How much is Starlin Castro worth over a 5-year extension?

Yesterday I posted two polls. The first one was about whether or not you thought the Cubs should extend Starlin Castro and the second one was for how much. Before we get to the results, I wanted to run the numbers using projections. (click the link below to read more) 

Starlin Castro is more than likely going to be eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2012 season. He’ll almost certainly qualify as a super-2 and therefore have 4 years of arbitration. We were looking at a 5-year contract since we’d like to buy out one year of free agency. However, the 5-year contract just buys out his years of club control. My mistake on that one. After this year he’ll have slightly under 2 years of service time and you need 6 before you can file for free agency. He has 1 more year of league minimum and 4 arbitration years.

ZiPS currently projects Castro to have a .328 wOBA the rest of the season. If we use -5 defense, +1 baserunning and 600 plate appearances we get 2.9 WAR for Castro. That’s what we’ll use for his 2012 projection. We should probably factor in aging just a little, but I’m not trying to get a perfect projection. I’m just looking for a ballpark figure so 2.9 will do. Over the next 5 years this is what we get for Castro.

2012: 2.9 WAR
2013: 3.3 WAR
2014: 3.8 WAR
2015: 4.0 WAR
2016: 4.0 WAR 

The current value of the win is roughly $4.5 million so if we add 5% inflation for each year we get win values over the next 5 years of $4.7, $5.0, $5.2, $5.5 and $5.7 million. The typical arbitration player makes 40% of his free agent value in his first year of arbitration and then 60% and 80% the next 2 years. Castro will be a super 2 so we’ll use 40/40/60/80. 

Factoring that in, we end up with this pay schedule for Castro over the next 5 years.

2012: $.425
2013: $6.5
2014: $7.9
2015: $13.1
2016: $18.4
Total: $46.4

There would be no reason to sign him to that contract since there would be no savings for the Cubs. A typical contract 3 years or longer gives the team 10% off the free agent value. Castro isn’t yet a free agent so we’re going to go with 15%. That is $39.4 million.

Based on expected levels of production using UZR to estimate defense. If we instead use Total Zone, we’d get at least -10, which would lower the overall value (including 15% bonus to the team) of $28.4 million. So let’s split the difference and say 5 years and $28.9 million.

The reality with arbitration is that they base the player’s value on what similar players got in arbitration. The first player I thought of was Jose Reyes. After the 2006 season, Reyes was going to be eligible for arbitration for the first time. The Mets signed him to a 4-year deal worth $23.5 million. During his league minimum years, Reyes batted .285/.321/.427. That was a .332 wOBA or exatly league average over those years (100 wRC+). He was worth 11.3 fWAR. Reyes was also coming off a season in which he hit 19 home runs, which is a big factor in arbitration. Stolen bases, RBI and other traditional metrics are important. Reyes had over 150 stolen bases. Over the previous 2 years, he had 139 RBI, scored 221 times, led the league in triples with 34 (17 each season), stole over 120 bases, and was coming off a season in which he was worth 5.9 rWAR. 

Castro won’t touch many of those accomplishments, but it is several years after Reyes signed the extension. However, the value of the win has remained the same since 2007 so the contract Reyes received doesn’t have to be increased. Including the option the Mets had on Reyes, his total deal was worth 5 years and $33.25 million. 

Rafael Furcal and Jimmy Rollins also come to mind. Like Reyes and Castro, both got an early start and settled into starting roles. It’s kind of interesting to see how much money each of them made over the same period we’re looking at Castro (final league minimum, 4 additional years).

Rafael Furcal: $.4, $2.2, $3.7, $5.6, $8.7 ($20.65 million total)
Jimmy Rollins: $.45, $2.4, $3.9, $5.0, $8.0 ($19.75 million total)
Jose Reyes: $.4, $2.9, $4.4, $6.1, $9.3 ($23.1 million total)

Not even $3.5 million difference from the highest (Reyes) and Rollins (the lowest). The average of the 3 is $21.2 million. Castro’s wRC+ is 100 so far, which was equal to Reyes and Furcal’s was 99. Jimmy Rollins was 89. Below is the WAR Graph showing where the players rank with one another at the same age.

furcal-rollins-reyes-castro-war

If we use WAR, Castro has been better in the first two seasons than any of the other three. He’s just barely better than Jose Reyes, but remember the traditional stat edge that Reyes has over Castro. 

If I’m the Cubs and I want to lock Castro up for 5 more years, then I want to pay him what the average of those 3 got, which was 5 years and $21.2 million. I’d go as high as 5 years, $25 million, which is just a bit higher than Reyes got. Using traditional stats, I’d probably go no more than what Reyes got.

Using the projections methodology we get 5 years and $29 million and using a more realistic approach we get 5 years and $21-25 million.

Using the wisdom of the crowds approach, we get 5 years and $29.7 million. So you guys were right on with regards to projections and a bit off compared to similar players. That surprises me. I was expecting the exact opposite. Maybe that’s because I went into this thinking about similar players whereas you guys went into thinking about projections. 

I’m not sure if I would extend him, but I voted yes because I wanted to vote for how much I’d pay him. I struggled between $15 million and $20 million and settled on $20 million. Aisle424 basically said what I was thinking.

I said no because I don’t know if he’s valuable enough to lessen his value to cost ratio to “save” money when he gets enough service time to go free agent.

This isn’t a Hall of Fame player they need to lock up. Just because he’s the best the Cubs have doesn’t mean they should treat him like he’s among the best in baseball.

I tend to agree with this. The amount the Cubs could save by locking him doesn’t justify taking the risk in my opinion. If Castro ended up being a lot better than expected it would obviously be worth it, but at the same time, he’s as likely to end up a lot worse than we expect. I wouldn’t lock him up right now. Take another look at this after next season and see how much he’s improved between now and the end of next year. Maybe it costs you a couple million more, but you’re that much more certain about what to expect from him in the future. Like 424 said, this isn’t a hall of fame player, or even a great player for that matter, so there’s no reason to take unnecessary risks with him.

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