Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One Bad Guzman Contract Deserves Another?

When rumors started flying of a Guzman re-signing a few weeks ago, my take was that it's a bad idea to re-sign a guy at his peak value. I just see very, very little chance that he puts up the kinds of numbers the rest of the way that he has up till now. I would guess that he'll have a 4-week period at some point where he hits around the Mendoza line and finishes the season around .285, with the OBP settling around .310.

Even if you aren't that pessimistic, his value can't go anywhere but down. We should be trading players at their peak value, not re-signing them. If you look at all the evidence, not just the cherry-picked short-term, you have a guy who is:

  1. average offensively in his very best year (OMG gives you the fancy stats),
  2. not quite average defensively,
  3. injury prone, and
  4. 30 years old, in other words past the age that most guys start getting worse.
Add to that, the shortstop market this off-season is loaded. Here's the list:
Orlando Cabrera (34)
David Eckstein (34)
Adam Everett (32)
Rafael Furcal (31)
Nomar Garciaparra (35)
Cesar Izturis (29)
Felipe Lopez (29)
Edgar Renteria (33) - club option for '09
Juan Uribe (30)
Omar Vizquel (42) - club option for '09
The argument in favor of this deal is that we have no other good options. We have no one in the system who can move up and fill in (paging Maicer Izturis! Brendan Harris!), and although there are a lot of shortstops on this list, who among them would you rather have over Guzman? Cabrera, yes. Furcal? Big injury risk. Renteria? Not the 2008 version, that's for sure. But still, when "desperation" is your explanation for a deal, you know you don't have a very well run organization.

But it's not a senseless argument. I just feel like there's noting to lose by waiting a month for his performance to decline, and we probably could have saved a million or two, or better yet gotten him to take a 1-year deal.

Also, you have to factor in that we would have almost surely gotten a draft pick if we had let him walk in free agency, which is key to rebuilding. Stockpiling that youth is what's going to get us to that First Great Nationals Team.

So is this a bad move? It's certainly not a good move. The nicest thing you could say is that it's the least bad choice you could make out of a lot of bad options. The mistake was evacuating all our young middle infielders and failing to develop anyone in the meantime.

One thing though: this contract is probably a tad high, but it's not crazy. We sure didn't get any "gratitude discount," but this isn't "financial insanity" as one Nationals Journal commenter said. Let's look at the free agents who signed the most comparable deals this past off-season:

  • Tom Glavine: 1 year, $8m
  • Eric Gagne: 1 year, $10m
  • Kenny Rogers: 1 year, $8m
  • Keith Foulke: 1 year, $7m
  • Mike Cameron: 1 year, $7m
  • Geoff Jenkins: 2 years, $13m
OK, so Cameron's playing well (after the suspension), but are any of the rest of these guys any better than Guzman? Are any of them really underperforming? (And sorry but when a 42-year-old gets hurt, that's not underperforming--that's an extremely high risk biting you in the butt.)

For all the people who are screaming for higher payroll, you're asking for more guys like this--expensive, high risk, declining vets. Remember, we got the most expensive catcher on the market last year--who's that going? There are precious few real difference-makers out there on the free agent market, and they command long-term deals, so that we'll be saddled with their worst, old years when we (god willing) are actually starting to contend. I'm not saying it never makes sense to spend on free agents, but there are a lot of people who talk about it as if there's a championship out there with a price tag on it, and there isn't.


jimbo's brain fart said...

You bozo. You castigate Bowden for re-signing a 30-year-old shortstop because he's at the age where he's got nowhere to go but down, and then to back it up you mention a "loaded" shortstop FA market in which everyone on the list is at least 29 years old, and most are older than Guzman? You bozo.

Nationals Fan said...

The point is that his negotiating position is weakened by the glutted market.

But thanks for visiting!

Mike said...

Is it really that hard to disagree with the post without posting in this manner? I don't see what it does for the discourse.

I was wondering about what would happen with Guzman and the Elias rankings since they take two years into account. I wonder how much his lack of at-bats last season would have affected his rankings this year.

Brian H said...

You know, the more I think about the Guz deal, the less I like it. I'd just assume throw $380k at some bum and run him out there 162 times for the next 2 yrs then see Guz get 8 mil per to play avg/below avg baseball.

To see this, and hear the Nats FO say that they have a "budget for their draft picks" within 2 wks of eachother makes me sick. I'd rather have 2 Michael Inoa's 8 avg Dominican prospects and sign a couple extra picks then see 16 mil dollars spent on someone who won't be here when this tm is any good, and won't do anything to make us respectable now. This is just throwing money away as far as I can tell. Why don't they just re-allot (that can't be a word) those 16 million into their development "budget" and spend it where it may really help the organization. I'm pretty sure the 25k fans coming to the house every night aren't there to watch Guz.

Nationals Fan said...

@Mike--I haven't been able to find anything on how injuries affect the FA types. If you do, let me know. I think a lot of their scoring system is kept secret, I guess to stop teams from "gaming the system." I find it hard to imagine that he wouldn't be a type B at least though given the year he's had. And when he played last year his numbers were quite good.

@brian--I agree with you. Obvoiusly, that's what I've been preaching. I don't think it quite works the way you suggest, that money saved on Guzman automatically gets plowed into draft picks. But your the general thrust of your point I agree with.

Nationals Fan said...

@brian--one other thing. I'd disregard public comments about having a "budget" as just negotiating posturing. They are trying to avoid being labeled by agents as an "above slot" team because then the agents will just tell their guys to hold out cuz they know the Nationals will cave. Teams will even let a guy go unsigned sometimes just to make a point. I'm not defending it, I'm just describing how I understand what's going on.

Mike said...

Here is a list of the categories that Elias takes into account. I would think the lack of plate appearances last year would affect him a bit.

2B/3B/SS: PA, AVG, OBP, HR, RBI, Fielding percentage, Total chances at designated position
C: PA, AVG, OBP, HR, RBI, Fielding percentage, Assists
SP: Total games (total starts + 0.5 * total relief appearances), IP, Wins, W-L Percentage, ERA, Strikeouts
RP: Total games (total relief appearances + 2 * total starts), IP (weighted slightly less than other categories), Wins + Saves, IP/H ratio, K/BB, ERA