Moore money, less problems*

*Is there any limit to the number of bad puns Moore’s name allows us to use? (The asterik is Chris’s. I accept his question as a challenge for 2012. -Mark)

Using a graphic that seems very much at home here at The Ray Area, Steve Slowinksi suggests that Matt Moore just got Friedman’d. He goes on to suggest that Moore’s contract may already be one of the best in the game, and could even challenge the one Friedman gave to his most famous ‘victim’: Evan Longoria.

In truth, this contract is probably a win for both sides. Of course, one side will likely end up ‘winning’ in terms of dollars – if Moore is great the Rays win, if his arm explodes then he ‘wins’ – but when you factor in the financial security Moore has achieved, you can see the benefit for both sides (just ask Brett Anderson who has missed significant time after signing a comparatively early deal in his MLB career).

Here is how the contract breaks down (courtesy of Marc Topkin, SP Times):

2012

1,000,000

2013

1,000,000

2014

1,000,000

2015

3,000,000

2016

5,000,000

2017

7,000,000 (club option)

2018

9,500,000 (club option)

2019

10,000,000 (club option)

If Moore becomes what we (and more importantly the experts) think he can be and stays healthy, the Rays are obviously going to do very well. Just how well will depend on a number of factors but we can get a rough idea using the below assumptions:

  • Looking at the free agent deals handed out over the years, and the value those players deliver, we can get the average ‘cost’ of a win each year acquired through free agency. This is explained much better than I ever could here but in short the projected cost of a marginal win for 2012 is ~$5.0m.
  • We can then assume that the cost of wins over the life of Moore’s contract will increase with inflation. Based on historical data this is generally set at 5%.
  • Years 4, 5 and 6 of Moore’s deal likely would have been arbitration years and thus he would have been paid depending on his production to that point. Sky Kalkman at DRaysBay posted a helpful spreadsheet, which explains how to set these projections (roughly 40%, 60% and 80% of the players production in the prior year is a good starting point).

We can put all that data together to get an idea of how much will be saved (or lost) in dollar terms over the life of Moore’s contract depending on who he becomes. The below table shows the approximate value (in dollars) saved or lost if Moore starts his career with the same stats (and hence wins above replacement) as the listed player. Where a player hasn’t yet played 8 years in the majors, Bill James’ projections have been used to complete the picture.

Comparative Player

Money saved / lost ($M)

Justin Verlander

121

Felix Hernandez

110

Tim Lincecum

98

Jered Weaver

94

Josh Beckett

90

Matt Cain

72

James Shields

63

Gavin Floyd

53

Edwin Jackson

50

Scott Baker

36

Paul Maholm

20

Mike Pelfrey

5

Mark Prior

(1)

Daisuke Matsuzaka

(1)

Scott Kazmir

(6)

Andrew Miller

(7)

Brett Anderson

(8)

The graphical version, which shows how much value Moore would deliver if he had the same stats as the above players, compared to his actual contract cost can be found here.

If Moore becomes an elite, every year Cy Young candidate, this contract will have saved the Rays tens of millions of dollars, which could approach triple digits if he becomes one of the league’s best. Consider, for example, the ~$19m Tim Lincecum is projected to get this year (his third arbitration year). Moore would only cost $7m at the comparative point in his career (2017) by which time that same $19m would be worth closer to $25.

Let’s not get ahead ourselves yet though and proclaim Moore as the next Lincecum, Felix Hernandez or even James Shields. What if he becomes just a good number two/three starter? The contract would still represent huge savings for the Rays, as shown by the Edwin Jackson/Scott Baker/Paul Maholm comps. The only way this blows up is if Moore fades quickly before years four and five of the contract, when the Rays are committed to pay him $8m, and he would have received much less going through arbitration (this is your Dice-K and Kazmir group above). That, or his arm falls off and his career is cut short (the Brett Anderson comparison above assumes he never comes back from his recent Tommy John surgery).

It’s sometimes hard to analyze some of the Rays’ moves these past few years without sounding like a 14 year old reviewing the latest Twilight offering. At times Friedman and his staff just seem to get things so obviously right where others don’t; it’s hard to not get carried away with the praise. But it’s tough to see the downside of this deal, especially given Moore’s effortless motion (which should lower the chance of catastrophic injury) and apparent lack of character red flags (so he won’t go all Antoine Walker on us). One question mark is the timing (as Mark mentioned earlier in the week) and you’d be surprised if there weren’t further moves in the future which help explain the fact that the deal does seem to lower the leverage the front office have regarding potentially moving Davis or Niemann. Perhaps another deal is already in advanced stages. Or, perhaps we’re talking about moving a player whose value will likely be less impacted by Moore’s contract. With his price starting to ramp up in 2012 (though only to a very manageable $7m) you can’t help but wonder if Shields could also be in conversations given his sky-high value at the moment (my tin foil hat is slightly smaller than Mark’s though still does the job nicely).

Individual moves don’t happen in a vacuum and any future analysis of this deal will likely get tied into what else happens this off-season and beyond. But as a stand alone contract it’s hard to argue with the process employed by the front office and once again Friedman is the poster-boy for us and the majority of the country’s media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *