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  • Free Agent Shortstops Raising the Price for Adames and Brewers


    Tim Muma

    After two elite-level shortstops signed enormous free agent deals this offseason, the Milwaukee Brewers might realize they waited too long to extend Willy Adames' contract at a reasonable price. Once the other two top shortstops agree to long-term big dollars, the picture will be clearer and likely disheartening. That doesn't mean the Brewers should put away the checkbook.

    Image courtesy of © Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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    Figuring out the best time to offer guaranteed contract extensions in MLB is like a financial game of chicken. Timing is paramount as free agents set the market for everyone else in the league. Thus, having four of the best shortstops available this offseason might price Willy Adames out of an extension with the Milwaukee Brewers. A comparison of statistics and value, offensively and defensively, will determine how much Adames is worth to his agent and the Brewers' front office.

    Adames is under team control through 2024, which could make or lose him tens of millions of dollars. Should he struggle with performance or health, his value drops quicker as he nears 30. His stock rises to the top of the heap if he progresses and puts up better numbers across two more seasons. Of course, signing a deal now shares the same risks and rewards for both club and player (just in reverse). The wads of cash teams are throwing around this offseason, especially at shortstops, has to give pause to Adames and GM Matt Arnold. It has been reported the two sides have discussed a possible extension, but no details have been leaked.

    So let's treat Adames like a free agent this offseason and stack him up against the other four shortstops to assess his "current value" based on the last two seasons.

    shortstop comparison.JPG

    Noticeably, Adames sits well below Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts offensively. That bodes well for the Brewers at this point. While they would love a guy with a .360 wOBA, .840 OPS, and 132 wRC+ in their lineup, Adames' lesser production should keep his cost down (for now). Without reaching those levels on offense, a contract this offseason means Adames doesn't reach the upper echelon of salaries.

    Adames gains ground on Bogaerts and Turner in the field if you believe in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). This could also be more valuable with the new shift rules and for a team like the Brewers, who focus on run prevention. Adames gains slightly on Correa in baserunning, but it needs to be clarified how much clubs value that skill even with the larger bases. 

    Now compare Adames to Swanson, and you start to get a better idea of where the Brewers' shortstop fits in. Adames has been better than Swanson in wOBA, OPS, wRC+, and DRS since 2021; however, Swanson's fWAR is still higher. Either way, the money for Adames is likely in the neighborhood of what Swanson will get. Adames is two years younger, but if he waited to reach free agency, he would be 29 like Swanson. It all factors into the math.

    Why does all of this matter? Look at the two contracts already signed and what Correa and Swanson could be getting soon.

    shortstop contracts.JPG

    I show an AAV for a nine-year contract (assuming the total salary remained the same) because Bogaerts and Turner signed 11-year deals for an intriguing reason. The belief is that the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies did this to lower the AAV. This makes it look like Bogaerts and Turner's market values were lower. Spotrac.com estimates Correa's $31.8 million AAV based on an eight-year contract. That puts the market AAV rankings as follows:

    • Turner - $33.33
    • Correa - $31.80
    • Bogaerts - $31.10
    • Swanson - $24.80

    That brings us to Adames. What might the options look like if the Brewers were to entice him to sign a long-term deal this offseason fairly? Keep in mind he is the youngest of the five (helps Adames' value), but he is under team control for two more years (supports the Brewers' side). For this exercise, the contract would begin immediately in 2023.

    Based on current market values and the unique factors for Adames, we're looking at the following:

    • $209 million over eight years ($26.13 million AAV) through his age-34 season
    • $189 million over seven years ($27 AAV) through his age-33 season
    • $163 million over six years ($27.3 AAV) through his age-32 season

    The numbers might look huge to many of you, but you rarely have a top-10 shortstop in your grasp. The Brewers would also be banking on seeing several peak seasons before declining in his early 30s, making his AAV look like a steal. With Christian Yelich's enormous contract on the books, will the Brewers push to have another superstar-sized commitment? They could always look to backload some of the money or go with the ever-popular "deferred payments."

