The Freddy Sanchez Extension – Eight Months Later

About eight months ago — April 1st — the Giants extended Freddy Sanchez through 2012 for $6MM. The timing of the move was a bit peculiar, but it ultimately seemed like a prudent deal. The 2B free agent market would be somewhat thin in the upcoming offseason, and the Giants were looking ahead to ensure that second base would not be a void for them entering 2012. Sanchez had proven to be a bit injury-prone (appearing in 111 games in each of 2009 and 2010), but when he was on the field, he was producing at a rate of roughly 2 WAR/600 PAs. 2012 would be his age 34-season, but it wasn’t much of a stretch at all to think he could be put up $6MM-worth of production.

2011 wasn’t exactly Freddy’s year, as he appeared in just 60 games before incurring a season-ending injury (that would eventually require surgery). Nevertheless, when he was playing, he was the player anybody would’ve reasonably expected him to be. He hit .289/.332/.397 (99 wRC+), almost perfectly in line with his career numbers, and he was okay with the glove as well (though his skills in the field do appear to be gradually fading).

In the context of this offseason, given how the market’s shaped up, how does the extension look? Not too good, really. His skills are eroding, quite obviously. He’s 34 years old, and the reasonable expectation is that he’ll see a decline in his numbers at the plate this season. In addition, his defense, as mentioned, is gradually getting worse. He’s probably good for only league-average defense at this point — or perhaps even worse. Taking into account his lack of durability, the deal doesn’t look so solid anymore.

Let’s examine how this extension compares to two of the middle-infield deals this offseason: Jamey Carroll (two years, $6.75MM) and Mark Ellis (two years, $8.75MM).

Carroll, entering his age-38 season, is obviously a bit older than Freddy, but he’s got an edge in terms of health. Despite his age, he’s not nearly as injury-prone as Freddy — in fact, only once in his career has he hit the 15-day DL, and he’s lost just three days to injuries over the past two seasons. In terms of defense, Carroll is quite possibly the better of the two; at the very least, he’s as good as Freddy with the glove. The Minnesota Twins, of course, think enough of Carroll’s range to make him their everyday shortstop in 2012. With the bat, Carroll has not been quite as good as Freddy over his career (90 wRC+ v. 96 wRC+), mainly due to an utter lack of power. Freddy himself doesn’t hit the ball with much authority, but he has four times as many career home runs as Carroll. Anyway, Carroll has — in recent seasons — caught up to Freddy in terms of hitting. He posted respective OBPs of .379 and .359 in 2010 and 2011, enabling him to be a slightly above-average force on offense.

Funny how this all works out: Bill James projects Sanchez and Carroll to have identical wOBAs in 2012: .307.

So Carroll’s better than Freddy Sanchez (though you could argue otherwise), and his contract is more friendly as well. He’s guaranteed $6.75MM (with a $2MM team option for 2014), and he’ll be in a Twins uniform for an extra year (at least). Think of it like this: the Twins are paying $750K more to get an extra year of Carroll. Their plans for Carroll (he’s their everyday shortstop, at age 38) are questionable, but the contract is quite good and in comparison, the Sanchez deal simply isn’t.

Mark Ellis’ deal isn’t quite as friendly as Carroll’s; in fact, Ellis is worse than Carroll, but he’ll make more money (guaranteed $8.75MM). Ellis is even less durable than Sanchez, having spent three separate stints on each of the 15-day DL and 60-day DL throughout his career, and the last time he accrued 500+ plate appearances in a season was 2008. He’s about a year older than Sanchez, but his defense is considerably better (I’d estimate a difference of five to ten runs). Additionally, he’s been the same quality hitter as Freddy over his career: .266/.331/.397 (95 wRC+). His offense has dropped off in recent years, and as such, Bill James projects him for a .299 wOBA. Pretty mediocre, but it’s not much worse than Sanchez’s projection — and the defense certainly makes up for it.

So the Dodgers are paying an extra $2.75MM guaranteed for an extra year of Ellis (who — when he’s healthy — is just as good as Sanchez). It’s a worse contract than the Sanchez extension, especially considering Ellis’ health (or lack thereof), but it’s really not all that much worse.

