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Casey Wants to Re-sign with Bucs; More on the Wilson Deal

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Here's an article on the possibility of the Pirates re-signing Sean Casey, which - great, just what the Pirates need. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with throwing money around, but the Pirates need to throw it to good players, not aging, mediocre ones like Casey.

Speaking of long-term contracts, here's an article by the Stats Geek on Jack Wilson's contract that, in my opinion, misses the mark. The Geek suggests that Wilson is worth his contract, and he spends a lot of time comparing Wilson's contract to those of Rafael Furcal, Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera, Cristian Guzman, Omar Vizquel and David Eckstein.

These comparisons miss the point for four reasons.

First, let's throw Rafael Furcal out right off the bat. He and Wilson are not comparable players. Furcal is a far better hitter. He also has plate discipline and speed, which both tend to bode well for a player's future. Wilson does not have those things. Look at Furcal's list of comparable players through age 27. It's filled with guys who were very productive after that age, because Furcal's speed/power/plate discipline skill set is one that tends to age well. Furcal's contract seems on the high side to me, but he should be making a ton more than Wilson - he's a better player, and in two years he's probably going to seem like a much better player.

Second, the Guzman, Cabrera, and Vizquel contracts are, or should be, viewed as very bad contracts. Guzman was possibly the worst regular player in baseball last season. Cabrera had yet another non-hitting season in 2005 and is currently blocking some excellent middle-infield prospects. Vizquel was and remains a billion years old. The Wilson contract can be better than those and not be good by any means.

Third, and I am surprised the Stats Geek doesn't point this out, ALL of those contracts were signed by free agents. Wilson was not a free agent. The Pirates owned his rights for two more years. So there was no reason for the Pirates to pay free-agent market value to keep him. If Wilson's contract is comparable to those of free agent shortstops, the Pirates screwed up royally. If the Pirates were going to sign Wilson, they should have paid a hometown-discount rate, because Wilson was not free to go anywhere else.

Fourth, since Wilson was already under the Pirates' control for 2006 and 2007, the reality of this contract won't really set in until 2008 and 2009, which means that the Pirates are betting on what Wilson will be doing starting two years from now, rather than in 2006. Wilson is already a mediocre hitter; gambling that he won't be even worse in two or three years seems like a very bad gamble, especially since players with his skillset don't usually age well. All the free agent contracts to which the Geek compares Wilson's contract began the season after they were signed. This one guesses that Wilson will be valuable several seasons in the future, since the contract wasn't necessary to keep him on the team for the next two years.

The Geek then gets Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver to project a .270/.312/.377 season for Wilson, and guesses that Wilson will be worth $19.4 million over the next four years. Two problems: one, that number is (as the Geek acknowledges) well below the value of the contract, and two, the Pirates already controlled the first two years, when BP assumes he'll have the most value.