It was a wildly successful season at the corner of Ontario and Carnegie. For the first time in a millennia, or so it seems, the Indians played exciting, meaningful games late in the season, some of which spilled ever so slightly into the month of October.
Regardless of how the season ended – a 4–0 loss to the Rays in the Wild Card round – the Tribe outperformed the overwhelming majority of everyone’s expectations, something they started doing last offseason with the organization’s biggest free agent bonanza in history.
And while the team as a whole surpassed expectations, the club’s prized free agents – center fielder and leadoff hitter Michael Bourn and former Ohio State University alum Nick Swisher – failed to impress.
After averaging over 4.5 wins above replacement between 2009 and 2012, Bourn, who many envisioned as the second-coming of Kenny Lofton, put together the second worst season of his career, totaling 2.0 fWAR. As for Swisher, the Ohio native’s total offensive production was nearly 30% better than the league average from 2009 to 2012. Last season, his production was 16% better than the average, a solid number, sure, but his second lowest mark since 2006.
So, with four more years remaining in each of the players’ deals – assuming both players’ vesting options kick in at the end – it’s time to look at what it will take for them to live up to their lucrative contracts.
I did a write up after each of the signings, remarking how team friendly each contract was. By my quick back-of-the-envelope estimations, Swisher’s on-field production during the life of his deal would be worth approximately $92 million, about $22 million more than what the franchise will pay him. And Bourn’s estimated production, about $84 million, would exceed his deal by about $36 million.
But they both performed under their expected levels of production. So, let’s adjust.
Swisher will be entering his age-33 season. After averaging nearly four wins above replacement over between 2010 and 2012, he’s now averaged a smidge over three over his last three years. We’ll use that as a starting point. Assuming he improves slightly next season, to 3.0 fWAR, and then declines to 2.5 fWAR for 2015 and 2016 and 1.5 fWAR in 2017; Swisher would total about $53 million of on-field production. Add that to the $12 million he totaled in 2013 (per FanGraphs), and his total deal would be about $65 million, pretty much what he’s scheduled to make.
Bourn, on the other hand, will be entering his age-31 season. Adjusting his starting point to four wins above replacement in 2014, followed by totals of 3.5, 3.0, and 2.5; his future production should be worth about $73 million. Add that to his 2013 value, about $10, and his total deal would be worth about $83 million, about $23 million more than his deal.
So, how likely isn’t that each player lives up to his deal?
Swisher: not likely. A significant injury, another prolonged slump, whatever else the case may be, his team friendly deal could sour rather quickly and there isn’t a whole lot of room for error moving forward.
Bourn: pretty likely. Even if his base line is 2.5 wins moving forward, something rather attainable given his age and track record, Bourn’s deal would still total almost $67 million, exceeding his deal by $7 million.
Personally, I’d still make the deals. Even if Brohio’s value comes up short.
For more analysis check out Joe’s site: ProspectDigest.com.