Transactions, We Have Transactions!
So…for once all the noise about the Blue Jays making a move was true. Jon Heyman first reported the signing and a Blue Jays press release later confirmed that the Blue Jays had signed Maicer Izturis to a 3 year contract worth $9 million dollars with a option for a fourth year at $3 million. As was pointed out by the masses, that contract marks the largest free agent contract that has been handed out since Alex Anthopoulos took over the general manager job in 2009. It’s also two times as big as the contract that was previously the largest, which was a 1 year $4.5 million contract handed out to Francisco Cordero last offseason.
Perhaps more surprisingly the Maicer Izturis contract marks just the second guaranteed multiyear free agent contract handed out by Anthopoulos. The only other one? A 2 year $3 million contract that the Blue Jays gave to the John Macdonald in 2009.
A lot has been made of these various milestones and perhaps for good reason, as Shi Davidi speculated in his article on the Izturis signing, this signing may be a prelude of things to come. As we heard earlier this offseason, the Blue Jays reportedly have money to spend as they plan on increasing the payroll for 2013 and perhaps this is an indication of just that. As I stated in the free agency preview, the difference between this year and last, other than this preliminary signing, is that AA has been much more forthright in his statements regarding the payroll and now in his actions as well.
With that said, the specifics of the Izturis deal itself are fairly intriguing. The deal pays Maicer Izturis $3 million a year in each of the three guaranteed seasons as well as in the option year. For a player whom is often labelled as a utility player that may seem like a fair amount of money to guarantee, but for what he provides it looks to be a fair and justified contract.
Maicer Izturis is coming off a 3 year $10 million contract with the Angels and if you look at Maicer Izturis’ WAR over the last three years of his previous contract you will see that he has produced a total of 4.1 WAR. Using the rough $5 million per win above replacement value calculation, the Angels got approximately $10.5 million of value over the course of Maicer Izturis’ contract. While both Izturis’ previous contract as well this current one did not and do not provide a base for a clear abundance of potential value they pay him for what he is, which is a great utility infielder…or perhaps even a starting second baseman?
As Anthopoulos noted in the conversation he had with reporters after the Izturis signing, Izturis as the starting second baseman would be a fine solution to the hole that is currently at the position. Solely on a fWAR level in 2012, Maicer Izturis was worth as much as former second baseman Kelly Johnson while being paid $1.2 million less. Furthermore this came in part as a result of Izturis’ 391 plate appearances as opposed to Johnson’s 581. As well, Izturis’ 2012 season isn’t necessarily the best measure of his true talent level being that it was his worst season since 2005 despite no major change in approach or sabrmetric results besides a few odd batted ball stats as a result of an absurdly high infield fly ball rate, which doesn’t necessarily hold predictive value.
Another point that Anthopoulos noted was the idea that he would keep his options open, as he often does, and if the Blue Jays do in fact find another second baseman worthy of a starting job then pencilling in Izturis as utility player extraordinaire at the price they’re paying for him isn’t half bad either.
In the grand scheme of things the Izturis contract is a deal that is buying out the ages 32, 33, and 34 seasons of a player who is a career utility player, but a good one at that. Maicer Izturis is 1-2 WAR player, with the potential for a bit more; he can play multiple positions and he appears to be flexible in doing so. The fact that the Jays went to 3 years with Izturis could be a criticism, but it really isn’t a hinderance in the overall picture. For once, the Blue Jays seemed to have gotten exactly who they wanted, which hasn’t exactly been a frequent occurrence for the Jays on the free agent market in recent years.