Yesterday I noticed that the contract extension given by the Pirates to Jack Wilson was universally panned throughout the Internet. Maybe someone somewhere liked the deal, but I haven’t seen it in print yet.
While I won’t go as far as to say I liked this extension, I will say that I don’t mind it. Faint praise, yeah, but let’s not tear the Bucs a new one over this just yet.
I have to admit that the Pirates didn’t do a good job exploiting Wilson’s lousy year with the bat. He hit .257/.299/.363 in his age 27 season last year, right at career levels. You’d think they could’ve gotten him for 3/15 because of this. It’s not as if he was coming off his 2004 Silver Slugger season. But his agent snagged three years and $20.2MM with an $8.4MM option for 2010 and most folks chalked this one up as a typical Pirate mistake.
Let’s turn to my favorite new toy, Baseball Prospectus’s Marginal Value Over Replacement Player. That metric says he’ll be worth $15,650,000 over the next three seasons. BP has him as on average a 3.6 win player over the next three seasons. Wilson was worth 6.9 wins in 2004 and 4.6 last year, so he can easily beat that projection. He only needs to beat their projection by four and a half million bucks worth of value spread out over the next three seasons.
Topping 2005 offensively shouldn’t be too tough for Wilson. He added 20 pounds this offseason, typically a good thing for hitters. I will admit, this could have an effect on his range in the field. Keep in mind that Wilson’s ’05 season was definitely affected by a December 2004 emergency appendectomy. He lost fifteen pounds during that surgery.
There are a million defensive stats out there; just take my word for it that Wilson is a defensive whiz. His glove probably comprises 90% of his value, so any offensive value is gravy. It’s not like there’s anything in the Pirates’ farm system that could possibly replace Wilson, even in year three of the deal. And it’s not like the market is bursting with 4.6 win shortstops; only eleven shortstops were better in 2005.
You want to pan a long-term contract? Start with Paul Konerko, Kevin Millwood, A.J. Burnett, and Johnny Damon. There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell their teams break even on those deals. Of course, breaking even overall matters a lot more to the Pirates than it does to the Yankees.