Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Heath Bell is a cool guy...

But he's probably overpaid.
(Yeah, you.)

My dad and I started off the afternoon by sitting in the row behind the Marlin's bullpen. It was clear that certain guys had been told well in advance, that they weren't going to get into the game. They then took to sitting on the fence and chatting it up with the fans.

Heath Bell, Miami's new closer, took it a step further with the help of the equipment manager.

At one point my dad said he knew he was a good catcher but wondered if he was any good as a pitcher.

Bell shook his head, no.

Along with hamming it up, he was also the guy appointed to toss foul balls to the cutest kids in the stands. All and all, a fun dude to sit near.

But as I said, I suspect he's being overpaid.

So is the guy up to the plate in this picture, Yadier Molina.

Here's how the deals shake out:

2012: Bell, age 34, $6m
2013: Bell, age 35, $9m
2014: Bell, age 36, $9m
2015: Bell, age 37, $9m (conditional)

2012: Molina, age 29, $7m
2013: Molina, age 30, $14m
2014: Molina, age 31, $15m
2015: Molina, age 32, $15m
2016: Molina, age 33, $14m
2017: Molina, age 34, $14m
2018: Molina, age 35, $15m (team option)

Bell's contract doesn't put the Marlins in a terrible place for very long; it's just not an appropriate dollar amount for what the guy actually does. As a closer, he'll pitch about 60 to 90 innings. Actually, in Bell's case, he's only ever pitched more than 90 innings once, and only two other times has he pitched more than 70. So, I'm eyeballing it here, but I'm going to say he's worth maybe 1.5 to 3 WAR a season, if nothing about his performance changes. So that's maybe around 6 or 7 WAR for the first $24m if everything goes right and he doesn't become bad on account of being in his mid 30s and overweight (I can attest as a first person witness: dude is a fatty). I don't know. A premiere player who can net 6 or 7 WAR in a single season might be able to convince someone to pay him over $20m as an annual salary. It's happened. But finding a Joel Hanrahan is much easier than a Jose Bautista. Closers come out of the woodwork all the time; elite hitters don't.

As far as Molina's contract... oooof.

Cardinal fans have a really big woody for this guy, and love to say "I think he's actually underrated! Just take a look at his defense."

Okay, easy enough. We just pull up his dWAR, which tells us he's an absolute stud behind the plate. The stats confirm what every analyst says: Yadi Molina is a terrific defensive catcher. But that's all he is, and really, defense only goes so far. Winning 1.5 games more than a replacement catcher solely on defense is not worth $15m.

Also, let's think about this nonsense: he's in his prime now, and the next three years will be decline time, followed by three or four years of hitting the wall time. Being a catcher is really tough work, and erodes away the skills of even the best dudes.

I like Yadi, I think he's very good at what he does. And after yesterday, I like Heath Bell. They're both beyond solid. But neither is getting any better at their jobs. They're just getting paid like it.

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