Extending Joshua Adam Donaldson

Extending Joshua Adam Donaldson

Part 1-

It was reported on Feb 8th that both Yoenis Milanes Cespedes AND Joshua Adam Donaldson were interested in an extension. I would like to explore a Josh Donaldson extension. Of course I can't help but talk about Yoenis Cespedes as well.

I'm going to be using wins above replacement ( WAR or war) a lot today, so here is a primer:
"Its an attempt to summarize a player's TOTAL CONTRIBUTIONS to their team in one statistic"

I'm also going to be using wRC+ a bit, so here is a primer:
"Its an attempted to quantify a player’s total OFFENSIVE value and measure it by runs". League average is 100, and every point above/below 100 is a percentage point above/below league average.

Rating wRC+

Above Average..........110
Below Average............90
Role Player.................80

wRC+ DOES NOT include base-running. As such, it undervalues players with a high stolen base% and/or that take a lots of extra bases. Players like Covelli Loyce Crisp (twitter: @Coco_Crisp), Craig Alan Gentry and William John Burns.

On Yoenis Cespedes:

Cespedes put up 5.4 bWAR (baseball-reference WAR) in 2012-13.
He has a 119wRC+ for those years.
He has been the A's best player in the playoffs with a 159 wRC+.
He also won a Home Run Derby in overly dramatic fashion.

Cespedes was lucky to make it to all-star festivities. The 93rd best position player ( by WAR).
To crash that frat party , he was given a "cool kid gets in free ticket" by Robinson Cano. Yoenis then promptly managed to gain glory, accolades and lifetime membership into Alpha Homer House.

He was the first player to win a HR derby out of the other four "non all-star" participants who competed in prior HR derbies. And he did so with particularly impressive and numerous drives.

It has been said you can split Rickey Henderson and make two hall of famers. Well, you can almost split Cespedes' 2013 Derby, and make two great victories.

The 2005 Bobby Abreu record of 41 could have fallen as Cespedes hit 32 HR on his night (3rd all time). The winning drive was smashed with 5 swings still to spare. He should have gone first or he should have keep going. Would MLB, Harper or the rest of the N.L. really have had a problem with that? At least one person may have:

"Beane suggested the A’s wouldn’t like Cespedes to defend his Home-Run Derby title. "You hold your breath," Beane said of the injury possibility. "He’s an important part of this team." Fans of course may wish Beane to bugger off on this one. At least for two more years.


The Nation has already looked deep into the Cespedes extension possibility:

I'm going to try and go deep for Donaldson. Look at the nuts and the bolts of it. Here is WAR graph to help gauge value:

Scrub.................0-1 WAR
Role Player.......1-2 WAR
Solid Starter..... 2-3 WAR
Good Player......3-4 WAR
All-Star...............4-5 WAR
Superstar.......... 5-6 WAR
MVP...................6+ WAR

On Josh Donaldson:

Josh has put up 9.5 bWAR in 2012-13. wRC+ of 130.

Donaldson not being an all-star was very unlucky. He had the fourth highest positional WAR in all of MLB last year.
40 positional players made the all-star team ahead of him.

Donaldson has not been as good in the playoffs. (35 wRC+). He was average in the 2012 playoffs ( 93), but dismal in 2013 (-12). Playoff clutch has been shown to not exist; and ten games is a small sample size. YOU shouldn't care. But I admit I do. At least more than a little but much less than a lot. Guts over brains, I can't help it.

Lets compare player WAR.
In 350 less plate appearances Donaldson was roughly twice as valuable as Cespedes in the regular season. 9.5war to 5.4war.

As their offense (wRC+) and BsR have roughly been the same, this shows how much (great vs average) defense matters on total player value.

Josh Donaldson age 28
born: Pensacola, FL

Yoenis Céspedes age 28 \yo-EN-iss SESS-peh-dess\
born: Campechuela, Granma, Cuba

The Donaldson extension:

To do this; I estimated approximate arbitration (arb) salary's for the six years a player is under team control. I also looked at all-star 3B contracts and extensions, a few contracts other great position players have signed, the cost per WAR, and how arb contracts work to pull all the relevant information together.

