Bring Your Questions for "the Baseball Economist"

Diehard baseball fans know that the season doesn’t really end with the World Series. It just downshifts a bit, as J.C. Bradbury explains in his new book Hot Stove Economics: “The final out of the World Series marks the beginning of baseball’s second season, when teams court free agents and orchestrate trades with the hope of building a championship contender. The real and anticipated transactions generate excitement among fans who discuss the merit of moves in the arena informally known as the ‘hot stove league.'”

Chapters in the new book:

1. Why Johnny Estrada Is Worth Kevin Millwood: Valuing Players as Assets

2. Down with the Triple Crown: Evaluating On-Field Performance

3. A Career Guide from Little League to Retirement: Age and Success in Baseball

4. Putting a Dollar Sign on the Muscle: Valuing Players

5. Duds, Deals, and Caveats: What Do the Estimates Reveal?

6. Winning on a Dime: The Best and Worst Managed Franchises of the Decade

7. Is C.C. Sabathia Worth $161 Million? Valuing Long Run Contracts

8. You Don’t Need a Name to Be Traded: Valuing Minor-League Prospects


Bradbury is an associate professor at Kennesaw State University. You may have heard him comparing baseball managers to U.S. presidents in our “How Much Does the President Really Matter” podcast. He also contributed to our “What’s Derek Jeter Worth?” quorum.

And now, just in time for the Baseball Winter Meetings, Bradbury is here to field your burning off-season baseball questions. Ask away in the comments section below and, as always, we’ll post his answers shortly.


Daulton

The Nationals signed Jason Werth for what most baseball analysts believe is an overly generous amount (7 yrs, $126MM). I read that you valued Werth at this amount (approximately). Does your estimate take into account that the Nationals will likely be a cellar dweller these next few years and that any incremental gain from Werth isn't worth what they're paying (as incremental gains are worth more to a playoff team than a cellar dwellar)?

John K

What's the approximate dollar value of the first pick in the first round? My understanding is that baseball teams can't trade draft picks in the amateur draft, but I was wondering what the first pick should/would fetch in an auction.

Mickey

The Nationals signed Jason Werth to a contract that I feel is pretty overpriced. Using comps from last year and bumping up a few % b/c of inflation, I thought his going rate would have been closer to $13 million per year for a shorter contract. What do you think the Nats know that we don't? Or do you know? Or is this a good example of a winner's curse?

Barbara

The highest paid managers get paid multiples less than the highest paid players. JC, do you come up with estimates on value of managers? More specifically, if you were the agent for the best manager in MLB (whomever you think that is), could you argue that manager pay should be doubled?

J.P.

The Royals have been horrible for years. Even though they imported Dayton Moore from the Braves, who was a highly respected exec, they have continued to be bad on the field and still the outlook looks pretty dismal.

So here's my question: why do the Royals stink every year?

I'd like to hear your opinion on whether or not it's a problem specific to KC (same owner) or some league-wide issue w/ teams w/ smaller payrolls.

Andrew

Is Derek Jeter worth anywhere near what the Yankees ended up giving him?

Dave

It appears that on-base percentage is understood by many/most organizations and being valued better than in the 1990s. It appears that over the past few years that teams are trying to quanitfy defense and taking that into account when signing players. Is there an obvious next thing that isn't being properly valued well that could/should be?

Jim

I haven't read your book yet (but will, as Santa bought it for me). When you value players, do you take into account league i.e. a player is worth something differently in the AL v. the NL? If so, how?

Lenny

How should a college professor's talent/value be calculated and quantified? Which metrics would you use? Do you bring these things up at your annual review?

Katie

I'm having more and more trouble nowadays discussing baseball w/ my cousin, as he's the type who would hear the words "valuation model" and immediate attempt to dismiss any of the following points. I'm sure you encounter this too. How do you react to this?

Wes

Not only do Billy Beane's methods not work in the playoffs, but now apparently they haven't worked since 2006 or so. Why do you think this is the case? Is the market too efficient nowadays? Would love to hear your $0.03.

Travis

Taking into account inflation, what do you consider the 5 most valuable players of all time?

Milt

Can you walk us through what you think would happen to the competitive balance of MLB if an NFL-style salary structure (cap) was introduced? My belief is that the best teams today are the smartest, and that this would continue w/ or w/o a cap. Whattya say?

Mitch

The Mets' poor performance each of the past few years can't be blamed on a low payroll, as they are almost always at the top of the list in terms of team payroll. They have to be at the top of your list of most poorly run franchises in Chapter 6, right? I haven't read the book yet but had to ask.

Roger

If I ran the Pirates, then I would overspend on the international free agent market to make sure I signed some young players since as a low-payroll team, I can't compete with the Yanks, Mets, etc to sign MLB free-agent talent. Do you think this would be a sound strategy for the Pirates? If not, then how would you try to compete with the bigger market teams.

Matt

Given the new metrics that have gained in popularity in the past few years like FIP, WAR, and the like, which top players from previous generations would be deemed even more valuable today than in their heyday, and which would be cast aside by teams nowadays?

Pratt

I used to scratch my head at a lot of free-agent signings and say "I wonder what the heck that GM was thinking." But then I thought about it and figured that owners often override decisions more than I might have thought of. An example of this is when the Mariners re-signed Kenji Johjima a few years back. How much owner meddling do you see? This might explain some of the crazy contracts that come out every once in a while.

Ricky

If your son was a baseball prospect, then would you recommend or demand that he hire Scott Boras as an agent?

No matter what people say about Boras and his exaggerations, when you see a crazy contract announced, more often than not he was the agent in the negotiation. Does he extract the most value for his clients, or is there another agent out there better at this than him?

Anders

Is Jeff Francouer worth 13 million dollars a year?

Scrappy

With sabermetric stats now becoming more main stream, do you see them eventually replacing the archaic AVG/HR/RBI as to what a player has accomplished?