February 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves, Economic Analysis
If you missed the news yesterday, Yadier Molina agreed to a five year deal for up to $75mm. The contract will begin at Molina’s age 30 season, since he was already under contract this year and the new contract is slated to begin after this season. Coincidentally, Brian McCann will become a free agent just before his age 30 season. Molina’s contract is a good base for what we should expect McCann to receive.
In December, Franklin wrote about why a deal will get done with McCann. He predicted a contract of five years and $80mm, which sounds just about right. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs wrote this morning about how the Molina extension is probably better than most would immediately assume.
Cameron’s reasoning is that the lack of quality defensive metrics for catchers may cause Molina to be relatively undervalued. If you assume Molina is about a four win player, the $70mm contract nearly equals what his expected production will be over the course of the contract, says Cameron.
Using the same concept that Cameron did, the below chart details what McCann’s estimated dollar value should be, if you consider him to be the 4.45 win player that he has been over the past four seasons. Since the aging curve for catchers is limited from ages 28-29, I did not include a .5 win loss from this season to next season. Instead, I included a .125 loss (half of half), making him a 4.3 win player in 2013 and then discounted .5 wins in each following year. This is not exactly an exact science, but it does draw a sketch for what he would be worth over the length of a five year contract. I also included 5% inflation, just as Cameron did in his article.
Since 2012 and 2013 are already under contract, they are not included in the total. Interestingly enough, McCann’s total value during the length of a five year contract would be $80.5mm. Franklin’s estimation looks pretty accurate, to say the least.
If the Braves were going to extend McCann during free agency, they would like to sign him for a bit less than market value ($80.5mm). Molina signing this extension will make that a bit more difficult, as I am sure both McCann and his agent believe he is the better player. After all, the statistics that can be quantified all point heavily in McCann’s favor.
It is much easier to determine McCann’s value, since he is an offensive-minded catcher, than it is to determine Molina’s. Even so, it is still difficult to pinpoint exactly how good or bad catchers are defensively, which makes judging their overall value more difficult than other positions – even offensive catchers like McCann.
Molina’s contract provides a floor for McCann’s next deal, more than anything else. He will most likely sign for nothing less than $75m, which will only be a slight discount based on the above projections. It is possible that McCann signs a home town discount and his contract equals that of Molina’s, but it is far from a guarantee that he voluntarily takes such a discount. If McCann is extended before he hits free agency, a contract between $75-80mm over five years is what we should expect him to sign for. If they wait to sign him once he becomes a free agent and teams start bidding, a contract above $80mm is likely. Signing him this time next year, just as the Cardinals did with Molina, seems like the wisest choice for the Braves as they will likely save a small amount of money and will not have to worry about competing with other team’s bids.