Purgatory Online

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

ESPN reported during last night's broadcast of the Angels-Mariners game that the extension signed by the Tustin Rhino - and yes, I'm going to keep pushing that until it shows up in the Baseball Encyclopedia - is worth $48 million over four years. The Times has details here. The contract includes a $3 million signing bonus, $9 million in 2005, $10 million in 2006, $11 million in 2007, and $12 million in 2008. You'll note, of course, that this adds up to $45 million; the extra $3 million is the buyout on his contract if the club declines to exercise their option for 2009. If they do pick Anderson up for the extra year, it'll cost them a cool $14 million, which, to be fair, will probably be the cost of two breakfast taquitos and a Coke at 7-Eleven by then. Not that I'd know; the indiscriminate halohagiography at this site is fueled by the exclusive breakfast of Purgatory Online, coffee and Jolly Ranchers.

Anyway, the initial reaction to the Anderson signing seems to be mutedly negative. Rob at 6-4-2 thinks GA rooked Arte Moreno, a proposition I have some trouble believing; Richard at the Pearly Gates says that it's more than he'd give Anderson (yeah, me too - if I gave GA $12 million a year I'd probably have to sell the other Porsche), but concedes that it's probably around market value, and essentially the same position is taken at Chronicles of the Lads.

The U.S.S. Mariner is more sharply critical, making comparisons between Moreno and noted Texas dimwit Tom Hicks. And no doubt we can look forward to a good deal of pooh-poohing from ESPN's Rob Neyer, though in fact he may want to wipe off his chin first.

Me? I think this is actually a pretty good deal. Looking at the yearly numbers, we have a base salary of $9 million next year, with a $1 million increase per year. The signing bonus and the buyout aren't chump change, but they'd probably be the same for any decent free-agent outfielder the Angels would sign in Anderson's place. In particular, given the pace of payroll expansion, that $12 million in 2008 is probably going to be the functional equivalent of 2005's $9 million. Statistically speaking, Anderson may be expected to decline starting either this year or next year, but that's something of an open question. U.S.S. Mariner, for example, argues:
However, he's been overrated for most of his career, and sports a not-star-like .328 career on base percentage. As recently as 2001, he was getting on base just 31 percent of the time, and that isn't an acceptable number for anyone but a middle of the diamond player with terrific defensive abilities, and even then, you don't pay those types a lot of money.

Ah, but how convenient, that "most of his career" and "as recently as 2001" language, as if the rest - the most recent - of the evidence was inconsequential. Anderson's batting average and on-base percentage have actually improved every year since 2000; in 2002 and 2003 his OPS was 130 and 137% of the league average, respectively. It's true that he's improved from "good" to "outstanding," but the improvement is no illusion, and certainly one could argue that his on-base numbers have historically been depressed because, after all, his job isn't to set the table - it's to drive guys in. Argue with that philosophy all you want, but Scioscia's at the helm, and he seems to know what he's doing. With Jose Guillen and a resurgent Troy Glaus hitting behind him, we'll likely see Anderson's OBP remain at levels comparable to the last two years, in which he bested the league average AND drove in well over 100 runs.

So what does this mean for the future? Is there any guarantee that Anderson will remain as productive as he currently is for the next four years? Well, what am I, Kreskin? Of course it's a gamble - but I think it's a good one. Consider the alternatives: the Angels' farm system, though stocked with infielders and (to a lesser extent) pitchers, lacks many outfield prospects. Nick Gorneault may reasonably be expected to contend for a spot next year, but that's about it - and even if he does, Jose Guillen's contract expires after 2005, so the Angels would need to either re-sign Guillen or pursue a free agent anyway. Is there a free agent comparable to Anderson coming onto the market this winter? Honestly, I don't know - if you've got a candidate, email me - but it also seems likely that sealing up the outfield now will allow Moreno and Stoneman to focus on some other pressing issues in the off-season - namely, deciding Troy Glaus, Jarrod Washburn, and David Eckstein's fates.