The $20 Million Man

Yesterday, in an interview with Andruw Jones’s agent, Scott Boras, David O’Brien suggested that the Jones may be expecting $20 million/year from his next contract. I’m not sure whether O’Brien’s words were based on speculation or an off-the-record numbers fed to him by Boras, but in any event, it’s interesting to think about what Andruw Jones might be worth this offseason.

As I’ve hinted at here on a few occasions, I’ve developed a method for valuing players, which I will release in my book. I haven’t done the 2006 numbers yet, only 2005. Luckily, Jones’s 2005 and 2006 were very similar. I estimate Andruw’s offensive output was worth about $10.5 million in 2005—I’m still working on a method for capturing defensive value. Let’s assume that his defense is good enough to make him worth exactly what his contract pays him, $13 million, although I think that understates his worth. Can we get AJ to $20 mil? Well, a few recent events make me think that $20 million isn’t so far fetched.

First, MLB attendance and revenues have been rising. The MLB Advanced Media is an example of the league’s recent success. As the league brings in more money, there is more in the pot for owners to spend on players. How much is this going to affect player salaries? Well, let’s look to two players: Tori Hunter and Gary Sheffield.

A few weeks ago, the Twins decided to pick up Hunter’s $12 million option for 2007. When I saw that, I about fell out of my chair. The Twins aren’t a dumb organization, and Hunter isn’t as good or as young as Jones. I have Hunter pegged at $4 million in 2005, but he only played two-thirds of what he played in 2006; but, ajusting for that only gets him to $6 million for a full season of play. He was better by a little in 2006, but not by a lot, let’s put him at $7 million.

Gary Sheffield is upset that the Yankees are picking up his $13 million option for 2007. Sheffield claims that he doesn’t want to play first base, but I think the real reason is that he’s been told by his agent that he’s worth a lot more than that…and I think the Yankees know it. According to my estimate, Sheffield was worth $10 million in 2005. And though he missed much of 2006 with injuries, he should be back producing in 2007. Why else would the Yankees have picked up his option? They are not desperate for a first basemen or a right fielder.

This brings me back to Jones. He’s always been a much better player than Hunter, and he’s younger. He has not reached Sheffield’s heights yet, but I think he’s better than the 38-year-old model that will take the field next season. These guys will make $12 and $13 million next year. I think that there is that possibility that Andruw rises to the next level. He’s a low-risk-high-reward guy, and I suspect many teams view him in the same manner.

I expect that the free agent market this year is going to be exciting, and that Andruw Jones, may be get his $20 million. Whether it will be through an extension with the Braves or for another team in 2007, he’s in for a nice payday. I hope that the Braves hold on to him for one more year. Right now, he’s looking like a steal.

2 Responses “The $20 Million Man”

  1. studes says:

    I agree it could happen. My Net Wins Shares Value system (which does include fielding) has Jones pegged at $17.5M last year. Given general salary inflation plus the great cash flow of MLB, it could definitely happen.

    FWIW, I had Hunter at $9.7 this past year, so it is odd for the Twins to pick up his option. If a major market team had done it, I wouldn’t have been so surprised.

  2. Sean says:

    It doesn’t particularly surprise me that the Twins picked up Hunter’s option. I definitely do not think he is worth that money. I don’t know the numbers behind it, but just watching Twins games and Sportscenter highlights this year it seems to me as if they got lucky this season (anyone want to pull up BABIP and RISP AVG. numbers for half of the Twins’ team?) Subsequently, I would guess that the Twins could be headed toward a disappointing year.

    I somehow doubt that Ryan is the type of manager that worries greatly about criticism concerning his official duties, but what if he had not picked up Hunter’s option and the Twins did fare poorly in that competitive division next season? Between Liriano’s injuries (which will almost certainly continue next season) and not retaining Hunter, there would have been major fallout in the Twins camp.