As we all have heard by now, Colby Rasmus accepted the Astros’ qualifying offer to him, which nets him a one year, $15.8M deal. Some are glad to that a postseason hero is returning, while others are disappointed, as they were hoping for an extra pick, and that nearly $16M salary is kind of scary. It was a punch to the gut for many, but I am here to try and ease the pain for those. Initially, I would have probably preferred the additional pick as well, but looking into some numbers this morning, this can actually be a great deal for us.
Let’s look at it this way, and do this exercise: I think the majority of us (myself included) wanted to sign Alex Gordon. He would have presumably provided a better hit tool, a solid left-handed bat, and good defense in LF. Those are solid pros, but some cons are that he would have cost a lot of money, possibly in the 5 year, $100M range. Another is his age, as he is 31, and a 5 year deal would mean we are paying him through his age 36 season. Although the money and age are not crippling, I consider both less than ideal. Now let’s compare Gordon to Rasmus directly, and see what we get:
Rasmus provides more power, but at the expense of on-base skills. To illustrate this point, below are both of their three year averages for on-base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage (SLG), and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS):
Is anyone else surprised that over the last three seasons, Rasmus has averaged a higher OPS than Gordon? Additionally, Rasmus hit 25 homeruns last season (and he hit that many without a full season of at bats), not including his great playoff run. Gordon's career high is 23. Gordon walks at a better clip, and has a lower strikeout percentage, which explains the higher on-base percentage. I am not suggesting one is necessarily "better" than the other, I just see them as…different.
Defensively, Gordon is a perennial Gold Glove winner in LF, and is just flat out better than Rasmus. I think Rasmus’ defense is just fine, and I consider it an asset as opposed to a liability, but Gordon is just better. I suppose you could argue that Rasmus adds additional value since he can play all 3 outfield positions adequately, so he does provide some very nice positional flexibility. But even considering that, Gordon wins out on the defensive side of things.
Age and Contract
As previously mentioned, Gordon is 31, and will be 32 on Opening Day next year. Rasmus is 29, and will still be 29 on Opening Day. This obviously favors Rasmus. To widen the age discrepancy, projections are that Gordon will sign a deal somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 years for $100M. That means someone will be paying him for his age 36 and 37 seasons. Even if you project his patient approach and his hit tool to age relatively well, you have to assume his production will decrease at least somewhat as he gets older. Conversely, you are signing Rasmus for just 1 year at $15.8M, while he will be 29 for the majority of it, as he is entering into his prime. This obviously does not guarantee improvement, but at the least the circumstances are in his favor.
Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer here, but after considering everything above, I am glad that Colby Rasmus accepted the qualifying offer. For those that were intrigued by the possibility of signing Alex Gordon (again, I was one of them), their preferred course of action would have been for Rasmus to reject the qualifying offer, which nets us an additional draft pick, and also allows an opening for LF for Gordon. My choice is Rasmus on a one year deal at $15.8M over signing Alex Gordon for 5 years and $100M and getting an extra draft pick. What do you think? What would you pick, and does comparing the two put any ease to the folks that were skeptical or disappointed that Rasmus accepted the qualifying offer?