Are Veteran Free Agents the New Moneyball Players?

Moneyball's real message, even nearly ten years on, is still widely misunderstood. High-OBP players or college draft-picks were not so much the disease, but the symptoms, as it were. The A's might have loved to win with all around athletes who could do everything well, including hit for a high batting average, but they couldn't afford those players. As OBP became properly valued, the A's started to get priced out there as well, which is why by the middle of the '00s they were one of the first teams to go all-in on defense.

The other major developments of the last decade included a precipitous decline in the middle tier of the free agent market and a related increase in how teams valued young players and prospects. To be sure, there have been exceptions here and there, but the truly hideous free agent contracts of the 1990s and early 2000s are rarer and rarer now. So are the exciting and potentially disastrous veteran rental for top prospect deals.

Which brings us, as everything does, back to Jeff Francoeur (and actually Melky Cabrera too).

The Royals signed Francoeur to a one-year $2.5 million dollar contract. Cabrera was even cheaper, signing for $1.25 million. No one really liked these contracts.

Leaving the Francoeurness of Francoeur aside (he's borderline impossible to write about anymore) the price for these two players was certainly fine. Aside from not thinking either player was going to be very good, my biggest problem was that neither was part of the team's future. Of course, since this spring, the Royals have extended Francoeur and neglected to trade Cabrera, apparently happy to bring him back for his last arb-eligible non-FA season in 2012.

Many of us would rather see the Royals go with Lorenzo Cain, but why? Is Cain a good bet to be much better? Is it the mere small chance that Cain blossoms? Does Cain's $400,000 salary make a difference? Actually, on the money part, probably.

Anyway, you can see how this is a hideously written post. What I'm trying to get at, with some local examples, is the broader discussion of what kinds of players are valued properly on the market. I've been wondering for a few years if prospects were getting over-valued. That the greater certainty of veteran players -- something that was once mock-worthy on the internet -- doesn't have some value. We spend forever talking about minor league guys that usually don't work out. Earlier this week, I read a piece taking the Giants to task for the Beltran-Wheeler trade, in part, because Wheeler had good numbers in Single Effing A. I get that Wheeler is a bright young thing, but seriously... he's a pitching prospect.

Of course, the financial aspect is relevant here. The Royals can't afford to go Francoeur at 10 different positions, especially not when Dayton is going to rip up the contract and kill the bargain at first opportunity should it arise. In any case... what do you guys think?

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Royals Review

You must be a member of Royals Review to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Royals Review. You should read them.

Join Royals Review

You must be a member of Royals Review to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Royals Review. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker