added 12/2/2005 by Scott Barzilla
Since we are not concerned with replacing our third basemen, there is no need to look at the third basemen on the market. Instead, we will look at the decision facing the Astros this winter on Morgan Ensberg. Ensberg is arbitration eligible, so the question is whether to lock him up long-term or agree to a one year deal. As we did with the second basemen, we will use Bill James win shares model because it's nice and neat and incorporates both offense and fielding. Like with second basemen, we will only look at third basemen that have been regulars the last three seasons.
2003 2004 2005 Total Salary Alex Rodriguez 32 29 34 95 25.2 Scott Rolen 25 35 5 65 10.7 Eric Chavez 25 18 20 63 8.5 Chipper Jones 26 18 18 62 16.0 Adrian Beltre 15 33 13 61 11.4 Melvin Mora 16 24 20 60 3.8 Aramis Ramirez 19 19 18 56 8.3 Hank Blalock 17 24 14 55 0.9 Bill Mueller 23 12 19 54 2.5 Morgan Ensberg 15 11 27 53 --- Mike Lowell 23 22 8 53 7.5 Joe Randa 14 13 15 42 2.2 Edgardo Alfonzo 17 15 9 41 7.5 Troy Glaus 9 8 23 40 9.0 Corey Koskie 21 13 6 40 3.5 Casey Blake 11 17 9 37 2.5 Joe Crede 13 8 15 36 0.4 Vinny Castilla 14 12 10 36 3.0 Brandon Inge 5 13 17 35 1.4 David Bell 5 20 9 34 4.7
I don't know Morgan Ensberg's agent, but I can guess that there are several directions he can go in the negotiations. The key will be in how these negotiations are framed. There are two key issues that will be debated between the Astros and Ensberg's agent. We'll spend the rest of our time looking at these issues and which side the Astros should fall on.
Short Term vs. Long Term
As you can tell, I've already given away my feeling on the issue. One of the core beliefs in sabermetrics is that we can predict the future because after players get established they usually fall within a fairly tight range given a large enough amount of numbers. It's a lot like political pollsters that want to find out how people feel on a particular issue. If you ask ten people you can have some idea, but if you ask 1000 people randomly you will have a great handle on what people think. If you ask me to base an opinion on one season I can give it my best, but if you ask me to base it on three, five, or seven seasons I am usually a lot more confident.
If you were Morgan Ensberg's agent you would definitely be playing up his 2005 performance, but if you're the Astros you have to ask yourself if 2005 is the exception or the rule. This will be the biggest key when determining whether Ensberg gets the one year deal or multi-year deal. If Ensberg and his agent are confident he can repeat his performance then they will demand more money and likely settle for a one year contract. Yet, if the Astros are also confident of that, they may end up capitulating. Let's see what kind of money we're talking about.
2005 Salary Alex Rodriguez 34 25.2 Morgan Ensberg 27 ---- Troy Glaus 23 9.0 Eric Chavez 20 8.5 Melvin Mora 20 3.8
Ensberg's agent would be well within his rights to argue that Ensberg should be considered with these folks. The average among the four (excluding Ensberg) is 24 win shares, so Ensberg could fall back some and still be within this group. Now, only Scott Boras would ask for the average salary among these four players (11.63 million), but the median salary (8.75 million) would be perfectly reasonable from his point of view.
This is where the frame of mind of Ensberg's agent comes into play. The Astros will not give Ensberg a multi-year contract at that rate. It simply doesn't make sense for them to do that. So, if Ensberg's agent wants a multi-year contract he shouldn't submit eight or nine million as his one year arbitration number. He certainly would have a better than average chance to get that amount on a one-year contract, but he would have very little chance of agreeing to a multi-year deal. So, the submission Ensberg's agent makes will drive these negotiations.
Will the real Ensberg please stand up?
From the Astros end, you want to ask yourself which Ensberg you think you're going to get. If you think you're going to get the 2005 Ensberg you want to ink him up to a three-year deal. If you think he's going to fall back you want to go ahead and give him the one year deal. If he has another 10-15 win share season they can definitely argue that he is really that player.
So, the last question is whether he should get the mean salary (since he falls in the middle on the three year average) or the median salary. Ensberg's agent would be a fool to ask for the 11.63 million, but the 6.8 million dollar mean seems to be pretty reasonable from his point of view. Yet, the Astros would definitely prefer the 4.8 million dollar median. In the end, the contract will probably fall somewhere in that range (5-7 million for one season, 15 million to 21 million over three years).