One of my favorite things of the past few offseasons that I think goes way unnoticed happens over at our sister site Beyond the Box Score (who's managing editor, Kevin Ruprecht also writes here). All-around good guy Justin Perline comes out with his free agency value calculator (which here you can find the 2014 version and 2015 version).You can read more about Perline's methodology in the 2014 article but essentially he uses past contracts, past performance, inflation, and a variance of other factors to come up with an average annual value (AAV). For 2015 he included qualifying offers (QO) and a few tweaks I believe.
I wanted to expand a bit upon Perline's calculator as it only outputs an AAV and only takes into account past data with no influence over possible future data or projections. Also I wanted to include a bit more on inflating dollars per WAR ($/WAR). So I used a lot of the groundwork Perline put together (again he did great work and all due respect to him) and added some of my own tweaks. Consider my calculator as an accompaniment to his.
There are some things to know about my calculator though. First I modeled it off of actual contracts paid out this winter, with the main focal point being upper tier contracts.
I've found that it hits either spot on or very close for several guys like (snapshot linked to player name):
It doesn't do very well with the bonkers or outlier contracts. For Jason Heyward it calculated 8/$251M when he actually signed for 8/$184M. However Heyward got two opt outs and the deal is really a three year deal with a player option with a four year player option after that. For Greinke it calculated 6/$152M but Greinke surprisingly got 6/$206.5M thanks in part to Dave Stewart and the whackos in the Diamondbacks front office. It also was way off on the Ian Kennedy deal (a deal I lambasted), estimating that Kennedy would get 4/$33M when he ended up getting 4/$70M.
Some general thoughts:
I think it does the upper tier players a little better than mid-tier or low-tier guys
You can for the most part ignore the sequence of the contract terms as they aren't consistently backloaded. I've played around with the formulas several times but can't get it to always come out backloaded (which like all contracts are). Instead I would probably suggest just arranging them in a backloaded order mentally.
The qualifying offer, opt out, and no trade clause triggers are still a work in progress. Justin included a QO value in his calculator which I think works somewhat often. I added the ability to include multiple opt outs using the value of an opt out we found to be worth this offseason. One conflicting thing are players who got a QO and signed with their original team. I added a "did he cost a pick?" option that hopes to reset the value lost somewhat. I would suggest using the ancillary triggers with caution as they are certainly still a work in progress.
As you get further into the future, the more the formulas rely upon the AAV suggested by Justin. I felt this better reflected the structure of contracts. Short term deals should be a pretty even weighting of $/WAR value and the predicted AAV suggested by the original calculator. You can go out as far as 15 years into the future. There are some instructions in the excel sheet. The only cells you need to touch (or should touch) are the value inputs on the far left, the first age cell (J3), and then insert your fWAR figures (K3-K17). Thanks to Justin for laying the original groundwork. I want to of course stress that this calculator is just for fun.
In further Beyond the Box Score fun, Carl Triano looked at what an Eric Hosmer extension would look like. He came up with a figure of 6/$110M. Here's what my calculator estimates him at:
I came up with much more shallow terms than Carl. Maybe you think Hosmer is going to break the bank and cash in on a $200M deal as young superstar, but to me, that kind of money is not in the cards for Hosmer. He has been consistently inconsistent for his career and does not have the home run or RBI totals that teams love to overpay for at this point in his career. It is possible I am a bit low on the average annual value for a Hosmer deal at $15 million, but I don't see him getting over $20 million per year even with the money going around in baseball. Again, this is at this stage in his career. Two years from now, if Hosmer becomes an All-Star first baseman, who knows.
First basemen need to hit. A lot. Hosmer doesn't really do that consistently. For his career he's been an 8% above league average hitter. Here are some other hitters that have hit 8% above league average the last four seasons combined.
Hosmer is closest to Yonder Alonso - who is also a first baseman and former top ten draft pick - and Alonso has about half as many plate appearances over the time span as Hosmer.
Now keep in mind several things. My calculator looks at a player's cost in free agency this year. Hosmer won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season. Also when running the calculator it of course works best for current free agents. In Hosmer's case we are predicting how he will fare if he was a free agent two years from now, rather than making assumptions for the remainder of the terms.
