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Economics of Baseball: Jorge de la Rosa's next contract

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Sometimes when I need a good laugh I read Jerry Manuel quotes, like this one:

"We have to at some point push a run across in that particular ballgame in this park late."

 Other times I simply remember the fact that Jorge de la Rosa is seeking a five-year deal. It's quite humorous, really.

Jorge de la Rosa enters the market coming off a year in which he pitched 121 and 2/3 innings with a 110 ERA+, a 2.05 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a 1.1 HR/9. He was worth 1.7 wins above replacement according to Fangraphs and 1.4 according to Baseball-Reference. When he pitched his performance hardly dazzled and he managed to pitch about 2/3 as much as you'd like to count on from a free agent you're giving a multi-year deal. What's more laughable than the fact that he's seeking a 4+ year deal after his mediocre 2010 is 2010 was the 2nd best season of his career. He's only faced more batters than he did in 2010 three times in his 7 year career, including only 59 more in 2008 and only 77 more in 2009. Only once has his xFIP been as good as it was in 2010 (3.77), and it was nearly identical (3.76, 2009).

Jorge de la Rosa will be 30 years old in 2011 and it's perfectly fair to say he's had his shot to establish himself as a pitcher deserving of a long-term deal. At this point, what you see is more or less what you get. Some combination of health, walks, and homers has prevented him from being an elite pitcher every single year except for (and arguably) 2009. To justify handing him a five-year contract a team would have to expect him to repeat his 2009 performance each year well into his mid-30's. Doing so would more than likely be a mistake.

Assuming a team does do the ill-advised and offer Jorge de la Rosa a three year deal (as the Rockies indicated they might), just how much should they offer him? CHONE projected him to be a 3.2-win pitcher in 2010, he ended up being a 1.7-win pitcher. Using the 2/3 last year's projections, 1/3 last year's actual results formula, we'll call him a 2.7-win pitcher for the 2011 season. Using a -0.5 win/year aging factor, a deal of 3-years, $28.5 million seems like a fair contract.

 

    JorgedelaRosaTV

 

The proposed deal mirrors that which Randy Wolf signed about a year ago. Wolf was two years older, but he was also coming off back-to-back healthy and effective seasons, something Jorge de la Rosa is yet to do. De la Rosa makes sense for a team that either a) needs for a gamble to pay off in order to become contenders or b) desperately needs pitching, preferably both. The team that previously employed him (the Colorado Rockies) do make some sense, but the Mets seem like the ideal fit, given the diminished financial hit they'd take if De la Rosa were to flop. I'll be looking for Sandy Alderson (who is rumored to be targeting mid-tier players) to kick the tires on Jorge de la Rosa in the coming weeks.