Thursday, March 15, 2012

Royals Extend Alcides Escobar

Just two and a half weeks ago the Royals signed catcher Salvador Perez to a five year contract extension that also included three option years. At the time of the deal I commented that over the offseason there were two players that made a ton of sense as extension candidates, that no one was talking about. Today the Royals signed the second of those two players to a long term deal.

Here's the breakdown of the extension that Alcides Escobar and the Royals agreed to this morning:

2012: $1 million
2013: $3 million
2014: $3 million
2015: $3 million
2016: $5.25 million club option with  $500K buyout
2017: $6.5 million club option with a $500K buyout
*Award bonuses could push total contract value to $21.75 million.

At the time of the Perez deal I wondered aloud if the same terms would make sense for an Escobar extension. Ultimately, what we see is that Escobar gets more guaranteed money than Perez. This is thanks to his final arbitration year being guaranteed, unlike Perez's deal. However, the potential value of the deal is less. Part of the reason for this is that Escobar's deal encompasses six seasons as opposed to the eight that Perez received. Another reason could be that Escobar is further along in his career and thus his upside slightly more limited.

Another interesting similarity between the two deals is the subtle way in which Kansas City has attempted to front load the contracts. Obviously, in deals involving arbitration years and club options the contracts naturally will escalate in salary. What you'll notice in Escobar's guaranteed years is that instead of a breakdown along the lines of $500K, $1.5 Mill, $3.5 Mill, $4.5 Mill, as would be typical in this type of contract; the Royals elected to double Escobar's 2012 salary and spread the remainder out evenly over his three arbitration seasons.

Look for example at the contract Elvis Andrus signed with the Texas Rangers on February 8. Andrus was entering arbitration for the first time, which undoubtedly cost the Rangers some money in comparison  to the Royals who locked up Escobar a year prior to arbitration. Andrus, like Escobar, is considered one of the top fielding short stops in all of baseball. But, like Escobar, has a career sub .700 OPS. Don't get me wrong, Andrus has been a bit better hitter than Escobar during his brief career. But he also plays in Texas and the numbers are comparable.

The Rangers signed Andrus to a three year deal worth $14.4 million. The deal guarantees Andrus 41% more than the Royals guaranteed Alcides Escobar. Not to mention that the Royals have the ability to control Escobar twice as long, as the Rangers contract controls Elvis Andrus. The two players are about a year a part in service time. So ultimately, the Royals, by agreeing to a contract one year earlier than the Rangers have saved themselves $4 million in guaranteed money, while also obtaining two additional years of team control.

Alcides Escobar could not improve at all and this deal could wind up being a steal. Just like the Perez extension the risk is minimized due to Escobar's defensive prowess. Of course Royals personnel and fans alike are hoping for more from Alcides. Optimists would surely point to Escobar's career minor league average of .293, his .304 rookie average, his .305/.353/.432 July, or his .324/.367/.459 September. To be certain, Escobar has shown for stretches that he could be an above average offensive performer at the short stop position.

Using Baseball Reference's comparable players through age 24, we find that Royce Clayton and Jay Bell most closely resemble Escobar's current career arc. Clayton over his age 25-30 seasons posted a .261/.315/.384 line with an OPS+ of 81. If Escobar is this kind of hitter throughout the contract the Royals accept his defense for four years and evaluate where they are, and their alternatives before exercising the club options.

If Escobar follows the Jay Bell career arc it is a different story. In Jay Bell's 25-30 seasons, he posted a .272/.343/.413 line with an OPS+ of 104. If Escobar can develop into this type of hitter the deal quickly becomes an absolute steal for the Royals. My guess is that Escobar settles in somewhere in between, something along the lines of a .270/.320/.395 hitter. In today's offense depressed environment this is good production out of a short stop and 9 hole hitter. 

If Escobar can stay healthy and continue to do what he does now, the downside is minimal. The Royals would have a top notch defender for the next 4-6 seasons and at times grow frustrated with the lack of offensive production. Escobar was a 2.0 brWAR player in 2011. If he can maintain that production the guaranteed portion of this contract is well worth it. If his production can increase even just a little, the option years become no brainers. 

I love the Royals aggression in handing out extensions over the past few years. This is their second in the past month, and with Alex Gordon two years away from free agency, many believe another is on the way. Eric Hosmer said that Perez's extension make him want his own even more. Danny Duffy wants to be buried a Royal. Let's hope the Royals aren't done getting their future to put pen to paper.

No comments:

Post a Comment