Buster Posey Rumors

Arbitration Breakdown: Buster Posey

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors (read more about it here), but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

Buster Posey is eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2013, conveniently right after a successful MVP campaign. Posey also won the batting title in 2012, along with a Rookie of the Year Award in 2010. Despite the MVP, Posey is not the typical slugger who gets handsomely rewarded compared to other players in arbitration. He "only" had 24 home runs and 103 RBI in 2012, though he did hit .336 in 610 plate appearances. Due to an injury in 2011 and the fact that Posey reaches arbitration as a super two, he only had 645 plate appearances going into his platform season along with a .294 average, 22 home runs, and 88 runs batted in. What makes Posey’s situation unique is that he has a healthier trophy case than anyone else to reach arbitration in recent years, but fewer plate appearances going into his platform year than most others to get larger salaries. Even though the only other player in the last six years to have an MVP and a ROY before his first year of arbitration (Ryan Howard) earned $10MM, there was no player with as few career plate appearances as Posey to ever earn more than $3.75MM. My model has the CAA client well between these two extremes, projected to earn $5.9MM.

Posey figures to earn far less than Ryan Howard’s $10MM for several reasons. Not only did Howard have 1094 previous plate appearances, but he was also a power hitter coming off a 47 home run season. Power numbers matter to panels a lot more than other skills, so Posey will not be able to argue for more than Howard’s $10MM. There are two other players in the last six years to have MVP awards before reaching arbitration, Joey Votto (who got $8MM in 2011) and Justin Morneau ($4.5MM in 2007). Votto was coming off a .324 average, 37 home runs, and 113 runs batted in 648 plate appearances and also had 1222 PA before his platform season, in which he accumulated 53 HR, 185 RBIs, and hit .310. Votto also had 16 stolen bases in his platform year and 12 in previous seasons, while Posey is not a base stealer. This all combines to suggest Posey will fall short of Votto’s $8MM. Morneau’s $4.5MM seems low. Firstly, the fact that it is now a comparable that is over six years old makes it unlikely to be a fair comparison, but Morneau also only had a .248 average going into his platform year, making his .321/34/130 performance that year seem more anomalous. Posey, on the other hand, had won Rookie of the Year during his pre-platform tenure.

In more common cases, Posey would be more likely to be compared to other catchers. However, he has a clearly superior case than any of the catchers with whom he would be compared. The largest first-time arbitration award given to a catcher went to Russell Martin in 2009 at $3.9MM. Martin was only coming off a .280/13/69 platform season (though with 18 SB) in 650 plate appearances , although he did have 1088 PA prior to his platform season. The lack of an MVP award suggests that Martin’s salary is a very obvious floor for Posey. Joe Mauer’s 2007 case might be the most similar to Posey, although he did not have an MVP award. However, Mauer did have a batting title in 2006, hitting .347 in 608 plate appearances , and also has a pre-platform season injury in common with Posey. Mauer had just 676 plate appearances before his platform season, similar to Posey’s 645. Mauer ended up signing a multi-year deal in which he earned $3.75MM in 2007, but before that, Mauer and the Twins had exchanged figures of $3.3 and $4.5MM, so $3.75MM seems like they settled effectively in the middle and then added a few years on. Of course, this case is probably “stale” and isn’t a great comparison for Posey, but it also suggests that Posey should successfully finish with well over $4MM. No catchers other than Martin and Mauer have gotten more than $2.15MM in the last six years, so those two would be the only plausible comparisons.

Expanding beyond catchers and MVPs, I looked through the last six years to find anyone who had 20 HR, 80 RBI, and a .300 average, regardless of whether they had won any awards or what position they played. Only one player had more than $4.84MM: Miguel Cabrera at $7.4MM in 2007. Obviously, that case is now stale but it does provide a useful comparison to Posey. Cabrera had just hit .339/26/114 in 676 plate appearances , while he had a .300 average entering his platform season in 1067 PA, along with 78 HR and 290 RBI. The platform season looks very similar season to Posey’s, while the previous seasons look much better. On top of that, Cabrera already had 3 years and 101 days of service time by his first year of arbitration, compared with Posey’s 2 years and 161 days. Further, even though Cabrera didn’t have an MVP award yet, he did have three all-star appearances already and had back-to-back fifth place finishes in MVP races. Posey will probably earn less than Cabrera’s $7.4MM. The other guys on the list of .300/20/80 first-time eligibles included Chase Utley who got $4.84MM in 2007 as part of a multi-year deal and Garrett Atkins who got $4.46MM in 2008. More recently, Shin-Soo Choo got $3.975MM in 2011. All three players seem to have inferior cases to Posey’s, which provides further reason to expect Posey to obtain at least $5MM.