The final numbers:

I projected 20 WAR for Donaldson's 2014-18 seasons, or 4 war on average per year.
I projected Donaldson will be paid $50 million for his 2014-18 seasons in arbitration.
I projected $50 million of future value for a two-year extension for 2019-20.
I projected the A's would offer a two year extension.
I break down how i came up with the final numbers minutely in Part 2-The deep dirty details,
for those interested.

1) I came up with an estimated contract of 7 years/$100 million, buying out his first two years of Free Agency at ages 33 and 34.

2) If the A's wait another year, it could be as little as 7/$80, that's if Donaldson is just a solid starter in 2014.

3) If the A's wait another year, it could be as much as 7/$120, that's if Donaldson is again MVP caliber in 2014.

Now that you have seen my estimates, Let's compare Josh Donaldson with four other players with historic seasons in Oakland's past and see how those players performed as they aged past 34.

Some of those players helped win these:


I included what year the player had their historic season, what WAR it was, where born, what year in a players career it happened, their last "star" year WAR and at what age, and the down year after that last good season.

The Five Oakland A's position players to ever exceed 8 WAR in one season:

..................................................................................................... Year.....WAR
1) Rickey Nelson Henley Henderson..... (Man of Steal)-.......( 1990)-(10.0)
...(his 1st full year@age 21, then@age 31)..b.Chicago IL..(LF)..( 1980 )-(8.7)

Best WAR late in career (5.0)@age 34 (3.5)@age 35

2) Reginald Martinez Jackson...... (Mr. October)-(RF)...........( 1969* )-(9.2)
......(second full Year@age 23)...... b.Abington PA

Best WAR late in career (4.8)@age 34 ( 1.0 war )@age 35

3) Jason Gilbert Giambi..... (Giambino)-( 1B/DH/LF)............( 2001 )- ( 9.1 )
......( last A's control year @ age 30).....b.West Covina CA

Best WAR late in career (4.6)@age 34 ( 2.8 )@age 35

4) Salvatore Leonard Bando........(3B.......................................( 1969* )- ( 8.3)
......(2nd full Year@age 25).......................b..Cleveland OH

Best WAR late in career 5.6@age 34 ( 0.7 war)@age 35

5) Josh Donaldson...(3B).............................................................( 2013)- ( 8.0)
......( twitter: @BringerOfRain20 ).............b. Pensacola FL

( 1st full year @ age 27) Free Agent @ age 33
Going back even further; to K.C. and then to Philadelphia, it took me 35 years past 1969 to find another Athletic that had eight WAR:

James Emory Foxx. ( Beast or Double X )......( 3B/1B/C)..........( 1935)-( 8.3)
b. Sudlersville MD

Best WAR late in career (4.2)@age 33. ( 1.1 war)@ age 34

Jimmy Foxx helped the A's win a World Series back in the days the winners got cups instead of trophies and they also wore some of the more unique baseball caps I've ever seen:



How do the tea leaves of Oakland's past fall?

Donaldson has some exceptional company and could fast become one of the best Oakland Athletics or anytown Athletics, to ever wear the uniform.

Looking at that list, it may seem initially unlikely for Donaldson to ever have an 8war season again. However Donaldson's secret weapon is he put up more defensive war ( look for dWAR next to oWAR in the player value category) than any of those other players; in their 8war years. Some would counter those older players might not have been credited properly in the past for defense. Donaldson will be, so advantage Donaldson to repeat.

It also bodes well for Donaldson being able to put up a few productive seasons later in his career. Every Oakland great was (4.6-5.6)war @age 34. But there are no great Oakland players near as productive by age 35.
This is the reason for the caution on the Coco extension. Older players can drop off a cliff one year and never crawl back up. I also kind of appreciate I wasn't a A's fan in the 1936-1968 years.

