement he contributed. Given that he's 31 and showing no signs of improvement at the plate, Feliz has probably hit his efficiency peak. Unless he takes a pay cut, the cost for his contributed wins will only go up from here.

On to Alex Rodriguez: In this, his worst season in many years, A-Rod posted nearly 7 WARP. The Yankees are paying A-Rod $16 million a year, thanks to Texas swallowing much of his contract. That's $2.3 million per WARP this year. Not very efficient use of payroll. But unless A-Rod has begun what would be one of the most spectacular declines in baseball history, he's much more likely in the next few years to post numbers like 2005, when he won the MVP and tallied 12.5 WARP. At $16 million a year, that's three times what Feliz is likely to produce and only slightly more expensive per win. Put another way, 12 WARP for $16 million is probably a more efficient use of payroll than, say, 4 WARP for $5 million, which I'm guessing Feliz's next employers will receive next year, if they're lucky.

Obviously the ideal for the Giants is to find someone who produces more than Feliz but earns less than A-Rod. Eric Chavez, who suffered through injuries to post his worst offensive year perhaps ever, might be available. Even at his worst offensively, he's a gem on defense and contributed 7.3 wins above replacement. He also makes $45 million through 2010.

One more A-Rod thought: His contract allows him to opt out after next year unless he gets an $8 million-per-year raise or $1M more than MLB’s highest-paid player, according to Cot's Contracts. How would that complicate trade scenarios? No way the Giants -- or any team, I imagine -- would grant him such a raise. So unless he strikes that from his contract, A-Rod could be gone in one year. That could reduce the Yankees' ability to get prime prospects in return.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com