One of my main frustrations with the A's recently is the poor personnel moves that they have made and how they have repeatedly left the A's in lose lose propositions. It has gotten to the point that I think that a change in the GM's office may be necessary to right the ship. This is the first in a series of post will take a more theoretical than practical look at the way the A's have made acquisitions, extensions, and decisions surrounding trades and how that affects the position the A's are in right now: hurt, lacking in talent, and unable to trade anyone for quality prospects at the same time failing to pilot the team towards a playoff birth or having the necessary prospects on the farm to present either a bright future or provide the ability to trade for one. Part 1 was about reclamation projects and part 2 is about extensions.
When I started this post I tried to find a place where every transaction and resigning was available. Most of these came from Prosportstransactions.com but their database is missing a couple that I knew off the top of my head and could find in the great Cots' Contracts. Unfortunately Cots doesn't allow you to look by team at who had a player and Cots no longer lists inactive players so you wouldn't, for example, be able to find Ricardo Rincon's deal.
2010-04-16 Athletics Brett Anderson (a) re-signed to a 4-year contract extension through 2013 with options for 2014-2015
2010-01-29 Athletics Michael Wuertz re-signed to a 2-year contract with an option for 2012
Athletics Mark Ellis re-signed to a 2-year contract extension through 2011\
Athetics Bobby Crosby re-signed to a 5 year contract extension/$12.75M (2005-09)
Athletics Jay Witasick re-signed to a 2-year contract through 2007 with a 1-year team option for 2008
2005-09-26 Athletics Dan Haren agreed to 4-year $12.65M contract extension
2005-07-09 Athletics Mark Kotsay re-signed to a 3-year contract extension through 2008
2005-04-02 Athletics Rich Harden re-signed to a 4-year contract
2004-03-18 Athletics Eric Chavez re-signed to a 6-year contract extension
2003-12-16 Athletics Ricardo Rincon re-signed to a 2-year contract
2003-07-25 Athletics Scott Hatteberg re-signed to a 2-year contract extension through 2005 with a team option for 2006
2002-05-07 Athletics Barry Zito re-signed to a 4-year contract extension with team option for 2006
2002-03-10 Athletics Ramon Hernandez (J.) re-signed to a 4-year contract
2002-01-16 Athletics Jermaine Dye re-signed to a 3-year contract through 2004 with a mutual option for 2005
2001-09-27 Athletics Mark Mulder re-signed to a 4-year contract extension through 2005 with a team option for 2006
2001-08-15 Athletics Terrence Long re-signed to a 4-year contract extension
2001-04 Athletics Tim Hudson re-signed to a 4 year contract extension/$9.1M
1999-11-22 Athletics T.J. Matthews re-signed to a 2-year contract
1999-10-08 Athletics Randy Velarde re-signed to a 2-year contract through 2001 with a team option for 2002
1999-10-05 Athletics John Jaha re-signed to a 2-year contract
These were all the extensions I could find in the Beane era. If you remember one or know of a better source of information, please let me know because I definitely want complete information. With the information at hand I think that Beane's extensions have fallen in to a couple of categories: Extending arby eligible pitchers, extending relief pitchers, extending arby eligible position players, and extending veteran position players. I think breaking them down into these buckets allows for a better analysis of which moves have had the best yield for Beane.
Lets start with the good; Beane has done an excellent job extending home grown starting pitching. I wasn't as big fan of the Brett Anderson extension as many others because it wasn't as team friendly as some of the other deals signed and because of Anderson's long history of owies (mostly blisters and arm soreness). But making those points is really picking at nits, Beane has made fantastic decisions to extend starting pitchers. Most of the A's young starters have been extended, with the curious exception of Joe Blanton.
Blanton is an interesting case because he was pretty much the only home grown starter who wasn't extended. That decision seemed to have merit considering that the xFIP numbers that Blanton was sporting in his first two years (4.56, 4.78) shouldn't have instilled significant levels of confidence moving forward that Blanton would take a big leap and improve. Blanton's stuff had also declined since college when he was regularly sitting in the low 90s to his MLB average of 89 MPH. Furthermore, Blanton's ability to be valuable was related to his ability to eat innings so if he got hurt and no longer was able to do that, his value would be dramatically diminished. With the propensity for pitchers, even those with "good" mechanics, to experience injuries not signing Blanton looked like a smart move and may be an indicator of what will happen with an arm like Mazzaro in the future.
