Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The $85 Million-Dollar Man 

I saw that the Phillies inked a seven-year, $85 million dollar deal with Chase Utley to have him play second base for the Phillies. Chase gets a two million dollar signing bonus and then has his salary staggered from there. Here is how the deal basically breaks down:

Salary / Age
2007: $4.5 million / 28
2008: $7.5 million / 29
2009: $11.0 million / 30
2010: $15.0 million / 31
2011: $15.0 million / 32
2012: $15.0 million / 33
2013: $15.0 million / 34

When I began to look at the deal I had a few thoughts … First, note that Chase made a paltry $500,000 in 2006. Okay, that’s not paltry to you or me, but well below market value. Chase would probably have made much more than that through salary arbitration, but his 2007 salary would have been much closer to that than what’s he’s getting.

So what are the Phillies getting? A player who …

…was the second-best base-runner in baseball in 2006 (see, the base-running section of the Bill James Handbook)
…was the third-best defensive second baseman in 2006 (see, John Dewan’s Plus / Minus leaders in the Bill James Handbook)
… had his second consecutive season with 100+ RBI and 100+ Runs Created. Chase also scored 131 runs.
… got 203 hits, 40 doubles, 32 home runs and stole 15 bases.
… hit a .302 GPA and a .218 ISO.
… was basically the best second baseman in the National League.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Gross Productive Average (GPA): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
Runs Created (RC): A stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup. Here is the formula: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) times ((S * 1.125) + (D * 1.69) + (T * 3.02) + (HR * 3.73) + (.29 * (BB + HBP – IBB)) + (.492 * (SB + SF + SH)) – (.04 * K))] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF). If you use ESPN’s version be advised that it is pitifully is out-of-date, however. James adjusted RC after the 2004 season ended.

The deal is a smart one, in my judgment. Wisely, the Phillies locked Chase into a long-term deal that guarantees he and Jimmy Rollins will be working the pivot until 2010 or 2011. Along with Ryan Howard (not eligible for free agency until 2011) the Phillies infield is 75% set for the next half-decade. While it is true that Chase wouldn’t have been eligible for free agency until 2009, the Phillies now know that through the productive years of his career, Chase Utley is a Phillie. Notice when the deal terminates: 2013, when Chase will be 34 and his skills will likely be in decline.

Did the Phillies pay too much? I doubt it. Look at the deal the Houston Astros gave Carlos Lee: six years and $100 mil for an outfielder with bad defensive skills and who will be 37 when the deal expires. The Astros agreed to pay Lee – a pure hitter – about $17 million a year when he’ll be in the danger zone of his career, his mid-to-late 30’s. The Phillies will be paying Chase Utley much less to play a much more important defensive position turning a period of time where he is guaranteed to be much, much more productive.

This was a great, very savvy deal made by Pat Gillick.

…was the third-best defensive second baseman in 2006

That's surprising. He makes amazing plays from time to time (like that flip to Jimmy Rollins they show on the TV ads) but I still have this image of Chase being a guy who plays his heart out but just has trouble with some routine balls. I guess my image is wrong.

Anyway, again, great signing. Shame on you for steeling Weitzel's title though. ;)
My only concern is appearance of a short-shelf life of 2nd basemen. So long as he stays healthy (which is virtually the case for everybody) I think this was a great deal and much different than the one Pat Burrell received from Wade after one really productive year.
I assure everyone that the title for this article was conceived without reading Beerleaguer ... I guess great minds just think alike...
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