Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports.

Blue Jays & Colby Rasmus: To Extend or Not to Extend

So, the New York Yankees keep throwing money around. They  have so much that it makes you wonder if they just print their own. Their latest “splash of cash” was on extending LF Brett Gardner. According to ESPN, Gardner’s contract is as follows: four-years worth $50 million, with a club option for a fifth year. A $2 million buyout clause if the Yankees decide not to exercise the option brings the total value of the deal to $52 million. Gardner does not have a no-trade clause, but the Yankees are obligated to pay him an additional bonus of $1 million in the event they do trade him. The Yankees also brought on a center fielder named Jacoby Ellsbury for 7 years and $153 million. The Texas Rangers just paid $130 million for 7 years of Shin-Soo Choo. Also, in 2012, Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles signed a 7 year/ $91.65 million deal.

The Toronto Blue Jays may find themselves having to make a potentially expensive decision on their own outfielder- Colby Rasmus. Rasmus is set to hit the open market at the end of the 2014 season. In light of the recent cost of talented and comparable players, let’s see if we can figure out what Colby might cost the Jays. (All info via Baseball-Reference.com). These charts are just a small sample of the myriad of data available on any player. That is not even taking into account the various ways of measuring data, etc. depending on who is measuring. But, it does give the average fan an idea of how players stack up to each other.

Colby Rasmus compared to this year’s signings:

Colby Rasmus

Brett Gardner

4 yr/$52m

Shin-Soo Choo

7yr/$130m

Jacoby Ellsbury

7yr/$153m

Adam Jones (signed in 2012)

7yr/$91.65m

Age

27

30

31

30

28

Avg/OBP/SLG

Career:

.248/.317/.436

Career:

.268/.352/.381

Career:

.288/.389/.465

Career:

.297/.350/.439

Career:

.279/.322/.460

HR/RBI

162 gm avg:

23/73

162 gm avg:

6/46

162 gm avg: 20/81

162 gm avg:

15/71

162 gm avg:

24/82

BB %

Career avg:

8.8%

Career avg:

10.3%

Career avg:

12.2%

Career avg:

6.9%

Career avg:

4.6%

SO %

Career avg:

24.2%

Career avg:

17.9%

Career avg:

20.9%

Career avg:

12.8%

Career avg:

19.4%

HR %

Career avg:

3.7%

Career avg:

1.0%

Career avg:

2.8%

Career avg:

2.0%

Career avg:

3.7%

SB/SB%

Career avg:

5.8 SB/62%

Career avg:

26.83 SB/81%

Career avg:

12.2 SB/73%

Career avg:

34.43 SB/84%

Career avg:

9.25 SB/71%

oWAR

(offensive wins above replacement)

Career avg:

2.16 oWAR

Career avg:

1.73 oWAR

Career avg:

3.01 oWAR

Career avg:

2.57 oWAR

Career avg:

2.6 oWAR

*increasing every year

dWAR

(defensive wins above replacement)

Career avg:

.58 dWAR

Career avg:

1.42 dWAR

Career avg:

-0.45 dWAR

Career avg:

.59 dWAR

Career avg:

.09 dWAR

 

Rasmus is an interesting fit in this group of “elite” outfielders. He has a lower career average. He is in the middle of the pack in walk percentage and strikes out most often. He has the same homerun percentage as Adam Jones, which leads the pack. Apparently, Rasmus is the worst least effective base stealer of the group. His oWAR is better than Gardner but well below the higher paid members of this study. Yet, his dWAR is almost identical to Ellsbury who is the highest paid. As well, it is important to remember that Rasmus doesn’t have the history of injuries of Gardner and certainly not that of Ellsbury.

Based on this, Colby Rasmus could command a salary that is somewhere in the middle of all of these. Realistically speaking, he’ll end up somewhere around the Adam Jones deal. But, considering he is making $7 million for this season, Garnder’s deal doesn’t seem like it would be that bad…for the Jays. Rasmus will undoubtedly be seeking more. And, he’ll more than likely get it. If not with Toronto, then somewhere else. Alex Anthopoulos might want to listen carefully to Rasmus, considering how desperate the Jays may actually be. More on that later.

The list of potential free agents for the end of the 2014 season looks very promising if you are Colby Rasmus. Colby finds himself in a large group of 30+ year olds. At 28, he’ll be the youngest. That in and of itself will help bump up his dollar amount. I’ve whittled the list down to those who may provide the most competition for Rasmus in the free agent market. My choices are not exhaustive, but they do represent the bigger and more comparable names. So, let’s take a look.

