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Are Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn Worth the Contracts?

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This off-season the two biggest non-Teixeira bats seeking long-term contracts will be Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell. Sorry Raul Ibanez, and for goodness sake nobody should give Jason Giambi or Manny Ramirez a five-plus season contract, and yes I am looking at you Ned Colletti. The question is whether Dunn and Burrell are actually worth the length for their production, and that just so happens to be the purpose of this article.

Both Dunn and Burrell share some common concerns. Neither plays defense all too well, which limits their market considerably unless a National League team wants to run out a below average fielder, and within the 4-6 years of their contract will almost certainly be limited to designated hitting or first base. Offensively, these two have "old player skills"; they walk, they strikeout, they don't hit for average, and when they do hit the ball it goes a very far. The theory produced by Bill James is that players with old player skills will age worse than those with "young player skills" (contact, speed, ect.). I have no idea how accurate that is, but I do know that a player's peak is around his 28 year old season, unless it's Barry Bonds.

What I decided to do was take a not-so-random sample of players in recent seasons who signed lengthy deals while possessing "old player skills". This gives an idea what the trend has been lately, and what the warning signs were heading into the contract. I decided to exclude hall-of-fame talent like Manny Ramirez and Bonds for obvious reasons, nobody on this list or on the free agent list (outside of Ramirez and Bonds) are Ramirez and Bonds.

Richie Sexson: Four years, 50 million from Seattle. 

Season Age Team BB% K% ISO HR/FB OBP SLG
2003 28 MIL 13.9 24.9 0.276 29.2 0.379 0.548
2004 29 ARZ 13.5 23.3 0.344 37.5 0.337 0.578
2005 30 SEA 13.8 29.9 0.278 24.5 0.369 0.541
2006 31 SEA 9.8 26.1 0.24 19.3 0.338 0.504
2007 32 SEA 10.5 23 0.194 16.7 0.295 0.399
2008 33 SEA/NYY 13.3 30.7 0.161 17.4 0.321 0.382
Career 10.7 26.6 0.246 22.1 0.344 0.507

Notice how everything begins to slip after 2005. Could be a coincidence or it could be that Sexson began losing bat speed? For whatever it is worth Sexson's infield flyball rates increased following 2005 as well. I'm not sure if there's a correlation between losing bat speed and therefore being late and under certain pitches or not, so don't take too much from that, but it's an interesting correlation none the less.

Jason Giambi: Seven years, 120 million from New York (AL).

Season Age Team BB% K% ISO HR/FB OBP SLG
2001 30 OAK 19.9 16 0.317 N/A 0.477 0.66
2002 31 NYY 16.3 20 0.284 20.3 0.435 0.598
2003 32 NYY 19.4 26.2 0.277 19.7 0.412 0.527
2004 33 NYY 15.1 23.5 0.17 11.7 0.342 0.379
2005 34 NYY 20.6 26.1 0.264 21.9 0.44 0.535
2006 35 NYY 19.8 23.8 0.305 20 0.413 0.558
Career

18.2 21.5 0.248 18.6 0.427 0.489

The funny thing is that Giambi's production still hasn't fallen off and so you're not going to see any point of decline, even as a 38 year old I'm quite sure he'll find a job DHing next season somewhere. Oakland or Tampa would pop to mind, although with his "history" I'm not too sure the Rays would go after him.

Carlos Delgado: Four years, 52 million from New York (NL).

Season Age Team BB% K% ISO HR/FB OBP SLG
2004 32 TOR 13.1 25.1 0.266 20.9 0.372 0.535
2005 33 FLA 12.1 23.2 0.28 21.7 0.399 0.582
2006 34 NYM 12.4 22.9 0.282 22.9 0.361 0.548
2007 35 NYM 8.8 21.9 0.19 13 0.333 0.448
2008 36 NYM 10.9 20.6 0.254 23.6 0.357 0.528
Career 13.3 24 0.267 20.7 0.384 0.547

Again, there is no clear sign of attrition. Interestingly both Giambi and Delgado had one down season though. Plus Delgado doesn't exactly fit the mold anyways.

All of that is fine and dandy, but what about the players themselves. Well Adam Dunn concerns me the most. Most of his trend data is identical to last season, yet remember he plays for the Diamondbacks now, and his slugging this season is .502 instead of .554 last year. Some of that could be BABIP unluckiness, or it could mean he's not quite as good as his Great American Ballpark counterpart. Obviously if Dunn is more of a .500 SLG player than a .550 that drastically affects how much he would get on the open market. Burrell on the other hand IS a .500 SLG player. His skill evaluation, like Dunn's, looks mostly clean, and whether it was intentional or not Burrell lowered his strikeout rate last season to about 25% and has maintained that, which simply means he strikes out as much as Evan Longoria or Matt Kemp instead of Carlos Pena or Ryan Howard.

Frankly I'm not really sure if I would give either anymore than three years, but what do you think?