Posted February 04, 2013

Mark Teixeira’s honesty is new but drop-off isn’t

Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees
Mark Teixeira, Yankees

Mark Teixeira’s declining production and advancing age don’t bode well for the Yankees. (AP)

By Joe Lemire

Mark Teixeira made a cameo in the Broadway show Rock of Ages last Tuesday, but the Yankees first baseman wasn’t quite auditioning for a post-baseball career just yet.

Teixiera, who will turn 33 in April, is halfway through his eight-year, $180 million contract and, in a candid interview with the Wall Street Journal last Friday, acknowledged that he is “slowing down a tick” and “overpaid.”

“Agents are probably going to hate me for saying it,” Teixeira told the WSJ. “You’re not very valuable when you’re making $20 million. When you’re Mike Trout, making the minimum, you are crazy valuable. My first six years, before I was a free agent, I was very valuable. But there’s nothing you can do that can justify a $20 million contract.”

He’s not only honest but he’s also astute. The money paid in free agency is typically only appropriate for the first few years of a contract, when the player is presumably still in his peak, which are often years centered around a player’s age-27 season.

Consider the 14 players who in the 2012 season had a contract whose average annual value was at least $20 million and the production — measured as Wins Above Replacement — they contributed per dollar spent, both last season and over the length of those contracts.

$20M Players AAV ‘12 WAR ‘12 $/Win Years played w/contract WAR since $/Win since
Alex Rodriguez

$27.5M

2.2

$12.5M

5

20.9

$6.6M

Ryan Howard

$25M

-1.0

n/a

1

-1.0

n/a

Cliff Lee

$24M

4.9

$4.9M

2

11.6

$4.1M

Albert Pujols

$24M

3.9

$6.2M

1

3.9

$6.2M

Prince Fielder

$23.8M

4.9

$4.9M

1

4.9

$4.9M

CC Sabathia

$23.3M

4.8

$4.9M

4

23.5

$4.0M

Joe Mauer

$23M

5.0

$4.6M

2

6.5

$7.1M

Johan Santana

$22.9M

1.1

$20.8M

5

12

$9.5M

Mark Teixeira

$22.5M

2.9

$7.8M

4

15.7

$5.7M

Adrian Gonzalez

$22M

3.6

$6.1M

2

10.1

$4.4M

Carl Crawford

$20.3M

0.4

$50.8M

2

0.6

$67.7M

Tim Lincecum

$20.3M

1.5

$13.5M

1

1.5

$13.5M

Roy Halladay

$20M

2.5

$8M

2

10.6

$3.8M

Matt Kemp

$20M

3.5

$5.7M

1

3.5

$5.7M

WAR is fWAR, from FanGraphs.com. AAV data came from Cot’s Contracts.

(Note: Rodriguez fully opted out of his contract after the 2007 season, whereas Sabathia agreed to an extension shortly before the opt-out deadline, which is why the pitcher’s entire tenure with the Yankees is represented but not all of Rodriguez’s.)

With the going rate of one win estimated at $5 million, only four players were a bargain in 2012 (and three of them just barely at $4.9 million spent per win added) and only five have been good values based on dollars spent per win over the length of the contract. Of course, each of these players is likely to see his production slip in the coming years, meaning those contracts that seem worthwhile for now may not end up that way, if they are dragged down by poor performance in the next few seasons. For many of the players who look like an especially bad value — such as Carl Crawford and Johan Santana — a long DL stint hampered their productivity, but time missed due to injury is an obviously inherent risk of these contracts.

Equally interesting was another comment Teixeira made to the Wall Street Journal: “This is my 11th year. I’m not going to play 10 more years. I want 5 or 6 good ones. So that would say I’m on the backside of my career. And instead of trying to do things differently on the backside of my career, why not focus on the things I do well, and try to be very good at that? . . . I need to concentrate on what I do well. And what I do well is hitting home runs, driving in a lot of runs and playing great defense.”

He said that in recognition of his deteriorating batting average, which was .295 for the six seasons from 2004 through 2009, but has been just .256, .248 and .251 in the three years hence. His power numbers have slipped in the meantime but less so, from 16.2 AB/HR from ’04-’09 to 17.1 AB/HR in ’10-’12.

Teixeira’s contract, with its compensation guaranteed, is a sunk cost for the Yankees so he might as well continue to be the best player he can be, rather than the player his contract suggests he ought to be. That may not sit well with some fans, but it is sound — and honest — reasoning.

6 comments
GregAtkin
GregAtkin

Typical capitalist propaganda.It's the billionaire owners who are ripping off the fans/taxpayers by extorting them to pony up for stadiums or they'll move the franchises. Furthermore it was the owners who were found guilty of collusion in the late '80s thereby undermining every fan whoever bought a ticket for a game. The owners willfully colluded NOT to improve their team despite the public face given to fans.

Sam Ludu
Sam Ludu

I applaud Teixiera's honesty about his declining worth at this point in his career.

 

So can we expect him to give some of the money back from his huge contract?

Duncan
Duncan like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @Sam Ludu By not being in breach of contract, he'll earn every single penny, that's all there is to it. Give some of the money back? That's ludicrous. How is it that workers love the ownership class, hate the working class. And despite Teixiera being rich, he's still a worker. He has to pay to live on the planet like everyone else not born rich... why hate?

GregAtkin
GregAtkin

 @Duncan  @Sam Ludu I agree Duncan. Americans drool over owners calling them "Mr. Kraft" "Mr.Seinbrenner" or "Mr. Illitch"  despite these guys being far more different in values than the average American and , for the most part secluding themselves from the fans at every oppotunity. They sit in private boxes far removed from the rabble; their kids attend private schools out of touch with most working class problems and issues; they avoid taxes by complex loopholes afforded only the rich, etc.  Yet the American Joe X spews vials of bile toward any black guy making a few buck who happens to become a free agent .

  It's as if the players owe some poor schmuck in the woking class district loyalty because he was born with talent. The athlete's sole purpose in life is to make Joe X feel better about himself since his job is unrewarding, his wife has gained 40 lbs and his kids are all underachieving cheaters in high school.  

 

 

kyyled55
kyyled55

They get your first 3 years for almost free. You have to prove it through your arbitration years or take a discount for the security. Then, if you're 6 years in and can be a free agent, you're probably late 20s or early 30s and "on the downside" unless you made it to MLB very young.

 

There aren't many 100M contracts, because you have to have a track record to get one.

Duncan
Duncan

Contracts aren't worthwhile? What nonsense. Young talented players get paid nothing close to their on field production. See Mike Trout, roughly $45 mil in on field value, got paid about 1 percent of that.

 

So the owners have a great little deal going: buy out arbitration and free agency years for less than market value, and occasionally pay a free agent an deal that is likely to be over-market value.

 

Pretty weak analysis. Teixiera has been worth roughly 170 million over his career (per Fangraphs), has he made that much money? Nope. No need to cry for baseball owners... they're doing just fine.