Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What Will Ben Sheets be Worth?

The Brewers have Ben Sheets signed for two more years but what would it take if Melvin wanted to extend him? While injuries have limited Sheets to only 262.2 IP in the last two years, his injuries are not expected to linger and he's apparently as healthy as ever right now. Still, Melvin needs to at least consider the risk or reinjury and adjust his offer accordingly.

So, what should the offer be? What would be a fair market offer considering his talent and age? I don't really know but I know someone who does. Tom Tango, proprietor of the excellent and co-author of "The Book", has done some research on estimating free agent contract values. All off season, he's been looking at the free agent signings and comparing them to his own estimates. I wanted to hear his take on this hypothetical so I sent him this email:

"Sheets has had a couple injury issues the last couple of years but nothing that's expected to give him issues going forward. Assuming good health, what is his worth? What kind of contract could he expect as a free agent?"

His reply:

"This guy would be the best 30-and-under pitcher to hit the free agent market since.... I don't know when. The injury factor is huge. He's basically a +.25 WAR [wins above reserve]per 9IP pitcher. Multiply that by something between 14 and 22 "full games", making him between +3.5 and +5.5 WAR .

In 2 years, the free agent dollars will be 4.8MM per win, making him between 17 and 26MM in 2009. You can use the salary chart to see how much to pay for him (just multiply all the numbers by 1.2)."


The salary chart he's referring to can be found HERE.

If Sheets continues to be banged up and can only be counted on for about 125 IP a year (14 "full game" starts), we look at the 3.5 WAR row and get $27 mil for two years or $39 mil for a 3 years. As Tango points out, the extension wouldn't come into play for 2 more years, so we multiply those numbers by 1.2 (assuming 10% league inflation a year). $32 mil for a 2 year extension or $47 mil for a 3 year extension. What if Sheets is healthy and can be counted on for 200 IP a year (14 "full game" starts)? 5.5 WAR works out to $53 mil for 2 years or $79 mil for 3 years. Wow.

These are free agent dollars, though. Let's assume Melvin should expect a 20% discount for extending Sheets' current contract by two years. Let's also assume that Sheets' injury risks (above an average player) justifies Melvin assuming only 175 IP per year. Melvin might have to offer Sheets about $36 mil for a two year extension. I would Melvin had done that than sign Suppan but it's a little late for that. :)


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