The fun thing about doing this post is I already explained all the advanced stats last week when I wrote about Joey Votto, so here we can cut to the chase. Though, if the Reds sign Latos to a 15-year deal next week, I’m just giving you the charts and graphs.

The question on everyone’s mind seems to be just how bad, exactly, is the Brandon Phillips contract? There is an assumption that this simply is a bad deal. I’m not so sure, but let’s see what the numbers have to say.

First, I need to have an aside about WAR. There are two dominant versions, fangraphs and baseball-reference. I prefer fangraphs normally, but BR’s don’t think Phillips can field. In fact, BR’s fielding metric thinks he stinks with the glove. Literally no other metric (never mind the eye-test) agrees with this, so I am disregarding it. The numbers below are all based on the fangraphs’ version.

Phillips is signed for 6 years at $72.5M. Basically, that’s $12M/year. I talked last week about WAR and how fangraphs has done a reasonable job putting a dollar value on each WAR. Right now, it’s basically $5M/WAR. So Phillips needs to be worth 2.4 WAR a year to be worth the money. Over six years, that’s  14.4 WAR, but there will be some inflation, so we need to knock a bit off that.

Coming off his career year, many people have Phillips projected for around 5 WAR. I think that’s a bit much, and have him pegged around 4. If that’s the case, a pessimistic aging curve would look something like this:

  • 2012: 4.0 WAR
  • 2013: 3.5 WAR
  • 2014: 3.0 WAR
  • 2015: 2.0 WAR
  • 2016: 1.0 WAR
  • 2017: 0.0 WAR
  • Total: 13.5 WAR

Now, if we assume 5% inflation per year in the cost of a WAR, that aging curve gives us a value of $72.6M. I did not cook those numbers. I figured out what I thought a realistic aging curve was and calculated the value. It can’t get more dead on, though. Honestly, the way the last two contracts have worked out, I have to wonder if the Reds have someone in the front office running numbers like this.

But is this a reasonable aging curve for Phillips? To see, I looked at second basemen since 1950 who have had similar production during there age-28, 29, and 30 seasons (Phillips generated 13.7 WAR in that period). This gave me the following players: Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar, Julio Franco, Davey Johnson, Don Burford, and Lou Whitaker. Some of those guys, obviously, are Hall of Famers. A lot of that is because they had big head starts. Phillips didn’t become established until he was 25. Here’s the graph:

What you see is that we really shouldn’t expect more than two or three more really productive years for Phillips. Only Biggio and Whitaker managed to stay productive well into their 30s. Johnson and Buford played their last games at 35. During the years for which Phillips is under contract, this group averaged WAR totals of 5.9, 4.9, 3.4, 3.3, 2.1, and 0.9.

This is much more bullish than the numbers I have projected and all of these guys had at least one huge year after turning 30. However, the group was pretty much done after their collective age-35 season. This might explain why the Reds were so reluctant to add that last year.

In the end, I’m forced to conclude that this is, more or less, a square deal. As with the Votto contract, the Reds are unlikely to get their money’s worth at the end of the deal, but they should get an excellent bargain at the beginning. And that’s the thing. You can’t just assess these deals based on the rough years. If you want to be fair, you have to consider every year in the deal.

Now, the Reds do have prospects in the middle infield, and if they pan out, this deal will look less-good, but that’s a big if and has little to do with the open market-value of Phillips. Now we just have to watch and see how it all plays out.