I know we are supposed to be talking all Mitchell Report, all the time, but I just wanted to take a moment out to ask: is anyone besides me surprised that David Eckstein just signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for only 1 year, $4.5 million?
I mean, for weeks it has been widely reported that Eckstein has been seeking a 4-year, $36 million dollar contract, and has been comparing himself favorably to Julio Lugo. I’m not sure anyone really expected Eckstein to get that kind of money, but it seemed reasonable to expect that he would at least get something in the ballpark of $7-8 million a year.
While it’s true that Eckstein has been sort of a running joke in the sabermetric community, it seemed reasonable to assume that someone would give him more money than Paul Lo Duca. After all, this is a guy who is legendary for his “intangibles,” “character,” and “grit,” beloved by the mainstream press, was a key member of two World Series winning squads, has a World Series MVP on his resume, and batted a career high .309 last season.
Although Eckstein did have some injury woes last season, appearing in only 117 games, he seems to be perfectly healthy now, and I figured that SOME team would give him a reasonably excessive contract, especially given the always high demand for middle infielders.
All in all, I’d have to say this is actually a pretty smart deal for the Blue Jays, given the price. Although incumbent shortstop John McDonald was one of the better fielding shortstops in baseball last season, he was absolutely abominable at the plate, maintaining his horrendous career 4:1 K:BB ratio while posting a seppuku-worthy .279 OBP and hitting only 1 home run all season.
Eckstein can be expected to improve on McDonald’s OPB by almost 100 points, so even despite the hit the Jays take on defense, he represents a huge upgrade at shortstop, at an extremely modest price. And with only a one-year deal, the Jays are not locked in to Eckstein’s later-30s decline years, and can look for an even better option at short next offseason.
So even though the Blue Jays are typically thought of as a “Moneyball” type team which would not be expected to sign anti-Moneyball poster-boy David Eckstein, cheers to JP Riccardi for pulling of this very reasonable, even ingenious move.
Think of it this way: the Red Sox are going to pay Julio Lugo $10 million next season. Was Eckstein really so crazy to compare himself to Lugo? Given that Lugo and Eckstein are actually about the same on most defensive metrics, who would you rather have batting in your lineup? 32-year-old Eckstein and his .351 career OPB plus 5 million extra dollars, or 32-year-old Julio Lugo and his career .333 OBP, minus $5 million?