Baseball Prospectus has a cool new stat called MORP. I know what you’re thinking – "What the hell is MORP? It sounds made up." Well, bear with me because it’s interesting stuff and it may be at least one point of data considered by Jim Hendry when drawing up Derrek Lee’s next contract.
MORP stands for Market Value Over Replacement Player, and it’s an attempt to place a dollar value on a player’s total offensive and defensive production. Today I think it’d be cool to look at the projections for Derrek Lee for the next several years and try to determine a fair amount for his contract extension.
First, let’s start off by looking at Lee’s 2005. He hit .335/.418/.662 in 691 plate appearances, perhaps the best offensive performance in baseball. He also played plus defense at first base. The sum total of his efforts was 10.6 wins. That’s right – Lee was worth more than ten wins for the Cubs all by himself.
No one expects Lee to sustain that level of production as he enters his 30s. But Jim Hendry and Co. are going to need to project Lee’s production and place a dollar value on it for his contract offer. Now, Paul Konerko is a similarly aged first baseman, and he just received a five-year contract for $60MM.
Let’s look at a five-year deal for the first scenario. Over the next five seasons, Lee is projected to be worth 27 wins (combining offense and defense). If you factor in inflation and assign the proper value to each win he earns, Lee will be worth about $45MM over the next five seasons. We all know that Lee and his agent wouldn’t dream of accepting a contract averaging $9MM coming off the season he had. He’ll want Konerko money and then some, perhaps $65-75MM. That would put the Cubs out at least $20MM, so let’s get creative.
What about offering a three-year extension? Lee is projected to be worth $36,575,000 over the next three seasons. Significant decline shouldn’t set in until his age 33 season three years from now. How about an offer of $42MM for 2006-2008? The deal would replace his $8MM salary for 2006. Lee would average a healthy $14MM annually, and the Cubs would finish up before major decline sets in. Perhaps it’d be necessary to offer no-trade protection to seal the deal.
It’s expected that after the 2008 season, the 33 year-old Lee would start to slip measurably on both offense and defense. On the face of it, he’d still look like a .290-30-100 hitter and could command a massive free agent contract elsewhere. All of these projections and speculation come with the usual disclaimer: obviously no one has a crystal ball and Baseball Prospectus could be dead wrong on this stuff. No one can project five years into the future. But the three-year, $42MM proposal here seems like the ideal course of action for Cubs management.