J.A. Happ Projected to Get Paid in FanGraphs Crowd Sourced Contract Predictions

FanGraphs released their top 82 free agents today, ranked by crowd sourced contracts. The exercise is entertaining at the start of each off-season, giving a consensus opinion on what each player might receive on the open market in terms of years and dollars. Obviously these figures shouldn’t be taken as hard numbers for each player. In fact, the article notes that they tend to be a bit low, so the prices could be even higher than expected here. It’s a fun process at this point in the off-season, giving some idea of how things will go down, a month before most of the big moves are actually made. Click the link above for the full list. Here is a breakdown of the Pirates’ free agents.

J.A. Happ – The Pirates helped to turn Happ around at the end of the year, and it looks like he’s going to get paid well for it, if the FanGraphs crowd is correct. The prediction is 3 years, $33 M total. My prediction is closer to the Edinson Volquez deal, which was two years, $20 M, with an option for a third year that would bring the total contract value to $27 M. So the total value here isn’t far off what Volquez could receive in terms of max value.

I’d actually be surprised if Happ gets three years guaranteed, although the dollar amount doesn’t surprise me. Sure, it was a small sample size in the second half, but Happ’s total numbers (3.61 ERA/3.69 xFIP) aren’t totally out of line with his career best. Two of his previous three seasons saw an xFIP in the 3.95 range, and his ERA from 2008-2010 (285 IP) was 3.16. Granted, the ERA and xFIP have never lined up in any given year like this, but the individual numbers are among his career best. The idea that he won’t repeat his performance with the Pirates is reasonable. The idea that he won’t repeat his season-long performance isn’t so certain. He could definitely be worth $10 M a year on the open market, with the chance for some big value if he does trend closer to his late season success.

Antonio Bastardo – The Pirates are probably going to need another left-handed reliever, and Bastardo’s crowd sourced price seems reasonable. He’s getting two years and $8 M total in the projections, which isn’t much for his production. A win on the open market costs about $6 M. Bastardo has averaged 0.7 WAR per year over the last six seasons. That would be worth $8.4 M on the open market, so this contract seems right in line with his value. He’d be a big addition if the Pirates traded Mark Melancon and went with Tony Watson as the closer. If they kept both pitchers, he’d be a great second lefty again, helping to make up a strong bullpen once again.

Joakim Soria – Soria was a decent addition to the bullpen at the end of the year. He didn’t play up to his old closing days, but gave the Pirates another good late-inning arm. That said, I don’t think he’s worth $7 M a year for two years, which is his projection. He’d be the third best reliever on the team if Melancon stayed, and the second best reliever if Melancon was traded, while being the top paid reliever. If the Pirates wanted to keep Watson out of the closer’s role, and wanted to go with Soria, it might make a bit more sense. But Soria, at this point in his career, doesn’t look like a guy you want to trust in the final two innings as anything more than a depth option.

Joe Blanton – Blanton was fantastic this year, and was great with the Pirates. But his projected salary is $4 M for one year, and I don’t think the Pirates really need him. He wouldn’t really break the bank, but adding a good middle reliever would be much easier than other positions, and could come at a much cheaper cost.

To get some perspective on how accurate the crowd sourced contracts are, let’s take a look at last year’s results. The article said that the trends seem to be a bit low, and these Pirates-related examples confirm that.

Russell Martin – 4 years, $56 M prediction / 5 years, $82 M actual / One extra year and $3.5 M per year extra

Francisco Liriano – 3 years, $36 M prediction / 3 years, $39 M actual / Pretty close here, just $1 M per year off

Edinson Volquez – 2 years, $16 M prediction / 2 years, $20 M + Option year actual / Low by $2 M per year, and missing the option year

Michael Morse – 1 year, $7 M prediction / 2 years, $16 M actual / Off by $1 M, and the contract length was doubled to two years

Those deals were either right on, or a bit low. After just a casual scan through the list, I didn’t see many deals that were inflated versus what the player received, except for some special circumstances (Aramis Ramirez getting one year instead of two in his final year, and A.J. Burnett taking less to play for the Pirates were two examples that stuck out). So it seems that the prices above could be used as a loose guide for what to expect, although not something set in stone, for obvious reasons.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    November 4, 2015 11:11 pm

    Happ pitched great down the stretch, but there is no way I give $30 million to a pitcher who has only had one half season of outstanding pitching – and he’s not a kid anymore. We already made that mistake with Morton, although not for that high of a number. It would be nice to have him back, but his track record doesn’t warrant that kind of contract. Too risky IMHO.
    If Happ was smart, he’d contemplate why he pitched so well in Pittsburgh and consider taking less to stay. But, in today’s MLB, that doesn’t happen often. He’ll go with the highest bid, end up in Colorado, and have a 5+ ERA….

  • Crowd numbers usually come in a little low, more so for the big name free agents, its an auction market, hitting the average or median doesn’t win you anything.