Colby Rasmus vs comparable potential free agents at end of 2014 season: (list of potential free agents from MLBTR)

2013 Salary

Colby Rasmus

$7m

Chris Young

$7.25m

Nelson Cruz

$8m

Melky Cabrera

$8m

Nick Markakis

$17.5m

Age

27

30

33

29

30

Avg/OBP/SLG

Career:

.248/.317/.436

Career:

.235/.315/.431

Career:

.268/.327/.495

Career:

.284/.337/.409

Career:

.292/.360/.441

HR/RBI

162 gm avg:

23/73

162 gm avg:

24/73

162 gm avg:

32/99

162 gm avg:

11/68

162 gm avg:

17/81

BB %

Career avg:

8.8%

Career avg:

10.0%

Career avg:

7.9%

Career avg:

7.3%

Career avg:

9.3%

SO %

Career avg:

24.2%

Career avg:

22.9%

Career avg:

22.3%

Career avg:

12.1%

Career avg:

13.1%

HR %

Career avg:

3.7%

Career avg:

3.6%

Career avg:

4.9%

Career avg:

1.7%

Career avg:

2.4%

SB/SB%

Career avg:

5.8 SB/62%

Career avg:

15.25 SB/76%

Career avg:

7.2 SB/74%

Career avg:

9.6 SB/73%

Career avg:

7.1 SB/71%

oWAR

(offensice wins above replacement)

Career avg:

2.16 oWAR

Career avg:

1.36 oWAR

Career avg:

1.42 oWAR

Career avg:

1.64 oWAR

Career avg:

2.84 oWAR

dWAR

(defensive wins above replacement)

Career avg:

.58 dWAR

Career avg:

.61 dWAR

Career avg:

-0.53 dWAR

Career avg:

-0.2 dWAR

Career avg:

-0.53 dWAR

 

So, there you have it. Rasmus comes out looking pretty good when compared to these numbers. Again, his average is not stellar, but his power numbers are near tops. He still strikes out more than most, but his walk percentage is fair. We already knew about his base running, so that is not a surprise. But, what stands out to me are his WAR numbers.

A case can be made that he would headline this class of free agents, if for no other reason than he is a lot younger than the others. If I am the GM of the Jays, I would be talking to his agents rather hurriedly to lock up Colby Rasmus. Since he is the best of what there is, there will be other teams entering the fray to sign him over next winter. I guess the good news for the Blue Jays is: the Yankees aren’t likely to enter the conversation. We all know how AA feels about bidding wars. So, the prudent thing would be to lock him up now.  What if that dreaded contract year effect hits? The free agent frenzy around Rasmus coming off a career year would be insane.

So, what would it take? If I were Colby Rasmus, I’d be super excited about testing the free agent market. And, I’d be shooting for way more than Gardner. I’d be starting with 7 yrs/ $115m. That breaks down to an AAV of just north of $14m per year. Considering qualifying offers this past winter ($14.1m), that may actually be conservative.  On the pay scale, this would put him below Ellsbury and Choo but above Jones and Gardner. Sounds fair. Except…

If I’m Toronto, I’d be shooting for a dollar amount closer to Adam Jones’. Being that Colby Rasmus would be entering his prime years (28-33), if AA is going to stick to his 5 year policy guideline, the dollar amount will have to be even higher. Since the Blue Jays do not (yet) give 7 year contracts, a 5 year contract would have to have an AAV of roughly $20m. That does not seem likely. Rasmus is not the best CF and should not be paid like he is. He certainly won’t command a monster $30m/yr contract like Mike Trout.

But, with contracts coming off the books soon (Mark Buerhle, Cabrera, etc.) and no real heavy commitments beyond the next season or two, the Blue Jays could afford a higher price tag. Consider this: Rasmus may not be the best CF in baseball, but he will certainly be the best available next offseason. Another point to consider is that the Blue Jays can also push the idea that with a 5 year deal, at age 33, Rasmus can set himself up for one last pay day. I wouldn’t take that gamble if I’m Rasmus, but…AA could make that argument. Regardless, AA will be paying for Colby Rasmus’ prime years. That won’t come cheap.

But, let’s say the Blue Jays do not sign Rasmus to an extension this season. He leaves. Melky Cabrera probably won’t be back either. The Melk Man would have to put up a monster season in order to prove his $8m worth, let alone another contract. Granted, he is healthy this year. Having said that, do we want the future of the club resting on Anthony Gose in CF? Do we want 2/3 of the outfield manned by Gose, Moises Sierra and/or Kevin Pillar?

Just for the simple fact that what we’d be left with without Colby Rasmus is unbearable, AA needs to lock him up NOW. Given the approach Anthopoulos has taken thus far, he may be inclined to take a wait and see approach. He may not feel such urgency. After all, behind Gose et al, we have D.J. Davis on his way up (assuming all goes well). So, there are other options. The problem lies in the fact that those players are NOT Colby Rasmus in his prime.

Fans will get a very clear indication as to what Anthopoulos’ plan for the future of this club is. Locking up Rasmus shows that they are interested in winning now and the near future. Letting him walk means we are in for a long wait.

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