Today, Andrew Friedman inked his number 1 pitching prospect Matt Moore to a 5 year/$14 million dollar deal that has 3 club options valuing the total contract at $39.75 million. I wrote a brief post on Moore before his ALDS Game 1 start that detailed the track record of the 22 year old left-hander. Some experts say he’s more talented than mega-prospect Stephen Strasburg, and his performances in the majors in 2011, make it seem like that’s highly possible. In three regular season appearances by Moore, he threw 9.1 innings gave up 3 runs, 9 hits, 3 walks and struck out 15 batters (good for a FIP of 2.17 and .4 WAR). This guy threw a total of just over one game and attributed almost half a win above replacement, that’s incredible. His postseason numbers were even more ridiculous. Tampa Bay sent out a 22 year old with 9.1 innings of career major league experience against the best lineup in baseball in the Texas Rangers and he threw seven shutout innings giving up two hits and walking two, while striking out six batters. No one this postseason came close to dominating the Rangers like that. But, the sample size for Moore’s ability in the majors is small. Thus, to decide how much value Friedman will truly get out of the deal, I’d like to project Moore’s worth by his minor league comparables provided by Fangraphs.
If you clicked on the link it was easy to see that Moore’s triple-A numbers are as good, if not better than those of Tim Lincecum, David Price, Strasburg, Tommy Hanson, and Jered Weaver. For simplicity sake let’s say players don’t decline until after their 30 (Moore turns 30 at the end of this deal), that he’ll be on average as good as those five players are currently over the 8 years of the deal, and that the club will use all of Moore’s options and the deal will have an AAV of $4.9 million. Now this model is severely simple, because none of these pitchers have fully developed or pitched 8 years yet in their career. However, it’s the best comparison I have to go off of for Moore, and these players have averaged a WAR of 4.0 over their careers (weighted for those who have pitched longer), so I’ll assume that based off of all the statistics available that Moore will be on average a 4 WAR pitcher over the 8 years of this new contract. This seems realistic, because based off of FANS’ projections, he’ll be a 3.5 WAR pitcher next year in is rookie season. The goal of the analysis is to see how much value Moore is going to add above the dollar spent on him based off of this projection. Using this model for how much a WAR will be worth in each season from 2012-19, a 4 WAR on average Moore will be worth $192 million to the Rays. That is more than 152.5 million dollars more than they plan to spend on Moore.
From this model it seems like Friedman has made one of the best contract offers of all time. He has a knack for making long-term low cost deals to young players; Evan Longoria, Wade Davis, and Ben Zobrist for example. This deal looks incredible on paper if Moore pans out like most of the baseball community thinks he will. But you never know how pitchers will develop, perform, decline, or fall off of the map; Mark Prior and Rick Ankiel come to mind. Yet, if this happens the Rays are only locked into Moore for a guaranteed five years and $14 million, or $2.8 million a season, which would be an insignificant flaw in their payroll. And in all likelihood, Moore will perform to somewhere close to his lofty expectations and possibly better than a 4 WAR average; if this happens then it is safe to say Andrew Friedman is a genius.