*The A's won only 88 games in 1969 with Reggie Jackson and Sal Bandos co-career ( 17.5war) years. They also used three other 3+ WAR batters in 1969 but their pitching was suspect. Vida Blue made his unimpressive rookie debut that year but would wait to put up his own 8+ WAR season in 1971.

If the current playoff format existed, the A's would have been a wild-card team in 1969. And I would still have counted a W.S. win that year. Just like I count the Raiders four (4) championships. One AFL championship in 1967 and three Super Bowls. ( they lost the AFL championship in 68' and 69'). I know I'm going to catch ridged feces from Raider Haters, but it does tie in a bit as the Championship game was held @the Oakland Coliseum in 67'and 69'.

Final thoughts on Cespedes vs Donaldson:

I think the prevailing opinion on a Cespedes extension would be around 5/100. Cespedes has never played a season half as valuable as Josh and he just laid a seasonal egg. What Cespedes has going for him is his age** and leverage as he is only under team control for two more years, not the five. Cespedes' free agent ages will be:


A five year Cespedes extension keeps him in Oakland through age 34 and the 2020 season. If the A's paid Cespedes more than $20m in 2020, (it would certainly be back-loaded ) can they then afford Donaldson for $23m? If its either/or, who do they choose? They will both be the same age in the same years. Wait another year and the A's may afford neither.

Cespedes will be picked again by future Derby teammates. Unfortunately, the A's may be required to back out of a contract extension if his star power is worth more than his actual seasonal production.

** Cespedes' birthday is in the same week the World Series starts in mid October. Coincidence? I say there are no coincidences on the A's! ;-)

Some more info/stats/graphs on Josh Donaldson:

Just for fun:
Seven other "great" Athletics' single WAR seasons in the last 75 Years:

1) The "Good Son"...................................................................7.7war@2000

2) Jose Capas Canseco.................................................................7.6@1988
born: La Habana Cuba. (The Chemist).....twitter: @JoseCanseco

3) Mark David McGwire ( Big Mac )...............................................7.3@1996
born: Pomona CA

4) The Straw that Stirs the Drink................................................7.1 war@1973

5) The Greatest of all Time.......................................................... 7.0 @1983

6) Eddie Joost.....(Yoost)...............................................................7.0 @1948
born: San Francisco CA

7) David Arthur Kingman..................................................( - 1 ) war*@ 1986
born: Pendleton OR......twitter: @WhatWouldKongDo
* An arbiter gave the Sky King the largest amount ever awarded in the entire MLPA vs MLB "C"ollusion proceedings in the late 80's based on that negative WAR 1986 season and Kong's membership in Alpha Homer House.

End Part 1
What do you think Nation, time for a Donaldson extension?


Time for a Random Snack?

2014 Oakland A's World Series Winner!? That does sound tasty.

Part 2- The deep dirty details

This is for those who wish to be severely beaten with even more math, accounting, contracts and stats and ( hopefully ) gain more of an understanding of MLB team salary structure and strategy. This is how I came up with my numbers. There is a poll at the end.

Arb details
Super 2
WAR and salary projections now and into the future
WAR value now and into the future
2014 Payroll
Decreasing production with age
Other F.A. Signings and player extensions
What their best WAR was and when
$100 million contract
Each sides perspective
Why now or Why wait
Two year extension or three
Arb details:

One of the things unique with Donaldson is that he should have 4 arb years, instead of the normal three. In 2015, he will be a player with at least two years experience that is still arb eligible because he will be in the top 22 percent in cumulative playing time in the majors of players who are between two and three years of experience. These players are known as ( Super 2)'s.

If Donaldson had the normal 3 arb years, he would cost the A's approximately
$32 million over the next 5 years. Starting his arb clock a year early as a super 2, he could cost the A's tens of millions or so in the next five years.

Of of the reasons there are super 2's, is that teams sometimes gain another half a year of control* over players by subtlety manipulating their service clocks, intentional or not. * (6 1/2 years instead of 6 years).
Super 2 status gains those players extra compensation for extra work.
In Donaldson's case, maybe around $20 million in extra compensation.

