Is Michael Cuddyer’s 2015 contract “fair?”

Like many, MetsBlog is a regular stop for me. Matt Cerrone has been very good to us here at Mets360. He was a guest on our podcast – back when we did them – and while MetsBlog doesn’t link to as many sites as it once did, we still get a few links, for which we are very grateful.

It’s easy to rag on MetsBlog, talk about the grammar errors or how awful the comments section is or whatever else your pet peeve may be. But the simple fact is the amount of information they put out on a daily basis is tremendous. My output this year is somewhere around 150 stories. That’s about two to three weeks’ worth of stuff for MetsBlog. We take it for granted because Matt and his staff have done it for so long.

When you put out that much content, some of it is going to look, well, ridiculous at times. That’s the nature of the beast and if you can’t accept that, shoot, you’re never going to make it. You can make nine good predictions and all anyone will remember and talk about is the one you missed badly on. You just have to keep moving ahead, knowing that you’re getting more right than wrong.

Among others, I’ve championed Collin Cowgill, Matt den Dekker and Darin Gorski, a trio that has gotten little or no shot in the majors with the Mets. People can throw my unfailing support of those guys in my face and all I can do is sit there and go, yep, and take ownership of that. When you write about something repeatedly, it’s hard to distance yourself from it if it doesn’t turn out the way that you want.

Which brings me back to MetsBlog.

Michael CuddyerMore than once I’ve seen Matt talk about the Michael Cuddyer signing and the money aspect of it. This morning he covered familiar ground when he wrote, “He projects to be a 0.9 WAR player next year, according to FanGraphs. So, his $8.5 million is actually fair. It’s 2016 when the Mets will be overpaying.”

No, no, no, no – that contract at that expected level of production is not fair. It’s a blatant overpay. Last year, Juan Lagares posted a 3.8 fWAR and FG assigned that a value of $21 million, meaning that a unit of fWAR was valued comfortably under $6 million in 2014. Sure, there will be inflation and a unit of fWAR will be valued at a higher rate in 2015 than it was 2014.

My opinion is if you think a unit of fWAR is going to be valued at $8 million or more in 2015, you’re nuts.

Let’s look at David Wright and see what a unit of fWAR has been valued at over the past 11 years. All figures are in millions and rounded to two decimal places.

04 – $3.13
05 – $3.42
06 – $3.69
07 – $3.91
08 – $4.47
09 – $4.52
10 – $4.00
11 – $4.41
12 – $4.48
13 – $4.98
14 – $5.63

The largest increase in raw dollar amount for a unit of fWAR in this period is the $650,000 increase from 2013 to 2014. If we double that amount and apply it as an increase to 2014, we get $6.93 million. The largest percentage increase in this span is the 14 percent jump from 2007 to 2008. If we double that amount and apply it to 2014, we get a value of $7.2 million per unit of fWAR.

In order to get close to a universe where $8.5 million is “fair” for an output of 0.9 fWAR, we have to totally obliterate historical rates from the past decade plus. Is it possible? Sure, just about anything is possible. But you wouldn’t wager on it and you certainly shouldn’t repeat it multiple times as if it were fact.

There are only three ways that this contract makes sense for the Mets. Here they are listed in terms of likelihood:

1. They expect Cuddyer to provide more than the 0.9 fWAR Steamer projection.
2. They place a huge amount of worth on off-field contributions, like being Wright’s pal.

(insert Gulf of Mexico-sized gulf here)

3. They expect unheard of inflation in fWAR dollar values.

My take is that it’s reasonable to expect Cuddyer to exceed the Steamer projection. And I do think there’s a (tiny) value to bringing on one of Wright’s buddies. But there’s simply no way for me to get behind the thinking that we’re going to see inflation rates that would make double the U.S. rate of inflation in 1980 blush.

Of course my preference would have been for a platoon of den Dekker and John Mayberry Jr. in left field and using the Cuddyer money to add Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop.

12 comments for “Is Michael Cuddyer’s 2015 contract “fair?”

