Trades, like good alcohol, need time to age. You can turn mash into moonshine to make a quick buck, or you can age it and triple your profits – at least that is what Tyler and Chico learned me on the latest episode of Moonshiners. Nearly two years ago to the day, the Rays acquired Logan Forsythe, along with Matt Andriese, Brad Boxberger, Matt Lollis and Maxx Tissenbaum while giving up Alex Torres and Jesse Hahn. In short, the quantity type of deal we’ve come to expect from the club as they acquire a handful of assets and hope that a few of them hit their projections.
This time last offseason, the early returns on the deal certainly favored the Padres as they were able to take an effective but limited year of Hahn and turn him into Derek Norris but Forsythe struggled the entire season to make the hard contact the team acquired him for. Fast forward a year. While Norris has become one of the better catchers in the league, Forsythe had one of the quietest four-win seasons in baseball and the Rays rewarded him for his efforts with a new deal that buys out his final two years of arbitration as well as an option to delay his free agent status by a season.
One would imagine that the club is able to point to its perfect 6-0 record in arbitration cases to convince players they have that particular process down pat which makes negotiating the buyout of the arbitration years in these kind of deals rather easy. The dollars Forsythe would have ended up with via the arbitration process each of the next two seasons might have looked slightly different than the year-to-year dollars in the new deal, but the sum of those years would have been the same.
The challenge in these pre-agency deals is convincing a player to delay his entry into free agency by a year, especially during an offseason when a 67-year old Chase Utley is getting $7.5M in a one-year deal with the Dodgers. The Rays were able to buy an extra year with Forsythe for $8.5M is a bargain in and of itself when you consider Murphy’s deal has a AAV of $12.5M and Zobrist checks in even higher at $14M. The first year of Murphy’s deal is at $8M while Zobrist makes $10M this season. Two seasons from now, that first year for Forsythe would have likely been higher factoring in the rising costs of contracts and how he is tracking.
Using Hanselman’s Surplus Calculator (patent pending), Forsythe’s deal will still be profitable for the team even if the first-year baseline is a 2.0 WAR season as is projected by Steamer:
The rules and procedures of arbitration rarely allow a good player to be paid what they are truly worth, so the give and take in these talks is giving the player a fair price in the year he does control during the negotiation process. In this case, the Rays could still turn a profit on Forsythe if they exercise the team option in the third year.
If we side with the Fans projections and up the first year to a 3.0 WAR season for Forsythe, the surplus is further realized.
Forsythe would have to follow the unfortunate path blazed by Jeff Keppinger for this deal not to work out well for the club. Keppinger had a surprise 2.7 WAR season for the Rays in 2012 and turned that into a three-year deal for $12M with the White Sox but was cut shortly into the second season of that deal. Forsythe’s balls in play rates show why Forsythe is unlikely to repeat Keppinger’s track:
The numbers show that Forsythe uses all parts of the field and is willing to take soft stuff to the outer half of the zone the other way for a hit versus trying to pull everything as other hitters these days are prone to do. This showed up in his OppGB numbers as his outcomes greatly exceeded the league average but he was still quick to turn on inner half mistakes as both his PullLD and PullFB numbers exceeded the league average.The spray chart shows below adds the graphical feel to the numbers in the table above:
The deal cements Forsythe as the primary second baseman and multi-positional backup for at least the next two seasons and most likely a third. The team can leave Ryan Brett in the minors for extra seasoning if they envision him as the next guy up while Forsythe could also become the Evan Longoria insurance policy should the team decide to squeeze out the last bit of value in Longoria’s contract.