    Regardless, despite this year's free agency frenzy driving prices even higher for shortstops, locking up Adames should still be the best move for the club overall. It will all come down to how much risk the Brewers perceive and how confident Adames would feel betting on himself the next two seasons in a quest to secure Correa or Turner money. Would you sign him to any of the contracts above?

     

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    At this point it appears that annual club salaries have drastically increased. I worry that if Attanasio and company would like to keep  it at $130M or less will be left behind. Bites of the apple or WS windows will be coming around less often for teams in a similar situation. With the contracts being signed this winter it will virtually impossible for lower salary teams to keep up with teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, Rangers, Astros, etc. without some type of salary cap. The likelihood of teams like the Brewers, Royals, Rays, etc. look for ways to increase their bottom line will come into play. Look for team movements to new cities or at the very least new owners willing to increase  their salary structures to occur in the next few years.

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    25 minutes ago, Sixtolezcano said:

    At this point it appears that annual club salaries have drastically increased. I worry that if Attanasio and company would like to keep  it at $130M or less will be left behind. Bites of the apple or WS windows will be coming around less often for teams in a similar situation. With the contracts being signed this winter it will virtually impossible for lower salary teams to keep up with teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, Rangers, Astros, etc. without some type of salary cap. The likelihood of teams like the Brewers, Royals, Rays, etc. look for ways to increase their bottom line will come into play. Look for team movements to new cities or at the very least new owners willing to increase  their salary structures to occur in the next few years.

    The biggest problem (the way I see it) is television revenue. When the Brewers are drawing $40m a year from their TV contract while the Dodgers are drawing $250m, baseball is just going to be broken.

    And a salary cap doesn't really fix that on its own.

    I cannot see a situation where owners agree to this but TV revenue must be shared, just as teams share gate revenue. And at that point, you can probably get the MLBPA to agree to both a salary cap and floor. The union isn't necessarily against a salary cap, they're against a salary cap that allows owners to pocket more and more money. If you find a balance point where the floor and cap are tied to league revenue, the union likely agrees to it.

    And the way I see it, that basically fixes 75% of baseball's problems in one fell swoop.

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    damuelle
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
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    We hate the thought of it, but it obviously increases the odds that we trade Adames. If we feel the market is over-valuing shortstops, then maybe a trade is the logical move.

    I believe that at some point it’ll be accepted that top defensive shortstops will move around like a top cornerback, shifting to the pull side of hitters. Those shortstops with the willingness to be “on the spot” every play will be worth the extra pay.

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    4 minutes ago, damuelle said:

    I believe that at some point it’ll be accepted that top defensive shortstops will move around like a top cornerback, shifting to the pull side of hitters. Those shortstops with the willingness to be “on the spot” every play will be worth the extra pay.

    I hadn't considered this. What an interesting idea. I'm sure some team will try this, I'm really interested to see how it pans out.

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    Wily Adames isn't anywhere near the same class as those players. Elite offense at SS gets paid huge bucks and long contracts. Adames is nowhere near elite offensively. 

    He is pretty comparable to Dansby Swanson at this point. He might be able to raise the bar a little bit with a few seasons like 2021...which is pretty close to what Swanson just did in his contract year. Obviously, we have yet to see what Swanson gets on the FA market. He was projected about 6/$150mil at the top end according to experts. Unless Swanson gets some shocking deal those contract figures for Adames are way too much. 

    Swanson is the real bar to compare to. Turner/Bogarts/Correa...yah, that isn't Adames market at all. 

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    25 minutes ago, MrTPlush said:

    Wily Adames isn't anywhere near the same class as those players. Elite offense at SS gets paid huge bucks and long contracts. Adames is nowhere near elite offensively. 

    He is pretty comparable to Dansby Swanson at this point. He might be able to raise the bar a little bit with a few seasons like 2021...which is pretty close to what Swanson just did in his contract year. Obviously, we have yet to see what Swanson gets on the FA market. He was projected about 6/$150mil at the top end according to experts. Unless Swanson gets some shocking deal those contract figures for Adames are way too much. 

