Erick Aybar settled way too cheap

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More power to him if Erick Aybar loves Southern California and didn’t want to play anywhere else. He still should have done better than $35 million for four years in his new extension with the Angels.

$8.75 million per year is less than Julio Lugo got in his four-year deal with the Red Sox six years ago. It’s less than a well past his prime Edgar Renteria got from the Giants in a two-year deal for 2009-10. It’s barely more than Cristian Guzman earned in 2009-10.

And in case no one has noticed, the price tags have generally gone up since then. Aybar’s only rival at shortstop in free agency this winter would have been Stephen Drew, and at this point, there’s no telling if Drew is going to be a viable long-term shortstop after last year’s ankle injury. It’s possible no other starting shortstops will hit free agency this winter: Jhonny Peralta’s option is almost certain to be picked up by the Tigers, and Jason Bartlett and Alex Gonzalez both have 2013 options that figure to vest if they stay healthy.

Aybar may not be thought of as a star, but he certainly ranks among the game’s top 10 shortstops with his plus glove and .695 career OPS. Hitting free agency at age 29, he probably would have gotten $50 million for five years as a minimum. Instead, he settled for $35 million and didn’t even get no-trade protection in the bargain. Angels fans should be thrilled.

Carter Stewart will get $7 million over six years to play for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

Associated Press
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Yesterday we wrote about Carter Stewart, the American pitcher who, after failing to sign with the Braves last year, went to junior college. Rather than re-enter the draft this year, Stewart has signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League.

Jeff Passan of ESPN has the details on that deal: $7 million for six years. That’s five million more than the lowball offer the Braves gave him after drafting him last year and over $2 million more than he would’ve gotten if the Braves had paid him slot last year. This year he was projected to be a second round pick, Passan says, so his slot bonus would’ve been under $2 million.

As Passan notes, though, he has the chance to make out far better than that, though. That’s because his six-year deal would allow the now-19-year-old Stewart to come back to the U.S. as a 25-year-old free agent via the posting system. Passan does some back-of-the-envelope figuring, comparing what he’d make in the U.S. had he stayed vs. the $7 million he’s now guaranteed in Japan:

In a near-optimal scenario, Stewart would receive around $4 million for the next six years — and would not reach free agency until after the 2027 season, when he will be 28. His deal with the Hawks would guarantee Stewart $3 million more and potentially allow him to hit free agency three years earlier.

He could flame out, of course. The Braves’ lowball offer was based on concerns about his wrist. Even without that, there are no guarantees when young arms are involved.

But there is a $7 million guarantee for Stewart now, and the chance to do better than if he had stayed in the U.S. And the opportunity was created, in large part, by Major League Baseball’s clamping down on pay for draft picks and doing whatever it can to extend team control over players via service time manipulation. Stewart, and his agent Scott Boras, are merely exploiting an inefficiency in the market.