Fresh off the second World Series championship and first MVP award of his young career, Buster Posey is ready to enter an important section of his career: arbitration. The Giants catcher earned the Super Two designation, meaning 2013 is his first of four trips through the arbitration process.
Whenever a star-calibre player gets to arbitration, fans begin murmuring about potential long-term contract extensions, locking up the arb years and buying out some free agency years as well, staving off the inevitable crushing sadness of losing a homegrown talent to the free market. Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles got that ball rolling yesterday, asking if now might be the time to get a deal done with Posey while stressing patience among his throng of loyal readers.
As the Buster Olney piece that sparked the McCovey Chronicles debate states in no uncertain terms: Buster Posey is a special talent and the Giants would be well-served to get him while he’s hot – and young. Talented as he is, might the Giants be reluctant to sign their future over to catcher?
The ageing curve of catchers is a tough nut to crack. The grueling nature of the role and the paucity of catchers who can both stick behind the plate and, you know, hit, make it difficult to get a sense of how Buster Posey will age. Injuries have their way with athletic catchers, grinding them to sawdust and evaporating their power and batspeed like a milkshake in the sun.
Brian McCann is a noteworthy comparison. While excellent, McCann isn’t quite as good a player as Buster Posey. He is, however, a player the Braves locked into a long contract almost immediately, buying up all five remaining years of team control and one of his free agent seasons after just one full big league season.
McCann rewarded the Braves with multiple seasons of excellent play, putting up more than 4 fWAR five times in six seasons before injuries slowed him in 2012, when he played in a career low number of games. Through their age 25 seasons, McCann and Posey’s numbers are awfully similar, with Posey posting a much higher in-play average but nearly identical walk rate, strikeout rate, and ISO.
McCann’s deal with Braves worked out very well for both sides as the Braves got what appears to be McCann’s peak years at a considerable discount while Brian McCann received more than $40 million after just one year in the big leagues. The future for the Braves and McCann is uncertain, as his mounting injuries could potentially scare the Braves away, not to mention the raise he is all but guaranteed by hitting free agency at the end of the year.
The Giants are in a similar situation with Posey. He is an elite talent playing a very difficult position. The next four years will cost the Giants, by Brisbee’s math, around $50 million through arbitration rewards alone. Should the Giants attempt to tack on a free agent year or two, the price will shoot up considerably.
For all his greatness, Buster Posey is still a player with only 1200 career plate appearances. In that time, he has shown himself to be one of the finest receivers in the game offensively. San Francisco smartly keeps his bat in the lineup while sparing his knees with playing time at first base, but the bulk of his value comes as a catcher.
Can Posey continue to post extremely high BABIP numbers as the miles pile up on the odometer? Very few catchers sustain Posey’s career .339 BABIP through their late twenties. The list of catchers who posted .320 BABIP and .200 ISO between age 26-30 is basically Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez. That’s it.
With that in mind – is signing a catcher — any catcher — to a seven-year deal a good idea? As the McCovey Chronicles post states: there is no need to rush. The Giants have plenty of time to decide what to do with their generational talent, catcher or otherwise.
And the rest
The physics of a batted ball. Science killin’ it. [Baseball Prospectus]
Speaking of the Orioles, this is a picture tweeted out by the number one prospect, the number one prospect in baseball, Dylan Bundy. I don’t think he can wear regular jeans anymore.
— Dylan Bundy (@Dylan_Bundy) December 13, 2012