I have to admit that I’m pretty surprised by the generally negative reaction that the Shane Victorino deal has received amongst members of the national news media and some of the more hardcore members of the Red Sox fan base. While in a vacuum this deal should raise some eyebrows, when you consider the big picture –particularly from the perspective of the Red Sox- this contract is pretty reasonable.
On the surface, there’s some reason to be optimistic that Victorino is still a good player. He was saddled with a poor .278 BABIP last season – well below his career average of .296. With his skills mostly appearing to be in tact or regressing minimally, it’s not altogether unthinkable to think that he might be a solid bounce-back candidate next year. In fact, if he can just duplicate last year’s performance, he’d actually be living up to almost half of his current contract in year-1.
Even if we were to paint a portrait of substantial regression over the next three seasons, it’s going to be hard for Victorino to NOT live up to the money he’s getting paid. Going market rate so far this offseason has come in around $6 million dollars per 1 fWAR. Using that math relative to the contract, the Red Sox are expecting him to accumulate 6.5 fWAR in the coming years given the current market.
For conversation’s sake, let’s say Victorino regresses hard over the course of the next three years. Let’s apply an aggressive rate of about .7 fWAR regression every season. Here’s what it’d look like:
That would come out to exactly 5.7 fWAR over the duration of the contract, short of what the Red Sox are actually paying for, but not to an egregious degree. Yes, the additional $5 million is an overpay in a vacuum, but when you consider the ancillary benefits of the deal itself, the $5 million seems like more of an expensive insurance policy than it does a ‘get the guy we want’ gesture on the part of GM Ben Cherington and the rest of the Red Sox brass.
One of those benefits is that Victorino will be stepping into RF in Fenway Park, one of the more valuable defensive positions for the Red Sox. Having someone who can not only handle the position, but also help in CF, gives them plenty of versatility and a strong defensive grouping on the right side of the diamond – something that’ll be needed due to the limitations of recently-acquired Mike Napoli at 1B. Long story, short – the defensive value specific to the Red Sox has to be taken into account here. Not only will they be willing to pay more for a RFer than most, they’re justified in doing so.
Then of course, there are the looming Jacoby Ellsbury contract negotiations, of which Victorino’s signing will certainly impact significantly. In fact, you could argue that the leverage that his presence creates could provide the Red Sox with a decent cost-saving opportunity in a hypothetical extension. Simply put, with Victorino on the roster, the Red Sox wont’ have to play hardball with Scott Boras on anything other than their own terms. It also means that prospects like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz won’t have to get pushed at a pace they’re not ready for. There’s something to be said for impacting the value of multiple players around you. That, too – adds up. In the case of impacting the Ellsbury negotiations, it could REALLY add up.
So when you take into account the premium positional value and the value impact he could have on the players around him, the $5 million seems more like money well spent, not wasted. And that’s not even getting into the idea of laying it up against the market backdrop of a 37 year old Marco Scutaro getting a 3 year deal or a PED-infused Melky Cabrera getting 2. In fact, with revenues exploding throughout baseball and revenue streams flowing faster than ever before, I’d hedge my bets that this deal looks a lot more appetizing compared to most once the dust has settled on the 2013 offseason.