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HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed OF-L Colby Rasmus to one-year, $15.8-million deal.

Colby Rasmus could have gotten a multi-year deal this winter. He’s heading into his age-29 season, and coming off his second above-average showing in three years. In 2015, he batted .238/.314/.475, good for a True Average of .283, and he was good with the glove as an all-spots outfielder. Sure, he struck out over 30 percent of the time, but given his patience, power, and defensive value, that really didn’t need to hold him back. Rasmus left money on the table by accepting this deal.

We should ask, though, what it is that spooked Rasmus into passing up free agency. We should ask it, but only for the sake of the set-up, because the answer is pretty obvious: Rasmus took this deal because Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales didn’t take theirs. Drew and Morales were each heading into their age-31 seasons in 2014, so the parallel isn’t perfect, but some of the other particulars are. Drew had a very high strikeout rate (though not one on par with Rasmus’). Morales had the lingering stigma of the injury he’d suffered leaping on home plate after a grand slam in 2010, and the hideously long path back to good health from there. Both guys had had two good seasons and one lost or decimated one over their prior three seasons, just as Rasmus has.

What both Drew and Morales found was that, though they were hardly the worst players offered the qualifying offer to that point, they were pariahs on the free-agent market. That’s because it’s a little bit harder for a position player to find a free-agent home than it is for a pitcher. Teams can always slide their fourth starter down to fifth if they decide to add in free agency. They can bump someone to the bullpen if they have to. Hardly any team enters any winter without being at least open to a significant expenditure on a starting pitcher, so guys like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, and Kyle Lohse have had only to sit and wait. Sooner or later, someone always got hurt, or some executive got nervous about his depth, and they were able to squeak in somewhere.

It’s not the same way with position players. Teams don’t want to give up a draft pick for a role player, so players have to find an honest fit, a place where they’ll be an average or better everyday player. That shrinks the pool of interested teams, not only because there are bound to be teams for whom the player wouldn’t represent an upgrade at their position, but because many of the ones who would materially benefit from adding that player will be non-contenders, and if you’re rebuilding, you don’t give up a draft pick for anything less than a superstar.

Rasmus really isn’t Drew or Morales. He’s younger, and just as importantly, he’s demonstrated adequacy at all three outfield spots. Unfortunately, under the qualifying-offer system, he had to respect the unfortunate precedent at hand, because there was a real chance the market would treat him like those two players. The players gave with both hands in the last CBA negotiations, and the gift just keeps on giving for owners. The Astros get a heck of a deal on a player they’re thrilled to have, and they don’t have to worry about upgrading their outfield without blocking anyone from stepping into that mix by 2017. Rasmus proved himself comfortable in Houston, accepting of his role on the team, and a perfect fit for their team-prescribed approach at the plate. That the Astros don’t have to pay him a dime in his 30s to get another go-around with him is great news for a team that has other things deserving of their focus this offseason.

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Kongos
11/13
An unexpectedly brief analysis, that.
Grasul
11/13
A working thesis could be, the web editor called in sick this morning. :)
bretsayre
11/13
Hey! Look! It's analysis instead of a blank page now!
tearecrules
11/13
Isn't some of Rasmus' choice here driven by the presence of a lot of high-quality free agent outfielders? On the BP Top 50 FA list half of the players rated higher than Rasmus are OFs.
gpurcell
11/13
Also in his calculation perhaps: the relative paucity of the FA class next year.
Pluthero
11/13
I think your last paragraph nailed it the best. Colby has stated publicly how much he likes playing in Houston. He doesn't seem to be the type of guy at this point in his career interested in getting the most money, only playing where he fits in the best. Houston may not be in Alabama, but it's still the South and might be the major league city that feels the most like home.
Tarakas
11/13
I think it is relevant that he has a history of not being happy. He was reportedly miserable in St. Louis and reportedly ended up unhappy in Toronto. If he really is enjoying Houston, well, there is certainly value in not hating going to work every day, and I get the impression this means more to him than most people. He is getting enough money here, the marginal value of the extra money versus leaving the first place he has been happy makes this an easy decision.
Tarakas
11/13
To put it another way, I've seen interviews with Colby Rasmus. Your analysis might describe how his agent might be looking at the situation, but Rasmus did not strike me as someone who would go about making a decision in this way. He did not seem terribly complex or analytical.

I do not mean this in a negative way--I liked him when he was with the Cardinals and always hoped he would find a place where he could be happy and having fun playing baseball.
WaldoInSC
11/14
And though it might not seem so sometimes when we talk about professional sports, it is possible to be happy with *only* $15.8 million.
bhacking
11/13
Good analysis overall but one sentence really bothers me: " Rasmus left money on the table by accepting this deal".

I'm not so sure. He's making good money this year, he's a free agent at the end of this season and if he stays health and has a good season he could sign a bigger deal next year. The statement implies he could sign for more than 15.8/year at least for 1 year and I'm not sure that's true.
backwardgalaxy
11/13
I think the assumption is that he could get more than 15.8 period, not per year. That is, by definition, leaving money on the table, even if he can get it back with a contract next year.
edgecrusher
11/13
It strikes me that he's making a one year gamble on himself that has only a little downside. As the article mentions, he knows and is comfortable with his role in Houston, and has a pretty clear path to playing time in a good lineup that should juice his counting stats (not that we give credence to such things).

Colby probably isn't a $15mm a year player; besides age maybe the Nick Swisher situation (and situation only) is a decent comp? He got 4/$56mm with the QO attached 3 seasons ago following 4.3/3.4/4.0 WAR seasons from 2010-2012. Rasmus has gone 5.1/.9/2.8 the past 3 years. I'm not trying to make the comparison that they profile the same or that they project the same, simply that Swisher's contract probably represents the ceiling for Rasmus, and that Swisher contract was a pretty spectacular failure.

So Bowden projected him getting $22mm over 2 years if he hadn't accepted the QO and hit the market with draft pick compensation attached. We'll use that as a baseline, with an $11mm AAV over the next two seasons. That doesn't seem like a good outcome given the following scenarios:


1. Has a solid season, gets tagged again next season, makes something like $33 million over 2 years in a place he is comfortable. That's an AAV of $16.5mm, way more than Bowden's projection.

2. The Astros struggle, there is a market for a player of his type, he' performing well enough to get dealt, and he becomes a FA after the 2016 season, which looks to be a weaker class than 2016. He is able to sign for something like 4/$44, making his total income over the 2016-2020 $59.8mm, or an AAV of $11.96mm, with 5 years of income instead of 2.

3. He has a bit of a down year, and does not get tagged again following the 2016 season. He is able to sign a 2 year $15mm deal with a team option for like $10mm. His contract last year was 1 year at 8mm, so this doesn't seem unreasonable even if he is only a 1-1.5 WAR player. His 3 year income is about $30.8mm, with an AAV just over $10mm. Effectively, his worst case scenario leaves him only slightly worse off than the projected contract he would have gotten this year.
cnote66
11/15
Not sure he will be as productive this coming year, given the fact he had lots of PT this year with the injury to Springe. Going into next year, Springer is fully healthy, Tucker played well (both Preston and Rasmus are LHB) and they traded for Gomez. I think PT will be harder to come by in 2016.
Couldn't he have leveraged his solid playoff performance for a better deal?

Not sure I like him signing this offer. Time will tell...
tearecrules
1/25
Gomez missed time with the strained intercostal muscle and I think "George Springer missing time for injury" is a bet worth taking. Tucker played better than I think expected, but Rasmus looks to be the better defender and LHB.