The Angels' Garret Anderson yesterday signed a four-year, $48 M contract extension (with an option for a fifth) that will probably keep him an Anaheimian (Anaheimer? Anaheimite?) for the rest of his career.
Evidently, however, Anderson is already catching some flak for signing below the market value:
"If I'm below market with what I'm being paid, then I'm below market," he said. "If somebody gets mad and says I'm underpaid, well, that's debatable anyway."
Twelve million dollars ($9 M base plus $3 M bonus for 2005) may seem like chicken feed to some, but consider that it would tie him for 13th in the AL in 2004 (with Curt Schilling—according to Doug Pappas' data) and would practically double his current salary. By the way, here are the top 13:
Park, Chan Ho
Yeah, there are a couple of bad signings in there (well, Park). But it Anderson's salary seems to be in line with reality.
I have to admit that Anderson is one of those players that still completely baffle me. I never thought much of him until the championship season. Actually, there were a couple of years (1996-97) in which I thought he played barely above replacement level for a corner outfielder (he had a park-adjusted OPS 18% worse than average in 1996 and 7% worse in 1997). He had perhaps the emptiest 35-HR season this side of Rob Deer in 2000 (actually Deer never hit more than 33 and that season was a bit better than GA's 2000). For a player with a .286 average, Anderson could only muster a .307 on-base average (24 walks), 45 point below the park-adjusted average, grounded into 21 double plays, and was caught stealing 6 times in 13 attempts. He has always been a superior defensive left fielder but that in and of itself is enigmatic to me.
He finally recorded an above average adjusted OPS and OBP for a full season in 2002 (OPS+ 30% better than average) at age 30. He continued his renaissance last year (OPS+ 37% better than average).
He will be 32 when this contract starts (and 33 by the end of its first season). I can't imagine that he will be performing at his current level certainly when the contract ends (age 36). Given his age, he may be back to the league average when the contract kicks in.
I just don't think Anderson's last two years will outweigh his previous seven as he ages. I just think that the guy has such holes in his game even now (the walks, baserunning, and GIDP) that he can't keep it up at his current level. Consider the following. I made a list of all batters who recorded at least one thousand at-bats from 1995 through 2003. I totaled their outs (AB – H + SF + SH + GIDP) and plate appearances and then ranked the players by their outs-to-plate appearance ratio. Of the 495 players, Anderson is tied for 322nd with Kevin Young (4012 outs in 5758 PA for a .6968 ratio). Just to give you an idea of who excels given this criterion, here are the top 15:
Those are come pretty good ballplayers. The five guys on either side of Anderson are: Glenallen Hill, Lee Stevens, Tony Womack, Keith Lockhart, Kevin Young, Homer Bush, Placido Polanco, Jeff Reboulet, Darren Lewis, and Geoff Blum. In whose company would you rather be?
Then I thought this evaluation of Anderson might be a bit harsh. After all we know that he creates a lot of outs but he does get plenty of hits, at least 180 a game for the last seven seasons. So I reworked the data to compare the outs-to-plate appearance ratio to batting average. The lower the ratio the better. This time the top players contained a lot more singles hitters (e.g., Gwynn and Ichiro). Here's the top 15:
Garret Anderson moved up to 116th, right behind Bip Roberts but ahead of Todd Walker. I'm still not impressed.
OK, well Anderson hits for power too. What if we do the same replacing batting average with slugging percentage? To quote Ben Vereen, "Tell 'em Ben Vereen sent you... 'Cause I did." Here is the top 15:
Mr. Anderson is 131st behind Shannon Stewart but ahead of Eric Hinske.
I just can't get around the fact that this guy wastes a tremendous number of outs. He may have produced given that constraint over the last couple of years, but I'm still not sold. He may be this millennium's answer to Mike Easler or he may be a 2-3 year flash in the pan. Given his age and his past, I wouldn't be prepared to pay $48 million to find out, whether or not it's under market value.