Monday, March 27, 2006

What's $50 Million Between Friends?

We know that Jose Guillen is jonesin' for a new contract. What's he really worth?

With the way that he and the team trailed off, it's easy to forget just how amazing his first half was: .310/ .360/ .539 with 18 homers and 51 RBI.

We easily remember that he had huge difficulties hitting at RFK, with just 3 homers at home. He hit just .238/ .323/ .343 at home, but blistered opposing pitchers to a .320/ .351/ .591 line on the road.

Certainly some of it was psychological, but much of it is because he has the wrong sort of swing for the park. Guillen's power is to center and right-center -- two places that are absolutely unforgiving in this park.

All-in-all, he's an above average outfielder. He's not a cornerstone player, but he's a very good complimentary hitter. If he's batting fifth or sixth for you, you've got a pennant-winning offense. If he's batting third or fourth, you better have a damn good pitching staff. Over the last two years, Guillen's offense has been roughly 20% above league average. And if he had been healthy last year, he would've approached the 140% rate he had in his wonderful 2003 season. (STATS) To put that in perspective, someone with a 140 OPS+ is a top-10 hitter, the kind of player that you CAN build an offense around.

How much is that worth though? For simplicity's sake, let's compare him to other rightfielders. I'm using ESPN's leaderboard and comparing him to the RFers four places above and below himin terms of OPS.

                  OPS   WARP  CONTRACT
Bobby Abreu 879 7.0 5-$64 million
Jermaine Dye 846 5.7 2-$10.15 million
Jay Gibbons 833 4.9 4-$21 million
Shawn Green 832 6.1 3-$32 million
Jose Guillen 817 5.2
Jason Lane 815 4.1 1-$450 thousand*
Emil Brown 804 4.5 1-$1.775 million**
Juan Encarnacion 795 3.7 3-$15 million
Ichiro Suzuki 786 8.4 4-$44 million
* Lane is still under the team's control.
** Brown is still arbitration-eligible.
OPS is on-base + slugging, a good shorthand measure of offensive productivity.
WARP is Baseball Prospectus' attempt to explain how many wins better a player is than the crap a team could pick up for free if there was an injury. (Think Michael Tucker!)

Jose Guillen wants 5-$50 million, and the Nats have reportedly offered 4-$25ish -- basically Jay Gibbons money.

At the Nats price, that's a clear bargain. At Guillen's price, it's not. Bobby Abreu, a clearly superior player, is making $12.5MM or so. Ichiro is making 'just' $11MM per season. Is Jose Guillen as good a player as either? I can't see it, even if you ignore the off-field crap.

And that's the thing that bothers me about both offers. Would you commit to Jose Guillen for five years? Would you commit to him for even four? Would you just have him committed? [Rimshot!]

How's he going to react when Frank Robinson gets the Gold Watch? How's he going to react if Soriano hits up a storm and starts stealing some of his limelight? How's he going to react if the team wants him to sit because of a strained muscle?

We don't know. And given his track record, I don't really think we want to find out.

Jose Guillen is the ultimate 'lightning in a bottle' kind of performer. He's wonderful on a short deal where, if he explodes, you can just move on. But if he goes apeshit ballistic, like he did with the Angels when Mike Scioscia pulled him for a pinch-runner, and there are still 3 years left on the deal? What then?

That's why, if I were Bowden, I wouldn't even give him four years. (Well, actually, the first thing I'd do, were I Bowden, is phone Guillen's agent to tell him that we're not going to be negotiating unless Guillen is a model citizen this year, and then the second thing I'd do, were I Bowden, is resign.)

I think I'd rather pay a higher yearly salary for fewer years. At this point, there's no way that Guillen would accept a two-year deal. But would he take 3-$30?

Assuming there was an owner in place, what would you offer?


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