Sunday, November 19, 2006

How to waste 136 million dollars

Today brings us the first major free agent to change teams this offseason. Alfonso Soriano is heading to Wrigley Field for an 8-year, $136 million contract. You might remember two years ago, the Mets signed Carlos Beltran for seven years and $119 million. Same dollars per year, yet Soriano gets the longer deal despite being three years older than Beltran was. Compare them by age:

Beltran: .273/.346/.501
Soriano: .268/.304/.432

This was Soriano's first full season. As for Beltran, this was his third season of 100+ RBI, 100+ runs, 20+ home runs and 25+ stolen bases. Clearly Beltran has thel onger track record of success.

Beltran: .307/.389/.522
Soriano: .300/.332/.547

Pretty similar, though Beltran's 57-point OBP advantage trumps Soriano's 25-point SLG advantage.

Beltran: .267/.367/.548
Soriano: .290/.338/.525

Soriano got the singles, but Beltran had the far superior power, patience and speed.

Beltran: .266/.330/.414
Soriano: .280/.324/.484

Beltran's first season in Shea Stadium and Soriano's first year in Texas. The only time Soriano was better at the plate.

Beltran: .275/.388/.594
Soriano: .268/.309/.512

Simply no comparison. Beltran is the far superior player.

What those numbers don't say is that Beltran has more career stolen bases (227 to 210) and a much better success rate (88% to 78%). Most importantly, Beltran is an excellent defensive centerfielder while Soriano is a below-average leftfielder. I think it's fair to say Beltran's glove is worth an extra twenty runs over Soriano.

Do some quick math. Beltran is around 50 runs above a replacement centerfielder. He's one of the best fielders in the league; let's say he's 10 runs above average. That might actually be consevative. So Beltran is worth 60 runs a year, which is worth perhaps $15 million. Pretty close to his actual contract. Considering the Mets are a playoff team and play in a huge market, he's worth even more than that.

Now Soriano's bat is probably worth 30 to 40 runs over a replacement leftfielder. His fielding is anywhere from average to maybe 10 runs below average. So best case scenario, Soriano is worth 40 runs; worst case, he's worth 20 runs. That makes him worth $5-10 million. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, he's still nowhere near a $17 million ballplayer.

To make things worse, Soriano turns 31 in January. He'll be 39 when the deal ends. This deal has the potential to be one of the worst in the history of free agency.

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