Donaldson Normal-....................( 1+ 1 + 1 + 5 + 10 + 15 = $32m )
Donaldson Super2-........ (1/2) + ( 1+ 1+ 5 + 10 + 15 + 20 =$52m )

Salary arbitration has the effect of paying a first, second, third or 4th year "arb" player about 20%, 40%, 60%, or 80% of what he would be making as a free agent.

This shows why some teams hold off promoting players until after the super 2 cut offs around the beginning of July. Doing this with the right players even once a year could save a team $20 million dollars over a five year window.
Possibly up to $40 or $50 million if a team did this with multiple young stars in the same window. Saving that Green is absolute Gold to a low budget team like the A's.

Tampa Bay is a master at super 2 strategy.
Here is an article explaining the case to keep Wil Myers down till July:

If somebody asks me nice, I will do a post showing how the A's did this with Sonny Gray.

Lets see how productive and valuable Donaldson has been and come up with some conservative projections for his future.

I started off with the Steamer/Oliver projection of 5 WAR in 2014.
I then guessed four more different types of seasonal outcomes in an attempt at a broad average. I tried to be cautious.

A's fans could make the case Donaldson outperforms my guesses by a lot.
Projections further out (2015-) may make the case Donaldson will underperform my guesses. Donaldson is a player type that these projection systems absolutely pummel, those players that have only one full season and an older starting age before dominance.

Look underneath his 2013 year stats and you see his steamer and oliver projections:

My Josh Donaldson Salary and WAR Predictions:

Age-26.......2012-$1m 1.5 WAR ( 75games)
Age-27.......2013-$1m 8 bWAR ( actual )

Age-28.......2014-$1m ( pre-arb-2) ( 5 WAR) ( steamer/oliver projected)
Age-29.......2015-$5 ( Arb 1 ) (4 WAR) (regressed again)
Age-30...... 2016-$10 ( Arb 2) ( 8.1 WAR ) ( career year)
Age-31...... 2017-$15 ( Arb 3 ) ( 0 WAR) ( injury year)
Age-32...... 2018 $20 ( Arb 4) (3 WAR) ( recovery/down year)

Total Projection: 20 WAR or 4 WAR per year
( 15-27.5 WAR range, erring on the lower side)

Total Projected Salary: $50 million for next 5 years
( $45-55 million salary range, putting it exactly in the middle)

Lets look at a few recent arb awards to back up where I think Donaldson stands. It matters when your best seasons are in the process. Also, arbiters are not looking at WAR, more at offense, buts its a gauge. These two players also have only three arb years.

Chris Davis made
$3.3m arb1 after a ( 1.6 war) season.
$10 million arb2 after a ( 6.3war) arb1 season.
He could be expected to make $15m in arb3 with another (4+ war year).
IF Davis had an arb 4 year, it could then be expected he would make $20m.

Jason Hayword made
$3.6m arb1 off of a (5.8 war) season.
Then signed an extension for $4.5m arb2, off of a ( 3.6 war) arb1 season.
He also just signed away his 2015 arb 3 year for $7.8m.

If your going to have a monster year, make it your arb1 season.
Also, have it on offense as ( 1.4) of Haywords (3.6) was dWAR.
Hayword probably gave the Braves a discount on both years regardless.

Donaldson ( with less offense) probably wouldn't make equall to Chris Davis today, but could by his 2017arb3 year with inflation.

How much is one WAR worth?

Recently WAR was considered to have a fairly consistent free agent value of $5 million per. With approximately 5% inflation increases per year into the future. However, IMO, the new T.V. contract money has caused that to increase to around $6.5m per WAR this off-season.

There are also many teams who seem to have not spent much money at all on Free Agents this year perhaps to gauge costs for next year before spending the yearly windfall. If they do not spend it, the dreaded "C" word may get thrown around; up and down; all the way to court town.

A lot of that money will, again IMO, probably be spent next year causing another spike in WAR to around $7.5 million per before tapering off again on 5% average inflation into the next new Billion dollar T.V. Contracts of 2020-21.

