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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Should the Reds sign Dunn to an extension?

With Dunn playing the hero this afternoon (yay), I've seen people talking again about whether the Reds should give him a contract extension.

The answer, as always, is that "it depends": How much and how many years would it take to extend him?

A nice starting point would be to figure out what a reasonable contract extension for Dunn would look like. I worked that out for someone over e-mail, so I thought I'd post this here as well. I'm using a methodology that is based largely on what folks do over at The Book Blog, though I figure replacement level a tad differently then they do. Their way may well be better, but we usually converge on the same answer, +-0.5 WAR or so.

Here we go:

Projecting Dunn into this and future seasons...

Offense: his 3-year weighted average on offense has been almost exactly 5 wins above replacement (not including 2008 stats).
Defense: last year, I had him as a -1.9 WAR fielder (including throwing arm), which I'll just assume is an accurate representation of his fielding "skill."

So, taking those numbers, and subtracting another 0.5 wins for aging, projects him as a 2.6 WAR player this season (his defense kills his value!). So, looking over the coming years, here's my projected value for him (assuming 10% inflation above this past offseason's $4.4/WAR):

2008: 2.6 WAR, $11.4 million (he actually is making $13 million)
2009: 2.1 WAR, $10.2 million
2010: 1.6 WAR, $8.5 million
2011: 1.1 WAR, $6.4 million
2012: 0.6 WAR, $3.9 million

So, in terms of extensions, I think we can reasonably value Dunn's contract extensions starting in the 2009 season as:

I have no way of knowing if he'd take any of those contracts...but my guess is no, because they'd all represent a substantial salary cut compared to what he's making this year. And they're well below the contracts that somewhat comparable players like Carlos Lee signed.

It's also worth noting that becoming a DH doesn't help Dunn. DH's get a -1.5 WAR position adjustment (in lieu of a fielding rating), which recognizes that they're usually terrible fielders. Dunn's fielding rating is -1.9 WAR, including position adjustment...but moving from the NL to the AL probably negates any of that 0.4 "bonus" he'd get by moving to DH. So these contract numbers are probably pretty reasonable.

If he won't take any of those contracts, then the Reds should either trade him or let him walk, depending on whether they can get trade value that is better than the expected value of the two draft picks I'm pretty sure he'd command. I have no way of knowing what GM's would offer for him, but that'd be the criterion I'd use.

Hopefully they'll be able to pick up some other players for more appropriate money in free agency to make up for the lost production. Maybe that'd give Encarnacion a chance to move into the outfield...

Quick breakdown on Griffey, using the same methodology...

Offense: Using a 2-year weighted average (common practice for guys in their late 30's), I have Griffey as 2.8 WAR hitter in 06-07.
Defense: Last year, I had him as a -1.7 WAR fielder, including position adjustment and throwing arm.

So, summing the two, and then subtracting 0.5 wins for aging puts Griffey's projection at 0.6 WAR this season...and effectively zero in 2009. Yikes.

DH doesn't help Griffey either... DH's get a -1.5 WAR position adjustment (in lieu of any fielding rating), while Griffey's working from a -1.7 fielding rating (including position adjustment). The 0.2 WAR bonus is easily negated by moving to the tougher American League.


  1. Before even reading anything you posted outside of the title I told myself not unless he is playing first base and only for a 4 year deal, max. His defense is among the worst in baseball at one of the easiest positions in the game to not be terrible among your peers.... yet he does it year in and year out. He doesn't project well going forward defensively given his terribleness already and his body. No way would I pay him to play LF. If he is willing to play 1B, then yes, but only for 15 per year. I would move Joey Votto to LF at that point. While he is not used to LF, he has slight experience there and is athletic enough that I think he could handle it.

  2. Knowing all this, you gotta trade him then no? Would he be a type A free agent. What about trying another win-win trade with the Rangers and doing Dunn for Salty.

  3. Last year, Dunn was about halfway down the list of Class A free agents among NL OF/1B's. And those are two-year rankings, so they include his relatively poor showing in '06. If he has a good year this year, he should be a lock for Class A status.

    As I said, whether you trade him or let him walk comes down to what you can get for him in the trade market. It would need to be better than what you can expect to get from a couple of draft picks.

    Griffey was also on that list, though he was closer to the A/B margin. Hopefully he'll also pick it up. ... Although, even a class B free agent's draft pick might be as good a return as the Reds could hope for on Griffey.

