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Scott Lauber reported yesterday, after the Phillies had signed Placido Polanco, that recent signee and left fielder Raul Ibanez helped to recruit The Forehead for the former WFC’s. Polanco got a three-year, $18 million deal that will end when he’s nearly 38 years old.
Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports is reporting that the Seattle Mariners and Chone Figgins are very close to agreeing on a four-year, $36 million deal. Ken-Ro adds, “The contact will include a $9 million vesting option for 2013, bringing the potential value of the package to $45 million.”
As I explained yesterday, the Polanco signing was misguided for a number of reasons, among them was the alacrity with which Rube opened his checkbook for a mediocre, aging
second baseman third baseman. There are two main reasons why a GM would want to be so quick to sign a player, and that’s if he’s A) being heavily pursued by other teams and/or B) if he’s signing for significantly under market value.
About a month ago, I evaluated all of the free agent third basemen likely to pique the Phillies’ interest (at that point, Polanco was but a small blip on the radar). I concluded that, in 2009, Figgins was worth nearly 7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), covering all of offense, defense, and base running. And yesterday, we learned that Polanco is worth about 3 WAR. In dollar amounts, Polanco is worth about $14 million, which isn’t bad. However, Figgins was worth about $30.5 million last season.
So, we have a simple calculation to determine the better investment. The Phillies could have paid Figgins $9 million annually for nearly $31 million of production (3.4 times their investment) or Polanco $6 million annually for $14 million of production (2.3 times their investment). We, of course, assume Figgins will produce at his 2009 level, which isn’t the most likely scenario. Let’s lop off a full win. He’s still worth nearly three times the $9 million investment at 5.8 WAR and 2.5 times at 5.0 WAR.
This is exactly why I said two weeks ago that we cannot abstain from being critical of Ruben Amaro, even though he made some head-scratching maneuvers for the 2009 team that did not backfire. There are plenty of third basemen for everyone: Figgins, Polanco, Adrian Beltre, Mark DeRosa, Joe Crede, Pedro Feliz again. Inquiries about Mark Teahen of the Kansas City Royals could have been made. No need to be a quick draw with the wallet — it’s a buyer’s market.
Let’s recap Amaro’s off-season so far:
- Paid $700,000 for one year of Juan Castro, who turns 38 on June 20. He has a career OPS+ of 57, possesses no base running skills. His calling card is defensive versatility in the infield. Sound like someone familiar? He’s an older version of Eric Bruntlett (career 64 OPS+) with worse legs.
- Signed Brian Schneider to a two-year, $2.75 million deal. That was three days ago, so some factors may have changed, but that certainly doesn’t seem favorable now that Gregg Zaun has signed with the Milwaukee Brewers on a one-year deal with a base salary of $1.4 million and incentives that could bring it to $2.25 million. Another example of why acting quickly in the off-season is poor strategy. I was, however, a supporter of the signing at the time.
- Signed Placido Polanco to a three-year, $18 million deal with a mutual option for a fourth year.
We use retrospect here because it demonstrates how Ruben Amaro could have signed a better back-up infielder (Adam Everett, anyone?), back-up catcher (Zaun), and starting third baseman (Figgins) for only slightly more — about $5 million — than he spent on Castro, Schneider, and Polanco if he had simply not acted like a kid in a candy store. The Phillies have had an incredible showing at the turnstiles for two straight seasons, so the payroll should not be regressing.
Like his predecessor Pat Gillick, Amaro’s best work appears to come during the season. That is unfortunate because it costs the Phillies more than simply money and draft pick lottery tickets.
That’s why I am now putting Amaro and Ibanez (who recruited Polanco) on notice. Any more slip-ups and they’ll be Dead to Me.