Other elite players to get large deals in recent years include Prince Fielder’s $7.5MM, Hanley Ramirez’s $5.55MM in 2009 (both as part of multi-year deals), and Dan Uggla’s $5.35MM in 2009. Uggla had 1411 plate appearances prior to his platform season, but his .260/32/92 platform season suggests Posey should be able to top him. Getting even further from plausible comparables, we can at least look at pitchers who got big awards—the only pitchers to get over $5MM were Lincecum and Kershaw ($9 and $7.75MM as part of multi-year deals), and relievers Jonathan Papelbon and Bobby Jenks ($6.25 and $5.6MM as one-year deals in 2009). These pitchers won't come up as comps in Posey's case.

Posey’s case is clearly unique. It seems like anything between $4.5 and $7.4MM is possible, and my model coincidentally ends up splitting the difference almost exactly at $5.9MM. I think Uggla’s $5.35MM is too low, but not by much, so something in the $6MM range makes sense for Posey.

Giants Rumors: Posey, Pence, Casilla, Wilson

Here's the latest on the World Champion San Francisco Giants…

  • "We are open to the idea," said GM Brian Sabean when asked about a long-term contract extension for Buster Posey, though he said they were "not necessarily" open to the idea with Hunter Pence. John Shea of The San Francisco Chronicle and Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com passed along the quotes (Twitter links).
  • The Giants have had conceptual talks about a multiyear deal with reliever Santiago Casilla, reports Baggarly (on Twitter). The team is not active in any trade discussions, Sabean confirmed.
  • Brian Wilson is unlikely to re-sign with the Giants if and when he gets non-tendered, hears Hank Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter).

Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey Win League MVP Awards

Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Giants catcher Buster Posey were announced as the winners of the Most Valuable Player Awards in the AL and NL, respectively, the Baseball Writers Association Of America announced tonight.  Full results of the voting both the AL and NL can be found on the BBWAA's website. 

Posey and Cabrera become the first batting champs to both win MVP awards in the same season since Ernie Lombardi and Jimmie Foxx in 1938, and also are the first pair of MVPs whose teams squared off in the World Series since Kirk Gibson's Dodgers and Jose Canseco's Athletics met in the 1988 Fall Classic.

Cabrera became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown, leading the AL with 44 homers, 139 RBIs and a .330 batting average (Cabrera's slash line also included a .393 OBP and a league-leading .606 slugging percentage).  This is Cabrera's first MVP award, having been a top-five finisher in the voting five previous times in his career, including a second-place finish behind Josh Hamilton in 2010.  Cabrera becomes the first Venezuelan-born player to win an MVP and the second Tiger to win an MVP in as many years, following teammate Justin Verlander's MVP/Cy Young double in 2011.  

The AL MVP race was seen as a tight battle between Cabrera and Mike Trout, but Cabrera ended up with 22 of 28 first-place votes, while Trout collected the other six first-place votes and ended up a distant second.  Trout narrowly missed joining Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) as the only players to win Rookie Of The Year and MVP awards in the same season.  Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Hamilton and Adam Jones round out the top six players on the AL ballot.

After missing much of the 2011 season due to a broken leg suffered in a home plate collision, Posey roared back in the best possible way, posting a .336/.408/.549 line, 24 homers and 103 RBIs.  Posey's .336 average led the Majors and earned him his first batting title, making him the first NL catcher to win a batting title since Ernie Lombardi in 1942.

In three years as a regular, the 25-year-old Posey has now won an Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP and two World Series rings.  Posey will receive a big raise this winter in his first trip through the arbitration process, as MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects Posey will receive $5.9MM in 2013.  Since Posey has four arb years as a Super Two player, the Giants could save themselves some money by locking Posey up to a multiyear contract.  Back in August, I thought Posey could get a seven-year, $84MM extension, but in the wake of his great postseason performance and his MVP award, a $100MM+ extension wouldn't be out of the question.

Posey received 27 of 32 first-place votes, easily outpacing Ryan Braun (three first place votes), Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina (two first place votes) and Chase Headley on the ballot.  Braves closer Craig Kimbrel was the finished in eighth place and garnered the most votes of any pitcher, also earning a second-place spot from one voter that made Kimbrel the only player beyond the top four to receive a top-three vote.

