Ozzie Albies’ contract extension was hard to miss, even in the flurry of other longterm deals we’ve seen for players scrambling to avoid free agency. The Atlanta Braves have locked up — an on the nose, but accurate turn of phrase here — their 22-year-old second baseman to a contract that is worth at least $35 million over seven years, and $45 million over nine if the club exercises two option years. It’s an implausibly team-friendly deal that stands out in a year of implausibly team-friendly deals:
It's typical that agents criticize competitors' deals. But I've now heard from executives, players, analytics people, development side and scouts who are saying the same thing: The Ozzie Albies extension might be the worst contract ever for a player. And this is not hyperbole. — Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 11, 2019
Albies came into 2019 with five years of team control remaining. This contract paves over those five years, which would have included a significant string of raises as he hit his arbitration-eligible seasons, plus a possible four years of free agency. According to Dan Szymborski at Fangraphs, Albies’ projected value over the next nine seasons is somewhere in the realm of $280 million. Even if you think ZIPs is too bullish on Albies, it’s not hard to remember a time when $45 million deals were being handed out like candy to mediocrities. Which Albies is not.
But let’s go back to $280 million. How does an analyst get to that number? Simple: project the number of wins a player is worth, then convert that number into dollars based on historical spending per team games won, which comes up to around $10 million per win for recent seasons*. And — voila! — you get value, of which Albies appears to have left some $200-plus million on the table.
*In Albies’ case that number has to be adjusted for his league minimum and arbitration years.
So what gives? Obviously, Albies is free to sign whatever contract he damn well pleases, and despite the hand-wringing over the exploitative nature of the contract, $45 million is enough to secure his family’s future. The new deal also accelerates his earnings over the next two years, during which he’d have earned an MLB-minimum salary otherwise. That a player who went pro for $350,000 might be tempted to sign such a deal is obvious. It’s what he gave up that’s perplexing.