2012 Miami Marlins Transaction Review: The Jose Reyes Contract

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The 2012 Miami Marlins Season Review series looks back at the first year of the Jose Reyes contract. Did Reyes meet the contract's expectations, and can he continue to do so going forward?

Earlier today, we summarized the relative success of Jose Reyes's first year with the Miami Marlins. Reyes was clearly one of the few bright spots of the 2012 season for the Fish, and he was a consistent one, both in terms of month-to-month production and in consistent appearances, as Reyes started all but two games in 2012.

So one would immediately think that, based on the fact that Reyes's play was a relative success this season, Reyes started off playing ot the level of his six-year, $104 million contract. The Marlins' largest splash this past offseason was clearly the signing of Reyes, who was coming off of a career year at the plate. But as we mentioned at the time of the signing, the contract Reyes received was not "paying for a career year" as many outsiders thought, but rather it was a mostly fair deal that, at worst, was an overpay of about $15 million over the life of the deal.

But since then, Reyes has actually played a full season with the Fish already. Has his performance thus far met the expectations of his contract?

Let us review his statistics again, but this time with an average of the three Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metrics commonly cited on this site (FanGraphs fWAR, Baseball-Reference's rWAR, and Baseball Prospectus's WARP) after adjusting them to the same baseline as outlined in this Beyond the Box Score article.

Marlins, 2012 PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Avg Adj WAR
Jose Reyes 716 .287 .347 .433 .335 3.2

Reyes's season seems reasonably measured as a year worth between three and 3.5 wins in 2012. Given that we have been using a mark of $4.5 to 4.8 million per win as a dollar value for contracts, Reyes likely produced somewhere between $13.5 million to $16.8 million in value in 2012.

Was that worth the value of his contract? One could argue that, given the structure of the deal, Reyes clearly met his expectations. Recall that the Marlins are paying Reyes just $10 million this season as part of their backloading of his contract. Reyes will only be paid $10 million in 2013 as well before his salary escalates to $16 million in 2014 and $22 million in each of the final three seasons. With regards to how much the Fish are actually paying him, clearly the Fish have gotten their money's worth in the first year.

The problem with this evaluation is that the Marlins are clearly paying less now because they will be owing Reyes more money in future seasons. And of course, because Reyes will be owed upwards of $22 million in future seasons, the team needs to get as much surplus value out of these cheaper years to make up for the expensive years later on. This season, Reyes only provided around $3.5 million to $6.8 million in surplus value in 2012 season. Consider, however, what he needed to do to match his average annual value of his contract of $17.3 million. Reyes needed to produce 3.6 to 3.8 WAR in 2012 to match his average annual contract value, and he fell just short of that mark.

This does not even consider the likely decline of Reyes as the years progress. The Marlins signed Reyes at age 29, when he should theoretical be at his prime. The Marlins signed Reyes with a deal accounting for Reyes's prime and decline in future seasons. My guess is that the Fish only have two more seasons, 2013 and 2014, with Reyes at or around his prime before he will suffer his decline. Given our preseason projection, it seemed like Reyes would at worst be a bit of an overpay had he begun the 2012 season as a four- to 4.5-win player. Now he has fallen short of not only his average annual contract value, but also well below his 2012 expectations necessary to match his contract.

Yes, Jose Reyes was a success in a vacuum for the Fish in 2012. But when you consider his projections, he still missed his expectations and, when you look forward into the future of his contract, his lowered expectations make it less likely that he will be worth the value of his deal. The Marlins will be hoping for a bounceback season with a better overall performance at the plate from their speedy, committed shortstop.

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