The middle infield market has been a little odd this offseason, with mediocre players getting decent cuts of money. Freddy most certainly would have gotten 2+ years on the open market, but instead the Giants pay him $6MM through 2012. It may not seem like much, but that’s a higher average annual value than Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll, Mark Ellis, Aaron Hill, et al. The Freddy deal just doesn’t hold up well to these other signings. Not a terrible extension, but it seems evident that the Giants are paying him more than he’s worth — even in light of how well guys are getting paid this offseason. What looked like a solid deal eight months ago is now just “meh.”

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16 thoughts on “The Freddy Sanchez Extension – Eight Months Later

  1. The extension occurred on April 1st and I thought it was a joke. Why extend a guy through the following year when he can’t stay on the field ? It was another of those goodwill-World Series gestures much like the Aubrey Huff deal. Winning has a price.

  2. Injuries are frustrating. Robb Nen’s contract comes to mind.

    I’ll argue otherwise. Jamey Carroll is an empty suit who will get exposed as a full time starting ss in Minny. Freddy Sanchez is a much better hitter, much better fielder and a vastly better player overall. We’ve been down this path before, it was beyond frustrating to have traded our 2nd best starting pitcher prospect for a gimp. All I can say is, don’t bet against Freddy. Anybody who has overcome being pigeon toed AND a club foot and became a major league ballplayer has determination. These injuries he occurs are brutal. Now I wouldn’t pencil him in for anything more than 110, but when you’re comparing him unfavorably to Jamey Carroll its time to step away from the spreadsheet, get to a ball game and get some sun on your face. No damn baseball? Fine, I’m going to put on Game 1 of the Texas game. Jamey Carroll may own Cliff Lee, but so does Freddy Sanchez. And he hits doubles.

    • Freddy Sanchez is a much better hitter, much better fielder and a vastly better player overall

      He isn’t. That’s all there is to it. Injury issues aside, there’s really no reason to believe he’s a better 2B than Carroll.

      • You threw up a classic sabermetric argument that doesn’t hold true inside the lines of play. There are good reasons Freddy Sanchez has been a starting 2B for the past 7 years and Jamey Carroll has been a career utility guy. I suggest you look at a year by year by batting order position and # of BBs. The walk rate is what draws Carroll close statistically, as he has a superior OBP. Please remember what a #2 batting order guy does in baseball – those things show up as outs on the stat sheet, and dilute “value”.

        “He isn’t that’s all there is to it” – I’m sorry, I expect a little more from you than that.

      • The batting order position isn’t very relevant. Sanchez, unfortunately, doesn’t have an edge on Carroll in any way other than age, but that’s outweighed by the fact that Sanchez is constantly injured. I like Freddy, and I don’t think there’s a hugely significant difference in value between the two, but I’d definitely rather have Carroll (esp. for 2/$7) than Sanchez. I don’t really know what to say other than that. Based on how they’ve performed, we can essentially expect them to be equal offensively. Defense is a bit harder to measure — and as such, uncertainty should certainly be applied — but based on what I’ve seen, and what various metrics say, I’d say Carroll is the superior defensive 2B.

        Please remember what a #2 batting order guy does in baseball – those things show up as outs on the stat sheet

        Are you referring to “productive outs”? Or sac bunts?

      • Well now I’ve ran my mouth and have to look closely at the stats. I was looking at his more recent Dodger days, specifically Carroll’s 2010 season batting 8th, he benefited from “pitcher protection” with a whopping 439 OBP, but he also hit 333. You’re right, Carroll’s batting order isn’t a very relevant stat, it does push his walk percentage up a point above his career average, but its not hugely significant. His BA of 291 in the 8 hole versus career 278 is interesting. Maybe there is a good case to having a pesky hitter batting 8th.

        Carroll’s status as a utility guy who gets mixed and matched has given him more ABs versus lefties, 29.5% versus 25.4% for Sanchez. He doesn’t have the massive splits that Freddy does, but this does benefit his bottom line.

