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Projecting Jermaine Dye

After extending Mark Buehrle to a below market 4-year/$56M deal, the White Sox locked up another component to their 2005 World Series Championship Team agreeing to a two-year extension with right fielder Jermaine Dye.  

Dye is set to receive $9.5M in 2008 and $11.5M in 2009.  The deal also includes a mutual option for the 2010 season.

Dye signed a two-year deal with the Sox prior to the 2005 season and immediately paid his share of the bill.  He was the 2005 World Series MVP and he followed his championship season up with an MVP-caliber year in 2006.

The Sox picked up Dye's $6M club option for the 2007 season in a no-brainer type move and have received mixed results on the year.  Dye's first half was nothing like his 2005 and 2006 seasons, but he's heated up quite a bit since the All-Star break perhaps convincing the Sox he was worth an extension.

Let's take a look at what the Sox can expect from Dye over the next couple of seasons.  The guaranteed portion of Dye's extension runs into his age 35 season, so there clearly is risk in this deal.

What He's Done

Here is a look at what Dye has done over the past three seasons:

Dye's last season with the Oakland A's, that being 2004, didn't help his cause of reeling in anything close to a long-term deal as he signed a two-year contract (club option for the third year included) with the White Sox worth $10.15M.

The general consensus among many baseball fans was that the broken leg Dye sustained during the 2001 ALDS would severely limit his durability and mobility throughout the rest of his career and that he would never produce the way he did in Kansas City in his mid-twenties.

His first season with the White Sox however was quite good.  It was the first time he had slugged .500 or better since 2000 and his WARP of 4.5 wins was his highest figure also since 2000.

His second season was even better; MVP-caliber.  Dye hit .315/.385/.622, setting career highs in slugging percentage (.622), OPS+ (152), WARP3 (10.4) and home runs (44).

His season was, without a doubt one, of the biggest surprises of the year.  His 2005 season was resurgent, but nobody expected the 32-year old corner outfielder to hit the way he did as he placed fifth in A.L. MVP voting.  His VORP of 64.6 runs was nearly 40 runs higher than that of his previous season and given the fact he was entering his age 33 season in 2007 it was only natural to expect regression.

The Projection

Here is Dye's five-year PECOTA forecast prior to the 2007 season:

As expected, PECOTA saw a significant decrease in production coming from Dye this year; a VORP drop of 40+ runs and a WARP drop of nearly three full wins.

PECOTA was right in predicting Dye would regress, he's just done so in far more extreme fashion.  He's hitting .245/.309/.488 on the year, his VORP a mere 8.6 runs.

To be fair there are two sides of the story here.  Dye has battled quadriceps problems throughout the year and a DL stint in late June might have been what the doctor ordered, he's hitting .306/.384/.657 since the All-Star break equaling his home run total in nearly half the amount of at-bats.

The sample size is small (134 post All-Star AB's), but my guess is this turnaround had quite a bit to do with the White Sox decision to extend his contract.

Dye's projected performance in his 2008 and 2009 seasons doesn't look disastrous, but note the projected decrease in playing time during his age 35 season.

For a better idea of what we can expect from Dye, let's take a look at his top comparable players.

The List of Similar Players

Here are Dye's top ten PECOTA comps.  Let's focus strictly on their age 34 and 35 seasons simply because we want to get an idea what the ChiSox can expect from him during the guaranteed portion of his extension:

Dave Henderson:

Herderson's age 34 and 35 seasons weren't pretty.  He compiled a combined 580 AB's during the two years and was a .230/.300/.400 type hitter during that tenure.  His age 35 season was his final major league year.

Cliff Floyd:

Like Dye, Floyd's finest seasons came during his mid to late twenties.  Floyd is yet to complete his age 34 season, but he has battled injuries over the past few years and he's currently hitting .290/.366/.382 for the Cubs in limited action.

Dave Winfield:

One of Dye's better top comps, Winfield was quite good during his age 34 and 35 seasons posting WARP3's of 7.0 and 4.8 respectively.   The Hall of Famer played everyday player-caliber baseball up until his age 42 season.

Jim Rice:

The borderline Hall of Famer was always a productive player for the Red Sox during his twenties and early thirties, but began to show signs of aging as he entered his mid-thirties.  His age 34 and 35 seasons weren't very good at all as he saw a significant decrease in playing time, posting WARP3's of 2.8 and 2.6 respectively.  Rice would take 209 AB's for the Red Sox in his age 36 season and didn't return to the majors afterward.  

Johnny Lindell:

To me Lindell's a tough guy to compare Dye to simply because he wasn't playing in the majors during his age 34 and 35 seasons.  Lindell was a position player throughout most of his career (age 24 to 33 season), but returned to the majors league's during his age 36 season as a pitcher.

Jim Lemon:

Probably a guy you don't want in your top comps list as you enter your mid-thirties.  Lemon was a productive everyday-caliber player during his late twenties and early thirties, but saw a combined 173 AB's during his age 34 and 35 seasons.  He accumulated WARP3 during that span was a mere 0.2 wins.

Albert Belle:

Belle had a number of MVP-caliber seasons throughout his career.  Belle posted WARP3's of at least ten wins nearly six times (9.9 during his age 32 season), but retired from baseball following his age 33 season due to degenerative osteoarthritis in his hip.

Bob Cerv:

Another guy that just didn't receive large doses of playing time in his mid-thirties.  Cerv accumulated a total of 469 AB's during his age 34 and 35 seasons.  His combined WARP3 over that time was a mere 4.3 wins.

Joe Adcock:

Adcock was a pretty valuable player into his thirties, but really slumped during his age 34 and 35 seasons in respect to both productivity and playing time.  He didn't play full seasons in both of those years combining to take 674 AB's and posting WARP3's of 4.9 and 1.4 respectively.

Orlando Cepeda:

Cepeda had more than a few All-Star caliber seasons during his 17-year career, but struggled to find consistency in both playing time and production during his age 34 and 35 seasons.  Like many of the players already listed, Cepeda was not an everyday player during both of those seasons combining to take a total of 637 AB's during that tenure.  Combined WARP3 over those two years was 4.2 wins.

Final Thoughts

I'd like to give the White Sox the benefit of the doubt on this extension.  Two years for a guy that was a top-five MVP finisher just a season ago is pretty darn good given the current market.

While his projection itself doesn't look all that bad many of those top comps, specifically Lemon and Henderson, look downright scary.  Many didn't even last until the age of 40.

Dye's tenure with the White Sox has been nothing short of a success for the most part and I'd like to believe his future production should look something in between his current 2007 season and monstrous 2006 season, but given those comparable players that seems like a bit of a stretch.