Projecting aging Yankees stars (cont.)
Remaining Contract: 2 years, $33M
2012 Projection: 13-10, 4.25 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 2.00 K/BB
2013 Projection: 12-11, 4.42 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 1.80 K/BB
No one really knows what to expect from Burnett next month, never mind two years from now. The Yankees clearly overpaid for him, hoping he could perform up to the quality of his stuff. Now they're just hoping he can perform up to his previous levels following a disastrous 2010 season that ranked among the worst full seasons by a Yankee starting pitcher in history. Burnett has impressed in one way since joining the Yankees in 2009: staying healthy. Prior to 2009, Burnett had made 30 starts in a season just twice, the second time coming in 2008. He has now made at least 33 starts in each of the last three years. However, over the course of those three seasons, and nine starts into this one, he has been no better than a league average pitcher, and a frustratingly inconsistent one at that. His strikeout rate has declined in each of the last three seasons, and the only categories he has led the league in as a Yankee have been walks, wild pitches, and hit batsmen. The above projections are somewhat generously drawn from his composite line with New York (4.54 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 1.97 K/BB, 27-27 record), which is weighed down by that miserable 2010 season.
Comparable Player: Randy Wolf
Remaining Contract: 5 years, $112.5M
2012 Projection: .285/.377/.535, 35 HRs, 115 RBIs
2013 Projection: .272/.375/.521, 38 HRs, 123 RBIs
Teixeira's contract is large in terms of years and dollars, but he will be younger than Jeter and just a year older that Rodriguez in its final season and seems a solid bet to retain enough value to bear it out as a solid investment despite suffering through a down year last year at age 30. PECOTA's Upside projections suggest that Teixeira could remain a four-win player (roughly his value in 2010) for the next four years and could still be worth three wins in his age-36 season in 2016, the final year of his deal.
Though PECOTA no longer publishes full projections for future seasons, I made a note of one when the Yankees signed Teixeira after the 2008 season. Prior to that year, PECOTA projected that Teixeira would hit .284/.384/.502 in his age-34 season in 2014. Teixeira then beat his PECOTA projection for 2008. Most of Teixeira's comparable players (Carlos Delgado, Jeff Bagwell, Will Clark, Jim Thome, Fred McGriff, Paul Konerko, Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez) remained productive into their mid-30s. Teixeira is among the more athletic and accomplished fielders on that list, which both bodes well for a slow decline, and adds an extra dimension to his value.
The slash stats in the 2012 projection above are his career marks. The slash stats in the 2013 projection above are his rates as a Yankee. Neither makes any corrections for his 2011, which is perhaps unfair given that he's a notorious slow starter, or his weak and somewhat injury-plagued 2010 season. Don't be surprised if he surpasses those projections, at least with regard to the rate stats.
Comparable Player: Will Clark
Remaining Contract: 4 years, $92M
2012 Projection: 18-9, 3.25 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.75 K/BB
2013 Projection: 20-8, 3.13 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.95 K/BB
Sabathia is a curious case because the contract he has now, though it has four years left on it, may not be the contract he has next April. That's because he has the opportunity to opt out of his current deal this winter. Sabathia has said repeatedly that he won't opt-out, but his language has softened on that subject this season, and speculation abounds that he and his agents (Greg Genske and Scott Parker at Legacy Sports) will use the opt-out clause to leverage the Yankees into adding years and money to the current deal, perhaps to bring it in line with the five-year, $120 million contract the Phillies gave Sabathia's good friend and former Indians rotation-mate Cliff Lee, which is guaranteed through Lee's age-36 season with an option for his age-37 season.
As for the contract Sabathia has, it looks awfully good from here. The only pitchers to rank in the top 10 in the American League in Baseball Prospectus's win-expectancy-based SNLVAR (Support Neutral Lineup-adjusted Value Above Replacement) in each of the last two seasons, Sabathia's first two under his current deal, are Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Jon Lester, Jered Weaver, and Sabathia. Sabathia may be the oldest of that quintet, but not by much, and he has largely silenced the early-career concerns about his weight and more-recent concerns about his innings spikes in 2007 and 2008.
Still, one does worry -- not about Sabathia's arm, but about his knees (he had a minor surgery to repair the meniscus in the right one this past October and had the same surgery on the same knee four years earlier) and his back. Those areas are the parts that typically wear abnormally tall or heavy pitchers, and Sabathia is both. The biggest problem (no pun intended) with projecting Sabathia is that the list of 6-foot-7, 300 pound aces includes just one name: his.
From here, Sabathia looks like a unique pitcher, one who should maintain his ace status at least through the end of his current contract (his projections above are just variations on his first two Yankee seasons), and could well be the major league's next 300-game winner (he has averaged 19 wins over the last four seasons and already has 160 in his career at age 30). However, there is a distinct possibility that his body won't hold up that long, and that any additional years the Yankees add to his current contract will be ones they will regret.
Comparable Player: Don Drysdale