Monday, May 3, 2010

Poll Results: Giant Contracts

Hey everyone, here are last week's poll results:

Which of these giant contracts is the worst?
Alfonso Soriano (8 years, $136 million) - 11 (61%)

Vernon Wells (7 years, $126 million) - 5 (27%)

Barry Zito (7 years, $126 million) - 1 (5%)

They are all so bad, I don't know how to choose. - 1 (5%)
Total votes: 18

Thanks to everyone who voted!

The results for this are very interesting indicate that the vast majority of the people who read my blog think Alfonso Soriano has the worst of these three contracts, which basically means he has the worst contract in baseball. I'm going to do an analysis of what all three of these players have done since signing their massive contracts with their respective teams, and then come to a conclusion of my own.

Note: For anyone not familiar with "slash lines" for stats, they indicate Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage

1. Alfonso Soriano - Since signing his 8 year, $136 million contract with the Cubs before the 2007 season, Soriano's numbers have essentially been going downward. His first year with the Cubs, in which he managed to hit near .300 with 33 home runs was his best season, and his OBP was pretty terrible that year. He has also become a defensive liability.
Here are Soriano's numbers since he signed his contract before the 2007 season:
.276/.330/.512 with 86 Home Runs and 213 Runs Batted In. He also has 366 Strike Outs and only 122 Walks in that time span.

While Soriano's numbers are not exactly horrible, he is definitely not performing the way someone being paid as much as he is should be. His downward trend in every single offensive category is also alarming. In the first three years of the contract he hit 33 home runs, 29 home runs, and 20 home runs respectively. His average has also dropped from .299, to .280, to .240 last year. He has never had a great deal of patience, and seems to be getting worse at drawing walks as his career progresses. The good news is, as if in response to the poll I posted at the beginning of last week, Soriano had a big week. Maybe he can find some consistency this year and make the Cubs not look as bad for signing him. If Soriano can find a way to get back to how he was with the Yankees and the Nationals, this contract might look a lot better. The chances of that are pretty low though, considering he is 34 years old.

2. Vernon Wells - Since signing his 7 year, $126 million dollar contract before the 2007 season, Wells has really only had one good season (2008, when he hit 20 home runs in 108 games), and it was cut short by injury.
Here are Wells' numbers from 2007-2009:
.268/.321/.440 with 59 Home Runs and 241 RBI.
Wells' numbers are worse than Soriano's in quite literally every way but RBI, and that can be explained by the fact that Soriano was mostly leading off while Wells was mostly hitting in the middle of the order. His ceiling is also not as high as Soriano's, in that Soriano has hit 40 home runs in his career among other impressive feats. Like Soriano, Wells is off to a good start this year, and might finally put all of his talent together. However, as poorly as Wells performed in the first three years of his contract, it is going to be pretty difficult for this to ever look like a good contract.

3. Barry Zito - Since signing his 7 year, $126 million dollar contract before the 2007 season (how crazy was the free agent market that year?!), Zito had what could be characterized as two completely horrible years (2007, 2008) and one rebound year (2009). Like the other two, he is off to a good start this year.
Here are his numbers from 2007-2009:
Zito has gone 31-43 with a 4.56 ERA and only a 6.4 K/9.

There's no denying how horrible those numbers are. The one difference that Zito has from the other two guys on the poll is the fact that he actually had a rebound year last year, while last year was a low point in the careers of both Soriano and Wells. This probably accounts for the fact that Zito's contract only received one vote, despite the fact that he had two horrible seasons in a row before last year. One could even argue that his two horrible seasons were even more horrible that Soriano's and Wells' worst seasons, but it's hard to compare position players and pitchers.
If Zito can carry his momentum into this year (which he has done so far) he could very easily prove his worth to the Giants, and he is also only 32 years old, meaning the possibility is certainly there.

Well, now I have to choose which of these under-achieving athletes with massive contracts actually has the worst contract. After analyzing all of their numbers, I think I have to come to the conclusion that Vernon Wells is the least valuable to his team, especially for the amount of money he is being paid. He has only hit 20 home runs once in the three seasons since signing his contract, where Soriano has done it every year since signing his contract. As stated in the earlier analyses, Wells also has a lower Batting Average, On Base Percentage, and Slugging Percentage in that span. While it's true that Soriano has an additional year on his contract, and $10m more invested in him than Wells, Soriano still seems able to produce more in his down seasons than Wells can.
Zito, while having some horrible years in San Francisco, has still managed to make 100 starts in the span from 2007-2009, meaning he has missed very few starts, and has at least been an innings-eater for his team even when he has underperformed. He also seems to have the most potential to rebound of these three players.

I find it interesting that Wells received as few votes as he did, but I think this is probably due to the amount of his press his giant contract gets when compared to Wells, who plays in a considerably smaller market. And there is also no doubt that Soriano's contract is only slightly less bad than Wells'.

Well, that's it for now. Don't forget to vote on the new poll!

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