Wednesday, March 09, 2005

BA's Top 100: A Brewers Retrospective (Part One)

By Bill Batterman of

Concurrent with the release of this year's top 100 prospects, Baseball America made available a complete listing of their annual top prospect lists dating back to 1990. Compiled by their team of writers with the input of scouts and other baseball insiders, Baseball America's list highlights players with a mix of tools and performance that portend an exceptional big league career.

Players with a [high] peak value ... are what scouts look for in the draft, what organizations look for in their farm systems, and what Baseball America looks for when it compiles its Top 100 Prospects list. The goal of teams is to win championships, and when ranking prospects, we seek out players who can help their teams do that. ...

While statistics are an important tool in assessing a player?s past and predicting his future, championship tools make championship players, so the top of BA?s top 100 will always be dominated by players with above-average tools in several categories.

During the 15-year period covered by Baseball America's rankings, the Brewers farm system has gone through a transformation from one of the best in baseball to one of the worst and back to one of the best. In total, the team has been represented by 25 players occupying 42 spots on the Top 100 lists. Of those, the results have been mixed. The following table lists Milwaukee's representatives by year as well as the player's position, age (as of the season following their selection; 1990 for the 1990 rankings, etc.), and rank on Baseball America's list.

Year Player Position Age BA Rank
1990 Greg Vaughn OF 24 09
Narciso Elvira LHP 22 23
1991 Narciso Elvira LHP 23 76
Angel Miranda LHP 21 81
1992 Tyrone Hill LHP 20 20
Dave Nilsson C 22 29
Duane Singleton OF 19 69
Cal Eldred RHP 24 85
1993 Tyrone Hill LHP 21 10
1994 Tyrone Hill LHP 22 54
Jeff D'Amico RHP 18 95
1995 Antone Williamson 3B 21 64
1996 Jeff D'Amico RHP 19 25
Geoff Jenkins OF 21 49
Antone Williamson 3B 22 81
1997 Valerio de los Santos LHP 24 52
Geoff Jenkins OF 22 78
Chad Green OF 22 99
1998 Valerio de los Santos LHP 25 89
Geoff Jenkins OF 23 95
1999 Ronnie Belliard 2B 24 49
2000 Ben Sheets RHP 21 65
2001 Ben Sheets RHP 22 05
Nick Neugebauer RHP 20 83
2002 Nick Neugebauer RHP 21 17
Mike Jones RHP 19 84
2003 Brad Nelson 1B 20 23
Mike Jones RHP 20 56
Prince Fielder 1B 19 78
Ben Hendrickson RHP 22 90
Corey Hart 3B/1B 21 91
2004 Rickie Weeks 2B 22 05
Prince Fielder 1B 20 10
J.J. Hardy SS 22 19
Brad Nelson OF/1B 21 48
Manny Parra LHP 21 69
Mike Jones RHP 21 84
2005 Rickie Weeks 2B 23 08
Prince Fielder 1B 21 15
Jose Capellan RHP 24 25
J.J. Hardy SS 23 28
Mark Rogers RHP 19 55

Broken down by position, the Brewers have been represented by right-handed pitchers thirteen times, by left-handed pitchers nine times, by outfielders seven times, by first-basemen four times, by second-basemen and third-basemen three times each, by shortstops twice, and by a catcher once.


Thirteen players have appeared on multiple lists, four of whom have made three appearances each. The following table lists each player that has appeared on more than one ranking along with their number of appearances, peak rank, and average rank.

Player App. Peak Rank Avg. Rank
Tyrone Hill 3 10 28
Prince Fielder 3 10 34
Geoff Jenkins 3 49 74
Mike Jones 3 56 75
Rickie Weeks 2 05 07
J.J. Hardy 2 19 24
Ben Sheets 2 05 35
Brad Nelson 2 23 36
Narciso Elvira 2 23 50
Nick Neugebauer 2 17 50
Jeff D'Amico 2 25 60
Antone Williamson 2 54 68
Valerio de los Santos 2 52 71

Of those thirteen, five are still eligible to appear on additional lists and, barring an extended stint in Milwaukee during the 2005 season, Prince Fielder is primed to set the new franchise record in appearances in 2006.


Brewers have appeared in the top ten six times including three times in the past two seasons. Ben Sheets and Rickie Weeks are tied for the highest peak ranking; they were named the number five prospect in baseball in 2001 and 2004, respectively.