Olney On Hamilton, Tigers, Posey

MLB executives don’t question Josh Hamilton’s ability on the field, but they’re hesitant to commit long-term to the outfielder, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports. Hamilton figures to ask for $20-25MM per season and executives are wary of guaranteeing that kind of salary to a player with off-field questions, Olney writes. Here’s Olney’s latest on the market for Hamilton, who hits free agency for the first time this offseason:

  • The Rangers have their doubts about how long they want to invest in Hamilton, Olney writes. They’ve done background work on outfielders such as Justin Upton and Jacoby Ellsbury since they realize they could be in the market for an impact outfielder within a few months.
  • The Dodgers had no intention of bidding for Hamilton even before they acquired Carl Crawford. The Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Braves, Nationals and Orioles don’t seem like logical destinations for Hamilton, Olney writes.
  • One GM said the Tigers could surprise rival teams and enter the bidding for Hamilton. Owner Mike Ilitch has a history of spending aggressively on free agents such as Prince Fielder and Magglio Ordonez.
  • The Giants could have interest in Hamilton, but Olney suggests it’d probably be conservative. The Giants will make an effort to sign Buster Posey long-term, according to Olney. Mark Polishuk recently previewed a possible extension for the San Francisco catcher.

Extension Candidate: Buster Posey

The first order of business for Buster Posey this season was to prove himself healthy following a 2011 campaign cut short after 45 games due to a fractured fibula.  Not only did that home plate collision with Scott Cousins cost Posey most of a season, it also may have cost him some money in the short-term, as the Giants may have wished to quickly sign him to a multiyear extension. Uspw_6440026

Ironically, Posey's injury may make him a wealthier man in the long-term.  Posey had a .756 OPS when he was injured in 2011, so supposing he'd stayed healthy and stayed at that more modest number (call it a sophomore slump), the Giants might have been able to sign Posey to an extension akin to Carlos Santana's five-year, $21MM deal with the Indians. 

That scenario will remain a hypothetical, however, as Posey has returned from injury with an MVP-caliber .328/.394/.542 batting line and 18 home runs over 409 plate appearances entering Wednesday's action. This performance has only strengthened Posey's case as the best-hitting catcher in the game and now he'll have an even higher price tag should the Giants look to lock him up.

Posey will reach arbitration for the first time this winter and he'll have four arb years in total as a Super Two player, leaving him under Giants control through the 2016 season.  MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith opined that Posey would likely be in line for a salary between $2-$3MM for 2013, and at Posey's current rate of production, I'd guess that $3MM will be at the low end of his 2013 salary.

The Super Two status makes Posey a unique case, as while several notable catchers (such as Santana, Brian McCann, Yadier Molina and Joe Mauer) have signed extensions that covered their arb years, none of these players had that fourth year of arbitration.  Also, none of these players signed their extensions with between 2-3 years of MLB service, as Posey will have at the conclusion of this season.

Perhaps the closest comparison is Mauer, who signed a four-year, $33MM extension with the Twins before the 2007 season that covered his three arb years and his first free agent season.  Mauer had a career line of .321/.399/.471 with 28 homers through his first 1284 plate appearances before signing his extension; Posey currently has a a 307/.369/.492 career line and 40 homers through 1054 plate appearances and should make up that gap in PAs by the end of the season.

Mauer's deal broke down as $20.5MM for his three arb years and $12.5MM for his first year of free agency.  If we use $3MM as the baseline for Posey's 2013 salary, I could see the Giants offering something like a five-year deal worth around $47MM for their star catcher.  The salaries would break down as $3MM in 2013, $6MM in 2014, $9MM in 2015 and $12MM for 2016 to cover the arb years, and Posey would then earn $17MM for the 2017 season, which would've been his first free agent year.  Posey will turn 31 years old in March 2018, so he'd still be young enough to net another big contract in free agency.

There's also the possibility that Posey and agent Jeff Berry would look to go even longer-term in San Francisco.  A seven-year deal — worth $17MM and $20MM, respectively, for 2018 and 2019 — would bring the total value to $84MM.  That's a big contract for any player and especially for a catcher, though the Giants have already looked to keep Posey fresh with occasional starts at first base.  If Posey can keep up his current .935 OPS, that's certainly enough pop to play at first base (particularly at AT&T Park) and be worthy of that type of major financial commitment.     

A seven-year, $84MM contract would be the third-most expensive deal ever given to a catcher, behind Mauer's eight-year, $184MM extension with the Twins and Mike Piazza's seven-year, $91MM deal with the Mets from 1999-2005.

Since the Giants do have four years of control to work with, it's possible they just settle on a one-year deal with Posey this offseason and save extension talks for a later date.  Still, the Giants face some interesting payroll issues — Melky Cabrera will be a free agent and the newly-acquired Hunter Pence is going into his last arb year (the Giants claim to be able to extend both), not to mention potential tough decisions about franchise icons like Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson.  Posey is a player the Giants obviously want in the fold for years to come so they might look to get some cost certainty on his future salaries before looking at other business.

