Sarris: Are we undervaluing the slugger now?

From SABR member Eno Sarris at FanGraphs on November 23, 2015:

The crowd says that a baseball player who doesn’t occupy either center field or shortstop — and who has never hit 30 homers or stolen 30 bases — is about to get a $184 million contract. Our fearless leader thinks that contract is going to be the best value on the market this year. There are plenty of reasons to agree, not the least of which is that past big contracts have been at their best when given to young, athletic players with defensive value. Of course Jason Heyward checks all those boxes.

On the other hand, it’ll be a departure. Carl Crawford is the only other $100 million man who’s played something else besides an up-the-middle defensive position while also recording an isolated slugging percentage under .200. The sport usually gives nine-figure deals to players who slug or play great defense at a premium spot.

And while Heyward might play center field on his new team, there’s still evidence that we don’t value sluggers as much these days. Look at the crowd’s projection for Chris Davis, coming off a 41-homer season — it’s more than $80 million less than the one for Heyward. Mike Trout, Kyle Seager, Evan Longoria, and Elvis Andrus represent more than half of the $100 million contracts that started in 2015. None is your typical Big Bat.

So. Have we gone too far? Are we undervaluing the slow-footed, no-defense slugger? There’s other evidence we are.

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Originally published: November 23, 2015. Last Updated: November 23, 2015.