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An Interesting Way to Approach Thinking About the Cano Contract (From Joe Sheehan)

The Joe Sheehan Newsletter is something I look forward to getting in my inbox several times per week. I'd highly recommend it if you're looking for a present to get yourself, or if someone's looking to get you a present. I want to share something that makes perfect sense that I hadn't thought of at all, in the case of Robinson Cano's upcoming string of paychecks…that, although we see a player's production inch downward, imagining it as a string of WAR figures year to year going in one rigid slope isn't so much what really happens, or, what has at least actually happened. In the case of the Seattle Mariners future partnership with Cano, he could easily earn the first half or so of the contract due to the increased dollar valuation of the Win, and that his establishing himself as a 7 WAR player in his prime, thus far, makes his $24mil AAV quite the bargain –so much so that the back end of the deal would actually be taken care of well by what he does in the first stretch of years.

Excerpt:

The vision of a hobbled Cano batting 178 times with an OPS in the 500s while laying claim to 25% of the Mariners' payroll is an easy sell, but it's just one image. There's also the possibility, well within reason, that Cano is a useful part-time player worth a win or so, with that win being worth much more than the $5-7 million it is today, and with Cano's salary taking up just 10-15% of what the Ms are paying their players.

The range of possible outcomes, once you get past about a four-year window, is wide. What we can say for sure is that the Mariners are going to win the front side of this deal, and they're going to win it by so much that committing to an aging Robinson Cano at the end of his career isn't nearly enough of a burden to offset that win. Cano could be lousy at 37 and great at 38, in which case having him for two more seasons will seem like a benefit. He could be lousy at 38 and great at 39, in which case, boy, isn't it a good thing the Mariners didn't give him an eight-year deal? We see these step-down WAR projections in which every player gets a little bit worse over time and we forget that very few careers actually go that way.

– – – -

 

Sheehan then goes on to list the age 31-40 contract years of some great players, using bWAR, to show the sporadic nature of yearly production. Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio, George Brett, Chipper Jones, and Derek Jeter:

(below, again, from the newsletter)

 

"Here's Frank Thomas, from 31-40. by bWAR:

Age:   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40
bWAR: 2.3  6.1  0.0  1.9  4.2  2.8  0.4  3.2  2.2  0.2

Thomas should, in a just world, go into the Hall of Fame this year with Craig Biggio, who did this from 31-40:

Age:   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40
bWAR: 9.4  6.5  5.0  1.4  3.2  0.4  2.5  1.1  2.1  0.4

I think the best comp for Robinson Cano is George Brett…who actually does look like a player you'd prefer to have had solely through age 38!

Age:   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40
bWAR: 2.8  8.2  3.9  2.7  5.2  1.7  4.1  0.4  0.6 -0.2

But another great third baseman held his performance until the day he left the game:

Age:   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40
bWAR: 4.4  4.0  4.1  3.6  7.6  7.3  2.3  2.3  2.7  2.8

I don't have a very hard time seeing Robinson Cano doing just what Chipper Jones did in his late thirties. Then there's the shortstop Cano leaves behind:

Age:   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39
bWAR: 3.8  5.5  3.9  3.0  6.6  1.8  0.9  2.2 -0.7
"

 

-(end of excerpt)-

 

– – – – -

The rest is, of course, a great read. He seems to be of the mindset that, while it may seem as though the Mariners pulled a "Royals" by bumping up the timetable for their contention window up a year or two, they do not necessarily need to run the team this way. That they can still wait that year or two with Cano, and not have to rush things.

Sheehan routinely gives me an angle I would not have considered, even after reading and hearing many other great baseball peoples' opinions on a matter before receiving the newsletter focusing on that given issue. I just got into the sport in 2007, and began reading the more in-depth analysis even more recently than that. So, I missed the Baseball Prospectus days and am very new to his work (His appearances on Clubhouse Confidential probably were the first time I'd gotten more of a sense of who Joe Sheehan was). To see some excerpts of his past newsletters and this current one, check out his main site.
 

Credits:

The excerpts were from The Joe Sheehan Newsletter Vol. V, No. 127
December 11, 2013  http://joesheehan.com/

Photo: (now-Mariners) 2B Robinson Cano This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license by user Y2kcrazyjoker4.
 

Jess Lemont

About Jess Lemont

Jess is mostly an illustrator, here, providing occasional theme music. As her profile picture would indicate, she does not (or, may not) have a the skill required for flipping bats, so a drawing has replaced it. Really, you could also think of her as the photographer without a camera, in that regard. And, really...maybe it's best not to ask beyond this point.

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