Unless you live under a rock, you heard about the contract that Ozzie Albies signed last week. He signed what could be called a team friendly deal. There is in fact no other interpretation possible unless you time traveled here from 1975. Calling it team friendly even feels wrong. The Braves knocked him out, and while he was unconscious, Alex Anthopoulous took his hand and helped him sign the deal. Either that, or they used mind control on Albies to make him believe that he was the reincarnation of Greg Garcia. This is the worst modern day contract signed by a player in baseball ever.
In understanding how bad of a contract that Ozzie Albies signed, I would like to compare it to a Cardinal who signed under a similar, if not directly comparable, set of circumstances. However the ways they differ would actually suggest Albies was in a better position than Paul DeJong to demand more money, not less. I realize this is only thinly related to the Cardinals, but I write about what interests me, and then connect it to the Cards if necessary. Plus, it is apparently Paul DeJong week at VEB, a thing we totally planned yep planned it all out.
First, the details. Albies signed a 7 year, $35 million deal with two club options for $7 million. Simple as that. No opt-outs, performance bonuses, anything. He had 1.062 years of service time prior to this season, thus he would reach arbitration in 2021 and reach free agency in 2024. This deal takes him to 2027. Albies just cost him self $100 million if he’s anywhere near the player he is supposed to be.
To make this part of the post quick, Albies is projected by ZiPS to be a 4.9 WAR player in 2020. Let’s say that free agent costs are broken and that the price of a win is $8.5 million per win. That season would be worth $41.65 million. Assuming the rough arbitration estimates of 25/40/60 - as in in the first year, he’d get 25% of his free agent value and so on- Albies would get $10.4/$16.6/$24.99 million in those years if he stayed healthy.
Let’s say, because obviously there’s no reason a team would sign that deal to Albies right now, that Albies gives them a 50% discount in order to have more security. He’d be set to make $26 million over his arbitration years, and we’ll keep the $1 million he makes in the original deal. So he would have made $28 million instead of $24 million. Well, assuming the price of a win is $8.5 million at least, which is on the lower side. Oh yeah and there’s also the 50% discount, and I’d in fact recommend to the player to not sign at a 50% discount. The arbitration years are not the problem with the deal, however. He then makes $7 million in his first year of free agency and has two club options for $7 million after that. Double the club option years and remove one free agency year, and this deal would make a whole lot more sense.
If I were the Braves, that would my first offer actually! I could not even fathom offering him this deal, which makes this deal so confusing to me. Do teams usually lowball the everliving shit of players if they want to sign them to extensions with their first offer? Did the Braves not want to sign him to an extension but did their due diligence anyway and that’s why the offer is low? Did Albies agent offer this deal to the Braves? I have so many questions how this even happened, because this deal is so far out of bounds, that I don’t know how it was even presented in the first place.
Anyway, I need to connect it to the Cards. Paul DeJong signed a team friendly deal before the 2018 season. Again, they aren’t a perfect comparison, but all the dissimilarities between the two benefit Albies. Albies was the #11 prospect in baseball before the 2017 season. DeJong was the 10th ranked prospect... in the Cardinals system before the 2017 season. DeJong signed it before he had a full year of service time while Albies signed it when he was closer to making big money. DeJong was coming off a 3 WAR season in 108 games with a terrible K/BB ratio and a high BABIP. Albies has 5.9 fWAR in 978 PAs with a .295 BABIP so far. Pretty much every difference makes Albies look primed for a better contract.
After his surprising rookie season, DeJong signed a 6 year, $26 million deal with two club options. DeJong gets to make $3.5 million instead of league minimum for the next three years, and then has an escalating price in arbitration. In 2018, DeJong was projected for 2.1 WAR by ZiPS. I can’t even guess how much he would project for in 2021 at the time he signed the contract, but it probably wouldn’t be more than 2.1 WAR. Assuming he would project for that, he’d be worth $4.5/$7.1/$10.7 million. The Cardinals gave him $4/$6/$9 million, essentially the difference between his first three years when he was making league minimum. They then gave him a club option for $12.5 million and for $15 million in his first two years of free agency.
Just writing out DeJong’s deal, where the Cardinals simply took the broken system MLB already has in place, and paid DeJong pretty damn fairly based off what we knew at the time, and comparing it to Albies who is just shockingly underpaid in this deal really illustrates to me how BAD the deal Albies signed was. I hope Albies sues his agency, because they clearly did not inform him well. He has the same agency (Sports Meter) that can’t get Craig Kimbrel signed to a deal because they think he’s the best closer of all time and deserves a 6 year deal. I hope all players know how bad this agency is screwing up and they get all the bad press they rightly deserve.
On more positive news, that DeJong deal sure looks good right now. His 2018 was a very important part of the deal, a part that would determine how much a fluke his 2017 was and the answer so far seems to be not at all. If he continues down this path, he will have likely made more in arbitration than he will in this deal, but he and his agents clearly understood the risks, because the deal structure is pretty much what it should be for a player sacrificing risk for security. Let’s just be grateful the Cardinals will have DeJong for what is looking like the next seven years.