Two very different players with very similar on-the-field value at that point in their respective careers. Damon’s career path was pretty linear, hopefully Granderson can maintain a similar level of consistency going forward.
One’s a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer, the other has yet to receive more than 22.4% of the vote in his nine years on the ballot. It’ll be interesting to see where Jeter’s line heads in 2011 and beyond.
What coulda been, eh?
Straw is still my all-time favorite player. I grew up one of two Yankee fans (along with my grandfather) in a family full of Mets fans, and I couldn’t not love Strawberry when he was in his heyday in the 80’s. When he caught on with the Yanks in the ’90’s, I couldn’t have been more excited. I was so young and I didn’t fully understand the power of addiction, and I remember always wondering why he didn’t just stop doing drugs and play baseball all time. It’s too bad things ended up the way they did, he could have been an all-time great.
So check it out. CC Sabathia hit up Madison Square Garden last night to catch the Knicks down the Raptors, and he wound up on the Boost Mobile Celebrity Row video segment of MSG’s broadcast. The first question Jill Marting asked was about the opt out. “Big news for you,” she said. “You decided not to opt out of your contract. Tell us why?”
CC responded: “I signed up for seven years, and it’s a good organization. We have a chance to win a championship every year. I think that was an easy decision.”
At face value, I’m inclined to believe Sabathia. He hasn’t said that he intends not to opt out; he seems to be saying that he flat-out isn’t opting out. If he is true to his word, CC would become the first big-name player to receive an opt-out and not exercise it. J.D. Drew, A.J. Burnett and Alex Rodriguez all cashed in their opt-out clauses, and if Cliff Lee is on the verge of a seven-year deal, CC would be sacrificing money and long-term job security if he foregoes the opt-out. It’s still unclear, as Joe said yesterday, if CC is truly saying much of anything.
Later on during the interview, CC said he’s not going to Nick Swisher’s wedding to Joanna Garcia this weekend because he can’t get a babysitter to watch his four kids. His mother, he said, wouldn’t fly out to do it. So take that at face value too. The opt-out doesn’t come due until the end of the 2011 season, and I’d be shocked if CC doesn’t use to get more years, more money or both from the Yanks.
A hat tip to @StadiumInsider on Twitter for tracking down this video clip.
We have definitely heard this before. In August, speaking to the New York Post, CC Sabathia discussed the opt-out clause in his contract. Unlike three prominent opt-out cases — Alex Rodriguez, A.J. Burnett, and J.D. Drew — that came before him, Sabathia said that he’s a Yankee, “hundred percent.
I think you know I’ve built a house here, right? My kids go to school here. We live here year round. So I’m not going anywhere.
Situations can always change, and we could certainly see that with Sabathia. This winter another left-handed ace, Cliff Lee, figures to get six, or maybe even seven, years at a similar average annual value to Sabathia. Why, then, wouldn’t Sabathia use that leverage to turn what is essentially a four-year, $92 million player option into another seven-year deal?
According to the Post, Lee’s situation will not influence Sabathia. “It has no effect on me at all,” he said. Unfortunately, that is the only quote that the Post article provides. Apparently Sabathia’s stance hasn’t changed since the summer. We can refer back to the above quote for Sabathia’s stance on the matter.
Still, I can’t help but notice a glaring omission. Never has Sabathia said the words “I will not opt out of my contract.” He has just talked about how he’s sticking around. I don’t think this means he’s seriously considering an opt out, but I do think that he’s not prepared to surrender all of his leverage by saying, in no uncertain terms, that he will decline to exercise the clause. It’s hard to fault him for that.
The lesson, as always: don’t trust Post headlines. In this case it was, “Sabathia won’t opt out,” but he didn’t say that. He just said it has no effect on him, which references a previous statement, which also didn’t explicitly mention the opt-out clause. I don’t think he will, but it’s definitely a stretch to take Sabathia’s words and say that he won’t.
The Washington Nationals sent a bit of shock wave through the baseball community yesterday afternoon, announcing that they had signed outfielder Jayson Werth to a massive seven-year, $126M contract. Werth is undeniably a great player, but that contract is excessive. It (theoretically) set the market for Carl Crawford, and could have a trickle down effect on just about any upcoming free agent outfielder, such as one current Yankee.
Since coming to New York, Nick Swisher has posted the two of the best seasons of his career at 3.7 and 4.0 bWAR. He’s hit 58 homeruns in pinstripes, getting on base at a .365 clip with a .235 ISO. He also made his first All Star team, all for the bargain price of $12.05M ($5.3M in 2009, $6.75M in 2010). Swisher is due to become a free agent after the 2011 season, so I’m sure he and his agent are licking their chops are seeing Werth’s deal. Over the last two seasons, Werth has a .899 OPS, and Swisher’s is not to far off at .870.
To get an idea of what kind of contract Swisher could be in line to receive, we should dig up comparables. Using the great B-Ref Play Index to find players with similar production during their two seasons leading up to free agency (what have you done for me lately?), we get names like J.D. Drew, Bobby Abreu, Jason Bay, and Brian Giles. Drew signed with the Dodgers for five years and $55M. Abreu re-upped with the Phillies for 5/64, Bay got 4/66 from the Mets, and Giles got 3/30 from the Padres. The average of those four is ~4/54, or $13.5M per season. Swish generally lags a little bit behind those guys in HR, OPS+, and in some cases bWAR in the years before free agency, but at least we have an idea of what he could ask for. Frankly, $13.5M per year seems rather reasonable.
The Case For Extending Swisher
Making a case to sign Swish to a contract extension is rather easy. He’s very productive (between 3.7 and 4.0 fWAR in four of the last five years), extremely durable (he’s been on the disabled list once in his six full seasons, and it came five years ago), and still in the prime of his career (he turned 30 less than two weeks ago). He’s also a fan favorite. The Yankees could end up saving themselves a few bucks by signing him now and avoiding the unpredictability of the open market as well.
The Case Against
While 2011 is the final guaranteed year on Swisher’s contract ($9M salary), the Yankees do hold a club option for 2012 worth $10.25M. They could choose to buy him out for a million bucks, but at this point in time it would be an upset if they went that route. So in reality Swisher is two years away from free agency, when he’ll be 32 and approaching his decline phase. While his stock is at an all-time high right now, it could be on the way down 24 months from now. Not extending Swisher now would also give the Yanks some semblance of roster flexibility going forward since his trade value is at an all-time high as well.
The Yankee policy is to not negotiate with players (not to mention field and front office staff as well) until their contracts expire, so this entire post is more academic than anything. But just for the sake of argument, let’s assume the Yanks would be up to giving their rightfielder an extension.
I’m in the camp that thinks they should wait this one out and let Swish play out the final two years of his contract before worrying about an extension, and I love the guy. Like I said, they’d maintain some roster flexibility, which is extremely important with so many massive contracts. It also eliminates a ton of risk since they wouldn’t be locked in for the next five years if he declines or something. The Yankees can afford to pay him when he becomes a free agent in two years if they want to, and that’s the route they should go. The financial advantage allows them to wait and pay people later rather than have to gamble and pay them now.