    But Happ at 3/$33 million seems high, he has one plus pitch and struggles to complete the sixth inning, I guess you would have to believe in the arm slot change.

  • I think Blanton is definitely worth $4 million because you can do whatever you want with him. He did well in long relief, in middle relief, and in high leverage situations as well. There is no reason IMO that HE couldn’t be a setup man quite honestly, especially if we lost Melancon

    • Seems like if they commit 4 million to him, they have little want in him to purely be a long relief man. They dont throw that money (its not a large sum, but for that role its rather excessive) at that role. I dont dislike him as a middle relief man, but ill be surprised if they offer 4 million to him.

      Him as the set up man is something i hope the team never considers. He did well in his role, but i dont think that in any way means a different role would also work. Middle relief would be fine, but i dont see the stuff to consistently be a quality 8th inning option.

    • Pirates have had success plugging in a bargain basement reliever with success in this role. $4M doesn’t sound like much, but if NH thinks he can duplicate the results for 1M or less w another guy, he will. Always trying to protect the in season payroll flexibility when possible.

      • Scott- you are missing the point- Resigning Blanton wouldn’t be so he can continue being a middle reliever, it would be getting a good deal on a flexible reliever who can be your 7th inning or even 8th inning guy, and potentially give you more than 3 outs. NH can’t reasonably think he can fill that role for less.

        • Scott Kliesen
          November 6, 2015 5:43 am

          I’m with Luke, I just don’t see him as an 8th inning option if Melancon is moved. That would be a big step back compared to Watson.

          • Of course it would, but anyone currently on the roster would be a big step back from Watson, which is WHY we shouldn’t be trading melancon in the first place

      • And yet they were so successfull that they had to get Blanton in the first place.

        Pirate bullpen narratives are my favorite.

        • Scott Kliesen
          November 7, 2015 7:16 am

          No, they chose to go get Blanton because they had the available $$$ to do so. All because they employ a disciplined approach to fiscal responsibility and don’t blow the budget during the winter months.

  • Jeffrey Bruner
    November 4, 2015 7:20 pm

    I’m not a fan of spending 2/16 for Bastardo. I’d much rather devote that money to a starting pitcher.

  • piraterican21
    November 4, 2015 6:14 pm

    Imo Bastardo was our best reliever down the stretch, is not the Pirate way to pay “that much for a reliever” but will live to see him back

  • Do you think we would be interested in Happ at 2=$22 with an option for 3=$30?

    • I would. I seriously doubt James Anthony Happ would be if he’s got three years guaranteed in hand from someone else.

      I think he gets better than 3/33. Maybe even gets a 4th year option that triggers if he meets certain IP requirements. I don’t necessarily think he’s worth that, but already I think a lot of guys were wrong on the 2/20 Volquez deal. At his age, I take as much as I can get.

      • Far too deep a SP market for anyone to bother overpaying with a 4th year. Tons of options to go after is he, stupidly, demands or digs in for 4 years. No one is offering 4 for his limited amount of success.

        If he wants a bigger/longer deal, sign a 1 year deal and go out and boost your value a ton with another year of what you just showed. If he just wants good money, take 2-3 years and run smiling after being an afterthought 2/3rds of the way through the season.

        • We’ll see. A month ago, everyone here was saying 2/20. Already that tunes changed, hasn’t it?

          • This is the internet, Arthur. Not what actually will happen. 😉

          • You have successfully proven random fan speculation on the internet can be dumb. Bravo my friend.

            Happ is so good he magically gets a year more than Liriano for absolutely no reason. Not as good as Liriano, hasnt sustained success near as long as Liriano, his stuff isnt on the same field as Liriano’s. The market might bloat him, but the 3/33 is that bloat. That 3rd year is the bloating, because its already a stupid price to pay for a guy who had a Travis Snider year.

      • Yeah, not going to happen man- if he gets a 3rd year guarantee at his age, it’s going to bring down his average pay, 2/22- 3/31 MAYBE or 2/22 with a 3rd year team option at 11 million and a 1 million buyout- pretty close to best case for him

        • But Happ doesn’t come with any QO attachment. I think that helps him.

          • No- it doesn’t help him. Having a QO attachment would hurt him and should not be considered the rule for signing free agents, it’s more like the exception. It’s like saying not having a criminal record helps you get a job, it doesn’t. It just doesn’t eliminate you from getting one. It puts you on a neutral ground

            • I don’t understand what your saying. To me, Happs market is league wide. All it costs is money. If it cost money plus a pick, his markets significantly reduced.

              I’m on the fence as to how good Happ is. But this guy peaked at the absolute right time and I think a lot of people are gonna be surprised at what kind of deal he gets. Just a gut feeling, watching what some of these teams have done the last few years, plus with the money in the game. It’s a bull market out there.

              • What you are saying is “since his value isn’t decreased, it’s increased” and that is nonsensical

    • yes