Let's continue to look and see values for other guys on the Royals roster. I will be using Fangraphs Depth Charts projection for 2016 and beyond that I'll be making some educated guesses.
Cain is really interesting. He has been one of the best players in baseball the past two years, but he will also be thirty years old in April and is still two years away from free agency. The question is - how good will Cain be two years from now and how will he age? I assume he will still be an above-average player in 2018 and age like a normal player (0.75 fWAR around age 31). However, Cain has had an injury-filled past and you would generally expect that to get worse as he ages and the recovery times get longer.
I think the above estimate is fair. Cain has been a star the past two years but like I mentioned he i's still a few years away from free agency.
I would probably take the over on this one a bit, however I can see what the calculator sees in Moustakas. He is an above-average or so player, but he is not a one of the best third basemen in the league. He has been mired by a few seasons around replacement level, one as recently as 2014.
The $12M AAV listed above is pretty close to another average to above-average third baseman who a bit inconsistent and had a breakout year in his mid-20's - Chase Headley. He received a $13M AAV contract on a 4/$52M deal from the Yankees which so far has been an okay contract, but not a bargain for the Yankees by any stretch.
Moustakas will be younger as he steps into free agency than Headley was but he doesn't have the peak seasons that Chase has enjoyed.
Yeah... who the hell knows man. Relievers are fickle and they age much worse than starters. It's very hard to see even the best reliever being a 2-win player (which is an elite reliever) for five straight seasons.
Davis is very good, but I'm not sure he is a Hall of Fame reliever, seeing as though there are only a handful of those. He will get a nice sum of money, and I could definitely see him beating David Robertson's 4/$46M deal with the White Sox, even though he'll be older than Robertson was at free agency. On the other hand, teams may also remind themselves of Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell, and the long list of reliever free agent busts. You still can't say the name "Mark Davis" in Kansas City without a look of disgust.
This one is a bit of a shoulder shrug. Morales is recently removed from being one of the worst players in baseball. He rebounded strongly last year but had one of his best seasons at age 32, which is rare for any player. Morales will be 34 years old when he hits free agency if his 2017 mutual option is not picked up.
Unless you think Morales is David Ortiz (which he isn't) it's hard to see Morales getting a big contract at his age.
Let me ask you this - what does 2018 Danny Duffy look like? He is going into 2016 likely as a reliever, and even if he was given a guaranteed rotation spot he doesn't have a track record that would lead you to believe he is going to be a good starter. Maybe he could be a terrific late-reliever for a team which would boost his value, but he's probably not going to get that chance in Kansas City with Wade Davis and Joakim Soria in front of him.
I think some team though may give him $22M on the open market in an attempt to see if they can grab some of that upside, even though he will be 29 at that point.
"Glove-first" shortstops who can't hit even 20% below league average don't get much money, especially at Escobar's age. I would take the under on this one personally unless Escobar has a big free agent season (his best season was 2014 with 3.3 fWAR). Teams historically don't pay for defense and Escobar isn't a 22-year old up-and-comer who can improve with the bat. He is who he is.
Yeah I wanted to do Dyson just for fun. I knew his output would be way off because it doesn't know his value is based on speed/defense. Also did you know Dyson will be 33 when he's a free agent? He seems way younger. Jeff Zimmerman found that fast players generally age better than players with "old man skills", but I wonder how many of the guys in that group were platoon hitters with absolutely no power.
Dyson isn't going to get 3/$19M. He probably isn't even getting the 1/$11M deal in the first year listed. Instead I could see a team giving him a one- or two-year deal worth around $3- million per year.
Volquez might not even be a free agent after this season as there is a $10M mutual option on the table. However if he does go to free agency, I think he'd be looking at a 2-3 year deal. I did two years and the total contract value might be a smidge high but it doesn't sound insane. Like I said my calculator seems to do better on mid- to upper-tier guys than lower-tier guys.
So there are a few guys. If you want me to run anyone specifically let me know. I'm still working on some tweaks to the calculator and I plan on linking it out publicly for you guys to play around with if you want.