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Raynomics: Rap & Rocco

It's that time again - no not prospect lists or off-season shopping lists, although rest assured those will come, but rather the return of C.R.E.A.M. Well, the money column at least, you see, why I like Wu-Tang - and they still aren't anything to [mess] with, I want a unique identity for this column. In short I'm re-naming it to Raynomics - I know, I know, not at all creative, but at least I won't have Method Man or Ghostface Killah showing up at my door one day.

A bit of an introduction for our new readers: essentially this weekly column covers the economics of the Rays, last year I pondered at exactly how much the Rays made in profit, how unique Gary Glover's contract was, and why Carl Crawford's wallet wouldn't mind being dealt, this year it's going to top that by far.  Today we start the journey, and after the jump I analyze Rocco Baldelli's contract.

When B.I.G., Diddy, and Ma$e talked about Mo' Money, Mo' Problems I'm sure they were talking about Baldelli. Sure Baldelli did miss the year before signing his extension, but since signing the deal he's played in 127 games, less than his 2004 total of 136 and 2003 rookie year of 156 games not only attended but participated in. It has to hurt Baldelli even more knowing that he fired super agent Scott Boras and self negotiated his own deal, no doubt costing him money and if he didn't sign that extension he would qualify for free agency at the end of the 2008 season., but he signed on the dotted line; here are the details:

There isn't a set name for this type of contract - in a way it's a back-lacked incentive laden deal; however I mean the player trading potentially more money for security. The Rays seem adapt to using the strategy, and it's not a bad one, the Indians of the early 90's used it to hold onto young players and were more successful than not at the end of the deal - without veering too far off topic the Indians of the 90's aren't a bad team to model yourself after at all.

The Rays did a masterful job of re-signing an injured player long term without overpaying or losing too much money in case of injury. Note the differences in possible income versus guaranteed income, the Rays installed a number of plate appearance escalators in the contract, in fact they did so multiple times, giving Baldelli better odds of making extra money and showing him the team was willing to pay him his value. Those incentives were eligible to be activated in 2006 and 2007, both around 600 plate appearances, neither were reached, and Rocco is essentially locked in for the lowest possible amount of money earned - tough break for him, unfortunate tally for the Rays' smart proposal.

Interestingly Rocco has three option years, one in 2009 that must be exercised by opening day 2008 - essentially a lock - and a joint club option for 2010 and 2011, exercised at the same time, obviously it's a bit early to tell whether those two years will see Rocco in Rays' blue but for such a modest salary the Rays would essentially be signing a player to a 2 year 17 million dollar deal for his 28 and 29 year old seasons - a la a hitter's usual prime production years, not likely on the open market now, not along then.

Of course there's no guarantee Rocco will be healthy then, he's barely healthy now, how much does that hurt his value, and is it enough to make those seemingly bargain years a bit more excessive for the production?

I took away 2007 since it's essentially a lost year, but obviously it's not good having such high standard deviations when it comes to those essential statistics - you need to play in games to get plate appearances, you need plate appearances to get on base and score runs, you need to get on base and score runs to have value offensively, ect. - which leads to us roughly estimating his actual value. Of course his play has been a bit sporadic since coming back from the injury - tearing it up like a shredder in 2006, but struggling mightily in 2007.  That said, I think it's safe to assume that a healthy Rocco Baldelli will produce at least a 6 WARP, and I would estimate that number could rise to around 8 during his prime if not higher.

Rocco is an extremely high risk, essentially let's look at his value when we subtract his potential risks. His standard deviation in WARP was roughly 0.7 and the average - again excluding 2007 - WARP was 4.6, remember however that WARP3 estimates for a full season - Rocco has only had one "full season". Essentially there's a 1.4 difference between a short season Rocco and a full season Rocco, obviously he adds less value, meaning we're looking at 1.4 wins attributed to him lost through injuries.

Again estimating he's being paid 6/28 for roughly six wins a year, an average of - you guessed it - 4.6 million per year and essentially 777 thousand per win - that assuming he averaged a 6 WARP each year, he won't, and as such his WARP thus far is 4.5 through the first two years of the deal, 7.5 less than expected, meaning the Rays will be paying him 1.87 million per win if he continues this pace - obviously not a good deal whatsoever when you consider he'll only be responsible for roughly 13-14 wins over four years.

None of us can foresee the future, but the Rays had the foresight to plan in case of future Rocco injuries - that being said if he continues his current rate of playing the Rays will have no choice but to cut ties with him before 2010 - meaning that he won't have to donate 400k to a Rays charity either, he only does that if he's with the team entering 2011. Luckily for both Baldelli and the Rays the law of averages seems to suggest he'll eventually get back to pre-extension playing time, and should be improved through natural progression not to mention the Rays have one of the best training staffs in the league - Baldelli's promiscuous hamstrings aside.  

For now let's hope that's the case at least, if it so happens to work out the Rays will come out looking pretty good despite the rough start.