Ken Rosenthal at Fox sports tweets that the Orioles are about to ink Adam Jones to a six year $85M contract. Immediately I wondered whether this would affect Michael Bourn’s contract negotiations. Then I thought, don’t be silly, of course it will. Scott Boras is known for his “comparables” as in the David O’Brien piece I referenced in my last post. So I thought I’d take a quick look and see if I could figure out what he will and won’t say.
He Will Say. . .
Aside from making the point that Michael is the cream of the free agent centerfield crop, Boras will argue that:
1) He’s a pure leadoff hitter, a rare commodity in today’s game and the only one on the market.
Bourn was one of only seven players in MLB to get more than 140 hits from the leadoff spot last year. His performance as a Brave so far confirms his value in that spot.
|Hits as leadoff man||2011|
2) As a pure leadoff hitter he sparks the rest of the lineup by putting immediate stress on the pitcher.
Not only did Bourn lead MLB in steals he had 13 more than the AL leader and 21 more than the next closest leadoff man. Among leadoff men he was also tied for second in doubles, second in triples, third in RBI and fourth in runs scored.
3) His numbers are actually better than Jones’.
Better is of course dependent on point of view. He led Jones in every category except homers and RBI.
*Yes I know the hit numbers don’t match. The first table is while hitting in the leadoff spot, the second is all hits including those from different batting order positions.
4) Pound for pound, Bourn is a better run producer
Again it depends on how you view the numbers. He will point out that while Michael had 20 less home runs that Jones he drove in only 10 fewer teammates. He did that in a league with a pitcher hitting in front of him, not as the three hole hitter.
5) Bourn is sabermetrically superior in buying runs.
This is also a numbers thing. If you believe that getting on base is as important or more important than power you will concur that Bourn’s a 40 lead in OBP and a higher average makes him the superior buy.
As a result he will conclude that Michael Bourn should get at least six years and $90M to $100M. He will no doubt claim as well that there are a half dozen or more teams in on Bourn on any given day. So bid high if you want to win.
He Won’t Say. . .
With all of that on his side It seems like a lock that Bourn will get a bigger contract than Jones. That depends on how you define bigger. If this sounds like unraveling political spin from rival public relations staffs. . . it’s just like that.
There is one thing that Boras will not mention in any way; Bourn turns 30 this December 27th while Jones is 27 on August 1st making him three years older than Jones and so closer to the downhill side of his career. he will also not acknowledge that they are decidedly different players should leg injuries occur that slow them down. their If Jones’ legs start to be an issue you move his 25 homers to left field and go get a new center fielder. If Michale’s legs slow down he becomes Juan Pierre, a light hitting 4th outfielder.
I mentioned yesterday I wasn’t concerned about giving Bourn a 5 year contract because he’s generally been healthy. I still believe that. I also advocated for a front end loaded contract that paid while (we hope) his performance is still league leading or thereabouts. I was also $29M lower and a year shorter that what I now expect Boras to ask for. Those things provide some semblance of a safety net for the Braves in the event that his legs are more like Jimmy Rollins than Juan Pierre’s at age 33, 34 and 35.
There may be six teams in on Bourn during the post season but not all of them will be serious bidders. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets aren’t players in my mind. The Yankees have an option on Curtis Granderson, the Red Sox Ellsbury and the Mets are broke. The Nationals will certainly check in but I suspect their admiration for B.J. Upton and his age will take them in that direction first. Besides they have Jason Werth. . . moving on. . . The Marlins might be players but it’s beginning to look like their needs will be pitching related and they already have Reyes and Bonifacio at the top of their order.
The Dodgers were mentioned but they too have this Matt Kemp guy whom I’ve heard is a pretty fair ballplayer in center and Dee Gordon projects as their leadoff man. I suspect they’ll go for a different kind of outfielder – Josh Hamilton perhaps – and fight with others over pitching.
The Phillies have been mentioned as a replacement for Shane Victorino who earns $9.5M this year and wants both a raise and a five year deal. He will turn 32 in November, played only 132 games last year and as I noted earlier has had knee/leg issues this year. I doubt they offer him 5 years unless it’s three plus a couple of options. But, they are working hard to get below the luxury tax threshold as well so even that may not be possible.
COTS shows the Phillies with a 2013 payroll commitment of $112.636M in 10 players. Hunter Pence is arbitration eligible, earns $10.4M this year so even a modest raise to $13M takes them to $126.6M. The Luxury tax threshold is $178m leaving them roughly $42.5M to fill out their 40 man roster.
There was very good article on The Philly Zone addressing payroll and luxury tax issues.For a better understanding I suggest you look that over. Payroll is defined this way.
|“Payrolls are for 40-man rosters and include averages of multiyear contracts; health and pension benefits; clubs medical costs; insurance; workman’s compensation, payroll, unemployment and Social Security taxes; spring training allowances; meal and tip money; All-Star game expenses; travel and moving expenses; postseason pay; and college scholarships.”|
But it isn’t a straight forward as that. The article goes on to explain that salary is the average annual value of a contract; the guaranteed money. The example they use is Ryan Howard’s contract which calls for $20M a year but works out to $25M because of the guaranteed buy out money for his option years. They also estimate that medical and workman’s comp eat up about $10M.
The Phillies have said they want to sign Cole Hamels. Hamels can demand Cliff Lee ($25M) or Roy Halladay ($20M) money. Giving Hamels $25M and Victorino say $12M would take them within $5M of the luxury tax with 12 big league and 15 minor league players left to pay. Oops.
They penalties are explained in that article and are very strong indeed. I expect them to make Victorino a “qualifying offer” of $12.5 for one year and if they can’t negotiate something better let him take it or walk. Pence will only be 30 so they will make him a qualifying offer too and may go higher to keep him but maybe not. I also expect them to trade Cliff Lee and or Chase Utley if they are out of it in July so that they can sign the younger Hamels. After all that shuffling it still adds up to, No money for Michael Bourn.
Certain teams I consider non-players: Rays, Os, Astros, Royals, Padres, Giants, Cubs, Twins, Tigers, Angels, As, Ms, Cards, Reds, Indians, D’backs, Brewers and Pirates. That leaves the Braves, Rockies, Rangers, Jays and White Sox. The Rockies and White Sox do so many strange things I can’t rule them out but it really doesn’t seem to fit their needs thought the Rox could use a leadoff man. The Real threat may be the Rangers if they don’t sign Hamilton and need to fill center field with a known quantity or just want to push Hamilton to left so he doesn’t get injured.
That’s A Wrap
This turned out to be a lot longer than I anticipated but that’s fairly normal for me. Jones and Bourn are as different as they are alike. Bourn is the better all around player now. Jones is still learning and will get better. Obviously GMs’ needs change from day to day with the team’s league position and player health. Someone (Marlins, Nats, Rox Yankees – yep they could move The Grandy Man to left I guess) may indeed jump out there and give him too much for too long. We don’t need to be that someone. The Jones deal of six years and $85M works out to about $14.16M/year. Bourn will want more than that and I have no problem giving him more on an annual basis. Four years and $60M and a fifth year option at $11M with the ubiquitous buyout for $2M would be fine with me. I’d prefer it front loaded say, 15, 15, 16 14 but that’s picking nits, in the long term it’s sunken cost once signed. Six years guaranteed however is just too long for a 30 year old, light hitting base stealing leadoff man. Even if he’s Michael Bourn.