The big news this week was the signing of Allen Craig to a five year deal with a club option. The deal looks awfully club friendly while basically setting up Allen Craig for life. Both sides have to be reasonable content with that result.
The easy point of comparison here is the guy that Allen Craig has essentially replaced sans a transitory Lance Berkman year. Albert Pujols will be entering his age 33 season; Craig enters the year at 28. (He'll turn 29 in July.) Pujols should project, with normal aging curve assumptions to be on the downslide of his career. Craig enters this season during peak performance age where we should expect steady production for the next 3-4 years before the downturn arrives.
Getting younger provides a huge benefit to the Cardinals just because of the natural age related decline that Pujols will be encountering 4 years prior to Craig. That said, Pujols is all but guaranteed to be descending from a higher peak than Craig. Next year, ZiPS projects a .285/.362/.516 line from Pujols, which is good for a .364 wOBA. ZiPS really dislikes Craig -- or more specifically, it really dislikes his unusually high BABIP -- and has him down for a .283/.337/.478 line or a .348 wOBA.
That's not an insignificant difference on paper (though I suspect most of us would take the over on Craig) and it translates to about a full win's difference over the course of a full season. Pujols is likely the better defender relative to Criag as well. If you want to compare their contracts, it's really hard to do so this season because Craig was still slated to be a 0-3 player with no leverage on his salary. There's evidence to suggest that players who sign deals in arbitration years 4-6 are making 40%, 60% & 80% of their free agent salaries had they been on the market. It's not a perfect analog in every case but it works often enough to provide a comparison point.
|Allen Craig||Albert Pujols|
So yep. Allen Craig is cheaper. The real easy take away is that the Cardinals are paying Allen Craig for about half of Albert Pujols production. Even if the Cardinals had settled with Pujols around the $18M/season mark rather than what the Angels gave him, it's still a comparison where Craig costs about 60% as much. The follow up question is then do you get 60% of the production from Craig that you'd have gotten from Pujols?
The intent here isn't to rag on Pujols so much as it is to point out what a difficult situation it is for aging players to complete with younger ones on long term talent projections.
There's one other thing worth noting about the Allen Craig contract. It's duration closely mirrors that of Matt Holliday's remaining contract. The Cardinals have all but guaranteed that Matt Holliday is a left fielder for the duration of his time in St. Louis. That is probably less palatable to St. Louis fans as a whole than the subsection we have here but it's an interesting side effect of the Craig deal.
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Just to build a little off of Danup's post yesterday, Greg Garcia is an interesting prospect whose profile is probably a little more familiar to you than you realize. Before jumping into that, I have to ask: Does anyone understand what the heck is going on with Ryan Jackson? I understand that he was never going to be an offensive giant but every time I saw him play defense, he looked superb. Solid range, soft hands, good fundamentals. Overall he looked like a very slick shortstop who lacked the range to make the truly elite plays but would still be comfortably above average on defense.
Now he's slipped behind Pete Kozma and maybe even Greg Garcia on the depth chart. The whole thing is baffling to me.
Anyway, if there's one thing you should know about Greg Garcia it is that he is doing in the middle infield what Matt Carpenter was doing at third base. He draws a ton of walks while hitting for modest value. The vast majority of Garcia's offensive value is generated from his ability to always be on base. Last year he walked in 15.9% of his plate appearances while playing in Springfield. Garcia was a shorstop in college and the Cardinals 7th round pick in the 2010 draft. (A year later his teammate, Kolten Wong, would be the Cardinals #1 overall pick.)
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I mentioned this on twitter recently but the sudden love for Pete Kozma seems like the clearest form of confirmation bias I've seen in quite some time. With Rafael Furcal's injury and scheduled surgery removing him entirely from the picture, Pete Kozma is the heir apparent though it's unclear he's going to be able to provide any real value there. Greg Garcia -- someone who I haven't really included in any decision calculus thus far regarding shorstop -- projects to be better than Kozma.
This is all a bit "robot beats dead horse; horse remains dead" in nature though. Obviously, Kozma was not the club's first choice to start the 2013 season. He projects as a replacement level player at short and that kind of value at shortstop means some really ugly numbers on offense. The Cardinals may want to see if Greg Garcia can turn out to be a better long term fix, they may want to see if Kozma's magic sticks around from 2012 but, at the end of the day, they should be aggressively exploring trade options.
It's time to fix the problem at shortstop. Bandaid solutions aren't going to stitch together the gaping hole left by Furcal's injured elbow.