Player Year Rank
Ben Sheets 2001 05
Rickie Weeks 2004 05
Rickie Weeks 2005 08
Greg Vaughn 1990 09
Tyrone Hill 1993 10
Prince Fielder 2004 10

In the second part of this retrospective, the Brewers on each Baseball America Top 100 will be briefly profiled and their respective contributions at the big league level will be evaluated. This duo of features kicks-off what will become an ongoing series at the Daily Brew revisiting the club's prospects and their history, especially those players who never made the Show or who did but have since been largely forgotten.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

2005 Off-Season Contracts

Reading the Fine Print
by Studes
March 07, 2005

Call it morbid curiosity if you like, but I tried to keep track of all the contracts that were signed this offseason. Like a motorist slowing down to take in an accident, I couldn't help entering each dollar promised into my Excel spreadsheet just to see exactly what happened. I know I missed some deals, but I did my level best to capture every major league free agent and arbitration-eligible contract signed during the winter, and here's what my totals look like (through the middle of last week):

• 305 deals worth $1.85 billion in all (not including option years), $700 million payable in 2005.
• 157 free agents (including Kendry Morales and a few other newbies) and 148 arbitration-eligible players.
• 62 contracts with option years (that's 20% of all contracts).

The big spenders were the New York Mets, who committed to $205 million, followed by the Dodgers ($181 million), Mariners ($126 million), Red Sox ($121 million) and Tigers ($101 million). The Dodgers signed 15 contracts, more than any other team. And the White Sox love those option years, having signed up for six of them -- four in 2007 alone (Hmm, Aaron Rowand or Jermaine Dye or Tadahito Iguchi or Dustin Hermanson?).

At the other end of the spectrum, the Kansas City Royals signed just three major league contracts this offseason, for a total commitment of $3.8 million. That's not very much money -- the next lowest dollar figure was the Padres' $13 million. Said another way, the Mets signed Carlos Beltran for 31 times as much money as the Royals signed altogether.

Well, that's the big picture. Here are some of the more interesting figures, angles and clauses:

Big Bucks and Long Terms

The two biggest contracts were Carlos Beltran's, at $119 million, and Magglio Ordonez's, at $75 million. I believe that Beltran's contract is the fifth-largest free agent contract in baseball history.

But Ordonez also signed the only contract of the offseason that included two (not one, but two) option years. The 2010 option is for $18 million, and the 2011 option is for $15 million, which brings the total contractual value to $105 million if you subtract the $3 million buyout. And these options automatically kick in if Ordonez plays at least 135 games in the previous year. If you include the option years, Ordonez's contract ties for the sixth-largest free agent deal of all time.

The other offseason contracts don't compare to those two. Adrian Beltre's deal is next at $64 million, followed by J.D. Drew at $55 million. Neither deal includes an option year. Poor guys.

Beltran's is the only contract that extends seven years, to 2011, and Ordonez's is the only one that has an option for 2011. There were no six-year deals (including option years) but Drew, Ordonez and Beltre signed for five, and twelve players signed four-year deals. Most of these deals were with players who have been in the majors for six or seven years; in other words, relatively young guys. The only exceptions were Pedro (12 years of major league service) and Delgado (10 years).

The last seven-year free-agent deal was Jason Giambi's in 2001. No comment.

I'll Gladly Pay You Tuesday for a Hamburger Today

The Mets also deferred a significant part of Beltran's salary. They will pay his $11 million bonus in annual installments and $22 million of his 2008-2011 salary will be deferred through a specific payment schedule that pays 1.7175% interest (wonder how they came up with that figure?) from 2012 through 2018. Basically, Beltran will be paid 14 years for playing seven.

So the Mets win the award for agreeing to pay the longest string of cash (call it the Bonilla Prize). But they also effectively knocked down the value of the contract by delaying payments at low interest rates. The Beltran deal is still more expensive deal than the Ordonez deal, but the stretched payments make it only about $5 million or $6 million more expensive than Ordonez's. The biggest story of the offseason was how Scott Boras managed to get Magglio Ordonez a contract in the same league as Beltran's.

The Mets reaped the present value of money in the Pedro deal as well, spreading his bonus over several years and deferring part of his salary out to 2018. Pedro's money is being deferred at 5% interest a year, which won't be a particularly low rate unless Paul Volcker succeeds Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve. But they'll probably make more than 5% on their investments in the meantime.

Several players, such as Omar Vizquel and Armando Benitez, will have their signing bonuses paid over several years. And several other players will have part of their salaries deferred. But no team went for the installment plan like those Mets.

Puts and Calls

Options, like playing time bonuses, are very popular. As I mentioned, 20% of all contracts included option years, worth a total of $249 million. If you include the value of these option years, the total value of offseason contracts was well over $2 billion.

