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November 16, 2005

by SG

"At this stage, I'm trying to reduce payroll," - Yankees general manager Brian Cashman at the GM meetings in Indian Wells, Calif earlier this month.

Yankees and Matsui reach agreement on a 4 year, $52 million deal.

Yanks pick up '06 option on Sturtze for $1.5 million.

Neither of these transactions jibes with Mr. Cashman's statement, do they?

The Matsui contract is defensible. He's overpaid relative to his worth on the field, but not grossly so. However, a look at his similarity scores on Baseball is a little bit troubling.

Similar players through Age 31
1. Kevin Millar (947)
2. Raul Ibanez (938)
3. Smead Jolley (935)
4. Geronimo Berroa (933)
5. Brian Jordan (928)
6. Charlie Maxwell (925)
7. Beau Bell (923)
8. Dick Wakefield (922)
9. Moose Solters (922)
10. Jerry Lynch (919)

Similarity scores do not adjust for era or ballparks, so they shouldn't be taken too seriously. However, it's kind of interesting to see who Matsui compares to through this point in his career.

Here's what concerns me more.

Matsui's comparable players through age 35.

5 of these players made it through age 35 and posted the following average line: .243/.328/.363

I wouldn't read a lot into this, since Matsui spend the bulk of his career in Japan and I think his 2003 season was an adjustment year that artifically depresses his projections. Dan Szymborski at Baseball Think Factory projects Matsui to have the following line in 2006:

2006 ZiPS Projection - Hideki Matsui
608 98 179 41 2 22 103 75 87 2 .294 .375 .477

I'd hope he can do a a bit better than that. Matsui's WARP3 (third order wins above replacement incorporating offense and defense) the last 2 seasons are 7.8, and 8.2. If he declines about 10% a year going forward, the contract is fine. There's also the question of how much revenue he brings in from Japan. The bulk of Japanese revenue is shared amongst all MLB teams, but I believe side deals like Japanese advertising in the Stadium and some the YES programming that is shown in Japan are not.

Picking up Tanyon Sturtze's option is a bigger problem in my opinion. I will admit, I bought the Sturtze 2.0 hype, and even propagated it here. I listened to the crap about his new cutter and the new role agreeing with him. Whether it was overuse by Joe Torre or Sturtze just remembering that he was Tanyon Sturtze, after a great start he was awful in the second half, and ended the season with a line that fits in very symmetrically with the rest of his career. 10 HRs allowed in 78 innings is not really a stat that inspires confidence in a reliever. After his spot start on July 4, Sturtze went 32.1 innings, and allowed 34 hits, 21 runs, 6 HR, 19 BB, and 22 K.

Is that worth $1.5 million? Wouldn't you be better off tacking that $1.5 million onto an offer for Octavio Dotel or Bobby Howry?

If the Yankees can strengthen their pen, then Sturtze will probably just end up as mopup guy and middle reliever. However, if that ends up being his role, couldn't they have given it to Jason Anderson or Colter Bean instead and saved $1.2 million?