    Swanson is the real bar to compare to. Turner/Bogarts/Correa...yah, that isn't Adames market at all. 

    Given how this offseason is going, I think that 6/$150m number for Swanson is going to be way low. At this point, I'm fully expecting him to get something in the $200m range.

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    6 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    Given how this offseason is going, I think that 6/$150m number for Swanson is going to be way low. At this point, I'm fully expecting him to get something in the $200m range.

    The Swanson ask is just comical to me for a guy with a career 94 wRC+ 16.4 fWAR 14.5 bWAR. Adames has a 111 wRC+ 13.7 fWAR 15.5 bWAR and 2 more years to build on that. He's much closer to Turner at the same point in their careers than Swanson. (Turner 119 wRC+ 18.5 fWAR 18.3 bWAR)

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    14 minutes ago, Redd Vencher said:

    The Swanson ask is just comical to me for a guy with a career 94 wRC+ 16.4 fWAR 14.5 bWAR. Adames has a 111 wRC+ 13.7 fWAR 15.5 bWAR and 2 more years to build on that. He's much closer to Turner at the same point in their careers than Swanson. (Turner 119 wRC+ 18.5 fWAR 18.3 bWAR)

    Swanson’s career wRC+ is heavily weighed down by 2017-19 (1629 PA | 78 wRC+). Last three years he is at 109 wRC+ over 1613 PA.

    Adames might be closer to Turner by wRC+, but his WAR totals are 3.7 off from Dansby vs 7.6 off from Trea so I’d say overall he is closer to Swanson at this point.

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    38 minutes ago, Redd Vencher said:

    The Swanson ask is just comical to me for a guy with a career 94 wRC+ 16.4 fWAR 14.5 bWAR. Adames has a 111 wRC+ 13.7 fWAR 15.5 bWAR and 2 more years to build on that. He's much closer to Turner at the same point in their careers than Swanson. (Turner 119 wRC+ 18.5 fWAR 18.3 bWAR)

    I agree, I'm not that high on Swanson but someone out there is going to buy into his 2020 and 2022 seasons and give him a contract I would not personally give.

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    28 minutes ago, Redd Vencher said:

    The Swanson ask is just comical to me for a guy with a career 94 wRC+ 16.4 fWAR 14.5 bWAR. Adames has a 111 wRC+ 13.7 fWAR 15.5 bWAR and 2 more years to build on that. He's much closer to Turner at the same point in their careers than Swanson. (Turner 119 wRC+ 18.5 fWAR 18.3 bWAR)

    Swanson is going to get paid because of what he did the last three years. Not the crappy hitter he was at the start of his career. The same goes for Trea Turner, who's wRC+ the last three years is 139. Trea Turner is the third best positional player in all of baseball since 2020 according to Fangraphs (Bogarts #12 / Swanson #13 / Correa #15). Wily Adames slots in all the way back at #35. 

    Offense pays though. Turner has given 91.0 value in that timeframe, Bogarts 62.5, Swanson 27.3, and Adames at 31.7. Swanson/Adames are half of Bogarts and a measly third of the production Turner provides. Adames and his 27% K rate and low OBP aren't exciting. Not to mention Adames has never put up anything close to the MVP level seasons Bogarts/Correa/Turner have put up multiple times. The ceiling for those players compared to Adames is astronomically different at this point. All of those guy feature Top 5 MVP finishes, Adames got zero votes last year and was just #17 in 2021.

    It is also possible people put way too much stock in Adame's defense. The stats didn't even like his defense prior to 2022. Can he continue being a great defender? 

     

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    The best option? Try to get Adames for 6/$130. Defer $30 million, payable over 30 years.

    $10 million signing bonus, $15 million per year up front.

    By then, the Crew may well have some younger SS in place who could take over, and Adames could always move to third or DH (or follow Yount and go to the OF).

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