As I was reading Jim Bowden’s “Pricing the Free Agents” piece on ESPN last Friday afternoon, I could hear the rising and crashing waves of criticism coming from the Sabermetric/blogging community from over yonder…and by yonder, I mean Twitter. I know this because I was one of the people dropping snide, snarky remarks about several of his choices. And though it’s easy to criticize the man who worships at the alter of OPSBI, it’s sometimes easy to forget that he held down the role of General Manager for 15 years with two teams. As shocking (or even disturbing) as that may be to some of us, he didn’t ascend to that job by accident. He worked hard to not only reach that status, but also retain it. Did he make his share of baffling mistakes? Absolutely. But he also made some really smart moves that benefitted the ball clubs for which he worked. While that doesn’t absolve him of criticism, he deserves some respect.*
* He has a pretty great sense of humor. Julian Levine of Giants Nirvana and I made a couple of jokes at his expense on Twitter a few weeks back, and he responded with a light hearted, friendly direct message thanking us for the “shout out.” Maybe it’s just me, but I thought that was really cool of him. Also, it allowed me to coin the term “OPSBI’d.”
The reason I’m semi-defending him is not because I want to praise him for being a smart guy or a good writer. I’m not going to pass judgment on him on either case. Instead, I find it to be a little cowardly to openly criticize someone else’s work without providing an alternative analysis explaining my position. To remedy this, I’m going to analyze his list of top 20 free agents, and provide my own analysis. Please keep in mind that I’m not only far more conservative than the free-wheeling Bowden, but also use a far different methodology. While I do use fWAR to guide me in helping me determine my valuations, I know and understand it’s inherent limitations. To help limit fWAR’s biases, I consulted rWAR, WARP, and its components as a check and balance.
1. Albert Pujols, 1B
3 Year fWAR Trend – 9.0, 7.5, 5.1
Bowden’s Projection – 9/$273M
Chip’s Projection – 8/$210M
Projected Value – $191M
The Pujols camp is reportedly looking for A-Rod (10/$275M) money, but I can’t envision a single scenario where he receives anything near that offer. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies currently have power hitting first basmen locked up indefinitely; the Mets and Dodgers are stuck in financial hell; and the Angels and Giants don’t seem interested in raising their payroll considerably. That leaves the Cubs and Cardinals as his most likely destinations. Given the relatively narrow market for Pujols’s services; his “down” 2011 season; and A-Rod’s post signing performance, we won’t likely see a new record set this time around. It’s too risky. That said, Pujols is still the greatest hitter in the game. He should receive a deal that makes him only the second $200M contract player in history. It’s probably an overpay by $20M overall, but I think the Cardinals pay the premium to keep him in a Cards uniform.
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