Casey mulled over the potential 10-year Robinson Cano deal this morning, which as of now, seems to be for sure. Fans, Casey suggested, shouldn’t be worried by the Prince Fielder or Josh Hamilton contracts because Cano is better than both, and he’s right. Additionally, Casey pointed out that buying wins costs more now than it used to, and he’s right again. Now I’m going to get mathy with the details of the contract, which ESPN reported will indeed be 10 years long at $240M with a full no-trade clause.
First, we need some idea of what Cano is going to do for the next ten years, his age-31 through 40 seasons. For that we turn to a combination of information from Dan Szymborski and Dave Cameron. Extrapolating out Dave’s pattern of -0.7 WAR per season there at the end, Cano is projected to produce about 31 WAR while Szymborski’s ZiPS pegs him at 35 WAR over the entirety of this contract. Let’s split the difference and say he’ll be worth 33 WAR. We still need to know what a team should pay for those wins.
Lewie Pollis did some research on the subject of market value recently, and he calculated the current value of a win to be seven million dollars. I like his methodology, so we’ll go with it. Before this recent bump in free agent prices, average baseball salaries had grown by about 3.5 percent annually since 2004, so perhaps we can assume that all the television money coming in has already shifted the market, and now we can expect that same gradual increase for the next ten years. Here’s the in-a-vacuum value the Mariners should expect from their new second baseman:
If Lewie, Dave, and Dan are all correct-ish, and the free agent market’s inflation rate is about 3.5 percent, then Cano could very well be worth his contract—that is, worth at least $240M over ten seasons. If the inflation rate is greater, it would work out better for the Mariners. They will have to find a trading partner to deal Nick Franklin, who just became the odd one out, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Franklin still has six years of team control, and he’s still considered a good prospect as best I can tell. The Mariners should be able to get a good return in a trade involving him, making that particular residual effect of the Cano signing essentially a wash.
I should clarify, all that up there doesn’t make me happy with the signing; more accurately I am not disgusted with it, and I think there’s a good chance the contract won’t decimate the Mariners. Considering big contracts like this—Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Alex Rodriguez x 2—this is a pretty good one. But that’s like being the skinniest kid at fat camp. I will always be more in favor of spending less amounts for less years on “moneyball” type players like John Jaso. There is still a market inefficiency for players like Jaso, and that spread-it-out approach involves less variance in the sense that not all of a team’s hopes and dreams rest on the knees/quads/hamstring/obliques/ankles of one player.
The Mariners will be better for a while after this signing, but I hope that they add onto Cano’s value with smaller, less risky moves to avoid potential nuclear fallout.