What's more, indications are that only about half of the options are completely in the club's hands. The other half of the options are either up to the player, have some measure of "vesting" to them, or could be rejected by the player. I already mentioned Ordonez's option years, but Woody Williams, for example, has an option for 2006 that vests if he starts at least fifteen games in 2005. This sort of option is pretty common; it ensures that a player doesn't get the option year unless he stays healthy and contributes enough to play a significant amount of time.

Moises Alou has a $6 million option that is his to call, not the club's (technically, I think that makes it a "put" instead of a call -- but who wants to get technical?). Todd Walker's contract combines the two ideas -- if he accumulates at least 525 plate appearances in 2005, his 2006 option becomes his instead of the Cubs'. Several players have contracts in which the value of the option year salary will increase if he reaches certain milestones. Several other players can decline the club's option exercise if they feel they can make more in the market. And J.D. Drew can just walk away from his deal after two years if he wants to.

The Dodgers and Eric Gagne added an option year to their two-year deal, but both sides have to exercise it. In other words, they both have to feel it's in their best interests in order for the option year to occur. I'm not sure what either party gets out of a deal like that, but my major complaint is that mutual options are hard to track in my spreadsheet.

Peter Seitz's Legacy

I tend to focus on free agent contracts, but contracts with arbitration-eligible players (players who have played between three and six years) are fascinating, too. Only 14% of arbitration-year contracts were for multiple years, whereas 40% of free agent contracts were multiyear deals. And only 14% of contracts for arbitration-eligible players included option years, vs. 27% for free agents. But the average dollar value of both types of contracts for 2005 were virtually equal: $2.2 million for arbitration-eligible players and $2.4 million for free agents.

This makes some sense, because if ballclubs feel that the arbitration process will overvalue a player, they might non-tender him and effectively make him a free agent. This is what the Dodgers did with Alex Cora, for instance. Cora will make $1.3 million for the Indians next year (though his contract does call for extensive playing time bonuses) but he almost certainly would have made over $2 million with the Dodgers due to the vagaries of the arbitration process. He was less expensive as a free agent than he would have been in arbitration.

Arbitration automatically increases a player's salary each year, as we discussed a few articles ago. When you add in the fact that the maximum salary decrease allowed is 20%, you can see that it might behoove clubs to sign three-year players to long-term deals, effectively locking in their salary through the arbitration years.

Those years spent on the cusp of free agency also make for some interesting contract strategies. Michael Barrett, for instance, would have been eligible for free agency at the end of the 2005 season, but the Cubs wrapped him up to a three-year deal. Several clubs also signed deals with players that include an option for the first year the player is eligible for free agency. These include the Cardinals' deal with Ray King, Texas's deal with Ron Mahay, the White Sox and Uribe, the Yankees and Sturtze, the Twins and Romero and LA's deal with Izturis.

Presumably, the negotiating scenario for these deals is that the player asks for a long-term contract, and the team insists on an option on the first free agency year in return. This seems like a good deal for both sides to me.

And the Winner is?

The most aggressive team this offseason in managing their arbitration-eligible players was Minnesota. Including last Friday's Nathan and Rincon contracts, they have signed virtually their entire bullpen to deals that will lock in their salaries until each player reaches free agency. And in the cases of Johan Santana and J.C. Romero, the contracts extend into their first year or two of free agency. Take a look at all the Twins' most significant deals:

• Free agent Brad Radke for two years at $9 million each.
• Santana for four years, including the first two years of his free agency, at $10 million a year.
• J.C. Romero for two years at $1.8 million a year, plus an option for his first year of free agency.
• Nathan for the next two years, plus an option year that covers all of his arbitration years (financial details not yet available).
• Same with Carlos Silva (at $2.5 million a year).

True, they lost their arbitration case to Kyle Lohse, and they sure would like to unload Jacques Jones, but those are the only blemishes on a fine offseason for the Twins. In a year that saw the return of hyper-salary inflation, it seems to me that the Twins had the best contractual offseason of any major league team by focusing on their fine, young, arbitration-eligible talent.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Gotta Love Government Housing

So I went to the grocery store this evening after my Tar Heels made a made comeback in the final minutes against Duke. I come back and get a prime, VIP parking spot next to the apartment building for a change. I bring a load up, and then came back to get the rest. And to my amazement, I see 3 little H-mongs, no older than 8 I'd say, rumaging through my groceries in my car like they haven't seen food in weeks! I wasn't even gone for more than a minute! They had everything all torn out of the bags and strew all over my back seat. It looked like the aftermath of a pack of raccoons at a camp site. One of those little shits managed to run off with a bag of french fries...