After writing previously that the Marlins might be spending on the wrong things after the Heath Bell signing, of course, the Marlins prove everyone wrong and go out and sign Jose Reyes to a pretty big deal: six years at $106 million guaranteed, with an option for a seventh year as the Marlins pay Reyes big time money for him to man the 6-hole into his age 35 season. The contract’s final year has been reported to be worth $22 million, which would close out this deal at seven years and $124 million. But was it the right move?
Let’s take a look at the Wins Above Replacement from FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference and Baseball Prospectus for Reyes from 2005 on, when he became the regular shortstop for the New York Mets:
fWAR: 2.3, 6.1, 5.8, 6.4, 0.8, 2.9, 6.2 (Total: 30.5)
bWAR: 1.7, 5.9, 5.4, 5.3, 0.7, 2.3, 5.8 (Total: 27.1)
WARP: 0.9, 5.0, 4.7, 6.3, 0.7, 2.6, 6.0 (Total: 25.2)
Average Wins Above Replacement over Time Frame: 27.6
As you can see, when Reyes was healthy, he was fantastic. He continually was a high-performing player at the plate, and once he started being more selective with the pitches he’d receive, he became even more valuable, posting OBP’s over .350 in five of the past six seasons. His speed is his greatest attribute, with 10+ triples in six of his past seven seasons, and his total of 93 since 2005 is the best in all of baseball. His pop has led to double digit home runs in four of his last six seasons. His defense, while barely league average by most measures, is still better than incumbent Hanley Ramirez, who is amongst the worst at his position, defensively.Add it all up, and you have yourselves a very valuable player.
But as it was talked about in the article I wrote about Heath Bell, the main idea with big contracts is to get value for the players you sign. For the bullpen, it’s easy to find arms that can be a benefit to the team on a year-to-year basis, as it’s so fungible. But a shortstop with Reyes’ skills across the board is one of the rarest things to find in the free agent mark. Therefore, if you were to overpay for somebody, a shortstop is a bit more easier to stomach than a closer.
So what do the Marlins need for Reyes to pay off? At nearly $5 million a win above replacement at the current time, Reyes would need to be worth about 4 WAR per season to be worth the value of the contract. The good news for the Marlins is that in four of his last six years, Reyes has been worth way above that mark, but the 2009 and 2010 seasons loom large for those who have issues with whether or not Reyes’ health is going to get worse as his career progresses, especially as his decline creeps up during the second half of that contract.
But within a six year period, if Reyes were to be worth 24 wins above replacement (the most likely scenario), it would be a win for the Marlins, and especially more so if inflation pushes win values upwards. In all reality, if inflation pushes the win value to about $6 million per at the end of his contract, 20 wins above replacement over that time frame would make it a value. Should Reyes have three of his big years along with one of his less enthralling years, the Marlins will have gotten themselves on the better end of this deal.
The Marlins may have overpaid for Heath Bell, but the Reyes deal is something that Marlins fans could look at as a major cog in a postseason run over these next few seasons. And should the Marlins go get another big cog this offseason to give Reyes somebody to get on for, or another arm to throw behind Josh Johnson, let’s hope that the Marlins figure out a way to make it a contract that could prove as valuable than the one they just gave Reyes.