  1. December 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    The Cuddyer card image comes courtesy of IN METS WE TRUST

  2. Rob
    December 26, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    I agree with you it is an overpay, but what I think is most important to keep in mind that he will get a 30% raise as the contract is heavily back loaded in year two at age 37. Then add to that we not only have to pay the contract but we also lose a 1st round pick (15th), how much does losing that pick add to the overall cost of the deal . I would much rather waited and picked up a young, high upside, cost controlled OFer like Myers even if we gave up more talent and kept the 1st rounder to dissuade the cost on prospects he would have cost.

    But Sandy Alderson jumped again in panic that the market was going to price us out for everyone else just like he did with Chris Young last year. This is becoming a recurring theme with our GM.

    The other thing is Cuddyer has a cumulative war of 15.9 in 14 ML seasons and he is worth what we payed in terms of draft pick and money. But Murphy who has produced a cumulative 10.9 war in 6 seasons, is 5 years younger and will command a similar contract in average $ per year without losing the pick will be left to walk after this year or traded because he isn’t worth it.

  3. James Preller
    December 26, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Good piece, as always, Brian.

    I also want to agree with your thoughts on Metsblog. Across all these years, despite all its imperfections, I continue to stop by there nearly every day. I think the heat that Matt takes over there is often cruel and unfair.

    I’m grateful for them. And also for Mets 360. I should add that I’ve seen other sites go after Metsblog with cheap shots. None of that has ever happened here, because you have too much class for that.

    A fan, JP

  4. Name
    December 26, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    Since 06 (basically his whole career) Cuddyer’s been a boom or bust kind of guy (WAR wise)
    Boom, for Cuddyer, is a prorated to 150 games fWAR value of 2.5 or greater and bust is 1 fWAR or lower. There is no in between for this guy. He’s either really good or pretty mediocre.
    He’s boomed 6 times compared to just 3 busts, and his 3 bust years were 2008,2010, and 2012.

    Steamer obviously thinks 2015 will be a bust year.

    Now onto my annual WAR rant.
    Why are we still valuing WAR linearly? Why is the first win worth just as much as the 4th or 5th win? Guys who can hit 5+ WAR are rare, while under 1 WAR guys are pretty common and can be had for at most a few million or have minor league guys who can do it for the min.
    For example, EY, who was just non-tendered because the Mets thought he wasn’t worth ~2.25 million, was worth 1.2 fWAR. He’ll likely sign for under 2 mil.
    Kirk and Mdd are making the min and they had .9 and .7 fWAR.
    Simply put, there’s no reason to value WAR linearly, and i’m surprised the smart guys at fangraphs haven’t come up with some kind of better valuation system. At the very least, the first WAR is clearly should not be valued more than 2-3 million. Something like 2 mil for the 1st WAR, 5 for the 2nd, 5.5 for the 3rd, 6 for the 4th etc… would probably be a better valuation.

    /end rant.

    • blaiseda
      December 27, 2014 at 4:58 am

      Good point.. since playing time is limited by innings and games… The more WAR you can produce in the same amount of opportunity is more valuable. because you cant play two LF’ers in the same game… so the guy that produce an 3 WAR is more than 3 times more valuable then the guy who produces 1 WAR.

      • December 27, 2014 at 8:13 am

        So what does this make the value of a guy who posted a 5.1 fWAR in 91 games last year?

    • December 27, 2014 at 8:30 am

      It’s all well and good to compare things on a per 150 games basis in certain instances but I would say that the particular case of Michael Cuddyer is not one of them.

      I don’t care that Cuddyer exceeded a 2.5 fWAR in three of the last four years on a per 150 games basis — when he has not reached 150 games at any time in that span.

      It will be curious to see if our manager, known for playing guys until they drop, will give an injury-prone 36 year old 3 or 4 scheduled days off per month.