        Freddy has mainly batted 2nd and 3rd in his career, putting up 303/339/758 in the 3 spot, 282/320/711 in the 2 hole. While I think some of this is due to productive outs, there is definitely an argument its simply his natural regression in his career.

        So batting order might not have a lot to do with it, but I do think Carroll’s stats have benefited from utility status – being able to face more lefties, and I have the sense he hasn’t necessarily had to face the best pitching over his career, but I can’t verify that and I need to move on from Carroll’s stat sheet, it drives me nuts, just like watching him hit.

        Carroll’s value lies in the ability to draw a walk and hit dinky singles and get on base. Freddy Sanchez has a better BA, hits for some power but is a more impatient hitter and doesn’t draw as many walks. I think the argument could be made Sanchez is a natural 300 hitter plus, and Carroll has had to work at his hitting to get where he is. So I would say Carroll’s OBP is his best asset, as his career slugging is below that (356 OBP/348 SLG). (His hitting is Coors field inflated as well (1/7 approx career PAs, 310/389/789), but as a singles hitter not as important). That’s why I called him an empty suit. There are times when OBP might be overvalued, I think this is one of those, when its the only thing he does well.

        And because Jamey Carroll annoys me no end, I’ll throw in a cherry picked stat: His high leverage splits: 247/327/613. Freddy’s: 329/337/755. Jamey Carroll will be looking for the dink and the walk, Freddy will be looking for the big hit, walk not so much. I’ll still take Freddy, and I still think Carroll will be exposed in a full time roll next year.

        Basically Jamey Carroll has been a nice undervalued commodity. For more money, I think he becomes overvalued pretty quickly.

        Defense? Ah, I don’t know. I’m curious on your thoughts on what you’ve seen. But if you’re tired of thinking about either of these guys, no worries. The Giants have some middle infield issues, so I’ve been watching all these guys and trying to consider what might be best.

      • Fair enough. The one thing Carroll is utterly useless at is driving the ball: and he thus doesn’t drive in runs. I think we can leave at this.

  3. Injuries have been terrible, but I did not see a big dropoff in
    Freddie’s defense. He does not turn the DP that well, but otherwise
    his “D” is underrated.

    • Don’t think there was a big dropoff at all in his defense (just slightly fading skillset), and I might even be underselling it. But I think it’s a stretch to say it’s underrated in general. He seems to be widely regarded as a pretty good defensive second baseman.

  4. I think the key point is mentioned in the article….that the 2B market was going to be thin. The Giants knew they would potentially have a lot of holes to fill in the offseason (where would Belt and Crawford be?….would Ross pan out over a whole season?….Would Torres and Huff come close to repeating?), so why not cross something off to do list for a reasonable price. He wasn’t blocking anyone in the minors. Obviously, if Sanchez had gotten hurt first, the Giants would have held off. That’s just luck….or bad luck, actually. It was a good and/or reasonable move that only looks bad now because of the injury. Prior to the season no one would have that Carroll and Ellis would have been reasonable alternatives (especially Carroll).

  5. I don’t completely disagree, but I liked the contract then and I still like it now. They’re paying Sanchez like he’s worth about 1 WAR (a little more), a threshold he hasn’t underperformed since 2004 (by fWAR, including 2011). Perhaps with the decline of age (and it’s been shown that for some reason, second basemen have a mysterious tendency to just completely disappear production-wise) and the mounting injuries he will not produce to his contract in 2012, but it’s still the last year of the deal and they’re only paying him $6M – the Giants don’t expect Sanchez to fix their offense, just help Buster and Pablo do it.

    The injury history is perhaps more problematic when it comes to the extension, particularly because his Giants career has been fraught with DL time. Before that, however, he had been a consistent 140-game player, and even during the last two seasons he managed 2-2.5 WAR in only 111 games. Even assuming he would get hurt, if Sanchez continued his production of the last few years, despite playing in 110 games he would still be outperforming his contract by a considerable margin – at a market rate of $4.5M/WAR, in 110 games he’s producing $9-11M despite only being paid $6M. We still have to fill those other 52 games, and Jeff Keppinger certainly wasn’t the answer, but generally Sanchez has done a pretty good job so far and while it’d be unreasonable to expect him to play a full season next year, it’d also be unreasonable to expect him to massively underperform a pretty good carer.

