A look at Anthony Rizzo’s new contract

RizzoThe Cubs signed Anthony Rizzo to a contract last night. GW wrote about it in the wee hours of the morning today. Let's recap the specifics, along with GW's take on it.

Anthony Rizzo has signed a long term extension with the Cubs. Ken Rosenthal has the details. The deal is for at least seven years (including 2013) and $41 million, which includes what would have been Rizzo's first free agent season in 2019. In addition, it contains two club options which would bring the total contract to 9 years and $68 million, with escalators that could potentially increase that total to $73 million.

My off the cuff reaction to the deal is that the Cubs received the bulk of the upside here. It's certainly possible that Rizzo doesn't pan out the way the Cubs hope (think early Carlos Pena), but at approximately $6 mill per season, it won't be a lead weight on the franchise. In a medium case (think Adam LaRoche), it's a fair deal, and shouldn't be difficult to move. If Rizzo continues to improve, however, (think Derrek Lee) this could be an absolute steal. In 2020, I would venture to guess that a 2 yr/ 29 million dollar deal will look reasonable for a 30 year-old first baseman near the prime of his career. 

I wanted to include GW's reaction because I pretty much felt the same way. I was heading to bed when I read about the contract, but based on the early details, I thought of two players: Prince Fielder and Carlos Pena. I figured that represented the upside that Rizzo possesses, as well as the downside.

There's always a chance that he just breaks down and doesn't even come close to Pena, but let's be reasonable here. While that chance exists for all players, we still have a pretty good idea at this point of what to expect from Rizzo. That range of expected performance, in my opinion, could be anywhere between Pena and Fielder. That was my initial thought.

I figured I'd take a closer look in the morning. The place to start would be the projections.

Fangraphs has two rest of season projections: Steamer and ZiPS. Over a full season, those are a little above 3 WAR so I rounded down to 3 as the starting point. Since the contract covers 2013, that's where we start.

After finishing this little exercise, I thought "holy shit, that's gotta be almost identical to Prince Fielder." It is. If you look at Fielder's fWAR beginning in his 2nd season, which is about where we're at with Rizzo, he'll be up to 28 fWAR by the end of the season.

The last column there is what we'd estimate his salaries to be each year if he did not sign the extension. 2019 would have been his first year of free agency so I used $20 million. It's difficult to figure out what the cost per win will be by then, but it's very easy to see how that 4 WAR then could end up being worth over $30 million.

We'd expect him to be paid roughly $64 million if he went year to year and performed up to his rest of season ZiPS and Steamer projections. Instead, they'll pay him $41 million.

This is the higher end of what we could reasonably expect. We're talking about Prince Fielder and although that's what his projections (and a typical aging curve) might suggest, it's Prince fucking Fielder. So let's go a little lower. Let's use PECOTA, which has been the least optimistic about Rizzo's future.

We'll call this the Ryan Howard plan. You still have to love the contract. Now let's look at the Carlos Pena plan.

If we look back on this contract and get only 11.5 WAR, I think we'd still be happy with it. It's probably an overpay, but we've already established this as the low end of what we could expect.

Back to Prince Fielder since the projections essentially tell us that's who Rizzo is. Fielder was paid about $58 million through his first season of free agency (2012). Considering inflation, you'd expect Rizzo to be paid more than that, but he won't be. So even if we end up getting Ryan Howard, the Cubs still come out of this better than the Brewers (and Tigers) did with Fielder.

I'm thrilled with this contract. You'd literally have to be looking at the worst case scenario for this not to be a good deal to the Cubs. Forget about the option years, which is only makes the contract better. This is just fantastic.

I wish the Cubs could have come out of the Starlin Castro negotiations the same way. I felt he was overpaid and still do. I don't believe Castro would have earned $60 million going through arbitration. It would have been close, but the Cubs are taking on the risk and not getting much of a benefit.

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