Photo courtesy of Kelley L. Cox/US Presswire

Top First-Time Arbitration Eligible Catchers For 2013

Carlos Santana and Jonathan Lucroy recently signed extensions, but some other catchers are on track for year to year raises through arbitration. Three of the game's top young backstops will be arbitration eligible for the first time following the 2012 season. Matt Wieters, Alex Avila, Buster Posey are well-positioned for 2013 salaries in excess of $2MM if they stay healthy this year.

Matt Wieters - Orioles (PW)

Deals from long ago, players from different service classes and long-term extensions won't generally have sway in the arbitration cases for players such as Wieters, Avila and Posey who determine salaries year to year. Catchers are typically self-contained in arbitration, meaning players at other positions don't figure into the discussion most of the time. For comps to have pull with agents (and the MLBPA) and teams (and the Labor Relations Department), they have to be recent and relevant.

What's relevant? First-time eligible catchers who agreed to one-year deals via the arbitration system provide the framework within which the salaries for Wieters, Avila and Posey will be determined. Reaching back more than five years would be pushing it, which further limits the selection of comparables. Many top catchers (Brian McCann, Yadier Molina) signed long-term deals and other potentially comparable catchers like A.J. Pierzynski went to arbitration long ago (post-2003). These cases aren't centrally important to Wieters, Avila and Posey.

We're left with the Arb-1 salaries for Russell Martin ($3.9MM), Geovany Soto ($3MM), Nick Hundley ($2MM), Miguel Montero ($2MM) and Mike Napoli ($2MM). Each of those settlements came within the last five years and could help determine the earnings for this offseason's first-time eligible backstops. Before signing his first extension, Joe Mauer and the Twins exchanged arbitration submissions and arrived at a $3.9MM midpoint ($4.5MM vs. $3.3MM). Those six-year-old filing numbers could also figure in to next winter's cases.

Posey didn't play after a gruesome home-plate collision ended his season last May, so there's no way he'll measure up to players such as Avila, Wieters, Soto and Martin in terms of bulk stats like games, plate appearances and RBI. Posey resembles Soto, another NL Rookie of the Year winner, on a per-game basis, but he probably won't catch up to the Cubs backstop in terms of counting stats.

With a full season, Posey should have better bulk numbers than Hundley, Napoli and Montero did as first-time eligible catchers. Each member of that trio obtained $2MM their first time through the arbitration process, so a salary in the $2-3MM range is within reach for Posey.

If Avila plays in 104 games, makes 470 plate appearances, hits 23 homers and drives in 69 this season, he’ll have matched the career stats Soto had as a first-time eligible player. Avila could match Martin in homers, and a better platform year is within reach. But in terms of most significant counting stats, Avila won't measure up to Wieters and Martin, the record holder for first-time eligible catchers. Still, Avila's similarity to Soto should set him up for a comparable payday in the $3MM range.

Wieters will have distinguished himself from $2MM catchers such as Hundley, Montero, Napoli and John Buck by the time the season ends. In fact, it's not hard to argue that he has already done so. The switch hitter currently compares well with Soto's post-2010 career numbers despite his relative inexperience. He'll match Soto's career numbers with eight more homers and 21 RBI, but the Cubs backstop had a better career batting line. Even so, $3MM seems quite attainable for Wieters.

With a healthy season, Wieters would surpass some of the numbers Martin had as a first-time eligible player. The Orioles catcher is on track to have more games, plate appearances and RBI than Martin did when he set his record after the 2008 season. And Wieters' bulk numbers are already superior to those Mauer had as a first-time eligible player. However, Wieters doesn't offer Martin's speed or the batting average and on-base percentage that Martin and Mauer both had. Wieters' 2013 salary could be closer to $4MM than it is to $3MM, but it's unreasonable to expect him to break any records just yet.

These informal projections could change quickly. As Posey knows all too well, injuries can interrupt seasons and limit bargaining power. Playing time is one of the most important determinants of a hitter's salary, so these three catchers must stay healthy to remain on track. If all goes well, their salaries will climb above $2MM following the 2012 season.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Giants Touch Base With Posey, Lincecum On Contracts

Giants VP of baseball operations Bobby Evans said he contacted Buster Posey's agent today in regards to a possible multiyear extension for the catcher, and also told Tim Lincecum's agent that the right-hander is also still in the team's plans.  (Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area and Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweet the details from Evans' talk with media members.)