    For Sanchez vs. Carroll vs. Ellis, well, Sanchez has produced 17.1 WAR over his career in 3600 PAs, as opposed to Carroll’s 13.5 WAR in 3400 PAs (and more games) – an additional 3.6 WAR in only 200 PAs more and fewer games. Carroll’s also just finished his first season where he played in >140 games and has one three-win season and two two-win seasons; both of those came in 2010-2011, but Sanchez has one five-win season, two three-win, and one two-win, and three years with >140 games played. Looking at our options going into last year, Carroll’s resume is far weaker and Sanchez’ stronger, and even now I think it’s clear Sanchez has been the better player, though Carroll’s had the better 2010-2011 (not by much, though, just 1.2 WAR, and in far more games).

    Ellis beats both in terms of career production, being the more consistent and valuable player (weirdly, all three started in the majors in 2002). But here I think the Giants thought Ellis would be too expensive, having just come off a 3.4 win season in 2010 and being a lifelong Athletic, he would either take a discount from Oakland to stay or get a longer, more expensive deal from another team. Paying Sanchez $12M for 2011-12 is preferable to giving a three or four year deal to Ellis at approaching $10M a season (similar to the Rollins situation) when Ellis has had injury issues and is 34 coming into 2012.

    While the Sanchez extension may not look like the most brilliant move, going into next season we have a good second baseman and aren’t locked into an unreasonable contract. Expecting more than that from management isn’t fair – if they consistently made deals like this, getting good role players from free agency and trades to complement homegrown stars, instead of reaching to free agency or trades to bring in stars (Rowand, Zito, Pierzynski) I think we’d be much happier with where the team is and is going.

    • I can’t say that I disagree with anything you said. Moves are best evaluated in the context of when they were made, based on expected results. At the time, the Sanchez move was solid — and it’s still not really a bad move. Say he produces 1 WAR, and the Giants are paying him $6MM to do so. The excess $2MM isn’t necessarily a big deal. I just think it’s interesting that everybody’s making a big deal about the contracts middle infielders are getting this offseason, and even so, Sanchez is making more than any of them (though, of course, his contract only lasts through 2012).

      Anyway, the timing of the extension was quite odd. A forward-thinking move though.

  6. This article would looked a whole lot better if the topic was Aubrey Huff’s extension. The thing is,Sanchez’s extension looked good back then, and it only looks bad now because he hardly played in 2011. Also, what evidence do you have that Sanchez’s defense would be below average? He hardly played for one thing, and when he did play he was one of the best defensively (right up to the last game).

    If Huff were the central topic of this post, then you could easily back your point about the bad contract with stats. However, comparing Jamie Carroll with Freddy Sanchez, talent-wise or contract-wise, brings little help to your point. Sanchez’s contract is months old, and Carroll just got his. Let’s see how this all pans out. I hope Sanchez plays in 2012, and lives up to his 6 million.

  7. Someone mentioned Aubrey Huff and I think that was a reason for the Sanchez signing. The Giants paid full market price for Huff following a great bounce back year. Rather than face the same dilemma for 2012 the Giants extended Sanchez at his exact salary for 2011, $6M. It stands to reason that if Sanchez doesn’t get hurt in 2011 and kept up his rate of production he could have demanded a 3 year contract. Sanchez was more deserving of the extension than Huff was. Sanchez is a solid ballplayer who plays hard and gives it his all; Huff has a history of playing good when it suits him. Sanchez was hurt making a play in the field in which he fully extended his body to make a play, subsequently injuring his shoulder. I hope Sanchez recovers and comes back playing the same hard nosed baseball in 2012 that he always has.

    As for Huff, I hope he has a repeat of 2010 and puts up great numbers in the hopes of getting another big contract. Then I’d non tender him and get his zoolander ass out of SF. Don’t invest anymore money in players who don’t give it their all every game.

  8. Pingback: 2011 Season in Review: The Infielders » Giants Nirvana | SF Giants Blog

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