      • Name
        December 27, 2014 at 12:54 pm

        WAR is a product of WAR/150 (productivity) and playing time (health). By breaking down WAR into its components, you can forecast each component separately, and then at the end of the year, you can explain more clearly why the final WAR value differed from the actual WAR. That is why Steamer also shows a projection for if a player were to reach 600 PA. In accounting, this is known as Variance Analysis.

        Projections systems are pretty useless for projecting health so when looking at them i mostly look at their productivity component and then use my own educated guess for health.
        So i broke down Cuddyer’s productivity and noticed that he is either usually really productive (2.5+ WAR) or not that productive (below 1 WAR). The fact that his production usually falls into 2 buckets with no in-between was quite interesting to me, and that’s why i labeled him as a boom or bust guy.
        So while 2015 steamer projects Cuddyer to be average (1 WAR), if he were to beat the projection, i would expect his production to be significantly more and jump into the 2.5+ range.

        In terms of whether he “earns” the contract, if he’s in the lower range, he’s not going to earn the contract even if he plays the full 162 games.
        If he’s more productive, he probably needs to play around 100-120 games to “earn it”
        If he plays at last year’s level, 80-100 games will probably suffice.

  5. blaiseda
    December 27, 2014 at 4:54 am

    If fans continue to look at each move in isolation (in a vacuum per se) and not in the context of the overall direction of the team for 3-5 years out, then moves like this will continue to provide much fodder for criticism and complaints.

    If there was a sure thing move to improve the club without drastically altering it’s future prospect pipeline, I think this administration would have done it. But that doesn’t exist. Every single option the team had comes with significant risk, none more so than Tulo….. who not only is a risk of becoming a total failure due to his bad hip… but would also cost a lot in terms of prospects.

    I get it.. you are all just speculating. None of you are the GM so you can play with someone else’s money.. but if it were you’re money.. you’d be hard pressed to make any of the moves discussed in this and the other blog sites.

    The cuddy move has the highest current upside versus the lowest risk to the future of all the moves. It may not work out… but if it doesn’t we have not thrown away the last four years of rebuild.

    The Mets seem to proceeding the same way with their SS position. My guess is they are going to try and sign Moncado and have him ready in two years. That would be a prudent risk to take.

    • December 27, 2014 at 8:09 am

      I don’t see how you can say that acquiring Cuddyer, a guy who is old, with a poor recent track record of being healthy and who is a defensive liability is a low risk. Then add in the fact that they gave up $21 million and a first-round pick to boot and it becomes very risky.

      If you think that I’m being cavalier because it’s not my money — then you are 100% wrong. I’d want my doctors to go over the medicals with greater care than they ever had before. And if they said that the recent hip injury was not a chronic thing, then I’d go after Tulowizki with everything I’ve got.

      It’s not a move for the sake of making a move. It’s the best player in the game at the position of your greatest need. How often is the best player at your weakest spot available? If you’re not going to pursue this opportunity, you shouldn’t own a club.

  6. Metsense
    December 27, 2014 at 9:18 am

    The Cuddyer signing addressed a need. He will need to put up a 3.9 WAR based on 2014 WAR value (and Name, I agree completely with your rant) to earn his salary. He has been offensively productive the past two years so I am not in agreement with the Steamer projection. The fact that he cost a draft pick, which is still an asset and has value, is what makes the deal an overpay. Considering the circumstances that he was signed under it made sense at the time. Much has occurred regarding trades and signings this winter in baseball that the ” Cuddyer need ” could have been addressed in a different way but who knew at the time of the signing.
    If the Mets want to compete with the Nats, the Mets should make the Tulo trade (using due diligence re his medicals) . The minor league system has a strong enough foundation that it isn’t going to collapse from the weight of the trade

  7. Patrick Albanesius
    December 27, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Cerrone’s article larger point, IMO, was that the Mets in particular need to overpay to get a player of Cuddyer’s caliber, because nobody wants to play here. The only possible benefit to having Cuddyer on the team for his unfair contract, is that maybe, just maybe, it might help lure Tulo here. Maybe he’ll make me eat my words, then I’ll be sitting with Brian in the Cowgill penalty box.

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