July 10, 2012
The Brief Wondrous Life of a One-Year Deal
In April, we wondered whether the Angels had made a terrible mistake by signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year contract over the winter. In June, we wondered whether we might have made a terrible mistake in April. We won’t actually know whether the Angels got a good or bad deal on Pujols until he’s much closer to the end of the contract, but that won’t prevent us from prematurely passing judgment at many more points along the way to November 2021. Only 112 more months to go!
So no, we can’t get a great handle on contracts that won’t expire until the end of 2013, 2014, 2015, and beyond. But one-year deals—those, we can say something about.
One-year deals are awarded to several types of free agents. They can go to setup men, whom smart teams tend not to trust beyond a year (Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Luis Ayala). They can go to productive veterans who are too old to command long-term commitments (Jim Thome, Darren Oliver, Bartolo Colon). They can go to veterans who aren’t particularly productive but aren’t quite ready to retire (Raul Ibanez, Mark Kotsay, Omar Vizquel). They can go to platoon players and bench bats, pieces that every team has to have but no team wants to pay much for (Andruw Jones, Reed Johnson, Juan Rivera). They can go to reclamation projects, players (usually pitchers) coming off a year of injury, absence, or ineffectiveness (Andy Pettitte, Jamie Moyer, Jonathan Broxton). They can go to catchers with good gloves who aren’t expected to hit (Jose Molina, Brian Schneider, Henry Blanco). They can go to young players who didn’t get the offers they were looking for and decided to settle for a single year and hold out hope for a bigger score the following season (Edwin Jackson). They can go to Cesar Izturis, for some reason.*
*How old would you say Cesar Izturis is? At least 35, right? However old Miguel Cairo is, maybe? Wrong! Cesar Izturis is only 32. Maybe he seems so much older because he made the majors at 21 and hasn’t gotten a bit better since. Maybe it’s because he has such a small statistical footprint. In 12 seasons, 1228 games, and 4173 plate appearances, he’s been worth -0.2 WARP to his teams, or roughly the same as any streaker who’s spent 30 seconds on the field.
There’s some overlap across those categories, but the one thing that’s true of all the players who signed one-year deals last winter is that we already have a pretty decent idea of whether their contracts will work out. Every team has already played more than half of its schedule, which means that these players are more than halfway to hitting free agency again. These are all the one-year deals that stand out for being particularly good, particularly bad, or particularly closely related to Yuniesky Betancourt.
Most valuable: David Ortiz, Red Sox ($14.575 million)