  4. The issue with Griffey though is that 4 million dollar buyout if you don't pick up his option. So you would have to pay that, then let him walk. So I think trading Griffey still makes the most sense for the team because you aren't going to get someone worth 4 million bucks where that pick would fall.

  5. I dunno, $4 million doesn't seem like all that much money for a chance at a Todd Frazier-esque prospect. I tend to operate the philosophy that talent is more important than money. So if I can get more quality talent by spending $4 million than I can in a trade, I'm going to tend to spend the money. It doesn't take much of a contribution for a young player making the league minimum to be worth a $4 million investment. Vince Gennaro had a good article on this in last year's Hardball Times.

    You're right, though, that the cost of the option makes the "let him walk" route's return a lower than I was arguing. It's just that I don't think the Reds are likely to get more than a bucket of balls for Griffey. I hope I'm wrong, but the apparent lack of interest in him makes me think that's the case. -j

  6. Adam is not a $15M per year at any position on the field. Pujols makes $14M and Dunn will never be able to come close to matching Alberts production ... Dunn is a $7-8M per year player in a Pujols contract ... over paid and not affordable to a small market team. I'd rather spent that money locking up Volquez long term.

  7. If the Reds could sign Dunn to a 4 or 5 year contract at around 13-15 million a year (Pujols deal was a very St. Louis friendly contract and doesn't really reflect his true value) I would be fine with it. Dunn is still a young player and would still be in his early 30's when the contract would run out.

    When teamed with a real CF he's a fairly average LF. He's just never really played with a real CF till late last year with Hopper. He's showing improvements in his offensive game over the last year as well.

    I believe that Dunn gets bashed because he's not Albert Pujols, he of course isn't, but he is a MVP level talent with the same skill set of a Ryan Howard.

  8. When I see stuff like this I am again reminded of the vast difference between the real world of baseball and the laughable world of numbers-crunchers when a study projects a player like Dunn in his prime taking a gradual salary reduction over the course of his first big contract. Any agent who allows such to happen should be fired, hung in effigy and then burned at the stake.

    In other words, it won't happen and you wasted your time (again) with this sort of nonsense. Especially any suggestion of Dunn playing first base.

  9. Wow, pretty hostile there, bud. Kind of unnecessary. Always interesting how the topic of Dunn brings out emotions people.

    As I said, he won't likely sign for value, which means he should probably be allowed to walk unless they can get trade value better than two draft picks.

    The fact (or likelihood) that he won't sign for the contract value I estimated doesn't mean that it isn't a correct valuation of his abilities or value as a player. Some players are overvalued in the market, and some are undervalued.

    Also, the fact that I show a reduction in value over time doesn't mean that you'd have to structure the salary in that fashion. You'd just want the total money to equal the contracts I mentioned. Given the inflation of player salaries and payrolls, it actually makes a lot of sense to back-weight any contract.

    It's worth noting that if he were "just" an average defender (i.e. slightly above average in left field), of course, his contract value would be far higher...almost double what I projected. People tend to overlook his defense when assigning a cash value to him, but he's such a bad fielder it makes a big difference.

    As for wastes of time, my thesis advisor might agree with you, but it didn't take much time to throw together and it helped me decide what I'd do with Dunn. So, it accomplished what I was after.

  10. It's necessary when common sense and common knowledge of the day-to-day structure of the game isn't applied. There's a lot of your work I enjoy but when I see stuff like this, a disclaimer is required:

    For Entertainment Purposes Only. Practical-World Uses Not Factored.

  11. No, it is not necessary. I don't mind it when people disagree with me, but leave the hostility at the door.

    As for the real-world application of this, I completely disagree that it has no basis in reality. I've already addressed your critique about the de-escalating salary (you misinterpreted that section). And I stated in the article that I didn't think he'd sign any of those contracts, even though that's probably his actual value. So I absolutely am acknowledging the reality of the market.

    As for the comment about first base, I don't even think that was my suggestion (though I see nothing wrong with it, except that Votto is playing there).

    So, at this point, I don't even know what your point is. If it's just that the total proposed contracts are too low...well, again, I think folks aren't discounting his salary sufficiently to account for his poor fielding.

  12. Right Justin.

    The question isn't what contract would Dunn sign.

    It's based upon Dunn's likely performance going forward, what contract should the Reds, offer Dunn...

    The take home should be that Dunn is very likely to be overvalued on the free agent market relative to the production he's likely to give back. In other words, "in the real world were money matters" the Reds probably shouldn't resign him.