The Los Angeles Dodgers and outfielder Andre Ethier have reached an agreement on a five year contract extension worth at least $85 million according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports added that the deal includes a $2.5 million buyout for a $17.5 million option for 2018 that will vest if Ethier reaches a certain number of plate appearances in 2017 or 2016 and 2017 combined. This would up the deal to a six year contract worth $100 million, or the 32nd biggest contract handed out in baseball history.
The first question that we ask ourselves whenever a free agent or extension get signed is whether or not the deal works out in a vacuum. Of course, the reality of every situation is very different from our sucked up world, but looking at it strictly in terms of value for performance compared to other contracts that get signed gives us a good idea of what the signing team is expecting from its newly locked up player.
Here’s how the deal breaks down, as we consider both Ethier’s expected decline from his age 31 season on and a 5% inflation on the expected $5.5 million / WAR. I’ve also added the club cost of the buyout to the final year of the deal.
2013 – $13.5 million salary - $5.25 $/WAR – Paying for 2.6 WAR – Anticipating 3.9 WAR
2014 – $15.0 million salary - $5.51 $/WAR – Paying for 2.7 WAR – Anticipating 3.4 WAR
2015 – $18.0 million salary - $5.79 $/WAR – Paying for 3.1 WAR – Anticipating 2.9 WAR
2016 – $18.0 million salary - $6.08 $/WAR – Paying for 3.0 WAR – Anticipating 2.4 WAR
2017 – $20.5 million salary - $6.31 $/WAR – Paying for 3.2 WAR – Anticipating 1.9 WAR
Assuming that Ethier doesn’t reach his vesting point for plate appearances, the deal considers the corner outfielder to be a true talent player of around four wins above replacement. While ZiPs has him on pace to surpass that total this year, he’s never before accumulated four WAR in a season, according to metrics from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference or Baseball Prospectus. In fact, the last three completed seasons reveal a much different story:
- FanGraphs: 7.3 fWAR
- Baseball Reference: 6.5 bWAR
- Baseball Prospectus: 9.5 WARP
Even when we factor in the projected career year he’s on pace for this season, it gives him a three year fWAR total of 8.6, not exactly the most supportive of evidence that he is in fact a four WAR talent.
However, when we step outside of the vacuum and consider other factors like new ownership in Los Angeles, a somewhat disenfranchised fan base, a big television deal on the horizon, an underwhelming upcoming free agent class and the fact that Ethier is the second best position player on a roster of haves and have nots, you can understand why the team might be willing to overpay for his services.
So, as much as everyone might appreciate either absolute praise or entire condemnation, this, like most deals is justifiable, if not fair.