Evaluating multi-year free agent deals with THT Forecasts

Spring training is well under way, and many clubs in Arizona and Florida are showing off their shiny new free agent signings. Overall, 28 free agents (excluding Kansas City’s Noel Arguelles and Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman) received multi-year contracts over the winter. Which players project to be worth the dough, and which players might have their clubs screaming “D’oh!” in a few years?

Enter THT Forecasts. Based on Brian Cartwright’s Oliver projections, THT forecasts offer (among many other things) detailed player projections for the next six seasons. Equipped with these forecasts, I compiled projected wins above replacement (WAR) totals for each multi-year free agent signee during the length of the player’s contract.

Here are the projected WAR totals for multi-year position players:


Most of the items on the chart are self-explanatory. “Projected WAR” is the player’s forecasted WAR total during the length of the contract. “$/WAR” is how much the team would be paying for each win above replacement, based on salary and the player’s projected WAR total during the length of the contract. The contract length and salary figures are courtesy of ESPN’s Free Agent Tracker, while the contract option details are from the incomparable Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

A few notes: I adjusted Gload’s playing time downward (his Equivalent Forecast has him with well over 300 ABs both years, which ain’t happening unless he kidnaps Ryan Howard). Also, for Matt Holliday seventh year, I gave him a 2 WAR projection (his year six projection was 2.9 WAR). Perhaps that’s too generous, but it’s a rough guess. Arguelles and Chapman do not have projections, so they were omitted from the study.

Oliver loves Scutaro’s glove, and projects him to provide Boston with a great return on investment. Holliday is expected to retain his all-around skill-set well into his contract. Bay, on the other hand, is forecasted as an above-average regular for the moment who rather quickly takes a tumble. Per Oliver, clubs figure to dish out about $5 million per WAR for these multi-year position players.

And now, the starting pitchers:


Oliver really, really likes the well-traveled Colby Lewis. It’s worth noting that CHONE is also a big fan. New Angel Joel Pineiro likely won’t burn worms like a Brandon Webb/Derek Lowe love child or throw strikes like Greg Maddux again. But even so, the born-again sinkerballer looks like a bargain. Oliver expects teams to spend about $4M per WAR for multi-year starting pitchers, though some might find the Lewis and Marquis projections a bit high.

Here are the multi-year relievers:


Fernando Rodney hearts Jerome Holtzman.

In all, major league clubs signing players to multi-year contracts handed out a total of $550.25 million. With 116.2 projected wins above replacement coming from that cash, teams would pay about $4.73 million per WAR based on the Oliver projections.

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  1. Brent Crossman said...

    Just FYI, the negative $/WAR aren’t meaningful and you should just put NEG.  By that I mean it is impossible to know if that ratio is better when it is more or less negative since the ratio can go more negative either by spending less money or having a bigger negative WAR.  But besides that, good analysis. As a Sox fan, I’m excited about the Scutaro pickup, the guy only swings outside the strike zone like 5% of the time.

  2. Nathaniel Dawson said...

    Am I not understanding something about your projections? You have Chone Figgins at 6.7 WAR over 4 years—roughly a slightly below average player.

    He contributed more than that in just one season last year. We should reasonably expect him to play 140 games a year, and a very conservative projection would put him at 3 WAR next year, with slight decreases over the following 3 years. A low-end projection would put him at 9 WAR, with a higher likelyhood of something like 11 or 12 for the length of the contract. Are you really projecting Figgins to be a below average player for the span of the contract?

  3. David Gassko said...

    Hey Nathaniel,

    I think David made a mistake somewhere. Figgins projects for 12.1 WAR over the next four years according to Oliver. Just about what you expected!

  4. Ralph Kramden said...

    I’m surprised to see Scutaro’s projected WAR.  The projections must not take into account the apparent fact that new Red Sox shortstops will suck, no matter what their prior performance has been.

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