Say No To Mo

The most ridiculous contract given out by the Yankees this offseason isn’t going to Alex Rodriguez. Reports indicate that the team has agreed to a three-year, $45 million contract with their long-time closer Mariano Rivera. He will not come close to contributing $15 million/year to his team.

Don’t get me wrong, Rivera is a very good pitcher, the only problem is that he doesn’t pitch much. The 75 innings he has averaged the past three years, represent just over five percent of his team’s innings. I have him valued at around $6 million/year for the past three years. Even if we weight the importance of the innings he pitches there is no way he’s worth two-and-half times that amount.

6 Responses “Say No To Mo”

  1. Phil Steinmeyer says:

    I’m puzzled about the heavy focus throughout baseball on one-inning closers.

    Why is the 9th inning so much more important than the 8th, the 7th, or the 1st, for that matter?

    I understand the concept of leverage, but my gut tells me that is oversold in relation to closers.

    Are there any good studies out there supporting or opposing the high salaries paid to some closers?

  2. Ron says:

    How many more championships might the Braves have won in the ’90s if they had had a closer of Rivera’s quality to overspend on? The Yankees have the money, so why not spend it on Rivera? It’s not like overpaying Rivera stops them from signing Arod or anybody else.

  3. Marc Schneider says:

    It’s sort of a chicken-and-egg argument. If you don’t have good starting pitching, you won’t get to the 9th with a lead; on the other hand, if you lack a good closer, you likely will lose some games you would have won otherwise. In this case, I agree with Ron. This would be a bad deal if it hamstrung the Yankees to the point that they couldn’t improve their starting pitching, but it won’t so they are just assuring themselves that those games in which they lead late will be won.

    In this regard, I think you have to consider the psychological aspects of the game. I think one of the advantages the Yankees had during the 90s, especially during the playoffs, was the fact that the other team knew that if they were behind late, it was pretty much over. That wasn’t all Rivera, of course, but knowing he was out there put immense pressure on the opponent to get to the starters. I think the real problem with this contract (from a Yankee perspective)is that Mo might not be a dominant closer in a couple of years. But the Yankees have enough money to go do something else if necessary.

  4. John Beamer says:

    JC — you are correct in you assessment to a degree but don’t ignore the impact of leverage. An elite closer will typically have an LI of around 2 so a $6m player in a neutral context should be payed $12m.

    Now, whether Mariano is still and elite closer is the debate.

  5. JC says:

    I don’t think leverage is that influential. I discuss why I value all runs the same and discuss possibly valuing them differently for closers and the like in my book. When you start talking about moving pitchers to different roles and pitching well in low leverage situations to reduce high-leverage situations it gets very complicated. So while there may be some methods that value Rivera at close to $12 million, I don’t agree with such estimates.

  6. Bo says:

    Also factor in that he is being paid for being underpaid for years and his value to the Yankees is way more than anyone else and its the Yankees. They have more than enough money.