The Giants and Posey first talked a possible extension in the spring and now that Posey has shown himself to be apparently recovered from the broken leg that prematurely ended his 2011 season, it's no surprise that the club has revisited locking up its best young position player.  Carlos Santana's recent five-year, $21MM extension with the Indians will probably serve as a reference point for what a Posey extension might look like.

As for Lincecum, it sounds as if Evans was simply making a courtesy call to indicate that nothing had changed in regards to the Giants' desire to sign Lincecum to a long-term contract.  "Obviously we'll be looking toward that in the future," Evans said.  Earlier today, Schulman wrote that the added cost certainty achieved by signing Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain to extensions increases the chances of the Giants also extending Lincecum.

Despite the Giants' recent spate of moves, it may yet be a while before we see Posey or Lincecum extended.  Evans said he didn't expect any negotiations to take place during the season but "there will be a time we address that" (Twitter link).

NL West Notes: Posey, Moores, Page

Don't expect any inter-sport recruiting from Todd Helton.  The veteran first baseman says he isn't planning to try and sell his friend Peyton Manning about possibly coming to Denver, after reports surfaced that Manning was making a free agent visit to the NFL's Denver Broncos.  The two were teammates on the University of Tennessee's football team, and Helton was briefly the Volunteers' starting quarterback before Manning took over.

Curiously enough, this isn't the only NFL-related item within this roundup of news from around the NL West…

  • The Giants and Buster Posey agreed to terms on a one-year, $615K contract for 2012, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Posey will be eligible for arbitration for the first time next winter and Schulman reported last week that no extension talks were planned between Posey and the team before Opening Day.  The Giants now have all 19 of their pre-arbitration players under contract for 2012 — most received salaries at or slightly above the Major League minimum of $480K except Posey and Madison Bumgarner ($575K).
  • Padres majority owner John Moores talked to Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune about Jeffrey Moorad's decision to drop his attempt to buy a controlling interest of the team.  "This was a done deal a long time ago," Moores said.  "But it’s not the worst situation in the world to sit in the owner’s seat from time to time for another season — though I am conflicted about it, no question.”  Moores praised Moorad for stepping back so the club could get its new TV contract approved before Opening Day.
  • The Dodgers have signed former Minnesota Vikings safety Jarrad Page to a minor league contract, reports MLB.com's Ken Gurnick (via Twitter).  Page has played in the NFL since 2006, but was not expected to be re-signed by the Vikings once the NFL's free agency period opens on Tuesday.  A well-regarded high school baseball prospect, Page was drafted by the Brewers in 2002 before deciding to attend UCLA, and was also drafted by the Rockies in 2005 and the Angels in 2006.  Page attended an open tryout with the Dodgers last week and has signed as an outfielder.

Quick Hits: Burnett, Sizemore, Posey, Yankees

Now that the calendar has flipped to March, Opening Day seems that much closer. Here are some links from around MLB, starting with a pair of injury updates…

  • The Pirates announced that A.J. Burnett has an orbital fracture of his right eye and will require surgery. The club didn’t provide a timetable for the right-hander, who was acquired from the Yankees last month.
  • The Indians announced that Grady Sizemore underwent a “minimally invasive low back procedure” and is expected to miss two to three months.
  • Agent Jeff Berry told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that no discussions about a multiyear deal for Giants catcher Buster Posey are expected to take place before Opening Day. Posey hasn't played since last May 25th, so it's more likely that an extension would become a priority next offseason.
  • Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner confirmed to reporters, including Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger, that he is intent on lowering payroll below $189MM by 2014 for luxury tax purposes (Twitter link).

NL West Notes: Dodgers, Haren, Posey, Rockies

Notes from the NL West as the D'Backs could clinch an improbable division title tonight….

  • Major League Baseball has asked a federal bankruptcy judge to order that the Dodgers be sold, reports Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times.  The filing even threatened that the Dodgers could be suspended from the league in order to keep Frank McCourt from being able to keep the team via a new television contract.
  • The Giants will use Buster Posey as a catcher next season, though manager Bruce Bochy said a position change might come "down the road," reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Kevin Millwood will be looking for a Major League contract this winter, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post.  Millwood and the Rockies have a mutual interest in each other, but as noted earlier this month, the Rockies would prefer to bring the veteran starter back on a minor league deal.
  • From that same item, Renck says J.C. Romero's first choice would be to re-sign with the Rockies, and Colorado players are expecting some changes to the coaching staff.
  • You can't blame the Diamondbacks for the Dan Haren trade in 2010, argues Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, since nobody saw the club turning things around as quickly as they did this season.
  • Bobby Borchering, the Diamondbacks' first-round pick in the 2009 draft, is being transitioned to left field, tweets Piecoro.  Borchering has played first and third base in his first three pro seasons.