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A $320 Million Extension for Giancarlo Stanton Is a Bet Against History

In Sports on November 14, 2014 at 1:17 pm

By: Brian Mangan

Everyone knows that signing a superstar to a mega contract in his 30′s is usually folly.  But there appears to be a prevailing notion around baseball right now that signing a younger player to a mega contract is wise.  I’m not so sure about that.

This idea has been in the news recently as it has been reported that the Miami Marlins are in negotiations to sign superstar outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to a 10 year contract, valued at a whopping $320 million.  I’m not sure of the veracity of these rumors, but good sources are calling the rumors extremely credible.

$320 million is a lot of money to guarantee to one player, and 10 years is a long time to do it for (especially when you consider that the extension doesn’t kick in until Stanton’s present deal expires in 2017).

There is a lot of money kicking around in baseball right now, and by the time that all is said and done, the Stanton deal may turn out to have been justified, or may even have been a bargain.  However, if it is, it’s because of of luck and factors external to the contract, because in terms of WAR, dollars, and cents, it’s not a smart gamble for the Marlins to take.

Ryan Howard is a Clutch God, Let’s Just Celebrate It

In Sports on November 13, 2014 at 12:09 pm

By: Brian Mangan

Ryan Howard has had a long, successful career, winning an MVP, making three All-Star teams, and clubbing 334 career home runs along with 1,058 RBI.  However, through no fault of his own, Howard has always been a polarizing figure dividing old- and new-school thinkers.

Howard is presently in the middle of a whopping 5 year, $125 million extension, one which the Phillies offered to him two years before he would have been a free agent.  It was a move that stunned baseball observers, and truly solidified the “sides” of the Howard debate.  Was Ryan Howard a premier first baseman, as evidenced by his three seasons with 48+ home runs and three years leading all of baseball in runs batted in?  Or was Howard overrated by the old-school stats, and was he, instead, a defensive liability with “old man skills” who didn’t warrant that size of commitment?  As usual, I suspect the answer is somewhere in the middle.

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Nori Aoki Is the Cure for What Ails the Mets Outfield

In Sports on November 12, 2014 at 6:28 pm

By: Brian Mangan

(Ed: This article was written on Monday, 11/10, prior to the Mets signing Michael Cuddyer.  Although another roster move might be necessary for the Mets, it doesn’t look like it’ll be coming in the form of an outfielder.  Nonetheless, I wrote all this, so I am publishing it for the universe.)

Here’s what we know: 1) The Mets need a corner outfielder, 2) the Mets don’t have a ton of money to spend right now, and 3) the Mets could use help for their lineup, which ordinarily struggles against left-handed pitching.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of cheap, right-handed outfielders available right now. But what about a left-handed outfielder who hits better against lefties than he does against righties? Such a man exists: Nori Aoki.

Nori Aoki was not a well-known outfielder prior to his appearance in this year’s World Series with the Royals, having toiled in obscurity for two years with the Brewers and then through a mostly unspectacular 2014 regular season with Kansas City. Given his age, his strengths, and his presumably modest contract demands, Aoki is an attractive target.

Aoki Is a Solid Every Day Player

Aoki has been solid, but unspectacular, since coming to the United States for his age 30 season in 2012. Over 1,811 MLB plate appearances, he’s earned a .287 batting average and excellent .353 on-base percentage, although his .387 slugging percentage is unusually low for a corner outfielder. He has never hit more than 10 home runs in a season, but averages 41 extra-base hits per 162 games played in his career.

He will be playing next season at age 33, so he is entering the sunset of his career, but there is no reason to believe that he cannot put up another productive season or two. Aoki has been worth 5.1 WAR over the last three years according to Fangraphs, and 7.5 WAR according to Baseball-Reference. Both sites’ defensive metrics rate Aoki as an above average player.

No matter which valuation you use, Aoki has been worh somewhere between 1.8 – 2.5 WAR on average.

Aoki is Affordable

Yesterday on Metsblog, readers were treated to three estimates for what contract Aoki will receive in the free agent market this offseason from an anonymous scout, anonymous GM, and CBS columnist Jon Heyman: 2 years, $15M (scout), 1 year, $7.5M (GM), 2 years, $14M (Heyman). These predictions are in line with MLB Trade Rumors’s projection of two years, $16 million.

If that is indeed all that Aoki will command, the Mets would be foolish not to jump all over him. Why?

Aoki Is a Perfect Fit For the Mets

The Mets are desperate for someone who can hit left-handed pitching. The team batted .241 with a .309 on-base and .379 slugging against right-handers last year, but batted .230 with a .305 on-base and a putrid .328 slugging last year.

As mentioned at the outset, Aoki is excellent against left-handed pitching despite he himself batting left-handed. For his career, Aoki has a .319 average and 776 OPS against lefties compared to a .273 average and 726 OPS against righties. That split was even more extreme last year, with Aoki walloping lefties to the tune of a .363 average and 863 OPS last year in 124 at bats.

Aoki and his high on-base percentage can slot in at the top of the lineup against left-handed starters, he won’t cost the Mets a draft pick, he’s above-average defensively, and he won’t require a long term commitment. If Aoki were to flop as a Met, the team has Matt Den Dekker on the roster already as his platoon partner, as well as Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto further down on the Farm. Aoki won’t block Nimmo or Conforto, and fits nicely into the current 25 man roster.

Aoki certainly isn’t the best free agent available, but he addresses directly the Mets’ most pressing areas of need and he does it at a very low cost. He’s a fine player who can provide the team with some much needed security.

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Brian Mangan is an attorney who lives in New York City. His writing can be found at The Read Zone, and you can follow his (mostly) Mets-related thoughts on twitter at @brianpmangan.

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