Wednesday, July 11, 2007


The Internets are abuzz with rumors that Ichiro has agreed in principle to a 5-year, $100 million dollar extension.

Although quite a few players are earning over 20 million this season, only three players have signed contracts with an average annual of 20 mil or more. A-Rod, Manny and the Rocket. That's it. The big question is, is Ichiro worth that kind of dough? Is he worth the 4th highest contract of all time?

Offensively he is a great player. By Baseball Prospectus' VORP stat, he's currently the 4th best offensive player in the league. He is significantly behind A-Rod and Magglio Ordonez though. The distance between Ichiro and A-Rod is the same as the distance between Ichiro and 21st place on the list. And this is Ichiro's best season since 2001, very likely his best ever. Even in 2001 he was only 36th in VORP, last year he was 40th (VORP compares you to the hitters at your position, so Ichiro gets an advatange being in center as compared to right). So he is a great offensive player for sure, but not really in the class of A-Rod or Manny as a hitter.

Defensively though, he gains a lot of ground. All the defensive stats (except BP's Davenport Translations) love Ichiro's defense. He has excellent instincts, covers an amazing amount of ground and is a great leaper and wall climber. I don't know that I am ready to call him the best outfielder in baseball though. Carlos Beltran, Andruw Jones, Grady Sizemore, Aaron Rowand, lots of pretty good defensive outfielders out there, still Ichiro is at least in the conversation.

Now lets factor in his basestealing ability. Ichiro has never stolen less than 30 bases in a season, he's never finished worse than 5th in the AL in steals and his career stolen base percentage is is 81%. Just a hair under Joe Morgan's career percentage.

Ichiro is also amazingly durable (He's never missed more that 3 games in a season), an absolute joy to watch play every day and a huge draw for the team and the city. I have not been to a game since he's been here that did not have a sizable group of Japanese tourists here to watch him play.

At the beginning of the year I had little hope that he would re-sign here. If he did I was hoping for 5 and 75 maybe, 5 and 85. So yes, 5 and 100 seems high. He'll be 39 at the end of the contract, but raise your hand if you think Ichiro is likely to age well given his stretching, conditioning and dedication. Yes, the contract is a little high, there is no hometown discount in there at all. But paying a little too much for a true superstar is ok by me.

Its a hell of a lot better than blowing 8-10 million for guys with ERAs over 5!


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