Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why Kendry Morales is Worth More than Mark Teixiera

Given that I have written a bunch of Dodger posts for
my buddy kensai, it is funny that I am writing one about an Angel to kick things off. Stream of consciousness I guess.

Anyway, I have been thinking about the comparative value of baseball players a lot lately, especially when thinking about the various trade rumors surrounding Roy Halladay and some of the Dodgers' elite young core of players and the thought of Morales, who has absolutely broken out this year in his first full year in the majors, popped into my head.

So Why am I Writing About This Guy?

As of the top of the 9th inning of the first game of a double header in Kansas City, Morales is the owner of a .894 OPS (On base percentage + Slugging percentage), a .293 batting average and some very nice power numbers. Additionally, the former third baseman who defected from Cuba has put up a very respectable 4.1 UZR/150, using the advanced defensive metric from the people at Fangraphs. All that has added up to a player who is rated at approximately 2 wins above replacement, just over halfway through the season. That makes a guy who is getting paid just $600,000 (less than 1/5th the league average and just $200,000 more than the minimum) worth $9 million dollars so far, and there are no signs that Morales will slow down. In fact, the natural right-handed hitter is batting so poorly from the right-side that he may well have room for improvement. Given that there is no evidence to doubt his age, Morales looks to have at least 10 years of production in him.

How is Morales Worth More than Teixiera?

I'm nuts, right? You say Teixiera was the prize of the off-season and got $180 million over 8 years from the Yankees? You say that the Angels pushed hard to resign him, so how can Morales be more valuable? Well, I'll show you.

A big reason the Angels didn't bid against the Yankees is that they had confidence Morales, who has been lauded as a future hitting machine since he defected from Cuba at the end of 2004. Further, they trusted that the fact that he was a converted third baseman, just like Teixiera and the game's greatest player Albert Pujols, would mean he could play good defense at first. All of that has been true, and Morales makes THIRTY-THREE AND ONE THIRD times less money than Teixiera.

Teixiera is a better player, so far, but he is also more than three years older and paid significantly more. Indeed, Tex hasn't been as good a defensive player this year as last, sustaining a trend of up and down defense according to both UZR and the James/Dewan plus/minus system. Further, his offensive numbers have been down, thanks largely to a decline in batting average and on base percentage. Not to say he isn't still an elite player, but I think Teixiera is likely to maintain a steady 5 wins over replacement per year.

All that means that Teixiera is worth approximately 1 win more this year than Morales. How does this compare to their value? Well, if each win is worth $4.5 million, then Teixiera is going to be worth (if you include half his signing bonus) exactly the $22.5 million he is getting this year. Meanwhile, Morales is worth, at 4 wins, 30 times more than he is being paid. Even if Morales hits a "mere" 3.5 wins, that means he is worth more than $15 million above what his salary is. Talk about profitable.

What Does All This Mean?

At the end of the day (as my British friends love to say), what does this all mean? Well, it essentially means that the Angels are getting almost as much production out of Morales for significantly less money, meaning that they are making a huge profit on his services. Meanwhile, the Yankees are breaking even on Teixiera, as great as he is. Further, the Angels have Morales for a similarly paltry $700,000 next year, while the Yankees are committed to Big Tex for 7 more years at an average of $22.5 million a year. Not only that, but Morales' service time means the Angels will have him under control for another 3 years beyond 2010 under baseball's arbitration system, which means further control over his salary. That makes him a lot more valuable than Teixiera, even if he never approaches that level of production.

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