The A's are not one of these non-spending teams, seemingly increasing payroll around 15% to around $80 million dollars in 2014 (including the dead contract money). That could break their 2006, $79 million dollar payroll record. Eight years is a long time to not break a payroll record, so I would suggest they make it a $90 million dollar payroll this year to be absolutely sure. ;-)

For those who wish to look DEEP into WAR costs, here is an interesting article and discussion on it:

"The price of free agent wins is not growing at a consistent rate; rather, the historical year-to-year trends are characterized by minor fluctuations punctuated with occasional dramatic spikes."
My take on future value per WAR considering the new

WAR ( was ) worth around $5m in 2012-13
WAR ( is ) worth around $6.5m in 2014
WAR (may be ) worth around $7.5m in 2015
5% inflation each year from there:
$7.88m in 2016
$8.27m in 2017
$8.68m in 2018
$9.12m in 2019
$9.50m in 2020
$10.00m in 2021
Estimating Future Player WAR Value:
Here is a nice article on estimating future value that I'm going to piggyback for Donaldson's sake. The highlight:

"Its possible to use a model for player valuations that puts those dollar figures into perspective. Recently, I did so to discover how players might be expected to age. Estimates of a player’s value using Wins Above Replacement, the market price of a win, the rate of inflation and general aging patterns help us not only spit out a back-of-the-envelope value for what a player’s next X years will be worth, but to bracket that value by adjusting those underlying assumptions."

The article is a good one, and recent. However the future $ per WAR in it is already way out of wack IMO. I will use my own estimates on $WAR value and copy Ellsberys expected WAR for his and Donaldson same age 33-35 seasons to estimate what Donaldson could be worth in 2019-21*.

*I added 2021 just to show another year for those interested in a longer extension. Ellsbury being a CF docent help with the comp, but the process is sound.

Donaldson.........- Ellsbury-OF
2019-age 33......age 33-3 WAR
2020-age 34......age 34-2.5 WAR
2021-age 35......age 35-2 WAR

2019- 3war x 9m = $27 m value
2020-2.5 x 9.5 = $23 m value
2021- 2war x 10m =$20 m value

$50 million for two year value , or
$70 million for 3 year value.
Donaldson's Past Value-
Future Value using previously estimated WAR x Cost per WAR
Donaldson has ~ $150 million future value the next five years.
Donaldson will be owed ~$50 million for the next five years.
Donaldson will have $50m dollars in approximate value in 2019-20
for approximately ~6 WAR of production.

Start with what he would have been already paid, $50 million;
add to that what his (2019-20) years would cost in future value, $50 million.
And an extension would look something like this to buy out two free agent years:

7year/$100 million

2016- $11
2018- $17
2019- $20
Signing Bonus: $5 million

Arguments for more or less than $100 million:

If Donaldson were to get MORE money than that, the A's would have to think he will be worth much more than $50 million in 2019-2020 or that he will make more than $50 million in his arb years. The fact he may have provided $100-$150 million extra dollars worth of production over pay in his six controlled years may matter little.

To get a cheaper extension, ( say 7/$90m ) The A's could make the case WAR is only worth $6.5 million today, so $40 million on an extension is reasonable in the future for his projections. Also, many extensions are signed under favorable terms to the team. A lot of players who have made $500,000 once or twice after playing ten years of organized ball will take the salary certainty of the tens of millions and give a hometown discount. You could make the case $90m is more likely to happen since early extensions are usually better for the team, but $100 million is more fair to both sides.

If the A's like his health 1000%, or if the A's think he will get even better on defense, or if they think he will age spectacularly, or if they think he will have several more 8 WAR arb seasons in him as soon as next year, they may be inclined to offer more ($110m) now; but only if Donaldson will not bite at $100 million. And only if the A's think at least two of those IF's are true. But that's a lot of IF's for the A's. Other great A's putting up 4-5war age 33-34 seasons help his cause for a more expensive extension.
Here are a few other extensions/Free Agent Signings to look at when deciding whats good for the team and whats good for the player. There are probably a few better comps available if someone wants to dig.

