Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mauer, Gonzo, and the Podcast

Before we get going, a quick announcement.  Tonight is the weekly Padres Trail Podcast (10pm Pacific, here's the link), and I will be talking a little NL West baseball with Matt from Feeling Dodger Blue.  Hope you can join us.

Obviously I haven't been able to post as much as I like to for a couple of weeks, for a variety of reasons I won't go in to here.  It seems the biggest news, other than Dwight Gooden being pulled over for driving under the influence, is Joe Mauer's 8 year, $184 million dollar contract.  That contract has implications for all high end players (read:  Albert Pujols), but it really goes beyond that.  Minnesota is a small market franchise; if they can spend that kind of money on a marquee player it puts pressure on other small market franchises to do the same for their marquee players.

Which brings us to Adrian Gonzalez.  Gonzo has a lot of similarities with Mauer - hometown guy, best player on the team, cornerstone in the lineup, plus defender on the field.  There are some significant differences, though.  Mauer plays a more demanding position than Gonzo does.  Mauer's won an MVP and 3 batting titles; Gonzo led the NL in walks last season and hasn't finished higher than 12th in the MVP voting.  Gonzo thinks he's worth $18-20 million a year.  Is that reasonable?

Two graphs for your consideration are presented below.  The first is Gonzo's WAR as compared with Mauer, the second their games played.

Gonzo's been more durable, but Mauer has been significantly more valuable as a player.  The year Gonzo graded out better in WAR he played 52 more games (or 30% more) but only had a 0.4 better WAR score (or about 12%).  Mauer's better than Gonzo, at least historically going into this season.

So with that background, here's something to chew on.  Looking at their 3 highest WAR seasons, Mauer averages 6.63 WAR per year, Gonzalez 4.6.  Using Mauer's $23 million per year contract, Mauer's getting paid about $3.46 million per historical WAR.  Setting that as the metric, Gonzo would be worth $15.95 million max.

There is no true statistical rigor to that above paragraph.  I know Mauer's 2009 season was 35% better than his previous high WAR season (Gonzo's, by comparison, was 64% better), so including 2009 skews the average high.  Contracts are written based on what teams believe a player's future contribution will be, not based solely on what they've done so far (at least, that's how I would approach negotiations).  However, I do think it's fair to say Mauer's contract could drive Gonzo's market value down.  No one's going to pay Adrian Gonzalez $20 million a season now that Mauer's signed for $23 mil - he's just not worth that much.

For the first time there might be a small glimmer the Padres can keep Adrian Gonzalez in the fold.

Talk to you tonight.

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