The rest of the significant home grown starters Hudson, Zito, Mulder, Harden and Haren all received extensions that bought out their arbitration years. Hudson's call up was after the the service time cut off so while he was only extended through his arby years if kept by the A's he would have been with the team as long as Anderson will be if the A's exercise both of his options. The Hudson deal was ridiculously team friendly providing $54m in surplus value in the four years of the deal that he was with the A's. Zito's deal netted the team $33.5m in surplus value. Mulder and Haren's deal both were instrumental in providing outstanding returns via trade as cost controlled pitchers and surplus value. Even Harden's deal, of which he spent a grand total 37 seconds on the field, was one that still netted the A's about $8m in surplus value. In every way Beane's record with starting pitcher extensions was phenomenal.
With young position players Beane's record has been mostly a success. Hernandez, Ellis, and Swisher worked out for the A's while the Long and Crosby deals were poor. As bad as he was the Crosby extension was essentially a push $15m in value for $12.75m in salary. Long's extension actually lost money which is really hard to do with these types of deals when injury doesn't end a career. Hernandez and Swisher's extensions both were vital in securing substantial trade packages for both. This is a category of players that as a GM you are suppose to win. Position players rarely have their careers wiped out by injuries and there is a discount that the team assumes because of the risk. Furthermore, the player is under arbitration so their salary is reduced versus a
One name that you probably didn't see on that list is Eric Chavez, who would go in the success column as well. How can Zombie Chavvy go into that category you ask? Well Chavez has actually signed two extensions with Beane and the A's. The first was in 2000 with these details from Cots:
- 4 years/$11.75M (2001-04), plus 2005 club option
signed extension with Oakland 8/00 $0.1M signing bonus 01:$0.5M, 02:$2.4M, 03:$3.55M, 04:$5.2M, 05:$6M club option (exercised 3/02)
That deal was actually pretty fantastic for the A's with Chavez never producing less than 3.9 WAR. The second extension is what we commonly come to curse and irrationally pretend that it should have been given to Tejada which gets put in the third category: veteran extensions.
Beane has gotten burned with pretty much every single one of his veteran extensions. Chavez everyone knows about and was alluded to earlier. Dye's extension was no good either as the A's nearly lost $25m in salary and value and the Kotsay extension burned a similar hole in the A's pocket at about $23m. The A's lost a much smaller sum on Hatty's deal at around $4m. Ellis' deal doesn't even look at this juncture (for a discussion of why I will direct you to Iglew's piece on UZR). There are some common themes to these deals. All of these players had injury issues when signed to their deals. All of which were considered strong defensive players (Dye's reputation was mostly with his arm, thought modern metrics weren't really around Total Zone shows him as more the solid to above average over the previous three years). Chavez was kept off the field but all of Kotsay, Dye, and Ellis went from being good defenders that were adding to their value to losing almost all of their defensive value in Ellis' case or becoming black holes of suck in the case of Dye and Kotsay.
Furthermore, the A's strategy of extending "underrated" players like Ellis, Hatteberg, or Kotsay makes it much harder to trade them for value in a market. The A's rely on underrated players to deal with the fact that if they can't pay full price for players that are traditionally valued highly. Superstar players like Ryan Howard who are overrated and overpaid would be the deathknell of the team's budget. Conversely, players that are overrated are easier to win trades that deal them away (just as its easier for the team to build and trade pitchers because of the Coli). This hurts the teams attempt to trade players for prospects to rebuild the farm. The A's haven't developed hardly any players that would be rated highly according to traditional views of the game. Therefore when the deadline approaches the A's are trying to trade players like Mark Ellis, who are seen as bit players by the rest of the league, rather than being seen as above average players for whom good prospect value should be trades. The keeps the A's from beyond significant Haren/Swisher/Mulder type trades from acquiring good Milb talent in recent years for the parts that don't make sense on the A's moving forward.
Finally, we will look at resigning relief pitchers. Who wants a bullpen of Rincon Witasick Mathews Wuertz? Well in the years that Beane signed them they produced a grand total of .5 WAR thats $2m in todays wins. Witasick was paid more by himself. This is really simply a really bad idea
DO NOT EXTEND RELIEF PITCHERS, YOU SUCK AT IT.
At the end of the day the track record of Beane extending players is pretty mixed. The Mulder, Hudson, Zito, Haren, Hernandez and Swisher deals hold up against the test of time. The problem is that so many others don't. While the first Chavez extension, Hernandez, and Swisher worked out well for the A's, in the category that usually performs best for the team, young arby eligible position players, Beane has as many failures as successes. In the riskiest category Beane has had the most success, young starting pitching. Beane has not done well with veteran extensions of relievers or position players beyond their arbitration time. At the end of the day, the team isn't making good decisions with its veteran extensions and isn't cleaning up on its arby eligible extensions, which is the only way that teams like the A's can keep their good players beyond the first non arby years of team control.