1B. Freddy Freeman extension:
(2014) 8 years/135 million.
Bought out his 3 arb years and 5 more locking him up till age 32.
Best three years of bWAR*, and at what age:
5.4 (at age 23) , 2.3, and 1.7.

*baseball-reference WAR, as opposed to fWAR, Fangraphs WAR

CF. Jacoby Ellsbury F.A.
(2014) 7 year/153 (+ one team option for $21m)
Ages 30-36/37.
Best three years of WAR and at oldest age:
8.1, 5.8 (at age 29) and 3.0.

3B. Adrian Beltran. F.A.
( Jan 2011 ) 6 year/96 million
ages 32-37.
Still producing well with 12.5 WAR his age 33-34 seasons.
Best three years WAR and at oldest age:
9.6, 7.8, and 7.0 (at age 33).

3B. Ryan Zimmerman extension
( Feb 2012) 6 year/100 million (+one team option for $24million)
buying out 2 arb years and keeping him under control till age 34/35.
Best three years of WAR and at oldest age.
7.3, 6.2 (at age 25) and 4.6.

3B. Josh Donaldson 8.0 (at age 27).
Each sides perspective:

The reality is this, Donaldson will be on the wrong side of the aging curve when
he is slated to become a F.A. @age 33. This depresses his leverage for a large or long extension from the A's.

From a team perspective, 2019 is to far away to be committing $50 million dollars over two, probably not so great, mid-30's years. Beltran is the exception; not the rule, on how well players age. Coco is the exception, not the rule, for A's extensions.

That would also represent an extension; in cost and years, the A's as a franchise would seem to have little stomach for. The A's also do not pay market rate for WAR, so even if they thought Donaldson was going to age on the more graceful side, they may not be inclined to offer him an extension at all.

From Donaldson's perspective, it would be much easier to land another 5 year contract coming off a 3-4 WAR year at age 32 rather than a 2ish WAR year at age 34. If healthy and still dominant ( a recent 5 WAR season), and with inflation, a 5/150 contract may not be out of the question for him in 2019.

Why now as opposed to say next year?

There would seem like there should be little urgency to do an extension now, with so many years left of team control. However, I figure that waiting one more year may cost the A's another $20 million over the life of the contract, probably pricing them out of said contract.

After a second great year:
4 remaining years @$60 million ( instead of 5 years at $50m)
2 years @$30 million each ( instead of 2 @ $25m each).

6 years @ $120m

2014-$1 ( regardless)
Bonus: $5 million

And again, 7/$100m:

2016- $11
2018- $17
2019- $20
Signing Bonus: $5 million
Is there any upside to waiting?

What if Donaldson were to have, say a three WAR year, fully heathy in 2014? I think he would still be able to get a nice arb1 ruling because of his 2013 season. And the first arb ruling is an important one because the others are more based off it.

I already only used 4 WAR as his average so he may make only $10 million less or so over A's control, and also $10 million less in 2019-20 for around a 7/$80 contract. Would the A's make that deal however after only a 3WAR second year? The upside may be not to sign him to an extension at all, as he maybe a true 3-4 WAR player today with one lucky career year.

Why only a two year extension?

If the A's extend Donaldson now, they will probably only want a few extra years of control because of his age. The team could include option years, but I wouldn't recommend it unless very team friendly. I did a cursory examination of past Great Oakland Athletics and concluded that age 34 is the last year the A's should sign Donaldson to be safe. IF they were to sign him for an 8th season OPTION, there should only be a small buyout penalty ($2.5million tops) and it should only be for $20 million tops.

The Final Numbers:

It could cost the A's somewhere around 7-$90m ( more likely ) to 7/$100m ( more equatable) to extend Josh for two years today.

It could cost the A's around 7/$120 to extend him next year if he is still great, which may be too much for the A's.

It could cost the A's around 7/$80 to extend him next year if he is just kinda good, which may then be too much for the A's.

End deep dirty details
End Part 2
Extending Joshua Adam Donaldson

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